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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

My Portland Coffee Tour - Part 14

It's that time again! Yep, time to talk about the awesome caffeinated beverages the Pacific Northwest is best known for: coffee. I've got to admit that I went to way more coffee shops this month than probably recommended, but that just means I can tell you about the lovely roasts available in our fair city.

Unfortunately, you're still only going to get three this post and another three in next month's post. You can follow me on Instagram to check out my visits when they actually happen though. I'll wait while you go hit that follow button.

A post shared by Shereen Travels Cheap (@srayle) on

Tōv Coffee

I've been longing to visit Tōv for a while. It's a coffee shop that's actually in a big red double-decker bus. It's run by an Egyptian fellow and while you can get all your regular favorite flavours and brews, I was in it strictly for the Egyptian coffee ($3).

The cups are tiny, but the flavor is big and bold. It comes on a custom-made tray and includes a side of Turkish delight. I also ordered a pastry called Ba'alawa  ($2.50) that was like a large baklava. Very messy, very delicious. 

I sat up on the upper deck to enjoy the great weather we were having and was served pretty quickly and given a little tutorial on how to best drink my beverage. Basically, you pour from the tiny coffee pot to your tiny cup, let the grounds settle (because these are purposely not strained) and then drink black. I was dubious, but once I took a sip, the flavours came out and it took me a bit to not drink it all in one go. It's a sipping beverage and, though it was recommended I save my sweeter pastry until after, I found it complemented well. After your coffee, you have your Turkish delight to cleanse your mouth of harsh coffee taste. I've had it before and was not a fan, but obviously I had not had a good one, because this little bite was fantastic. Maybe it was the combo with the coffee. Highly, highly recommend a stop here, and if you're hankering for real food, you'll find yourself smack dab in a food cart pod.

Never Lab Coffee

I found out about this shop in Portland Monthly magazine and have been really intrigued by their specialties, which include fantastic names like Rich Kid, Midnight Oil and Hug. To be honest, they all sound amazing, but I went with a coffee called The Holy Grail ($6). I know that price sounds outrageous for a 12oz coffee, but I would have paid more.

This handmade coffee is made with turmeric, ginger, and orange blossom water. It's then topped with local cherry wood smoked honey, Jacobsen sea salt and tellicherry pepper. Oh. My. Coffee-loving heart, was this brew aptly named. I savored every drop of it. The salt and honey on top were perfect.

Never Lab is small and they had run out of whatever pastries they may have had before I got there around 11, so I can't tell you about those. With just three tables inside and a few outside, there aren't a ton of places to sit, but if you can get one, you'll be surrounded by crisp, clean walls with a bright, colorful mural, plants and stunning vintage tiled floors.

If you must get something to nosh on, half a block away is a food cart pod with tons of options. I picked up a breakfast bagel and couldn't believe how good it was...and I could barely finish it. All the thumbs up for both Never Lab and that pod.

See See Motorcycle Co.

My mom got a new job near the end of last year and I've picked her up a few times to do things and I kept seeing a building that said Coffee & Motorcycles and I had no idea what it actually was, but finally looked it up and found out that it was a motorcycle gear shop (like you can buy your jackets and helmets and stuff there) and also included a coffee shop. Well, I'm not sure what I expected, but what I was met with when I actually went inside was quite different. I'm guessing this place used to be a bar, but now it's turned into a funky coffee bar with some food.

I asked the barista about their specialty, because you always gotta know about those, and was told that the Coconut Latte #1 ($3.50) was the best-selling signature drink. It is served cold with citrus whipped topping and orange zest. I opted for a poppy seed quick bread ($3.25) which was quite the same as one I'd had at another coffee shop. I thought perhaps the coffee was cold brew, as it had that taste that cold brew sometimes gets, though I actually liked it. It turns out it's just made with coconut milk. 

