Thursday, December 19, 2013

Paris, Je t'aime!


    Paris is one of my favorite cities to visit! No matter how many times you go or how long you stay, there is always more to see! Remember these tips the next time you jet set to Grand Paris, and you will be sure to have an affordable visit of a lifetime!

    The most important piece of advice I can give is to plan your stay in advance! The most costly part with be where you stay. If you plan at least a few weeks in advance, you can get a better deal on a hostel or Airbnb apartment.  Also, plan accordingly on how to get there. Since Paris is so centrally located in Europe, you should have an easy and affordable way to get there from most main cities. I have taken trains and coach buses and they have been very inexpensive and pleasant. Taking MegaBus or IDbus is not the most stylish way to arrive in one of the chicest cities in the world, but you will be thankful for the euros you saved! The long ride can be a great time to map out what sights you will hit first!

     A necessity is a metro map! They are very cheap or you can find them online and bring one with you. The metro is a cheap way to travel though the large city; it may be difficult at first, but you will get the hang of it! Just remember, one ticket is good for a single trip, so as long as you do not leave the metro station, you can continue to switch trains until you figure out where you need to be! Buy the book of 10 tickets and get a reduced fare per ride. Do not be intimidated by the metro! It really is a great asset to seeing the city and can save you lots of time and foot pain! 

     Now to the best part- the sights! A great time to plan a trip is during the first Sunday of every month. All the museums (and Paris has plenty) are FREE- as in the best price! This deal is for anyone, so it is a great time to go with a group or the family! If you are not there during the first Sunday, then utilize your student VISA. With it you can get into almost every monument for a reduced price or for free! Main attractions that are free include :
  •      The Panthéon: Visit the tombs of Voltaire, Victor Hugo and the Curies, along with many of the country’s other great thinkers.
  •      The Louve: Hang out with Mona Lisa, or decipher Hammurabi’s code. You can’t go wrong spending a few hours in the vast labyrinth that is the museum!
  •      The Bridges: See the city like a local and walk over one of Paris’ 37 bridges across the Seine River!

  •     Notre Dame de Paris: One of my favorite places in the city! Go inside and see the beautiful rose windows and gothic architecture. Then head up the spiral staircases to glimpse the stunning view of the city alongside the famous gargoyles of the cathedral. The entrance into the cathedral is free to all and can be entered through the front; on the side of the building is where you can enter to go to the terrace- this is free with a student VISA!
     Don’t forget the breathtaking views from the Eiffel Tower! You will have to pay to get into this monument, but it is worth the cost! You can get a reduced price by taking the stairs up to the second level, and a further discount for being a student! Then you will have to pay a standard fee to get to the tippy top! It is a priceless view and something you will not regret!

     When it comes to food, Paris is rather costly. Do not be surprised to spend between 15-20 euros per meal if you dine out. The food is definitely something to enjoy, but if you are looking to save on food, make some meals yourself. Bakeries offer fresh delicious breads and pastries for very little. Stop by a market and grab some standard French staples to go with it, such as cheese, escargot, and wine! End your night with a crêpe, I recommend with nutella and banana!

  Finally, you must see the “city of lights” in action! Paris at night is a sight like nothing you have seen before! Each monument lit up in various colors and the shimmering sight of the Eiffel Tower, which sparkles at the top of each hour is something you can’t miss!

     So don’t forget your student VISA or your camera, because your trip will be one you will want to relive many times over!

Check out my video blog segment on Paris here:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Zakkenroller = Pickpockets!

Beware of Pickpockets!! 

It is very easy to be taken advantage of while in big cities by many different types of pickpockets. 

1). Seemingly Innocent Petition holders-
We encountered these young girls all over Paris! What they do is ask if you speak English- If they have a clipboard in their hand, say no and walk away quickly. If you do say you speak English, prepare to hear about some charity that they are gathering signatures for, and they will assure you it's free...until you sign it and they hound you for at least 5 Euros. Be cautious for when you say no though, because they will be persistent, and even group up on you. While we were walking near the Louvre, a group of six swarmed us! Make sure to watch your purse and pockets, because when they were asking us to sign, they reached into our pockets!

