Tag: Travel

 

6 Summer Staycation Ideas

With summer right around the corner, this can mean only one thing: Time to plan your next vacation!

Unfortunately, vacations cost money and Americans often spend more than they have. In fact, surveys show that nearly three-quarters of Americans have, at some point, gone into debt financing their annual vacation – by spending more than $1,100 on airfare, motels and admission fees.

Maybe it’s time to consider a ‘staycation’ in your own backyard. This way you can still take time off work, have fun and save money. Take a look at six of our top staycation ideas.

1. Go camping in the backyard

Turn that backyard barbecue you were planning into a camping trip under the stars!

Start the afternoon (or evening) by grilling up some grub either on your grill or in a firepit placed on the lawn. Then, borrow or buy a tent and set it up. As the sun sets, sit around the campfire, swap some scary stories, and roast some marshmallows. You can even turn this backyard adventure into an educational experience.

“Take time to identify the insects and plants in the backyard. Late at night, use a telescope to look at the stars to learn more about constellations,” says travel blogger Jenny Smith.

The best part? You can have as many backyard cookout/camping trips as you like during the summer.

2. Rediscover your town

When was the last time you checked out some of the local attractions right in your own town?

Spend your summer staycation doing something different in your downtown, like visiting museums, art galleries or the zoo. You can also check out live concerts, plays in the park, cultural festivals and farmers markets. The possibilities are endless.

Chances are, by becoming a tourist in your own town, you’ll reconnect with an activity you’ve lost touch with, or even discover something new you love.

3. Take a day trip somewhere local

Taking a short drive out of town also counts as a staycation.

Do you live in a coastal state, near a beach? Or somewhere close to a national or state park, hiking trail, historic place or major city? If you live near wine country, what about a tasting tour of some wineries? Living within driving distance of one of these activities — and not having to break your budget on airfare and hotel costs — makes them all the more special.

With that, when taking a weekend getaway, remember that the point of a staycation is to keep costs to a minimum. Apart from budgeting for gas and food, try to save money on admission by looking for discounts and using Groupon deals.

4. Host a movie day/night

With Netflix binge-watching the new norm, more people prefer to stay in and watch movies at home instead of spending money on inflated ticket and concession prices at the movie theater.

So, why not take advantage of this trend and make it part of your staycation?

The first step is setting up your movie theater. Invite some friends over, or your children’s friends, set up bean bags, lawn chairs, and blankets for seating (even exercise balls or milk crates if there’s overflow), and reserve one or two blankets to cover the windows and block out the sun (if it’s a daytime matinee).

The only money you’ll need to spend is on snacks. Make some popcorn, put out some chips and salsa, veggie platters, and some sweets. You’re all set for your home-grown movie night (or afternoon)!

5. Have a spa day

 Your fantasy vacation might involve a glamorous getaway to a spa resort, but don’t worry, you can bring the spa experience right to your home – for an affordable price.

“If you want to enjoy exotic spa services without traveling away from home, then you can contact aestheticians who offer services at private residences,” says Smith.

“Contact your friends to have a spa party at home that includes facials, manicures and massages. Your spa party can last all day with your guests having fun pedicures or other beauty care services in your home rather than at a spa.”

6. Try something new

A staycation is the perfect opportunity to try something new.

Take a BYOB painting or pottery class. Try a cooking course. Join a conversational group to learn a new language. Or take lessons to learn a new entirely new skill, like guitar or archery.

You can also get together with friends for a softball game, or take on a do-it-yourself project. And don’t forget about volunteering. This can offer up a meaningful experience during your staycation.

Saving money with a staycation

A staycation might as well be called a savecation. While an exotic summer vacation may not be in your budget this year, a staycation allows you to have fun while saving money.

To help you get going, start by creating a vacation savings account. Or, use a banking app set up with an automatic savings account to build your balance as you go. This way, as you’re kicking back on your staycation, your money is on the move up.

 

How much should you save for your vacation?

What’s your dream vacation?

Maybe it’s sitting on the beach sipping mai tais and watching the sun go down. Or maybe you’re a bit more adventurous and would prefer renting a van and driving around Iceland’s Ring Road.

No matter what your vacation preferences, one thing is likely the same: Your trip will cost you a pretty penny. Luckily, that’s what savings accounts are for. But how much should you save up for a vacation? And what’s the best way to save?

