How I go about budgeting a trip

Many people ask me how I’m able to do my trips so cheaply.  Of course, one has to save up first, but it gives you a bit more motivation if you know HOW MUCH you are going to need.  There are many ways to skin a cat of course but this is my take on things.


I start first with hours of looking up what EXPERIENCES I want to have.  In my upcoming trip to the mideast, especially in Oman, this is going to involve a lot of outdoor stuff.

Continue reading “How I go about budgeting a trip”


Packing again!

I’ve just gotten back from the store, where I purchased a few goodies for my upcoming travel (starting tomorrow!).  Since I won’t be leaving the US/Canada region on this trip, that means no in-flight food for me.  The last couple trips have been pretty decent as far as airline food goes.  I tend to order the gluten free menu and have been safe with that.  The best food was on Air Canada, and worst on Lufthansa, surprisingly enough!  Everything is covered with cream and/or cheese, and not once (I think I’ve had 4 flights on them now) have they managed to get the gluten free thing right.  Oh well.  At least free espresso and tea at their airports.

Tomorrow I’ve got a cross-country flight from 12:30p PST-9:00p EST (5 1/2 hrs).  Then a 2ish hr train ride to Philly, where I’ll be getting in ’round midnight.  This means at least 2 meals for me.  Saturday is a-ok, but then Sunday is a LONG day of travel, taking megabus ($3.50) from Philly to NYC at 5am, then catching the train to Montreal alongside the Hudson river ($60), I think it’s over 12 hours!  That means more food to bring (they even have a sit-down restaurant in Amtrak trains, but the food is rather pricey).

Here’s some stuff for the rides.  I tried to do paleo mostly, but have some GF things as well.

Trader Joe’s:

Coconut chips (never tried these before, looked paleo-good)

Root veggie chips (sweet potato, batata,parsnip, taro)

Chopped veggies (tomatoes, snow peas, carrots, jicama- the latter of which I might hijack for paleo-sushi, along with….

Seaweed (got nori sheets and this sweet/salty blend.  Packed both together in the sweet/salty bag to save space)

Kale/chicken salad (kale should hold up well to a day of traveling.  Make sure to put salad dressing in quart-ziplock bag for air travel!).  Meal 1 on plane.

Low-sodium mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, macadamias.  A great deal at $5.50!)

Olives (perfectly ok on airplanes as long as you drain them and put them in a plastic bag.  I packed some fresh rosemary in the bag to spice it up)

Mushroom rice noodle soup (just add hot water)

Turkey jerky

I stopped by our local Japanese market on the way pack looking for one of my favorite to-go items, onitsaki (spelled wrong probably).  It’s a little triangle of rice, filled with a small bit of filling like ume plum, chicken, or fish, and wrapped in nori seaweed.  They were out but what I DID find in the frozen section were pork bao (buns) made of a dough of taro and sweet potato flour.  For reals?  I’ll have these tomorrow for dinner with my instant rice noodle soup.  Epic find if these taste good.

After I get to Montreal Sunday night, it’s off to KlezKanada for a week, where I’m not entirely sure what awaits me on the food tip.  I bought a bag of gluten-free granola, and have a bag of chia seeds, ground almonds, and chopped walnuts just in case.

I’ll also be hitting the Reading Terminal market on Saturday in Philly (hello, Iovine’s produce!) and probably grabbing some cheapo fresh fruit/veggies there to add to my stock.  Maybe a bottle of local PA vino too, we shall see….


Y’all might be wondering how I’ll fit all this in my bag.  Right now everything, with air pushed out of the bag, fits in the bottom half of a paper grocery bag.  I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to fit these things between my backpack (yes, the same smallish Jansport one) and my trumpet case.  I still haven’t actually decided which trumpet I’ll be taking, but I’m leaning towards my rotary truba, which requires my new ($30!!) flugel case.  If so, I’ve got plenty of room in there for extra goodies.

My other items are getting smaller in size these days:

Ipad rather than a computer (long story, but after 5.5 yrs, my Macbook decided to go kamekaze out the back of my van).  With a chair, doubles as a music stand!  Opting not to bring a full-on stand since they are so heavy and just a poor use of space/weight 🙂

Compression stockings/leggings from Lace Poet: these things are now medically necessary for me AND they look cool AND they fold up really nice AND they are warm.  I’m only bringing one pair of pants on the trip because of them.

