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Why Travel to Croatia: A Guide for Game of Thrones Fans

By Marley Braun | Destinations

Visiting King's Landing 

Years ago when I started watching Game of Thrones on HBO (cue the theme music in my head right now), I remember thinking are these locations real and if so, I have to go there!  

I was delighted to learn the locations ARE real and that Croatia would be the next country added to my bucket list.

Actually, getting to Croatia took me almost as long as it took George RR Martin to write A Dance with Dragons, but I finally made it there last year.  Did it disappoint?  Absolutely not. Do I totally want to go back?  Hell yes. 

Besides being THE King’s Landing, home of the Seven Kingdoms, Dubrovnik itself is stunning.  It sits on the beautiful turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea, surrounded by a massive stone wall that has stayed intact since the 16th century.  Thanks to Game of Thrones (cue the theme music again), Dubrovnik has become quite the tourist attraction and it has become so overcrowded with GOT fans like me that the last few seasons HBO has had to move shooting locations to somewhere quieter.  

However, Dubrovnik is more than ready to be a “must see” destination in itself.

Dubrovnik

On the day I was there, there was a mass of people trying to get into the city through Pile Gate.  I instantly felt like Arya trying to maneuver through the streets of Kings Landing in season one trying not to get trampled to death or spotted by Joffrey.  

I highly recommend the Game of Thrones tour through Viator.  It was absolutely fantastic!

My 5 Favorite Moments of the Tour

Tyrion Lannister’s secret passageway in/out of King’s Landing

The water here is stunning and the day I was there people were in the water and clearly not afraid of wildfire.   

The Red Keep

As you climb above the steep steps to Fort Lovrijenrc opposite the walled city of Dubrovnik and above Tyrion’s secret passage, you enter the Red Keep. Above the entrance is a very fitting saying carved in the stone, “Non Bene Pro Toto Libertas Venditur Auro” (“Freedom cannot be sold for all the gold of the world”).  

From here you get a breathtaking view of Dubrovnik and Minceta Tower, which served as the House of the Undying where Daenerys went to look for her stolen dragons.  You can’t help looking out into the distance searching for Stannis Baratheon’s ill-fated fleet.  

Pile Gate

The entrance to King’s Landing is the gate to the city.  Instead of peasants and commoners you will encounter artists and performers.  

The Steps of Great Sep of Baelor

I couldn’t help myself from walking up and down the stairs saying shame, shame!


The Iron Throne

Even though this was just a replica, we couldn’t help taking turns sitting in it.  How cool is that?  It is located in a small shop, up a lot of steps but it was totally worth the picture.  

HBO Stories

Not only did we go to some cool sites in King’s Landing, but we learned some really cool insider information about the HBO production.  Whether they are true or not, I really don’t care. They were highly amusing to hear.  

Click & Expand for HBO insider secrets we heard on the tour!

"Tyler Lannister Slept Here"

Too Many Tourists

Paid Vacation for Better Filming?!

Many More Places To Explore...

If you are a true Game of Thrones fan, you can not leave Croatia without going to Trsteno Arboretum (or Highgarden as GOT fans would recognize it).  The arboretum dates back to the 15th century.  It is a worthy place for the Tyrell family to call home.  R.I.P. Margaery and Lady Olenna.  

Below captures the scene in season three when I decided I had to find out if that place was real or not.  It was and it was right there waiting for me in Croatia!

Image by neufal54 on Pixabay

Final Thoughts & Tips

With HBO’s Game of Thrones coming to an end in 2019, I am preparing myself to say goodbye to so many great characters but I will not be saying goodbye to Croatia.  

I am already planning to go back in 2020 with friends, who are not GOT fans, but who I plan to convert!  If I could ever get Hayley to sit still long enough to get through an episode of Game of Thrones, I am sure she would realize Croatia needs to be added to her bucket list.  

