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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why and Where to Travel Solo

Solo Travel can be scary, but it can also be rewarding. As an only child, I'm used to my alone time (even away from my husband), so solo travel and other activities doesn't seem weird to me. I've traveled solo before, by air and by car, and I'd highly recommend it. If you've considered it or even if you haven't, I think everyone should travel alone at least once in their life. It doesn't have to be lonely or boring. It can really teach you about yourself, too.

solo travel tips

Do Whatever You Want (When You Want)

When you travel alone, you only have to plan for yourself. It's much easier to do things, because you can travel on your own schedule, not worry if anyone else is bored and you can skip the things you don't want to do. That sounds pretty great to me. If I want to go to the museum for four hours, I can. If I want to watch a parade, I can. If I want to get takeout and then take a nap, I can! The freedom when you solo travel is pretty great.

It's Easier to Travel

Truthfully, when you travel with others, you have to find tickets for more than one seat on the plane, on the bus, on the train. As one person, it's easy to find a free seat and it's sometimes cheaper, too.

Staying Safe Requires a Little Extra Effort

You maylet your guard down when you travel with others, but when you travel solo, you need to really pay attention to your surroundings and the people there. I always bring a cross-body purse that has anti-theft zippers. I figure as a single person, I'm an easier target for thieves, but I like to stay alert when I walk around, and that means looking around, not playing on my phone as I walk, not walking around with headphones in, doing everything I can while it's light outside, wearing shoes I could conceivably run in, and trying not to walk in deserted parts of town. I'm probably more untrusting than a lot of people, but I have never been mugged and I still have fun, so I'm doing okay. 

Other tips to stay safe: 

  • Don't take drinks from anyone except the wait staff and never leave your drink unattended. In fact, don't even look away from your drink if you are sitting at the bar or with strangers, because it only takes a split second for them to slip something in.
  • Research the area you plan to stay and make sure it isn't affordable/cheap because it's sketchy.
  • Know where you're going before you head out. Study your map or directions a bit before you leave your hotel, so you aren't walking around with your nose in a map. This immediately makes you the "lost" target.
  • Look confident. People don't tend to mess with those that look like they know where they're going...even if they don't.
  • Never tell people you're traveling on your own.
  • Give someone at home your itinerary, or text someone to let them know where you'll be. On my solo road trip, I had three people I checked in with throughout my drives I use Voxer to keep in touch instead of texting, because it shows when I send the message and from where, plus I can see that the message was delivered to the person and if they read it or not. Make sure you check in throughout your trip, so people know you didn't die. I'm sure your mom would appreciate it.

Learn More About Yourself

Some people never really take the time to learn who they are. Being inside your head is something that you should do, if only to to figure out who you are when you don't have a travel buddy. I know who I am when I am around other and I know who I am when I'm alone. It's not necessarily the same person, but I find myself enjoying different things as I go about on my own. Learn what you like, what you don't like, what you're capable of and how to deal with being in a foreign place when you only have yourself to depend on.

Stay On Your Travel Budget

When you know what you have to spend, it's easier to travel within your means. There's no one saying "let's do this or that" when you really don't have the funds to do it. If you decide to splurge when you solo travel, it's because you know you can swing it, not because of peer pressure. 

No  Fighting

When you spend 24 hours a day with someone(s), things can get stressful. You may not agree with them, you may be hangry or just generally tired of being near them. There has almost never been a trip that I have taken with others where I haven't had a meltdown of some sort and either yelled at them or broke down crying for one reason or another. Travel with others is hard, but solo travel can be totally pressure-free, as you are the only one who can stress you out or annoy you.

Gain Confidence

If you weren't confident before, because you were uncomfortable eating alone or wandering a museum alone (both of which can be rectified by having a smartphone and a backup battery and a magazine, book or notepad), doing it more often will make you more comfortable. Maybe you think everyone's staring at you, but they aren't. Everyone's focused on their own thing and they aren't paying attention to you eating alone and writing an email or playing Sudoku. 

