December 31, 2015

Top Travel Moments of 2015

2015 was a big year for the Thrifty Gypsy's Travels! Danny made three trips over the Atlantic - one business trip to London without me in February, a second trip to London (and then Germany) with me in September, and our Spring 2015 vacation to Greece, Paris, and Germany. It's the most we've been able to travel internationally within the space of a year, and we're so thankful for it, particularly since the arrival of Baby Gypsy will probably slow down our travel pace in the future!

Our next international adventure probably won't happen until late summer or early fall once Baby Gypsy has had enough vaccines and immunizations that her pediatrician won't try to kill me for taking her into germy airports and public transit areas. So until then we'll satisfy ourselves with domestic trips and reminiscing over our top travel moments in 2015!

5.  Viewing Mr. Eiffel's Tower

A photo posted by Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (@thriftygypsy87) on

4.  Walking in Plato's Footsteps at the Athenian Agora

A photo posted by Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (@thriftygypsy87) on

3.  Attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey

A photo posted by Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (@thriftygypsy87) on

2.  Watching a magical Aegean Sunset on the Greek Island of Thira (Santorini)

A photo posted by Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (@thriftygypsy87) on

1.  Living like a local in Germany among family and friends

A photo posted by Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (@thriftygypsy87) on

What were your top travel moments of 2015?

December 21, 2015

Paris Photo Fails

Travel isn't always sunshine, roses, perfectly coiffed hair, and spectacular photos like Instagram would lead you to believe. No, more often than not, travel involves fuzzy photos, other tourists who wander obliviously into your view and then stubbornly refuse to leave, and those photos that make you go "why in the world did we take that picture?!" 

So without further ado, on the heels of my Prague Photo Fail post, I am pleased to present the best of the worst photo fails from our visit to Paris

Yeah, thanks, y'all - I thought you were my friends!

This dude saw us posing AND STOOD IN THE WAY ANYWAY!!!

Apparently, I had no idea this picture was being taken.

Tomatoes, tomahtoes? Nah, just some fruit to keep this pregnant lady happy in Paris. Not really a photo "fail" except I don't know why my husband thought this picture was necessary! :)

Classic mid-stride awkardness.

Close, but no cigar!

Classic mid-sentence awkwardness.

Oooo, this one features two fails - fuzziness AND hair in the face!

Do you have any photo fails you'd like to share?

December 14, 2015

Turning Pennies Into Memories ~ Sticking to the Plan

This is the third post in a series on how to finance your travel dreams (please see "Changing Priorities" and "Establishing a Budget"). Whether you're working a minimum-wage job, have a comfortable income, are burdened with heavy debt, or just have a few small loans to pay, the principles in this series can be applied to almost every category. As someone who has been able to finance trips to Europe in cash while working minimum wage jobs or while a spouse was unemployed, believe me, this is something you can achieve if you make it a priority. It's just a matter of time.

Changing Your Priorities | Establishing a Budget | Sticking to the Plan


Let's start with a brief recap:

You've changed your priorities and mindset about spending, choosing to take control of your finances and to dictate where your money goes instead of floundering between pay periods wondering where in the world your income went and how you'll survive until the next paycheck.

You've established a budget prioritizing your "needs" above your "wants" and have committed to a savings plan (no matter how small!) in order to create a habit of planning for the future, anticipating rainy day situations, and establishing responsible spending habits.

So, now what?

Roll your spare change & start a separate savings with it.
Now it's time for the nitty-gritty. Making a plan is one thing; implementing it is another. You can't save money on paper - it plays out in the grocery store when you make decisions about what to buy; it surfaces when you decide you're "too tired" to pack tomorrow's lunch; and it manifests when you decide that going out for drinks with friends is easier (and less "embarrassing") than telling them you need less costly social plans. Living out your budget is the real battle.