Whether you go on your own, as a couple, with friends or with family, here are my top 5 tips for visiting Croatia:

  • Know your currency: You will want to exchange money for Croatian kuna or plan to use an ATM once you arrive. I have met many people that didn't realize Croatia does not accept euros.  Know before you go!  The kuna currently equals 1 for every .15 cents in U.S. dollars so that is A LOT of kuna!  Croatia is a great value. 
  • You don't have to be a Game of Thrones fan to enjoy Croatia.  I have traveled all over the world and Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen.   If you are closer to my age than Hayley's, you may not even know where Croatia is.  When I was in school, we called it Yugoslavia.  Know before you go!
  • If you aren't sure you want to spend an entire week of vacation there, look into the many cruises that now include Dubrovnik and Split as ports of call.  You can get a great primer for what Croatia is like and then you can plan a longer visit for the future.  
  • If you are a Game of Thrones fan, just know that the sites won't look exactly like they do on TV.  There are a lot of CGI effects that the show uses to "enhance" the already beautiful buildings.  For example, don't expect to see the Great Sep of Baelor at the top of the "shame, shame" steps.  There is an old church there, not a behemoth cathedral. 
  • "You know nothing Jon Snow" (or any other traveler who is used to the well run trains in Europe).  Croatia does not have a great train system but it does have a great bus system.  Getbybus is a great site to use to figure out how to get from town to town.  

Planning your first Cross Country Road Trip

By Hayley Braun | Travel Tips

"I want to road trip across the country with my best friend."

It's a guaranteed find on any good bucket list. Luckily, I was able to check "Cross Country Road Trip" off before I even turned 22!

While a cross country road trip isn't the easiest or most relaxing vacation, it's something I think everyone should do. Before embarking on your first cross country road trip, read below for a few tips & advice I learned along the way!

PLAN YOUR TRIP

Pick the Perfect Route

There are a few things you need to figure out before you set out on a Cross Country Road Trip. Most importantly, where are you going, and how will you get there? Here are a couple of questions to get you started:

  • How long is your ideal road trip? 
  • What's your budget?
  • Who are you be traveling with?
  • What do you hope to get out of this road-trip?
  • Where will you be sleeping every night?
  • North to South? East to West? One-way, or round trip?


When we started planning our trip, this step was easy. Maddy had a job in California with a car there for the summer, so I would fly to meet her for the drive back. The catch? We only had 6 days before classes started in Clemson. Oh, and my 21st birthday was on Day 1.

Choose your stops, and choose them wisely!

Once you have the beginning and end of your journey set, it's time to decide what to do along the way.

Our cross country road trip route.

In general, it takes around 35 hours to get from Los Angeles, California to Clemson, South Carolina. This is assuming you don't stop to eat, sleep, breathe, or spend a night in Vegas. Obviously, it wouldn't have been a very good 21st birthday road trip if we skipped the Vegas stop! So, I went to Google Maps, and plugged in our 3 known destinations: Los Angeles, Vegas, and Clemson.

I found that the best way to plan our stops was:

  • 1
    Use Google Maps to find the general route from your first to last stop. Include any must-see destinations along the way
  • 2
    Start adding stops along the way.
  • 3
    Look for interesting cities already along your route.  And keep in mind, on a 40+ hour drive, even a few hours away might be "along the route".  You can also save money by planning to stay with friends & family along the way!
  • 5
    Decide how many hours you're willing to drive each day (we stuck to 6-10 hours with two drivers). This will help you figure out if your trip fits within your ideal number-of-days.
  • 6
    Add or remove stops as necessary until you've perfected your route.
  • 7
    Leave room for mistakes, and unexpected adventures!

And just like that, Maddy and I had the perfect 21st birthday Cross Country Road Trip planned. I flew to Los Angeles, and after a quick visit we headed back to the East Coast.

PACK & PREPARE

Pack like it's your job

....because it'll start to feel like your job after you re-do it for the fifth time that week.

