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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

My 5 Favorite Road Trip Items

Summer is coming and that means hitting the road with your special person or your family or your best friend. I love a good road trip and I'm days away from taking the first of two this year. I have a few items that I always take with me when we start traveling, whether it's 6 hours or several days in the car.

I have a few items that I always take with me on a road trip, whether it's 6 hours or several days in the car.

I want to save money and also be comfortable when I'm traveling by car, so I like to pack my own food and drinks, as well as items that will help in emergencies (i.e. spare tire, jumper cables). I keep the necessities in my car all the time, and you probably do, too, but here are the things I bring along on road trips.

Collapsible Cooler
Everyone has one of those hard, plastic coolers that weighs a ton when full and then takes up the whole back of your car. I hate those for road trips, especially when all  your ice melts and you have to struggle to empty it, dry off your stuff, and then drain the water somewhere. I have a smaller collapsible cooler that has a pull-out liner, which it doesn't look like it's made anymore, but the company still makes amazing products. The cooler above is a similar one they make. It isn't too big or two small, has pockets for utensils and things, and can pack down when it's empty.

Stasher Bags
I have been downsizing my use of plastic bags and plastic wrap. We use Stasher bags a lot more often for almost everything. I have them in all sizes, so they're great for things like bobby pins, all the way up to a loaf of banana bread. Stasher isn't cheap, but they are high-grade silicone that come in a bunch of awesome colors, and they can be frozen, boiled, microwaved, and even put in the oven. 

I have some that when I go on trips, I fill mostly with water, then I freeze them, and use them instead of regular ice packs or bags of ice. It's free and way easier to clean up and they hardly sweat, so your food isn't all soggy. The seal is very secure, so they aren't going to leak at all. I flip mine inside out and put them in the dishwasher, too. Get this starter set with a gallon size and stand-up bag. Refill them with food or use them for things like sunscreen and souvenirs.

Collapsible Food Containers
You might notice a pattern with things I enjoy on trips. I have been using Collapse-It containers for years, thanks to MightyNest. These containers are wonderful for all foods and can be stored in less space, because they smash down much smaller. They have a cool vent on the top, which allows you to let steam escape or to let out extra air. Like Stasher, these can go in the oven, the freezer, the microwave, and the dishwasher. They don't seem to really stain and the seal is really great. Once empty, they don't need to continue to take up space in your bag.

If you want to make food at your destination, these make that pretty easy, plus they can be used to eat out of in a pinch. I've used them to bring back ornaments on a trip, so they wouldn't get crushed in my bag. I just stuffed them with paper towels around my tissue-wrapped ornaments. 

Picnic Blanket
During the pandemic, we did a lot of outdoor get togethers with friends, so I invested in a picnic blanket that folded into it's own carry bag. I am so glad I did, because it has been a great purchase. It works for grass, dirt, the beach. When you take a road trip, it's important to stop to stretch your legs. I take that time to enjoy being outside and eating food I've brought with us. It's also nice to have if you bring your kids or dog, just to have a spot to stretch out, where you aren't sitting on the ground or a dirty bench. It can be used in a pinch as a tablecloth, too. This is a nice one that comes in varying styles and sizes.

Amazon Echo Auto
What's a road trip without entertainment. Yes, we listen to music, but we also listen to podcasts and audio books. I love my Amazon Alexa at home and I immediately wanted one for my car. I use it to listen to music I don't have on my phone, as well as to ask questions and directions. Echo Auto works on your phone's internet service and your car's bluetooth. Use it to play games, listen to books you have, learn new things, or even "drop in" on houses in your circle that have Alexa to keep everyone updated on where you are.

This next trip I will be trying out a couple other things, including this maybe cool cup holder tray, these faraday bags to keep your electronics safe, and also this phone mount that has been working pretty well for using my GPS around town.

If you have a road trip coming up, you might be interested in some of these items. What are your favorite road trip tips?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may be monetarily compensated should you make a purchase through these links. This helps me keep bringing you useful content, so thanks in advance.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Dad & Grad Travel Gift List

It's that time again! Time to celebrate fathers and kids becoming adults and venturing out into the world. We like to honor them with gifts, letting them know how special and proud we are of them. If you've got a dad, grandfather, brother, son, or graduate in your life that likes to travel, I've come up with a list of suggestions for you that can all be here before June 18.

