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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Doing Activities For Less

While just being in a new place can be awesome, it's what you do that makes a vacation. Sitting in your hotel room is fun and all, but you could do that at home for way cheaper. You want to do things. Experience your destination. Go home and brag about the cool things you saw and did. There are lots of ways to do that without draining your bank account. Here are ways to do activities for less when you travel.

cheaper travel activities

Daily Deals

If you missed out on my post last week, go back and read it now.


CityPASS

Skip the lines at attractions plus get a bundle of them for less. Generally, the more you do, the more you save. CityPASS can save you up to 50% on popular attractions in certain circumstances. There are over a dozen participating cities, including Dallas, Toronto and Philadelphia, and is one of the best ways I've saved on a vacation. You can read about my experience with the Southern California Pass if you missed it.


Smart Destinations

Like CityPASS, Smart Destinations' Go Cards and Explorer Passes allow you to do more for less. They cover different cities, too. I've blogged about these several times, most recently for Las Vegas. These have saved us a ton on activities in the past and will in the future.


City Cards

Not all cities are covered in the last two options, but that doesn't mean you're out of luck. Google "city card (insert destination here)" and see what comes up, even if you're headed out of the country. In the past we've used both the London Pass and the Paris Pass, and in the U.S. we've used VisiTicket and the Power Pass for Washington, DC and Hawaii. 


Free Attractions

This may seem like a no-brainer, but maybe not. There's always a (sometimes long) list of things to do for no money in a city. I just Google "free things to do in X" and I often get a lot more than expected. Look at a few sites to get a comprehensive list and them add the good stuff to your list of things to do and see how much further your dollars stretch.

You might be surprised by what things are free. Many of London's museums are free (with the exception of special exhibits), public parks may have awesome things to see in them (like sculpture parks), and city events may also have free admission. Expensive destinations often have more freebies too.


Find Coupons

If you're road tripping (and even if you aren't), you can fin coupons for dollars off things you want to do at your destination. Look online before you go, check the lobby of hotels and even rest stops. Not all of them can be as awesome as this one we stopped at in Virginia, but usually they have a good selection of brochures, with at least the most popular attractions.

Keep an open mind when you travel. Some of the lamest sounding things have turned out to be the most fun to us and some of the most expensive have been disappointing. With this in mind, I keep a list of random optional things with my vacation schedule, so if we find we want to bail, we have a list of other things to choose from. Also, don't be afraid to try new things that may be out of your comfort zone or to ask locals and hotel staff for suggestions. They live there, so they have a totally different perspective of a place. I've rarely been steered wrong, especially when it comes to food recommendations. A local's favorite place may turn out to be yours as well. We've found quite a few "hidden" gems this way.

What are your favorite ways to get deals on attractions and activities? What's been one of the best free things you've done in your travels?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

These Are The (Other) Travel Apps You Need

I have to tell you, as much as I think smartphones may have hurt us, because people don't talk anymore and have issues communicating and sit around the dinner table just staring at their screens, I'm also eternally grateful in how they have improved my travel experiences, especially with amazing travel apps. I try to limit my screen time on my phone, because I like to see places and taste my food and enjoy the company I keep, but travel apps can really save your sanity.

must-have travel apps

If you missed the last post, go check it out, because you're going to want to see the whole list. Some will want a few of these, some will want all. Your travel style may call for specific things. I don't use all of these apps every single time I travel, but there are several I do: Voxer, Evernote, TripIt. Here are 6 more must-have travel apps for you to consider to make your trips easier, funner (<< it's a word!) and less stressful.


