Travel Essentials: Savvy Cards, Budget Hacks, and Souvenirs

Want to know how I make my budget luxury trips work?

Firstly, I do not pick a place to travel to, on some random whim. I love picking places that will gratify the pop culture fiend in me. So, one of the big Millennial stereotypes I willingly lean into, is the idea that we covet ‘experiences’.

While Fashion Week is a big focus for me – having traversed London, partied the runways in New York, and even stood in awe at Paris Fashion Week – I balance a whole host of cultural experiences for my trips abroad:

  • Food
  • Fashion
  • Film
  • Fun

In some regards, I have to compromise on habits, on my everyday creature comforts, and even on the size of my sometimes elaborate wardrobe – to make sure I leave my city of choice, feeling fulfilled; like all the planning, payments, runarounds, and negotiations, were worth it.

There are a few things I always make sure to plan ahead on, when travelling:

💛 Communication

After being lied to about international roaming by a local cellphone network, and my mother spending almost a day trying to contact me, I learned early on during my travels abroad, that a sim card from whatever country you’re going to, is a necessary purchase.

If in Europe for your travel escapades, get yourself a plan from ORANGE – a telecommunication company that has (subjectively) the most worthwhile data packages for travellers who want something functional and easy to set up. The minute you land in any European international airport, you will be greeted by signs for network providers just past luggage collection. I urge you to pass on rushing straight to your chosen transportation, to rather setting yourself up with a sim card package so you can navigate, touch base, and calibrate your necessary travel apps from the get-go, rather than being lost and anxious without a digital guide, in the city.

And, if you are travelling in the America’s, try out T-Mobile’s plans. They are no ORANGE, but you will be able to navigate the cities & connect with people, without much issue.

Having been an initial novice traveller who thought free Wi-Fi cafes were plentiful and started where the next ended in every borough, I learned harsh quick lessons that you cannot depend solely on the cafe Wi-Fi’s made available to customers – as naturally, that also means a daily price anyway.

💛 Transport

Whether its flights abroad, pr the commute from the airport, the daily inner-city travel, special excursions, and more, I always end up using a combination of public transport and cabs; And during Fashion Week: a pretty great branded private vehicle chauffeuring me occasionally.

My Oyster Card, Los Angeles subway card, and my New York Metro Card, and Paris underground tickets, have been so well-used, and a key to maintaining an even travel budget.

Most of the major tourist cities I have visited have their own public transport system, designed with unique customer navigation and access systems. The Oyster Card in London, allows commuters to load & reload credits which one can choose to use in a specific zone, or at an elevated price, across London. The sometimes high price for a travellers budget, is somewhat balanced out by the fact that the Oyster Card, when I last visited, could also be used to ride the busses…yes, those famed red busses!

The Los Angeles card is also a reloadable card type, that is for exclusive subway use. Wonderfully though, it takes you all over the tourist hotspots of LA (you can go explore Hollywood studios, trendy beachsides like Venice Beach, and art life in DTLA), and is decent in its price range, and even looks pretty neat.

In Paris, you get disposable little single-use paper ticket stubs for the public subway system, in small or large (as hell) batches depending on how often you plan to move about per day. I suggest just getting the large daily bundles to traverse all over the Paris arrondissement, trying to get as much culture as possible, because why not?!

The New York Metro card is also disposable, working off the single-use, weekly, or monthly-use plan though.

💛 Dining

I think that if you are visiting any city, you should try the local cuisine for sure. I will always search out Starbucks because my Caramel Frappucino love is all-consuming, but I also hit up neighbourhood cafes and bistros, try hot dogs in the park, fine dining at Venice Beach, and cocktails somewhere iconic.

Google and even Instagram, is pretty great in helping to locate the tasty (both aesthetically and culinarily) eatery stops to try.

When I budget for my daily food budget, I usually settle on a budget for one big meal, and a (usually) quick and smaller breakfast – having realised when I started travelling abroad that my appetite depletes to make room for my overwhelming excitement, to venture out into unknown territory with my mental list of pop culture hotspots.

Budgeting well in advance, and getting a gauge of the restaurant, grocery stores, and cafe prices from a deep dive on Google, results in once in a lifetime experiences, like cocktails and award-winning classically French macarons at the renowned luxury bakery and sweets maker Ladurée, dinner at celebrity-favoured restaurant Gjelina, in Venice Beach, or having free range to order a 2-course quality meal & beverage, from a Michelin restaurant in Paris.

I also tend to save a few coins and paper currency from every nation I visit…you know…for posterity!

💛 Fun

I really enjoy luxury hospitality at stellar hotels. However, I can deal with one less night in a ritzy place, for a ticket to the best show in town, or life-changing and childhood-making experiences like visiting the Universal Studios Hollywood.

Every receipt (which I habitually keep from every trip) with double or even triple-digit numbers, every map, ticket stub, selfie, memory, and the phantom pains of my exhausted feet, is a nostalgic souvenir from choosing a place with activities I knew would satiate my pop culture soul.

There is sure to be some kind of gratification that comes from curating an itinerary wholly appealing to your tastes, so do try it.

For me, it was all money well spent!

💛 Bonus Travel Essential

Should you want to avoid always being on your phone while navigating, in whatever town or city you are in, maybe grab an available free map of the area. It is both a helpful and tangible aid, which won’t fail you like a phone running out of battery power would, and it is also specially curated to guide visitors like you, so you may find discounts and helpful hints appear on them.

Fortuitously, a map also makes for a great souvenir.

I still find the map from the Louvre Museum, and Venice Beach, endlessly fascinating.

Are you a budget traveller, or do you fall under another category?

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