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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Getting Deep Discounts on Car Rentals

Sometimes when you travel, it’s just not practical to take public transportation. Maybe you are covering a lot of ground on your trip or the bus schedule is iffy or you are on a business trip that calls for you to be at specific places at particular times. The problem with renting a car is that it can quickly add up over just a few days. Getting a good deal is not too difficult, but it does take some know-how and persistence. Here are some of the easiest ways to get the best deal possible.

Keep checking rates

Once you reserve a car, you are not usually locked into the rate at the time you booked. Rates can go up or down between the time you book it and the time you actually pick up your car. If they go down, you can always cancel and rebook with no penalty. Keep checking up to the day before you leave. You never know how much cheaper you can get by just keeping your eye on the rental rates.

Book for a week

Weekly rates are sometimes much better than if you booked each day separately and often even more affordable than a four- or five-day rental. Check the fine print to make sure there’s no penalty for returning your car early. If there isn’t, take the weekly rate and then bring your rental back a few days early. It can only help them make more money by having an extra car on-hand.

Reserve the smallest possible car

Yes, you’re on vacation and you want to be comfortable, but think about how much time you’ll actually be spending in the car. Rental companies can’t downgrade your car once it’s booked – only upgrades are acceptable. This means if you reserve a compact or an economy car (which are the most popular) and they don’t have any when you get there, they have to give you the next available size up at the same rate. If all they have at the time is a luxury car, they are obligated to rent it to you. The other upside to renting a smaller car is that it will cost you less in fuel, because you’ll get better gas mileage.

Use your own insurance

Insurance can end up costing you the same price as your rental. If you have insurance at home, it’s likely you are covered in any car you drive, whether you own it or not. Check with your personal insurance company before you leave home and then tell the rental car company you don’t need their optional insurance. The same goes for the credit card you use to pay for your rental. A lot of major credit cards have insurance coverage for rental automobiles that kicks in when the card is used.

Skip the GPS

Sure, it’s probable that you won’t know where you’re going when you travel to a new destination, unless directions to your hotel are super simple, but that doesn’t mean you need to rent the navigation system from the car company. If you have a personal GPS, bring it instead. It will take up a little space in your luggage, but it will save you quite a bit of money if you will be at your destination for more than a few days. Also, the fee is outrageous if your car is broken into and the system is stolen. You would stand to lose much less if your own GPS was taken.

Avoid the inclusive gas option

By far the biggest rip-off when you rent a car is the optional fill-up upon return. While there are some exceptions, it is very common for them to charge you over a dollar more per gallon than what is charged at the pump. On top of that, no matter how much gas you return with, you will be made to pay as if the tank was empty, and at the highly inflated rate. Tell the rep at the desk that you will return the car with a full tank and then ask where the nearest station is, so you can take note to stop there upon your return.

Rent away from the airport

Airports impose a rental fee to car companies, which they then pass onto the customer. If it is possible to rent off-site, compare pricing to see if there is a notable difference. If there is, choose the least expensive option.

Add a second driver

Most rental companies allow you to add a second driver to your rental for no fee once you get to the counter to sign in. If you are married – or live in the same house and say you are spouses – then you can both be on the rental agreement for the same rate as just one.

Get the most out of your rental

You always want to get the most for your money and renting a car is no different. Sign up for reward programs and earn points toward free rentals, upgrades and more when you use each company. You can usually use your frequent flyer membership number to earn miles for each rental you complete as well. Sometimes you have to pay a bit more for your rental this way, but usually it’s less than a dollar per rental day, so you are still coming out ahead.

Rent from a person

Use Turo*. I've done this before. It's basically like an Airbnb, but for cars. Rent a car from an individual and it includes insurance and mileage, plus you can pay extra for drop-off if you need it at the airport or somewhere else. You may just have to give the owner a ride. 

When we went to LA last August, I was having issues finding a decent rental car rate. Everything for 5 days was upwards of $400. On Turo, I found a great car with excellent reviews for less than half that price. The app is easy to use and everyone is vetted, plus it's cheaper than using rideshares if you need to do a lot of driving. *If you click through my link to sign up, you'll get $25 credit towards your first rental.

Renting a car doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. It’s fun to drive something new, it’s exciting to save money and you’ll be glad to not have to rely on public transportation if you will be traveling around a lot during your stay. A car rental also enables you to take day trips from the city and go on your own schedule. With these tips, you can eliminate the stress of high rental costs, because you’ll know the rate you’re paying is the best one that you could find.

How often do you rent a car when you travel?

Saturday, May 18, 2019

5 Affordable Summer Beach Destinations

Summer is all about visiting the beach, and with a majority of travelers doing so in the summer months, it can be hard to find a decent deal near the shore. I've read that something like 40% of people will not travel over the summer due to vacation costs. Luckily, there are still some spots on the coast that won’t break your bank. 

affordable summer beach destinations

They may not be places you’ve thought of traveling before, but if your goal is to walk along the sand and play in the ocean, here are five budget cities to plan your summer getaway to.

