Biggest question we’ve been asked: how?
Well, that’s a loaded question, now isn’t it? How indeedy.
So, I guess I should start by saying that both TJ and I run our own businesses. We don’t have to ask for time off, but we do have to organize things smartly so our businesses don’t tank in our absence. And it’s a lot of work before you leave and after you come back. But worth it.
1: You’ve got to save money. Stop buying shit you don’t need and start putting aside money in a savings account. Fast forward: done.
Also, spread out reserving things online. This way, you don’t spend your whole wad in one load and you have time to save up more and still survive. We didn’t put anything on a credit card until the actual trip (and even then, only because it was required to put it on an actual credit card).
2: Be realistic. How much do you want to spend per night on average for accomodations? We set a $100/night or cheaper manta. And we definitely stayed within this. Some nights were cheaper, some nights were slightly more. All 31 nights added up and averaged: $90/night
How? Airbnb and a couple of hotels that were super-discounted online. And every place we stayed in was great by our standards. Also, we rented a camper van for 3 nights in Iceland (thank you, Happy Campers) and that combined our rental car and accommodations into one.
Planning the trip wisely meant a lot of time researching online. It turned into a part-time job looking at reviews, airbnb locations in relation to which sights we wanted to see, comparing rental car sites, etc.
Here are some websites we used:
http://www.wowair.com – Well, first you have to get there. This airline rocks! If you want super cheap flights and you’re fine with entertaining yourself, then this is the way to go. You can purchase an in-flight iPad with movies and some other stuff, but we were fine with our books and I also had brought my laptop to work on. Wowair charges for seat assignments, but it’s not much and we felt it was worth it to know we’d be sitting next to eachother. We did get hit with a lot of baggage overweight fees. That’s our fault for not packing lighter, but we brought one large suitcase to check for the whole month. It’s not 50 lbs like many US flights. It’s 20 kilos. Which is about 44 lbs. So, keep this in mind. Wowair is fantastic because you can do a “stop-over” and basically not have to pay for it. So, we flew from LAX to Iceland, stayed there for 4 nights, and then flew to London, and then back to LAX at the end of the month.
http://www.ryanair.com – We used Ryanair from Glasgow to Dublin and then Derry (Northern Ireland) back to London. Again, they are the same weight limitations as Wowair, so keep those bags light or make sure your carry on is the right size. They’ll also charge you for extras, but if you’re not picky, than you can get super cheap flights to bounce around.
http://www.airbnb.com – I am in love with airbnb. In love. Nothing but wonderful experiences with the properties as well as the hosts. Most places we had the entire place. A few were b&b’s and private rooms, but all had their own private bathroom.
http://www.autoeurope.com – Our two week car rental from Edinburgh to Glasgow. Keep in mind dropping off at a different location add a fee, but we felt it was worth it. (Thank you, Magdele, who totally hooked us up with an upgrade on the day we picked up the car in Edinburgh. We got an automatic and a Nissan SUV for about $10/day extra. So much cheaper than reserving it online. It’s a chance you take, we would have been happy with a manual transmission car, but the upgrade was definitely rad).
http://www.happycampers.is – Our camper van for Iceland! We got the gravel protection and general insurance. The van was awesome. No 4×4, but perfectly great for the ring road and campsites.
http://www.hertz.com – We used Hertz for our 5 day car rental from Dublin to Northern Ireland (also, a fee for different drop-off locations. This one was higher because we dropped off in a different country). We didn’t love our car as much, but that’s because we were spoiled with our Scotland car.
http://www.booking.com – We did book a hotel in Dublin for one night because booking.com has daily discounts on certain hotels. We happened to find a great little hotel right in Dublin for super cheap (94 euros) called the Arlington.
http://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com – We booked our train tickets online from London to Edinburgh. We booked them the night before we left London, not super far in advance. Was a great ride up, almost empty train when we went (11a on a Wednesday). Two tickets with a table was £106.00 total.
I’ll update this if I remember anything else….
3: if you need data and phone while overseas, I highly recommend T-Mobile. They kickass with international plans and we had great service most of the time. There were only a few areas in Iceland and Scotland that we didn’t have service. And that was fine by me. We brought a Garmin GPS with us so we wouldn’t have to rely on our phone’s GPS for those most isolated areas. Most airbnbs and hotels have wifi these days, too.
The walk and public transportation features on googlemaps were lifesavers as well (I have an android). Using the Citymapper app in London was great, too. And be sure to get an Oyster card in London and make sure your airbnb is in Zone 1 to get the most out of it.
Basically: plan ahead. Do a lot of research. Ask your friends for advice if they’ve been somewhere.