Monthly Archives

September 2015

AirBnB Check-ins Europe Places

Exploring Kraków

September 20, 2015

In leaving Warsaw for Kraków, we learned that train stations are great for stocking up on essential supplies – looking at you, cold meds, vitamin C tablets, and big-and-fancy European McDonald’s lattes. (Unapologetically waving our American flag here. Oversized Normal caffeinated beverages definitely count as essential objects if/when you’re growing weary of the mini espresso thing everybody’s rocking over the pond.)

When we arrived in Kraków, we were reminded of why AirBnB (<– psst: click if you’d like to claim a free $25 credit from us!) is such an amazing option for travelers (us) exploring cities they’ve never been to before (us again). The tram we needed to take to get to the city center was inexplicably cancelled, which would have been a much bigger issue had we not had the luxury of texting our host and asking for a back-up suggestion. Having a direct line of communication with a local is by far one of the biggest advantages of choosing an AirBnB location over a hotel! Plus, how nice are these digs?

more details about the listing here if you’re interested in booking a stay! 

After checking in and deciding that we loved our location, we went to a nearby market where we motioned at the meat counter until we somehow ended up with chicken. Since our check-in day just so happened to be Taylor’s birthday, we also picked out birthday beer and chocolate in addition to our more standard supplies: bread and cheese for sandwiches, cucumber and tomatoes to slice up for breakfast, apples, chips, and few other odds and ends. In grand total, we spent less than $11 and purchased enough food to last multiple days. Taylor claims THAT was the best birthday present of all time!

neighborhood views 

TAKEAWAY TIPS: Stretch your trip budget by choosing AirBnB listings with full kitchens or selecting a hotel with a mini fridge, then shop local markets for the supplies you need to make easy meals “at home.”

the coolest of murals at a bus stop in Kraków

On our second day in Kraków we took a day trip to the Wieliczka Kopalnia salt mine. The commute was lengthy, but the sight was so worth the extra bus stops! Construction of the mine began in the 13th century and took around 700 years complete. The structure is hundreds of meters deep and primarily built from pine wood, which would have made the tour down into the depths extremely scary except for the fact that, through the years, the wood has been petrified by salt and basically turned into stone. (Can you tell we were taking notes on our tour?)

It was difficult to believe that the walls, floors, bas relief sculptures, and even the chandeliers were all made from salt until Taylor took a lick of the wall and confirmed that the substance was indeed that which we sprinkle on our eggs in the mornings. As for the stunning figures in the chapel? They were sculpted by “amateur” artists throughout the 17th and 18th centuries as an act of after-work devotion to God!

After venturing outside the city limits of Kraków to see the salt mine, day three demanded a walking tour of nearby Old Town Kraków and Wawel Royal Castle. It was very cool to walk the medieval square (the oldest one in Europe!) in Old Town, and we truly enjoyed every aspect of our Wawel Castle experience as well.

medieval square + old town

image5 (3)

wawel royal castle views

Note to other travelers: Early arrival is recommended at Wawel as a limited number of tickets are made available for each exhibit. Since we got a late start, we missed out on seeing the Royal Apartments. However, we did catch the “Lost Wawel” (featuring artifacts such as medieval shoes and ornate stove tiles), the Treasury and Armory rooms (which included goblets made of conch shell with gold stems, Turkish riding adornments captured during battle, a coronation sword, and jeweled broaches), and the State Rooms (picture apartments and ballrooms covered in ornate leather wallpaper, writing desks crafted from ebony and tortoise shell, and enormous tapestries depicting Noah’s ark hanging in the same place they were 400 years ago).

Afterward, we ate at a Polish pierogi restaurant that we thought/hoped was semi-authentic until we bit into the center of a dumpling as cold as the freezer we can only assume it came from. That being said, the traditional sour soup with egg was delicious and earned back a few points on our Four Square review. Still, if we could do it over again, we probably would have just eaten at one of the wooden stalls in the Old Town square serving up fresh veggies, dumplings, and chicken roasting over an open flame.

