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Saturday, July 29, 2017

My Portland Coffee Tour - Part 5

Did you think that because it's 85 degrees everyday that I'd given up on hitting up the coffee joints? Well, you're wrong! In fact, I've been hitting more than ever and I was in Vegas for a week, where I also went to my favorite shop (Bad Owl Coffee) in Henderson twice. When you find a good one, you need to tell people! And when you find a bad one, you also need to tell people.

I hit up three coffee shops in one day to try a variety of different neighborhood gems. You're welcome!

Driftwood Coffee

I used to frequent the Multnomah Village neighborhood when I lived closer to that area. I noticed that a lot of it has changed and there are more coffee shops than ever, including this one that you may or may not notice when you drive by a hundred times. It looked cute, so I went in and ordered an iced Mexican Mocha and a Dave's Bread and Egg, which is basically a fried egg and a piece of toast. 

The inside looks a lot like a coffee shop you'd find at the coast, which is fun. They sell a lot of random stuff from local artists and use fresh ingredients. Unfortunately, that was the best part about it. As I was signing my receipt and waiting for my coffee, I turned around and saw a lady at a nearby table with her bare foot on the table. Blech! If I hadn't just paid, I would have left.

My drink was much too gritty and not worth fancy coffee shop prices at all. My egg and toast was fine, but nothing I'd go out of my way to get again, not that I will ever be back. This is one of those "Portland" coffee shops where people get excited about hemp milk (not that there's anything wrong with it) and think their kids running around annoying people is adorable. If you enjoy Portlandia, then maybe you'd like this place for the "charm", but I'd not go for the coffee...or the foot-free tables. I believe my coffee was $4 and my breakfast was $2.50. 

Village Coffee

Luckily, I had other joints on my list, including the adorable Village Coffee in the heart of Multnomah Village. Even though it's been there forever, I'd never been in. What a mistake! I ordered something called the MacBeth (a macadamia nut, caramel, and huckleberry) Latte ($5) and a bagel with cream cheese ($2), then I went and sat down in some old theater seats. Awesome. 

Nothing in this shop matches, and it works! There are probably 5 tables inside and 3 outside. I'm not sure how they fit all their coffee stuff into their minuscule kitchen area or how two people even have room to move back there, but they do. 

They served me a toasted bagel (locally-made) with a little squeeze packet of Philadelphia cream cheese, but the coffee more than made up for it. I was afraid that the special I got was going to be too many flavors, but it was a-ma-zing. Like my whole mouth was happy and I had no idea how I lived so long without having huckleberry in my coffee. It was so good. Well worth the price and the cozy seating. I'll definitely go back! When you're finished enjoying your cup, wander around the rest of the Village with their boutique shops and unique feel. 

Maplewood Coffee & Tea

I looked up other places that were nearby and found this shop with excellent ratings. I had to use my phone navigation to get me there, because it's literally in the middle of a housing area. The building used to be an old post office and it's the loveliest thing I've seen in a long time in Portland. The shop is huge and bright and airy, but because it's right in the middle of houses, there is only street parking.

I saw they had a Matcha Latte ($3.75), which is all the rage right now, so I ordered one of those and a blueberry muffin ($3.75). They are pretty proud of the fact that they don't add sweetener of any kind to their matcha. It's the first time I'd had it, so I thought without it, it tasted like drinking grass. I put sugar in it. It was pretty tasty then. You could tell the muffin was homemade and it was really flavorful. I don't know how the people around them don't go broke from walking across the street to eat and drink here everyday. 

If you haven't had matcha before, make sure you wipe your whole mouth before you leave, or else someone will point out to you that it looks like you were mowing the lawn with your face and you'll be self-conscious for the rest of your life. Other than that, I loved the feel of this shop, where you can also order full meals and everyone is super friendly. Plus, the windows are nice and big so you can watch people walking by with their kids and dogs. This is one I'm putting on my list for a future morning date with my husband.

Okay, now that you know where to go and where not to, here's to a great cup of coffee. Until next time, here's a fun article I read about cafes who decided to get rid of their WiFi. What? People didn't just run screaming to hide in their cars with their coffee, which is how I thought that would end.