Lazy people can't save money. You have to be organized in order to stick to your financial battle-plan. Here are a few tips to help with the follow through to your priorities and budget:

  • Don't go grocery shopping unarmed. Make a meal plan, develop a list of ingredients, and buy only the items you need. Going to the grocery store hungry will make you more likely to deviate from your list! Limiting the frequency you go grocery shopping will also limit the number of times you're tempted to buy that box of Double Stuffed Oreos that your wallet (and waistline!) really don't need. (Remember: Putting "needs" before "wants" will get you that much closer to your financial goals!) 
  • Bring a lunch to work. These days even fast food options are becoming less and less affordable, and if you're looking for healthier options, you'll spend roughly $8-15 on a lunch depending on the eatery. By comparison, packing last night's leftovers, making some hearty sandwiches, or even bringing a can of soup and toast will put you back anywhere from $1-5, especially if you made large meals that can be distributed into several packed lunches. (Bonus: Packing your own meals is generally more healthy than eating out, too!)
  • When at all possible, buy used. This applies to clothing (although maybe not your underclothes!), cars, furniture, you name it. If you really want to make some drastic financial changes, you have to throw your pride out the window. Thrift stores and hand-me-down clothes will be your best friend. To be honest, although I can afford brand new clothes now, I still shop at TJ Maxx, Ross, and the clearance racks of any store I find myself in! I can't bring myself to pay full price on an item if I can buy a gently used (or never been used) item for a tenth of the price. I've received more compliments on my clothing since budgeting my spending than I ever did when I shopped the mall for name brand clothing. (Sidenote on buying cars: A brand new car loses between 15-20% of its value in the first year alone! Get yourself a deal by buying models just a few years old for the best value.)
  • Enlist the moral support of your closest family and friends. Focus on your end goals - freeing up the money currently going towards student loans for putting towards future travels, future house, future fill-in-the-blank - and then briefly touch on the concrete ways you'll be accomplishing these goals, such as preferring BYOB house parties over bar hopping, etc. Ask them to encourage you along the way and to be mindful of your changed priorities. Putting all this out into the open will help alleviate future pressure to spend money you'd rather be saving. (Note: I understand that you might not want to dish out all your financial dirty laundry, but finding a way to at least briefly touch upon your plan with friends will help you in the long run.) 
  • Keep your eye on the prize. Saving money is not for the faint of heart or those who want the easy way out. If it were easy, you would've gone down that path years ago, right? So do your best to stay motivated about your end goals and/or incorporating little rewards for yourself along the way. You paid off the credit card with a $1,000 balance? Treat yourself to some Cold Stone ice cream. You eliminated your $5,000 auto loan after only 12 months of intense sacrifice and budgeting? Go out for a nice meal to celebrate! Just make sure your one night out of celebrating doesn't undo the months of self-control! (Tip: Change your phone or laptop's background picture to a place, thing, or event that reminds you of what you will do with your money once you've freed yourself from debt. I stared at a picture of Santorini for quite a long time before I actually booked the trip, but it was all the sweeter seeing it in person on a trip paid in cash than it would've been if I had to come home and work my butt off to pay Mr. Visa back for the experience!)
Yes, this is going to be hard. Yes, there are going to be times you'll want to give up. And yes, there may be times where you say screw it and let some binge shopping blow your budget out of the water. When you fall off the financial wagon, don't be overly discouraged. Just refocus on your end goal and get right back on track. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was your mountain of debt. In most cases it'll take you longer to pay back your debt than it did to accumulate it in the first place! But the longer you wait to work on righting your financial house, the longer and harder the road to being debt-free will be.

But like I will continue to iterate with each of these posts, it will all be MORE than worth it in the end! Go turn those pennies into memories!

What are some of your money-saving tips?

December 07, 2015

A Visit to Pearl Harbor ~ A Guest Post

The most rewarding thing anyone can say to a travel writer is, "You've inspired me to travel." While The Thrifty Gypsy's Travels is primarily a labor of love for myself, I did also hope to inspire others to realize their travel dreams - because travel isn't just for millionaires

I am honored today to feature a guest post from the very first person to tell me that my travels inspired them to make adventures of their own. Sara Ann currently lives in central Virginia like myself, but has lived in various states along the East Coast. This past year, her travel bug told her to go west! And on this 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sara Ann is sharing her experience visiting the war memorial in Hawaii.


