Travel Budget

I’m A Little Different, And So Is My Travel Style

Growing up, I always felt that I was different from the other kids in school – but I couldn’t quite figure out how. In elementary and middle school I analyzed the differences in my body compared to the other girls to try to explain it. While I (of course) found some differences, they never panned out to be what I was searching to explain. By high school I still hadn’t cracked the secret, and I started to try various fashion styles and music to see if the ambiguous feeling had to do with my personal tastes. But no luck there either. When I would change my looks, the way I dressed, or the types of music I listened to in order to try to find the elusive “real me,” none of the changes ever felt right.

It’s taken twenty years since I first started exploring other “Eliz” options, and I feel I finally understand what the difference is: what makes me happy.

Miami Beach, May 2013

Miami Beach, May 2013

Here’s a good example. I’m only five years out of college and Ibiza is nowhere near the top of my travel list. If Eliz were a brand, Ibiza would be considered “off brand.” I don’t go clubbing. I don’t research trendy restaurants. You are far more likely to find me on a winery tour than a pub crawl.

I work at a media agency, where I often joke that I’m a Gen X’er in a Millennial body. While that’s not necessarily true outside of my taste in television (which may actually be closer to Baby Boomer status), I’ll admit that I have very mature travel tendencies. I always opt for the nicest hotel we can afford. When my boyfriend and I went to Vancouver in 2013, we were twenty-five year old tourists who stayed at the Four Seasons because we found a good deal. More often than not we are the youngest people in our hotels/B&B’s by ten to twenty years because our top priority is a very clean, comfortable pillow.

Further, I must admit I haven’t stayed in a hostel in eighteen months. Some Millennial readers and travelers may frown on that decision, citing the importance of the camaraderie and affordability that hostels provide. By all means, you do you! While I like meeting new people, I like nice mattresses more. Nice mattresses make me a very happy tourist.

Side Note: I have not written off hostels all together. I will most likely stay in one again.

With that said, I wanted to make sure to disclose all of these preferences and priorities to you, dear reader, because I am a travel blogger who writes about budgeting for travel. Meaningful travel may mean different things to different people, but the end goal is always the same:  a truly enjoyable vacation.

I hope you budget for travel that you know will make you happy. The good news is that you know yourself best! You probably already have an idea about what kind of travel would bring you the most joy at your personal budget level. My only advice is that you should always trust your gut. I’m not here to try to tell you what to do, I’m here to help and inspire you to do it.  🙂

Like I said, I’m a little different…and I finally know why. I’ve come to terms with my tendencies to travel above my age bracket. I’ve accepted and embraced this (as well as other older-skewing interests) about myself…and I hope you will, too!

How To Pack For A Vacation In San Francisco and Sonoma In Just Two Carry-On’s

“If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there”
“San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie

I’ve been humming the soft melody of this famous song as I pack my carry-on today for my upcoming trip to San Francisco.

Problem: I don’t own any flowers to put in my hair. #NotAHippie

As a teenager, I watched the Forrest Gump movie several times and owned the soundtrack – both of which featured this song. To me, this classic tune befits the free-spirited history of the city of San Francisco, and reminds me of the open-minded nature of its residents. Similar to New York City’s history, San Francisco was built by dreamers.

Chinatown in SF with trolley going down the street

Chinatown in SF with trolley going down the street

As you read in last week’s blog post, I’ve planned several types of activities for my upcoming vacation. I’ll admit I am by no means an expert on packing for San Fran in the springtime since the only other time I’ve been was in December. That said, I’m going to take you all along for the ride as I piece together my SF springtime wardrobe and other travel essentials.

The first thing I did was check the weather to understand how many layers I would need each day. The difficult aspect is that I will be in the city of San Francisco for two-thirds of the trip, where the highs are estimated to be in the low 60’s next weekend. However, on Saturday and Sunday I will be in Sonoma County where the highs will be 15 degrees warmer in the upper 70’s!

