Budgeting

3 Apps That Reward You For Taking Pictures

Tired of hearing about Ibotta?   Me too.  Don’t worry, that’s not on my list of apps!  When it comes to saving money (usually for travel), I always look for the quickest and easiest ways to be rewarded.  It’s hard to get much easier than taking some quick pictures of your receipts, right?  These are the three apps that I’ve earned the most from, so I hope you have the same experience! Continue reading “3 Apps That Reward You For Taking Pictures”

Travel

Road Trip Inspiration – The Lost Sea Adventure

Nestled in the quaint town of Sweetwater, TN, you’ll find a once in a lifetime experience on America’s largest underground lake – The Lost Sea Adventure.  (To see the world’s largest underground lake, add Dragon’s Breath Cave in Namibia to your bucket list).  Let me preface this by saying I’m not a huge fan of caverns (“seen one, seen them all” kind of girl right here), but when I heard that Craighead Caverns had a lake you could take a boat ride on, I knew I had to see it.  We made a pit stop here on the way to Chattanooga, but it’s also less than 2 hours from the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area if you’re headed to the Smoky Mountains.

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Continue reading “Road Trip Inspiration – The Lost Sea Adventure”

Budgeting

7 Unique Mother’s Day Gift Ideas + 1 Cliché

Attention Procrastinators:  This is for you.  I’m definitely not judging; sometimes these important days just sneak up on you and you need to find something meaningful really quickly, so here are a few suggestions for you!

Organic Skin Care from Desert Essence.  I love this company’s non-toxic personal care products and the Mother in your life will too, knowing the ingredients are safe (and they smell great too!)


Desert Essence Skin Care Regimen

Continue reading “7 Unique Mother’s Day Gift Ideas + 1 Cliché”

europe · iceland · Travel

Iceland – Things To Know Before You Go

My husband and I are grateful to have just completed our second trip to Iceland (Our first visit was in 2016 for our honeymoon).  We initially stopped there because of the $99 WOW Air flights to get us over to Europe, but we came back because we loved it so much!  If you’re planning a visit soon or just considering adding Iceland to your bucket list, read on for our best tips!

IMG_20180502_140654656.jpgWhere To Stay

    • Don’t book a hotel or Airbnb near the airport – the taxi cost will flatten your wallet, as we found out.  Instead, opt for the Flybus that is always waiting at the airport to take you on the 45 minute drive to Reykjavik (includes free Wifi).  If you buy tickets for it on the plane (WOW Air), you can save $10.  There is also a bus called Airport Direct that is cheaper, but it didn’t seem to run as frequently.31948138_10105715055035859_5088011274671882240_n
    • Hotels and the private room hostels we looked into were too pricey for our budget, but thankfully we found this Airbnb that was close to everything downtown and we had a great stay on both visits.    Feel free to use my link to get $40 off your first Airbnb stay!

Tours

Generally we like to venture off the beaten path on our trips, but were advised against renting a car here as the driving can be so treacherous (not to mention expensive to rent), so we opted for the 3 guided tours below instead and loved all of them.

  • Whale Watching with Puffin Cruise – Special Tours Iceland
    • If you have more than one day in Iceland, try to book your whale-watching tour on your first day so if your tour gets cancelled due to bad weather (very common – happened to us) or if you don’t see any whales, you’ll still get another chance to go before you leave

South Shore Adventure including Skogafoss and Vik’s black sand beach (Reynisfjara) – Arctic Adventures

Getting to walk behind the waterfalls was a highlight for me, as was the black sand beach.  Just watch out for the sneaker waves and don’t turn your back to the ocean.

Glacier, Waterfalls and Lava Caving – Extreme Iceland 

 

You will get to see Þingvellir National Park – This is where you get to walk between 2 continents.  We had a lot of fun riding in the Super Jeep on the glacier, exploring the caves and listening to our guide, Thor 😀

What To Wear

  •  The local saying goes “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.”  We saw how true this was as we encountered hurricane force winds (not exaggerating – it knocked some in our tour down on the ground), rain, sleet, snow, and then bright sunny days all within 5-10 minutes of each other.
  • Pack your warmest coat and be sure to bring thick socks, gloves, a hat, and thermals (It was colder here in May than it was when we came in October).  Cold weather in the US is nothing compared to the cold and wind in Iceland – we came vastly unprepared the first time!!   I’d recommend a rain-resistant coat with a thick hood rather than trying to lug an umbrella with you everywhere.  Waterproof boots are also really helpful to have.   As you can see in the video, the weather is no joke!

