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Saving and Budget Travel Books
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San Francisco has a gorgeous New Year’s Eve fireworks display over the waterfront near both the Ferry Building and the SF Bay Bridge.
The display kicks off at 11:59 pm and lasts for about 15 to 20 minutes. It’s one of the most attended displays every year with hundreds of thousands of people taking part.
On a clear night, it’s definitely worth the time and effort to get there and see this amazing display as you ring in the new year. Plan to arrive early for the best seats and grab a spot somewhere along the waterfront to the south of the Ferry Building.
You can watch the fireworks display anywhere along the eastern side of San Francisco by the waterfront.
The fireworks are on a boat that sits in the water between the Ferry Building and the SF Bay Bridge.
You can also hop aboard a fireworks cruise for dinner, dancing, and a little drinking before the display starts. If you would rather pass on the fireworks and just want to chill with friends head to Proper Hotel San Francisco’s rooftop bar.
Unlike New York or Chicago San Francisco isn’t exactly known for its rooftop scene – but Charmaine’s is changing that.
With amazing 360-degree view complimented with cozy fire pits and craft cocktails – at night it is a hot spot to mingle and a perfect place to ring in the New Year in SFO.
Savannah Georgia is one of the best winter destinations in the USA and it’s a great city to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Savannah has lots of winter and NYE activities for the best trip ever.
The best things to do in Savannah Georgia in New Years Eve are exploring Savannah’s beautiful streets and squares (with all the lights and holidays decoration), taking a stroll through Forsyth Park, going to Tybee Island (about twenty minutes away from the city center) or spending the afternoon at Savannah’s Waterfront in River street which is great for sunsets!
On December 31 and January 1, the New Year’s Eve fireworks show is launched from Tybee Island’s Pier and the fireworks can be watched from the beach or many restaurants on the island.
A romantic plan for NYE celebrations, especially for couples, includes an old-style sternwheeler riverboat cruise on the Savannah River with dinner, drinks and unique firework viewing from the water.
The City Market’s New Year’s Eve Celebration is a must in Savannah, including live outdoor music while having some food or a drink until 1 a.m. This market is located between Broughton and River Street and the event is free.
And the morning after NYE, nothing as having a hot chocolate and a tasty breakfast at B. Matthew’s Eatery or at J Christopher’s. (It is recommended to book in advance).
Visitors and locals will make memories by celebrating NYE in Savannah!
Celebrating New Years in Seattle is an experience everyone should have at least once in their life.
The Emerald City is full of adventures to fill your days and nights, so it is recommended that you book a few days in Seattle to get the full experience.
Whatever you may have heard about Seattle’s weather, don’t let the potential of rain stop you from heading outside to experience the city during the day or the spectacular fireworks that shoot off the Space Needle at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
There are a few places you can go to see the fireworks, depending on how adventurous you are.
Head to the Seattle Center if you want to a front-row seat of the choreographed to music light show.
Those who fancy a bit more activity can view the show from the water.
Many vendors will rent kayaks or canoes for your enjoyment on Lake Union. Paddle to the middle of the lake and enjoy the show, you’ll likely be surrounded by local Seattleites.
For an easier commute ‘home’ after the fireworks show, try booking a hotel within walking distance to Seattle Center or better yet, find an apartment.
You may also want to read our guide to New Year’s in the USA featuring Seattle and many other cities in the United States.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Toronto is without a doubt a classic Canadian experience.
While the weather might be a tad on the cold side, there is plenty to do – whatever your style – to ring in the New Year.
For revellers wanting to stay warm, the largest city in Canada is stocked full of bars, restaurants, and clubs all ready to celebrate. For the thousands willing to bear the cold, however, the highlight of a classic Toronto New Year’s celebration is the festival at Nathan Phillips Square.
Located right in the heart of downtown, the square is shared with Toronto City Hall, the illuminated “Toronto” sign, and the ice skating rink – which is also free if you bring your own skates! The Square itself is converted into a giant festival with lots to do for everyone.
It’s free to enter, and the main stage features top Canadian and international performers in the hours leading up to midnight. At midnight, the host takes over the stage and the countdown begins. With the crowd huddled together as the clock strikes down, fireworks shoot from City Hall in a fantastic display.
The fireworks last for the duration of ”Auld Lang Syne”!
Since it is the beginning of January in Canada, it’s always a good idea to dress warmly when planning to be outside. We were able to make it through the cold evening just fine with the help of a warm winter coat, a winter hat (called a ‘toque’ in Canada), a thick scarf, and gloves for our hands.
Of course, we couldn’t forget the tacky New Year’s glasses – but we certainly weren’t alone in wearing them!
For an incredible cultural experience, you should consider spending New Year’s Eve in Salinas, Ecuador. The horseshoe bay fills with thousands of people, all looking to celebrate.
Every restaurant and bar is packed full and street vendors can be found all along the Malecon, or promenade, selling cheap and delicious food. People sell fireworks, balloons, lanterns and all manner of ‘party’ objects to add to the atmosphere.
Throughout the day, people begin their celebrations and the occasional marching band works its way down the street, dancing along while collecting tips.
The free beachfront concert provides entertainment as people wait for midnight to strike. Ecuadorians ring in the new year by burning elaborate effigies in huge bonfires.
Unlike other cities where these fires are dotted around town, in Salinas, the beach provides the perfect setting for a long line of bright orange focal points.
As the fires burn, fireworks begin exploding from every direction. Our heads were on a swivel as we jumped and gasped at each unexpected bang.
The festivities continue well into the early hours of the morning as the fireworks give way to music. For locals, this is a family celebration and many children join in the fun but it’s definitely an incredible party for adults too!
It was by far the most fun we have had on New Year’s Eve and we can’t wait to experience another one in.
For people who like fireworks and crowds and noise, Amsterdam is the place to be on New Year’s Eve.
The official fireworks show, organized by the city, will start at midnight, but don’t be surprised if you see and hear lots of fireworks all evening.
People shoot them off anywhere and everywhere. In other words, be prepared for a crazy, loud, crowded night. If you’re skittish about loud noises, this is definitely NOT the place to be!
The official fireworks show, organized by the city, has previously been held at Java island.
If you don’t want the biggest crowds, don’t worry.
Stand pretty much anywhere in the city and, at midnight, you’ll see fireworks in every direction.
Your best bet for a great view would probably be on one of the many bridges over a canal in the old part of the city.
Both before and after the fireworks, street celebrations take place on the public squares like the Leidseplein and Nieuwmarkt. Tip: try an oliebol, a traditional fried dough ball, with or without raisins.
You’ll find the oliebol kiosks by following the smell. And, of course, most pubs and clubs will have special New Year’s Eve celebrations that extend to the early morning.
On New Year’s Day, if you have any energy left, many of Amsterdam’s museums are open, though with shorter hours.
For the big famous ones like the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum or the Anne Frank House, make sure to book your tickets ahead of time.
New Year’s Eve celebrations, in Dublin, are like most major celebrations in the city – loud and entertaining.
The Dublin New Year’s Eve festival is now entering its seventh year and it looks like things are only getting bigger.
Using the Custom House as the backdrop to the festival, revellers enjoy live music light show across the river Liffey and an incredible firework show as the clock strike midnight.
The organisers are aiming to make this Ireland’s largest New Year’s Eve event.
Traditionally, it is the smaller pub affair which is most popular in Dublin and you won’t be surprised to hear that Temple Bar always draws the largest crowd of partiers.
The bars and streets in this popular neighbourhood become packed with people waiting for the countdown to begin.
For the most part, each bar will have their own live entertainment which goes silent for the countdown and then it is back to business as usual.
If visiting from afar get into the bars early so you can have yourself a comfortable seat. The pubs and bars tend to start filling up around 8.00pm. as they are bound to fill up by the end of the night.
Edinburgh is arguably the best New Year’s Eve in the UK for visitors.
Scotland’s capital is renowned for hosting the best New Year’s Eve party in the world!
You know the feeling: it’s reaching 31st December and everyone is talking about plans for the evening, it might be a house party, paying extortionate prices for club entry that you’re not really up for, or staying in to watch the TV.
Once the fireworks end, it all feels hugely anticlimactic. But New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh? It won’t disappoint in the slightest.
In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is known as Hogmanay and the celebrations last for at least three days. Effectively, it’s a winter festival complete with fireworks, street parties, live music and flaming torches. It’s fantastic and the perfect way to say goodbye to the year.
It isn’t just about the 31st though.
On Hogmanay Eve you can join the Vikings as they march flaming torches through the city centre and all the way up to Calton Hill before an impressive fireworks display to warm you up for the main event.