Give me your favorite coffee shops either here in Portland (if you live here or have visited) or where you live for when I visit there!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How to Be An Awesome Solo Traveler

Traveling alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be lonely. There are travelers and friendly people all over and if you want to meet them, you only need to seek them out and be open to new experiences. Don’t live your vacation life in a bubble. Get out and have fun while making new friends along the way.
Solo travel has become very popular. People are leaving their lives behind and traveling full-time and just as many are taking relaxing getaways alone in order to have a little me time. If you’ve never traveled alone, it can be very freeing, since you don’t have to answer to anyone and can do whatever it is you want. Maybe you don’t have a travel companion and want to get out and see the world. Don’t let that stop you, because you’re never alone when you travel. Here are some ways to make friends while you’re jet setting around the globe.

Use Social Media

You use it for making friends around the world, asking for suggestions on where to have dinner and to discuss the latest episode of The Walking Dead, so why not use it to find people to hang out with when you travel? If you aren’t sure where you want to go, see where you have Facebook friends in cool places and message them about what they would recommend doing on your visit and suggest getting together when you are there. They probably would jump at the chance to show you their city and meet you in person. Turn those virtual friends into real ones!

photo credit

Hook up with friends’ friends

Just because you don’t have friends in vacation destinations doesn’t mean your friends don’t. Ask them if they have a friend, cousin or sister there that might be interested in meeting you. Chances are your awesome friends have equally awesome friends and family. Expand your social circle and maybe do a favor for your friend by delivering a gift for them. It’s almost certain that your friends will have talked you up and their friends will be psyched to meet you and possibly play tour guide for you while you’re there.


You like to do good deeds, right? “Voluntourism” is huge right now and it’s a great way to help people and travel at the same time. Join a group of volunteers anywhere in the world where you can do things like build houses, teach English or work on a farm. There are tons of ways to give your time and often you can stay and eat for free in exchange for your labor. You just need to come up with money to get there and back and for any outside activities you want to do while you’re there.

photo credit

Take a tour

Sightseeing all day by yourself can be fun. You can go at your own pace, see everything you want to see, stop to take as many photos as you wish or sit in the park all day watching people. Book a city tour and meet a bunch of like-minded people who are interested in the same things you are. Not all tours are created equal, so if you have taken one before and didn’t like it, try again. Walking tours are perfect ways to meet others and also get exercise while you do it. Make friends with your fellow tourists. It’s also a way to get some better photos of yourself at your destination.


There are solo people everywhere. Use Meetup to find people who are interested in the same things as you are. Someone starts a meet-up and gathers fun people through the website to enjoy an activity. These can be locals or tourists or a mixture of both. It’s hard to be anti-social when you’re hanging out with a group of people who you have something in common with. Heck, you can even use Meetup at home, too.

photo credit

Invite for a Bite

Plenty of people don’t like eating alone. There’s no shame in that. There are only so many meals you can eat while reading the newspaper, surfing the Internet on your phone or doing a crossword puzzle. Getting take-out is an option, but wouldn’t it be more fun to have a dining companion? Log onto Invite for a Bite and find other solo ladies looking to meet for a meal. You can use it for other activities as well. It’s a safe and easy way to meet friends around the world and share your travel stories with someone. They may even be able to give you ideas on what to do next.

Sit at the bar

When you eat out alone, sit at the counter or the bar and talk to locals, wait staff and bartenders. It’s a great way to learn more about your destination, get suggestions for other good places to eat and maybe even find someone who would like to do it with you. You can really get a feel for a city by hanging out with people in local pubs and eateries. You’d be surprised how many people will strike up a conversation with you seeing you there alone. It’s definitely an easy way to meet people, since the most outgoing people sit at the counter.

photo credit

Take a class

Maybe you always wanted to learn how to make coq au vin or macarons. Maybe you want to learn the hula or how to make a traditional lei. Whatever sounds fun to you, there is probably a class you can take when you travel. It’s also another fab way to meet locals and even other tourists. You’ll be learning a skill you hoped to acquire and be able to chat with others doing it too.