I sucked down my drink and opted to get another one to go, but I ordered an iced vanilla latte ($4.75) to take with me, which had a much better flavor to me, though I would try the coconut latte again.

That's it for today. I'm hoping I can get out and try a few more shops, this coming month, but I have a busy schedule and a family emergency has cropped up, making it a possible back-burner thing. As it is, I may be missing my trip in July, but never fear, I've got a back-up solo travel plan for August or September instead. I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

How to Travel for Free or Cheap (and Safe)

Traveling can definitely be expensive, but if you plan and do your research, you have a much better chance of saving big money, so you can travel for cheap. I have traveled my whole life, but I never was a college student who had the opportunity to get out and see the world, because I went to school and I worked to pay for my schooling and the few bills I had. I lived at home, but because books were so expensive for my classes, I really didn’t have any leftover cash to put toward travel. It was also a time when I didn’t know all my options for jetsetting for nearly no money.

Now, there are so many ways to save for students wanting to get out and travel the globe, it’s crazy that there aren’t more packing their bags. Though many want to backpack through Europe, there are just as many things to see in the U.S. and just as easy to save your pennies to do it. Here are some tips to travel for cheap or free, while still staying safe, because that’s even more important that saving a few bucks.


A lot of people like to suggest couchsurfing as a way to save money and spending nothing on your accommodations. Sure, you could do that, but if you’re like me, you don’t enjoy staying in a complete stranger’s house. When I travel, I need space and alone time and privacy. I also don’t really trust people that much. Instead of doing this, look for housesitting opportunities where you can stay at someone’s house while they’re on vacation. You have full run of it, might actually make some money, and all you may have to do is take in their mail, water their plants and feed their pets (if they have any). Sounds pretty good, right? It’s like being at home where you travel.

Walk or Bike It

You could totally take a cab or rent a car, but those are going to cost you a ton of money in the long run. Uber will save you a bit, but it’ll still end up taking a big chunk of your travel budget. Instead, rely on your feet whenever possible or get on your bike. It’s easy to travel with your own bike now, but a lot of big cities have rental bikes that won’t break the bank. Use these modes of transportation before you break down and use public transit. If you need the bus or subway, try to get a full-day or multi-day/trip pass when you can, because these can save you over individual trips.

Hit Up Happy Hour

You gotta eat and you aren’t going to want to make all your own meals when you’re traveling, because it’s not always fun, plus there’s so much good food out there. Treat yourself to some great restaurants by visiting during Happy Hour. This way you can get a few plates for the price of a full entrée, which is perfect if you aren’t traveling alone.

Go to the Farmers’ Market

First of all, this is a great way to interact with the locals. Second, it’s an equally great way to see regional foods. Third of all, you can pick up affordable snacks and a quick meal from vendors there.

Take a Free Tour

There are quite a few groups that run free tours in different cities, you just have to Google to find them. Usually they are run by local volunteers who know a lot of awesome stories and facts about your destination. You should just contribute a few bucks as a tip when the tour is over. You might even make a new friend!

Stop In for a Home-Cooked Meal

Everyone likes a home-cooked meal and if you’re into meeting some new people, check out MealSharing and hook up with a local person/family who wants to share their home with you for the evening. You make some friends and get a free meal and they get to feel awesome about helping you out and meeting you. Maybe pick up something as a hostess gift, like a cheap bottle of wine or bring a little something fun from your hometown.

Go Out with Others

If you would rather go out to eat and meet people, hook up with locals and travelers alike by logging on to InviteForABite and find others who also want to get together and eat with “friends”, because it’s not always exciting to eat alone, even with your smartphone on hand. If you're traveling solo, then here are some other tips.

Check Out Free Attractions

This is one of my favorite ways to stretch a buck. All cities have free things to do, including museums, landmarks and more. Just get online and search “free things to do in (insert city here)” and you might be surprised by how many things you find. The great thing is, many tourists don’t take the time to seek these things out, so you’re going to see a totally different view of the city than most other people who visit. You can also ask locals what their favorite hidden gems. I’ve learned a lot about places to go and things to see by doing this as well.