To answer these questions, we’ll show you how to create your own DIY savings plan so that no matter where your wanderlust takes you, you’ll have enough money in your bank account to get you there and back.

Step 1: Create a Target Savings Goal

Guessing and pulling a random number out of thin air is an easy way you can come up with a target savings goal. But it’s also one that’s likely to leave you disappointed, since you might run out of cash before your vacation ends. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a gorgeous exotic location but having no money to do anything.

Instead, try this approach:

Tally Up Your Vacation Costs

This will require a bit of research on your part (but honestly, isn’t scoping out all of the opportunities part of the fun?)

In particular, take some time to tally up the total cost of the following things for the duration of your vacation:

  • Round-trip airfare
  • Hotel
  • Food
  • Souvenirs
  • Trips, tours, and admission prices

Step 2: Create a Working Savings Plan

Now that you’ve got a target in mind, great. Now, what do you do? Create a savings plan, of course.

Here’s how to do it:

Tally up the number of months between now and when you’ll be leaving for your vacation. Then, divide your target savings goal by that number of months.

This leaves you with the exact amount of money you need to save each month between now and when you leave.

Curious to see how this works? Let’s look at an example.

Example: Next Year’s Trip to New Zealand

Let’s say you want to go on a two-week tour of New Zealand next year. You do some research and come up with the following numbers:

  • Airfare: $1,100
  • Hotel: $150 (per day)
  • Food: $50 (per day)
  • Souvenirs: $200
  • Trips, tours, and admissions: $100 (per day)

The total cost of this trip is $5,500. If you want to go on this trip in 12 months, you’ll need to save up $458.33 per month to have enough cash for the trip.

Step 3: Re-evaluate Your Plan

So far, we’ve just created a working plan. Chances are, you’re probably shocked by how much you need to save — that’s normal, don’t worry!

There are a few things you can do to revise the plan so it fits your finances:

  • Adjust your monthly budget: Look for expenses you can easily cut out, such as dining out, subscription boxes, etc. This will free up more money each month so that you can divert it to your vacation fund instead.
  • Start side hustling: Side hustling is the easiest way to boost your income. Each extra dollar that comes in is a dollar closer to your travel goals.
  • Change your travel plans: Look over your travel plans. Is there any way you can lower your expenses by perhaps staying at cheaper hotels or eating out less? This will reduce the cost of your vacation as a whole. Alternatively, you could push your vacation further out into the future, so that you have to save less each month.

Example: Final Plan for Next Year’s Trip to New Zealand

Maybe you decide there’s no way in heck you can afford to save $458.33 per month. No worries — you can still go!

After looking at the three options listed above, you can make the following changes:

  • Cut your $25/month box subscription and cut $150/month from your dining out budget. This frees up $175 per month to go towards your New Zealand trip.
  • Start a side hustle and earn an extra $200 per month.
  • Opt for staying in backpackers’ hostels instead, for $50 per night. This frees up $1,400 from your target savings goal.

With these changes, you now only need to save $4,100, or $341.67 per month. You’ve also freed up $175 per month from your budget, and are earning an extra $200 per month for a net amount of $375 extra per month. Now, you’re able to save up enough for your trip!

Step 4: Put Your Savings on Autopilot

Now that you know how much your vacation will cost and how much to save each month, it’s time to put that plan into action.

Sure, you can try to remember to set aside money each month into your savings account. But, we promise you that something will get in the way and you’ll likely forget (just like that time you put your car keys in the fridge and couldn’t find them later).

Instead, put your savings on autopilot. You can use Chime Bank’s automatic savings feature to do this for you. In this case, you can set up your bank account to withdraw the money after each paycheck.

All you have to do is count up the number of paychecks between now and when you leave on your trip, divide your target savings goal by that number, and voila! You can set up your account to withdraw that amount from each paycheck so that it’s entirely on autopilot.

Are you ready to travel?

If you follow this four-step guide, all you’ll have to worry about is remembering your camera and deciding which fun activities you’ll do once you’re on your vacation.

Bon voyage!

 

How to Plan a Getaway With Friends That Works for Everyone’s Budget

Summer is right around the corner. This means vacation may be on your mind.

For many, a vacation entails traveling with a group, perhaps family or friends. As you may already know, group travel can be tricky, especially when people have their own  preferences and budgets. At the same time, a successful group vacation can be filled with fun memories and experiences.

