European Travel Mistakes To Avoid

The first trip I took to Europe alone, I was a frazzled mess.

Stepping off a plane in Scotland, I soon realized that the £100 I had exchanged was useless – the currency I needed was euros. Lost, a kind woman gave me bus fare. Years later, that act of kindness has yet to be forgotten.

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Fast forward 8 years. My travel nerves are gone. I board a plane with little anxiety. I calmly search for my destination. And if all doesn’t go according to plan, I throw my hands in the air and laugh. All of the planning in the world can’t guarantee a trip without a problem or two. In sticky situations, getting mad only adds to the frustration.

Last month, by a stoke of luck, I was able to sublet my NYC apartment and work on contract projects remotely while traveling Europe.

Though a seasoned traveller, I still make mistakes when traveling. To save you the headaches and frustration, here are my tips to make your next trip as smooth as possible.

1.) Wifi Your Way To Success

Chances are, you’ll be unable use your mobile network abroad without incurring massive charges. Luckily, most major cities have wifi everywhere from clothing stores to cafes. Two trustworthy places to look toward are Starbucks and McDonalds. Whether you’re in need of a map or a quick email fix, you’ll usually find free wifi there.

2.) Find Your Allies 

Before traveling to any new country, find out where your bank has an alliance. Banking with Bank of America, I was able to use Barclays, BNP, and Deutsche Bank to make free withdrawals while abroad. Forgetting to czech to see where my bank had an alliance in Prague, I sadly had to pay a fee. If you’re using a credit card instead of a debit card, choose a bank that has free international transactions. I recommend Capital One.

3.) Fly Into The Right Airport
The day before I took off to Stockholm, I casually glanced at my ticket. I was flying into NYO and flying out of AND. A few days prior, I thought I was flying in and out of AND, booking my hotel a few miles away. As these airports were on opposite spectrums of the city, I spent my entire trip to Sweden seeing only the inside of buses, hotels and airports. This could have been avoided if I would have double checked before booking.

4.) Cheaper Is Not Always Better

I’m a sucker for a good deal. But as they say, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” During this trip, I booked a number of my flights on Ryan Air failing to realize that Ryan Air flies into random airports that are not always conveniently located. To fly out of Paris, I spent an extra €20 just to get to the airport, spending an extra 2 hours in travel that I could have spent sipping espresso. In London, I flew into Stansted with a £18 train ticket into the city. The time I would have saved flying into a major airport was not worth the overall $10 I probably saved booking a cheaper plane ticket.

5.) I’m A Hustler, Baby

I have only been scammed a few times in my life. Each time it’s happened, I felt a knot in my stomach that “something was off”.  This trip, on two occurrences I had a taxi driver take me for a ride – and not the inexpensive kind. Before getting into a taxi you should always ask “how much will the trip be?” Asking this will ensure that the driver will not see you as an unsuspecting tourist. On this trip, an anticipated $40 trip cost me about $100. I knew I was getting scammed but at 1am in a strange place, compromising my safety for $60 didn’t seem worth an argument. I could have prevented this by asking the “price” before entering the cab.

Though a few rookie mistakes were made, the majority of the trip went seamlessly with great European coffee in hand.

The highlights? 

Eating way too much food in Germany with one of my favorite travel buddies.

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Spending time in Spain with a close friend eating octopus.

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Hanging out with my UK buddies in England.

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Having Americanos in Paris with a side of snails.

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Buying $40 worth of Licorice in Stockholm.

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I can’t wait to go back.

The Art Of Customer Seduction

We have been lied to.
We have been mistreated.
We have been jaded.

Our pasts are filled with broken promises and disappointment.

It’s no wonder we’re more cautious than ever before to let someone into our purses.

When was the last time a company swept you off your feet?

In today’s transactional economy, customer service is becoming an afterthought, simultaneously sabotaging a brand’s bottom line.

Inundated with marketing messages at all hours of the day, we’re becoming immune to constant noise seeking refuge in human connection.

The companies that will succeed in the future are the ones that focus on brand loyalty.

How can a brand build brand loyalty?

Practice Empathy
Empathy builds a marketing program where relationships flourishes. Very few wake up thinking “Man, I wish I could see some more advertisements today.” As marketers, we must constantly ask ourselves how we can provide value. Help your customer save time or money and they’ll be yours forever.