Go all-inclusive

If you’re worried about being alone when you travel solo, surround yourself with people who are interested in doing similar activities by going to an all-inclusive resort. You’ll meet other travelers who enjoy being catered to and you can hang around the resort with them. This also works on a cruise. Because most ships have dining arrangements, you have the chance at talking to other cruisers at each meal. Find your table curiously empty? Your wait staff is thrilled to talk about real life with passengers. They might be from one of your port cities and, even if they’re not, it’s fun to exchange suggestions on what to do in your hometowns. Talk about your favorite TV shows and books, in case they are looking for something to do on their downtime. When away from the dining room, connect with others during ship activities like bingo, trivia, classes, alcohol tastings and even excursions on port days.

There are heaps of ways to make friends while traveling if you don’t want alone time. You just need to be willing to put in the effort or know how to meet like-minded tourists and locals. Make some new acquaintances or even lifelong friends just by having the courage to get out and do it on your own. Check out this article on Travel + Leisure for the best countries for solo travel.

Have you ever traveled alone?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Making Travel Less Stressful

I know some of you put off travel, not because money, but because it's so stressful to plan. I get it. I love to plan, but there are other things people love that I hate. I love the airport. I love packing. I love getting on the plane. I love being on vacation and seeing new things, doing new things, meeting new people. I even enjoy the end of my vacation when I get back home and get to sleep in my own bed after a foreign one. If you don't enjoy these things, it's okay, but a trip can really help you relax and de-stress, especially if you take one thing at a time and do things with purpose. 

Travel should be fun and not cause strife in order to get away. So, if you need more tips, here are some I've written just for you.
Besides money, what stops you from planning a vacation?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Car Rental Tips for Saving Money

Renting a car can be simple, but it's not always simple to do it and save money. It's best to know the insurance and outs before showing up at the rental counter.

car rental tips

We rent cars a couple of times a year when traveling and it's almost always easy and we're on our way with keys in hand in about 10 minutes. I wasn't going to write another post for a while on rental dos and don'ts, but I had a terrible experience on my last trip to Vegas and I didn't want it to happen to anyone else if you can avoid it.

Look at rental locations away from the airport

Generally, I rent my vehicles from an airport location and I take a shuttle, sign my name and I'm out, but lately more and more locations have better deals off site, so I've been booking them instead, because even with a shuttle or an Uber, it's still cheaper and more convenient. 

Airport locations impose a fee on their vehicle rentals, because they are passing on an airport tax they incur. Usually, it's a few bucks, which isn't a big deal, but sometimes its a huge difference. On my last trip to Vegas, the price between the airport and the off-site location* was about $110. Even an $8 Uber each way was going to make that a heck of a deal. Well, we had a reservation for noon. I tried calling three times around 10am to see if we could pick up early with no answer. 

We showed up at 11:40, checked in and then waited for over an hour for our car, despite being "next". I was told that there was only one guy washing cars and they couldn't give us a car that wasn't washed. This was a Saturday afternoon - the busiest tourist day for Vegas, besides maybe Friday evening - and there were only two people on duty. The lot was full of cars and we were not offered an upgrade at all, just the suggestion that if we could not wait and wanted to get a car faster, we should have rented at the airport. Um, what?

The general rule of thumb for rental companies is that it you have a reservation and the car class you request isn't available, they will upgrade you for free. What I was offered instead was to pay for a bigger car.  No.

Rent the smallest car class you can get away with

There are only two of us the majority of the time, so we don't have a lot of luggage and we're perf happy in a compact car, which is what I reserve. When that isn't available when we show up (oh darn) they offer us the next size up at no cost. Now, the other thing is that you can always upgrade when you arrive, but you can't downgrade, so try not to rent a car that's bigger than your needs. That's how you save money.

Skip the insurance

Most of the time the credit card you reserved your car on will have insurance coverage or your home insurance will cover you in any car you drive, so save the $15+ a day insurance.

Keep looking up until the day before you travel 

Unless you've prepaid for your car rental, you can keep looking for a better deal up until 24 hours before you leave. Most rental companies don't penalize you for booking or cancelling last-minute, since they don't ask for your credit card to hold your reservation. This also means that most car companies overbook. Find a better deal? Book the new car and cancel the old one.