Smart Receipts

As a travel blogger, I need to keep track of all the money I spend when I travel, because taxes. I also like to know where my money goes when I'm on a trip. Being on a budget can be hard, but if you've planned and keep up on your spending, you can make it easier and also be prepared for the next time you plan a trip. Smart Receipts lets you break down every dollar by putting your purchases in categories and allowing you to keep track of what goes where and you can even snap a photo of your receipt, so you have a record of it for tax purposes. I love it, because you can group purchases by trip and then by day within each trip. Download Smart Receipts for free.

photo credit

Voxer

Yes, you've heard me sing the praises of Voxer before. I opted for this over WhatsApp, which I know people love, but I didn't think it compared. Looking for a way to avoid paying crazy texting fees while out of the country, I found Voxer. It works on WiFi, it's free and it does more than a text. It's touted as a walkie-talkie app, but it's much more than that. Yes, you can use the push-to-talk option, which is helpful when you're somewhere you don't have hands free for typing (like the car), but you also have the option of sending a text message with no character max and photos. 

Doesn't sound that exciting to you? How about the safety aspect of it? Each time you send a message/photo, it is stamped with the actual date and time it was send, along with where it was sent from. It doesn't matter when they get it, only when you sent it. You can watch your message go as well, because it will show you it's sending, that it was delivered and if it's been read or not. There's no worry that your text has just gotten lost somewhere. If you click on the message, you can see exactly where it was sent from, with a little map. I love this, especially when I'm traveling alone, because if I get attacked, everyone I sent a message to can immediately pull that up and know where I was last.

If you aren't in a place where there's WiFi, you can still send messages. It'll just wait until you have WiFi to push those messages through but it will still show when it was originally sent, not when it finally sent. I love that. This was awesome when we were in Europe and I could stay in touch with everyone I needed to and share photos while on the go, all for free. And now I use Voxer at home instead of texting when I can. 


Evernote

Evernote is an invaluable app for my everyday life, as well as travel. I use it to make notes, work on blog posts while not near my computer, plan parties and keep important info close at hand. You can use this online and on your phone, so you can use it across devices to save articles you enjoy or want to read later, take pics of things you like and even share notes with others, which you can allow to make changes/additions. 

As you can see above, I've shown you my note that has pics of my editorial calendar, because when I'm on vacation, I like to take fewer things (like I'm not going to take that whole organizer), but also know if something is coming up that I could be working on while on the plane or waiting in line for something. Having a pic of my actual calendar is helpful for me personally.  

I have a premium account ($5/month) so I have 10GB of additions I can make each month and am also able to look at past versions of notes, in case I make the mistake of saving something accidentally. When traveling, it can be helpful to keep a copy of your credit cards, ID, passport and anything else that might be annoying if lost. You can keep your account from prying eyes by logging out and using a password. That way people can't get into your account for stuff like that, but you can get to it easily if you actually need it. You can also download penultimate and make handwritten notes as well. I love that feature. I enjoy being able to use Evernote offline and allowing it to sync when I have internet access again. This lets me do work or make notes while traveling, no matter where I am.

Google Translate

Okay, so I try really hard to learn foreign languages, but it's not realistic that you are going to learn all the words for a two week trip, only to learn a whole new language for another trip. There will be (a lot) of things you don't know, even if you can get by. Sometimes you need to ask for something specific, or someone is trying to give you directions anad maybe you don't understand a crucial word (believe me, this happens more than you would think). Google Translate will save your butt. Get your point accross, figure out what that weird thing on a menu is, find out what that joke the waiter just told was. For real. It'll help. And you can use it offline.  



Jetzy

So, you wanna meet some people while you travel? Or get a local's opinion on where you should go or eat or what to do? Jetzy allows you to share your own moments, while sharing in others' trips. I haven't tried it yet, but I have been messing around in it for a future trip and it's pretty cool. Connect with others to make your trips even more awesome. Chat with users and even meet up for a truly local experience. Jetzy is free!


Just Ahead

Can't find a tour that's free or affordable? You could spend $15-20 on a book that's half full of things you don't care about or you could spend that money on an awesome tour that your phone can lead you on. You don't need service or WiFi to use them and you don't have to keep up with anyone. Plus, if you miss something, you can always play it again. Much easier than having to explain that you weren't listening, because of that cute dog you just stopped to pet. Also, you can't stand the thought of wandering around with a pack of strangers, this is a great alternative. Download for free and pay for just the tours you want/need.  

Do you use any of these travel apps currently? If so, what do you think? Or do you have favorites you don't leave home without?
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