With travel booming again, new travel items and gadgets to make upcoming trips better are always a welcome gift.
Photo credit

When my dad was alive, he and my mom loved traveling on his motorcycle. Even growing up we did tons of road trips. He loved gadgets and I inherited that love. With travel booming again, new travel items and gadgets to make upcoming trips better are always a welcome gift.

Masks are going to be a travel staple for a long time. Some airlines are still requiring them and some destinations are still requiring them. And they're a good idea when going anywhere during cold and flu season, or when going somewhere there is a large concentration of people. Keep them safe, but also stylish.

MaskC Deep Hues KN95  $36 for 10
When in crowded spaces, like the plane, I always choose a KN95 mask. Their form is not only more breathable, but it's also more comfortable with the extra room in front. You may opt for black or colorful ones, but I also really love these solid dark hues.
When I'm out and about, I always have two masks - one that I'm wearing and a backup. While you can use a plastic bag, it's nicer to have something a little better looking and also have a place to stash your mask while eating or walking around outside without it getting dirty. These are pretty and also can clip right onto a bag. 
Yes, I have a lot of different masks in my house. As much as I think disposable masks have a place for travels, I also love a great reusable mask, because you can wash and reuse them while on a long trip. They enable you to pack a little lighter and show your style a bit more. I have several Vida masks, including the sport masks and the artist prints. The all come with filters and are really comfortable.
The Barrier Method Neckie $35 & Winged Mask $45
I love the Winged Mask, but the Just the Mask and Neckie are more suitable for many destinations. They are lightweight, but still anti-bacterial and have built-in UPF, so you don't get sunburned on your face and neck, especially when sitting in the window seat where the sun's rays can be much worse. There is a mask for everyone. You may recall that I started wearing my Winged Mask before masks were even required. You can see my review here.

The right accessories can really make a trip much better. I have a stash of tried and true items that I take for all trips, or just some trips. Here are some of my favorites.

Stasher Bags $45.96 for a set, but less if you only want specific ones
While traditional zip-top bags are great, they aren't that awesome for the environment. I have started replacing things with Stasher bags. They're spendy, but well worth the money.
Anyone who travels outside of the country needs an adapter for their electronics. Most US electronics are dual voltage, so you don't have to worry about a converter. This adapter is affordable and can be used everywhere, so you no longer have to buy different adapters for each region. I loved this one I purchased and it has 4 USB outlets for your phone and other small electronics, so everything is always charged.
Several years ago I backed Pivo on kickstarter, because it looked exactly like a thing I could use for taking outfit photos and more. Cut to now where I've been using the original with ease and have just upgraded to the Pivo Lite to get more features and have a funky new color that I can keep in my travel bag. Pivo allows you to use your phone as a whole photo and video studio + you can use it take group pictures without asking a stranger to help.
Aeropress Go $39.95
The AeroPress Portable is as great as the original, but everything is compact enough to fit inside it's own coffee cup, which is pretty amazing. As a person who travels quite a lot and tends to stay in places that have terrible coffee makers or none at all, being able to get a good cup of coffee is very important to me. If you have a similar coffee lover on your list, this is a must. You can see my review on it here.
Swell Insulated Food Container $24.99 for 24 oz or $50 for nesting bowls (shown)
Wherever I go, I have snacks of some kind. Long trips call for many snacks. A lot of airlines still haven't brought back food service, so you're kind of on your own, and granola bars and chips can get pretty boring. I have several insulated food containers and they're awesome for bringing along things that are more substantial or need to be kept hot or cold. I especially enjoy chees and fruit, so these Swell containers are fantastic for allowing me to take those things on long plane rides, but they're also good for theme park visits and road trips.
When you're out all day snapping pics, using your GPS to get around, and posting jealousy-inducing photos to social media, your phone battery can drain pretty quickly. Having a decent sized battery backup like this one can make sure you can always charge up your phone. In fact, we carry two similar ones and each allows us to charge up fully at least twice during the day (we play a lot of games as well).
Every flight attendant will tell you how gross the seatback pocket on the plane is. They get cleaned out, but never cleaned, so you're putting your headphones in the same pocket that may have just had a dirty diaper in it a few hours earlier. Airplane Pockets fit over your tray table, making it antibacterial, and give you four pockets - one large one and three smaller ones - to fit everything you need for a flight. After you land, slip it off, fold it up, and toss it in your bag.