If you’re ready to plan a getaway with friends, here are five tips to help you save money, create a budget for everyone, and make your summer vacation a positive experience.

1. Consider Your Travel and Destination Options

The first step when planning a group trip involves choosing where you want to go and how you’ll get there.

So, include everyone in a brainstorming session to gather opinions and vote on a destination. Consider factors like the cost of accommodations in the area and the types of tourist attractions you’d all like to visit. You’ll also want to consider how you’ll get there. Will you fly, take a train or bus, or perhaps drive?

2. Create a Budget that Works for Everyone

Once you’ve narrowed down where you’ll go and how you’ll get there, start to develop a budget that works for everyone.

Decide which expenses will need to be split among the group, along with how much you can individually afford to pay. For example, if you plan to drive, you may want to include an estimate of how much the fuel will cost, along with the price of a rental car.

If you’re flying, everyone can cover the price of their own plane ticket, but maybe you can search for airline deals so the airfare doesn’t exceed a certain amount.

Don’t forget to include budget categories for meals and lodging. Also, take into account hidden expenses like transportation during the trip and foreign transaction fees. What’s that? If you’re going to a different country, you may be hit with foreign transaction fees when you use your debit or credit card to make purchases.

Pro tip: You can avoid foreign transaction fees with a Chime bank account. Chime doesn’t charge any fees. This means you’ll have more vacay spending money.

3. Start Saving in Advance

Once you have a good idea of how much the trip will cost, you can start saving up for it. Figure out how far away your trip is and then break up the amount you need so you can make bi-weekly or monthly transfers to a specific savings account.

For example, if you’re taking a group trip in four months and need $1,500, you can plan to save $400 a month or $200 each paycheck if you get paid bi-weekly. You can even automate your savings so that the money is out of sight, out of mind. When it comes time for your vacation, the money will be ready and waiting for you.

Keep in mind that unexpected costs can come up during your trip, so it may be wise to save a little extra if you can.

4. Look for Fun and Affordable Things to Do

You don’t have to plan your group trip out by the hour, but it can be helpful to gather a list of activities and attractions to enjoy while you’re away.

You can also check to see if there are any deals available for specific activities. For instance, maybe you can catch a free museum or discounted boat ride on a certain day of the week. Or, perhaps a local restaurant has good ratings and provides bigger portions for less money. Some cities even have tourist packages where you can bundle a few popular activities together for one price.

Make sure you let everyone know about these options ahead of time so no one feels stretched financially during the trip.

5. Split Costs and Responsibilities

The great thing about traveling with a group is that you can split costs and responsibilities. Definitely take advantage of this when planning your group getaway.

For example, you can split Uber rides through the app, split up the cost of groceries, and use group discounts or Groupons for activities and outings. Depending on the size of your group, you may be able to spend less by renting a villa for the week instead of separate hotel rooms. You can also transfer money to pay each other easily with the Pay Friends payment app feature connected to your Chime Spending Account.

For supplies, be sure to ask around to see if anyone in the group has the item before you purchase it. For example, someone can bring a cooler if you’re planning a road trip or camping getaway, whereas you can all bring some snacks to share.

Stretch Your Dollar While Enjoying a Group Getaway

Budgeting for travel doesn’t mean you have to penny-pinch or forego having memorable experiences with your besties.

It all comes down to researching your trip ahead of time and working together to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the costs. From there, you can start saving early, take advantage of group deals, and split costs. Are you ready to plan your summer vacation?

 

How to Plan the Perfect Staycation: 6 Tips for Affordable Relaxation

It’s no secret that travel can be expensive even if you’re able to take advantage of hacks to lower the costs.

In fact, according to one study, the average family of four spends $4,580 on a vacation. And, many of these families expect to put at least $1,000 of their travel costs on a credit card.

Yet, there is a way to take time off without leaving your hometown and spending oodles of cash: Take a staycation.

What is a staycation?

A staycation is just like a vacation only you stay home. This means you don’t have to spend money on travel and lodging. You’ll still take time off and seek out new experiences, but you’ll be spending time near your home exploring your own town or taking day trips.

You can save a lot of money with a staycation and still bond and make memories with your loved ones.

Here are 6 tips to help you plan the perfect staycation.

1. Explore your city

A staycation can be just as fun as a vacation because you’ll have the opportunity to explore your city like never before. To start, think about whether there are there restaurants or attractions you’ve never been to.

