Welcome to Away Game, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real millennial women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week's travel diary: A 29-year-old contracts negotiator who used a flight credit to take a solo adventure.
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Occupation: Contracts Negotiator
Hometown: Arlington, VA
Trip Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Annual # Of Vacation Days: 20 days (with ability to roll over up to 5)
Trip Length: 7 days
Travel Companion(s): Me, myself, and I
Flight: $183 (It was originally $683, but I used a $500 flight credit)
Airbnb: room in an apartment in the Østerport area of Copenhagen = $275 total
Long Rain Jacket: $160
Walking Shoes: $50
Protein Bars (for emergency snacks): $15
International Service Pass Cell Plan Add-On: $60
Trtl Neck Pillow & Packing Cubes: $30
11 a.m. — Day 1 is a travel day from Dulles to Copenhagen. I drive my car out to my office to park because it's close to the airport and nab an Uber to the airport. $10
12 p.m. — I get a pre-flight lunch at Chipotle in the airport. I wander the airport to get some steps in before my flight while catching up with my mom on the phone. $10
2 p.m. — During my layover in Detroit, I grab a coffee at Starbucks and talk to my mom on the phone some more; we catch up on the news regarding the Golden State Killer capture. $5
4 p.m. — Flight takes off to Amsterdam. It’s a long flight during weird hours so I eat and take a glorified nap for 2 hours.
Daily Total: $25
6 a.m. — I land in Amsterdam. European airports > U.S. airports. There’s a mall, there’s tons of shopping. It’s clean. I get through customs in a breeze. My first order of business: find coffee. Hello standard cappuccino from a machine. I wait for my connection to Copenhagen. $4.28
8:30 a.m. — I arrive in Copenhagen and buy train tickets, which is confusing AF for my jet lagged brain and I end up buying a ticket to get farther out of town. I realize my Amex isn’t going to fly here, but I packed a second credit card that’s a Visa that will work. This ends up being very handy for knowing how much I spend; it’s the card that I never use so the only charges on it are trip related. I head to my Airnnb in Østerbro to put stuff down, change, freshen up, and I head to the center city for a free walking tour. $19
11 a.m. The free walking tour is through a company called Sandemans. It covers the Town Halls, Christiansborg Palace, Nyhavn, Amalienborg Palace, and the Changing of the Guards. I stop for a snack and a coffee ($13). I tip the tour guide for a 3-hour “free” tour of Copenhagen ($17). $30
2 p.m. — I stop through Fredericks Kirke, which is where the Royal Family goes to church.
3 p.m. — It’s rainy so I shop hop through the main shopping street, Stroget. I drop into a cute everything store called Flying Tiger and grab a notebook and pens to actually log my trip $3.28
4 p.m. I wander back to my Airbnb to rest, stopping along the way to check out cute little side streets.
6:30 p.m. — After some relaxation and a half nap, I realize I’m hungry but too tired to go far from my Airbnb. I stop at a grocery store, get overwhelmed, and end up getting ham and Haribo peaches ($6.55), I blame the combination on being hungry and tired. I eat the ham while strolling to quell my hanger and then end up at LêLê which is a Vietnamese takeaway spot that my tour guide mentioned ($21.63). I order a chicken salad and spring rolls, and head back to the Airbnb. I meet my Airbnb host and chat with her about school, cost of living, how school is paid, and some other interesting topics. I’m going back to graduate school shortly, and it is amazing how different the costs are. The Danish Government gives students about $800 a month to study and education is free, whereas my MBA sticker price is $200K. The flip side is that 50-60% of income is taxed in Denmark to pay for these things, but it’s an interesting conversation about how different the systems are. $28.18
10 p.m. — I’m exhausted from the day so I fall asleep. But I am unceremoniously awakened at 2 a.m. to the sounds of a party going on in another flat. I end up using that time to plan out the next few days and fall back asleep at 4 a.m.
Daily Total: $90.48
11 a.m. — I fully intended to wake up at 9 a.m., but I end up silencing my alarm. So, here we are, up at 11 am. It’s fine; I’m on vacation. Today is a holiday, General Prayer Day, in Denmark so I’m hoping my planned museums are open.