If you want to interact with people (or you don't), bust out your camera and take some pics. It'll give you something to do, but it can also be a talking point between you and others, especially if you ask them to take your picture. Probably don't do this while at a restaurant, unless you want photos of the cool decor and your awesome food. There are so many food bloggers out there, this doesn't seem weird to anyone anymore. Also, servers are probably used to taking pics of diners and are usually happy to do it. 

You're Not Holding Anyone Back

So, on my last trip to Vegas, when I road tripped all alone, I had driven non-stop (well, potty breaks and gassing up happened) from Portland to Vegas to save money on accommodations and airfare. It  practically 16 hours of being in the car, but it was fun for me, but it was also exhausting. Since I was all alone, I could sleep in or go back at 2 in the afternoon to take a nap. I could eat a sandwich and chips for dinner if I wanted. Nobody was going to be annoyed with me that I didn't have the energy to go out after spending half a day at the Travel Goods Show. 

As an introvert, forcing myself to engage with a bunch of strangers is also draining, so if I wanted to eat my sandwich in bed, because I was done with people, nobody tried to get me to do otherwise. The only person who could be mad at me was me. Luckily, I've been to Vegas so many times, I was happy with the one day of "sightseeing" and the lunch I had with my husband's lovely aunt that I stuffed in before heading back home. One night I picked up a giant selection of sushi and ate it while watching TV and checking emails. It was awesome.

Get Away From it All

Don't limit yourself when you travel solo. Just because you don't have someone to go with you doesn't mean foreign travel is out of the question. Budget Travel has a nice list of 35 easy solo trips to try. Cooperatize rounds up 10 solo female travel bloggers whose pics will make you want to get out and see the world. Travel+Leisure wants you to jetset on your own and, to get you started, made up a list of the best countries for solo travels.

Are you a solo traveler? What do/did you enjoy most about it?

P.S. Learn more about how to meet people and make friends while traveling solo. {#sorrynotsorry about all the selfie pics in this post}

Saturday, August 27, 2016

What Do You Do When Your Flight Is Overbooked

These days, it’s almost mandatory that airlines overbook flights in order to make money and also fill each and every seat on the plane. There is a small percentage of people who arrive too late to make their flight or just don’t show up and the airlines take this into account when booking seats on each flight. Unfortunately, this means that planes are often crowded and many people each day get bumped and have to sit around the airport for hours waiting for the next flight going to their destination. This is especially true during the holidays. Of course, getting to the gate early could have prevented that from happening. While you could dwell on all the things you dislike about overbooked flights, it’s just as easy to look at the bright side and see how fewer flights per route and stuffed airplane cabins can work for you.

overbooked flight rules

You want to get to your destination just like everyone else, but unless you have reservations to do something right after you arrive or are traveling for business, you can easily be a Good Samaritan and give up your seat to someone who really needs to arrive on time. You may be doing a good deed for someone else, but you’re also getting something in return, besides karma points. Airlines hope that people will volunteer to get bumped and are willing to reward you for doing so (even though they will reward Passenger X, too, when he arrives late and can’t get a seat). Maybe his ride was late or there was traffic or his alarm didn’t go off and he’s in a bind. Let him have your seat and wait for the next flight out. You will end up getting to your destination a bit late, but with some extras in your pocket.

While Passenger X happily gets to his work meeting on time, you can browse the Internet, grab lunch or peruse the shops. You might even want to start planning your next vacation, because your empty seat can net you a free ticket on a future flight. That’s right! You now have two tickets for the price of one! The fuller the flight is, the more desperate an airline will be to have people volunteer to be bumped. This gives you leverage. You can haggle for anything from a credit for future travels (a credit is always better than a free ticket, because you can use it like a gift certificate) to a hotel room to free drinks at the bar. Since the seat you gave up was, essentially, paid for twice by you and Passenger X, the airlines aren’t losing money by rebooking and also giving you a free fare certificate for the future. Of course, what you can bargain for also depends on how long after your initial flight your new one is scheduled. The longer the wait, the more you may get.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has imposed a mandatory compensation for all those bumped from a flight and it always helps to know what you are owed, just in case. For flights arriving less than two hours after your original flight, you should be rewarded at least the cost of your one-way ticket, up to $650. For flights arriving more than two hours after your original flight, airlines are required to compensate you twice the cost of your one-way ticket, up to $1,300. 