Then, on Hogmanay, there’s a huge street party complete with several stages playing everything from chart-toppers to Ceilidh.
Dance the night away while keeping warm on whisky.
January 1st sees the crazy (like myself) head down to South Queensbury and the Forth bridges to cure their hangovers.
Turns out the best cure for a New Year’s Day hangover is to dress up and run into the freezing Scottish waters.
Scots are typically off work for the New Years Eve holidays which includes the 1st of January.
One of the most magical places to spend New Year’s Eve is the Dutch theme park Efteling.
The place is absolutely enchanting in the night when all the lights are on. In winter, Efteling is festively decorated and there’s artificial snow to complete the illusion that you are in a Winter Wonderland.
On New Year’s Eve all attractions and rides, besides the water coasters, are open, so what a better way to say goodbye to the old year than by making a few loops or by falling from 37,5 m into a mine shaft with 90 km/h, or by simply taking a stroll in the Fairytale Forest.
The whole evening there’s a live entertainment on the various squares in the park and the spirits are pretty high.
And if it’s too cold, there are campfires at each square to warm up your hands. When the clock strikes midnight, spectacular fireworks lit up the sky.
There’s one thing you should try on New Year’s Eve – oliebollen.
This Dutch take on the doughnut is eaten warm and dusted with powdered sugar. It’s the traditional snack after midnight on the New Year’s Eve.
There will be also plenty of mulled wine and fizzy wine in the Efteling.
If you are still hungry take a bowl with snert (Dutch split pea soup with pieces of smoked sausage) and a broodje Unox (the Dutch version of the hotdog with Unox sausages).
The New Year’s ticket for the Efteling gives you access to all attractions and festivities in the park form 7:00 pm on 31 December till 1:00 am on 1 January and the parking fee is included in the price.
When you decide to spend your New Year’s Eve holiday in Florence and don’t have local friends to guide you through the typical Florentine celebrations, you might either be left to yourself or end up paying a hefty price for an arranged experience.
That nearly happened to us when suddenly serendipity saved us and got the opportunity to learn about how the locals really celebrate!
First of all, New Year’s is one of the feasts that is best celebrated in a circle of friends, with plenty of good food and wine. We’re in Italy, after all.
Typically, people start eating and having a merry time early in the evening. Just before the clock strikes midnight, everyone rushes out to the city. Surprisingly, there are no official fireworks at midnight.
Locals and tourists alike just gather on Ponte Vecchio, along the river Arno, or simply at the main square Piazza della Signoria.
Everybody drinks their preferred wine, which some people switch for champagne. More friends bump into each other on the street, everyone gives their best wishes to each other and people are generally happily tipsy.
The more able ones finish the night off with a party. Weather permitting, a spontaneous party in the street might develop.
More often, though, it’s cafés and restaurants, which stay open throughout the night, that unofficially host the New Year’s festivities. Veronika Primm | TravelGeekery
After spending a mountain Christmas in Innsbruck it’s hard to anticipate what the New Year festivities will be like.
We needn’t have feared that the New Year’s celebrations in the Tyrolean capital would be dull compared to Christmas.
While the Christmas markets are all about standing quietly around with hands wrapped around steaming hot mugs of Glühwein, the streets of Innsbruck come alive in the countdown to the New Year. People start gathering in the cobbled streets of the Innsbruck old town from soon after dark.
There are stages with live entertainment and plenty of drink and food stalls to set the mood. But what makes the New Year celebrations in Innsbruck unique?
The mountains, of course.
The big attraction, the Nordkette mountain range towering over the city, never fails to impress. From 23:00 onward people start to move in the direction of the Inn River and the Market Square.
They vie for a prime spot from where to start the countdown to midnight when fireworks light up the mountains in a gorgeous display.
What I love most about New Year in Innsbruck is that the city caters for families with children by celebrating a “Children’s New Year” on 30 December.
There’s even a children’s disco in front of the Golden Roof, the symbol of Innsbruck.
And shortly after dark, they are treated to their own firework display over the Inn River.
Who needs New Years’ Eve fireworks when you’ve got Mother Nature’s very own light show going on overhead? There’s no more epic way to ring in the New Year than trying to spot the Northern Lights in Swedish Lapland.
One caveat, though – New Year’s Eve falls during the “Polar Night,” when due to how far north you are the sun doesn’t rise for several weeks.
Still, during the “Polar Night,” it is not all darkness, so it’s possible to get several hours of blue hour and twilight during the day and can still do exciting outdoor activities like dog-sledding with huskies or going ice-climbing during the “day.” Within Swedish Lapland, you have a few options on where to stay.
Outdoorsy types could spend the days around New Years’ in Abisko National Park, where Sweden’s Northern lights are the most visible and there are plenty of outdoor activities to be done such as snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Alternately, the small but lively town of Kiruna has the only true nightlife scene in Swedish Lapland, so it’s a good place to celebrate for bar-hoppers who want a drinking scene on New Years’ Eve.
For those who want a bit of luxury, there is the Icehotel in Jukkasjarvi – imagine spending the night in a room made entirely out of ice at -5 C, popping champagne and trying to spot the Northern Lights!
When it comes to New Year’s Eve in Lisbon, there’s something for everyone. Street parties with live music and fireworks take place in several locations across the city and, for those that like to party hard, many bars and nightclubs stay open until the early hours of the morning.
The main street party and the biggest event takes place at Praça do Comércio, and has live music from around 10 pm until midnight when the espumante (Portuguese fizz) is opened and the fireworks are set off. After that, you have the choice of finishing up the evening or joining the other revellers at bars in Cais do Sodré and the Bairro Alto.
For those that don’t fancy standing elbow-to-elbow in a crowd or partying until after the sun comes up, don’t worry there’s something for you too: many Lisbon restaurants have Fim De Ano menus that are staggered over several hours, pausing for a break at midnight to take in the fireworks and to wish everyone dining a Happy New Year.
If you want to eat but don’t want to spend the night sitting at a table, you don’t have to. You’ll find plenty of restaurants that offer simpler menus with just a few courses, giving you the chance to try a few of Portugal’s most famous dishes before you head out to watch the fireworks.
There’s also the option of watching a fado performance, and many of Lisbon’s fado houses will put on special shows to ring in the New Year.
You’ll find more information about this on their Facebook pages in the weeks leading up to the end of December. New Year’s Day is a fairly quiet day in Lisbon, and most businesses don’t open.
The exceptions are Chinese restaurants or Chinese-owned businesses and restaurants in the more touristy parts of the city like Baixa.
One place that is open on January 1st is Pastéis de Belém, the first bakery to begin selling pastéis de nata. Normally there’s a queue that stretches down the street but the early hours of January 1st are unsurprisingly pretty quiet. If you’re already up, this could be the perfect opportunity to get in line and break that first New Year’s resolution.
One of our favourite places to spend New Year’s Eve is our hometown, London. It is famous for having one of the most watched and famous fireworks in the world, which takes place on and around the iconic Millennium Wheel on the Southbank.
We love coming to see the fireworks by the Southbank and it’s become almost a tradition for us. We always make an evening of it. First, we have a group of friends gather at our place for dinner and drinks. Then at around 10:30 pm, we set off into town.
Tip if you’re heading to London for NYE, it gets super crowded, so plan to go early to get a spot. There are serious crowd control measures in place, which causes delays.
Also, the tube (London Metro) is free on the evening of the 31st and the early hours of the 1st which is handy. The fireworks go off at exactly midnight and last for a good 20 minutes, set to music, and they are WOW. A massive crowd gathers to watch, so there’s always guaranteed a fun atmosphere. However, because it has become so busy, they now charge an entry fee of around £10. After the fireworks are over, we either hang out in the streets of London which turn into one giant outdoor party, or head to a club or friend’s house.
Only a short flight (just under 2 hours) from either Lisbon or Porto you will find the beautiful Portuguese Island of Madeira.
Known mostly for its unique natural beauty, a paradise for outdoor adventure lovers, it also has another claim to fame.
Each year over New Year’s people flock from far and wide to attend Madeira’s New Year’s Eve festivities, held in the capital Funchal and having been named one of the best in the world.
Leading up to New Year’s in Madeira, Funchal is already pretty festive but ups the ante with an array of parties and festivals across the city leading up the stroke of midnight on the 31st of December when an impressive firework display lights the sky for about 8 – 10 minutes.
It’s this showpiece (that has even been named one of the biggest by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006) that gets the most attention.
Thanks to Funchal’s amphitheatre style layout there are various vantage points from which to enjoy the fireworks across the city.
So, whether you are in the city centre enjoying the street party vibes in Avenida Arriaga, at one of the various hotels or restaurants or down at the waterfront you are bound to get a pretty good view.