11:45 p.m. — I finally get out of the flat. I make my way to a bakery (Meyers) right near the flat and grab a filter kaffe and a pain au chocolate to fuel my morning wanderings. I am not disappointed: The pastry and coffee are yummy. I think I’ll probably end up stopping there for breakfast every day. $7.65
12:00 p.m. — I make it to the Statens Museum for Kunst (the National Gallery of Denmark). I pay the under-30 fee and wander through the museum. One of the exhibits is an artist in process which has a table where you can sit and sketch. A woman across the table decides to sketch me. I wasn’t planning on going back to the flat but I guess I will now to stash the picture. So cool! $13.84
3 p.m. — After the museum I run back to my Airbnb to stash my portrait. I’m not sure how I’m going to transport it home but i want to keep it. Is it vain to get it framed? I decide I need to do Copenhagen like a local so I rent a Donkey Bike for 12 hours. I set out to the Little Mermaid and then bike around the city. $14.90
3:30 p.m. — I realize I’m hungry and the early afternoon protein bar I ate isn’t cutting it. I bike to Conditori la Glace for something sweet and more coffee. I make a mid-bike stop for a street hot dog ($5.83). It starts raining while I’m waiting for La Glace so it’s a good time for a break. I order sportskage (their speciality cake, which dates back to the 1800s) and a pot of coffee ($21) and sit and enjoy. I usually don’t eat dairy so my stomach is not entirely happy with this decision. Oh well. $26.83
5 p.m. — It’s Friday and Tivoli Gardens has a show at night. I bike from cake to Tivoli and buy an entrance pass and unlimited rides. Tivoli was the inspiration for Disneyland and is the second oldest amusement park in the world, so it’s fun to wander the park. $57
7 p.m. — I take a trip into the Tivoli food hall to find dinner. I told myself I’d do Smørrebrod (a Danish open-faced sandwich) today. I grab one with chicken salad, bacon, mushrooms, and a water because I realize I haven’t had anything but coffee today. $13.36
8 p.m. — I get a drink, wander the park some more, go on a few more rides, and wait until the concert. I stay for a little of the concert, which consists of middle-aged Danish MCs who are very famous in Denmark. Unsurprisingly I know none of their music but it’s fun to watch. $8.14
Daily Total: $141.72
10 a.m. — Today, I get up and get moving. I chat with my Airbnb host about what I saw and my plans to go up to the Louisiana Museum Of Modern Art. It turns out my host is headed north as well to see her family so we set out for the train together. We make a quick stop at the bakery from yesterday for a kanelsnurr (cinnamon bun) and a coffee. We rush a bit toward the train to make sure we don’t have to wait 20 minutes for the next one. My host loans me one of her travel cards which had money for the train on it. I will add more on my way home. $8.14
11:45 a.m. — I arrive at the museum, buy a ticket, check my coat, and wander through the art. $20.36
1:30 p.m. — After wandering through a beautiful Picasso pottery exhibit, spending a bit too much time in the Yayoi Kusama installation, and checking out the Giacometti and other works, I decide to head to the cafe for lunch. I order a smoked salmon and cucumber cream sandwich on this amazing rye break with horseradish, more coffee and soda water. I sit out on the patio soaking up the sun and staring across the water at Sweden. $22.80
2:30 p.m. — I walk back to the train to head further north to Helsigør to see the Hamlet castle, Kronborg. I nab a water and a Fanta at 7-Eleven in the train station, which by the way are IMMACULATE in Denmark. $7.08
3 p.m. — After a. quick train ride, I make it to Kronborg Castle. There’s only an hour left until it closes but that’s more than sufficient time to climb the tower and walk the castle grounds. Sadly I did not pack the skull of Yorick to take Hamlet photos, which is regrettable. However it’s a very neat castle with great views across the water to Sweden. Definitely a change of scenery from the modern art earlier in the day. $15
4:30 p.m. — I make my way back into the city, by train, add 100 DKK to the travel card. $16.29
5:45 p.m. — Back in the city, I decide it’s time for an early dinner and I head to Torvehallern again. I order Tacos at Hija de Sanchez. Yeah, yeah, I know, I went to Denmark and ordered tacos. But if you’ve watched Ugly Delicious on Netflix you know why. They are damn good tacos. $18.73
6:30 p.m. — I'm in the mood for ice cream, so I find a place that is open on the shopping street ($5.70). Everything here closes at like 6 or 7 p.m. which I am sure is easy to manage when you live here, but challenging for me when I’m not used to eating dinner before 8 p.m. I’m close to Flying Tiger and I want to get a few more pens like the ones I bought on day 1, so I swing in there and buy the pens and some gummy fish ($8.14). I head back to the Airbnb to regroup and refresh, and figure out if I want to go find a cocktail or just stay in for the night. I ended up staying in. My legs are tired. $13.84
Daily Total: $122.24
11:30 a.m. — It’s Sunday and getting started doesn’t happen quickly today. I set out to the bakery for another kanelsnurr, coffee, and a cookie for later #healthyeats. I should have realized this earlier, but everywhere in Denmark does mobile pay or contactless pay which is amazing. I really didn’t need cash at all except to tip my walking tour guide. And for that matter, I could just basically have not packed a wallet and used my phone to pay. After eating, I attempt to rent another bike but I can’t find one nearby so I just walk to Rosenborg Castle. $11.40