If you are looking to get bumped in order to score some free travel, arrive at the airport early, check in at the gate to see if the flight is oversold and travel with only a carry-on to make it easier to get your stuff to your destination with you. Do something nice for someone else and reap the benefits in big ways. Now you can travel practically for free again in the future, helping you to stretch your trip budget enormously. Woot!

Have you ever been bumped from an overbooked flight?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why Malta Is On My Travel List

Okay, so sometimes I get travel inspiration from weird places and Malta may just be the strangest. A few years ago, I was watching the World’s Strongest Man Competition, which I do when I catch it, because I love to see the crazy things they make them do. Previous ones have been held in places like Victoria Falls, where they complained of extreme heat. Like many sporting events, you get some wonderful shots of the destination between competitions, as well as before and after commercial breaks. This last one I watched took place in Malta, and it was stunning. Of course, I’d heard of it, but I didn’t know much about it or even where it was located. Until recently, I actually thought it was a Greek island, but apparently, it’s part of European Union.

Malta travel
photo credit
Since that series of competitions, I’ve been planning a trip to Malta as an addition to a European vacation. I mean, if I’m already there, why not make a quick plane trip to Malta from Turkey or Greece? I’ve done a bit of research to see what I want to see and do there on my visit…on a budget, obviously.

photo credit

The island of Malta is packed with museums of all kinds. I’m partial to ones that are unique, though I’m not adverse to art. These museums have caught my attention:
  • St. Paul’s Catacombs – I’m always fascinated my underground attractions, especially ones that are especially historical. The St. Paul’s Catacombs are interconnected Roman cemeteries that were used up to the 4th century to get around the law that prohibited burying human remains within the city.
  • The Old Prison – Not only can you see what a prison cell looked like, but there is also a permanent exhibit of fortifications and it’s the home of the largest collection of historical graffiti on the island.
  • The Palace Armoury – Amazingly, considering the size of Malta, it is home to the largest collection of arms and armor still housed in its original building. The Palace Armoury is where the Knights of St. John (a group of warrior monks) stored everything they needed to defend Catholicism from the Ottoman Turks.
  • The Palace State Rooms – The pride of the Presidential Palace where you can see the only complete set of the 18th century tapestries called “Les Teintures des Indes”, a portrait gallery of Maltese islands rulers, Baroque ceiling paintings, as well as period furnishings and décor that is over 400 years old.
The Water
Of course there is the beach to enjoy on a Malta vacation, but that’s not the only way to view the water. The Valletta Waterfront is lined with historical architecture, the Quay Wall – where merchants unloaded their wares on Grand Harbour – and fantastic shopping, dining and leisure experiences. This is also where you will find the Port of Valletta, where cruises dock, and an awesome open air museum. It’s a great place to take envy-worthy photos.

If you like diving and swimming in stunning waters, the Blue Grotto is the place to go. On the southern coast, it is a popular tourist attraction, mostly due to the way the phosphorescent colors of the underwater plants reflect on the surface. The colors can be seen from sunrise until lunchtime, and create a riot of oranges, purples, greens and blues. If getting in the water isn’t for you, as I tend to shy away from, then you can hop on a boat to see the caves up close.
When I travel, I may not buy much, but I love to browse. I will take a few things home to commemorate my trip, generally ornaments, unless I find something I just can’t live without. It pays to know what local products to look for, though, in case it’s something you can’t get anywhere else. Malta isn’t as hard-core about shopping as many other vacation destinations, but that doesn’t mean those who love to get a little retail therapy will be disappointed. There are plenty of upscale boutiques to choose from and you can find the finest hand-made silverware on Republic Street. Look for lace, knitwear, baskets and hand-blown glass.