As a result, I need to pack both dresses AND jeans – major bummer when it comes to saving space. On top of that, the expected temperature variance means that I’ll need to bring BOTH sandals and closed-toed walking shoes, along with a pair of nice shoes for fancier restaurants. Three pairs of shoes – eeeeek! Thank god Derek’s brother miraculously has a hair dryer at his apartment so I don’t need to bring my own!

Anyway, without further ado, here’s how I’ve packed for SF in two carry-on’s.

SF Packing List:

In the backpack:

  • Laptop and charger
  • Camera (with case, charger and memory cards)
  • Cell phones and chargers (work and personal phone)
  • California guidebook
  • (2) magazines
  • Eyemask
  • Day purse (with wallet, travel medicine kit, headphones, pens, house keys, mints, mini hand sanitizer, etc.)
  • Small empty water bottle
  • (1) pair of sunglasses
  • Hotel reservation print-outs

In the roller duffle:

These are all of the things that I am packing in my roller duffle (top left corner)

These are all of the things that I am packing in my roller duffle (top left corner)

  • (2) toiletries bags
    • (1) for liquids
    • (1) for non-liquids

      Unpacked toiletries bags

      Unpacked toiletries bags

packing 7

Packed toiletries bags

  • (1) umbrella
  • (1) bag of instant coffee and oatmeals for the mornings
  • (2) leather belts
  • (2) pairs of jeans
  • (1) pair of shorts
  • (1) black skinny stretchy fabric pants – wearing on the plane
  • (1) wool jacket – wearing on the plane
  • (1) canvas jacket
  • (1) black cardigan sweater
  • (1) blue linen blazer
  • (1) light weight zip up sweatshirt
  • (2) good quality cotton tshirts
  • (2) ¾ sleeve blouses – wearing one on the plane
  • (2) sleeveless blouses
  • (2) dresses
  • (2) black cami’s – wearing one on the plane
  • (1) tshirt for sleeping
  • (1) pair of cotton capris for sleeping
  • (8) pairs of underwear
  • (1) strapless bra
  • (1) regular bra
  • (6) pairs of socks
  • (1) pair of black waterproof ankle boots – wearing on the plane
  • (1) pair of fashionable sneakers
  • (1) pair of black strappy sandals
  • (1) hair straightener
  • (1) set of earplugs
  • (1) makeup bag

    My makeup bag (I love cosmetics)

    My makeup bag (I love cosmetics)

  • (1) small bag of jewelry and hair accessories
  • (1) evening purse
  • (1) daytime cross-body bag
  • (2) lingerie bags for dirty clothes separation

Just like with my packing guides for Europe and Florida, I’ve been able to pare down my packing list to just the essentials that I know I will need, plus one or two extra outfits – just in case. (I mean…I’m AM a girl!)

packing 1

Everything is packed and ready to go!

Took a little effort, but the duffle bag zipped all the way closed

It took a LITTLE effort, but the duffle bag zipped all the way closed

Because I focused on the essentials, I don’t expect to have to buy anything extra on this trip. As you saw last week, this trip is going to be pretty expensive despite only being gone for six days, so the less things I need to pick up in SF, the better.

To close, I have to be honest with you: my boyfriend and I will probably ship home a few cases of wine to our apartment as Sonoma County souvenirs. But…I mean…it’s not like I’d ever pack numerous bottles of wine in my carry-on anyway so…no harm no foul for this packing post!

See My Trip Budgeting Tool In Action: Planning for our San Fran Trip

With long, steep hills rising above a glistening bay, San Francisco is one of the most iconic cities in the world. And for a good reason – there may be no other city on the planet as gorgeous year-round as “The City by the Bay.”

Steep hill rise high out of San Francisco Bay

Steep hill rise high out of San Francisco Bay

In less than two weeks my boyfriend Derek and I are headed to SF for six days to visit his brother Matt, who recently relocated to the Bay area for his job in finance.