After following the Thrifty Gypsy for some time, I got the travel bug myself.  I won’t lie.  Seeing someone take the time to experience the world is inspirational, and it made me wish I could, too.  In the last 15 months I have taken every opportunity to explore and am glad for it.  Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Hawaii, a drive north along the east coast, a drive south along the east coast, some local trips mixed in there - I’ve tried to explore and do SOMETHING each month since I came down with this bug.  I’m so happy now to have the opportunity to guest blog and share some of my experiences on the page that started it for me.

During our trip to Hawaii, I was able to visit one of the most iconic places in our country’s history of war.  So here is a summary, editorial, photo journal or whatever you wish to call it of my experience visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial as well as the USS Missouri.  In essence, the beginning and the end of the war with regards to Japan.  
Pearl Harbor / U.S.S. Missouri
December 7, 1941


Our visit to Pearl Harbor started out overcast and cool, and the weather set a somber mood.  There was a threat that because of the weather the boat to the memorial would stop running, but we made one of the last runs out before they shut it down for the day.  I don’t want to clutter this post with many words; however, I will share this description.  It smells like death there.  I realize that when something is degrading below the sea, there is bound to be a smell, but the odor of the ocean at that specific location was not nice. And while I said some prayers for the souls of those interred beneath the sea, my mind registered the stench of suffering and death.  There is so much hope, peace, and love elsewhere on the islands, but this place was much, much different.  You felt the loss.  No one spoke above a whisper while visitors paid their respects, not even the smallest of children that were on the tour.  You could hear boats and planes in the background, and without the sounds of the hustle of people, it was easy to imagine exactly the sounds that were heard that fateful morning.

What many people don’t realize is that on the east side of Ford Island, there is a section that is referred to as ‘Battleship Row,’ and the location of each ship is marked.  During the boat ride, you pass concrete markers identifying where each ship that was sunk and/or damaged during the attack was moored.



The remains of the USS Arizona are not completely underwater, and I’m sure much of the smell that impacted me so much was because of this.  As the water flows around the underwater tomb, it slowly washes away and erodes the remains with the evidence of fuel and oil creating a rainbow atop the water.  For the last 74 years, I’m sure this has been the same, and the environmental engineer in me was very intrigued about the impact of this and other toxins to the immediate ecosystem.

There is a very specific amount of time you are allowed to spend at the USS Arizona Memorial.  The boats to and from run on a military schedule, and as it pulls up to unload the next group, you are expected to board and leave regardless of if you wish to spend more time there.  Prior to boarding the boat from shore, you will watch a film and then exit the theater directly to the dock to board and travel to the memorial.  The entire time including the film (about 25 minutes), boat ride to and from the memorial, as well as the time you can spend viewing is under an hour and a half.  They request visitors to head to the exit, and when the next boat arrived with the next group, I wished that I could have just a few more moments to spend.


The day we visited the USS Arizona Memorial, we also had the privilege of going to the USS Missouri.  We did not have a rental car available for unlimited use for this trip, so I had booked us tickets for a bus tour that brought us to both sites as well as  the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, lunch, and a quick tour of downtown.  With so much to do and see, I do recommend it because the bus picked us up about two blocks from our hotel, and the tour guide/bus driver provided us with many local insights.

Having toured other ships, much of what I personally experienced on the USS Missouri was similar to what I had seen on my east coast travels; however, here are a few images to summarize the experience of the rest of our day.







Have you been to Hawaii and visited Pearl Harbor?

December 03, 2015

Just For Fun ~ "Guess What Day Baby Gypsy Will Arrive" Game

Humor me with this decidedly non-travel related post...

But who wants to play the "Guess What Day Baby Gypsy Will Arrive!" game?

If you guess the birth date correctly, I'll send you a magnet I picked up in Paris! But it's on the understanding that it may take a while for me to post the prize since my arms will be full of a squirming bundle of joy and my spare time will be extremely limited for a while. Something tells me that maternity leave will not contain much couch-lounging or bonbon munching time...

Only hint is that the official due date is December 30th, and we do not have a scheduled inducement date, so the arrival is just as much a mystery to me as you. So what's your best guess?!

December 01, 2015

Mapping My Month: December 2015

Hello, December BABY month!