Bring your own GPS

Did you know that renting one with your car can cost an average of $18/day. Yes, per DAY. Save your money and bring you own or use your phone.

Gas up yourself

You will always be offered a gas option. 
  • Option A: You pay a flat fee and however full or empty you return the car, they refill it for you. This is almost always twice the cost of gas in the world and it's the same whether you come back with 1/4 tank or 3/4 tank, which is a total rip-off.
  • Option B: You only pay for the gas you need. Usually, this info is posted. This has only happened to me once where the gas was super cheap.
  • Option C: You refill your car on the way back to drop-off. This is almost always the most preferable option and the one I opt for 99% of the time.

Just choose one driver

It used to be that you could add a second driver to you rental for $0, but now it seems that it costs around $12-15/day. Choose which of you is willing to drive the whole time, usually that's me, and then the other person can be the designated navigator.

Unfortunately, bad customer service happens, but if a company consistently has bad service, something should be done about it. The lady on duty did nothing to try to appease us, except to give us the manager's card and say that they dealt with this everyday. Like they couldn't deal with reorganizing things and giving customers a better experience. After that, I would have gladly spent that extra $100 for a better location with employees who were friendly and helpful. 

On my previous trip in Feb, we rented from an Enterprise** location that was off-site of the airport and not only we're they super nice and helpful, but even after going to the airport pick-up, realizing we were in the wrong place, called an Uber and arrived, we still had our keys and we're out of the parking lot in much less time than we stood at Dollar waiting to be "next".

In short, look at reviews (for some reason, this one was mostly positive) and don't be afraid to speak up. If all else fails, write a negative review, contact the people in charge about your terrible experience and then tell everyone you know to go elsewhere.

Have you ever had an unusually good or an unusually bad car rental experience?

Disclaimer: I was not paid by either of these companies. These are just my honest opinions of two very different customer service experiences.

*The terrible rental car location: Dollar Rent-A-Car - 4775 Swenson Street, Las Vegas, Nevada
**The awesome rental cal location: Enterprise - 4475 W Tropicana Blvd, Las Vegas, Nevada

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Are Road Trips Really Cheaper?

If you're hitting the road in order to save money on airfare, you may not actually be coming out ahead. I'm a fan of a good road trip, but I find that if you're only headed to a single destination, gas, food and hotel costs can much outweigh a plane ticket for a family of four. There are ways to save, of course, but unless you're hitting up a few destinations, it may not make much of a dent in your spending. Now, not everyone wants to drive straight through for almost a whole day, which is what I did to save airfare and hotel costs on a solo trip to Vegas one year, and I didn't do it again, as you can see. 

USA Road Trip Cost-Infographic

What's been your most memorable road trip so far?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Super Useful Travel Posts

Happy Friday! I bet you guys totally forgot about this series. I almost did, too, but now it's back! I've found some fun stuff for you. I hope you're having a fantastic week, and if you've come across anything fun and travel-related, then please enlighten us with a link back in the comments so we can all enjoy!

Sir Richard Branson wants people to travel cheaper and more often. To help you out, he's developed the Inner Circle plan for Virgin Mobile customers. See how you can get a practically free companion ticket as well as discounts on your own flights with this new program.

Even dogs like Universal Studios. Unfortunately, only service dogs can visit. This service dog got a chance to have a raptor encounter and his reaction is priceless. Is that a new friend? It almost makes me wish that there were pet days at theme parks where you could just walk around enjoying the non-rides with your furry friend.

While that dog seemed to have an awesome time at Universal, this lady didn't have the same luck. As a person born without arms, she was shocked that she wasn't allowed on any of the rides. She may be a pilot and a black belt, but the safety rules on ever ride didn't allow her access. I can certainly understand this, and maybe it would have been fine, but then again, maybe it wouldn't have. She's suing. Do you think she has a legit case?

Ever had a terrible time on vacation with your family? I think we have all had that one trip where we wish we could get away. This teenager, apparently, decided this was the case before she even left home and was so mad about being "forced" to vacation with her family, she declared it an emergency. No matter how bad a trip has been, I've never once been ungrateful that my parents took me anywhere and tried to make the best of it. What would you do if this was your kid?