2). String Men-
These are usually men in their 20-30s. The ones I have encountered have a few different types of tokens, but always the same tactic. They will offer you their token (string bracelet, figurine, rose, bird seed) for free, if you accept it they will follow you around begging for money until you give them some. But still be cautious, because even if you say no thank you, they will try to put it on you somehow and claim that was you accepting and still ask for money relentlessly! 

3). Your typical pick pocket-
These are the ones you can't describe, because you never notice them- until your stuff is gone! The best advice for these is to be smart. Usually, they are just trying to scope out where you keep your wallet, how much money you have, or if you have credit cards so they can easily distract you and grab your stuff. After all, they are called "pickpockets" for a reason right? If you are in a crowded area, always keep a hand on your purse. If you are somewhere were you can get distracted, by for example taking a picture, don't leave your purse wide open or laying somewhere. If you are staying in a hostel with lots of people, bring a lock, so you can keep your stuff in a secure locker. 

There are countless ways to be scammed out of your money, especially in large cities in foreign countries. Basically the best tip I can give is to try to blend in! People who are usually targeted in these scams are unaware tourists. Also, do not be afraid to be rude. Usually if you show you aren't scared to speak up, they won't mess with you, since you could easily cause a scene and possibly them getting in trouble. After all of my times abroad, I have just started to firmly say no, and they will go right on to the next person. If you hesitate or slow down any, they will not stop bothering you, and possibly have some of their posse join to pressure you! 

As my dad always says, keep your wits about you! 

Friday, November 8, 2013


Baxter! You are my Little Gentleman- I will take you to Foggy London Town! 

     You have no idea how many times I sang that while in London! But to get the more important stuff, here are some tip about the beautiful city of London! 

     London has a very high cost of living, so it can put a dent in your wallet! If you want the full British experience while saving some pounds, find a Weatherspoons Pub. If you are there over a weekend, make sure to go on Sunday; They have a special where you can get a Sunday Roast complete with all the trimmings for 8 pounds! That means your choice of roast (chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian), with fried potatoes, veggies, Yorkshire pudding, gravy and a drink. I could hardly finish it all! 

     Another restaurant famous in England is Nando's Chicken! Nando’s chicken is affordable and an authentic British restaurant. They serve chicken from a quarter to a whole, marinated in their specialty sauces. And when you are missing fountain drinks and ice, look no further! Nando's has free refills and unlimited sauces to try on your chicken and chips (aka fries)!
     Last but certainly not least, make sure you get some fish n' chips! But be careful, they are addictive! A typical meal will cost you around 10 pounds in London; but the meal includes a huge fillet of fried Cod or Haddock and a generous portion of fries! Don't forget to cover it in salt and vinegar, and you will be eating like the locals!

     For transportation, I suggest buying an oyster card! It is re-loadable and has a set ceiling cost, meaning it will only charge you up to a certain amount even if you ride the metro all day long! The card is usable for any mode of public transport in London. You can pick one up at any train or metro stop! And when you leave you can sell it back and get 5 pounds back! This way you can travel quickly to highlights you want to see, like Buckingham Palace or Big Ben, and not be restricted by time limits or just one view because of a bus tour! 

     For a night on the town, look for student specials at pubs and clubs. There are over 300 clubs in London, so there are student nights every night, except for Saturdays. Shoreditch in the east of London, and Camden in the northwest are known to have cheaper costs than the heart of London! Never pay more than 5 pounds for entry as a student; Look for signs around town advertising for student specials, or just ask a local!

     So don't forget your student ID and an umbrella, and you will be ready for an affordable and unforgettable time in London!

Check out my video blog here:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


     When I first arrived in Leuven, my pal Karli said we had a free place to stay in Scotland if we wanted to go. My response: DUH! We went onto and found a 28 euro round trip! Jackpot! 
     When packing, you have to be sensible, RyanAir allows a small (I mean minuscule) carry on, or a more substantial sized backpack (they usually never even check the size). I wore my heaviest items like my jeans, sweater, leather jacket and boots. Then I packed lighter options, like tights, leggings, a cardigan and skirts. And it is just like a normal airline (besides the prices), so you have to keep liquids in a quart sized bag, with all containers under three ounces. 
     You may hear rumors that there is nothing in Scotland but rain and mosquitoes- Don't listen to those people! When we arrived in Scotland, I was exhausted from the trip to Charleroi and the flight to Scotland after that. But even in my haze, I could tell how beautiful the country was! I stayed in Stirling, which is nestled at the base of the highlands and more beautiful views than my eyes could handle! 