Black pants from Express via Goodwill: they are casual enough I can wear them to bed, but dressy enough to wear on a gig (just in case!). Also fold up well and don’t wrinkle.  $8 well spent.

Skirt: got a really nice one by a company called Lucy for $12 at Crossroads Trading thrift store.  I think it’s a tennis skirt.  It’s got a zippered pocket.  It was AWESOME to have while trekking around sunny Europe last month.  Combine with a black shirt, you’ve got an LBD for going out.  

Shirts: not TOO many.  2 tunics to wear over leggings, 1 sweater-dress (apparently it’s going to get close to freezing at night, and I’m always cold), one black shirt, one cotton button-down, 1 each short and long sleeve T that are long enough to wear over leggings.  I’ll wear the last 2 on plane most likely.

Shoes: black ballerina shoes (in case of gig or dress-up time), flip-flops for shower and when it’s hot, and then either hikers or these Keen tall boots I have for tromping around mud (apparently there might be some).  I’m hesitant on these last two but it looks like I need a good walking shoe that can get wet, which rules out my suede Vans I wear everywhere.  Blegh.

Swimsuit (just in case).  Underwears.

Travel towel and quart bag of shower stuff, soap

Mini-notebook, pencils, and photocopies of medical stuff I need to study for preclinical exam next semester (maybe about 40 pages)

Awaiting me in Philly is a new sleeping bag by North Face.  I sprung for it in order to get bonus miles and since it packed down small and light (2 lbs!)  It will go in the straps underneath my bag.

Passport AND wallet this time (don’t ask)

Emergency med kit (packed in iPod case)

Aaaaand….that’s all, folks!  Should be my lightest trip yet apart from the sleeping bag (which is still pretty light) and the food (that I will be eating).

All the places- a 3 minute brain dump

I have not updated this in so long!  As usual, I’m behind, and running late for a meeting.  So here’s a quick couple minute sketch of what I’ve been up to and what I’ve got up my sleeve, confirmed or otherwise.


July 2013: The trip I mentioned in a previous post to Serbia et al to study trubaci music (Serbian trumpet/brass music) certainly came to fruition.  Highlights: awesome movie selection on Air Canada (they were running a film festival “in the air”), baths in Budapest, train ride through the length of Serbia, showing up to Demiran’s house as everyone was leaving for the hospital for the birth of novi Demiran (1st grandson), and the partying that followed, weddings every night with insane groups in the Vranje mahala (Roma district- saw Marko i Jelena Markovic with Energy Bend, couple times Ekrem Mamutovic, I forget the other group), hanging with Usain and Demir Kanturovski in Berovo Macedonia, Nebi of Kocani Orkestar inviting his whole band to play for/jam with us on 30 minutes’ notice (also in Berovo), chillin’ with Vinco (Kocani’s accordionist) in Kocani, random side trip to Bulgaria, complete with gov’t protests, Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, Belgrade in one day, taking the wrong overnight train to Budapest and daytime train the next day w/no AC and 40+ degrees outside, one last walk through Budapest and opera visit.

August 2013: Quickie day trip to Philly where I hung with old friends in old haunts; Amtrak train to Montreal along the Hudson river for $60 (sooooo awesome), overnight in Montreal at boutique hotel (across from awesome DJ set in a park) that earned me couple 1,000 miles, Klez Kanada kraziness, hang in Montreal post-Klez Kanada, biodome and walking tour, volunteering/hearing the Montreal Jewish music fest, almost moving to Toronto, but then not, hang with my sister/family in NJ, post-travel depression upon return to LA

September 2013: What was supposed to be a “mileage/mattress run” (earning a lot of miles and hotel points for a low fee) ended up putting me in the middle of a natural disaster in Acapulco for over a week.  Did earn those miles and hotel points (enough to put me up in a hotel for almost 20 nights if I use points well).  Reflections on how Mexicans handled the crisis (well!) compared to what happens or could happen in the US.

October 2013: Couple days in SF to explore a possible place to move when I finish school.  Birthday weekend in either Joshua Tree or Catalina Island (TBA).  Study study study

November 2013: 6 days in Oman, 2 days in Dubai, 1 day in Bahrain.  A test in solo travel in the Mid East (albeit a very gentle/tourist friendly one

December-Jan 2013-4: A week in South Africa and couple weeks in Southeast Asia.  Day in Beijing and Tokyo.  Planning to study Thai massage/yoga at Wat Po school in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and get a feel for culture in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.