Dubrovnik Nostalgia

 

Here it is Throwback Thursday and I for one am feeling vacation nostalgia. Here’s a clip from Dubrovnik’s port we took during our Balkans vacation in 2014.

 

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10 Reasons Global Entry is Worth It
15 Reasons Global Entry is worth it
10 Reasons Global Entry is worth it

 

If you travel a lot, chances are you’ve heard about the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck programs. Most of you are likely familiar with the benefits of TSA PreCheck, but we’ve notices that Global Entry receives far less attention than we believe the program merits.

Without further ado, here are the 10 reasons that Global Entry is worth it:

  1. Global entry includes TSA PreCheck and is only $15 more.
  2. You’re probably like us, and you likely don’t fly first or business class. You know what is the worst? Getting off the plane in peasant class of a transatlantic flight where you were in the 5th to last row. 200 of your closest friends have already beaten you to the kiosks to get through customs. They’ve picked up their bags. And all 200 are already in line to clear the baggage pickup area.
  3. Aggressively rule following TSA liquid screeners. Unpacking your bag because you put your foundation in your makeup bag and not in your super sexy ziplock quart bag? A thing of the past my friend!
  4. How often have you gotten to the screening line and realized you’re not wearing socks on your feet because you put on slip on shoes? I know #amateurmove, but we occasionally forget! Say adiós to wondering if you’re accidentally going to get a disease from having to take off your shoes.
  5. Your credit card may reimburse you! Caitlin is actively playing the points game and has a card that will reimburse the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee once every four years (the program is good for five years at a time). Though many of these cards have hefty fees, there are a myriad of benefits. A shortlist of cards that will reimburse:
    • The Chase Sapphire Reserve card (a new player to the game, and a must have for anyone. More in a follow on post.)
    • American Express Platinum
    • Citi Prestige
    • Citi /AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
  6. You get a handy card that you can use at land borders when driving to Canada or Mexico from the US.
  7. Skipping the line at da club? Puh-lease. Travelers know no guilty pleasure quite like skipping the 1.5 hour TSA line. Take advantage of one of the Priority Pass memberships included in a couple of the above cards to spend the time you’ve saved sipping champagne in the lounge.
  8. Less known: it can save you time at various airports overseas. If you’re landing in certain airports in Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, US Territories, and a few others, there is often a dedicated Global Entry line. Feel like a diplomat or a first class VIP. …And hope no one will notice your backpack has a questionable stain on it nor find out that you’re headed straight to the cheapest airBnB you could find.
  9. That customs declaration in the photo? That’s for the amateurs who don’t have global entry. Never again worry about finding a pen to fill it out, or wondering where you lost it in the shuffle to get off the plane.
  10. Are you cutting it a bit close to catch your flight? I bet you’re not going to be complaining about the time it took to fill out that form.

All in all, we cannot recommend Global Entry enough. Breezing through TSA and returning to the US after a long flight without having to go through hours of shenanigans is worth the $20 yearly cost the program breaks down to.

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25 hours to Monterosso

Our most recent trip together took 25 hours to reach our destination. Our ankles were swollen and our clothes felt like they had fused with our bodies, but we hadn’t killed each other. Luckily for us, this is the norm rather than the exception. We knew from the outset that it was going to be a rough ride, and we had mentally prepared.

How did we know?

We planned it that way.

25 hours and 3 planes, a bus, and a train later, we still hadn't killed each other.
25 hours and 3 planes, a bus, and a train later, we still hadn’t killed each other.

Yes, you read that right, we voluntarily spent 25 hours traveling from Washington, DC to Monterosso, Italy (our home base in the Cinque Terre national park), a journey that could take a fraction of that time. Guess what? We would do it again. That round trip cost us a cool $619.

Now it wasn’t glamorous, and it definitely was not for the faint of heart, but it allowed us a 10 day vacation for less than the cost for me to fly across the country during the holidays. Here’s how we did it:

Early in March, Caitlyn and I had been complaining that we didn’t have a trip planned, and we needed something to look forward to. That same day an Iceland Air sale popped up on my Facebook page (major props to their marketing team). We were looking for a trip over Memorial Day weekend (you have to maximize your paid holidays and vacation days). The sale advertised fares as low as $499. Then we found it, a fare for $484 ($15 whole dollars under the lowest advertised price) over a holiday weekend, and we pounced. That’s how we picked Copenhagen.

Three weeks before we were due to leave, we discovered that life had gotten in our way and unlike any of our previous trips, we hadn’t done any planning and went into panic mode. We soon discovered we would be in Copenhagen during an extremely popular EDM festival, and that every hotel and hostel was out of our price range. We did what any reasonable human would do, we adapted and started looking for return flights out of Copenhagen.

Erroneously, we believed sticking close would be our best bet. We started looking towards Poland and Germany, when we found a cheap flight to Warsaw on Ryan Air with a connection. Where was that connection? Through Milan. When we searched just the Copenhagen to Milan route on Ryan Air, we discovered it was $12 + luggage one way. That’s how we picked Milan.

After purchasing two one way tickets and one bag from Ryan Air (pro tip, one traveler should have a large backpack that both can stuff items into when traveling on budget carriers, that way only one bag per two or three people needs to be checked!), and two one way tickets and a bag back to Copenhagen on Easy Jet, we discovered that Cinque Terre (where Caitlyn had previously visited 10 years ago in High School, and where I had always wanted to go), was a short 27 euro train ride away. And that’s how we finally landed on Cinque Terre.

Caitlyn calculating the exact exchange rate. It would have been better if we didn't know...
Caitlyn calculating the exact exchange rate. It would have been better if we didn’t know…

Our total expenditures:

  • $484 Iceland Air IAD-CPH (Return, also connection through Reykjavik)
  • $25 Ryan Air (plus splitting the bag fee) CPH-BGY
  • $5 Bus BGY – Milan Train Station
  • $30 Train Milan to Monterosso
  • $30 Train Monterosso to Milan
  • $45 Easy Jet flight MXP – CPH
    $619 Total

 

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Welcome to Cait to Gate

10 yearsWelcome to our inaugural post, we’re so excited to meet everyone along this journey! Travel has been a passion of ours for most of our lives, and in fact we just took a sort of 10-year throwback reunion to the two places that really inspired each of us to start traveling in earnest. More about that in a later post!

Let’s move on to introductions. Our names are Caitlyn and Caitlin, and we have a dizzying number of similarities. We grew up about 30 miles from each other (without ever running into each other!) and met in college when Caitlyn was a sophomore and Caitlin was a freshman. In addition to going to college together, we were in the same sorority, studied abroad together, moved across the country and became roommates after graduation, worked together for a couple of years, and have traveled together on more than a handful of trips (from skiing in Whistler to attending a carnival parade on the island of Crete).

While it may seem like we’re identical, we balance each other out in a way that makes this friendship work through 25-hour journeys involving Ryan Air and a minor incident at the Croatian boarder. Caitlyn brings the practical and Caitlin the whimsical, but never accuse Caitlyn of being a fun hater nor think that Caitlin lacks common sense. Through our travels across nine countries together, we’ve learned how to work together and channel these differences.

We clearly have a passion for traveling, but we also want everyone to realize how accessible travel really can be for the vast majority of Americans. Through this blog we hope to highlight our trips, friend’s journeys that we’ve helped arrange, and general travel tips and tricks. We believe there’s a happy medium between the crusty backpacker stereotype and the first class travels of the wealthy. Our goal is to bring this happy medium to you!

We’re looking forward to sharing the next chapter of our travel journey – welcome to Cait to Gate!

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