Travel Tips, Tricks, and Secrets!

We have been traveling since before we can remember. Our mom use to take us back to the east coast to see family when Ivy was as little as three months old. With all our experience in traveling here in the USA and abroad we have learned some travel tips and tricks you can use on your next adventure! 

Our upcoming trip is going to start with 6 fabulous nights in Paris. We plan to eat a lot of bread, cheese, macarons and of course drink LOTS of champagne! While we are there we will be taking a day trip to Reims, the champagne region of France and are looking forward to getting the chance to tour some of our favorite champagne houses!  We are also traveling to Versailles - somewhere we've always wanted to go. After Paris, we will head off to London to visit some of our good friends before heading to Manchester for the remainder of our stay. While Manchester will be our "home base" we plan to take many day trips around England. We are so excited to be off on another adventure and we hope you check back often, as we will be posting updates while we are away!

xxx Ivy & Eve

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Booking Ahead:

Its always a good idea to book ahead. You usually can get better seats, deals, and options all together. Yes, waiting till the last minute could save you money once in a while, but you are running the risk of paying more, not getting the flight you really wanted, and having to sit in a dreaded middle seat. We recommend always booking ahead because the worst thing that can happen is you have more time to pack and repack your suitcase! Here are a few of our travel tips for booking ahead...

StudentUniverse: So not everyone can use this service but its really awesome for youth, students, and teachers. Its a travel booking service that gives those groups great deals on flights, tours, and hotels. We both used this a ton during school. 

Gilt Travel: We just recently started using this site and its amazing! It gives you great discounts on some of the worlds most luxurious hotels and resorts around the world. All the hotels listed are 4 to 5 stars and unique to any other hotel where you have stayed. They have hotels from across the globe - from Mexico to Monaco. We cant wait to utilize this site more!

Gilt City: This is another great site to use when you are traveling (USA only). It is like a high-end Groupon where you can purchase deals for spas, restaurants, tours, shops, etc. We always check this out for deals before we head to San Francisco (or any city in the USA).

Picking Seats: Now this can apply to planes, trains, and ships. If you travel as a couple or like us with your BFF, pick one seat by the aisle and one by the window (leaving the middle seat open). Most likely, no one will book to be between you and if they do you can always ask if one of you can take their middle seat...and lets be honest no one ever wants the middle seat. We do this all the time and practically always get an extra seat between us!

Train Tickets- When traveling by train in Europe and the UK, always look into travel discount cards before you book. In the UK, if you are traveling a lot by train, there are several options for discounts. If you are a student or under 25, you can get a student rail card which will give you 33% off the regular ticket prices. They also have rail cards with the same discount for seniors, disabled people, people traveling with children, and people who always travel together (two-together card). Each of these cards are Β£30 and are valid for 1 year. If you are planning on traveling by train more than once, you will most likely save over Β£30 on your first round trip!

Virgin East Coast Rail: These are our favorite UK trains. These trains are beautiful, super fast, and have THE MOST AMAZING FIRST CLASS. First class includes cushy seats and tables, at least one meal, unlimited snacks (such as fruit, cakes, and crisps) and water, tea, and coffee. On weekdays, when you travel first class, they serve unlimited alcoholic beverages. You also get free wifi! They also have amazing First Class lounges at most train stations along the route. Many times, the cost of an upgrade to first class is less than the cost of a typical sandwich and drink on the standard class meal trolley. Definitely look into first class before booking!

 Apps Worth Having:

MiFlight- This is awesome especially with all the crazy lines lately for security at the airports. This app gets its information in real-time from other users and tells you which security checkpoint has the shortest line so you don't have to guess and stress! 

Uber- You probably know this one already, but now its available internationally! Its great because you don't have to worry about having enough change in your wallet for taxis, but be careful of surge prices (these are prices that can be drastically more depending on various reasons like - its a really busy time of day, or if their is an event going on) before booking a pickup.

Citymapper- This is a great app for travelers everywhere. It helps you navigate subways, trains, and busses so you don't have to do it on your own. Simply type in the destination and it will show you a few ways to get there. This is really helpful for navigating the metro in Paris or the tube in London. If you get any travel app, GET THIS ONE!!!

Phone Plans- When traveling to Europe, most people either decide to not use their cell phones or purchase an added international roaming plan for the time they are traveling. While this is good to use for emergencies and short trips, We recommend going to any mobile phone store when you land and purchasing a sim card and pay-as-you-go plan. These typically cost around $20 and you get data which you can use for looking things up online, iMessaging, etc. You can also top-up your phone plan at almost any ATM.  And you can feel super cool having your own European phone number! When Eve lived in the UK, she used Virgin Mobile which has a great phone and data plan.

Other Tips:

Google Street View- One thing we hate when we go to a new place is to not know where anything is! We recommend once you have booked your hotel, hop on Google maps (in street view) and take a look at what the surrounding block or two looks like. It only takes a few minutes but you will feel like you already know your way around before you even get there! Ivy has already saved locations of a bunch of patisseries around our neighborhood in Paris to visit...yummy!

    Wallet- Yes, we know you were going to pack one but make sure to have one with a large coin pocket, or bring a separate coin purse with you because you will gather a ton of coins in Europe! (we recommend using your extra coins at self checkouts in markets and at the airport on your way home so you keep the weight down in your purse/wallet and you don't have to count them out in front of the cashier..just dump them in the change slot and voila!) 

      Copies of Passport & Itinerary- Make sure to have copies of your passport and even save a photo on your phone if you want, also have copies of your hotels and flights incase you do not have internet access.

      Tipping the waiters- While in the USA, we always tip for meals out. In Europe, a lot of the times the waters are paid higher so you don't have to tip them as a consumer- however in the UK, we we tend to tip about 10% when dining out and round up to the nearest pound/euro when ordering drinks at the bar. In France, it is normal to tip a few euros at a casual restaurant, and 5% at fancier places.