I'm not gonna lie, hotel-hopping every single night doesn't make for the most relaxing vacation. BUT, if you pack well and keep things organized (I always use the packing cubes below), it'll make your life so much easier!

Must Have: Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are a necessity for any multi-stop trip. I got a set of these a few years ago, and they have totally changed the game for the way I pack.

  • If you have a specific outfit you're saving for a certain day on your trip (ex. black dress for Vegas, country outfit in Nashville) this is a great way to keep it separated and out of the way of your everyday items.
  • If you're using a "shell" style suitcase or backpack, these cubes are also perfect to keep items in the middle section contained!
  • In general, on longer trips where you're packing and unpacking often, staying organized will save you a ton of time!

Getting in and out of hotels each night with two full size suitcases, all of Maddy's belonging's from the summer (including a cat) was a near extreme sport. One idea is to separate out the things you'll use every night into a more accessible bag.

That way on that days you arrive somewhere too exhausted to do anything but order a pizza, you'll have your pj's & toothbrush ready (without unpacking the whole car, again).

Prepare for a long week of travel!

While sitting in the car for hours everyday is part of the fun, it also can get boring. Here are a few tips to prepare for your time livin' life on the road:

  • Start a Cross Country Road Trip playlist.  We started the week off with some awesome playlists, but I think by the end of 41 hours, we probably listened to every Spotify playlist ever created.
  • Research some good podcasts to listen to.  We listened to the whole second season of the Serial podcast and loved it! Podcasts really help the time fly by.
  • Pack healthy, filling snacks! (And some road trip junk food, of course).  Stocking up in advance will save you time on stops later.  Packing more filling snacks (granola bars, trail mix, beef jerky) can make a great breakfast on-the-go, which also saves you more time and money.
    • If you do happen to be looking for beef jerky on the way from L.A. to Vegas... check out this alien beef jerky store we found (thanks, Erika!).

PEDAL TO THE METAL

On the road with our CATlas!

Once you've planned, packed, and prepare, you're ready for your Cross Country road-trip! There's just a couple more things to remember:

  • Be flexible, and have a back-up plan.  The reality is, no matter how much time you put into planning your road trip, things are bound to change. Whether that's because of traffic, or because an unexpected night out has you attempting a 12 hour drive on 2 hours of sleep, be ready to be flexible!
  • Keep a physical map in the car with you.  I know this is a foreign concept for my generation, but trust me, there's some part of the country that are WAY out there. (Like, giant-ball-of-yarn on the side of the highway out there). You don't want to end up stuck with no GPS signal and no clue where you're heading!
  • Always have your travel agent (read as: my mom) on speed dial.  It's great to have someone with access to a full size computer when you need last-minute bookings or recommendations and can't browse from your phone.
  • Find a way to document your trip. Trust me, even a year later I am so happy to have our videos to look back at! You can also collect ticket stubs and small souvenirs along your way. Check out our trip video below.

6 days, 11 states, and 41 hours of driving-- summarized in 1 minute! Learn how to make your own with my step-by-step guide to Creating Simple Travel Videos Using 1SE.

Have fun, and try not to kill each other!

For as long as I can remember, my parents have told me "always go on a road trip with the person you're going to marry." I guess if my mom & dad could tolerate each-other for 12 hours straight, that was a good indication they could do it another 25 years? (happy almost-25th anniversary, btw!)

In that case, after 41 hours together, Maddy and I passed the marriage test!

READ MORE:   My Bucket List Road Trips

Creating Simple Travel Videos using 1SE

By Hayley Braun | Travel Tips

People are always asking me, "What app do you use make those videos?!"

And today, I want to share my trick for creating simple, yet impressive travel videos - all using the 1SE application, or 1 Second Everyday.

As you may already know, we are not the typical "travel bloggers". I work a regular 9-5 desk job, and travel with an above-average camera at best. I use very basic editing tools for my videos, and put relatively little time into making them. Honestly, it's nothing a 12 year old with a cell phone (or my mom) can't do!