Bags and Toiletries
I love bags and things that go in my bags to keep me organized and these kinds of gifts are always welcome, to the well-seasoned traveler, but also for beginner travelers that haven't really ever had to try packing light or more efficiently.

Has your dad been using the same beat up carry-on for decades? Or your grad doesn't even have a real piece of luggage? Then this bag works for either. The hardside shell gives it extra strength to keep their belongings safe, the spinner wheels make it easy to take even on cobblestones, and they can't overpack, though you can expand it for extra purchases and check it home. 
Travelon Anti-Theft Metro Carryall $85 on Amazon | $95 on Travelon (take 20% off with my code SHEREENTRAVELS20%)
Maybe your dad takes a lot of overnight, business, or weekend trips. If so, then this carryall is ideal for a few outfits, a pair of shoes, and still have some room leftover for small purchases. When he's on longer trips, he can use this as an underseater for all his entertainment and snacks.
I don't know why, but I have always loved a pannier bag. It's one that fits on the side of a bicycle. If your dad/grad enjoy biking everywhere, or even just on vacation, Timbuk2 makes amazingly heavy-duty and stylish bags for every need. This weather-proof lightweight pannier is great, but if you're looking for something a bit more upscale, the Convertible Backpack Pannier has more features and is just $159. The only downside is it's not waterproof, so it's not ideal for rainy destinations, but I guess neither is bicycling.
Travelon's Greenlander Insulated Water Bottle Bag $40 on Travelon (take 20% off with my code SHEREENTRAVELS20%)
Make sure they stay hydrated and have a place to stash some cash with a water bottle bag. This one is insulated, keeping things cool, and has an anti-theft zipper pocket and a comfy adjustable shoulder strap. You can view my review here.
Matador Flatpak Bag $39.90 for 3
One of the most annoying things about taking liquids on a trip is that the bottles don't get smaller when you use product, so you end up taking half-full bottles back or throwing them out. Quit doing both of those things with these pack-flat bottles. They are leak-proof and can hang in the shower with their snap loops. Not only do they pack better than traditional bottles, but they get smaller when you use product. 
In my travels, I've had a lot of tubes and containers, but none have been as awesome as GoTubb. I use these for anything I can't find a smaller version of, so I can pack light. They don't leak and they hold a lot more than you expect, but in a small size. These come in small, medium and large, so they can be used for practically anything, from snacks to pills to moisturizer.
Packing light can be a challenge, but strategic packing items can help you get a little more in your bag. Packing cubes are kind of a necessity, and even if your dad/grad has some, if they don't have compression cubes, it's time to upgrade them. Get 30% more in your bag, or save that extra room for other necessities, like your toiletry bag and shoes. I love the Specter line from Eagle Creek. They cost more, but they are top of the line and have a compression function, so you get even more in your bag.

I hope you've found something awesome for the dad and/or grad on your list, or maybe for yourself if you're a dad or just need something for the upcoming summer travel season. 

What has been your favorite travel gift to give or receive? 

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links that may result in monetary compensation, which helps me to keep running this blog for you. Thanks in advance for anything you buy.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

10 Ways to Stay in Shape While Traveling

When you’re out and about flitting from tourist attraction to subway station to lunch, it’s hard to keep up with your diet and exercise regimen. Even though you’re out walking all day, and it may seem like you’re getting a lot of exercise, you’re probably also eating a lot of high-calorie and fatty foods that pretty much negate all the good you're doing with the walking, hiking and stair-climbing. Those extra pieces of cake and pie for dessert aren’t helping either. 

Contrary to popular belief, calories do count on vacation, so you might want to add additional exercise to your vacation itinerary.

Contrary to popular belief, calories do count on vacation, as much as you wish they didn’t. So, if you want to stay on track and earn those meals, you might want to add additional exercise to your vacation itinerary.

Get outside

I love to be outdoors when I travel. It’s the best way to see your destination, so why not get out a little more and burn extra calories?