Or better yet, book a yacht or boat party, grab a glass of Poncha (typical Madeira alcoholic drink) and welcome in the New Year in true Madeiran style!
Flights to and from Madeira can be booked on either EasyJet or TAP and once in Funchal, there is a wide range of accommodation options available to choose from.
To read up more about the various events and festivals taking place both on and leading up to New Year’s consult Visit Madeira for more.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Spain’s capital, Madrid to truly understand the meaning of the word ‘fiesta’!
After dinner, locals and tourists gather around the Plaza del Sol area to away the chimes at 12am.
There are exactly twelve chimes which are preceded by ‘quarters’, to warn all those gathered that the change of year is imminent.
Next, everyone gets ready to eat the famous twelve lucky grapes.
One for each chime.
Swallowing the grapes without choking is difficult the first time you try it, so train in this art beforehand or to choose very small grapes.
Next comes an endless party night on the streets around the center.
Partygoers will most likely celebrate until sunrise then eat the traditional breakfast of churros before going to bed.
January 1 is a holiday in Spain, so people can rest all day.
With its iconic monuments, dazzling glamour, and epic celebrations, it’s hard to imagine a better place to ring in the New Year than in Paris.
Paris New Year’s celebrations offer something for everyone: whether you want to attend the official party on the Champs Elysees and watch the light show over the Arc de Triomphe, attend the more laid-back party on Sacre-Coeur where you can see fireworks go off all over the city, or splurge on a table at a club (Moulin Rouge is said to put on quite the show!), Paris has you covered.
However you decide to ring in the New Year in Paris, you’ll definitely want to plan ahead of time: crowds are predictably enormous and having a game plan – including when and how to arrive and how to get back to your hotel afterwards – is essential to having an epic New Year’s celebration in Paris.
The Paris metro is usually open with full service until 2:15 AM on the night of the 31st/morning of the 1st, and limited service continues afterwards.
To have the perfect Paris New Year trip, consider booking a hotel that is easy to access from the celebration you plan to attend. Since, like most cities, most of Paris is closed on January 1st, you may also want to stock your hotel or apartment with some food and drinks before heading out for the celebrations, to ensure when you wake up on January 1st you won’t have to worry about tracking anything down if you decide the day is better spent in bed.
Even if you’re exhausted, though, try to pull yourself out for at least a brief walk on January 1st – the city is insanely quiet, and it is a fantastic time to wander the streets of Paris in peace (and take photos without the crowds, if that’s your thing!)
Prague can be an amazing place for New Year festivities, but one needs to know where to go and which normally popular places to avoid.
Prague is an easy destination to reach by plane, train, bus… It’s only 4 hours by train from Berlin, 2 hours by plane from London and about a 12-hour flight from New York (with a stopover).
On December 31st, late in the evening and until about 3am, these spots should be avoided: Wenceslas Square & the Charles Bridge. Both become crowded on New Year’s Eve and a drunken person with fireworks in their hand is no rare occurrence. Plus, these spots attract pickpockets like crazy.
Locals usually head to parks with a good view of the city centre, such as e.g. Riegrovy Sady or Letná.
To join in, it’s enough to just buy a bottle of champagne and a few sparklers.
Otherwise, it’s just about watching the bigger fireworks, drinking and counting down the seconds to New Year.
Prague’s official fireworks traditionally happen one day later in the evening of January 1st.
These light animations will be projected onto the building of the National Museum on top of the Wenceslas Square. The first one will happen at 6pm and will have 2 repetitions – at 7pm and 8pm.
Prague in winter can get cold, especially on New Year’s Eve. Many layers, warm coats, hats, scarves and gloves will make the celebrations a lot more enjoyable.
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, here is one of the best places to celebrate New Years in the world. In Iceland, New Year’s Eve is done BIG and Reykjavik is the largest city in the country and the most popular place to celebrate.
In Iceland, the fireworks are donated and put on by a volunteer brigade. Everyone in the community donates throughout the year for the spectacle.
While Reykjavik is the largest city for viewing the New Years Eve display, each of the smaller communities all pitch in for the New Years Eve festivities as well! The tradition of community is strong and makes for a fun and festive spectacle on New Years!
The friendly people of Vienna really know how to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Straight after Christmas, which includes twenty markets around the city, locals join in parties on the streets all over the city. This is called the New Year’s Eve Trail.
Wintertime in Vienna is popular with ball dancing lovers, you can watch locals and visitors waltzing around Graben on the 31st of December!
There are also a number of other events at Vienna’s historic buildings and even on the Danube River. Like many European cities, Vienna says hello to the new year with fireworks and music.
It’s hard to go wrong with picking a place for the New Year celebration, but Vilnius is definitely one of the best locations you can pick from for your party.
The capital of Lithuania takes celebrating very seriously, and still being relatively cheap compared to other European capitals, you can get a good value for money experience.
Depending on what you prefer, there are several options.
Most of the restaurants, clubs and hotels will have some New Year Eve’s party for a fixed price, where you can get dinner or just some drink and entertainment, be it a play, some musical concert or stand-up comedy.
The Opera House traditionally hosts a performance of Traviata just before midnight, but keep in mind that the tickets are usually sold well in advance.
Whichever venue you have chosen for your celebration, come out to Vilnius Cathedral Square right at midnight to see the main fireworks – usually a rather long and impressive sight.
Don’t forget to grab some Bengal lights and a bottle of sparkling wine or an alternative.
The most important part is not alcohol content, but the popping factor – so you can open it together with hundreds of people in the main square and toast to the new year.
Many locals will stay at home in one of the city suburbs for a big dinner with friends or family and then come outside at midnight for fireworks with a bottle of sparkling wine.
The locals of Vilnius do take their fireworks seriously, so even if you don’t make it to the city centre, you will see a very decent fire show wherever you are in the city.
Crazy fun, lots of laughter, friendly people and amazing fireworks – that pretty much sums up New Year’s Eve in Bangkok.
This city gathers thousands of people throughout the year, tourists come here to enjoy great street food, loads of different types of markets, adventurous tuk-tuk rides and seemingly countless opportunities to celebrate and dance.
One of the tourist hot spots is the famous Khao San Road which turns into a huge festival mile during New Year’s Eve celebration.
It’s almost impossible to walk along the street that night. It’s wise to go there early (around 7 pm) to grab a spot and start making friends with the people that surround you.
They will be the ones that hug you once the clock strikes midnight. Some even dress up and wear costumes to give this place an even closer appearance of a street parade.
Everyone is happy and when the clock comes close to midnight make sure to join in the countdown from 10 to 0 to welcome the new year with loads of hugs and cheerful laughter.
The only downside of this location is the high buildings that make it almost impossible to see the fireworks. So, if you’re after the lightning show, you’re better off to watch it from the river shore or one of the many great rooftop bars that Bangkok has on offer.
Whatever location choice you’ll make, be prepared to celebrate until the early morning hours and enjoy the funky vibes of Thailand’s capital city. You’ll definitely need some island hopping afterwards to recover.
Seoul is more commonly associated with music and cosmetics than a New Year’s Eve countdown, but Seoulites are never one to turn down a good party.
While the Lunar New Year is a larger scale celebration across Korea, the western NYE celebration has become a time for locals and expats to gather in the Korean capital. Restaurants are packed with big groups of friends and young families ending December with a nice meal, looking to usher in good luck for the upcoming year.
Chicken and barbeque places are typically open late already and thus draw the biggest crowds. Meals are always paired with beer or soju, the local liquor, and the drinking continues into the street (Korea has no open container laws).
Since it’s technically a foreign holiday, Koreans only get New Year’s Day off from work, but there’s also no price inflation for booze or meals.
Many of the expats can be found in the Hongdae, Gangnam, or Itaewon neighborhoods, attending fancy NYE parties and counting down to midnight over cocktails & canapes.
At midnight on the dot, a huge display of fireworks is set off over the Han River, which cuts the city in half.
There are other smaller fireworks displays in each of the neighborhoods in Seoul, so there’s no chance of missing midnight. Just remember to bundle up, as it’s very common to see snow around NYE in Seoul.
Japan is an unforgettable country, and the perfect city to ring in the New Year is Tokyo!
Japan is less busy during the winter when compared to the spring or fall, so it makes visiting all the iconic Tokyo locations a bit easier and less stressful!
Plus, the entire city is decoratively festive with traditional shimekazari ornaments and kadomatsu which invite prosperity and good fortune.
Tokyo Disney is also at maximum festivities, and is one of the most organized and relaxed Disney parks in the world!