12:45 p.m. — After strolling through the gardens of Rosenborg and seeing the Danes out in full force on this gorgeous Sunday, I get a ticket for the castle. It turns out you need a timed ticket for Rosenborg, so instead of waiting in the line, I buy my ticket online for 1:10p.m. ($17.92). This little break time gives me a chance to grab more coffee and sit in the sun in a pleasant little garden cafe ($4.07) with views of the castle. $21.99
2:30 p.m. — After castle wandering, checking out the Crown Jewels, and a cookie break, I finally get a bike. I pay for 24 hours so I can use it tomorrow morning as well. I make my way to Christiansborg Palace to climb the tower which is free. There’s a line for the tower that takes a while but it’s worth it for the free sightseeing. $16.29
4:30 p.m. After the tower climb and some more biking around, I realize it might be a good idea to have food that isn’t a pastry and I’m right by Torvehallerne, so it’s a good place to stop. (I didn’t intentionally try to come here for a meal every day, but it’s been very convenient and I don’t have to have an exact idea of what I want). I stop at Hav and grab smoked salmon, shrimp, salad, bread, and a sparkling water $22.80
7:30 p.m. — After continuing to explore the city via bike and catching an English mass at a Catholic Church, I decide it’s time to head back to the Airbnb. On my way home I swing by a grocery store and grab some meat, cheese, crackers, carrots, and a cucumber for snacks/dinner. I guess I should probably do a sit down meal at some point...I travel a lot for work and I’ve never been a huge fan of going out to sit-down restaurants alone to eat. I’m generally a pretty sociable person and it’s the one thing I absolutely hate to do when traveling alone. Doing big dinners is such a social thing for me and doing it alone feels weird. So tonight I’m going to enjoy my charcuterie and veg at the kitchen table in my Airbnb. Tomorrow I’ll do something fun for my last day. $13.26
Daily Total: $85.74
10:30 a.m. — I get out of the Airnb a little earlier today, thanks to an alarm I set to try and get myself up and going. It’s Monday so the Danes are back to work and the museums are also closed, so I’m just going to take my bike and explore other parts of the city that I haven’t been to yet. I also really need to buy a postcard or two to send home, especially to my grandma. First stop though is for a pastry and a coffee at the bakery down the street. $8.14
12:30 p.m. — After breakfast I bike to Assitens Kirkgård, which is a large cemetery in the Østerbro area of Copenhagen. I visit the graves of Soren Kierkegaard, Hans Christian Anderson, and Nils Bohr. The cemetery is a public park so the Danes are out wandering and biking through the park. I find it to be much more pleasant than American cemeteries. I find a bench to sit on and enjoy the sun and the sounds of nature in the park. I also get a notification that my bike rental expires in 2 hours so I extend it for another day. $12.92
1 p.m. — I bike back into the center of the city to a bookstore that had some cute postcards with art by a Danish artist. This ends up being one of the most expensive purchases of the trip. I buy some small postcards to send home to my mom, my grandma and my sister; stamps; a magnet; and some larger postcards that I’ll frame and hang. I’m not one for big souvenirs, but I collect postcards for the gallery wall of pictures that I fully intend to put up in my apartment at some point. ($39.26) Outside the bookstore is an organic Danish hot dog vendor and I’m hungry so I grab a Danish-style hot dog with mustard, remoulade, ketchup, onions, pickles, and fried onions. It’s delicious ($5.70). $44.96
1:30 p.m. — I walk a little bit more through the shopping district, stopping to continue my very healthy eating streak with soft serve ice cream ($4.89) I check out Illum, which is the Copenhagen department store. The clothes are beautiful and expensive but it’s fun to browse. I head up to the food hall on the roof to grab a coffee and sit out in the sun ($5.54). $10.43
3:00 p.m. — I bike over to Christianshaven and through Christiana, which is the self proclaimed autonomous anarchist district in an old military complex. Make another coffee stop for a filter kaffe at Coffee Collective. Today is a day to drink copious amounts of coffee and see the city under my own pedal power. $5.74
4:30 p.m. — I stop at a Føtex grocery store to take a rest from my bike and also to look around. I love strolling through big grocery stores in other countries. I also stock up on souvenirs to bring home, which is a crap-ton of Danish grocery store chocolate and candy. While I am sure the fancy candy is great, I find that the grocery store candy is pretty good as well. Candy is easy to bring to work, to my gym, and to other places without much stress; it allows me to share some of my trip with more people. That and, if it isn’t painfully clear by this travel diary, I have a massive sweet tooth so, selfishly, bringing candy home to share means candy for me to eat. $32.19