That's right, the wait is nearly over. While Baby Gypsy isn't officially due until after Christmas, I'm considering the entire month as fair game for her arrival. We've had enough monkey wrenches thrown into our lives in the past month -- a super-hyper-active itchy outbreak of hives because apparently I'm "allergic" to being pregnant; a very full schedule at work and at home; oh, and a dog that decided she had nothing better to do than get sprayed by a skunk and then track that smell into the house!!! -- that I'm just ready for baby girl to get here so that I can have a small toddy to counteract the stress when needed. My travel bags have been gathering dust since September's trip to London and Germany, but my hospital bag is ready to go. Let's get this new chapter started!

Much like November's monthly update, I have absolutely zero to report in terms of the travel / adventure department for the past month. Womp, womp, c'est la vie. For that matter, there isn't much in the way of travel plans for the upcoming month either. Next weekend we will be in the vicinity of Manassas Battlefield while throwing / attending my company's Christmas party (which is a James Bond "Casino Royale" themed affair - James Bond always makes me think of travel!), but we haven't yet committed ourselves to visiting the battlefield yet. If we do, it'll be my first "travel" excursion in far too long! Our lives have revolved around baby these past few months: cleaning the house for baby, buying things for baby, getting my work life in order before baby, feeling like I have no life beyond baby! We are excited for her arrival, but I can't wait for a few months into her life when we can finally start balancing our baby and non-baby lives again!

But until that happens, some very wonderful people have volunteered to help keep my blog afloat while I'm on maternity leave juggling baby bottles, nappies, and squeezing in power naps whenever (and wherever!) I can get them. I also have a few posts of my own scheduled, but I am so pleased and excited that these wonderful ladies will be adding their experiences and voices to the stories you've seen here on the Thrifty Gypsy!

2015-2016 Scheduled Guest Writers:
Sara Ann
Karrin Louise 
Camila from Adventitious Violet
Christy from What Up, Swags?!
Jenna from

Interested in providing or writing a guest post? Please drop me a line at!

November 18, 2015

Calling All Travel Writers!

With anywhere from 4-6 weeks until Baby Gypsy arrives, I would like to invite interested travel bloggers to contact me if you'd like to have a guest post (or two!) featured on The Thrifty Gypsy's Travels while I'm figuring out the "baby thing!" Even if you do not have a blog of your own, but would still be interested in guest writing, let's talk!

You can write new material or offer a recently-written and published post from your own site that you feel would best interest TGT readers - anything from local to international travel, dining experiences, general commentary on traveling, or perhaps even an amusing anecdote. I can be reached at, and we can discuss more particulars in private.

So help a pregnant gal out and increase your reach in the travel blogosphere, too! 


November 08, 2015

On the Banks of the Shenandoah

"Well I come from the valley, I'm a rebel boy.
Born on the banks of the Shenandoah.
In '61, I went to the war,
To win one for Virginia!
Ya, my brother went first and they called me, too.
I was green as clover in the morning dew.
So I marched to the drum, and I sang to the tune.
Carry me back to Virginia!"
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "Carry Me Back to Virginia"

When it comes to summer pastimes in Virginia, tubing is king. Although we're relatively new to the tubing scene, having only launched our maiden voyage in the summer of 2013, we have acquired a respectable amount of gear and equipment that would make any redneck yacht club green with envy.

Our most frequented river is the James, which runs west to east through central Virginia and eventually spilling into the Chesapeake Bay, due to living within 15 minutes of its banks. Whenever we're unable to get away for a whole weekend, we'll spend a Saturday or Sunday floating the five miles between the Cartersville and West View landings in Goochland and Cumberland counties. If the river is high (5 feet or above), the float generally takes about 2-3 hours, but if it's below four feet, you could be floating for 4.5-6 hours! Those are the days when drinks and sunscreen run out before you finally reach the take-out point!

But by far our favorite float trips are found on the Shenandoah River through the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains north of Charlottesville in the towns of Luray and Shenandoah. This is rural Virginia at its finest.

In July we rented a beautiful log cabin situated on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in the general proximity of the Grove Hill public access point. As soon as we saw the cabin, we were in love. Sycamore Landing was appointed with all the comforts of home, and the owners went above and beyond to stock snacks for us to take out on the river!