Japan during the winter is cold, but it’s also the perfect weather to indulge in traditional Japanese comfort foods like ramen, nabe, and oden!
Tokyo is a hotspot for NYE parties, which are a dime a dozen in the nightclub area of Shibuya, or head to the water for the Tokyo Bay booze cruise!
For a sober countdown, Sensoji Temple holds “joya no kane”, a ritual performed a few minutes before midnight to purify souls and minds for the new year.
Or visit Kasai Seaside Park (it has the largest Ferris Wheel in Japan!) for fireworks!
Once January 1st strikes, the best shopping sale of the century begins Fukubukuro. It is a tradition in which shops sell “lucky bags” containing a random assortment of fun items from the store, but discounted at steep percentages!
New Year’s events in Taipei Taiwan are an exceptional spectacle.
The annual fireworks and light show is broadcasted and watched around the world, right alongside other globally recognized celebrations happening in Sydney, London, New York, and Hong Kong.
At its inception back in 2005, this spectacle was the first-ever fireworks show to be launched from a skyscraper.
Lasting for just 35 seconds, this less than one-minute wonder became a global hit.
Since then, it has been listed by CNN as being in the top ten New Year’s destinations around the world and is broadcast live in over 100 countries.
Bringing together a combination of impressive fireworks and LED displays, the lights took over the building from the 35th floor all the way up to the 90th floor for a total of six minutes.
The show is notable for using the eye-popping LED lights in cooperation with traditional fireworks to create a mind-blowing experience that aims to be more environmentally friendly than past shows have been!
The Taipei New Year experience also comes with countless other entertainment, activities, and celebrations all around the square to ring in the New Year!
Whilst Sydney, Australia is famous for its big bang Sydney Harbour fireworks, the nation’s capital city of Canberra is a great alternative to escape the crowds and enjoy a more laid-back, peaceful welcome to the new year.
Canberra hosts two firework sessions – at 9 pm for families, and of course the midnight fireworks. A family concert is a great start to the night, usually hosted in the Canberra CBD.
People flock to Civic to have a bite to eat from the different food stalls, watch the free live concert and take part in the different fun activities on offer, including a ride on the beautiful antique carousel.
Children run about and play with fluro stick wands and windmills and families lay out picnic blankets on the numerous parkland areas surrounding the central fireworks point.
When the fireworks go off, they are spectacular – the surrounding national landmarks such as Black Mountain Tower providing an impressive silhouette against their fiery colour display.
Canberra’s New Year’s Eve atmosphere is one that is laid back, family-friendly and no-stress – a fantastic option to ring in the new year, and all just a two and a half-hour drive from Sydney. Barbara
Melbourne has always had the stigma of second best to the extravaganza displayed by our arch-rivals Sydney on NYE!
There has always been a decent amount of rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne however the Sydney fireworks with the Sydney Harbour backdrop is pretty hard to beat. Sigh.
Unlike most other places in the world, Australia is in the middle of summer when NYE rolls around, so we are all out in force in our shorts and thongs (flip flops) to enjoy the festivities our cities put on each year.
Melbourne is a little different to Sydney in that we have two fireworks displays, one at 9pm for families and the other at the chime of midnight.
Our fireworks change each year however recently the City of Melbourne is favouring a five-location firework display that runs simultaneously in different parts of the city to spread the crowd out a little and ensure that people can enjoy the spectacle from different parts of the city.
Generally, there will be one in the areas of Docklands, South Wharf, along the Yarra, Birrarung Marr and Federation Square.
The good thing about this is the crowd is not centralised and are able to disperse much quicker allowing for less congested traffic and public transport options.
Many of the restaurants and bars along the Yarra River will hold private pre-paid parties on NYE, these are a great option as you’ll get a good vantage point for the fireworks.
However, just a blanket on the Yarra River banks is fine for families with young kids.
Public transport runs all night to ensure all NYE party revellers are able to get home. The other option is to get a taxi or an Uber but these would be scarce and pricey in the evening.
There is a family show at 9 pm which runs for eight minutes or so and then the main event at midnight when 12 minutes worth of fireworks light up the sky and the bridge itself.
In total over seven million dollars went up in smoke last year!
Each year features a different theme, the feature of which is kept secret until show night. Last year we celebrated the passing of the same-sex marriage laws with a rainbow waterfall of colour off the harbour bridge at midnight.
Along with the main event, there is the Harbour of Light Parade which runs from 9.15pm until midnight. Boats and ferries covered in party lights parade up and down the harbour creating quite a spectacle.
The challenge of enjoying NYE in Sydney is learning how to best cope with all the people. My tip is to plan ahead because this is not a night where you can wing it!
You basically have three options, part with some big $$$ for a ticket to one of the private areas by the harbour or camp out for 12 hours or more to secure a spot in one of the free zones.
Or bypass it all and attend one of the dance parties and restaurant events across the city.
While some people find the crowds and the fuss all a bit tedious, I think it’s hard to beat with the electric atmosphere that comes about from so many people in a good mood waiting to see in the New Year together.
Iran is definitely an unusual place to spend New Year’s Eve because it’s just another day! In Iran, the New Year celebration is called Nowruz and is actually celebrated every year on March 21st, the first day of spring, to symbolize renewal.
It’s really incredible that the Nowruz tradition, which is Zoroastrian in origin, survived in Iran even after the 1979 revolution – and it’s still celebrated with massive meals and family gathering to this day.
However, since Iranian people are extremely hospitable, if you are staying at an Iranian home, they will also be more than happy to celebrate ‘our’ New Year’s Eve on Dec 31st – albeit with no alcohol, which is illegal throughout the country.
We stayed up till past midnight with our Couchsurfing host family, eating pistachio sweets and toasting with tea, definitely a first on an NYE night!
Hotels which cater to an international clientele may also have special dinners or events, but generally speaking, the ‘charm’ of spending NYE in Iran is exactly that it’s a normal day of the year, with nothing going on.
This is amazing for people who don’t love the hustle and crowds of NYE events and to be honest, Iran is such an amazing country that deserves to be visited all year round, NYE or otherwise!
New Year in South Africa is in the middle of summer – hot and sunny, not like your traditional winter New Year eve breaks with a lot of snow, more like a summer beach holiday. It means you can chill on the beach, go surfing or kitesurfing, swim and do many summer outdoor activities.
Cape Town is an amazing place to celebrate the start of a new year. There is a New Year’s Eve party everywhere, for every kind of person.
The main celebration is happening at the V&A Waterfront and Long Street where hundreds of bars and restaurants will be open all night, music will play everywhere and people dress in Carnival gear – a real festive vibe in the city.
If you prefer to skip the craziness of Long Street and the V&A Waterfront, you can watch the firework spectacle from a chilled out picnic on Signal Hill.
Lion’s head is a perfect spot to spend the last sunset of the year. It is about an hour’s hike to the top. As a reward for quite a challenging walk, you get fantastic views of Table Mountain, the ocean and the city bowl.
It is a five-minute drive to Signal Hill from Lion’s Head. Take a blanket, picnic basket and a bottle of sparkling wine and enjoy the awesome fireworks display from the best vantage point.
Finally, don’t miss a truly unique traditional event, the colorful Cape Minstrels march on 2nd January, so-called ‘Second New Year’.
It is likely people assume Sydney is the first because the harbour fireworks are well documented on TV. I always remember getting a lump on my throat when morning TV showed the ex-pat Brits on the beach in Sydney as there was always a couple announcing they were expecting with a poster!
So will you be ‘out with the old’ in the hot or the cold?! This international guide to the best new years eve parties in the world has something for everyone from the fun city shows to quieter countryside affairs. One thing that every New Year’s Eve party has in common is the opportunity to celebrate with friends, old and new. Happy New Year!
This guide is for those who have suddenly been told that they can’t travel and want to scratch that itch, or readers who have a lot of time on their hands and need to entertain themselves.
So whether you are an armchair traveler, looking for practical jobs related to travel around the house or are filling a timetable during homeschooling, here’s the ultimate list of travel-related things to do at home including crafts, food, education and exercise.
Travel-Related Activities You Can Do Home
1. Virtual Tours of Museums, Landmarks, Parks + Wine
Never mind a line skip ticket, those in self-isolation can still enjoy front row seats of the world’s top museums including the British Museum, the Guggenheim and Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam.
Using the timeline and destinations on the British Museum site, you can click on the items that the museum ‘acquired’ to find out more about them.
Normally you need a couple of hours to visit the Guggenheim in NYC but today you can look at photographs of the modern art hung on the walls within minutes.
Click through the artefacts of Anne Frank’s house and learn about the family who protected her from the Nazis.
Want more than museums? Beat the crowds at landmarks too using Google Street Views. Here’s the Taj Mahal for starters.
