If you plan to visit Europe in the next few months, make sure you take advantage of the VAT refunds. VAT stands for value-added taxes, which means you can shop tax-free in Europe. Keep in mind that it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll get your tax refund back, but it’s worth a shot. I was able to receive mine back from the United Kingdom within a week after my trip, while it took almost 2 months to receive my VAT back from Iceland. I almost figured it would be a lost cause, but two months later I saw the credit back on my statement.
Here are some tips on how to make it easier to claim your VAT:
Bring Your Passport: In order to receive VAT paperwork, stores require that you show them a copy of your passport.
Shop at Department Stores instead of Individual Boutiques: It makes it easier, paperwork-wise, to shop at department stores instead of individual boutiques. If you shop at individual boutiques, you’ll have a new tax claim form for each store and not all of them use the same refund service which can make it more complicated to receive your refund. When I was in London, I went to Harrods and did most of my shopping there. In Harrods, they even have a department for you to turn in all of your receipts from their different areas, and they’ll combine it into one easy tax form for you.
Arrive to the Airport Early: In order to claim your VAT, you’ll need a stamp by customs in order for it to be approved. Arrive early to the airport, as sometimes the customs line can get very long. Without the stamp, it makes it very hard to receive your refund back.
Pack Your Items in an Easy To Reach Area: When you get to customs, the customs officers may ask to see what items you purchased. Make sure you stop by customs first, if your items are in your checked baggage.
Collect Your Refund: Once custom approves your VAT refund, you’re free to turn in your documents to a refund service like Global Blue. There are two ways to receive your refund either via cash or credit card refund. In London, we were able to go to the Global Blue desk and swipe our credit card back. We received a receipt that showed what we would receive back in the form of the refund. In Iceland, you turn in a form with your credit card number, and hope for the best. Depending on the situation, you can also ask for an instant cash refund, but keep in mind that there might be a fee for taking cash. In the future, I plan to do a cash refund unless the refund service swipes my card instantly like in London for the refund. I was worried I wouldn’t receive my refund from Iceland as I hand-wrote the credit card numbers and my handwriting is messy.
If you plan to purchase anything expensive in Europe, it might be worth looking at a VAT refund. Even though you’ll save due to the current exchange rates, you can save an additional 15% – 25%. As I said earlier, it’s not a 100% guarantee, so don’t let the VAT refund put a damper on your trip if it doesn’t pan out. Just think of it as an added little bonus if it does.
I know some travelers don’t believe in spending money on souvenirs, but I’m the complete opposite. I love having some sort of small token to remember my trip by. Below are some awesome and unique finds from my trip to Iceland.
Icelandic Wool: Icelandic wool is an amazing fabric that keeps you warm and is self-cleaning. Almost, all of the shops I visited had gorgeous scarves and sweaters knitted with the wool in unique fair isle designs and fun animal prints. I picked up some items with a puffin print for back home at The Handknitting Association of Iceland in downtown Reykjavik. Be warned: it is pricey.
Lava Jewelry: With so much volcanic activity in Iceland, it’s no wonder they’ve managed to create jewelry using lava. Pick up some gorgeous earrings or a necklace with jewelry made from volcanic rock. I prefer the look of the smooth lava rocks compared to the rough ones as they look like black pearls.
Icelandic Memories Magnets: I love these sheep magnets made from the wool of Icelandic sheep. They’re handmade by a local artist, and I saw them in a bunch of different places. They are a little bit pricey, but you can shop around to find the lowest price: They also come in array of colors, but I like the basic white and black sheep.
When I went to Europe recently, my goal was to travel carry-on only. I didn’t want to worry about lost luggage, since my flight wasn’t direct. I decided to carry a backpack instead of a rolling luggage due to cobblestone streets in Europe. After some research, I decided to go with eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekend Convertible Jr.
This backpack was great and got the job done. Due to my height of 5’3″, I decided to go with the junior version as I didn’t want it overwhelm my frame.
Price – The bag retails for $109.99, but you can always find it on sale as eBags normally has some sort of discount 20% – 30% off almost every weekend.
Storage – This bag has a ton of compartments to fit everything into it even a water bottle! I love the pouch on top to store liquids or any other items you need to reach easily. It also opens like a normal suitcase, which made it easier to pack. I do recommend packing cubes for this bag so you can maximize the space in it. Packing folders didn’t work me, as it basically tootook up the whole interior.
Warranty – eBags has a lifetime warranty on it, which is pretty awesome. I lost part of my chest straps during my travels. When I got back, I emailed them and was able to receive a replacement within a week.
Weight – This bag can get pretty heavy to carry around when you fill it to the brim. I don’t recommend this bag for any hikers or backpackers due to the weight.
Hip Belt – It does have a chest belt that works, but I wish the hip belt was better made to help with the weight.
Overall, I highly recommend this bag. For my trip to Europe, I was able to pack a week’s worth of winter clothes and more in it. It also fit perfectly as my carry-on item for WOW airline.
I came to the realization recently that crossbody bags make the best bags for travel. I normally carry a tote bag, but I decided to take a crossbody on my recent trip to Chicago. It was so nice to have both hands free, and I was able to use my crossbody bag as a sling to hold my jacket while touring the city.
When searching for a good crossbody for travel, I wanted to find a bag that was both functional , stylish, and didn’t scream “tourist”.
Below are my favorite bags that I’ve found:
Lo and Sons Pearl Crossbody: This bag has so many different functions packed in to it. It has a special padded pocket for a mini tablet, organizers for your passport, pen, journal, key leash, and more. It’s also made of two types of leather that are both water-resistant and light weight. In addition, it can convert to a clutch. This bag retails for $248, but the site usually has sales and if you sign-up for the mail, you get a code for 20% off.