Go running – You’re going to bring along a pair of walking shoes anyway, so why not make them running shoes that are also good for walking. If you run at home, then keep your routine set and get up early to run around the block or the hotel grounds.

Jump rope – This is an easily packable item and gets you great exercise anywhere you have some extra room. Not just little kids love to jump rope. It’s fun and helps you tone and keep in shape. Make sure you buy a nicely weighted one that will stand up to the rigors of the road

Make your lodging your gym

You walked all day yesterday, but you got up early in order to watch the news or eat breakfast in your room. As much as you know you should put on your workout clothes and hit the gym, the thought of looking presentable just doesn’t sound appealing. You aren’t alone. While you’re waiting for your bagel to toast or you’re listening to the weather report, you can take advantage of the floor space in your room to get in a quick workout.

Chair crunches – If you have a chair, you have a low-impact gym. Work your abs by sitting on the edge and pull your legs up or pump your legs as if you are riding a bicycle. 

Do lunges – You’ll feel a lot less awkward doing them in the privacy of your room than out in public, too.

Calf raises – Do these anywhere, like while you are brushing your teeth, making oatmeal or waiting in line to get into the Louvre (for bonus exercise points).

Resist – Pack a resistance band (or set) in your carry-on and do more strenuous workouts in the time you have available. There are also fancy loop bands you can use to strengthen your legs/thighs.

Boxing – You don’t have to bring along full gear and a punching bag, but a pair of weighted gloves is a fabulous way to tone your arms and legs. Bookmark a few good training videos on YouTube.

Use what’s available at your accommodation

Your hotel or rental property might have some useful ways to help you work out. If the weather cooperates enough to be outside, then you’re in luck.

Go for a swim – Almost all hotels have a pool. Pack your swimsuit and you can get in some laps. If a fancy indoor pool is available, then you can swim if the weather is uncooperative. 

Use the stairs – Walk or run up the stairs to your room and you’ll start to feel the burn. Generally, the stairwell is pretty private, so you also won’t be disturbing others if you are up early or late doing this.

Hit the gymLots of hotels and rental/timeshare properties have gyms. It may not be large, but you can get a quick workout in on the equipment they do have. You might also have access to tennis courts, bicycles, or basketball courts.

Keeping up with an exercise routine when you travel will keep you motivated to continue doing it at home, even if it takes you a few days to get back into your healthy eating habits. You’ll feel better about yourself and might even add to your regular workouts. Download a pedometer app or use your FitBit to keep up with your progress. 

How do you stay in shape when traveling?

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Drinking Coffee Around the World

If you've been a reader for a while, you know how much I love a coffee drink. When I had more time on my hands, I did a coffee series where I tried a bunch of local Portland coffee shops every month. I don't get to as many now, but I do post my visits on Insta when I try a new one, or visit my faves. You'll also see me post about coffee shops while on vacations, because every morning - and afternoon and evening - should start with a good coffee in my book.
I'm a big fan of Turkish coffee and now I'm real intrigued by Egg Coffee and Cafe de Olla. I've had wonderful coffees in Edinburgh, London, and Paris and I'm sure I'll have amazing coffee on future trips as well.

Where have you had the best coffee (or other beverage) on your travels? And tell me about it so I can go there!

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month Through Travel

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Now, in my 40s, I'm getting more into immersing myself in my Japanese Heritage, but I've also been learning more about other Asian cultures and have found a handful of favorite AAPI-owned businesses near my home that I frequent often. When we travel, I am always looking for women-, BIPOC-, and AAPI-owned restaurants and stores. 

On our very short visit to San Francisco, I knew I had to visit Japantown. It's one of only three Japantowns left in the United States.

On our very short visit to San Francisco, I knew I had to visit Japantown. We didn't get to a lot there, but there are only three Japantowns left in the United States and all of them are located in California. This one is just a few blocks and much of it is taken up by an indoor "mall" that is packed with bookstores, Japanese restaurants, cafes, gift shops, and some lovely artwork. There's a bridge that goes over the street that connects both parts of the building. It was very rainy, so I didn't get too many outside pictures.

The whole of Japantown is surrounded by street signs that have cute Japanese pop culture art, which is adorable and immediately lets you know where you are. 

The square is also very modern while also being traditional. I would love to go back when it's sunny and just hang out and absorb the peaceful feeling...and people watch, because who doesn't love that?