Love to go outside? Google Earth zooms in to National Parks around the world. Here’s the Badlands in the USA.
White Gold, Gavin and Stacey, Peaky Blinders, Unforgotten, Fresh Meat, Derry Girls, Happy Valley, Skins, Top Boy, The Crown, Bad Education, Line of Duty, Outnumbered, The IT Crowd, Bodyguard, Sherlock, The Thick Of It, Peep Show, Doctor Who*, Still Game, People Just Do Nothing, Marcella, Absolutely Fabulous, Extras, Bridgerton.
Central and South America
Australia and New Zealand
Top of the Lake.
Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Dark Tourist, Jack Whitehall Travels With My Dad, Top Gear.
Destination Themed Movies
Brooklyn, Isn’t It Romantic, New Year’s Eve, Wine Country, Someone Great, Lady Bird, Clueless, The House Bunny, La La Land, Legally Blonde, Pitch Perfect, When Harry Met Sally, Dallas Buyers Club, Goodfellas, Birdman, Gatsby, Annie.
Eat Pray Love, Outlaw King, The Two Popes, The King*, What A Girl Wants, Midnight in Paris, From Rome with Love
» My friend Sonja has a list of Scotland themed movies here
Lost in Translation (Japan). India
22. Read A Book
Switch off, tune out and get lost in the narrative about a destination or non-fiction travel experiences.
Turkish hammam scrubs are probably out the window unless you have a large tiled area and a tall Turkish man to hose you down, but a relaxing spa experience is doable!
Fill the bath, drop a bath bomb, dim the lights, light the candles, slap on a hair and face mask. Zen.
27. Make a Spa in a Jar
Want to make someone feel better?
Grab an empty jar, put a nice piece of material around it and fill it with mini bath melts UK / US and beauty products.
28. Go Camping
My friends Megan and Scott from Bobo and Chichi jokingly suggested we drive around the corner in our campervan to have one night out in the wild. Jokes on them as I’m genuinely suggesting you build a fort or pitch a tent (minus the pegs), make some s’mores and pull out your best campfires songs.
This activity is especially fun for families.
29. Learn To Camp Cook
Got a camping stove that needs to be dusted off?
Now is the time to light that baby and using only the bare essential ingredients learn to camp cook.
Example of recipes can be found in these campervan cookbook UK / US
30. Build Your Survival Skills
Any Bear Grylls looking to go off the grid?
Whether you are looking to grow your own veg or dressing a wound now is the ideal time to sharpen your mind as well as your pen knife.
31. Bring Travel Memories Into The Home
There are lots of ways to bring past trips into the present:
Print images and frame
Create scrapbooks with messages
Build bullet journals
Add clips to polaroids and pin to walls
32. Scratch Map
A popular travel gift is a world or State Scratch Map UK / US which starts with a metallic map outline and reveals a country once scratched lightly.
33. Waterproof Your Coat
Eurgh, a job I’ve been meaning to do forever but keep putting it off.
Waterproof your coat to ensure it continues to be water-resistant.
Use reliable cleaning and sealing products such as Nikwax Tech Wash and Nikwax Wash-In. Buy the combo here UK / US.
34. Clean Your Hiking Boots
Place down an old piece of material to protect your floor.
Find an old toothbrush and get scrubbing.
35. Call Your Pals Abroad
Keeping in contact couldn’t be easier with the use of video chats!
Book clubs, personal training sessions and family catch-ups can continue with the likes of Facebook Messenger, Skype and Zoom.
I love getting lost in travel photos, working out how to visit busy tourist attractions best, tapping into local tips, choosing the rooftop bar with the best sundown drinks, sussing out the local hikes, checking out the easiest day trips and mapping it all out then bringing it all together in a travel guide.
Twiddling your thumbs and looking for a project to dive into?
Do you love your hobby or passion enough to make it your full-time job?
Wondering how to move your offline business online?
Spoiler alert – this means working a 40+ hour week creating content while at your home base, constantly taking notes, planning photography and video, keeping up to date with technical aspects of running an online business, constantly fighting algorithm changes but…
It’s the best job ever.
No boss, supportive community, freedom to work where and when you want.
Do not believe the ads that say ‘travel the world for free’; consider travel blogging if you want to monetise travel guides, sell services and products, work on campaigns to promote areas and are willing to take on the peaks and troughs of being self-employed.
Make no mistake, just now is a trough for travel and tourism but other industries are still thriving.
Still interested? Here’s a free guide on how to set up a blog with tips on domains, hosting and branding.
It’s the same information you’d use to set up any niche.
Looking for consultation?
Send me an email introducing yourself to [email protected] and we can chat (depending on your commitment).
I have a decade of teaching experience, I run a Facebook group with 7K members and I teach bloggers how to rank on Google. No time wasters, please.
Not every travel writer has a blog, although it does help to have a portfolio online.
In this guide by friend Sandra Henriques and others share 30 lessons from professional travel writers and editors.
Travel Writing 101: Everything You Need To Know To Start The Best Job In The World: 30+ ‘how to’ lessons from professional travel writers and editors UK / US.
40. Build a Business Not Just a Blog
If there are any bloggers reading this and thinking about ripping it off for their own blog why not do something more practical and learn SEO (search engine optimisation) so when people start searching for travel advice on Google your content will get seen.
Looking for advice on long term travel planning but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. My husband, Craig, and I (Gemma) took an 18-month career break to the travel the Americas and Europe and have detailed every single movement from saving to packing, planning to staying alive on the road. We visited 16 countries in 17 months from Cuba to Canada, Spain to the States and here is our long term travel itinerary, our daily average budget, and practical tips on how to travel long term.
1. Long Term Travel Destinations
Long term travel routes have to be considered with a sensible head. Yes, it would be sexy to drive along Route 66 in a Cadillac or fun to sing karaoke with the kids in Tokyo but both activities are expensive.
Setting (and sticking to) a long term travel budget is far more challenging than a quick three-week trip island hopping in Thailand then going home to comfortable wage at the end of the month to pay off the credit card bills. There is no home and there is no pay at the end of the month!
Write down where you want to go and what you want to do. Then it is time to do some research – this is all part of the long term travel experience! Use social media, travel blogs, tourist board websites, and Pinterest to get a feel for backpacking prices, visa instructions (and costs), itineraries, public transport information, and ideas of things to do.
Check Prices Online
You’ll swiftly work out that some countries are more expensive than others. For example – a dorm bed in Sydney, Australia starts at $19 whereas you’ll find one in Bogota, Colombia for $6.
Some continents/areas are cheaper than others but countries within those continents/areas vary wildly.
Let’s take Southeast Asia for instance. Hanoi, Vietnam is super cheap, you can get a bed for $2.50 (in a 6.5 rated hostel) compare that to Singapore where dorm beds start at $11 for 5/10 hostel.
I’ll cover our strategy for booking cheap accommodation below as it makes sense to investigate flight prices, more on that to come.
If you are travelling long term on a budget, I would strongly suggest avoiding the following countries:
USA and Canada
Europe’s Nordic countries
Australia and New Zealand
But I want to seeNiagara Falls! I know, you can – just be prepared to burn through cash like Harry Styles does ladies.
Facebook Groups for Travel Planning
Don’t be afraid to chat with bloggers on social media or join Facebook groups to ask for advice.
There are two excellent Facebook groups for female travel lovers where non-biased travellers of all ages, shapes, and sizes give advice about their home countries and places they’ve visited – Girls V Globe and Girls Love Travel.
These groups are especially useful for ladies looking to long term travel alone.
Every destination has a Facebook group now. Just use the search function to find them.
2. Saving for Travel
My name is Gemma and I am a super saver.
My best tips for saving is to set up three bank accounts.
The first account is where your pay goes, a second account for savings which cannot be touched, and a third for savings which can be tapped into for a wedding gift or new car tires (safety first!)
Next tip is to write down how much you spend (every single detail) for one week and then work out how much you can realistically live off. Each payday, move your savings over into the mentioned accounts.
Avoid window shopping, if there is no temptation, you won’t splurge!
Sell your stuff at car boot sales. Complain! Speaking to companies can reduce your monthly payments, for example, your phone provider. Go sober, not drinking every weekend was one of our biggest saving techniques.
He claims that it is one of the long term travel must-haves, due to its ‘go anywhere’ function.
If you are flexible with dates and destinations – you will find cheap flights.
When searching for flights via computer, always set your computer to ‘incognito’ or ‘private browsing’ so websites do not remember your previous searches and hike up their prices.
Another travel tip is to Google the local airlines, bus companies, and train lines for your desired countries then go directly to their sites.
