Posts Tagged With: Budget

The Cruising Life

In order for us to quit our jobs and travel the world for almost four months we had to be very budget conscious. We write down everything we spend, we set limits to our spending and shoot for cheap accommodations whenever possible. We have now embarked on the most luxurious part of our trip: a cruise! That’s right, we are currently sailing the Baltic Sea. Three square meals a day, anytime of day. Workout facilities. More activities and entertainment than you can imagine. But most importantly, this cruise has allowed us to unpack our bags and turn our stateroom into our home for the next nine days. Nine nights in the same bed–a king sized bed. We are thrilled!

WarnemündeOur cruise left from Copenhagen heading to our first stop, Warnemünde, Germany. Never heard of it? Neither has anyone else. It is a small seaside town which is popular with locals during the summer and caters to cruise ships which frequently dock there. It is approximately a three hour ride in each direction from Berlin by train, so some people on the ship went to the German capital for the day. While this sounds great, traveling that much makes for a very long day. After seeing that Frommer’s Travel Guide has less than two pages worth of material on Warnemünde, we decided to spend a very small bit of time scoping it out, and then take the regional rail to nearby Rostock.

As with so many cities in Europe, Rostock has a very old feeling to it. We didn’t know much about the town and figured we would discover things as we went. As soon as we got off the train we spotted an old church in the center of town. It was definitely our find of the day. St. Mary’s Church was built in the 1200’s. It is beautiful and grand, and the best part is that it is still in use today. At the entrance to the church they make it clear that it is not museum, but a place of worship. They were fine with people walking around and taking pictures. There was an exhibit about the life of Jews in Germany from 1933-1945. It was all in German, but we got the gist We were even able to listen in on an orchestra practicing for an upcoming concert. The music filled the church and provided the perfect background for us.

Astronomical Clock!However, the biggest draw to St. Mary’s Church is its giant astronomical clock. This clock does more than just tell the time of day, it also gives the day, month, year, moon phase, and zodiac sign. What more could you possibly need? Over 400 years old, this clock is still wound by hand each day. At noon each day there is a procession of the Apostles on the clock (sadly, we missed that). The current dial only goes to 2017, however they will be able to replace that when the time comes. The only thing that wasn’t accounted for when the clock was originally built was daylight savings time. Twice a year they have to account for this time change.

We wandered around Rostock a bit more, watched kids play in the fountain and absorbed all the sights, sounds and smells of this small town. When it was time to head back to the boat, we opted against taking the short train ride back to Warnemünde and instead we chose to take a ferry up the river. We soon realized the ride was a cross between a sight-seeing tour (all in German) and a booze cruise. Since we couldn’t figure out if the drinks were part of the ticket or not, we abstained. All the Germans on board seemed to be having a marvelous time, shouting at other boats and toasting to their own happiness. The ferry helped demonstrate what a busy port both Rostock and Warnemünde really are. There were tons of ships–not cruise boats, but ferry’s, cargo boats and even some decommissioned military vessels. It was a great way to see these two cities from a new perspective.

Our time in both Warnemünde and Rostock was limited, but we don’t feel too bad about it since we will be back in Germany later on in our trip. Actually, we were eager to get back to the boat and our life of luxury. We ate delicious food, did terribly at some very difficult trivia and played some $5.00 Blackjack. Because it was my birthday, the casino bought a round of drinks fo the whole table and gave me a $25.00 chip to bet. Sadly I lost that hand, but we were ahead in winnings quite a bit by the time we walked out, so that always makes it more fun.

We could definitely get used to this cruising lifestyle. Our room gets made up 2 or 3 times a day. The casino is never far away. There is wonderful entertainment: last night we listened to one of the onboard entertainers do a set of Neil Diamond covers. He’s so good! He really does sound like Neil Diamond, gravelly voice and all. Besides the entertainment, we find that we are simply having a blast! On the days when we are at sea, it is like mandatory relaxation. There is no pressure to make the most of our time or to see as much as we can. It has been a nice change of pace.

Our next stop is Tallin, Estonia and then we head on to St. Petersburg, Russia. We are incredibly excited about both of these stops and can’t wait to share them with you.

–Brooke

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Categories: Budget, Casino, City Visits, Europe, Hotels, Relaxing, Self Guided Tours | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Best RTW Credit Card

Our credit card is going to get a lot of use as we circle the globe, so we were careful to make sure we’re taking the best credit card for a round the world trip. A Masterful Mastercard. A Visionary Visa. Some Prize Winning Plastic. Since we’re traveling light, we wanted to have one primary card that can satisfy all of our needs.

Among thousands of options, we quickly found that NOT all credit cards are created equal. For starters, American Express and Discover are not widely accepted in Europe and even less so in other parts of the world so those options were tossed out immediately. Also, the goal was to find a card that has a very low or no foreign transaction fee. An average card may have a 3% to 5% transaction fee per international purchase. An additional three percent on just about everything you buy can add up quicker than parking violations on a NYC based FedEx Truck.

We searched, read reviews and looked at fine print until our eyes bled. We decided on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The Chase card had quite a few things going for it. First, they offer a somewhat-rare 0% Foreign Transaction Fee on all purchases. Nice. Chase also offers a 24-hour customer service line to help when you’re in a pickle. Better than dealing with this person. Next, the card is a Visa managed card meaning near universal acceptance. They also have a generous rewards program that amounts to 2% cash back or 2.5% towards travel rewards along with an introductory offer that allows you to earn the equivalent of $500 in travel vouchers if you spend $3,000 in the first three months. We’ve never been big on the credit card rewards and don’t quite fully understand the ins and outs, but this might change that.  And finally, the card is actually made out of pure Sapphire gems. Making it both the heaviest and most valuable item we’re bringing with us. Okay, that’s not true, but it is a cool looking card made of a deep dark blue.

Chase Sapphire Awesomeness

Worth pointing out that there is a pesky $95 Annual Fee, but the fee is waived for the first year you own the card. And we’re pretty likely to cancel the card next June if they insist that we pay that full amount. Also the current rate on the card is pretty lousy 15.24% so it is in our best interest to pay the balance every month.

Last but not least, since this is a bit of a higher tier card, the application is a bit more stringent. Brooke and I both applied just in case there was a delay in the processing (Chase had indicated it could take up to 30 days) or some other problem. I was satisfied when I found that I had been approved with a solid credit limit. That was until we found out just minutes later that my wife was approved with a credit limit that was five times that of mine. Not that credit standing is a competition, but I certainly felt a bit snubbed knowing that I am 1/5th as desirable from a credit point of view as my wife. Our friend Jack, who works in risk management at HSBC, pointed out that since I had already left my job when I applied for the card, that may have impacted my credit. Words of comfort for my woeful credit limit indeed.

-Phil

Categories: Budget, Credit Card, Finances, Trip Prep | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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