We met up with a friend to explore the area and also get tea across the street. I'm always down for a good afternoon tea. I also love how this umbrella backdrop really captured the feeling of the day.

The center is split between the east and west mall. The east mall covers two blocks and the west hall is one block on its own, much of which is taken up by a huge Daiso store (a Japanese import store with everything you could want, all at very low prices).

I really wanted to just restaurant-hop here, so a return trip is definitely necessary to do some research on that front.

Look at this amazing building inside the building! The art in this mall is phenomenal and it's funny to just see people sitting nearby drinking bubble tea and reading manga.

There isn't much to the Peace Plaza, but it's 100% there for the Peace Pagoda, which was given to the people of San Francisco by the people of Osaka, Japan (San Fracisco's sister city) in 1968 to signify the goodwill between the two. 

I'll be visiting two other Japantowns this year. The first, Little Tokyo, in Los Angeles, and the second in Vancouver, BC. I'll also be visiting Chinatown in both of those places as well, and the largest Asian night market outside of Asia in Richmond, BC.

If you want to immerse yourself in Asian history, you can visit museums, America's Chinatowns, and some of the best restaurants across the country. Follow me on Instagram to see my travels as they happen, with photos that I don't post on the blog (because I don't have enough room). In the meantime, I'll be delving into all the delicious foods and gifts of Japan at Uwajimaya (an Asian grocery store in the Pacific Northwest) around the corner from our house.

Tell me about your favorite AAPI-owned businesses or Asian areas of cities from your travels or your hometown...

Saturday, May 13, 2023

8 Summer Travel Hacks

Are you planning to travel this summer? It's likely you won't be the only one. 60% of Americans travel in the summer, which means you'll want to be ready. While it can be difficult to find deals during this time, you can travel more efficiently, and that can save you money in the long run, too.

While it can be difficult to find deals during summer atime, you can travel more efficiently, and that can save you money in the long run, too.
Infographic from Travelocity

If you're looking for more tips and places to visit during the summer months, download my ebook and/or subscribe to my newsletter. You'll get product reccs and free packing list downloads. 

I'll be in Los Angeles this summer. Where will your travels take you?

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

7 Ways to Save Money At Disney Parks

It's official, Disney has priced a lot of people out. It's definitely not a budget-friendly trip, but I know many of you are still looking forward to going sometime in the future. The last time I visited Disneyland was in 2018 and the same tickets I bought then are a full $100 more now. Unless you're visiting for 5 days, there's not really a decent savings on admission, so let's talk about other ways you can save, so you can, you know, eat food...or pay for Genie+ (the new system that has replaced Fastpass).

Let's talk about other ways you can save at Disney parks, so you can, you know, eat food...or pay for Genie+.

I know we just went to Disneyland Paris, and the entire 3-day package deal I bought with accommodation at a Disney hotel was almost cheaper than what it will cost us for two days in the California parks. Crazy. 

Bring a reusable water bottle

We drink a lot when we're out doing things and even bottled water can add up quickly. I fill my water bottle with ice and water before I leave for the day, and the ice stays for much of the day, keeping my water cold each time I fill up. You can fill up throughout the day at water fountains, but most food establishments are happy to fill up your bottle for free (some will only give you a cup of ice water). That way you save money and stay hydrated.

Pack snacks in your day bag

Food and snacks in the parks can be outrageous. I love a good churro, but I try to limit myself to a snack a day. I also can get pretty hangry, so I make sure I always have things to eat in my bag. It's nice to have granola bars or carrots or jerky when you get a little hungry before it's time for your dining reservation. You can also skip breakfast this way and do an early lunch (easier to get in when the restaurants aren't busy). 

Visit during off-peak times

Is there anything worse than standing in endless lines? I mean, you're going to do that anyway, but hopefully they'll be shorter when you go when kids are still in school (if you can), on weekdays, and not not NOT during the summer. You can check crowd calendars to see when it's forecasted to have lower crowds if you aren't sure when a good time to visit is. Generally, mid-January to mid-February, early March before Spring Break, mid-late April after Spring Break, the first 3 weeks of September, and the first week of November are good times to visit the parks.