TAKEAWAY TIPS: Research the sites you want to see in advance so that you’re aware of any special ticketing policies. Even though we were aware of Wawel’s ticket limitations, we assumed we’d be able to see whatever we wanted since we were traveling during shoulder season…a mistake on our part. Also, if a restaurant looks kinda kitschy, chances are that it’s, well, kinda kitschy. Pass on it and look for options slightly outside the city center to save dollars (and regrets).

That’s all for our time in Kraków!


Check-ins Europe Hotel Places

Just Checked-in: Warsaw, Poland

September 13, 2015

Fun fact: To date, Warsaw is the only city on our 2.5 month backpacking trip through Eastern Europe where we pre-booked our hotel more than two days in advance. (What can we say? We like to keep our itinerary flexible!) We selected the Ibis Hotel due to its affordable price and proximity to Warsaw’s Old Town. While it quickly became clear to us that Ibis is geared more toward those on business trips rather than backpackers (AKA we saw a lot of people in suits and/or on their phones and looking official in the lobby), the accommodation choice actually worked great for us since we take our business on the road with us!

Our first day in Warsaw began with breakfast at To Lubię café, which we stumbled upon thanks to a prominent chalkboard sign advertising our most needed commodity at that point: caffeine! One pot of lavender tea and two platters of warm bread, fresh veggies, meat, cheese, and a local spread of eggs and ham later, we left the café to explore Old Town.

The Royal Castle was amazing, and for whatever reason, admission was free on the day of our tour! While the rooms and regal trappings were impressive, we were most amazed by the fact that the entire castle was completely reconstructed in the 1970s and 1980s following its total destruction during World War II.

For dinner, we turned to Four Square and discovered Z Gara I Pieca, which was possibly the most uniquely-decorated restaurant of all time – it felt like eating inside a coloring book! After a long day of walking around the city, the whole meat-and-potatoes thing had a really nice ring to it. We ordered goulash and some sort of meat pies that were like a fancy Polish version of Hot Pockets (thought of you, Jim Gaffigan), then headed back to our hotel to put in a few hours of work. Day one, complete!

On our second day in Poland we took a morning bus ride to Wilanow Palace and returned to Warsaw to visit the POLIN museum of Jewish history in the afternoon. While both tours were fascinating, we definitely crammed too much into just one day. To fully absorb and appreciate the POLIN museum – which covers thousands of years of Jewish history and continues the narrative through the present day – would take a lifetime. Two hours hardly did it justice. Four would have been better. All day would have been best.

That’s all for our time in Warsaw!

By Air Europe Get There Guides Places Practical Travel

Get There Guide: Flying Cheap From the U.S. to Europe

September 13, 2015

So, you want to get from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina to Warsaw, Poland, do ya? No? Well, maybe it’s just us then. But on the off-chance that one or two more of you are looking to plot a similar course (or just hoping to spend the least amount of money possible) to get from the U.S. to Europe, we wrote this Get There Guide just for you! As for the recounting of humorous incidents that occurred on our journey? Those are just freebies thrown in to make sure you keep reading all the nitty-gritty details and don’t just look at the pictures. (#HonestyIsTheBestPolicy)


After guilt-tripping both sets of parents about the fact that this was their last chance to spend quality time with us for the next few months, we all hopped in the car from our home on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and took a 40-minute drive to the international airport in sweet-as-a-peach Savannah, Georgia (airport code: SAV).

From there, we hopped an easy, super inexpensive Jet Blue flight to JFK in New Yak (or however they say it up there). Over the course of our seven-hour layover in New York, our laptop flew off the x-ray belt, we paid incredibly expensive prices for things like sushi with unknown ingredients (pickled seaweed? banana pepper? hard pineapple?) and dry sandwiches, and we encountered the OMC, or “open mouthed cougher,” who immediately gifted his cold with severe congestion to Karley. On the bright side, we enjoyed sitting next to a table of Jamaicans listening to Bob Marley, which helped us remember that “every little thing is gonna be alright,” and that international terminals are an adventure in and of themselves.

Finally, we boarded an overnight Norwegian flight (complete with extra leg room!) and woke up to the gorgeous mid-century modern design of the Oslo airport. Three pastries and another lengthy layover later, it was time to board our final Norwegian flight to Warsaw.

Extra leg room? Yes, please.