There are a lot of fun ways to save money when you travel if you’re resourceful and plan ahead. Know where to go, what to do and where to eat before you leave home and your trip will be more fun, more fulfilling and much more affordable.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Where's Everyone Going? 2018 Travel Trends

Airbnb is always expanding, and they have been following trends in travel, knowing where people are most interested in traveling, what they want to do there and when they're going. If you want to get in on the latest travel trends (or stay away from the "crowds") then here's what's happening over the next year.

2018 Travel Trends Forecast #infographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Where will you be going this year? And will you be using Airbnb? 

ICYMI: If you missed my big announcement, go check it out in my last post.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Exciting news! 😮

I've been talking about it for years: an updated book with all my best tips, ways to link to exclusive info through QR codes, and ways you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars on all your future trips. Welp, work has finally started and I have a goal to have it available for purchase before Thanksgiving, so you can become a budget travel expert as well, or give it as a holiday gift to everyone you know who wants to travel more!

photo by xoan seoane

I'm asking for your help in a few different ways:
  • Is there anything you think I've not touched on on this blog that you would love covered? 
  • Is there something I've talked about that you wish I would go more in-depth on?
  • Have I helped you in a significant way through my blog and you'd like to give me a quick quote and something about you?
  • Sign up for my newsletter if you wan to be the first to know when my book is available and possibly (read: probably) get an exclusive, limited-time discount.
  • Tell all your traveling friends about my blog (or Facebook page or Instagram). Invite them to follow me, share my blog posts with them, or forward them my latest newsletter. 

Now that that's out there, make sure you drop a comment below or send me a direct email with anything you'd like me to know that should be included or any glowing words of praise or encouragement, because those are always nice. I super appreciate it! 

Updates will be given through my newsletter, along with all your usual tips, freebies and cool travel info/news. I'm very excited and I'm working toward an awesome 2018 online and off.

I run this blog for you guys, and your comments keep me going (along with your purchases from Amazon), so I want you to know this book is for you and  I want it to be as useful to you as possible. 😍

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

7 Ways to Eat Out For Cheap

You know that when I travel, I love to plan my activities around food, because dining in new places and trying local cuisine is a favorite hobby of mine on trips. Of course, this isn’t always the best idea, because it means I get in the habit of eating more every day and then when I get home, I have to get back to my normal eating routines, which is maybe don’t eat dessert with two meals each day and also don’t eat everything I’m served. I know, I know. Details. 

Calories don’t count on vacation, but they still come back with you, unless you walk a lot while you’re out sightseeing, which is always a good idea anyway.

So, while I love to eat as much native food as possible, you can’t save money by eating out 3-4 times a day without a plan of some sort, so let’s talk about some frugal tips on how to stretch your food budget, while still eating amazing food each day of your trip. With this plan, you can still eat out for cheap, and here are 7 ways to stretch your dollars.

Go shopping

My first tip, always, is to hit the grocery store as soon as you get to your destination and load up on staples. Of course, this works much better if you have a kitchen(ette) of some sort that has at least a refrigerator. I always buy breakfast items, since that is my least favorite meal and also I don’t like to get up too early to get out of the house to eat eggs. If you loooooove breakfast, then you can grab lunch or dinner foods. Snacks are never a problem for us, because we bring quite a few on the plane. If you don't have a kitchen, you can still cook in your room.

Book a vacation rental

A condo, apartment or house can not only help you save money, because many are the same price as a hotel, have a lot more space if you have a family/group of 4 or more and they also have kitchen facilities where you can make your own meals. I know that cooking on vacation doesn’t sound all that fun, but saving money does and sometimes a home cooked meal gives you time to relax and catch up from the long day you’ve had. Plus, many rental properties also have BBQ grills, and grilling is ALWAYS fun. Right?