Malta also has a lot of gourmet foods, like sundried tomatoes, wine and olives. They may be a little more expensive to bring back with you, but make excellent gifts. Because of the international influence on the island, you can purchase some of the latest fashions and other European goods and décor. As a lover of outdoor markets, I’d definitely go for some local produce at the Valletta Sunday Market or Marsaxlokk Market.
Besides the foods I plan on buying at the markets, I really get excited about local foods and going out to eat on vacation. I’d expect nothing less than fantastic seafood from an island nation, and with all the Mediterranean influence going on, Malta is going to have some interesting eats. Here are just a few that sound delicious to me:
  • Bigilla – Broad beans with garlic.
  • Helwa tat-Tork – A sugary dessert made of whole and crushed almonds and tahini.
  • Kapunata – A Maltese version of ratatouille made with tomatoes, eggplant, green peppers and capers.
  • Lampuki Pie – A fish pie made with dorado or mahi-mahi.
  • Rabbit Stew
  • Sargu – A white bream fish.
Malta also has its own wines, even though it imports wines from larger regions, which I’d think anyone who can appreciate a glass would want to try. They have the traditional grape varieties, but make sure to try a glass or two of wines made with Gellewza and Ghirghentina grapes.

Where to Stay
Malta may have tons of wonderful hotels, but when I travel, I like to feel like a local and get my own place. Vacation rentals give you more space, so when traveling with more than two people, you don’t feel like you aren’t on top of each other. Most have included parking, a kitchen in which to cook your own meals (that you can make from foods you bought at the market) as well as more creature comforts you enjoy at home, like TV, laundry and WiFi.

Chestertons rents both apartments and homes for short and long-term visitors, many that are perfect for the budget traveler who would rather spend their money experiencing their destination than where to sleep, but still have a comfortable and lovely place to call home at the end of the day. Just doing a quick search, I found a lovely two bedroom, two bath apartment in Marsaskala for less than $80/night. It has a washing machine (pack light!) and a sweet little balcony. Chestertons makes it easy to plan the perfect vacation to Malta, giving you the opportunity to feel like a local.

Is Malta on your travel wish list, or have you already been on a previous vacation?

Disclosure: This post was written by on behalf of Chestertons, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Visiting Las Vegas' Springs Preserve

On our last trip to Vegas, we had several spare days where we spent time with family and also did our own sightseeing things. Though we've been there a dozen or more times, there's always more to see in and around the Strip. One of the things we've ever done was to check out the Springs Preserve off 95, which brings together local plants of the southwest, native animals, history, science and art to create a fun and immersive experience for visitors of all ages.

Springs Preserve Las Vegas

Vegas has its own natural history museum (which was news to me), but you can get a little taste of evolution and wildlife of the Las Vegas Valley and surrounding areas. Check out this Cumbrian mammoth they had on display! His name was Christopher Columbrian, which I thought was fun.

In this same building are artifacts and exhibits from the beginning of settlers coming to the area. We learned about how the Hoover Dam was built by tons of workers, communications among early settlers, transportation and more. 

The museum part explored he beginnings of what we know as modern Vegas, including the role of the mob, the evolution of slot machines, showgirl costumes and even the life of Howard Hughes and the things he left behind in the room he lived in. 

Springs Preserve is made up of several buildings and outdoor spaces. It's great for kids, because even the art exhibits are fun and some are hands-on like this one that uses light and shadow to show hidden pictures in different works. Some of these were white until you looked through a viewer (as you can see above) and then the piece came to life with color and beautiful scenes. Some were easy to see, but changed as the light changed. The kids in attendance also loved this exhibit, because it was colorful and exciting. I'd love to have such a thing in my house to wow my visitors.

Visitors can learn about early settlement and life in the Valley through interactive exhibits like this one that shows the land auctions.

And this one that allows you to learn about train travel. 

And then this one that teaches you about the Native Americans already living in the Valley and how they farmed and lived along the water to make life easier.

We got to the Preserve just in time for an animal show, mostly for kids, but just as fun and educating for adults.

During the show, you learn about some of the desert's more interesting inhabitants, vote on who you think is the ultimate survivor and kids get to play challenges with one another to show what they've learned or already know about the desert and how to live in the scorching heat and, sometimes, freezing nights.

Aside from the shows, there are also exhibits with native animals and insects.  

In another part of the Preserve is a science museum of sorts. When we weretherewe learned about how light works in certain situations. Here's what it looks like in a prism...or a kaleidoscope of me!