Do you hate the TSA or just love those handy gray bins you put your shoes and laptop in? This guy decided to see if anyone cared if he walked away with one. It didn't seem to be a priority. Even the pilot didn't seem bothered that he walked through the airport with it. Look how far he got with it.

Speaking of fun things to happen on a plane, some flight attendants are just more fun than others. I've had the pleasure of hanging with one who's jump seat was facing my own seat (could have been awkward, but it really wasn't) and talked about their job a bit. I like it when they have a sense of humor, because you have to when working with the general public. Here are some unique announcements heard on planes. 
I spend so much time planning my trips, taking photos and then blogging about them that doing anything else to remember them is almost an afterthought. I have a few ways to commemorate my trips - purchasing ornaments, adding airport carpet photos to a fun display, and even adding a new pic of Eric and I to our walls - but it's not usually anything super creative like these ideas from Alexandria Drake's blog.

I've heard of a lot of different dress codes, but some places, I guess, don't want you to express yourself in even a fun way. Disney allows costumes for little ones as well as Disneybounding (meaning you can dress inspired by characters), Universal encourages you to dress as a wizard at the Wizarding World, and so do other places, but Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC thinks dressing in period costume is not okay. Have you ever been kicked out of a place for your "inappropriate" dress?

There's a vast area of dressing between the formal suits of travelers through the 80s and business travelers and those choosing instead to just wear their slept-in pajamas out of the house. Dressing for comfort can also look good and like you tried and not slobbish. In fact, besides these sandals, Jennifer Aniston has it down. I choose sneakers or ballet flats, but then again, I'm a normal person and not a celeb. I wouldn't say no to a great pair of comfortable wedges on the plane though.

For the fourth year in a row, in 2016, Portland International has been named America's Best Airport by Travel + Leisure. I'm proud of our airport and take a load of credit for us getting food trucks in there. If nothing else, it proves that our board listens to suggestions from locals and travelers. Here's why PDX is on top again.

Okay, I'm not the only one who watched Dirty Dancing over and over and over. If it's on the TV at any time, even if it's almost over, I'm going to watch it. It's one of "those movies" for me. Nobody puts Baby in the corner and nobody stops me from watching it when it's on. I even suffered through that made-for-tv version that was horrible. Well, now you can save your hard-earned dollars to visit the resort that Baby and her family did in the 60s. Haven't we all wanted to check into a bungalow at Kellerman's and take dance lessons and play bingo? No? Well, too bad, because you can now and you can do all the activities shown in the movie. It ain't cheap though, so it's definitely a splurge trip in order to have the time of your life.

If Wizard of Oz is more your speed, and you need a suggestion for a Fall vacation destination, check out the amazing mostly-abandoned Wizard of Oz theme park open only once a year now to tourists who are into celebrating the movie and feeling like they're actually in it. Imagine telling all your friends you visited this unknown park and feeling like an insider.

Have you ever gotten to the rental counter and told they didn't have any cars for you? I always have a reservation before I arrive, and often I pay ahead of time, and have always had my reservation honored. More often than not I've gone to pick up a car in the lot and have been told everything in my tier has been rented out and I'd have to choose from the next level up (with no extra charge). How sad for me, right? Unfortunately, most car rental companies will overbook, just as airlines do, so it's not specifically Hertz, which is actually one of my favorite rental companies.

There you have it. My round-up for the month. I promise to try to keep up with this a bit better than I have in the past. I seem to always get caught up in the holidays and let this fall by the wayside, but I can't share everything I want on social media, so you get a whole post here. 

Please link any fun, interesting, angering, or useful travel-related posts you've found in the comments, so we can discuss! Or tell me what you think of any of these. Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rocking Your Staycation - Part 3

So, we've gone over some easy ways to make a staycation cool and not make you wish you never tried. Do some planning, take a few days off work, and really relax. A staycation doesn't have to suck, even if you come back home each evening to your own house. Doing a bit of a reset is important in life, so even a staycation instead of a real getaway is necessary to help you out in real life as well.

budget staycation tips

You don't have to spend a lot of money to make a staycation rock. Here are just some other ways to do it when you're trying to save for a bigger trip later:

Swap Houses

You don't have to take your staycation at home. Look for someone else who wants to swap houses for a few days and make it feel like you're somewhere else. Ideally you'd get to stay in a different part of the city, so it feels completely different from where you live. 