Stay in surrounding hotels/vacation rentals

I'll be honest, I will probably never be able to stay in a U.S. Disney hotel. Even the "budget" ones are way out of my price range. Truthfully, you aren't in your room enough to enjoy it much, so spending $250+ per night seems like a waste. There are plenty of hotels even within walking distance to the parks that are budget-friendly and have shuttles to the front gate. If you're traveling with a group, renting a car (r driving your own car) and staying in a vacation rental, like Airbnb, can be a great option, because you can make your own meals there and accommodate more people.

If there are only a few of you and you stay in a place that doesn't have shuttle service or isn't close enough to walk, consider using a ride-share like Uber, because it can end up being cheaper than parking. 

Buy souvenirs outside of the park

We all want stuff. The parks are full of awesome things at endless shops, but there are many similar things at stores that aren't inside Disney. In fact, you can get cheaper branded merch when it goes on sale on Disney.com. Search ebay, Poshmark, Mercari, and Etsy for cool merch, so you don't have to buy them on your trip.

Be there before the park opens

Get to the parks early, so you can get in as soon as the park opens and you can get in several rides before the crowds really amp up. This helps you make the most of your dollars and you can skip Genie+ if that's too much of a strain on your budget. I get it. Make a game plan for when you get into the park and head straight to the must-ride attractions first.

Use your memberships

If you have a AAA or Costco membership or belong to a credit union, check out their deals for packages or tickets. This usually is only available for those going multiple days (3+). You may not save a ton, but every little bit counts. 

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Helping the Local Economy When You Travel

When I travel, I like to make sure I visit local businesses and restaurants, so my tourist dollars go where they are needed most. Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons why your money may not stay local. This concept has been dubbed tourism leakage, which sounds kinda gross, but there's not too many better names for it, because your dollars, literally, leak out of the local economy.

There are a lot of reasons why your money may not stay local. This concept has been dubbed tourism leakage for a reason.

Most of your travel budget is going to go to big things, like airfare and accommodations, and you can't possibly travel on a family-owned airline, and if you're staying in a hotel, you're most likely giving your money directly to a big corporation. It sucks, but it is what it is, especially when you're traveling on a budget. 

A study shows that something like only 5% of an average tourist's money stays where they spend it. I know that many places thrive because of tourism, so why would I want some bigwig in an entirely different country to get my money? This doesn't help to preserve culture, history, or the ecosystem. In order to make sure the maximum percentage of your funds actually benefit the local economy at your destination, here are some things to do and to look for:

Choose a local tour company

You may pay a bit more by going with a smaller company or individual, but chances are that you will get more personal trip and a higher percentage of your fees go directly back into the community. They are more often going to be hiring people who live in the area who are going to know more about your destination than anyone else. 

G Adventures has started Ripple Score, which can show you where your dollars go. A higher Ripple Score, the more money stays local. While they are the only tour company that uses this scoring system, with a little bit of effort, you can research other company's impact on the community you're visiting.

Dig deeper on your hotel's ownership

Even many boutique hotels are owned by a big conglomerate and your rate is put in a bank account elsewhere. They may not employ locals, or pay them a living wage, and they might import food for their restaurant(s) and products used in the room or for sale in the gift shop. If you're going to spend the money anyway, you might as well do a little bit of work to check out the About Us page on their website, and maybe email the general manager or owner to ask them these questions. If more people do that, hotels might see more people want to know where their money goes.

When I book through Airbnb, I rent from individuals who live in the area. I've often rented from people who live in their apartment until they have a renter, then they stay to check you in and then go stay elsewhere (a friend's or with family). They genuinely need the money and you aren't taking an accommodation away from locals who need it and you're not contributing towards rents being raised, because there is more demand for the limited supply of homes/apartments available.

Spend locally

Instead of running to Target or Walmart at your destination, as easy as those can be, try to hit up locally-owned and operated shops and grocery stores. As much as I love Sainsbury when I'm in London, I like to shop co-ops and little bodegas for groceries. I am a big fan of the farmers' markets and outdoor markets that sell vintage items and books and other souvenirs. 