Make reservations

Book dining reservations through Internet sites like OpenTable Most reservations net you 100 points, but every once in a while you get your 1,000 point dining options. Once you accrue 2,000 points, you can trade them in for a $20 dining certificate (this threshold may vary by country) as well as waiting until you make it to 5,000 and 10,000 point levels.

Split your meal

Sometimes you just can’t take your leftovers with you (because you’re in the middle of sightseeing or it won’t keep until you make it back to your room) or you are in a country where they don’t let you take your remaining food with you. If you aren’t hungry enough to eat a large meal, then possibly finding something on the menu that your travel partner wants and you can split is a good idea. Most restaurants serve portion sizes that are enough for 2 or 3 people anyway. If you think it might be too small, order an appetizer or salad as well.

Make lunch your main meal

If you are dying to try that fancy restaurant, stop in for lunch. The portions may be smaller, but the prices will be also. You can get the same great service and food, but at a better value.

Make a meal of appetizers

Happy hour can save you quite a bit of savings. Another reason to do appetizers for dinner: You had a big lunch or you want to try a bunch of menu items at one time. When 4 entrees seem like too much (which should be always if there are only 2 of you and you aren’t at a buffet), get 4 appetizers instead. You’ll spend about the same price as you would for dinner, but get more options and not totally stuff yourself.

Eat at food carts

Not only are food carts becoming the gourmet restaurants of right now, but they can save you money and offer you so many more options for food, are less than a sit-down restaurant and can get you back to sightseeing more quickly. With the lower prices, you can treat your food cart meal like an appetizer buffet. 

So, now you have some ideas on how to eat well, while not breaking your budget. Food will probably always be a big part of your expenses, but you can make it more affordable and not feel like every time you sit down to a meal that there are more things you can't do. Do you save money other ways when you travel? How do you do it?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

My London Wish List

With the Royal Wedding fast approaching, many people have London on the brain. earlier this week I talked about taking a London trip on a budget, because there are so many things you can do for cheap or free that nobody thinks about. Skip the London Eye and instead take a stroll along the Thames or even learn more about the river and the bridges by doing the Tower Bridge Experience. 

Now you can take a look at what I have on the docket for my trip next year with my London Wish List.

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The Cauldron

As a Harry Potter fanatic, I'm always on the lookout for awesome magical stuff, and this potion-making cocktail class is right up my (Diagon) Alley. You use science to create alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) beverages in a potions classroom setting, dressed in robes and wielding wands. I mean, who doesn't think that sounds fun?

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This be-floraled restaurant is like stepping into a fairy tale and you can have breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea in a variety of rooms, all just as beautiful and spell-binding as the last.

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Host Cafe

Set in a 17th century church, this quiet little coffee shop has the most amazing setting. Their coffee and pastries are supposed to be really outstanding too.

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Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

For those that like British sweets, monsters and a sense of humor, Hoxton Street sells items like Bah Humbugs (hard candies), Creeping Dread (a short story canned with sweets), and Daylight for Vampires (a solar cell mason jar). 

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Hunterian Museum

A museum of oddities in the middle of London? Yes please! All for free? I will be there with bells on. I mean, where else can you just wander around looking at diseases in jars, weird artifacts and Winston Churchill's dentures? It sounds a bit like the Mütter Museum. 

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Leadenhall Market

I've only been here in the nighttime on a Harry Potter Walk (which I'll be doing again as well), but now I plan to go back in the daytime, where I can browse the stalls and walk under the ceiling of books (I'm sure that's not what it's called).

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Neals Yard

I'm not entirely sure what to expect from Neals Yard, besides eye-popping colors and probably some fantastic outdoor cafes, but what else do you need? If nothing else, the pictures will be phenomenal.

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B Bakery London Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

I'm a sucker for an amazing afternoon tea, and what better way to experience it than while on a historic bus driving around London? For about the same price as a city tour or just afternoon tea, you get both and London landmarks including Marble Arch, Royal Albert Hall and Trafalgar Square.