Head to a Local National Park

Pack a tent or rent a cabin for a couple nights and just enjoy nature. Unplug and relax, plus do some hiking and maybe see a few animals. If you aren't into hiking and biking, pack some games and really bond with your family over non-electronic fun. Some national parks are even awesome for foodies.

Hit Up Your City's Museums

If there are museums that you have always wanted to visit, but you don't seem to have the chance, this is the time to do it. Look at things with a critical eye, talk about the artwork among yourselves, find out what you like and what you don't. Maybe get a print of something you agreed on at the gift shop.

Go On a Day Trip

To the beach, to the nearest lake, to the mountains, to a quaint little town you never stop in. We did this a lot when I was a kid and we didn't have a lot of money. We'd get up nice and early, pack some food in a cooler and just drive. We didn't usually have a plan, but you can if you want. This is the best way to find awesome things near you or in your state. We found a ton of cool stuff this way. It makes for some cool family memories. Perhaps you'll come across something wacky and weird, like Albany, Oregon's largest possum statue on the west coast, or the world's largest thermometer in Baker, California.

Sign Up for a Class

Whether it be a cooking class, a pottery class, a photography course, or one of those painting and wine nights. Whatever it is, do it together and have fun doing it, even if it's cheesy. If that's the case, then you'll have something to laugh about later...or to savor while you're eating it if that cheesy thing is fro your cooking class.

Turn Your Backyard Into a Movie Theater

Invite some friends over, or don't, pop some popcorn and pick up a bunch of movie-sized candy boxes from your local dollar store. String up an old white bed sheet, or set up your movie screen in the backyard, throw down a blanket and some pillows, or gather your comfiest lawn chairs together, throw in an awesome movie and make a night of it.

Go Camping In Your Yard

Get out your tent, set it up in the back garden and add all your creature comforts, like blankets, pillows, bean bag chairs. This is your chance to do it up a bit like glamping. Drag your coffee table out, some string lights and a bluetooth speaker, so you can rock out and play games and eat snacks into the night. If you have a fire pit, light it up and make some s'mores and roast some dogs. Yum!

Want more ideas for your staycation? Follow my staycation Pinterest board.

Do you love a good staycation? Tell me how you make yours rock.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Shereen Answers Your Travel Questions

In this blog series, I try to answer your most pressing travel questions. I like to take a question from my audience and go a bit in depth to help them out, while also helping others with that same problem or question. If you want to ask a question, include it in a comment, send me an email or reach out on social media. I'm here to help!

saving for travel

This one comes to us from @amelia_wasserman on Instagram. She asks: What is the best way to save and budget for a big trip you know is a year or two away?

Number one: 

Planning that far ahead is very smart. It gives you time to really plan what you want to do and come up with a reasonable budget, so you aren't having to live off granola bars on Day 3 or miss out on doing things because you don't have enough money to eat and participate in activities.

Number two:

Do some research to see what kind of budget you're going to have to shoot for. Get a ballpark idea of airfare costs, accommodation rates and transportation needs. Start compiling a list of "must-do' activities and look at those prices as well. Add it all up and you have a "minimum" budget to keep in mind.

Number three: 

Start looking at where you can cut costs, by finding discounts and coupons. I never pay full price for anything if I can avoid it. I'll search online for the best rates on everything, and many attractions have cheaper rates if you order tickets online or you purchase ahead of time...or you might find something like CityPASS will get you an amazing deal on a whole bunch of things you want to see/do.

We have a trip on the horizon to Scotland for a family wedding in a few years. I'm already putting together ideas for what I want to do there and have talked with my husband about lengthening our trip to include a true vacation on our own afterwards and heading back to London. While we could fly, we can also save airfare and a room by taking Megabus overnight and getting a sleeping compartment. It'll be cheap and possibly not the most comfortable, but they have WiFi and the bus leaves Scotland in the evening and arrives in London in the morning, so we'll be up and ready to go when we stop. What I'm saying is creativity counts when planning. That idea may very well save us over $150 alone.