     So here are the important things you MUST DO while in Scotland, and how you can do them on a budget: 

  1. Drink Irn-Bru! It is a typical Scottish soda, and in Scotland, coke isn’t the highest selling soda like in most countries; Irn-Bru is. The famous Scottish soda can be found in restaurants and stores! I suggest you go to pound land, where everything in the store is just one British pound!
  2. Visit the Highlands! Although the hike is difficult, it is worth it! At the top awaits a spectacular view of Scotland! And the best part is, it’s free!
  3. See a Rugby Game! Professional rugby games can be pricey, so look up if there is a community team! I attended a game of the local county team and I got in with a student discount! 
     When it comes to food, you MUST try Haggis! When in Scotland, right? I absolutely loved it! Also if you can, try fish and chips (doused in salt and vinegar of course), mushy peas, bangers and mash and finally a fried Mars Bar! 

     Don’t forget your student card to get your great discounts at Balmoral castle, national museum of Scotland, and the Royal botanical gardens!
     Look for a cheap bus or train to places like the Loch Ness or the Highlands, where you don’t need to pay for a great view! 

Check out my video blog here:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tips for Discount Travel

     While in Europe, it is a great time to travel to as many places as you can manage. These trips can add up, so you have to be thoughtful when you choose who to ride with! 

     Some of the cheapest ways to travel in Europe are with:

  1. RyanAir or EasyJet Airlines
  2. MegaBus or Eurolines
  3. Non-High speed trains
I have already booked round way flights to places like Scotland, Croatia and Dublin for 30 Euros round trip! The best way to get cheap travel fare is to search many different dates. Who knows when a bus to Amsterdam will be double the cost to a flight to Venice for the same weekend! Also, the best days to travel are on Thursdays and Mondays. Companies know most people can only travel on the weekends, so they bump up the prices. Start doing some research as soon as you get settled in at your new Uni, and if you are lucky you will stumble upon some sales and deals! 

But with cheap travel, comes many hassles! Some things you need to be aware of are:
  1. Many RyanAir or EasyJet Hubs are technically in big cities, but in actuality, they are in the middle of nowhere! In Brussels, that hub is Charleroi. When you buy your tickets you will see Brussels, and for Leuvenites (people living in Leuven) that will seem so nice! In reality, to get to Charleroi from Leuven, you have to catch a train to Brussels-Zuid, then catch a train to Charleroi-South, then hop on a shuttle bus to the airport! Not exactly ideal! So when traveling with discount Airlines, make sure you know where you are going and what you have to do to get there! Be prepared to have to take a shuttle bus or train once you get to your destination that will take you to where you really want to be! 
  2. You MUST print off your boarding tickets before hand for most of these! This may sound hard if you don't have a print handy, but there are plenty around Europe! Copy shops are very common and cheap! Don't forget to check in online for your flights in advance, have your boarding tickets and a reference number just in case!
  3. Your luggage may be restricted! On many of these forms of transport, you have to have a certain sized carry-on. It is usually considerably small, and if it is too big they will charge you an outrageous price to be able to carry it on. With RyanAir, this is due to the fact that they fit more seats than a normal airlines, but the overhead carry on space is still the same! Backpacks are a great carry on for these though, I always take my backpack and they don't even worry about the dimensions because you can always put it in front of you on the flight. 
  4. It may take a little longer! If you are taking a bus to London (can be as low as 10 Euros one way!), that could cost you most of your day. The best option for taking the bus or train is to find one leaving at night, so that you can sleep as best as you can on it, then arrive in the morning at your destination! Just don't forget your headphones and a pillow! 
  5. The cheaper options may take some searching. When google-ing for "a train from Leuven to Munich", most results will be high speed. If you can narrow your search results, eliminate ICE, Thalys, or the Eurostar. In Belgium, the lower speed, lower priced trains are IC. Now, there may be a chance that some high-speed train trips are especially low for a few certain days, but don't count on these prices forever! 
And always remember your passport when traveling! It seems like a silly thing to remind you of, but it is easy to forget! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dress Smarter

If you are staying in a European Country, you definitely need to dress smarter. The key to this, is layering. You never know when an overcast Belgian day will turn sunny and make you rethink your whole outfit! At the same time, you never know when a cloudless sky will unleash constant spitting rain on you. 

