Our March 2015 Expenses in France

Expenses in France

Another month has come and gone.  We closed out March WAY over budget – $1,000 over budget!

So what happened?

First, we became official French residents.  Part of our final approval involved paying 482€ in taxes (241€ each.)  We also prepaid 10 hours of French lessons in the amount of 197€.  That is only 20€ per hour which is AMAZING!  French lessons are ridiculously expensive in Nice.

We also went over our grocery budget by $300, spent $40 on a taxi getting to the OFII to obtain our residence sticker, bought Derrick a new pair of jeans, and well… you can see how things start to add up quickly.

March 2015 Expenses Chart:

Can’t view the chart? Click HERE


Grocery $1,320.38
Eating Out $450.48
Miscellaneous $1,082.33
Entertainment $13.10
Transportation $128.10
Housing $1,302.85
Health Insurance $499.00
US Car Insurance $97.61
US Storage unit $136.00
Total $5,029.85

Our US expenses are $233.62 total for our US car/umbrella policy and our storage unit for the items we kept for our return to the US.  We also have an international health insurance policy (required for our Visa) that is $500 per month.

The exchange rate is still low at just 1.07€ to the $1.  I prefer to translate all our expenses to USD since our income is in dollars. My goal is to not exceed $4,000 per month.  While other travelers could spend significantly less, this budget allows my family of 4 to live comfortably.

What are your secrets to staying in budget while living abroad?

See more of our monthly expenses here.

My Favorite Travel Apps for Europe

Travel Apps for Europe 1

There are countless articles on the web claiming  they have identified the best travel apps.  But it can be overwhelming just to decide which articles to trust, much less to make a decision on which apps are really worthwhile. The latest and greatest apps change constantly, so the best app last month might be outdated today. New apps come out all the time and developers stop updating older apps. As a consequence,  I add & delete apps on a regular basis.

These are the apps that are currently on MY iPhone.   We use these apps all the time, sometimes daily, in Europe.

Travel Apps for Europe:

Getting Around Town

Pocket Earth App

Pocket Earth PRO Offline Maps – My husband is the navigator of the family, and he is obsessed with this app. We have the paid pro version. My step-dad downloaded the free version during his recent visit, but we noticed things didn’t always load on his app like they did on ours. Pocket Earth has helped us find places that we never would have been able to navigate with a standard map.  The app also shows restrooms, potable water, points of interest and restaurants. And the best part is, you can use it offline, like the title says. You need neither cellular or wireless connectivity to use.

Free version or $2.99 Pro version

Detailed worldwide maps and travel guides • Works completely offline even with GPS • Great when abroad, NO data roaming charges • All data FREE, no in-app purchases • Online routing and much more!

Rome 2 Rio App

Rome2rio – Another navigation app that my husband couldn’t live without is Rome2rio.  He uses this app to plot our trips and to find the best travel routes.  Is it faster to travel by train, plane or car?  The app also provides approximate costs for each mode of transportation.


Rome2rio is a comprehensive global trip planner that helps you discover how to get anywhere. You can enter any town, address or landmark as your destination and Rome2rio will instantly display flight, train, bus, ferry and driving options with estimated travel times and fares.

Rail Planner App

Rail Planner – Offline Timetable for Eurail and Interrail Passes – We used this app for the first time during our trip to Italy. The offline timetable made it easy to explore Bordighera then hop back on the train without wasting our day hanging around the station.


Rail Planner offers everything you need to help plan your rail journey in Europe. It provides offline timetable information for international European trains and connections, synchronising and simplifying cross-European travel.

DB Navigator App

DB Navigator – Deutsche Bahn – Although this is a German train app, it has train schedules throughout Europe.


With DB Navigator the Deutsche Bahn AG offers you the most comprehensive information service for your journey by ICE, IC, by regional transport, by underground train, bus and tram. The DB Navigator provides access to the timetables of more than 250,000 stops and stations in Germany and Europe – all up-to-date and in real time.

Airline Assistance

[Read more…]

Photo Diary Peillon, France: Our Southern Ascent

Peillon, France

If you’re looking for an authentic French village along the Cote d’Azur, a visit to Peillon should be on your list when visiting Nice.  Getting off the train, you can spot the 12th century village perched on top of a cliff with higher mountains soaring behind.

The breathtaking mountain vista is a stark contrast to the Mediterranean views of Nice.  Walk the steep, narrow streets and image yourself, 500 years ago, living in one of the houses clinging to the rocks.

There are a couple of restaurants in Peillon if you’re looking for a nice meal.  There are no grocery stores or souvenir shops, so make sure to pack water and snacks.  The lack of touristy shops is part of what makes Peillon a breath of fresh air when compared to the rows of postcard merchants in Nice.

Looking down from Peillon, France

View of the valley from the mountainside of Peillon village

[Read more…]

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Secrets & Tips

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Secrets 2

Cruises are a great way to vacation.  Board the ship, unpack and sail off to new destinations without the headache of changing hotels. If you’re a first time cruiser or have never sailed with Royal Caribbean, there are countless little known Royal Caribbean cruise line secrets to help you make the most out of your next cruise.

Before we dive into the secrets of cruising, it’s important to pick the right destination & ship.  Everyone’s tastes and every family has different needs. Before booking your cruise, choose the best destination and ship for your family.  Are you looking to hit the beach on a Caribbean island?  See the glaciers in Alaska? What places are you most interesting in seeing and plan your trip accordingly.