First things first: we weren’t in a rush. Sure, there are routes from SAV to Europe with fewer connections and shorter layovers. But there’s a price tag attached to convenience, and the dollar amount was more than we wanted to pay. For that reason, we chose to look for flights from major international airport hubs (specifically, New York) when scouting sweet deals to Europe. Working out how you will get to those major hubs requires a bit more effort, but can be much more cost effective than letting a search engine route your international flight all the way from your home airport.

PS: If you rely on a flight search site when booking your trip, many times these sites will generate the “cheapest” routes based on a single airline and/or that airline’s affiliates. Most of the time, these sites will also miss combining the cheapest flight options for each leg of the trip (yes, even the “hacker fares” listed on Kayak are not always comprehensive or the most economical option). Creating your own piecemeal itinerary definitely takes more time, but can often be the cheaper option. Here’s an example, using Kayak, of the price differences we encountered when booking our trip.

One-way ticket: Routing from home airport to international destination

major carrier + affiliates



One-way ticket: Routing from major hub to international destination


transport to major hub: $64

international ticket: $295.50

TOTAL COST: $359.50
Savings: $378.50

A few words of caution: Piecing together flights like this really works best if you are a carry-on only passenger because airlines will not automatically send your checked luggage to the other airline(s) taking you to your final destination. Theoretically, you could still do this while checking luggage, but this would require going back through security…major pain. Next, and this might sound basic, but DO NOT BOOK TIGHT LAYOVERS (all caps totally necessary). Even if you are traveling carry-on only, it can take longer to switch between flights and/or you might run into issues such as not being able to get your tickets until you arrive at the airport (looking at you, Norwegian). A few hours in between flights should suffice.

While three flights and couple of lengthy layovers isn’t exactly tops in anyone’s travel book, it was no big deal for us considering the fact that we were headed to Europe for 2.5 months. What’s more, traditional round-trip tickets schedule travelers to depart from the same airport they arrive at. We wanted to work our way through Eastern and Central Europe from top to bottom, so beginning and ending in Poland wouldn’t have made sense. Ending our trip in Italy, however? Perfetto. (We Google translated that, so don’t judge us if it’s not, well, perfect.)

Planning a multi-leg flight itinerary with a low-cost carrier (like Norwegian) shows off how, well, “low cost” they really are. For those unfamiliar with the term or the airlines that fall under this umbrella, the designation is basically synonymous with “no frills.” For example, Norwegian does not provide passengers with the typical free-drink-and-peanuts combo, and other add-ons (including seat reservations) are available only at an additional fee. The most infamous of these carriers is Ryanair, which charges for everything from using a credit card to pay for your flight to not printing your ticket in advance.

That being said, if you are willing to deal with a few minor inconveniences, you get the huge bonus of flying into one city and out  of the other for very reasonable prices. For most of the low-cost carriers the cost of each leg of the trip equals the total of a round-trip flight. This stands in contrast to traditional airlines, where the cost of a one-way ticket to your location and the cost of a one-way ticket back from your location will not necessarily equal the cost of one round-trip ticket, making multi-leg itineraries more expensive with traditional carriers. If that all sounds like gibberish, see below for a visual example using our cities of arrival and departure.

Major Carrier: Multi-city trip to Europe

least expensive multi-leg ticket | Aer Lingus*
flying into Warsaw and out of Rome


Low-cost Carrier: Multi-city trip to Europe

one-way ticket to Warsaw | Norwegian

one-way ticket from Rome | Norwegian

TOTAL COST: $582.60
Total savings: $62.50

*Note: This Aer Lingus rate is actually GREAT, but note that you’ll only land great prices like this if you’re flying from major hubs to Europe. Also, the dates we used when generating this example are firmly in the “off season” – if you’re traveling in the high season, your savings are likely to be much more drastic..

While this may not seem like a huge amount of savings, those extra dollars add up when you’re traveling as a pair. Also, keep in mind that the dates we selected (in real life and for example-giving purposes) are in the off season, meaning they only get higher from here! Finally, if you’re brand-loyal, you can most likely expect higher rates regardless of the season (unless of course you are balling out and have millions of frequent flyer miles). Here’s the cheapest flight we found via Delta, just for kicks.

Obviously your savings would be much higher in this scenario – as in $327.40 higher. Not too shabby!