Take Pride In Transparency
There is no faster way to destroy a budding relationship than a little white lie. With mounds of information a few clicks away, consumers are more informed than ever before. Vague, ambiguous marketing statements won’t cut it anymore.

Maintain An Open Dialog
Frustration is multiplied when we’re left in the lurch. We wait patiently on hold to only be met with “We’re sorry, there is nothing we can do.” We hang up ready to throw the phone at the wall. Imagine if a company instead asked “We’re sorry, what can we do to make this right?”

Brand loyalty cannot be bought. It must be earned.

How To Travel To Europe For $5.60

It’s 9am on a Sunday and I’m sitting in Spain. The last few days have been filled with great company and lots of jamón. Before arriving in Spain, I passed through Berlin, Dresden, and Prague.

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Next week, I’ll be headed to London, Paris, and Stockholm.

For many, a European vacation seems unattainable. With exorbitant flights and pricey accommodations, even a quick vacation can quickly add up.

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This trip is not the case.

A month in Europe costs half of my rent in New York City.

But how?

Step 1: FlightHacking

Acquaint yourself with the art of travel hacking. My flight from JFK (New York) to TGL (Berlin) cost $5.60 after redeeming my American Airlines miles. When I opened an American Airlines credit card, I was given 30,000 bonus miles – enough to get myself a $5 one-way to Europe.

Since I didn’t have enough miles to fly back to New York, a bit of creativity was required. I scanned the internet and came across the Capital One Venture Card. This card offered a $400 travel credit contingent on a minimum spend.

In Europe, there are a number of International Airports where high frequency of travelers drives prices down. For an inexpensive flight back to New York, I looked to hubs like London, Rome, and Frankfurt. Using SkyScanner’s month view, I came across a $127 flight out of Stockholm on February 2nd. After booking the flight, I used Capital One’s “Travel Purchase Eraser” to wipe out the cost with my $400 credit.

Step 2: CouchSurf & Hotwire

During my trip, I have used a combination of hotels and CouchSurfing. For hotels, I used Hotwire where I was able to find a 4 star hotel in Prague for $15 a night. ($30 per night / 2 guests) While in Spain and London, I’ll be staying with some kind hearted friends. 

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Don’t have friends in Europe? Start a CouchSurfing profile and host friends in your own city. Hosting others in Seattle gave me a wide network of European buddies that have returned the favor by giving me great travel recs or even let me crash their own couch.

Step 3: Packing

To ensure that your trip is as inexpensive as possible, pack lightly. This is crucial. If you can fit all your necessities in a carry on, you’ll avoid paying fees that range from $25-$100 for checking a bag. If you are traveling through many countries, this can quickly add up. You pay be thinking, “Pfff, that’s impossible!”

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I beg to differ. ;)

Want some help planning your trip? Send me a message. I’d be happy to help!

7 Marketing Secrets For 2015

Marketing is all around us. From television ads to mobile ads, it is difficult to cross the road without a bunch of useless garbage marketing being thrown in our faces.

While there is no secret formula for marketing success, here are 7 guiding principles to start your 2015 marketing plans off right.

7.) No One Cares

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No one cares about your bottom line. People are selfish and at the end of the day, they care about themselves and their loved ones. Creating content that provides value to others and their networks is the best way to get your message out.

6.) Social Is A Waste Of Time

Social media is not a strategy. Networking sites are solely a syndication channel and community building forum to engage with your customers. Focus your marketing efforts around storytelling, customer service, and loyalty and you will see more ROI than sitting on Facebook ever got you.

5.) Everyone Is Bored

Whether you are a B2B or B2C company, you are marketing to a human. Too many brands focus on creating monotonous, painstakingly boring collateral. If it is boring for you to create, it will be boring for your customers. Whether you are the next hot tech app or a diaper company, focusing on creating highly relevant and engaging content is key.

4.) Instantaneous Results Are A Unicorn You’ll Never Find

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There is a common misconception in the marketing world. Many believe “with a few taps of a keyboard, we’ll see immediate results!” This is false. Successful marketing needs a foundation and a plan. If you jumped out of a plane without a parachute, you’re destined for failure. If you jump into marketing without a plan, you’re destined for a similar fate.

3.) Everyone Hates Marketing

I’m a marketer and I HATE being marketed to. Yesterday, I received a Christmas card email. It said something along the lines of “Merry Christmas from our family to yours…. now buy something!” I enjoy a nice Christmas wish. I don’t enjoy someone telling me to open my wallet. Call to actions are great when they provide value and are relevant. Call to actions to bolster your bank account are not.