Henri Bendel Jetsetter Convertible Backpack: I just recently purchased this bag and I love it. It converts from a backpack to a crossbody with the snap of the strap. The version I purchased isn’t waterproof, but the nylon versions are. I debated between the mini and the regular size, but decided to go with the mini since it would be more proportional with my height. The mini holds quite a bit including a water bottle, mini tablet, and camera. It ranges from $250 – $298 depending on the size and fabric. Henri Bendel usually has sales periodically, so be on the lookout for them to snag it at a great deal.
Michael Kors Jet Set Crossbody: I currently use this bag as my everyday bag. It’s been pretty durable against rain. It comes in a variety of colors and different types of leather. It normally retails for around $168, but you can normally find it on sale at department stores though it might be select colors.
When Starbucks introduced their Cold Brew Coffee this year, I was hooked. I love cold brew coffee, since it has less acidity compared to normal coffee and has a natural sweetness to it. After researching different brewers, I decided to purchase Hario’s brewer to make my own batch of coffee.
What it does : Uses cold water to make a batch of cold brewed coffee
Where to buy:
Bed, Bath, and Beyond
Verdict: I love this cold brewer! It’s so easy to use and saves me $5 a day, since I can now brew my own delicious cup of ice coffee. It is a little difficult to clean the filter, but it’s pretty simple to make. Each pitcher makes me enough coffee to last a week.
It’s been a while, but my computer is finally up and running so I can try to start blogging again. Today’s review is on Sephora’s Mini Blast Blow Dryer.
What it does: A travel blow dryer that packs the same punch as a full size blow dryer
Where to buy:
Sephora: Use your beauty insider car to earn points.
When drybar introduced Baby Buttercup, I was excited for it until I saw the price. I decided to do some research and found this travel blow dryer from Sephora. It may be tiny, but it works as well as my full size Buttercup. It does take a little bit longer for it to dry my hair compared to a full size dryer but my hair was soft and frizz free. I love that it’s tiny and takes up less space in my luggage. It also comes with dual voltage which makes it great to take it internationally.
I’ve always wanted to have a charm bracelet, but I never took the time to collect charms for them. When I saw the Disney Princess theme charms from Pandora, I decided I want to create a special Disney theme bracelet. Plus, I like that the Pandora Charm bracelet doesn’t comprise completely of dangle charms.
Currently, select Pandora stores are hosting presales for their bi-annual bracelet event. When you spend $100, you will receive a free Pandora bracelet (valued at $65) or you can pay the difference and upgrade to a different one. Even better, some stores allow you to receive multiple bracelets for every $100 you spend!
I’m normally a lip gloss type of person, but I’ve been wanting to try Dior Addict Lip Glow after reading such positive reviews. It’s a lip balm/lipstick hybird. The color is suppose to enhance your natural lip color, which means it’s different for each person.
What it does: A lip balm that adds sheer color and hydrates your lips.
Where to Buy: Sephora or any department store that carries Dior make-up.
Verdict: It’s worth a try if you’re in need of a lip balm that will add some sheer color to your lips. It’s surprisingly moisturizing for a lip balm/lipstick, and it has a nice minty flavor. There might be other options that are cheaper, but this is a nice luxurious treat if you’re in the mood to splurge.
I got to start 2016 off with a bang by attending a bachelorette party in Cancun! Even though it was a quick trip, we were able to do a bunch of stuff.
We stayed at the ME Cancun, which is an all-inclusive resort, on the main strip of hotels and resorts. I went to Cancun in August, and this resort was a bit different than the one I had previously stayed at. For starters, it was completely air-conditioned, which was nice. Service was okay, as I usually had to find a waiter or bar in order to get a drink, but the staff was always friendly. The resort was “all-inclusive”, but it didn’t include everything as some food/drinks were not included. I loved the infinity pool as it had a gorgeous view of the ocean. The food was good, especially the hibachi. I unfortunately didn’t get to try all of the restaurants as I didn’t have enough time.
We went to CoCo BONGO, which was a fun experience. If you ever visit Cancun, I totally recommend going to CoCo Bongo at least once. It’s both a live show and dance party all in one. It is a bit pricey, but the price does include alcohol.
We also went to Xplor Cancun which is a fun experience. I was able to go zip-lining, for the first time, and it was such a thrill. I don’t remember the pricing, but you’re able to do a bunch of different activities including rafting, driving an ATV, zip-lining, and more. The price also includes food and drinks which were actually pretty delicious. Don’t forget to do the picture package, as it takes many pictures of you while you’re doing these activities.
I definitely recommend going to Cancun for a bachelorette party!
What’s your favorite place to visit for a bachelorette party?
With some of my friends getting engaged recently, I have some upcoming bridal showers and bachelorette parties to go to!
Below are some gifts for the bride, all under $30:
Henri Bendel Mini Ring Box ($24): This ring box is adorable from Henri Bendel and it’s the perfect place for your friend to store her ring. It comes in an array of colors to choose from and I love the little bow on top. It’s also on sale for 50%!
Lush Bath Bombs ($4.95 – $8.95): Create a spa gift basket for your friends with these awesome bath bombs. Just purchase a basket from the dollar store and fill it up with some bath bombs for your friend to use to de-stress from wedding planning.
Victoria’s Secret Cotton Panties (5/$27.50): What’s a bachelorette party without buying fun lingerie for the bride? You don’t have to spend a lot and can get cute & sexy designs like the one above from Victoria’s Secret. I love the allover lace collection as it’s flirty and comfortable.
Bridal Hanger($5): This is always a fun gift to personalize with the bride’s future last name. This Etsy shop sells them for $5, but you can always do a search and see other styles/designs.