5 p.m. — I told myself I’d do a nice sit-down dinner on my last day and after biking around the Vesterbro area, I head to the meat-packing district to a restaurant called Paté Paté that a friend recommended. I get there before the kitchen is open so I sit at the bar and have a cocktail, chips, and a ton of sparkling water. You pay for water in restaurants in Denmark, and so while it wasn’t entirely intention to drink three big bottles of sparkling water by myself, after having only coffee all day (funny how that happens), I do end up getting my $4 worth. When the kitchen opens I order a white asparagus dish with Parmesan and anchovies and a cod dish served with spinach and a lovely red sauce. They are both delicious. I sit for a little while longer and then order an apple tart for dessert, which is amazing. The pastry was this magical buttery flaky crust that disintegrated in my mouth; it was divine. I went big on my last night and it was delicious. After dinner, I bike back to the Airbnb, return the bike rental, and pack to fly home the next day. $78.21
Daily Total: $192.59
7 a.m. — I have a 9:30 a.m. flight out so I leave the AirBnb at 7 a.m. I swing by the bakery for one last pastry and coffee ($8.14). I head to the train station and buy my ticket to the airport ($5.84). I’m sad about leaving and having to face reality tomorrow (and a breakfast that doesn’t involve pastry), but I am excited for my own bed. $13.98
8:45 a.m. — After I make it through security, I swing by a bakery in the airport for a loaf of bread to bring home and a massive American-sized coffee. My Airbnb host had recommended the bakery, Lakaghuset, for good bread to bring home ($12.17). I also walk through a shop, Illum Bolighus, to look at the goods and end up buying a notebook for my mom with a painting of Tivoli on it. She and I had been texting throughout the trip about her experiences in Copenhagen when she was younger, and she and her sister had gambled coins in Tivoli when they were there, so I think she’ll like the notebook ($15.99). $28.16
1 p.m. — I have a layover in the Amsterdam airport. I get sucked into a duty free to buy more chocolate. It’s a brand I can get in the U.S., but they have fun flavors like popcorn surprise and white chocolate raspberry, so I end up buying some to bring home. $14.87
4 p.m. — I land in the U.S. I had a full row to myself on the flight which was great and I caught up on all the movies I’d been meaning to see but hadn’t. I blow through customs in a breeze with Global Entry, which is so worth it if you travel internationally. I catch a Lyft to my car and head home $14.80
Daily Total: $71.81
How did you prepare for this trip?
This trip was a result of accruing extra hours on a big proposal effort at work. I had about a week of time to burn as a result, but I didn’t want to just sit at home and do nothing. I wanted an easy trip so this was a based on Google Flight searches for trips from Dulles to Europe on Delta or Delta partners because I had a $500 flight credit I wanted to use. Copenhagen was the cheapest flight to a place in Europe that I hadn’t been to yet.
When did you book your flight? Do you think you got a good deal?
I booked the flight about a month before I left. A flight under $700 to Europe is a good deal in my mind, although I think it may have been skewed based on my low out-of-pocket.
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation?
Travel was booked on my credit card but it will be paid off when the bill is due; I have savings to pay for the trip.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
My favorite part was exploring the city via bike. I didn’t use much public transportation because I could get around on the bike. It’s easy to cover so much ground and to see all the sights. There are a lot of modern buildings that are really only neat to see from the outside like the Opera House and the Library (the Black Diamond), especially in contrast to the older architecture, so biking is a great way to see these sights quickly. It’s also a way to connect with the city like a local; people bike everywhere in Copenhagen.
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
The best meal was the final meal I ate at Paté Paté. But the pastry every morning was a close second.
Is there a tourist trap you wish you had avoided?
I don’t know that I would have paid to do Kronborg. The impressive part of the castle is the outside, at least for me, and I could have done without going inside.
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
Have a list of things you want to see in advance and plan it out, especially if one of your travel days includes a Monday because the museums and castles will be closed. Expect for food to be expensive.
Is there anything about your trip you would do differently in retrospect?
I might have made my trip a bit shorter and/or added another city to the trip. Three days would have been enough for Copenhagen and it might have been nice to have gone to another Scandinavian city.
Would you stay at your Airbnb again?
My Airbnb was great! It was a cute little room in a flat and my host was very helpful. I’d definitely stay again.
Where would you recommend staying based on your trip?
I was in the Østerport area of the city. It’s a bit quieter and away from the central part of the city, but still very convenient to the sights. I might have considered staying in another part of the city, but it was nice to have a quiet place to escape to at the end of the day.
Is there anything you wished you had time to do, but didn’t?
I didn’t have time to get to the Danish Design Museum, which was the only thing I wanted to see but didn’t. I had time on Monday, but it was closed.
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