  1. Always check the prices of flying out of a major hub
  2. Check the flights offered by low-cost carriers that don’t show up on all search sites (Southwest, Ryanair, etc)
  3. Don’t assume you’re getting the best price by limiting your itinerary to one airline and its affiliates

Happy travels!

Canada North America Perspectives Places

Travel and Trust: Lessons From Our First Backpacking Trip

September 13, 2015

Note: This blog post first appeared on Karley’s personal blog in October of 2014. Enjoy!

Before our first backpacking trip, this blog was nothing more than a back-burner dream. Taylor talked about the practical tips he’d like to share, and I imagined myself writing about how to find fabulous locations, book incredibly cheap-and-chic AirBnB stays, and discover hidden-gem restaurants and boutiques that only locals knew about (#deep). But when our trip to Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria had finally come and gone, I found myself suddenly emptied of the desire to talk about Trip Advisor details and just talk about what had really mattered instead. Here’s what that meant:

I basically had no idea what was going on for the majority of our trip. I sketched a vague outline of a few things I’d like to see and do in each location, but beyond that, I was completely and entirely dependent on Taylor’s lead. After all, he has done substantial traveling on his own, isn’t afraid of public transportation, and is 100% more comfortable (and attractive) wearing a backpack than me. It just made sense to turn everything over into his hands. So I did.

Pike's Market

Taylor booked our airfare, our Amtrak seats, our ferry rides, and our clipper trip. Taylor bought our bus passes. He tracked each stop on Google Maps to make sure that we got off at the right location. He researched every city we visited and pre-planned day trips he knew I would enjoy.

As for me? I didn’t know which way we were going, what method of transportation we were taking, which bus stop to wait at, or what activity we’d be doing when we arrived. I didn’t book, check in, check out, route, map, or tip. I just went. I just woke up in the morning, got dressed, did a few hours of work, and walked out the door with full confidence that good things were ahead. I trusted Taylor because he’s done this before. I trusted him because he knows me—what I like and what I don’t. I trusted him because he has my best in mind, he wants to provide for me, and he always keeps me safe no matter where we go.

I was telling my mom all of these things after our trip when I saw Jesus. Not physically, but spiritually. Emotionally. With the eyes of my heart. It was so clear: If I can trust the details of so many unknowns to Taylor, how much more can I free-fall into the arms of my Heavenly Father? If I can hand over the reigns of trip planning to Taylor, how much more can I give over control of my life to my Savior? If I can follow Taylor no matter where he’s going, how much more can I walk in complete, blessed assurance no matter which direction my God and King is leading?

I struggle with trusting the Lord for no good reason at all. He has provided for me in every season. He has loved me with an everlasting love. He has grasped me by the hand, pulled me out of a pit of confusion and anxiety and depression when no one else could reach me. He has comforted me, called me His own, given me the good gifts of a family who raised me to know Truth and a husband who points me to Him. And yet I fear. I grasp at control as if the future is something I can predict, hold, and manipulate. I resist giving it all up, giving it all away, and simply resting at His feet, choosing instead to lock my spine and tighten my shoulders and brace myself for continued battle with a thousand “what-if” questions that have nothing at all to do with my reality.

But I want to grow. I want to abide in peace. I want so badly to walk barefoot with Jesus with my hair blowing in the wind. So every dollar we spent on our first backpacking trip to Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria was worth it as this realization poured through me: I don’t have to know exactly where I’m going, how I’m going to get there, where to wait, or what to do. I don’t have to create an immovable five-year plan, make things happen on my own, set the pace, or plot my own course. I can just go. I can just be. I can just get up in the morning, get dressed, do a few hours of work, and walk out the door with full confidence that good things are ahead. I can trust my Father because He has seen all of this before. He has pre-determined every moment of my day. He knows me—what I need and what I don’t. He has my best in mind—my earthly sanctification and eternal salvation. He has provided for me, and will continue to do so no matter what unknowns are still to come on this journey. He always has and always will keep me safe, no matter where I go.

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him…It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.” Psalm 18:30-33 (read the entire psalm here)

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children…” Psalm 103:13-17 (read the entire psalm here)

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity…’” Jeremiah 29:11-14 (read the entire passage here)

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28