Needless to say, we won’t be alone. Among the ever-growing number of young professionals calling San Francisco home, the city hosts an estimated 16 MILLION tourists each year! That’s double the population of New York City visiting annually!

The Golden Gate Bridge hiding in the SF Skyline - Dec 2010

The Golden Gate Bridge hiding in the SF Skyline – Dec 2010

With that said, the only other time I’ve been to San Francisco was in December 2010 for a long weekend – and my boyfriend has never been before. Having visited in early winter last time, my strongest memories are of thick, slow to disperse fog, as well as temperatures that barely cracked 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fog Clearing Over San Francisco - Dec 2010

Fog Clearing Over San Francisco – Dec 2010

This time we will be going in mid-May, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for sunshine and mild, mid-60’s temperatures.

With my expectation for beautiful weather in tow, this past week I began using my trip planning tool that I discussed in my last post to craft a daily touring schedule. I thought it would be important to plan our days and calculate roughly how much money our “extra-long weekend trip” will cost (dun…dun…dun…).

As usual, I broke out our transportation, lodging, activities, and food expenses by day. I filled in the costs of what we already booked, and then inserted estimates for anything unplanned at this point (i.e. food allowances, vineyard tasting fees, etc.). Here’s what the schedule and costs currently look like in my planning spreadsheet:

San Francisco Budget

As you can see, even though we are staying with Derek’s brother for three of the five nights, our long weekend in SF WILL NOT be cheap.

The cost of living in the Bay area is one of the highest in the United States, and the cost of being a tourist proves no different. Downtown hotels are constantly in high demand. Restaurant menus are comparable to NYC pricing.  AND if you’re taking a full-day wine tour to Napa or Sonoma counties (like we are) – ohhhhh man – the cost per person that day may completely blow your food and activity budget for the trip.

With that said, when visiting San Francisco, careful planning is essential to be able to immerse yourself in the city’s finest offerings. I used TripAdvisor and recommendations from friends to sculpt our itinerary, while keeping in mind our personal travel style.

We like wine. We like history. We like nature.

We don’t like crowded, kitschy, tourist-filled hotspots.

Tourists waiting in line to ride the only National Monument that moves - the San Francisco trolley car

Tourists waiting in line to ride the only National Monument that moves – the San Francisco trolley car

So, after discussing together what will be most important to the two of us during our limited number of days in the city, we decided to de-prioritize some of the most common destinations – Alcatraz, Chinatown, and Pier 39. We figured they just aren’t our cup of tea.

The gate to SF's Chinatown district - Dec 2010

The gate to SF’s Chinatown district – Dec 2010

Wild seals relaxing by the docks at Pier 39 - Dec 2010

Wild seals relaxing by the docks at Pier 39 – Dec 2010

Instead, we pinpointed that we want to see The Presidio (with the Golden Gate Bridge backdrop), the Mission District, the Ghirardelli Factory, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the other destinations listed in my spreadsheet above.  By talking to my travel companion in advance about our expectations and priorities, we were not only able to estimate how much money we will spend in our activity budget each day, but I feel we have the flexible itinerary in place to optimize each day of our trip.

Outside the Ghirardelli Factory in downtown SF - Dec 2010

Outside the Ghirardelli Factory in downtown SF – Dec 2010

While some people enjoy spontaneity on their vacations, I always recommend traveling with some general idea of what you will do upon your arrival as well as how much money you plan to spend. In this way, you will avoid two types of regrets – spending over your budget and not seeing everything you wanted to see.

I hope this post provides a helpful example of how my trip budgeting tool can be applied in real life, as well as how you can replicate it for one of your upcoming trips!

For your reference, feel free to download my SF trip planning spreadsheet (seen in the above spreadsheet screenshot) from my MeansToTravel google docs. From there, you can make and save changes that apply to your own upcoming trips!