For example, Air Asia is a popular low budget airline which covers South East Asia and beyond. Sign up for the newsletters of these airlines for deals.
Don’t be scared of buses! We bussed all around Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia – some of the overnight buses have bad boy lazy chairs! Go local!
Do what the natives do – chicken buses in Central America are a thrifty traveller’s dream. Always be cautious of your belongings, opportunists roam in every country. Overnight trains in Vietnam have beds!
Car rental is sometimes a cheaper option in the long run and Bla Bla Car is a new car-sharing option for you to consider. Have you tried Über or Lyft in your home city? It’s a cheaper taxi service which runs from an app.
Important note: on entry, countries (bar those in the European Union) may request evidence of an outbound ticket. Immigration wants proof that you are leaving their country.
This restricts the ‘footloose and fancy-free’ hippy lifestyle, a little planning ahead is always required. We were asked by every country for this proof – do not take this warning lightly.
Long term travel visas can also be tricky – be prepared for each country to have different rules regarding visas. For example in Cuba, you must have a Cuba Tourist Card before arriving. Going to Cuba? Here’s our planning guide.
4. Travel Accommodation Search
While searching for cheap accommodation do consider the reviews of places too, we managed to avoid bed bugs and I hope you do.
Each continent/country favours different search engines for hotels – for example, Booking.com for North America, Agonda for Asia.
Hostelworld is still my go-to for hostels.
In Nicaragua, many hostels, hotels, and guest houses advertise via Airbnb, even though they are not private houses.
You will need this variety of long term travel accommodation, especially if travelling in a couple – often you will want private space but other times you will want/need to converse with other human beings!
5. Pills, Bills, and Travel Insurance
Do not get caught out by medical charges. Long term travel insurance should be up there with Havaiana flip-flops in the priority list.
During your research ensure that companies cover the types of travel (high altitude hiking?) and activities (skiing at Whistler?) that you plan to do.
Malaria and Zika exist and they can floor you. Cover up, avoid dusk and stagnant water, use protection, and take malaria tablets. The more countries you visit, the higher the chance of long term travel malaria being an issue.
Check out if your desirable destinations require malaria treatment. Ladies, for those of us doing long term travel in your 30s, Zika can cause defects in babies for up to two years, get tested as soon as you return. Check with your local travel clinic what vaccinations you require. If you don’t have them, your insurer has a reason not to pay out.
Long term travel birth control can be a dodgy one.
My GP prescribed one year of the pill, I sneakily had a few packs left from other trips to the doctors – luckily I am healthy and my blood pressure did not change.
Probably not wise advice to give as deep vein thrombosis can be linked to the combined contraceptive pill and long haul flights.
Help! I am a fast fat, and Craig is a speedy skinny.
Neither of us liked the way our bodies looked after four months of travel, long term travel weight gain can happen. Regardless of how many hikes you are doing, if you are eating churros every day it won’t keep them at bay! The solution?
Slow travel. I wrote a post on this while spending two months of the summer in British Columbia, by stopping we could move more. Ironic.
6. Longterm Travel Packing List?
Here is a quick overview of what we recommend
Long term travel backpacks – we have 80-litre packs which have a 20-litre zip on/off day packs, very useful for 2/3 day trips like hiking the Colca Canyon and long term travel carry on
Lightweight foldaway raincoats – I love my Marmot Precip US / UK. It’s electric blue!
Invest in a purifying / filter water bottle, save money and the environment – check out our unbiased review of DrinkSafe Travel Tap or get 15% off Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout]
Portable charger – we use Anker charger US / UK for phones
Here’re five travel hacks to save your sanity and keep long term travel expenses down
Large scarves or flags make great dens in dorm rooms
Avoid long term travel cell phone bills by closing your account and switching phone to ‘airplane mode’ then pick up WiFi in cafes, accommodation, etc
Take an external hard drive and swap films with other travellers
Tweet your bank, then DM them with a contact, ours called us all over the world!
Craig maintains that Wednesday is the cheapest day to book flights
8. Long Term Travel Mistakes We Made
Learn from our mishaps
Cheap flights don’t always work out cheap! Price how to get from the airport, how expensive the airport hotels are, is the time waiting between flights worth what you will spend in the airport shops?
Write down information in a diary – it’s easy to forget what day it is when travelling and this can cause havoc when you are supposed to check in, start a trip, etc. We turned up at one hostel two days early in Cusco!
Back up images – don’t overwrite SD cards, transfer to an external hard drive, and save online
Slow down, you don’t have to see EVERYTHING and you will experience more stopping in an area for longer than one or two nights, avoid burn out
Readers always ask – how do we organise our monthly budget posts?
In a nutshell – persistence. Craig takes note of how much we spend every day.
He jots down what the item was and the cost.
At the end of each week he tallies up the items under categories – accommodation, food, transport, trips, socialising, miscellaneous/ luxury and sends the numbers to me, ta – da, we have a monthly budget post!
Not going to lie, it takes commitment, patience, and attention to detail – the last two characteristics I do not possess.
However, I personally think it’s the only way to travel long term on a small (ish) budget. At the end of the week/month, you can work out what is costing too much and cut back. Ice cream anyone?…
Another tip to help stretch your travel budget is signing up for Workaway or Help X (mentioned above), researching jobs abroad, or starting a travel blog…
→ How do you keep control of your budget? Tell us in the comments below.
We have worked out that our daily average long term travel expenses are £34.50 each.
That covers 17 months on the road with 20 weeks volunteering (in hotels, hostels, family homes) for our keep and 5 nights staying with friends.
We estimated how much we saved through working with partners via the blog and added that to the total for a realistic long term travel budget.
10. Romance on the Road
Couples that rave together, stay together.
So what about those who live in each other’s pockets, on limited money, with no GPS for a number of months? Long term travel in relationships is a test, whether that be a friend, parent, sibling, or significant other.
My best advice for long term travel as a couple is to test the water first. We endured a 5 – week trip to South East Asia two years before this long term travel trip.
We didn’t kill each other so started saving for the future.
Get hobbies – whether that is reading, blogging, or DJing (Craig makes music on his phone!)
Learning new skills is a great way to avoid getting on each other’s nerves.
Oh, and get used to going to the toilet in close proximately of each other!
These long term travel relationship tips worked for us – I left Scotland with my boyfriend, and came home with a husband (the same man!)
The trip had to start in March as we were keen to attend the music festival South By Southwest in Austin, Texas.
Any plans after that were a bonus (and financially motivated!)
I’ve calculated the average daily budget for each country for two people including accommodation, transport, trips, food, socialising, and luxuries.
I’ve identified some of the big things we spent money on in brackets. I’ve added the price of trips/stays when we worked with partners to give you a true reflection of the prices in these countries.
They do not include flights between countries.
After a stopover at a JFK airport, we touched down in New Orleans where we spent the next three days listening to jazz, drinking hand grenades and eating Po Boys!
Next up, one week in Austin, Texas for the popular music festival South By Southwest. We watched new and old bands, drank beer, and ate tacos all without putting our hands in our pockets! Love free stuff? Check out how to do SXSW for free.
Duration: 9 nights
Average daily budget: $100 (based on a private room and hostel)
Currency: American Dollar
We temporarily said goodbye to the United States of America (pausing our ESTA visa waiver) and headed to Peru in South America for one month.
In Peru, we hiked, biked, and attended Spanish school. Our Spanish is still muy malo!
Duration: One Month
Average daily budget: $76 (2 treks, Peru Hop pass, Spanish school, dorm beds)
Hello Havana! We touched down in the land of cigars and salsa with grand plans of backpacking our way around the island (which is possible in three weeks) however we ran out of money, and patience.
Cuba is hard work.
I can’t sugar coat it! Yes the rum is super cheap and tasty, and the beaches are paradise but it is hot, some locals see you as a walking dollar sign, and the lack of free information made transit tough work.
We were suffering from long term travel fatigue after four months of crazy backpacking.
After two weeks of travel (Havana – Viñales – Playa Larga – Trinidad), we booked ourselves into an all-inclusive resort in Varadero – a holiday within a holiday.
This was the cheapest option for saving our long term travel budget!
Duration: 3 weeks
Average Daily Spend: $90 (Havana Walking Tour, diving, all-inclusive, casas)
For the autumn and winter months, we moved to the bright lights of Vancouver!
Renting two apartments over the four months, catching the end of summer in Kitsilano then the rainy months in hipster Main Street. We were lucky enough to review West Trek’s tour of the Canadian Rockies.
For four days we gawked at those blue lakes, hiked around beautiful Banff, and made friends for life with the tour guides.
