Tag: destination review

Killing Time in Coeur d’Alene

Killing Time in Coeur d’Alene

This post finds me killing time in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I am here with my folks. My dad is seeing a specialist about his Lyme disease and to say my parents are terrible travelers is kind of an understatement. So I offered to come along 

A Long Weekend in Iceland

A Long Weekend in Iceland

Iceland is h-o-t, people. A Jane reader asked us the other day about whether we had written anything on it as her friend was planning a trip there soon. (If you are like us, it seems like every other day you hear about someone you 

The True Cost of Traveling in Australia

The True Cost of Traveling in Australia

After spending the month of February staying and playing Down Under, I have a pretty good idea of Australia travel costs. This post is a follow up to an earlier post about planning and saving for that month-long trip. I knew I wanted to follow up after the trip to give an accurate account of how much money I spent. But honestly, I was not looking forward to doing the actual math and seeing that final price tag—mostly because I knew I was over my budget. I probably could have kept better track of my expenses while I was on the road, but that is not my travel style. Although I am budget conscience, my main objective is to have a good time, not pinch pennies.

Queensland Australia travel costs vacation
Queensland, Australia.

True Australia travel costs

I knew before I left that Australia would be expensive (hence the budget and all of the saving), but I was still taken aback when it came time to pay for things. The first time I walked into a post office and asked for five stamps, I was blown away when the total came to $15 (AUD) and some change. Wow. Needless to say, I sent fewer postcards than I was planning on. Although I had thought my cost-per-day estimate was a little on the high side (just to be safe), little things like postage told me differently. Already, my Australia travel costs were adding up!

Donuts Australia travel costs vacation
$6 is a little steep for a donut…even a delicious one.

What went right?

Food and accommodation

When it came to food and accommodation, we did well and my spending was what I expected it to be. Even though food was expensive, we often picked up things from the grocery store or stopped at a bakery for a meat pie (which are tasty and affordable). Rarely did I eat three, sit-down meals a day. Also, some of our expenses were “packaged.” For example, our campervan rental was both our lodging and our transportation all wrapped up in one price. And when we signed up for the Rock Tour to Uluru, our transportation, lodging and food were all included in the price we paid (the fact that we should have picked a more expensive tour is a story we will save for another time).

These types of packages are a little bit of an investment initially. But when viewed from a cost-per-day perspective, they can be a real bargain and help with Australia travel costs.

Sunset campervan Australia travel costs vacation
Our room with a view.

Two is cheaper than one

In general, having more people means things are more affordable. The cost of things like a rental car, petrol and lodging were cheaper for me when R was there to split them. When it was just me, I had to cover the cost of everything myself. I should have added a bit more to my budget to accommodate my solo adventures.

What went wrong?


I spent a lot more on inter-country transportation than I figured on. The cost of my domestic flights were what I expected. However, by the time I finalized my itinerary, I had added two additional states (Tasmania and South Australia)—which I had not accounted for in my original budget. Also, bus and train tickets and airport transfers were higher than I expected and added up real fast. By the end of the trip, I had spent more on transportation than any other category—and this did not even include my round-trip flight to Australia.

Make sure to do your due diligence when it comes to transportation and add it to your Australia travel costs.

Hobart harbor Tasmania Australia travel costs vacation boats
The harbor in Hobart. Adding Tassie to the itinerary was an excellent choice, even if it cost us more money.

In addition, we discovered that sometimes saving a little extra money was just not worth it. This point was driven home while we were walking along, trying to find the pickup location of our campervan. It was hot and humid—not ideal for walking around with backpacks. On the map, it looked to be relatively close to our hotel. But it soon became apparent that an Uber would have been a better idea. We were not poor backpackers. We could have easily afforded an Uber ride and we would have arrived cool and comfortable instead of hot and sweaty. Needless to say, we took a lot more Uber rides after that. Sure, it added to the expenses. But certain comforts are worth the cost.


I also spent more on souvenirs than I budgeted for. Notice how I said “budgeted for”? I know myself and my tastes well enough to know what to expect when it comes to souvenir shopping. However, I was in denial while setting my budget and did not include a realistic number. I have no one to blame but myself for that one. Lesson learned: be realistic with yourself and add some extra in your Australia travel costs for souvenirs.

Adelaide market shopping Australia travel costs vacation souvenirs
A great little shop in Adelaide where I picked up souvenirs.

Some of the expenses, like postage, were certainly unexpected. Others, like transportation, were due in part to a lack of proper planning and research on my end. Regardless of why I underestimated, the end result was an inadequate cost-per-day rate for my Australia travel costs.

What to do?