On vacation is when we buy the majority of our holiday gifts, and I'm always on the lookout for unique items at one-off shops and things made by local artisans. It makes me feel good knowing I helped the economy a bit and also my gift recipients won't be able to buy the same thing at home. It's a win-win. When dining out, I almost never eat at a chain restaurant and instead look for highly-rated locally-owned establishments. I will often ask staff where we stay or at attractions where they like to eat, because they will generally point you to some delicious places that aren't that expensive and are unique to your destination.

Don't forget to tip

There are usually a lot of people behind the scenes that you don't see, whether you're staying at a boutique property, eating in a cozy pub, or getting amazing service in a yummy little eatery, leave a proper tip to let them know you enjoyed their service and they continue to enjoy working there and giving the same level of service to everyone else. If people love what they do, and are properly compensated (I know you are just one small cog in that machine), then they make it a place you tell people about, so more people visit and they can continue to flourish. 

Even if our dollars still end up outside of the communities we visit, we can at least try our best to keep as many as possible inside them, helping people, preserving the culture, and enabling them to thrive for generations to come, so more tourists can enjoy the places you did and you can enjoy places others did.

Of course you're going to want to do some generic touristy stuff. It's fun and inevitable, but there are a lot of ways you can "shop small" when you travel and it only takes a little effort to do so.

Do you try to spend locally when you travel, or have you never really thought too much about where your money goes once it leaves your bank account? Honestly, knowing who I'm supporting at home has helped me to think more about it on vacation.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Budget Summer Travel Tips

Summer is creeping up on us and before you know it, it’ll be sunny and the kids will be out of school and you’ll realize you haven’t starting planning a summer getaway yet. Don’t wait until the last minute, because that’s when you’ll pay the most. Airfare alone can jump as much as 40% during the summer months, so here are some tips to help keep you in the black this year and have an amazing time:

Before you know it, the kids will be out of school and you’ll realize you haven’t starting planning a summer getaway yet. Don’t wait until last minute

Shop for airfare on Tuesday and Wednesday and look for flights that depart on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday for the lowest fares. New fares are posted every Tuesday and Wednesday are the perfect time to get the best deals, and when you fly on less popular days, you can pay less and have a better chance of not getting bumped off your flight due to overbooking. One thing that'll make you happy is that this summer, flights will be the cheapest they’ve been in seven years. Of course, that doesn't mean you should slack and leave booking until later. You still need to get on that ASAP.

Go early. If your kids get out of school sooner the rest of the country, take advantage of your good fortune and vacation before the second week in June. Many schools have release dates in May, so if you can take time off before Memorial Day weekend, you can save a ton. The middle of June through the middle of August is going to be the most expensive time to travel almost anywhere, and the most crowded.

Go somewhere different. Your kids are always going to want to go to theme parks or the beach during the summer, but by changing up your destination, you can actually save a little or a lot of money. If they insist on going to the beach, look for lakeside resorts near where you live. Most still have a beach and everything that goes along with it, unless surfing is on the agenda. Other ideas are to visit cold-weather destinations or South America. The Southern Hemisphere experiences winter during our summer, making it a less desirable place to vacation. Less desirable equals more affordable. South America is close, but there are so many different places to choose from that are amazing, tropical and super budget-friendly.

Drive. Airfare can become a costly burden if there are many of you traveling. If you can spare the extra travel time, take a good old fashioned road trip to get to your destination. Make sure to plan fun stops along the way, like to see the world’s biggest ball of yarn, ghost towns or museums. It makes the whole trip seem like an adventure if you don’t just drive straight through. 

A pic from our boat tour of Portland

Plan a staycation. If everything just seems too far out of budget this time of year, opt to do things around your own town and take your vacation over holiday break. Prices will be lower, most destinations will be less crowded and you will be able to see and do more than in the summer. Need some ideas for your planning? See my staycation post and check out my staycation board on Pinterest.

Don’t forget your cash back! Help keep a little money in your pocket or stretch the dollars you have by using Rakuten to book your flights, hotel rooms and rental cars. You can even get cash back for buying essentials like sunscreen and shorts! It's totally free to join and it's super easy. In fact, they give you a gift just for making your first purchase. How can you beat that?

Plan ahead. Start planning for a cheap summer trip next year by picking up my Secrets to Summer Savings ebook. I give you all my travel saving tips to make summer travel cheaper and packed with more fun.

Where will you be going for your Summer vacation?
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