I left Craig for 5 days and flew West to Toronto! My best friend, Helen, met me. We ate our way around the city, cycled through Toronto Island, and felt the mist of Niagara Falls.
We were very lucky in Canada, not only did we make good friends, our family and friends from Scotland came to visit! Everyone wants a bit of B.C!
Craig also proposed under the fake stars of the Macmillan Space Center on my favourite day of the year… Hallowe’en!
Duration: 4 months
Average Daily Budget: $85 (apartment, hikes, lots of nice food)
Currency: Canadian Dollar
Rested and ready to put the rucksack back on, we skipped over the border to America where we spent two nights in Washington state, filling our stomachs in Seattle. The next four days we partied in Portland. Oregon’s capital city, Portland, is a very cool place.
Full of food carts, cycle routes, and craft beer – it’s easy to lose a long weekend there.
Duration: 6 nights
Average Daily Budget: $128 (based on two dorm beds at $32 each)
On our way to Nicaragua in Central America, we took an extended stopover in… Orlando! For five days we unleashed our inner kid at Disney World, Universal Studios, and iDrive!
Duration: 6 nights
Average Daily Budget: $334 (tickets to theme parks, hotel $89 per night)
Currency: American Dollar
By February that backpacking burn out was looming, the solution? Five weeks living in paradise! We moved into a hotel in Las Peñitas and worked for a bed and one meal. These type of Workaway programmes have stretched our £20K budget and made travelling for longer possible.
In total, we have completed five work/stay programmes. During our time in Las Peñitas, we visited León at the weekends and even boarded down an active volcano!
For the final three weeks in Nicaragua, we backpacked around Ometepe (an island with volcanoes), Somoto (a beautiful canyon), Granada (a very well developed city) and Managua (the capital and transport hub).
Duration: 8 weeks
Average Daily Budget: $35 (scooter hire, hikes, tattoos, private room in hostel)
By April we had said goodbye to USA, after one night in New York, we touched down in Oslo, Norway then met our true destination, Budapest, Hungary.
We spent the next five weeks in Hungary, 3.5 weeks of that was spent living with a family helping out around the house and garden. The rest of the time we soaked in spas and socialised in Budapest (cheapest place in Europe to drink) with family and friends who visited us. We also hired a car and took a Hungarian road trip to explore Budapest’s day trips.
Duration: 5 weeks
Average Daily Budget: $37 (baths, car rental, private room $17)
First stop was the laid back Ljubljana, Europe’s cutest city! We also visited Bled andKolpa Riverin Slovenia (eight nights) before moving on to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) Sarajevo (six nights). That is a damn cool city, rich in history and culture. If heading to BiH, Mostar is not to be missed!
Next up was Serbia’s Belgrade (three nights) then the buzzing capital city of Romania, Bucharest!
Belgrade bypassed me but Bucharest blew me away. We left Bucharest with a stopover in Bergamo, Italy on our way to the sun.
Duration: 20 nights
Average Daily Budget: $56 (private room)
Currency: Slovenia (Euro), BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark), Serbia (Serbian dinar), Romania (Romanian leu) and Italy (Euro)
Further Reading: See city names!
Welcome to warmer climates! Hello Espanol! The summer month of June was divided up between Marbella with Craig’s family, our final Workaway in Granada, and Malaga with my friends Shelley and Jen G.
Duration: 34 nights
Average Daily Budget: $65 (based on $32 private room)
Last stop – Portugal! We spent the next ten days using the capital, Lisbon, as a base. We attended the music festival NOS Alive, watched Portugal win the European Championships, and devoured custard tarts in Belem.
Duration: 11 nights
Average budget: $160 (based on $49 private room in a guesthouse)
So why a sabbatical? I had always regretted not taking a gap year between university and work so when I found out that after three years of working with my council that I could apply for a sabbatical that was me ready.
When Craig and I met, he was planning on moving to Holland but put that on hold and we tested the wayfaring waters with a five-week trip to South East Asia. We did not kill each other, so the long term planning began.
I verbalised my plans with my line manager and head manager, they were both supportive so I put in my application with a supporting statement which identified what benefits me taking a career break would bring to my job.
I was a politics and current affairs teacher so the justification was pretty straight forward – I wanted to bring the textbook to life!
Craig is a self – employed gas engineer, he passed his business to his brother.
Waiting for it to happen or making it happen fellow travel lovers?
Have we missed work? Yes, I miss the routine, constant chat, and the banter with the students, but I have still worked every day – blogging which I now do full time.
To finish off this ridiculously big guide of long term travel advice here is a quick to-do list for you to check off and remember – long term travel is not for everyone. I had an incredible time but I’m looking forward to the shorter trips that the future holds!
Work out your budget
Investigate countries which meet the budget
Start selling and saving
Advise work/apply for a career break
Get vaccinations/buy travel insurance (research travel quotes here)
Organise visas, credit cards, and currency
Stop dreaming, start living!
Here is our advice to Scottish mum/daughter duo who are about to take the trip of a lifetime ~ featured on STV2
Did you find this useful? Why not pin to your Pinterest board?
Any questions or quips? Fire them in the comments and I’ll get back to you.
Wondering how to plan a trip? Whether you are planning a vacation, a weekend away, long-term sabbatical, ski break, road trip, couple, family, group or solo adventure, our guide details the stages of planning from inspiration to saving, planning to surviving on the road. So let’s get you moving from armchair to airport with our eight practical steps.
Trip Planner: How to Plan the Best Trip Ever
1. Travel Inspiration
Firstly, where to go and what type of trip to take?
Inspiration comes in many forms like movies, books, word of mouth, discounts, YouTube, social media, Pinterest and blogs.
You can check out all the destinations I’ve written about here. From Cuba to Canada, Northern Ireland to Nicaragua!
When I see a destination that looks fun or interesting I either save it to an inspiration board on Pinterest or a Collection on Instagram.
Gemma in Rishiri Island, Japan
How to Save to Pinterest
Pinterest is a visual search engine used by millions of people all over the world every month.
Marketing-savvy websites play on this and include a ‘Pin it’ button which either pops up when you hover over an image or is placed at the top, bottom or side of the post/page.
To save, click the P button, a Pinterest box will pop up, save to an appropriate folder. You have to have an account set up in order to do this. Sign up here, it’s free.
Some website articles will have a ‘pin’ image which is a vertical image with some kind of text overlay. They are usually found near the bottom of the post and useful because the text on the pin will act as a reminder to where you found the inspiration.
On Pinterest itself, when you click the image you pinned, the link with click through to the post or page you saved it from. Neat eh?
How to Save to Collections on Instagram
I absolutely adore this feature on Instagram and have lots of folders covering everything from photo spots to holiday nail art.
When you see an image you like on Instagram…
Tap the ribbon type symbol at the bottom right-hand side of the app.
The option to ‘Save to Collection’ then appears to the left. Click this.
If you then hit the big plus sign to the right you can create a new Collection such as the name of the destination you want to visit.
I first discovered the hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia, Turkey on Instagram and booked up a balloon ride the following year.
Visual platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and other social media channels are the culprit for many credit card bills!
2. Budget Your Trip
So now we are talking about cash and credit cards we need to discuss how to save money for a trip.
There’s no point having destinations in mind if you don’t have the budget for it.
I have six tips to help you at this stage of planning.
How to Save For a Trip
Tip 1: Location, Location, Location!
Plan wisely. Choose destinations that meet your bank balance and/or go in low season.
Avoid big events and festivals unless this is the main reason you want to visit the destination.
Each March, thousands of business people and visitors move into the city while many of the locals move out because they can charge three times the amount on their properties.
Be wary that the time of year can and will impact on the weather.
While many popular destinations in Europe such as Paris enjoy four seasons in the year, countries such as Thailand experience monsoon season and different parts of the country get it at different times.
A cheap trip to a city might not work out cheap if you have to spend money on indoor activities to stay comfortable.
Don’t be put off by winter, I especially love cities and towns at Christmas time.
Open three bank accounts. Have your income enter one. Work out how much you spend, identify your needs (housing, bills, food) and wants (clothes, huge TV packages, nail art).
Create a livable wage and put the majority of the rest of your pay into another savings account. Do not touch these savings.
But why three? In the third account move some money over. This is the account that you can take money out from if you are struggling. Maybe you need to buy a gift, a kid needs new shoes, the washing machine goes, etc.
Saving shouldn’t be stressful when it is for the end of goal of the dream trip.
There are many credit and debit cards on the market that offer a bonus if you shop with them.
For example, you can accrue airline points with while you shop or enjoy free cash withdrawals abroad.
Some monthly accounts offer free cell phone insurance or even better, travel insurance for short trips.