Perhaps you can visit a new neighborhood eatery or attend a local festival. Maybe you can swap out your online shopping to check out some local shops and support the businesses in your area. Or, visit local museums and wander through the exhibits.

If you live near a metropolitan city, you may be able to take advantage of tourist attraction passes that allow you to visit several landmarks or attractions for one flat fee. You usually have a few days to visit all the places included in the pass. This is also a great way to experience the best of what your city has to offer – on a budget.

For example, CityPASS offers a low-priced pass in many cities, including Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Seattle and New York City. For a $64 adult Boston CityPASS ($52 for kids), you get access to five major attractions, including the New England Aquarium, Museum of Science and Boston Harbor Cruises. You’ve got nine days to visit the attractions and your pass also gets you expedited entry into all sites. Not so shabby.

2. Play Catch Up

A staycation is a great way to catch up on errands, set up appointments, and organize different aspects of your life. Dentist appointment anyone?

Yes, this may sound like work, but you can schedule tasks on your own terms and check off a few things on your list, leaving you feeling refreshed.

Just think: You can accomplish things that have been on your to-do list for weeks, like getting routine maintenance checks on your car, going to a doctor’s appointment, and decluttering and organizing your home.

In true staycation fashion, you can even treat yourself to a nice lunch after you finish errands or visit a day spa for the afternoon.

3. Embrace the Outdoors

Ready to embrace the outdoors? Use your staycation to explore local trails. You can also plan an outdoor picnic with family, visit a park, go swimming if the weather permits, or ride a bike along a scenic path. If there’s a nearby state or national park, you can even take a day trip to feel as if you’re getting out of dodge.

Another option to consider: Take a trip to the local zoo. There are several free or low-cost zoos across the country. Most will even allow you to bring in your own food and snacks, cutting down on your costs even more.

4. Take on a New Hobby or Learn a New Skill

Part of the thrill of going on vacation involves going someplace new. Yet, you can still experience something new without traveling far from home. A good place to start: Try out a new hobby.

Think of something you’ve always wanted to do and plan to hone that new skill or passion during your staycation. Whether you want to start playing a new instrument, learn photography, fix cars, start sewing, or practice cake decorating, this is a great opportunity to give it a whirl. Perhaps you can even take a class in the area or check out free resources online. Skillshare, for example, is an online community that allows people to learn new things.

If you’re stumped for a new idea, try a paint and wine outing with friends. These are typically budget-friendly and you don’t need a lot of artistic skills.

5. Make Time For Friends

Take the initiative to reach out to friends you haven’t seen in a while and plan a get-together.

You can simply have a lunch date, invite your friends over, or go somewhere fun. To stay on budget, look for Groupon deals. For example, maybe you can check out a new coffee shop or restaurant in town.

You can also use your staycation as an opportunity to meet new friends. Sites like Meetup have tons of local groups that are designed to facilitate meetings of like-minded folks. There are groups for runners, parents, couples, board game lovers, creatives, pet owners, and more.

6. Relax, Just Do It

Staycations are perfect for relaxing.

Sleep in, take naps in the middle of the day, catch up on your Netflix shows, and take long walks. Before you staycation, you can deep clean your home and organize your space as if you were leaving town.

You can even plan your meals and prep dinners in advance – then freeze them so you don’t have to worry about cooking. Decide on which days you’ll dine out and which days you’ll pull a ready-made meal from the freezer.

If there are any beaches by your home, plan to spend a day there relaxing and swimming. Or, if you have a sauna or pool at your gym, this is the week to make use of it.

Determine how you want to relax during your staycation and make it happen!

Save Money and Refresh With a Staycation

A staycation can not only be a huge money-saver, but it can help you relax, enjoy time with friends and family, and return back to reality feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Most importantly, you don’t have to save up a ton of money to have a successful staycation. And, you also won’t spend as much as you would if you travel far away. Just think: These staycation ideas will help you have a memorable experience without airline fees, hotel costs, and high restaurant charges.

Are you ready to plan a staycation?

 

How to Prepare for Holiday Travels

If you’re like me, any mention of the holidays in September is likely to make you cringe. “Too soon!” your mind screams.

But tell that to your wallet. And your bank account. The holidays may seem far away but you know how time works in adult years…basically the season of visiting your relatives will be here tomorrow.