Also determine the amenities  you want on the ship. Would the kids love the chance to ice skate?  Do you prefer a smaller or larger vessel?  Each cruise ship class is different, so take a look at what is offered before you book.

Cruise Critic is an awesome resource for searching the latest ships, ports and destinations.  You can also get to know  people you meet through the site by attending the Meet & Mingle with other Cruise Critic users.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Secrets:

1. Complete online check-in

Check-in online for your cruise before you sail.  Royal Caribbean requires you to check-in no later than 3 days prior to sailing.  This helps keep the line moving on embarkation day.

You can also sign any waivers such as for the FlowRider and Zip Line up to three days prior to the sail date.  Get all of the paperwork out of the way, so you can relax once you board.

2. Purchase shore excursions in advance

You can purchase shore excursions online prior to your cruise.  Popular excursions sell out early and you don’t want to be disappointed!  If you didn’t book your spot, a limited amount of excursions are still reserved for on board booking so schedule those as soon as you board the ship.

See my 5 tips for selecting shore excursions for help determining which excursions are right for you.

3. Reserve specialty dining in advance

Reserve your table at one of the many specialty restaurants before you sail.  If you make 3 or more reservations, you’ll get a credit of up to 30% of the value.   You can use that credit any way you wish during your cruise.

A newer feature is that kids can dine at the specialty restaurants for just $8 and order off a special menu.   The special kids price will be adjusted and shown on your final bill.

If you prefer to wait until you board, book on the first day.  You can ask to see the main dining room menu’s for the week then pick your day to dine in a specialty restaurant accordingly.

[Read more…]

Photo Diary: Saint Paul de Vence, France

Saint Paul de Vence Photos

Another popular day trip from Nice, France is a visit to the fortified village of Saint Paul de Vence.

If you like history and art, Saint Paul de Vence should be on your list to visit when in Nice. It’s a charming medieval city perched on a mountainside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Spend an hour walking the narrow streets and exploring hundreds of years of military & religious structures.  Wander in and out of the art galleries and possibly stop for lunch in one of the many restaurants.

Saint Paul de Vence wall

[Read more…]

Carnaval Nice 2015 – Your Ultimate Guide to Nice Carnival, France

Nice Carnival Tips

The Nice Carnival or Carnaval de Nice is one of the largest carnivals in the world. Each year, approximately 1 million visitors flock to this winter event along the Côte d’Azur.  During the 17 day’s of Carnival,  Nice is brimming with people from all over the world enjoying the parades, beach and great food.


Carnaval de Nice can be traced back to 1294. Before fasting for lent,  the people of Nice would celebrate by attending masquerades and indulging in rich cuisine. The celebrations also included mocking of everything and everyone while hiding behind disguises of masks and costumes.

In 1873, the 1st parade was introduced along with “Ymagiers” (image producers), a structured production and paying stands.   Just three years later, the 1st Flower Parade or Bataille de Fleurs (Battle of Flowers) emerged.   Although the Nice Carnival has changed over the years, it still retains some of it’s original grandeur, big head construction and peculiarity.

Each year,  the modern carnival boosts a new theme. The 2015 theme was King of Music and the 2016 theme will be King of Media.  I’m anxious to see updates as the Carnavaliers create new floats for the upcoming Carnival.  The attention to detail on the floats is phenomenal!


The Carnival Parades and Parades of Lights take place around Place Masséna.  The Flower Parades take place on the Promenade des Anglais. These locations are in the city center,  near Old Town.  As a tourist, it’s easy to find the locations – just look for the bleachers!  You can find a map of the parade locations through the Tourism office or online. This is a handy map to pick up, and will help you stake out your parade spot in advance.

[Read more…]

CARE Empowering Women & Providing Knowledge to Last a Lifetime

Disclosure: Today’s post is sponsored by CARE, but my love for their humanitarian programs is all my own!


Traveling opens your eyes to the struggles of those around the globe.  All around the world children are hungry, parents don’t have the skills necessary to provide a stable income, there is a lack of healthcare, lack of education, and violence against women and girls.  These struggles are real and are part of daily life in many countries.

That’s where CARE comes in.  CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty with a commitment to empowering women and girls. CARE seeks a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and people live in dignity and security.

CARE facilitates lasting change by:

• Strengthening capacity for self-help
• Providing economic opportunity
• Delivering relief in emergencies
• Influencing policy decisions at all levels
• Addressing discrimination in all its forms

CARE Cow Story

One of the stories that I loved is how CARE taught one women the best way to feed & find proper food for her cow which has changed not only the lives of her family, but an entire village.  In a small village in Bangladesh, Kallani wanted to help support her family.  They had no money or clothes and no way out of their financial crisis.  They had a cow, but it didn’t even provide enough milk for the family.

Kallani decided to take part in CARE’s Strengthening the Dairy Value Chain program.  She was taught the proper food to feed her cow as well as how to negotiate prices for the best feed to stimulate milk production.  Soon, her cow become producing enough milk for her family with extra to sell.  CARE eventually helped Kallani go into the feed business, and she goes door-to-door teaching other farmers the same techniques to improve their own farming.

I find this story to be incredibly inspiring.  Instead of just giving Kallani and her family money, CARE helped her provide a new way of life and stable income for her family.  The money would have run out, but the knowledge will last a lifetime.

There are countless other stories on the CARE.org site to inspire you to help others.  Visit the website HERE to learn more, sign up for email updates or donate to the cause.  Join me in fighting poverty with CARE!

*Photo Credits: CARE.org