We currently use a UK Nationwide account which includes travel insurance and free ATM withdrawals abroad for £13 per month. We also use the Halifax Clarity for credit transactions.
We’ve previously used the Lloyds credit card but since losing the American Express portion of the dual card deal we no longer support it because you can’t take money out abroad without charges. The Avios points are lower with Mastercard than with Amex too. Find out more in our travel cards guide.
→ Note: Usually you will find that the airline points are for one airline only and you can often get cheaper flights with a budget airline. It really depends if you are loyal to one airline carrier to make points cards work. The industry has really cracked down on people abusing the system.
Tip 5: The Travel Essentials
There are some items you must fork out for.
Firstly, travel insurance.
While some banks accounts may offer insurance for short term travel trips, you will need more coverage if going away on an extended trip, to a certain location it does not cover or if you plan to do an activity it doesn’t include like high altitude hiking or winter skiing.
I tend to only rent apartments if I know that the city doesn’t suffer from ‘buy to rent’ issues which are out-pricing locals for example in Venice or Lisbon. Sometimes having my own apartment is necessary if I need to work or require a kitchen.
Go to Booking.com, type destination into the search bar along with the dates. The most popular properties tend to appear at the top.
You can filter to read ‘hotel only’ and your price point. You can also request details such as hotels with parking, etc.
Browse through the hotels, look at the reviews, double-check how much the room you require costs and then add to ‘My List’ which is done by hitting the heart.
Create a destination folder in My Lists or they will all appear in the next trip section. No biggie.
Go back to My Maps. Click on the left-hand table and choose ‘add layer’. Name it ‘accommodation’.
Copy and paste the addresses of the hotels you like into the search bar. Choose a colour and icon.
Make sure that only the accommodation layer is ticked or the hotel pin will save to every layer.
If you do add to the wrong layer, just click on the name of the left-hand side table and then edit on the pin. You’ll find the delete symbol there.
Once you have added the accommodation layer, tick the boxes for both activities and accommodation and check which hotel is best for your itinerary.
The more you book with Booking.com, the cheaper the prices get as you unlock Genius points. It does pay to be loyal.
I’ve tried other platforms such as Hotels and Expedia but I prefer Booking.com because it allows you to cancel trips up to a certain time frame.
Add the hotel fees to the planning spreadsheet. Do you need to lose a tour? Can you budget another night or better transport option?
Keep Accommodation Costs Down
Learn from my mistakes, here are some ways to enjoy low-cost travel when it comes to booking accommodation:
Check that airport hotels are actually at the airport and have a 24/7 shuttle inclusive of price
Book hotels near transport lines if in big cities
Avoid hotel breakfast unless it seems worth it and you will be up/in for them
If you are into photography/avoiding crowds book hotels near an activity, we did this in Japan for sunrise shots
Pay extra to stay in hotels that are experiential like Sultan Cave Suites in Cappadocia for the views
We tend to use our feet to get around during long weekend trips but sometimes areas are too big, the weather is torrential or we’re running late.
Check out the bus and train systems and also weigh up whether Uber is cheaper than national taxi services. In some cases, it will be, in others won’t.
You might find that taxi drivers straddle both badges and take hires through taxi apps and also at taxi ranks.
Work out if buying a city transport pass is cheaper than doing it trip by trip.
Rent bikes or electric scooters.
If taking a multi-destination trip, consider whether budget airlines which save on time are worth the money. If you have time, take the train or bus for a different, cheaper and often more environmentally friendly experience.
Research car share schemes in bigger cities if you want to make day trips.
Car rental abroad really isn’t as scary as you think and is often the more affordable option. Read our guide weighing up the pros and cons here.
4. Keep Costs Down On the Road
While you are on vacation, there are a number of ways to keep costs down.
Attend tip-based ‘free’ tours
Pack a filter water bottle and fill up at the tap
Have a big lunch instead of dinner
Bring collapsible Tupperware and take a doggy bag home from meals
Search for deals, coupons and 2-4-1 but look out for added taxes
Get out into nature, hiking is free
Stac Pollaidh, Scotland
5. Examples of Trip Budgets
We religiously keep a record of what we spend during our trips as it helps us to inform future plans. Why not add a tab to your planning spreadsheet and do so too?
Here’s an overview of some of our trips. We’ve not included flights since the price differs depending on long you are going for and where you are departing from.
The below travel budgets are for two people unless otherwise stated.
How Much Does Vienna Cost?
Hotel: £377 (three nights in November)
Transfers: £48 (from airport to city)
Food: £100 (food tour included in activities, we pretty much ate from stalls)
Drinks: £141.92 (£4-6 glass of wine/we went to bars every night)
City Cards: £30 (discount to top attractions)
How Much Does An Iceland Road Trip Cost?
Accommodation: £484 (four nights in September)
Car rental: £270 (includes airport pick up/drop off)
Petrol/Gas: £244 (ouch!)
Food: £116 (eating out and food shops)
Drinks: £85.50 (a few drinks, not cheap/not a drinking holiday)
Activities: £50 (one spa/lots of free stuff)
How Much Does Kyiv Cost?
Apartment: £254 (three nights in September)
Food: £98 (for one, wine included)
Activities: £100 (Chernobyl day trip and Kyiv walking tour tip)
Uber: £17 (one ride to the airport, a few in the city)
If you are backpacking you might want to consider a backpack instead of a suitcase. They are easier to manoeuvre around places with, give you hands-free walking and are pretty much the done thing when backpacking.
The downside is you have to carry the weight on your bag. Some people can’t believe this but Craig uses an 80L backpack and he fills it to the brim. If you can pack lighter, go for a smaller 60L or 40L.
When carrying your backpack on your back you put your day bag on your front. It looks silly but it does help balance the weight.
There are two main types of backpacks, top loading and front loading.
Top-loading bags tend to have a drawstring at the top and some kind of side and bottom access if designed well.
Front-loading open up like a suitcase so you have easy access. I much prefer this version and used it during our big backpacking trip.
Please excuse the plastic bottle! This was 2016. We did re-use it
How to Pack
There are two ways to pack a case or bag best.
Firstly, the rolling method. This involves rolling items up and placing in the bag. This method also avoids lines which you can get from folding.
Secondly, the folding method which you will be familiar with.
Whichever way you go with you will want packing cubes or large zip lock bags to separate items. Avoid bags that make a noise, especially if booking in communal rooms. You might like our guide on tips for staying on hostels.
I stuff shoes into the sides of the bag/case and pack walking boots in a bag to avoid things getting dirty.
I then close the luggage and pull it by the top handle and shoogle it.
This then creates more space at the top for a waterproof toiletries bag. If you are road tripping and/or using communal showers you will want to a hanging toiletry bag. Check out our road trip packing list for more essential items.
I tend to pack electronics in my day bag, using makeup bags and packing cubes to organise. Our large tripod has to go in the hold, it wouldn’t get passed security in carry-on luggage.
Instagram Collections is also great for remembering the people you meet on the road. Just ask for their Instagram and save an image you will remember from their profile to the destination/event collection board.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
8. Staying Safe On The Road
Regardless if you are going solo or in a group staying safe is paramount.
Be cautious of super cheap accommodation, double-check that the area is right for you. Can you walk around in the dark? Are there certain streets you should stick to? Is a hotel with a reception desk a better option than a self-service apartment? If it doesn’t feel right, get out. I left a sketchy hostel in San Francisco and didn’t regret it.
Take a photo of car plates and let the driver see you do this if you are on your own. Use legit apps that inform you when the driver is on the way and what car they are driving.
To keep belongings safe, consider the PacSafe net US / UK which ties around bags and secures to non-moveable items. They also have bags but I find them too bulky.
Share your itinerary with family but don’t broadcast it live on social media. Give yourself a day or two delay.
Switch on a phone tracking device like Find My Phone.
Avoid large crowds like at street performers in cities, there is a chance thieves are operating.
Take photos of your ID, passport and medical records if applicable. Keep a note of your bank lost card contact number. Check your bank statements often and report anything that seems dodgy. Most banks will call you on a landline if you DM them on Twitter.
Drink booze and have fun but know your limits. Stick to the group especially in areas you do not know well.
Use a filter water bottle, here’s our review, to avoid getting sick. If you do get sick don’t be stubborn about seeking help from health care professionals. You have travel insurance for a reason!
Speak to people about the local scams. Here’s a list of the ones in Cuba. You might think some are laughable but they all happened to us to people we met. Cuba is safe by the way, there’s just a lot of economical scams that happen to trusting tourists.
Do as Paris from Gilmore Girls and Kevin from Home Alone does, talk to your invisible friends if you have to answer the door while alone.