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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Summer Travel Hacks

Summer is almost upon us and that means packing and travel planning. I've already shared a lot of my favorite tips with you, including how to save money on your trip and 5 affordable beach destinations, but what about some fun tips on how to book better and what to do at the airport? Here are some awesome summer travel hacks.

Who's ready to travel better with these unique and useful hacks? Need more help with how to plan for your next big trip, I have tips for that too! 

What are some of your cool travel hacks for making your trips easier, less frustrating, or cheaper?

Saturday, May 25, 2019

15 Ways to Save Money on Your Travels

Vacations can cost a lot of money, but that doesn't mean you can't go on one. Even a short vacation is better than no vacation. Don't be one of those 43% of families who aren't going on a summer trip (though going any other time works too), and don't be in the percentage of workers who never take any of their vacation days. Let's talk about easy and cool ways to save money on your travels.

ways to save on travel

  1. Be loyal and rack up frequent flyer miles by using the right credit card and then using it for all the things. Remember, you can use it for things like utilities and then pay it off with your actual money, just to get the points/miles. The more you earn, the faster you can get free travel.
  2. Travel light. By carry-on traveling, you save at least $50 on your flight. There's also no chance of your belongings going missing, because you always know where it is. Need help? Here are my tips for packing light.
  3. Use Daily Deal sites to save up to 90% on eating out, attractions and even your hotels. 
  4. Book attraction tickets online before your trip, as many times this can save you money over gate prices. If nothing else, look for coupons ahead of times, or hit up a hotel lobby for coupons in the brochure rack.
  5. Travel during off-season or shoulder-season. Generally, the summer is the most expensive time to travel, but some destinations differ, based on where they are. Try to avoid the most popular times and you can save up to 50%.
  6. Book a vacation rental rather than a traditional hotel so you can actually eat leftovers and even make some of your own meals. You might also save money on laundry, WiFi, and more. My favorite is Airbnb {<--use that link for $40 off!}. I use it any time I can.
  7. Walk or use public transportation when you can. It's almost always cheaper to take public transportation than to get an Uber, taxi or rent a car. And walking is free!
  8. If renting a car is a must, unless you find an AHmazing deal, choose to book and pay later, then monitor rates up until the day you leave. You won't get penalized for canceling and then reserving again at a lower price.
  9. Rent the smallest car possible. Unless you're doing a ton of driving, you won't be in the car for long periods of time. You just need everyone to get places easily. Rental companies will never downgrade your rental, even if you ask, but they will upgrade you for free if you arrive and your smaller car is not available. 9 times out of 10 I have driven away with a larger car, because the economy cars are booked out first or none have been returned when I arrive.
  10. Book your flights to travel on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, because these are the least popular days to fly. And if you book one of the first flights out for the day, you might save a bit more and you're less likely to get delayed.
  11. Volunteer to get bumped. Most airlines overbook, which means some people just don't get a seat, it just depends on when they check in. Sometimes the airline crew will call for volunteers to take the next flight, and if that works for you, you can get free money or airline vouchers. That means cheaper flights next time!
  12. Look for free activities at your destination. Many have them, including museums, landmarks, festivals, walking tours, and awesome parks. adding these to your trip will help you stretch your dollars.
  13. Hit up food carts where you can. You can often eat restaurant-quality foods at a cart, but at a fraction of the price of a sit-down restaurant, because you're only paying for the food and the cook. There isn't any other overhead being passed on to the customers.
  14. Choose to eat at your must-eat restaurants for lunch rather than dinner, as menu prices can be much lower earlier in the day.
  15. Bring snacks and a reusable water bottle. This means you won't be paying for unnecessary food and drinks on your trip. You'll be surprised how much these add up. Having snacks and drinks on-hand when hunger and thirst strikes between meals (or even on the plane) can be a lifesaver for you and your budget. This is especially true if you travel with kids.
This is my quick list to easily save money on your travels, but I have plenty more. Keep reading the blog for more, subscribe to my newsletter, or join my Facebook page, where you're free to ask questions and talk to other budget travelers. And don't forget that there are lots of little ways you can save for travel too.

I'd love to hear your tips too. If you could only give other travelers one money-saving tip, what would it be?