Tubin' in style
Despite forecasts of a hot and sunny day, Saturday dawned cool and cloudy after an early morning thunder-burst of rain. We went out on the river anyway, floating the 1 mile stretch from the nearest public access point to the cabin. By the end of it, my goosebumps seemed permanently tattooed on my arms, but it was a great ride! There was a long, quiet stretch of water followed by a series of riffles and baby rapids that necessitated our maneuvering around rocks barely covered by the water flow.

After a quick break for lunch, the sun finally broke clear, and we were back out on the water! This time we spotted a family of deer, and the fishermen were pulling out a decent catch.

Blurred action shot
Our passion for tubing still not satiated, we drove even further up-river and parked alongside the road to risk breaking our necks going down a 90° incline to facilitate an even longer trip back to the cabin. The risk was worth the trip, though. It began with even more powerful rapids than the other stretch, and at some points we were amazed that we didn't popped a tube on a rock! But we made it back to the cabin in one piece and with only a few casualties: a soaked iPhone, a destroyed e-Cigarette, lost sunglasses, and epic sunburns.

The trip was a blast, and I can't wait to do it again! It's not really a safe stretch for little ones, though, so the arrival of Baby Gypsy may delay a return trip longer than we'd like.

Have you ever gone tubing? Where is your favorite place to go and what equipment do you bring? 

What We Brought (For 5 People):
2 "Double Tubes" also called floating couches
1 Single Tube (and sometimes a back-up)
2 Cooler Tubes
Beverages and snacks
Sunscreen, an umbrella, and flip-flops or water shoes

Where We Floated:
Our shortest trip utilized the Grove Hill Public Access Point, but the longer trip (where we scrambled down the river bank) was from the Grove Hill Bridge to roughly Ingham (exact location of landing point not shown to respect the privacy of the rental home). It was approximately 2 miles and took a little over 2 hours.

November 03, 2015

An Ill-fated Journey to Atlantis

The lost city of Atlantis may not be quite as lost as you thought. In fact you can visit a ruined city on the Greek island of Santorini (Thira) which may in fact be the fuel for the Atlantis legend. That is, if the public transportation gods of Greece don't thwart your best efforts to see it!

On our trip to Greece this past spring, Danny and I ventured from our home base of Oia on Santorini to visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri, situated on the opposite end of the island. The island of Santorini is a actually a live volcano, which last erupted in 1956, but famously erupted in 1646 BC, splitting the island into several pieces and likely causing the downfall of the Minoan civilization.

The island on the right is actually the volcano.
Akrotiri, however, was not obliterated by Santorini in the same way Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii. One can only surmise that violent earthquakes or some other premonition of doom preceded the eruption, as the archaeological survey of the site has revealed numerous household items but no human casualties. If only the Pompeiians had paid attention when Vesuvius warned them with earthquakes!

The last day of our visit to Santorini dawned cool and rainy, but that didn't deter us from waiting in the town square for the public bus to Fira, the capitol city of the island, in order to switch buses and continue on to Akrotiri. Estimates from the time-table schedule had us arriving in the ruins within 90 minutes, plenty of time to enjoy the site before catching a late lunch.

Ah, the well-laid plans of mice and men...

An hour later, the bus still had not arrived. By this time, the crowd of waiting vacationers had swelled to roughly 70 people, and we made small-talk with a recently engaged couple from the UK. Just as we were about to split a cab-fare to Fira, the bus finally arrived. The well-behaved crowd turned into a mob, elbows flying as each jockeyed their way towards the front of the group, any and all semblance of a proper queue flying out the window.

"I've been waiting for ten minutes! I'll be damned if I miss this bus!" said one lady. Try waiting for over an hour, I muttered under my breath as I rolled my eyes at her.

We didn't make it onto that bus.

Maybe disappointment jaded my opinion, but I found Fira
to be chitzy compared to Oia.
Fifteen minutes later, another bus arrived, and the scene replayed itself. However, this time we managed to make it on board. The bus driver packed the seats and aisles before pulling out of the square, leaving many people behind. Danny and I began to wonder if we even had enough time to make it to Fira then onward to Akrotiri considering that our plane left the island in under six hours. The apparent inefficiency of the public transportation had us worried.