What To Eat And Drink

Iceland has no shortage of good restaurants, but your jaw will drop when you look at the price of food and drinks (about $20 for a sub sandwich) so just be prepared and budget accordingly.  I recommend shopping at Bonus (the local grocery store) and saving some money by preparing your own meals if you’re at a hostel or Airbnb.  Be sure to try the Skyr (yogurt).  It’s creamy, high in protein and deliciously fat-free!

    • Food We Enjoyed in Reykjavik: 
      • Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – Hot dog stand where Bill Clinton ate.  Their hot dogs are lamb based and have crunchy fried onions on them.  Yummy!
      • Glo – Lots of healthy options here – vegan friendly and they even had kombucha!
      • Sægreifinn – The BEST Lobster Soup.  Perfect way to warm up after being out in the windy and cold harbor.
      • Joe and the Juice – originated in Copehagen, but they have wonderful cold pressed juices and their panini sandwiches are tasty too.
  • What To See/Do in Reykjavik

    • Local Pool –  This is not your average swimming pool. Be sure to visit one while you’re there.  Each city has at least one (Reyjavik had 3 or 4, but we chose this one)  They are about half the cost of the Blue Lagoon and have awesome geothermal pools and saunas to enjoy.   Also a great way to mingle with locals and have a more authentic experience – we saw no tourists here (YAY!)  You can also rent towels and swimsuits there if you don’t have your own.  Note: You will have to shower completely naked before they allow you in the pool – the strict hygiene is needed due to the low chlorine content of the water.  They don’t allow pictures inside, but you can see how cool it is on their website.
    • Sun Voyager Sculpture – It’s beautiful and on clear days you’ll have a great view of Mount Esja in the backgroundreceived_10103605708104148.jpg
    • Street Art – it’s all over downtown, and so creative.  Be sure to take a Star Wars selfie in the quirky Cafe Babalu!

 

 

    • Blue Lagoon – Yes, it’s very touristy and locals mostly avoid it, but it was well worth it.  Be sure to make reservations in advance, as they book up quickly.  You probably won’t be able to get a same day reservation.  If you’re looking for something different, try their in-water massages.  It was so nice to float during a massage!  Note: this is not in Reykjavik, so you’ll have to take the bus to get there (it’s closer to the airport)
    • Hallgrímskirkja Church – make sure to go inside and also climb to the top if you dare!

Embrace The Culture

  • Icelandic people are very friendly, and most speak English as they’re required to learn it in school.  Still, it goes a long way if you make an effort to learn some of their basic words and phrases though, like “Takk” (Thanks)
  • The water smells like rotten eggs (sulfur content).   You’ll get used to it.  It smells bad but actually tastes really good if you can believe that, so no need to buy bottled water.
  • Don’t expect to see the Northern Lights.  We didn’t see them either time we went, and we were told they can be quite difficult to spot unless you’re there in December or January.  Don’t have high expectations, that way if you DO see them,  you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
  • Don’t call them ponies!  They are horses (though tiny), and the locals will be offended if you call them ponies.
  • No real need to exchange money here.  You can use your credit card everywhere.
  • Be ready for extremes.  In May, they only have 1 hour of darkness, and in Winter, it gets dark quite early.
  • If you’re there on Saturday or Sunday, visit the flea market!  We really enjoyed interacting and bargaining there.

So what do you think, is an Icelandic adventure in your future?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  As always, let me know if you have any questions and I’ll be glad to answer any that I can.

Emily

The Planking Travelerreceived_10103607798000978.jpg

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giveaway

Tidewater Sandals Giveaway!

  

Beach season is upon us, so it’s time to get a pedicure and show off those pretty feet that have been in hiding all winter!  What better way to do that than with a FREE pair of Tidewater Sandals?  They have a wide variety of colors and styles, so I know you’ll find the perfect style for you.  I chose the cute Tallulah Navy pair below because they matched so well with my favorite beach romper.   A little about the company in case you aren’t aware –  Tidewater Sandals started in the Southeast in 2002 but have since grown to be loved across the country.  I love their mission: “Offer high-quality, fashionable, comfortable sandals at a reasonable price.”

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My Beach Essentials

I’m hard on my shoes (FitBit dominates my life), so comfort is of utmost importance when I choose my shoes.  I’ve been very pleased with the cushioning and arch support on these sandals, as well as the fact that they don’t rub or chafe when I walk in them for long distances!

How To Enter The Giveaway:

  1. Comment below with what you’re most looking forward to this Summer by 1:00 pm EST on Monday (5/14/18)  The winner will be free to choose ANY pair of sandals from Tidewater’s website.