So long story short, I don't have any fancy camera equipment.

Here's everything you need to know to create your first 1SE Video:

Step 1:  Download the App

Download the free 1 Second Everyday app (available on iOS and Android). If you like it, I recommend upgrading to Premium!

Step 2:  Getting Started

  • Click the orange plus sign in the bottom right hand corner to start a new project.
  • Name your project, and choose whether you want to create using "timeline" or "freestyle".
    • My advice is based off of using "freestyle", which I think is a more unique way to use the app
Step 1 in Creating a Simple Travel Video using 1SE

The 1 Second Everyday application's start screen says it best- Record Less, Live More! Using this method to make travel videos is my favorite because it allows me to do just that.

Hayley's 1SE Tips:  Timeline vs. Freestyle

"Timeline" style videos are the typical way that 1SE is used. There's a calendar layout for video organization, making it a great option to document longer trips. In this set up, your video actually does consist of one second every day.


On the other hand, I've always used the "Freestyle" option to document my travel. This allows you to place any number of one-second clips in any order. The extra flexibility is great since my trips usually don't last more than a week!


Generally, "timeline" = more travel days, and "freestyle" = less.

Step 3:  Choosing your clips 

Step 3 in Creating a Simple Travel Video using 1SE
  • Click the large orange rectangle with the plus to add your first video (and all videos after). 
Step 1 in Creating a Simple Travel Video using 1SE
  • Next, choose a video from your library. As you can see, I take 5-10 quick videos for every one I'l end up using.
  • Finally, choose your one second! Luckily, this is the trickiest part of the app. Using the orange slider, you can choose the best 1 Second to use.
  • Continue picking clips until you're happy with your video!
    • When I'm traveling, I use down time (in airports, on buses, etc.) to add videos of my days so far to the app. This makes them easier to go through, and less overwhelming at the end of your trip!

Hayley's 1SE Tips:  Having trouble getting started?

Check out 1SE's help page for a lot more great resources on how to select a second! They also have a ton of video-making inspiration on the main website.

Step 4: Finishing your video

  • Once you've picked out your videos, click on each clip to add dates and locations. Sometimes I save this step until the very end so I can copy and paste the locations!
  • Once you're done, save or download your video from the app.
  • After downloading my 1SE Video, I'll remove the background noise, and overlay a fun travel song. Warning; this is a huge pain to do if you have to change anything. But, there's great news! 1SE has recently released a Pro Version that allows you to do all of this within the application.
  • Share, share, share! I have used Vimeo for publishing all of my personal travel videos.

The Final Product

Here's one of my favorite travel videos I've put together. On this trip, my mom joined me for a week in Spain, then I traveled around Portugal myself the week after.

Like most travel videos I've made, it's only about a minute long, but packed with 2 weeks and 9 cities worth of adventures!

Good luck, enjoy, & happy video making!
SHARE your videos in the comments below. I'd love to see them!

Hayley's 1SE Tips:  Extra Tips & Tricks

  • Use a variety of video types and angles. A couple I always like to include:
    • Views and scenery
    • Up close shots, especially where food is involved
    • A mix of group shots and solo shots
    • Fun takes!
      • I'm always forcing my family and friends to jump in the videos and have fun with it when we're traveling. Even when it's a little annoying in the moment, they've loved getting to see the end result!
    • Different swinging and scrolling angles (this ones hard to explain, watch my video above to see!)
    • Inside jokes and memories - while I keep most of my videos stuff I want to share, I always like to throw in a few things just for myself to look back and laugh about.
  • If you use a combination of videos and pictures, try to alternate and space the photos out.
  • Lastly, HAVE FUN WITH IT! There's always something you can do to switch it up. For example:
    • In my Cross Country Road Trip video, we made it a goal to get a video passing every single State Line sign. We also used the # of states we'd driven through so far as the "location".
    • For the end of my Spain & Portugal video, I surprised my parents with handwritten notes! Check out the video above.
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