So what do you do when you realize your budget might not be adequate? If it had been necessary, I could have worked a little harder to stick to my original, cost-per-day estimate. I could have limited the meals I ate out, stuck to meat pies and sausage rolls when I did eat out, not have purchased as many souvenirs, etc. It would have been possible, but not enjoyable. And honestly, I did not save and plan for two years so that I could forgo fun or a tasty treat. Thankfully, I had a few things working in my favor:

  1. I had managed to save more money than my original goal of $5,000. Odd jobs (like housesitting) had given my travel fund a little extra cushion.
  2. I had purchased a flight cheaper than I originally budgeted for—almost $900 cheaper. That $900 equated to an extra $30 per day.
  3. The U.S. dollar was strong and the conversion rate worked in our favor. Basically, it felt like everything we bought was on sale (even if it was expensive to start with).

I did not throw out my budget completely, but I did make a conscience decision to enjoy my vacation and worry about the cost later. Now, I realize not everyone is in the position to do this. If sticking to your vacation budget is the difference between paying all of your bills the next month or not, then you have got to find a way to stick to that budget. I am grateful not to be in that position.

Welcome sign Rottnest Island Australia
Biking on Rottnest Island was not cheap, but it was fun!

What did I spend?

I have been talking on and on about how Australia is expensive and I spent more money than I anticipated. But how much more did I really spend? That is the question. When I finally sat down and did the math, the results were a little surprising.

My month-long Australia travel costs totaled $5,200.

At the end of the day, I exceeded my budget by $200. That is much less than I was anticipating and easily covered by the extra travel funds I earned. My average cost-per-day was $145, $45 higher than I estimated. A $100-per-day rate was higher than the average backpacker rate of $72 per day, but below the mid-range rate of $145 per day. (Lesson learned: I should probably stop fooling myself and acknowledge that I am a mid-range traveler now.) $100 a day was not enough money. However, since I paid much less for my round-trip flight to Australia than I budgeted for, my overall budget was able to accommodate a higher per-day rate.

graphic Australia travel costs travel budget vacation

Side note: I would have stayed under budget had I not signed up for the Reefsleep experience. In fact, I almost did not sign up for it because of the price tag. It was an expensive excursion on top of an already expensive trip. But as I mentioned before, the Reefsleep goes down as one of the coolest things I have done in my life and was worth every penny. It was certainly worth going over budget for.

Great Barrier Reef sunset Australia travel costs vacation
Sunset on the Reefsleep.

What did I learn about Australia travel costs?

A couple of key lessons learned came out of my Australia travel costs experience:

  • Try to save a little above your budget to give your travel fund a nice cushion. If you do not spend that cushion, great! You can use it on your next trip. But you will never regret having a little in reserve.
  • Make saving automatic. If I had not set up a separate savings account with an automatic transfer each month, I would not have made my goal. I cannot recommend this enough. Plus, it is really fun to see your travel fund grow bit by bit.
  • When setting a budget, over estimate. Then maybe add a little more to your over-estimated estimate. It can’t hurt.
  • Finding a good price on your flight can make or break your budget. This often entails a lot of time/research/leg work/effort/etc., but it will be worth it and could potentially save you a lot of money.
  • When you find a good deal on a flight, book it! We have harped on this a lot, but we do so for a good reason. We have missed out on adventures because we did not jump on a great flight. Thankfully, that was not the case for our Australian adventure.
  • Be willing to pay for certain experiences, even if they are expensive. My Reefsleep experience is a perfect example. It may have been expensive, but it was AMAZING! Sticking to my budget, when it was not critical for me to do so, would have prevented me from enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  • Know yourself. I spend more on souvenirs than I would like to admit and I am obviously a mid-range traveler these days. Giving up hostels was easy. Transitioning out of a backpacker approach to budgeting has been a little more difficult.
Great Ocean Road views Australia
Views like this are worth the time and money it takes to see them.


Saving and budgeting are some of the less-glamorous aspects of travel. Plus, it can be difficult to predict how much you will spend on a trip. However, creating a budget can help set your expectations for how much things will cost and contributing to a travel fund—no matter the size—will help ease the stress of spending while you are out on the road. But try not to get too hung up on the numbers. Remember, travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer and I have found that it is always worth the price.

Australia update #4: tips for traveling in a not-so-foreign country

Australia update #4: tips for traveling in a not-so-foreign country

We’re baaack! And going through the usual post-trip activities—fighting jet lag, getting back into a routine, planning the next adventure, etc. It is never easy coming home. But unless you are going sell everything you own and become a nomad, it is a necessary part 

Australia Update #3: Reefsleep

Australia Update #3: Reefsleep

Travel is full of memorable and unique experiences. Many of them you could never recreate even if you tried (and there are some you never want to). That said, I rarely have an experience I would describe as once-in-a-lifetime. It just feels like that should 

Australia Update #2 Funny Aussie Signs

Australia Update #2 Funny Aussie Signs

B and I have seen a lot of really good stuff in the last few weeks: koalas, kangaroos, sunsets, sweeping landscapes and cultural icons. We expected all these things. What we didn’t expect was to see so many funny Australian signs! The funny ways Australians narrate all of these things and other information is downright entertaining. Aussies, whether they mean to be or not, are funny suckers. Here are some of the gems we’ve seen along they way.