Number four: 

Get to saving! You all know I'm not rich by any means. If I was, I wouldn't be writing this blog, because I'd be out traveling and spending my huge piles of money. I have to save like everyone else. So, here are some ideas on how to save during your everyday life, even if you think you don't have any funds to spare.

The little things

  • Start bringing your lunch every day. I hate making a lunch, but I also hate being broke, so instead of going out to eat every single day, I either pull together a lunch before I head to bed, or I make twice as much dinner as we can eat and have the leftovers for lunch the next day. I'm lucky that I don't work far from my house, or all week, so I can run home for lunch, make something fast to eat and then head back. When I work from home, I also scavenge for food at home, even if it sounds blah. Power through and think of your awesome trip. But don't forget to splurge every once in a while for fun.
  • Start a change jar. We always have a place we can toss coins we have at the end of the day. Those little amounts can add up. Maybe you'll only find yourself with an extra $75 at the end of a year, but that could be the difference between getting an extra meal or two out or doing something you really don't want to miss out on. I find that a jar I can't see into is easier to ignore when I find I'm cash poor in my wallet.
  • Drink coffee at home/work. It's easy to fall into the trap of stopping at Starbucks and picking up that Venti Caramel Macchiato,but even if you're only paying $4 a pop and only twice a week, that's over $30 you're spending. Cut back to once a month when you really neeeeed it and buy a big thing of fancy creamer or coffee syrup and make your cup at home and/or at work. Every time you want to go get a coffee, but don't, put that money into your vacation fund.
  • Get rid of stuff. We all have a bunch of extra crap we don't need. Start rounding it up and either sell it online or have a garage sale. That extra money can really make a difference to your budget.


  • Meal plan. Yes, I hate doing it too, but I never go to the store without a list and I try to buy only a few things that I can use to make several meals. Some ideas: chicken, lettuce, onion, bell pepper, black beans, tortillas. Use this to make both fajitas, but then also use the rest of the chicken to make chicken salad. Mix in some onion, put it in a tortilla as a wrap with lettuce and some bell pepper strips. I've also put the same fajita fixings on top of a baked potato or just over rice. Think ahead. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Also, don't forget the coupons!
  • Go on a penny pinching kick. Do you need to buy anything this week that isn't food-related? Start asking yourself if what you're buying is a need or a want. Just doing this can help you start making better choices and spending less in general. Instead of buying that pair of shoes you are looking at, put that money aside for your travels. Even if it's just something little like a magazine or lip gloss, immediately move that money over. You've spent it, but now you've invested it in your future trip.
  • Stay in for date night. Instead of going out to dinner and movie, make a meal together (or get a frozen pizza and salad) and rent something from Redbox, or look through your Netfilx/Hulu/Amazon Watch queue. Put the difference in your vacation fund.
  • Use Groupon or Living Social. Want to go out, but don't want to spend the bucks to do so? Scour your daily deal sites and save half or more for something fun. This is also a good way to save money on vacation.
  • Get cash back with Ebates. I don’t buy/book/reserve anything without checking the merchant lists on Ebates. Yes, I know that my favorites are there, like Piperlime, Sephora and Groupon, but there are tons more, including a bunch of travel sites you can use to book your vacations, too. Seriously guys, if you aren’t using Ebates, you are throwing money out the window. It's free to join and easy to use. 