When you get up in the morning and look into your closet, take a minute to think. Take a glance out your window or maybe check the high and low temperature, then add or subtract ten more degrees to each, and you might have a better idea. 

I always start with what shoes I want to wear. If its raining, or could rain (mostly any day in Belgium or the UK) then wear something with sturdy soles, like boots or good flats. Then go from there! 

Bottoms are up next, pants or a skirt/dress with leggings or tights. It doesn't get terribly hot or humid here, so you won't usually need any Daisy Dukes to wear on a daily basis. Once again for rainy days, be cautious of maxi skirts or dresses. 

Tops are the hardest. You should wear multiple layers, in case you need to take a few off when its sunny and warm while walking, and add some back while sitting in a colder classroom. Cardigans or pullover sweaters are good for this. Wear a simple top underneath that can work on its own if you need to take the sweater off. Always have a good coat or jacket with you, and don't forget a scarf! They can add the perfect bit of extra warmth you may need! And they are a European staple. You may want to get an umbrella, or if you are like me and have a tiny purse, I always wear a scarf and use that as a hood when it decides to rain. 

The weather can be unpredictable, but you can be prepared and stylish!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Traveling can be stressful. But necessary. 

When traveling its always important to be relaxed. Everything will be okay. The ruder you are to the people controlling your destiny (i.e. flight attendant, airport desk worker, ticket man), the worse off your traveling experience will be. So take a deep breath and put a smile on. While I was traveling to Brussels, Belgium from Louisville, Kentucky, my friend Karli and I had a series of frustrating yet uncontrollable experiences. 

  1. BOTH of our suitcases were overweight. How embarrassing! We just did some rearranging and ba-da-bing ba-da-boom, we were set to go! Always prioritize what you actually need as opposed to what you just want. Remember, many foreign countries also have body wash or towels!
  2. Our flight got delayed on the runway. This was sad. We sat on the Louisville runway for almost two hours, resulting in us missing our international flight. Always pack something to do, like a book to read, and something to eat, like a little bag of nuts! 
  3. We had to find a new flight. This is when a smile can be worth more than money. Our delayed flight cause a tremendous amount of angry people. We just kept smiling and thanking our Airways agent, and it was a breeze. She was stressed out too, and thankfully she did everything to help us get our tickets to our new flight to Frankfurt, Germany, then to Brussels. 
  4. No one met us at the airport/train station. Which was no big deal really, we are two savy young adults and we found our way. The walk would normally be a short one, but we were lugging a large 50 pound bag, rolling carry on and backpack! 
So my tips for anyone traveling for a long stay visit are: 
  1. Weigh your bag BEFORE you get to the airport.
  2. Bring snacks and entertainment. 
  3. Always bring your best attitude. (Don't forget, you are about to have one of the greatest experiences of your life!)
  4. Write down the address of where you are going! This saved us, we had to ask a few people, but we knew where we were going!
  5. Write down a few numbers in case you need some help. Like your RA, program director, or even a cab company! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Don't Forget

As I am getting ready to leave the country for the longest period that I have ever been in a foreign country, I am going through my head trying to check and double check everything that I can. Clothes and accessories can be purchased abroad, so there is no real need to worry about forgetting your favorite pair of knee socks. Some things are harder to replace once you get there. Here are some tips to remember when you are just a few days away from departure. 