There was also this fun set-up by Polaroid that used different colored lights to produce colorful shadows. Who doesn't want a green shadow? I'll tell you who: nobody, because it's awesome!

Outside, there was a desert botanical garden, which we missed, because it was getting late and also it was super hot outside. Instead, we opted to ride the train and get some cool drinks and a popscicle. The train takes you through the grounds, which also have running, hiking and biking trails for visitors to explore. 

Along the way, if you choose to hike,are shady spots with info about points of interest. Next time we visit, I'll attempt to hit up the outside portion as soon as we get there in the morning, because it looked pretty interesting.

Their gift shop is fairly large and has a bunch of cool stuff pertaining to just about everything at the Preserve, plus there's this sweet bonnet-wearing dinosaur.

We decided to duck into Divine Cafe before leaving and were pleasantly surprised. First off, the food is affordable. Most main plates cost $10-12. Second, the cafe is gorgeous, huge and very clean. Third, they have a wonderful outdoor seating area that has shelter from the sun. 

You order at the counter and then get your number and find a table. When our food came, it was absolutely the most beautiful plating I'd ever seen. 

Eric ordered the chicken milanese flatbread with sweet potato tots and I got the special, which was a monte cristo with fries. Did I know it came with an egg? No, I did not. Have my monte cristos been missing that the whole time? Yes they have. It was actually as delicious as it was lovely, and while it doesn't look like much, it was very filling. If you're in the area, even if you're not interested in going to the Preserve, I'd recommend visiting for the cafe alone. 

We actually purchased a membership while we were here. It was $45 for an individual + guest, which is $15 cheaper than any other garden seems to sell memberships for. It gives us one year of access to Springs Preserve, with discounts at the gift shop, cafe and train, and we can use it at hundreds of reciprocal gardens across North America to get in for free (or discounted). In fact, we used it already last weekend to visit the Oregon Garden in Silverton when we had family visiting and got a discount on admission for the person we brought along. If your family visits botanical gardens and the like while traveling, a family membership at a garden that is in the reciprocal program is a heck of a deal and can really save you year-round, whether you're on vacation or not. We plan to use ours again when we visit New Orleans in the fall.

So, if you're in Las Vegas and looking for something different and away from the craze of The Strip, hop in the car and drive the 20 minutes to get there. It's an affordable way to spend the better part of a day and you'll learn more about the Valley than you thought you could. Tickets run $18.95 per adult, so if there is more than one of you, and you plan to even visit one more garden during the year, it just makes sense to buy a membership if you don't already have one. And if you're a Pokemon-hunter, you'll find a bunch around the grounds and may even get a free button, too!

What's your favorite non-Vegasy thing to do when you visit?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Why We Always Opt for Vacation Rentals

You’re probably sick of me talking about how vacation rentals are awesome, but since I genuinely think they can stretch your travel dollar further and use them myself, I will keep telling you until you do it – and probably afterwards – and see for yourself. Though we often stay in timeshare properties when it’s just the two of us, it is even more beneficial for travelers who go as four or more, because it gives you room to stretch out and also get away from people if you need to. Being cramped up in one room with people can give you a bit of cabin fever, especially when you’re also spending all day with them. We had 4 adults, 3 kids and a baby in a 3 bedroom and it was almost like hanging out at home, except not boring.

I’ve included many photos of us enjoying our space that was not a hotel room with two beds and a tiny table with chair. The 3 bedrooms were perfect, because everyone had their own room to go to if they were feeling tired or annoyed by being with other people. Sometimes that just happens when you are on vacation. It can be a bit stressful spending that much time together. Here are some other reasons why I love and recommend a vacation rental, be it condo, timeshare, house or apartment:

You can spend as much time in your rental as you want. Not that you can’t do that in a hotel room, but generally you don’t want to, because it’s a bed and a TV, or the maid will come and disturb you while she’s cleaning and trying to do her job. There’s no Do Not Disturb sign you need to hang on your door when you rent, because you don’t have maid service (usually). In some rentals, if you stay a certain amount of days, they will come once to change out your sheets and towels, but that’s pretty much it. Your room is equipped with anything you might need from towels for the pool to a vacuum cleaner.
Save money on longer stays. Hotels will almost never give you a price break when you stay longer, unless it’s a special they are running. On vacation rentals, you generally get a better deal on weekly stays than on nightly stays, which means if you stay a week, you may spend the same as if you only stayed and paid for 4 nights.
Save money for more guests. When you stay in a hotel, you pay more for anyone over two guests in a room. Unless children stay free (which they do at many hotels and resorts), you can end up paying $20+ for each per night. This sucks especially when there are four adults sharing a room with two queens. Obviously, this room was not made for just two people, but they are charging you an arm and a leg for having the appropriate number of guests. You could spend that same money on a suite to give you more space or spend it on a rental that comes with useful amenities and separate bedrooms.

Save money on dining out. This is a big one for a lot of people. Why spend $10 per night to get a fridge put into your room for a week when you can have an entire kitchen and plates and cups and serving dishes and flatware…and sometimes a BBQ? For real! You could spend every meal out and go broke just eating or you could go to the grocery store and grab some necessities and stock your fridge and cabinets with things you like to eat for breakfast or lunch and keep some money in your pocket by only dining out for a few meals. Dining out with 7 people was not cheap, but we hit up the grocery store and for $70 we had food for all our breakfasts, a couple lunches, a dinner and a yummy dessert for our 4 days we were there. We may have gotten away with less if I didn’t want to make a fun Indian stew, but I had also packed all of the dry ingredients in a plastic container, so I wouldn’t have to buy rice and spices that we wouldn’t use and I already had.

Get separate rooms. Yes, I’ve already explained this, but I include it because this was even more useful to us in a mixed crowd, because the baby could be put down in a room and not be kept awake by us in the main room. If one of the kids was bad or needed some alone time, they had somewhere to go and we weren’t all punished or had to watch the same show they wanted to watch. We didn’t all have to go to bed when the kids went, so we could stay up a few hours later and play games and hang out while they slept down the hall. Also, when Eric and I had to leave earlier than them on the day we were checking out, we didn’t wake anyone up taking showers, putting on clothes and dragging our luggage out.

Pack less and do your laundry. I’m always going to tell you to pack light. For four days, we packed one large carry-on and the Eagle Creek Emerson shoulder bag. That’s it. For two of us. I even packed some pantry items (see dining out above), a package of naan, activities for the kids and an extra pair of shoes. You might check to see if your rental has laundry facilities, but most do or are close to a Laundromat. We were fortunate to have a washer and dryer right in our rental. It even had a door, so we could throw clothes in and close it off and not disturb everyone. Not that it was that loud. While we didn’t need to use it, we still did laundry before we packed to go back home so we would have clean smelling clothes and baggage. We have stayed at ones that have had laundry facilities on-site and also carried our clothes down the street to do them. It takes very little time and gives you a chance to plan your next day, catch up on email, play a game or read the book/magazine you brought. Downtime is good.

You don’t need to lock up all your valuables every day. Because you don’t have daily maid service, you don’t have to round up everything you brought with you and stash it away, even if it’s just dirty clothes and receipts. We leave our netbook out where we use it, throw dirty clothes in the hamper we bring and spread out our toiletries in the bathroom like we like them and don’t have to worry about putting them in a drawer before we leave so they can clean up after us.
Get free parking. Generally, this is true, but with some condos and apartments, you may have to pay to park your car. We have been lucky so far, or haven’t rented a car at our destination.

Other reasons you might like a vacation rental:
·      They can be a lot quieter.
·   Nobody is running up and down your hall at 3am, keeping you awake (unless it’s someone you brought with you)
·      No one sees you coming or going like they do in the hotel lobby.
·    It’s still cheaper to split the cost with several travelers than it is to get separate hotel  rooms.
·    You have a fridge, so you don’t have to run back and forth to the ice machine if you want a cold drink.
·      It’s like living at your destination.
·   The kitchen is stocked with all the necessities, including basic spices. We made a lovely rub for the chicken we grilled with what was in our cupboard. We felt creative.
Check out these sites for vacation rentals: FlipKey | RedWeek | Roomorama | VRBO
Do you rent instead of staying in hotels? What’s your favorite benefit?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How to Travel the U.S. for Free or Cheap (and Safe)

Traveling can definitely be expensive, but if you plan and do your research, you have a much better chance of saving big money. I have traveled my whole life, but I never was a college student who had the opportunity to get and see the world, because I went to school and I worked to pay for my schooling and the few bills I had. I lived at home, but because books were so expensive for my classes, I really didn’t have any leftover cash to put toward travel. It was also a time when I didn’t know all my options for jetsetting for nearly no money.

