So, Tax Day is coming quickly. After you stop groaning, let’s talk about the plus side of tax season: Tax Refunds! Sure, you have to get all your paperwork together and either spend hours poring over those stupid forms that make hardly any sense or pay some nice person who has a degree and years of experience to do it for you. I choose the latter, as it takes very little of my time, energy and money and I get my refund much faster and there’s probably not going to be any mistakes, like there usually is when I do it, even with Turbo Tax for Dummies. One short meeting (or long, since I like my CPA and end up chatting) and a couple of signatures a few days later and I not only know what I should expect to get back, but when I should see it in my bank account, too! What do I do while I’m anxiously awaiting my new fortune? Make travel plans, of course!
Tax refunds are like an unseen, and super easy, vacation savings fund. If you think about it, you pay taxes all year and you get all grouchy about it, but come tax time, you’ll be seeing it again! You didn’t actively have to set aside anything from each paycheck or do any work. It just shows up again as “free” money. Okay, we all know it was yours to begin with, but since you didn’t actually have access to it, you couldn’t spend it on other things (like shoes or new tires), but now that it’s in your hot little hands, you can spend it on something you want, like a vacation! Of course if you have pressing bills or house repairs, you should use it on those, but if you don’t, by all means, reward your hard work all year with a trip where you can relax and enjoy yourself. You deserve it.
I usually show you how to make your money stretch further, so let me also show you some great ways to spend your tax dollars and also get the most out of them:
Want someone to take care of everything for you? Why not check out a cruise or an all-inclusive resort? There are many Caribbean sales going on right now. If the sun and surf are calling you, you certainly have time to take advantage of what’s out there. Leave your wallet in your room be completely catered to on a cruise ship or do your own more-active thing in a resort setting.
CheapCaribbean has weekly all-inclusive sales that are super affordable and highly rated. They are all beachfront and offer great amenities and you can purchase as an entire package, so you get airfare and hotel (which includes meals, drinks and most entertainment) all in one place for a low price.
5-7 night cruises are on sale with Carnival Cruiselines from $239 per person. Book early (3-5 months out) and save 20% off. If you’re a past cruiser, you can also get upgrades, discounts, onboard credits and more!
Cruise on a brand new ship and get deep discounts! And I mean DEEP. $379 per person for a 7-night Mexican Riviera cruise just so you can test out the ship and all it has to offer. Expect some kinks, but otherwise it should be smooth (and highly affordable) sailing.
Hotels.com would like to save you 30% off regular rates if you make a Valentine’s reservation at any of their participating hotels worldwide before February 15 and stay by February 21.
If that is too soon for you, there is also a Mardi Gras sale with 30% off hotel rates into March.
Say Aloha to Winter and hello to warm weather and pristine beaches with Travelocity and Marriott’s Hawaii sale. Save up to 50% off hotels and package deals, starting at less than $750 per person with 4-nights accommodation and round-trip airfare. This is a limited time deal, so book quickly.
Looking to fly out of the country? There are some amazing deals right now, like the fare sale at Lufthansa where you can fly to Europe in March and April starting at less than $200 each way. This is a great deal and let’s you miss a lot of tourist times and hot or cold weather, barring some freak snowstorm or volcano eruption. This sale is good through February 15th, so book as soon as you can.
Exchange rates can be confusing. They change everyday and can end up being the difference between a few cents and a few dollars depending on when you change your money. If you can’t ever figure out how much something is in your own currency, having an exchange rate calculator is very important, because it can keep you from overspending. As much as I like the idea that foreign money isn’t real money, I don’t have the luxury to spend whatever I want and then face the consequences when I get home…and if I did, it would probably mean a month or two without heat, cable, phones and water. Those things are kind of important to normal people and since I don’t live in a tent in the wilderness, they are imperative for me to live. (Okay, not so much with the cable, but I’d rather not have to skip my weekly dose of Californication and How I Met Your Mother.) Here are a few websites that show up-to-the-minute exchange rates and also some that can be downloaded as an app to your smartphone, so you can figure out how many Krona are in a Euro and how many Pesos they turn out to be when you travel between countries.
· www.oand.com Not only do they offer updated exchange rates 24/7, they have a great (and free!) iPhone app that you can take with you everywhere. Discreetly convert any two currencies, so you always know what you’re paying. If you’re using your credit card, you even see the credit card rate of exchange that will be added to your purchase!
· Worldmate.com offers a free currency converter app for your Blackberry.
· Convert over 50 currencies with this free Android app.
Use FareCompare’s Fare Map for finding the best time to travel anywhere around the world.
Not sure where you want to go, but looking for some ideas? Dohop Away can give you the latest airfare deals from your home airport.
As you can see I've changed up my page a bit. Now you can find all my sites that I've written for on the sidebar to the right. You can click and go right to my article. I do ask that you take the time to check out the rest of the site while you're there, as they can be very useful for travelers and budgeters alike. There is now a list of my favorite links on the sidebar as well, and you can grab my button, too, if you would like to point others to my blog from your blog or website.
Soon, I will have a guest blog post on Independent Traveler, which is also a great resource for efficient and affordable travel. You might also be seeing me on the Minimus blog. Stay tuned for more info!
Do you have a travel site/blog that you’d like me to write a travel article for? Contact me here and give me details. I’d love to do it!