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.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Art + Other Cool Stuff at the Airport

The only thing I love more than the airport is visiting an airport I've never been to before. I view it as part of my trip and the start (or middle) of an adventure. I will plan what I want to do and where I want to eat at airports long before we even travel. I have Gate Guru downloaded to my phone, so I can see what art and other cool stuff there is at the airport. If you hate the travel part of traveling, here are ways to actually enjoy the airport.

Why do I enjoy the airport so much? It could be that I live where the best airport is (Travel + Leisure has awarded it six years running), but I like most other city's airports, too. I'll tell you why: Viewing the airport as a part of your trip makes it seem way better than just a waiting room to get into a smaller waiting room to get to where you really want to go.

It's like a mall that also has a portal to another destination! (Yeah, I actually hate the mall, but it's the best comparison.) Once you start thinking this way, you might feel differently in the future too, not be one of those annoyed harried people who look at the route monitors with a permanent scowl. Listen, you'll eventually get to where you want to be, so chill out and enjoy yourself. Get  a snack or a beer, buy a new magazine and go check out what the airport has to offer.

Art collection

All airports now have some sort of art collection. Some even have their own galleries for those travelers who have quite a bit of time to kill. I always like to see the different things on display at different airports. Take some time to wander your terminal to check out the exhibits available. One of my favorites is the History of Flight "museum" in McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. They have a main exhibit and smaller exhibits throughout. 

Play area

Travel with kids can be trying and, after having to sit for hours without getting to flail or even stand up, jumping around and annoying people near the baggage carousel is not a fantastic way to burn off energy (or make friends). Head to the nearest play area, which almost all airports have, and let them climb and run and yell and whatever else so they can be ready to fly or for the next leg of your journey. Bonus is that they are usually airplane themed and lots of kids love pretending to be a pilot. 

Workout rooms

These may be few and far between, but if you're lucky enough to go through an airport with some, pack some shorts and a tee in your carry-on to do some running or strength training. Getting some exercise is a great way to stay alert and get moving after a long flight of being folded into a tiny space. If you normally get a workout in during the day, then you're not missing out by sitting on the plane.


You're probably bringing your laptop, so why not toss a couple DVDs in your bag to watch if you have 90+ minutes to spare on your layover. If you're lucky, you might be in one of those fancy schmancy airports that have an actual theater for travelers and you can see a new movie on a big screen.


Treat yourself to a massage, pedicure of something else a little luxurious. I've been lucky enough to get a manicure at the Butter London location in Seattle, but we've also hit up the Xpress Spas on trips as well. They do their best to make your treatments short and sweet, so if you have a tighter connection, you can still catch your flight.

Specialty souvenir shops

Bring home gifts to commemorate your trip for yourself or others. If you're just passing through, this is also a great way to sample some of the local flavor, whether it's candy or beer or whatever else. Fair warning, when you go through Portland (PDX) and think Oregon Rain sounds like a fantastic water choice, just don't.

Go sightseeing

If you have a fairly long layover, don't think you can't get out and enjoy your stopover city a bit. We had 8 hours in Vancouver, BC (YVR), rented a car and made a fun day out of it. On our way to Philadelphia, any flight we chose out of PDX had a layover in SFO and the outgoing flight from there wasn't until 10:30pm no matter when we flew, so we took the earliest flight, had 12 hours there and met a friend for some sightseeing and catching up. We went to lunch, the zoo, the wax museum, the San Francisco Dungeon and finished up with dinner at Pier 39, then went back to the airport and had a nice sleep overnight on the plane.

Recently, we flew through Salt Lake (SLC) and they had a brochure about taking a two-hour tour into their historical center. They have an airport shuttle to drop you off and bring you back and they get tourists into town and a little extra money in their economy. That was pretty genius to me. 

Buy something you forgot 

Or entertainment. My favorite new shops are the 24-hour kiosks in airports. You can buy everything from travel-sized makeup to fancy noise-canceling headphones to an ebook reader. You pay full price, but if you forget that sunscreen you love from Supergoop! or the best ever Benefit foundation, you can get them at whatever time you're stuck at the airport.