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St Dunstan-in-the-East

I don't just like food and Harry Potter, though those are big things on my travel list. I also like historical places, and this place totally qualifies. What was once a church built in 1100, is now just ruins after suffering through the Great Fire and the Blitz. Only the tower and steeple survived, along with the South walls (the rest of the building was taken down for safety), and since a lawn and fountain were added to make this gorgeous quiet space from the hustle and bustle of London.

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The Clink Museum

I didn't manage to make it to the Clink Museum last time we visited, but I've been wanting to go since my first trip in 2006. This tiny, dark museum is housed on the site of England's first prison. The guided tour is highly affordable and tells the tales of the 600 year old prison, torture devices and archaeological artifacts. After hours you can even join in the hunt for ghosts and spirits with Ouija boards and other divination methods.

I'll be adding more things to my list, but for only being there a week, it'll be hard to narrow down my choices. I would love to have tea on top of The Shard, visit Hyde Park, actually go to Kew Gardens, and take a day trip to Stonehenge, which I missed last time, and I'll absolutely be visiting the Warner Bros Studio Tour again. What things do you think I should absolutely do (keep in mind, this will be my third trip, so I've done most of the tourist things)? 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Get 300 bonus SB when you sign up for Swagbucks in May

All throughout May you can earn large bonuses when sign up as my referral on Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you're probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, or PayPal cash. 

Join Swagbucks!

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 300 SB bonus! Here's how: 

1. Sign up using this link .

2. Earn 300 SB total before June 1st, 2018. You'll get a 300 SB bonus for it! 

3. That's it. It's super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I've earned over 70,000 SB, which I use to purchase Amazon gift cards so I can purchase items I was going to buy anyway, or things for my annual Harry Potter party and then use real money on travel.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Doing London On a Budget

With the world focusing on the upcoming Royal wedding of Harry and Meghan, many are going to be thinking about traveling to London. I'm always looking for the chance to go back, and am already excited for my trip next year that I'm adding on to a trip to Scotland for a family wedding. I'll be posting a wish list in my next post to give you some extra inspo. You can easily do London on a budget if you really try.

London on a budget

With London being on of the most expensive cities to visit, it is important to find ways of saving on your trip. Luckily, even though there are plenty of ways to go broke in the city, there are even more ways to stay on budget.

When to go

As with almost all destinations, the time to avoid is summer. Airfare and hotel rates can be almost twice as much as at other times, leaving you less money to spend on shoes and things you actually need, like food. Summertime is also super crowded. There’s nothing worse than running out of money halfway through your trip and also having to push your way through throngs of tourists everywhere you go.

Plan your trip to London in the fall or winter to save a ton on airfare and even accommodations. Hours for attractions and shops will be shorter than in the summer, but without having to brave the hordes of vacationers, you’ll be able to see and do more in a shorter amount of time. This lets you have a relaxing sightseeing experience.

Where to stay

No one will ever say it’s cheap to stay in London. In fact, you can pretty much expect to pay double what you pay most other places. You can save a bundle by renting an apartment or staying in an apart-hotel. These options give you kitchen facilities which can help stretch your dollars – or euros or pounds – by allowing you to eat some meals in your room. 

Unless you want to dine at fast food establishments most of your meals, food costs are going to add up quickly. Even if you only pop up to the store and bring back breakfast staples, that’s going to save you quite a chunk. You can purchase food for a week of breakfasts for less than the price of one sit-down morning meal for two.

Getting where you want to go

Although London is totally walkable, you may not want to hike miles and miles every day. Fortunately for you the public transit system is awesome. Purchase a travelcard from Oyster for multiple travel days. It will save you money, because you can ride unlimited on the Underground, the bus and trains on the days it is valid. The more you ride, the more you save.