General money-saving 

  • Set up a separate savings account. Set up an automatic deposit, either through work or on your own online, to go to that separate account. Even just $50 per paycheck can quickly add up and it's not so much that you'll notice it's gone. If you can afford more, change the dollar amount that goes, even if this is a one-time occurrence or permanent.
  • Open a high-yield checking or savings account. Just like I say above, make sure it's separate from your everyday account. While your money is just sitting there, you could be earning more each month for doing nothing more but keeping it in the bank. Free money is good!
  • Use an awesome saving app. I've been using a new app called Qapital. It's really changing the way I spend and save. You set up a goal, or multiple goals, and then set up rules in order to save for them. I've been using this app for six weeks and have saved nearly $100 just by doing things I normally do. I have two rules set up (because I can't go too crazy and my "goal" is far off): One is the $2 round-up rule, so any time I use one of the cards on file, they round up to the nearest $2. That means if I spend $4.50, $1.50 will go into my Qapital account, to make up $6, which is the next denomination of $2 after $4.50. I also have an IFTTT rule that says anytime I check into a place on Swarm/Foursquare and use #coffeetour, it transfers another $1 to my account. 
So, there you have it. All the current ways I save for travel and find all those extra dollars in my budget when I think I'm practically broke. You can do this, and when you think you can't, think of my friend who has a family of 8 on one income and still finds the time and money to go on at least one fantastic vacation a year, plus fits several weekend getaways in as well. You got this! I hope my tips help. They have changed the way I save, and I have a very part-time side job that isn't guaranteed week-to-week (but is exactly what I wanted) and that allows me time to do all my other things, like writing this blog and planning all the trips I want to take.

If you have other tips on how to save money, please let us know in the comments. And if you have your own travel questions/challenges you need help with, put that down there too, so I can get helping you next!   

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Easy Ways to Save Big Bucks On Trips

Vacations are expensive. I mean, next to your house and car, it's probably one of the tings in life that you spend the most money on. You've seen the ways I've showed you how to save money for your trips, but how exactly do you save money on your trips. I travel a lot, and I save a lot, because if I didn't, I couldn't afford to go most places.

Just because you don't have tons of disposable income, doesn't mean you have to resort to a trip close to home, because often those trips can end up costing the same as a trip where you go far away. There are a few ways to save big when you travel and here they are:

Get a vacation rental

I use Airbnb quite a lot. I love feeling like I have a real home to go back to on my vacations. I look for places that have a full kitchen and WiFi and laundry facilities, so I can save money by making some of my own meals (or even having a way to eat leftovers) and packing less and washing clothes. You may end up spending the same as you would on a hotel room, but you get all these extras, plus more privacy, and often more room. Just think how much a daily breakfast would cost you. Now imagine you spent just the amount of money on one to buy staples for a whole week of breakfasts. Here's more about why I opt for vacation rentals.

Use Daily Deals

When I am planning, I subscribe to the daily deals for the city I'll be traveling in. I start looking  2-3 months out and use it to save 50% or more on dining out, attractions and activities. You can change your city subscriptions at any time. Groupon has the most variety in destinations, but don't forget to look at Travelzoo local deals as well as any specifically for where you're traveling, like nCrowd, which focuses on UK.

Get a City Card

If you have a list of must-dos on your list, check the ones offered on the city card of that destination to see how many are offered on that card. You can save up to 55% on a list of attractions and activities when you use GoCards or CityPASS. If they aren't available for either of these cards, because you're going out of the country or just because they aren't, just Google "city card [destination city]" and often you'll find something that works.

Skip the Car Rental

If you're in a big city, chances are it'll be easy to take public transportation and/or walk wherever you need to go. A car rental can be expensive, especially when you factor in parking and gas. Look at the costs of both to see if it's considerably cheaper. If you do need a car, but not for everything, is it possible to just rent it for a day or two? We did this when we went to New Orleans, just so we could go on a day trip to a plantation and the Tabasco Factory. Worth it, but also a big chunk of money saved by doing it that way.

Find the Free Stuff

I like to see all sorts of things in a city, but I know that sometimes the free stuff can be the best stuff, so I definitely research those when I'm planning. It can help your dollars go further when you mix in free and cheap attractions (like museums and parks and squares) to your itinerary, plus you might see some things that regular tourists overlook. Some of those things have been more memorable to me than other things we've shelled out big bucks for. I suggest also asking friends on social media for suggestions.

Frequent Flyer Miles 

If you're using your credit cards correctly and adding your mileage number to all the places you can, then you may be well on your way to free airfare. Pick one or two airlines, or find one that works with a group of other airlines, and use those exclusively. It's the easiest way to rack up points more quickly. If you have an airline credit card, don't forget that you usually get double miles when you book your flights using that card. You can find out more how I use my frequent flyer miles here.

So, now you know my secrets, and now you can start planning your next trip. If you could go anywhere, where would you be heading right now?

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