2.) Buzzwords Are Bull

Buzzwords run rampant around the internet like a ROI pony creating countless synergy, poised to cut through the clutter while creating actionable results. Far too often, marketing copy is filled with empty promises and meaningless words. Less is more. Write copy that resonates with your customers.

1.) Digital Is Dead

Digital has been all the rage for the past decade. While digital is an important component to any marketing plan, it should not be the sole focus. Everyone is inundated with content. The marketers that will succeed in 2015 will be the ones who step away from the keyboard and focus on creating human and personal experiences for their customers.

What are your marketing plans this year? 

No-Spend November Is Over! And We Raised $1,450

For me, a typical month of spending looks something like this.

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I consider myself a fairly thrifty person. I love using Groupons. I can’t resist a good sale. And I always know how to find freebies. Even though thrifty, I find myself spending money on three categories:

1.) Food

2.) Sephora

3.) Taxis

This month has taught me that I can live without #2 and #3 being happier than ever.

As promised, I’ll be donating all the money saved to Food Bank of New York. In October, I spent around $700 on things other than my rent. I am going to round this number up to $1,000 and write it on a check to Food Bank of New York.

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Not only, will I be able to donate $1,000, but together we have raised an additional $450 amounting to a grand total of $1,450! This is amazing!

Thank you so very much for your help during No-Spend November. From my roommates putting up with me, to brands donating, I have been overwhelmed with love.

Want to help? It’s not too late. Make a donation through the page here! Not in a position to donate? A share would mean the world to me! ♥

Just finding out about No-Spend November now? Read more about the initiative on BuzzFeed and Frugal For Less.

[No-Spend November - Day 30] The Last Day!

Guess what guys? Tomorrow I can finally wash my clothes because No-Spend November is coming to an end! You can breathe a sigh of relief – I’ll no longer be bathing in perfume.

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I have not spent a dime throughout the entire month of November. All of the money saved will be donated to Food Bank of New York.

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This month has taught me many valuable lessons and has given me an array of opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. The biggest lesson learned was that I have an incredibly supportive group of friends. From helping me find freebies to saving me with salads, I know some of the best people on this planet.

One unexpected result of this month was checking off this bucket list item from my life goals lists.

✓ Write for BuzzFeed

 

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Many have inquired: “What is the first thing you are going to buy on December 1st?”

This month helped me realize I don’t need any more clothes, makeup, and material items. Looking back, I feel a bit nauseated on how much money I spend on things I do not truly need. The only thing I needed this month was healthy food. Tomorrow I’m not going to run out and shop ’till I drop – I’ll just go get some salad.

Thank you everyone for your help this month from finding me freebies to saving me with salad! You are the best. In a position to donate to Food Bank of New York? Every dime donated will help someone in need eat a healthy meal.

[No-Spend November - Day 24] I Hate Carbs

Today is day 24 of No-Spend November signifying that I have made it 24 days without spending a dime. All of the money saved, I’ll be donating to Food Bank of New York.

This month has taught me that my so-called “problems” are trivial compared to what many suffer on a daily basis. My heart goes out to anyone who can’t afford to put healthy food on the table.

Today, I feel pretty crappy. I’ve been eating carb heavy for weeks and a lot more processed food than I do in a typical month.

In order to survive the last week of No-Spend November, I need to strategize.

As of right now, I have no food in my fridge. Though I have no food, I have excesses of other items like clothing, books, and lotion. Is it possible to barter my way into a healthy meal?

Here are some of the items I have to trade for healthy food:

  • Bottle of lotion
  • Books
  • Hugs
  • Conditioner
  • Cough drops
  • Tea
  • High Fives
  • Samples from Sephora
  • Bar of soap
  • Marketing expertise

Anyone wanna make a trade? Maybe you know of a brand who would be willing to give me lunch this week?

ariannaodell (at) gmail.com

Any help is appreciated!

Want to help others in need? Every dollar donated will go towards providing hot food to someone in need this Winter.

In a position to donate? Today I invented some new tiers for the last week of donations .

Donate $5: I’ll draw you an amazingly horrible photo and mail it to your home. As someone with mediocre artistic ability this is very valuable. Reward value – $95,992

Donate $25: I’ll create a YouTube video for you serenading you in lip sync to the song of your choosing. From T-Swift to Enrique, I have quite extensive musical knowledge. Reward value – $1,933,000