Avoid cabs as much as possible. Those little black cabs may be adorable, but the fares won’t be. You could spend the same amount on one ride across town as you would for several days of public transit. This small change in the way you travel could be the difference between going home with another awesome fashion find or returning your purchases in order to eat more than bags of crisps (potato chips) for the last few days of your trip.

Budget shopping

London has a variety of open-air markets, which can be great for finding bargains or just browsing. Two of the most popular, where shopaholics may still find a deal, are Camden Lock Market and Portobello Road Market. Open 7 days a week, Camden Lock Market is always bustling and is really diverse. Buy a rare book and have your palm read in the same trip. Maybe the reader can tell you if you’ll find that perfect souvenir to take home! In the two miles of Portobello Road Market, you’ll find everything from antique treasures to fruits and vegetables. The market may look very familiar to those who saw the movie Notting Hill. You can grab a bite to eat while scouring the stalls for a vintage dress.

Do more for less

In between shopping, you will probably want to see the city. There’s so much to do in London and no matter how long your trip, you will never be able to see it all. Want to see as much as possible and not have to pay it off on your credit cards for years to come? Here are some ways to squeeze in as much as you can with the time and budget you have:

  • Get a London Pass – This is literally your ticket to the city. You pay one price and this little card can get you into over 60 attractions in the London area. It allows you go straight to the head of the line and, since you’ve already paid, you don’t have to keep looking over your budget to see if you can afford to do something else on your trip. If it’s on the list, you’re covered. While not “cheap”, the London Pass is affordable and especially useful if you are spending a week or more in the city. You probably won’t visit all the attractions covered, but if you did you could save over $800. Even if you just visit half, you’re getting a significant savings on your trip.
  • Go for a walk London Walks has a variety of walking tours you can take any day of the week. Tours usually last for one to two hours and cost less than $20 per person. You never have to make a reservation. You just show up at the tour’s starting location, pay your money to the guide and enjoy a stroll around London, learning about the city’s history on themed tours, such as Jack the Ripper, Harry Potter, the Beatles, pubs, Westminster Abbey and more. This is perfect if you aren’t sure if your feet will cooperate with you for more walking and also a really affordable way to see the city.
  • Look for the freebiesLike most of the world, London wants your money, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do that won’t cost you anything. You can spend a whole day, or two, saving your money and visiting sites like Hyde Park, browsing vender booths at any of the many street markets, taking in the sights way above the city in OXO Tower, watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, marveling at works of art in Tate Modern or learning the history of the city through exhibits at the London Museum. The list goes on and on. Mix some free activities in with your other activities and your budget will stretch much further.
  • Save on the West End – London has a ton of theater experiences that shouldn’t be missed. Two tickets can cost a small fortune, but travelers using Theater.com will find amazing discount codes for almost any show that they are interested in seeing. Besides the considerable theater price cuts, dinner and show deals are also included. In some cases, dinner turns out to be free with the package purchase.
  • Make dining reservations in advance – Sign up for OpenTable and search participating London restaurants that allow you to make online reservations through the program. The great thing about OpenTable is that they often offer 50% off discounts at certain dining venues. You can find many other deals, too, including my favorite – the special prix fixe menus for OpenTable users at many restaurants. The more reservations you complete, the more points you get. When you accumulate enough points, you can trade them in for a dining certificate. Even if you don’t earn enough on your trip, you will still save a bundle by booking your dining at the restaurants that take part in the program. 
It’s possible to visit London on a budget and still have an incredible trip. You won’t feel like you missed out on all the best the city has to offer, especially if you’re able to buy a few nice things for yourself in the process. Remember to pack light and bring an extra bag that you can fold up in your carry-on to take home all your fabulous finds. Packing fewer clothes can save you baggage fees and let you skip the baggage carousel to get right off the plane and on to your trip. Also, some of the best souvenirs are memories and photos, which are virtually free and take up no luggage space!

Will you be watching the Royal Wedding?
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