Now, there are so many ways to save for students wanting to get out and travel the globe, it’s crazy that there aren’t more packing their bags. Though many want to backpack through Europe, there are just as many things to see in the U.S. and just as easy to save your pennies to do it. Here are some tips to travel for cheap or free, while still staying safe, because that’s even more important that saving a few bucks.

A lot of people like to suggest couchsurfing as a way to save money and spending nothing on your accommodations. Sure, you could do that, but if you’re like me, you don’t enjoy staying in a complete stranger’s house. When I travel, I need space and alone time and privacy. I also don’t really trust people that much. Instead of doing this, look for housesitting opportunities where you can stay at someone’s house while they’re on vacation. You have full run of it, might actually make some money, and all you may have to do is take in their mail, water their plants and feed their pets. Sounds pretty good, right? It’s like being at home where you travel.

Walk or Bike It
You could totally take a cab or rent a car, but those are going to cost you a ton of money in the long run. Uber will save you a bit, but it’ll still end up taking a big chunk of your travel budget. Instead, rely on your feet whenever possible or get on your bike. It’s easy to travel with your own bike now, but a lot of big cities have rental bikes that won’t break the bank. Use these modes of transportation before you break down and use public transit. If you need the bus or subway, try to get a full-day or multi-day/trip pass when you can, because these can save you over individual trips.

Hit Up Happy Hour
You gotta eat and you aren’t going to want to make all your own meals when you’re traveling, because it’s not always fun, plus there’s so much good food out there. Treat yourself to some great restaurants by visiting during Happy Hour. This way you can get a few plates for the price of a full entrée, which is perfect if you aren’t traveling alone.

Go to the Farmers’ Market
First of all, this is a great way to interact with the locals. Second, it’s an equally great way to see regional foods. Third of all, you can pick up affordable snacks and a quick meal from vendors there.

Take a Free Tour
There are quite a few groups that run free tours in different cities, you just have to Google to find them. Usually they are run by local volunteers who know a lot of awesome stories and facts about your destination. You should just contribute a few bucks as a tip when the tour is over. You might even make a new friend!

Stop In for a Home-Cooked Meal
Everyone likes a home-cooked meal and if you’re into meeting some new people, check out MealSharing and hook up with a local person/family who wants to share their home with you for the evening. You make some friends and get a free meal and they get to feel awesome about helping you out and meeting you. Maybe pick up something as a hostess gift, like a cheap bottle of wine or bring a little something fun from your hometown.

Go Out with Others
If you would rather go out to eat and meet people, hook up with locals and travelers alike by logging on to InviteForABite and find others who also want to get together and eat with “friends”, because it’s not always exciting to eat alone, even with your smartphone on hand.

Check Out Free Attractions
This is one of my favorite ways to stretch a buck. All cities have free things to do, including museums, landmarks and more. Just get online and search “free things to do in (insert city here)” and you might be surprised by how many things you find. The great thing is, many tourists don’t take the time to seek these things out, so you’re going to see a totally different view of the city than most other people who visit. You can also ask locals what their favorite hidden gems. I’ve learned a lot about places to go and things to see by doing this as well.

There are a lot of fun ways to save money when you travel if you’re resourceful and plan ahead. Know where to go, what to do and where to eat before you leave home and your trip will be more fun, more fulfilling and much more affordable. 

You can find more tips like this in A Student's Guide to Traveling Without Spending Money, a free ebook that can teach you how you can enroll into various programs, scholarships, internships, and trainings that allow you to travel without actually spending money.
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