Why You Should Go to Europe in the Winter

I should preface this post by saying that nothing makes me more unhappy than the cold– going to northern Europe in January sounded almost worse than being in Chicago. That being said, when you’re notified (thanks, Scott’s Cheap Flights!) with a $340 round-trip flight to Paris, you make your sacrifices. Duty called, and my first trip to Europe was booked.

Since we’re in one of the best times to be booking January–March flights, I wanted to share why it was one of my best decisions.

1. Off-Season Prices

Every country/state has a “peak season,” aka prime time, and an off-season. In busy peak season (summer for Europe), hotels, Airbnbs, flights, and even activities and excursions can and do charge more when there’s more demand. Because Europe is just about desolate in the winter, we were able to snag ridiculously cheap flights and stay in discounted hostels. Western Europe is hardly considered a budget destination, so it’s a good opportunity to see it without paying summer prices.

2. Higher Availability

More availability means more options, which means more flexibility. We never had trouble finding accommodation, a spot on the train, or even hopping in on a tour last-minute. As we learned the hard way, sh** happens, and we were lucky on more than one occasion to be able to slide in somewhere that we hadn’t booked ahead. However, this doesn’t mean it’s cheap just because it’s available. Ask me about my time hitchhiking to Colmar, France because we didn’t book far enough ahead 🙂

3. Less Tourists

One of the worst things about tourist attractions is how crowded it can get. Even if you’re visiting Europe for the 3rd time, chances are, you’ll end up in popular spots checking out the main attraction of the city. While there will likely always be a line to see the Eiffel Tower, every queue was very bearable in the winter.

Paris, France

4. It’s not THAT bad

I was expecting Iceland to be a constant blizzard and days walking around in Paris to leave me with frozen feet and fingers. You guys – it was super tolerable (besides Amsterdam in the wind and rain. We were there when this video was taken, haha.) Iceland Air even advertises that winters in Reykjavik are milder than New York and Chicago’s! Speaking of Iceland, 5 hours of golden hour a day was incredibly cool to see– another plus of visiting in the winter.

Þingvellir, Iceland

5. Shallow, but…

Your hair and makeup looks great all day! Is this the most important thing? Maybe! Who knows?

Have you ever visited Europe in the winter? Would you want to? Should I stop asking questions? See ya!

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Cheap Flight Tools and Tricks

The starting point, the largest cost, and often the pain point of international travel planning is the flight. Looking for options can be overwhelming, and many times it has made a trip completely undoable– but sometimes it’s the one thing that actually ends up working out. And when that’s booked, you usually have no choice but to save up and go! Haha! (More on this mentality later)

These tools and tricks have been the reason I’ve been able to see so many places I never thought I’d see:

1. Book during shoulder season/off-season for your destination

Shoulder season is the 1-2 months that overlap between off-season and peak season. The gamble here is that you could have the disadvantages of off-season (weather, closed businesses, etc.), but oftentimes you’ll experience the advantages of peak season without the crowds. Off-season is a bit riskier, but most destinations have enough redeeming qualities to warrant a little rain or cold.

2. Fly into a nearby country with a larger airport

This works especially well in Europe/Southeast Asia where travel is common among the region. If Marrakesh, Morocco is your dream (as it is mine), but the $1,100 price tag is a bit steep for your budget, start your trip exploring in Spain and hop on a cheaper flight over. This is what we did to see Bali, Indonesia- my dream destination that I thought was completely out of my league.

3. Befriend Google Flights

My absolute savior. Stalking flights early and often is somewhat common-sense, I know, but it’s the best way to feel confident about your purchase. Plug in places or dates and scan for those green numbers that indicate a lower price than usual. They have a calendar view if you’re flexible on dates, and it’s super easy to navigate. 

4. Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights & Pomelo Travel

These services send out daily flight deals from major US airports. Scott’s Cheap Flights were the reason I got such a cheap ticket to Paris- an awesome surprise as we were looking at both Asia and Europe for that month. The only downside is having to pull out your wallet right away– the flight deals don’t last long and it’s recommended to book within a few hours of seeing the price, sometimes even on the spot.

5. Utilize Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” option

Skyscanner, a service similar to Google Flights, will accept “Everywhere” as an option. Just plug in your dates and see what’s available.

6. Set up flight alerts

I’m not big on flight alerts, but it’s great for super busy people. Alert services like Hopper or Google Flights will do the work for you and send you statuses on how much your flight is and when you should book.

7. Know what’s included

Don’t go for a budget or big name airlines if you have to pay another $100 for a carry-on. Many smaller airlines still offer free baggage in their prices, so make sure you check before booking with whatever’s “cheapest.”

8. Use airlines with free stopovers

A stopover is exactly what it sounds like– the airline will stop in a destination free of charge on the way to/home from your destination. This is a great way for countries to get tourism and for us travelers to essentially get a bonus destination in their trip. We use Iceland Air’s program last January and it definitely won’t be my last timing taking advantage of it. Read a full list of airlines to keep an eye out for.

And as always, there’s things I know nothing about, like credit card rewards and frequent flyer points. When I’m more of an adult I’ll be sure to update. For travel inspiration, follow my Pinterest boards. I promise it’ll never run dry.

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10 Can’t-Put-Down Books That Will Get You Back into Reading

I’ve always been a “read when I travel” kind of girl. So much so that when I was younger, I would bring (no joke) anywhere from 5-10 books on a trip. Whenever I’m home, however, it’s a different story. With less downtime and more distractions, I neglect reading – and I hate it.

The best way to hop back into what I call a “reading phase” is by simply finding a really good book. (Ha! Crazy idea! How did I think of that!)

From there, I go through a phase of almost obsessive reading– until I stumble upon a book that’s a chore to get through. Then the cycle begins again.

While I can appreciate a good romance, self-help, or inspirational book, the genre that actually gets me back into reading is always a thriller/suspense/mystery. I want to literally hole myself up in my room and not speak to anyone for the days (hours?) it takes me to finish that book. So, I did the work for you (well, I tried to, anyway). Here are ten books that will get you back into the pages:

1. The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn
2. The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter
3. You – Caroline Kepnes
4. Behind Closed Doors – B.A. Paris
5. Dark Matter – Blake Crouch
6. Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
7. Stillhouse Lake – Rachel Caine
8. Mr. Mercedes – Stephen King
9. Dark Places – Gillian Flynn
10. The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena

Have you read any of these? What did I miss?

P.S.- Who has a Goodreads account? This app is actually the only way I will remember what books I’ve read and if I enjoyed them. No kidding, the book will leave my mind if I don’t document it. Anyone else? 🙂

Happy reading!

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