Photo by MacKenzi Martin on Unsplash

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

With tons of resorts on the oceanfront, there is someplace to stay for every budget. Rental condos of all sizes are always on special to entice families to visit. Saving so much on your accommodation can help you do a lot more once you’re there. Not only will you find over 60 miles of beautiful beaches, but also amusement parks, award-winning golf courses, watersports and lots of outdoor activities like fishing, hiking and shopping.

Santa Monica, California

Best known for its famous pier, Santa Monica is packed with great people watching, mild weather to enjoy the beach and delicious restaurants. Third Street Promenade has wonderful shopping and in the evening you can catch live street performances and other entertainment. During the summer there are plenty of special activities to keep you busy on the beach, but if you’re hoping to get away from the crowds and hope to catch a glimpse of a famous face or two, jump on the hop-on, hop-off bus yellow route and ride it to amazing neighborhoods where you can get off and sightsee, including Rodeo Drive, Brentwood County Mart and Fox Studios.

Photo by parth upadhyay on Unsplash

Jersey Shore, New Jersey

For a traditional beach getaway, you can’t beat Jersey Shore. It’s not all Snooki and JWoww down at the water’s edge. Try your hand at boardwalk games, get on a few rides, take in a bit of shopping and then hang out at one of the many restaurants near the pier. If the fun in the sun becomes a bit too much for you, you can always hop on a train to ride into New York or try your luck in Atlantic City.

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

South Padre Island, Texas

Best known as a hotspot for spring breakers, South Padre Island is a great place to engage in a variety of watersports, and also has many other activities to pique your interest. There’s a weekly farmers’ market, fireworks on the beach, catamaran races and other festivals during the warmer months. After lounging on the beach all day, dance your nights away at the numerous nightclubs on the island.

Photo by Taylor Rooney on Unsplash

Kennebunkport, Maine

Not really a famous destination for beach-lovers outside of the New England area, Kennebunkport feels like a bit more of an upscale ocean getaway. Feast on locally caught seafood and explore the historic town of Kennebunk. When not hanging out at the beach, you can fill your days with browsing antique shops, checking out the latest art and learning about long shipbuilding. Don’t forget to make some time to go shopping at a few of the many boutique stores to find the perfect gifts and souvenirs to bring back home.

No matter what your travel style, there is a beach vacation destination to suit you and your budget. From family-friendly to a romantic escape, one of these five cities can be the perfect vacation spot for you.

Where's your favorite summer beach spot?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Staying In Touch with Home

When you travel, it can sometimes be hard to keep in touch with home, especially if you're traveling out of the country.  I'm not about to just cut off all communication for a week or two just because I don't want to pay $.60 for a text message or much more than that per phone call minute. Here are the ways I stay in touch with home when I travel.

apps to connect with home
Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash
You could rely on email, but if you're traveling solo or actually want to speak to a human being, that's a bit impersonal, though you can also email people in addition to emailing them all the fun details of your days. I tend to do both, but I like for people to know that I haven't died, and I want to see my dog while I'm away for a week or more.

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash


Instead of texting, I use Voxer. Not only is it free, but it works off WiFi, so it can push through your "texts" when you have a signal, but will timestamp it when you actually sent it. It will also tell you when your message was delivered and when it was read. If the recipient clicks on it, can see exactly where it was sent from. This way you save money and people know you're alive, and if you go missing, they know where you were last. Voxer allows you to send/receive messages, videos and voice recordings, and it's free, unless you upgrade for more capabilities. You could use WhatsApp instead. I just didn't think it was as user-friendly.

Photo by Glen Anthony on Unsplash


Yes, I'm old, apparently, because the kids all snicker when you mention Skype instead of Facetime. One, I don't have an iPhone, and two, I don't want one. Skype is mostly free, easy to use, and allows you to actually see another person, even if you think you look like a hideous beast on camera like I do. 

Trying to figure out a time to talk to someone when there's a very significant time difference can be difficult, but I generally send a Voxer to my mom (or whoever I'm going to call), to let them know when I'm planning to Skype, so we can have the app open. I use it on my phone, so I can give them a walk thru of my Airbnb. Ha! 


This doesn't strictly help you stay in touch, but it does let people know where you are at any given time. I check in to most places I go, because I like a record of things I did, in case I forget, but I also like my friends to know where I am, just in case. If I'm away and I don't check in somewhere for a day, they probably know there's something wrong. Plus, Swarm check-ins are fun and you earn points and stickers. 

Photo by Oleg Magni on Unsplash


This is another way for me to allow people to keep tabs on me. I upload my entire itinerary to TripIt, including my flights and where I'm staying, so I have something with all my confirmation numbers and addresses and phone numbers in one place (which also saves paper) and then I share it with one or two other people who like to know what I'm doing and who I want to check in with.

These are just a few of my favorite apps, but they are especially useful for keeping up with people wherever you are. If you have a favorite app to stay in touch with home, I want to hear about it. Let me know about it in the comments.
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