Within an hour, we were deposited in Fira. And then we waited for the bus to Akrotiri. Six buses and an hour later, with no bus to Akrotiri having once showed despite the fact that a bus is due every 30 minutes, we officially gave up our idea of visiting the ruins. We wandered into Fira to find a bite to eat and meander through the town (quite uncharming in comparison to Oia) before returning to the square for a bus to Oia. Mercifully, the bus was only thirty minutes late.

So long story short, don't trust the public transportation on Santorini! Rent a car, a scooter, or hire a taxi. Heck, make the walk yourself if you have to! But our plans to see the lost city of Atlantis were foiled for want of a reliable transportation system.

Oh, well, better luck next time, right?

Well, there were a few charming things about Fira!

Have you ever had to modify or cancel portions of your itinerary due to transportation? We seem to have ill-luck with public transportation as we "enjoyed" a nail-biting delay on Mt. Vesuvius and then more delays on our train from Naples to Rome!

Linking up for #TravelTuesday!

November 01, 2015

Mapping My Month: November 2015

Where has the time gone?!

Last month, this summer, no - the whole stinkin' year has passed by in such a blur. And while I have no new travel stories from October, I can attest that the nesting instinct of a pregnant woman is a legit thing. When I haven't collapsed on the couch in exhaustion nursing slightly swollen feet, you could find me with duster and vacuum in hand as I've rearranged ALL THE THINGS in our place. Sometimes more than once. My husband is a long-suffering man.

So far pregnancy has actually been fairly kind to me. While I had nausea in the first few months, it was relatively mild and usually eased by eating some fruit. Aches, pains, and a few persistent discomforts have been the only annoyances I've battled recently, and although my waistline has grown significantly, by most standards I don't really look eight months pregnant since I was so tiny to begin with. Here's to hoping I lose it as quickly postpartum as I've been gaining it in these last few weeks!

"Travel Sized" onesie made by my talented sister-in-law &
photo cred to my other b.a. sister-in-law.
As for Baby Gypsy, she's quite the tumbler. When the radio starts blasting the 1950s rock'n'roll, she picks up her feet and throws a rave! And if my cravings have been any indicator, she has international tastes when it comes to food. Greek, Mexican, Italian, and German are all favorites on the menu. Now if only she inherits my genes for sleeping through the night at an early age, we'll be ready for adventures in no time!

The closer the due date draws near, though, the more we continue to evaluate our long-term goals for travel and life plans. We'd like to be able to visit Germany in the early spring so that Danny's Oma, who is now 91 years old, can meet Baby Gypsy, but we're also trying to weigh the financial costs of attempting to buy our first house in the late summer or early fall. We've been saving for a house for a while, and it's time to turn our savings into reality. Of course, as we choose not to fund our travels with debt, buying a house will inevitably curtail our travels to one degree or another. And considering that we had two international trips in 2014 and then again this year, it'll be emotionally tough to cut back to just domestic trips when we've been so spoiled (first world problems, eh?).

While October was quiet in the travel and adventure department, I did manage to visit one new winery for the #252by2022 challenge -- Cooper Vineyards. Although I didn't really allow myself to do more than just a tiny taste of each wine, I think I may have found a post-pregnancy new favorite wine: the Sweet Louisa. It doesn't hurt that this winery is located only a 10-12 minute ride from my house!

So, November, I'm glad you're here, but I'll be even more glad when you leave and December (aka, baby month!) arrives! I feel as though I've been pregnant forever but still nowhere near to the starting line (if you think labor and delivery is the finish line, you're in for a rude awakening); anxious for Baby Gypsy to be here but feeling woefully unprepared for all the changes she's about to make in our lives; excited for a new year with new adventures and new memories and new moments viewing the world through a little one's eyes; and overall just feeling very blessed with all the support and love from our families, our friends, and from the travel blogging community in general. Thanks for sticking with us!

What's in the works for your November?

Temple of Hephaestus - A throwback to our May 2015 trip to Greece.