What do you like to do to pass the time at airports?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Review: Hydaway Collapsible Water Bottle

When you travel, it is pretty important to stay hydrated, especially when on the plane, when the air is dry. Drinking water can also keep you healthy, but purchasing bottles everywhere you go can be both expensive and wasteful. I always bring a reusable bottle with me, but it can be annoying and cumbersome, especially when it's empty. Hydaway knows what you want.

The collapsible bottle from Hydaway comes in fun colors and has a unique design to keep it from collapsing in on itself when you're attempting to drink from a partially full bottle. I was intrigued by this new bottle, and not just because it is made in Bend, Oregon (a short, and beautiful, drive from where I live). The silicone  material is  what allows the bottle to be collapsible, and the BPA-free plastic gives it structure where it needs it, including making the lid a lot more user-friendly. Each lid has a convenient handle, so you can use a clip to hook it to the outside of your bag or carry it more easily when it's full. 

When your bottle is empty, you can collapse it down to a small 1.5" profile that can fit in your bag or your jacket pocket until you need it again. This is smaller than a lot of other bottles on the market, giving you more room in your bag for other things you need, like snacks or souvenirs. I don't judge.

What makes this bottle different from all the others you've seen? Well, as we've already established, it packs down small, and collapsing and expanding it is super simple. There's no twisting or squishing. You can even do it with one hand. The silicone keeps its shape, and the plastic ring that makes up the largest part of the bottle gives it structure, so when you're drinking out of it, it doesn't get all floppy on you, because you can't squeeze it inward. 

The ring also helps keep your bottle from wobbling around in your car's cup holder. That's a big plus for me, because I always bring something to drink with me in the car. The weird shape works in many ways, but it's also unique and no one's going to mistake it for their water bottle. 

You can put this bottle in the freezer, too. No more trying to stuff ice cubes into a space not designed for it, though the wide mouth opening will allow you to do so. I collapsed mine halfway, filled it mostly with water and put in the freezer, so the next day, I had a nice base of ice, expanded it all the way, and filled the rest with water. Boom! Cold water for running errands! (I didn't need to partially collapse it, but it fit better in my freezer door this way.)

You can put this bottle in the dishwasher! This is a game changer for me, because I hate handwashing things and I hate having to buy special tools/cleaners for things. I put it right up on the top rack with my other cups, and it came out exactly as it went in, despite the high temps of the water in my dishwasher. I love it! This makes me happier than I can even tell you, because it means I'll wash my water bottle far more than I do now and probably avoid a lot of bacteria that might build up.

Do you often fill up your bottles at drinking fountains or the sinks in your hotel room? That can be really icky tasting, right? We go to Vegas once or twice a year and their tap water is groooossssssss. Actually, most places have gross tap water. Well, you can purchase a carbon filter "system" for your Hydaway and it takes all those yucky impurities out as you drink. I love it!

Now you're ready for all those summer travels you're doing to the beach, theme parks, even city sightseeing. Maybe you're just a mom who has kids who are always thirsty THE SECOND you leave the house or where your only option is to buy a drink. Well, not anymore. Buy one or more of these and have water on-hand, or the ability to hold water, all the time. 

Don't have kids? That's okay too. Not only can you use this for all your trips out and about and your travels and everywhere else, I'm assured you can also use this bottle for adult beverages. What?! Yeah. Fill it with wine or a cocktail to take on a picnic, to hang out in the yard, to enjoy at Fourth of July celebrations. Much less conspicuous than a flask, plus it just looks cool, and no one will suspect you have booze and want you to share. Ha!

Mother's Day, Father's Day and graduations are coming up. Create a fun little travel gift box with a Hydaway in it and other things your recipient might like, because no one will ever be disappointed by a gift of easier hydration, especially if it makes their trips better. You can grab a travel pack and get more than one bottle, so you can give several away and keep one for yourself!

Other details:
Where can I buy it? On Hydaway's website
How much does it cost? $25.00
What colors does it come in? Bluebird (shown) | Midnight | Mist | Plum | Seaside | Sunset | Thunder | Timber | Lightning
more specs: 17oz capacity, leak-proof, non-toxic, 15% lighter than original model, full height: 6", collapsed: 1.5", diameter: 3.75"

Give Hydaway some love and follow them everywhere they are:

Disclaimer: I was given the Hydaway bottle for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are 100% my own.
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