  1. Make copies of travel documents- This is very important, because your passport and visa are what make it legal for you to be there! If it gets stolen, you will have to begin the painful process of getting a new one while abroad. BUT if you make a copy of your passport and visa, and leave one with your parents and take one with you and put it in your luggage, it will make the process much easier! The better option still is to not misplace it or have it stolen! So always be aware when you are out in busy areas abroad, but also bring copies just in case. 
  2. Put travel notices on all of your cards- Credit and debit cards that is! You need to call the number on the back of any credit/debit/bank cards that you plan on taking with you. If you don't, the moment you try to swipe your card to buy that Belgian waffle the moment you step out of the airport, your card may be declined. How is your bank supposed to know you are suddenly a world traveler unless you tell them? 
  3. Make a list of emergency numbers- If you are taking an American Phone, plan on taking a talk card with you or switch your plan to international before you leave. Some cell carriers won't have any service abroad if you don't have a certain plan. Ask if you plan on using your American phone. I suggest getting a cheap pay as you go foreign phone. Perfect for staying in touch with new friends you meet and in case of emergencies. The next thing you need to do is make a list of emergency contact numbers, in case you do not have internet access or in case your phone gets stolen or broken. Some numbers you might want to have are the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (in case of lost passport), a contact for the program you are in if you are there to study, your bank/credit card numbers (in case your cards get stolen), the local emergency number, and a contact at home. 
  4. Packing liquids and meds- You can only carry on liquids under 3 oz, so plan accordingly. If you plan on taking big bottles, such as shampoo or sunscreen, a tip is to take off the top and put a piece of plastic wrap then put the lid back on. This prevents leaving through the top. The precautionary wrapping of the bottles in one or two plastic bags is always good too. Checked luggage gets thrown around, so always put fragile items more to the center, so the cushion of your clothes can protect them. Medicines in a carry on must be in original packs or bottles. Save yourself the trouble of the security man contemplating if you are a drug pusher by leaving them be! I always put my meds in my ziplock liquids bag as well. 
  5. What to wear- I know many people believe you wear sweats on the plane ride. I am not one of those people. If you are a student, and show up at the airport after a flight in leggings as pants and a frat tank, you will be judged, or at least labeled as a sloppy American. If you are cool with that, more power to you! But as it is, when packing for a long stay, you should try to wear as much and as heavy clothing as you can. For my flight I will be wearing my heavy brown boots, printed jeans, a tank, a v neck, a cardigan, leather jacket, scarf and fedora. I am comfortable in these clothes, and I will look nice one I get there! And I just saved my self a few pounds on my checked luggage- and trust me, every pound counts when packing for a semester long stay! 

Monday, September 9, 2013


When preparing for traveling abroad, always make lists. Such as:

  1. A list of what you need to take
  2. A list of what you will need to buy
  3. A list of everything you need to do before you can leave
  4. A list of people to send postcards to
  5. A list of places you want to go
  6. A list of what apps I need to download
  7. ect.
Then when packing, make a list of what you are taking, so that when you get over there, you don't frantically search your bag for your blue polka dot scrunchie that goes perfect with your "first day out on the town" dress. You will know what you have when you get over there, and you will know what you need to bring back! My sister and I packed the majority of my bags last week, and made a detailed list. Such as:

  1. 3 cardigans: black, maroon, teal
  2. 4 sweaters: yellow, yellow colorblock, sea foam, Hermoine
  3. 3 Long Sleeve tops: blue flowerdy, yellow, and yellow striped
  4. ect. 
It can also be helpful to make a list of outfits able to be made from the articles of clothes you are taking. There is no sense squeezing in your favorite plaid romper if none of your sweaters, shoes or leggings match it! Pack smarter not harder. Make a list of what CAN be worn with certain items. Such as:
  1. Blue Dress: black cardigan, teal sweater, yellow colorblock sweater, black leggings, black tights, black heels, navy flats, nude flats. 
  2. Sheer long skirt: black skirt, any sweater, black tank, grey tank, teal top, black heels, nude flats
  3. ect. 
Finally, the best lists are those composed on the plane ride. I always take a few minutes out of the hours I have in the air to reflect on what I really want to do. If you are flying with a friend, like I am, its a great way to figure out what you MUST do, what you COULD do, and what you WON'T do! If you have an idea of what you want to get accomplished, it is much easier to plan for it! Such as:
  1. Must go to Croatia, the UK, Venice, and Monaco
  2. Could go to the Louvre, Big Ben, Cologne, and Netherlands
  3. Won't go to Russia. 

What's it all about?

Hello readers of the World Wide Web!

My name is Janet, and I'm the Thrifty Drifter: one who flies by the seat of their wallet, and takes every opportunity to see the world on a budget!

This blog will be focused on my study abroad experience this fall at KU Leuven located in Belgium!

This won't be my first time to hop the pond though, since I have been abroad five times before in my life, and have visited 10 other countries! I know I am one lucky girl, and I want to share my experiences and hopefully make traveling abroad a breeze for other people! Follow me for tips on how to get the most use out of your Euro, must-see places to visit, and fun stories from someone actually experiencing it!