Funny Australian Signs

funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
There is a scrolling fortune screen in Sydney that cycles through fortunes super fast. When you take a pic in front of it it captures your fortune.
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Stop pooping in the grass, people!
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Lots of hemsworthy lookalikes down under.
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Ha! The dingo saves us from another inane stick family.
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
So many tourists never really grasped this one.
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Who cares about copy infringement when you are being funny?
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Dang government.
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
Only one box on the fire warning is okay. Yikes! (Awww, koalas!)
funny Australian signs vacation women who travel
My humps, my lovely lady humps.


Australia has reminded us that there’s no need to be boring when you are presenting useful information. The funny Australian signs shown above (and many more we did not show) are both informative and entertaining. They made us laugh. They also reminded us to watch out for venomous snakes, precipitous cliffs, poisonous jellyfish, etc. An adventure this down under is! Be sure to check out our tips for traveling in a not-so-foreign country.

Australia Update #1: Van Life

Australia Update #1: Van Life

Hello from the land down under. We have been here a week and already it has been a wild ride. Just check out our Australia van life photos below! Australia Adventures First up, we visited Sydney. Then we turned our attention to Melbourne. But between 

Three days on the Oregon coast: a road trip itinerary and map

Three days on the Oregon coast: a road trip itinerary and map

I am very excited to share this road trip itinerary for three days on the Oregon coast. I take no credit for its amazingness. It was given to me by a former local and all-around Oregon expert. She really came through and provided the greatest 

A Trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine

A Trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine

In our Poland Do’s and Don’ts post, we briefly mentioned visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mines (WSM). Some things deserve to be talked about a little more, so this post will describe the crazy cool time we had exploring 300 meters (imagine three football fields stacked straight down) underground in Poland.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
Figures carved out of salt in Wielizcka

Getting There

One of the fun parts of travel is to leave the comfort of a tour and see what life is like for everyday people in that area. When we decided to go to the mine, I (obvs.) pulled out my trusty guide book and checked out how Mr. Steves recommends getting there. It seemed simple enough: go to a bus station, get on a bus, buy a ticket and head out of Krakow. We figured, no biggie, let’s do it. Well, the first problem was the description of the bus station ‘across the church from the mall.’ A. The mall is huge and B. there are little churches everywhere. After bumbling around trying to find the right church, we eventually did locate the stop that had our bus number on it. Check.

Buying a bus ticket in Poland

The next step was to board the bus and buy a ticket. I think the purchasing of a ticket is often the most challenging part of public transportation, so here are my best (rather obvious) tips: 1. Always have a variety of low denomination bills and coins. Even if you don’t know how much they are worth, you can just keep handing them over until eventually you’ll pay for whatever it is you are buying.

I hate being in the U.S. and not having the right payment method; this is only amplified in a strange place where you don’t speak the language. Variety is the spice of life. 2. Do what the locals do. When we boarded the bus we watched the kids in front of us walk up to a machine and stick in a few zloty. They then walked over to a time stamp thing and shoved in their little piece of paper. We followed suit.

Riding a bus in Poland

After we boarded the bus, we found some seats and settled in. The salt mine is about a 40 minute, ten mile route outside of the city. C and B found some seats next to each other and I took an open seat next to a tiny, ancient lady. She was straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale–I guarantee this lady looks exactly like her mother and her grandmother, all the way back to the middle ages. Our other bus riders were a mix of locals and (what we later learned were) tourists.

But not tourists like the three of us; everyone on the bus was from Poland. We knew what stop we were looking for, but the problem was we had no idea of knowing when we got to that stop. We had been going for about 40 minutes when the group of teenagers that B and C were entertaining themselves observing all clambered off the bus.

Listen to your elders (in Poland and elsewhere)

There wasn’t a sign anywhere so we were staying put, but then the adorable babushka sitting next to me poked me, said something and Polish and pointed to the door. Some things transcend verbal language, so we scrambled off the bus before it pulled off again. Bless her. This actually brings about tip 3: respect the older ladies. Everyone should always do this, no matter where you are, but it is especially useful in other countries when you need help. If I am ever being hassled by men in another country, I know to look for an older lady. They’ll give the jerks an earful for you.

On the bus the lady had no idea who we were or what we were saying, but she knew three American girls would only be on that bus to go to the mines and so she helped us out. After we left the bus, we reverted to tip number one and followed the group of teenagers down a poorly marked path, across a road and finally arrived at the mine entrance.

