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  • Travel Challenges
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    Our Thai Honeymoon with Travel Tips

    Hubs and I honeymooning at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

    Swasdi! We just got back a few weeks ago from our honeymoon in the land of smiles, Thailand. We went for about 19 days (the longest we have been out of the country) and it was nothing short of spectacular. We decided to do Thailand for our honeymoon because (1) it’s much more affordable for a long trip, (2) we wanted nice beaches, and (3) we wanted good food. We’ve only heard great things about Thailand from friends and knew it was the place to be.

    We hit up 2 cities and 3 islands which I’ll make separate posts about. Overall, Thailand was beautiful and full of interesting and new things for us to try. I’d highly suggest it as a honeymoon destination for any couple… heck, I’d suggest it for anyone – there were a lot of backpackers and families. We got by just fine with only English and at no time did I feel unsafe (just be smart and aware of your surroundings). Thai people are usually very, very nice people and they don’t scam you. The people that are more likely to scam you are the foreigners living in Thailand. I was pretty anxious and worrisome about going to an Asian country just the two of us for the first time but it really was pretty easy.

    Flights

    We used Hopper to track flights from JFK to Bangkok (seemed to be the cheapest city for us to fly into) and ended up booking Korean Airlines with a layover in South Korea. I think it was around $850 round trip. There are no direct flights form JFK to BKK. Next time you need to do a layover in Asia, please do yourself a favor and do it in South Korea if you can. Incheon Airport in South Korea was the best airport I have ever been to – it looks gorgeous, is really clean and bright and has ton of activities for grumpy waiting passengers. Tons of shopping, food, rest areas with comfy lounge chairs, a “sleeping” area, “digital” gyms which I definitely played in, free showers, different exhibitions to check out, apparently a movie theatre, and more. All of this definitely made my 5 hour layover much better. There are also multiple FREE tours into Seoul depending on how long your layover is.

    Things To Get Before the Trip

    My best friends Mike & Matt backpacked across South East Asia (check out Backpack Bros for their experiences) and loved using their backpacking packs. I took note and put two Ospreys packs on my wedding registry and luckily got both of them. I used the Osprey Packs Fairview 55 Travel Backpack and the hubby used the guy version, Osprey Packs Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack. Somehow I was able to channel whatever minimalism I had and pack for 3 weeks in one backpack. You’re darn right I was super proud of myself! Using these backpacks instead of suitcases made commuting around, hopping around cities/islands, just so much easier. We saw many families (including little kids) use them too. Plus laundry is cheap in Thailand.. we only had to do it once and it was like $6 for 2 pounds of laundry (came back neatly folded too!). Plus those Osprey packs come with detachable day packs, which were used very often.

    Another new thing we got before our honeymoon that has definitely been a game changer for us during our trip is our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. There are a ton of websites that talk about the benefits of this card, despite its steep annual fee, so I won’t go into detail. NerdWallet does a great article with a spend calculator to see if it’s worth it (luckily my husband and my spend combined makes it worth it). We have used this card for booking our flights, ferries, and hotels (3x points and included insurance/piece of mind), restaurants and shops in Thailand that take CC (no foreign trans fee), and something that my husband is now loving – access to many airport lounges. Free food, drinks and wifi + quieter and comfier atmosphere to wait = happy Eileen (+ hubby). The Skyteam lounge in Incheon Airport also has massage chairs.

    One old thing we used very frequently was my Charles Schwab debit card (no foreign ATM fees) (I talk about it more here). I was not comfortable carrying so much cash on me at once so this came quite handy, saving me ~$7 of ATM fees per transaction. At the end of the trip, I only had $9 USD in Thai baht left so I didn’t have to lose that much out on converting back to USD.

    In Thailand, my most used apps were Google Maps for directions, TripAdvisor for food and activity searching on the spot, and Grab (in Bangkok & Chiang Mai). Grab is like the Uber of Thailand.

    Hope these tips were helpful! 🙂

    xoxo,
    Eileen

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    He Put A Ring On It & Trip Planning Tips

    Hallo! Exciting things have happened since my last blog post… I got engaged! It is both super exciting and weird at the same time even though 2 months have already past since the proposal. If you’re curious as to my true thoughts on how the proposal went (knowing that I am a surprise ruiner), it went perfectly; even though we have been together for almost 10 years, I was 100% surprised when he asked on a beautiful 65 degree day, on our favorite beach during sunset. Wedding planning games have begun since then, and I’m sure I’ll be writing (or venting haha) about some of those #CHENCHALLENGES in the near future. There already has been a few.

    My fiance (weird calling him that.. okay, my partner? significant other? less weird) and I also took a 8 day trip to the beautiful, history-rich lands of Germany recently, specifically Berlin, Munich, and Rhineland area/Frankfurt. It was an awesome trip filled with many firsts including renting an AirBnB place instead of a hotel, navigating the German rail and local train systems, eating German food, and driving (or in my case, being a passenger) 125mph on the autobahn.

    Why Germany? Honestly, it was just fate… thanks to the flight pricing gods. We used Google Flights‘ Discover Destinations to check out which places would be cheap to fly to during specific dates. We saw that a few European cities were fairly cheap like Zurich, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and used the app Hopper to track flight prices. One day, we saw Frankfurt have $450 direct round trip tickets from JFK and immediately booked it. So, that’s how we chose Germany.

    Of course me being a planner, I planned out my itineraries for the trip beforehand. I used a bunch of different sources for “the best things to do in X city” but mainly from TripAdvisor and friend recommendations. I used Sygic Travel to plot all my points of interest on a map so I could group PoIs close in proximity together, then used TripHobo to plan out my day to day itinerary. I liked that Trip Hobo included suggestions on what’s in the area as well as included commute time (walking, car, train).

    Before my trip, I also wanted to get a no-foreign-transaction-fee card to use abroad. I used to have the Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX (which had this and I miss dearly because it was awesome earning SPG points) but after the first free year, I couldn’t justify the $95 annual fee with my current spending habits – maybe we’ll meet again some day my friend.. Anyway, TLDR – I needed a free card that provided this benefit. There are a few no-annual-fee credit cards out there that include the no-foreign-trans-fee but I ended up going with the Charles Schwab Debit Card. I usually use cash abroad (many smaller shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards) and Schwab will reimburse any ATM fees. It is an online bank, so it is annoying that you can’t deposit cash directly and any money transfers from external bank accounts will take about 4 business days, but the customer service has been great so far, no annual fees, 1.0% interest for your checking account… it’s pretty sweet for an abroad card option. I do have to warn you that they do a hard pull on your credit (meaning their inquiry into your credit score will affect your score). So if you’re looking to get a loan in the near future, might not be a good idea to get it now. I didn’t have any problem using this card in the German ATMs BUT DO call them before your trip to notify them; I didn’t do this and I couldn’t charge anything to the card as they thought it was fraud.. ATM worked though.

    I hope these few tips are helpful in planning your next trip! Stay tuned for more posts on what we did in Germany. Guten tag!

    xoxo,
    Eileen