**Note: Open to US residents only.  Sorry to my international readers!

If you don’t win the giveaway, you’re still in luck!   Use my code PLANK15 to receive 15% off your purchase through the end of May.

These would also make a great Mother’s Day gift!

Good luck!!

Emily

The Planking Traveler

airlines · budget travel · Travel · Uncategorized

Review of WOW Air

Have you heard about WOW’s $99 fares to Europe but wondered how they could be that cheap?  I was a skeptic before we first flew with WOW about 2 years ago and was frankly a little nervous to fly with them, wondering if we’d be crammed in the plane like sardines and if they were safe.  After now having 6 flights with WOW under my belt, I can confidently say they are a great option if you go about your booking and packing in the right way.  We’ve also wondered if they require a modeling portfolio to work for them, because every flight attendant we’ve had has been tall and gorgeous!

Pros:

  • Stopover in Iceland/Connection through Iceland – Because they are based out of Iceland, taking advantage of WOW’s stopover option has proven to be the cheapest way to get to Europe during most months that we are booking travel.  If you have a little extra time, it can definitely be cost effective (and fun to explore Iceland).  They also recently added a bunch of new routes as you can see on the map below – I’m particularly excited about their addition of Tel Aviv!

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  • Healthy Food – Like many other European airlines, there are no complimentary drinks or snacks.  Plan ahead and bring your own from home or from the airport so you won’t be hungry.  The good news is, if you DO purchase snacks/drinks on board, they have a really nice variety of healthy food.  31946067_10105715055794339_3574306487066951680_n
  • Discounts on excursions/buses – If you’re spending time in Reykjavik, be sure to book your Flybus/excursion tickets while on the plane to save money.  We saved $10 by booking the bus ticket on the plane.  Since the airport is located 45 minutes from the city, 99% of those visiting will end up taking this or another bus to get to all the tourist spots.31948138_10105715055035859_5088011274671882240_n
  • USB charging for each seat – To me, this is all I really need on a flight so I can watch downloaded movies on my own device, so I really appreciate that they offer this.
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  • Comfort and Safety –  Since I’m 5’9″ and my husband is 6’0″, leg room is crucial so we don’t go completely insane in the air.  WOW offers extra leg room seats at an additional cost, but we found their standard seats to be just fine (on par with the economy section of all other airlines).  As far as safety, their crew is probably the most conscientious of any airline I’ve been on of making sure everyone is buckled in and safe, and our flights with them have all been smooth and without delays.  Their Airbus321 is what we’ve had on our journeys, with the  3 and 3 seat configuration, and they’ve all been well-kept up and comfortable.

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    Standard Seating – our row

Cons

  • Lack of gate agents – One of their money saving strategies seems to be to cut back on the number of check in/customer service agents they have at each airport (except in Iceland, where they have plenty).  In one airport, we waited in line for an hour just to pay for our bags.  Seems they have some inefficiencies to work out in that area.  Moral of the story: Pre-pay for your bags online so you can skip the lines and just do the self check in and tag them/drop them off yourself.IMG_20180501_161528045
  • Limited availability – At certain airports their ticket counters don’t open until fairly close to the flight, so you may have to wait a while before you can head through security, whereas with bigger airlines there always seem to be agents available to help you at any time of day.
  • In Flight Entertainment – No WiFi or seat back screens to watch movies, but they do rent out iPads for $25 on certain flights, so you can watch movies that way if you’re desperate.
  • Baggage Costs – The cost of checked bags is high, and they will make you check larger hand luggage, so you probably won’t end up saving money if you don’t pack light.  I was able to carry on my backpack and purse (pictured at the top) at no extra charge, but my husband’s larger backpack had to be checked (for an extra charge).31912689_10105715055679569_1171337048766808064_n

 

For me, they offer far more benefits than downsides, so I’ll be continuing to fly with them as often as possible and trying to convince them to use Doge as their official marketing partner (perfect fit, right?!)   Have you flown with them or will you consider trying them in the future?  I’d love to hear what you think!

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Emily

The Planking Traveler

Budgeting · Fitness

Relieve Tax Season Tension at Planet Fitness

Need some R&R after a stressful few weeks of wading through tax documents? Didn’t get much of a refund or maybe you owed this year?   A gym may not be the first image that pops into your head when you think about relaxation, but Planet Fitness isn’t your typical gym.  Here’s why I’m hooked:

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Continue reading “Relieve Tax Season Tension at Planet Fitness”