The Mine Itself

The Wieleczka Salt Mine is a pretty major tourist destination in Poland; over a million people visit here each year. It opened in the 1200s (yes, that’s not a typo) and finally shut down operation in 2007. That’s an insane amount of salt that has come out of this almost 200 miles of underground area. On our tour, we walked about two miles in the mine.

Wieliczka Salt Mines
Wielizcka wood beams.

The tour

After purchasing our tickets we were assigned to an English speaking tour group of about 40 people. After we got our headphones so we could all hear the super cute Polish tour guide girl, we walked through a door that had about ten steps down in a wooden shaft, then turned at a right angle and had ten more steps, etc. etc. for almost four hundred steps. This was no problem for B, but was a problem for C since she had sprained her ankle earlier that week and was a big problem for me since I get claustrophobic in underground places. (Why would I go into a mine, you might wonder? Well, I weigh things like this: if regret for not going > fear of going, I’m gonna go for it.)

At the bottom of the stairs, the hallway opened up and we got our first glimpse of what a salt mine looks like from the inside. I was surprised; I was expecting it to look like the salt I’ve seen–white and grainy. Instead, we would spend the next four hours walking on and through floors, walls and ceilings that looked like gray rock.

Wieliczka Salt Mines
Hi ho, hi ho…..

Why the Wieliczka Salt Mine is famous

The reason why Wieliczka is such a famous salt mine and why we made it a point to visit was not because of its historical importance or size. Nope. Instead, it is renowned because salt miners, you know, when they weren’t busy working, have carved all sorts of interesting sculptures, figures, chapels, out of the salt. Most of these sculptures were inspired by the religious sentiments of the miners. Our tour started off sedately, with our guide explaining how we would only see wooden beams and wooden doors in the mines because metal would rust. Because of this, though, much of the wood is white with material that keeps it from catching on fire.

Fire would be disastrous to the mine (and miners!) so along with the white coating there were procedures in place that protected against it, such as we all had to be in an enclosed area and have door behind us shut before we could open the door in front of us to mitigate static electricity sparking a fire. We were then told that since salt is antibacterial, we could taste the walls without worrying about who has licked that same spot over the years. Challenge accepted.

Wieliczka Salt Mines
Floor to ceiling salt lick.


Exploring the caverns

Our tour took us through about 20 of the 2,000 chambers in the mine and each one seemed more impressive than the next. Some scenes were of full-sized people, like John Paul II (not at all surprising as this guy is EVERYWHERE in Poland) and some were caricatures that looked like the dwarves from Snow White. We learned about the lives of the miners and how they would go into the mine in the dark of the morning and not leave until the dark of the night. We learned about how they used animals to do some of the work and some of the horses never saw the light of day, having been born and died below. A large underground lake glisten in an eery green color. However, the most impressive sight on the tour is a cavernous Chapel of St. Kinga.

Chapel of St. Kinga

This room is about 5,000 square meters and can hold several hundred people. As we descended the stairs onto the main floor, our guide pointed out the chandeliers carved out of salt. This seemed impressive until we got to the bottom of the stairs and took a look around us. There were sculptures all over and an altar where we were told many people have been married. My favorite thing about the room, though, was the carving of Leonardo’s Last Supper. There was an amazing amount of detail–so much so that you almost forget that someone etched away at the wall to leave this beautiful scene in relief. The tour ended with elevators–we were so grateful we didn’t have to climb up the stairs that we didn’t mind being crammed into strange cattle-like elevators.

Wieliczka Salt Mines
St. Kinga’s Chapel

Wieliczka Salt Mines
The Last Supper. Pass the Salt.

Getting Back

After our tour we figured we would be able to head back to the same area we got off the bus, cross the road and wait for the next bus heading in the opposite direction of where we came. So there we were, standing around, when another Polish woman walked up to us and saying something we didn’t understand and gesticulating down the road. Since we subscribe to rule #3 religiously, we did as she said and found another bus stop down the road. A few minutes later, the bus arrived and we were on our way.


The Wieliczka Salt Mine is a terrific way to spend a day in Poland. You will get a glimpse into the life of pious, hard-working miners and be instantly grateful that the job you have isn’t remotely as difficult. For a heightened adventure, try out getting there on your own. You might just run into some sweet Polish ladies who will help you on your way.

Wieliczka Salt Mines
Wielizcka Salt Lake. Eat your heart out, Utah.

5 nights in Puerto Rico

5 nights in Puerto Rico

Last spring B, C and I were thinking about where we could go in the fall for a quick, affordable vacation. After looking through Google Flights and seeing where we could get from Boise on the cheap, we narrowed it down to two options: Aruba