Luckily for you: we’re here with a friendly nudge to get your financial butt in gear and prepare for holiday travels.

What should you consider before booking a flight?

Booking flights for holiday travel should never be a haphazard affair. It requires some thought and research to make sure you’re getting the best rate. Holiday flight prices can be truly scary, so to find the best prices, here’s what you need to consider:

  • What airports are nearby?
  • Are your dates flexible?
  • Will you need extra luggage space for gifts?
  • What is the baggage policy?
  • Do you have credit card points that you can use to cover or offset this trip?

By searching different airports and dates, you may be able to save some serious money. For example, I booked a flight recently and the difference between flying out of Los Angeles compared to Burbank was more than $100. Another pro tip: consider flying out on a red eye or flying on the day of the holiday for better deals. I’ve done both, and while not super fun, I did save money and still arrived in time to celebrate with family.

And, here’s another thing to think about: if you know you’ll need to check your bag(s), research baggage fees ahead of time. This way you’ll know what to expect and can plan for the possible added expense. Lastly, check your credit card to see if you have miles or cash back that can offset this trip. Depending on the card, you may also have other travel perks like access to an airport lounge or waived baggage fees.

How far in advance should you book your flight?

Finding the best flight price can be a little tricky but buying at the last minute during the holiday season is definitely a no-no. So, when exactly should you book your flight for your holiday travels?

According to travel site SkyScanner.com, booking flights for the holidays is cheapest in September. In September, prices are on average, 5 percent cheaper. And, booking 14 weeks before Christmas – the week of September 17 – is the best week to book flights. If booked during this time, you’ll score an average of 7 percent in savings.

To get the best deal, you can also set up a price alert using SkyScanner or Google Flights. CheapAir also has a calendar of some of the best days to fly if you’re traveling for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What time should you book your flight?

According to the Holiday Flight Report created by CheapAir, the best time to buy for Thanksgiving is in August or September. For Christmas – as shown above – the best time is in September.

If you want to go a step further, the best day and time to book your flight may be a Tuesday around 3 p.m., according to FareCompare.com.

How much should you budget for holiday travel?

Holiday flights are always more expensive because the demand is so high. Airlines know people will be traveling during this time and they can charge a premium.

Even buying at the best time can still be fairly expensive. According to The 2018 CheapAir Holiday Flights Report, you can expect to pay around $400-$500 per flight on average.

On top of that, you’ll want to consider your accommodations. Will you have a place to stay or will you need to book a hotel or an AirBnB? You will also want to budget for any activities and entertainment during your time away. And, of course, make sure to budget in the amount you may need to spend on gifts once you arrive at your destination. Indeed, the amount you need to save for your trip will depend on your particular situation.

Regardless, holiday travel is pricey, so start saving up now! Using Chime, you can save easily with our Automatic Savings program. You can also save effortlessly when you spend money with our round up option.

Another tip: set aside a portion of your paycheck for your holiday travels. I have a savings account that I named “Travel Fund” and I set aside money each time I get paid. Having that money in a special account helps minimize stress during the holidays — which let’s face it, on its own is fairly stressful, even without all the extra costs.

Remember: the holidays are all about spending time with family and getting some much-needed down time. You don’t want to add debt to the mix so saving now can help you avoid using credit to pay for something you can’t afford.

Final word

You may think it’s too soon to start thinking about holiday travel plans, but in reality it’s never too early to start saving for the holidays. Being prepared and booking flights early can help you score the best deals and avoid the stress of scrambling at the last minute.

To boot, a little preparation, budgeting, and booking ahead can save you future headaches and allow you to enjoy the holidays — without worrying about money.

 

Budgeting for Summer Vacation

School bells are ringing for the last time this school year. Kids and their families are looking forward to a great summer season filled with warm weather, fun activities, and maybe even a vacation. But that summer vacation may be more expensive than many can afford.

Recent data from Bankrate shows that nearly one-quarter of Americans will skip a vacation this summer due to financial reasons, while roughly another quarter are skipping out due to a demanding work schedule and other family obligations. If you do want to make a summer vacation a reality, it is important to focus on your budget to make it happen.

The cost of a summer vacation

Vacations are not cheap, but they don’t have to cost so much they are not attainable. If you want to take your family of four on a vacation, you’ll spend around $1,000 to $5,000 depending on your accommodations, travel, meals, and activities. But keep in mind you have a lot of control here.

A summer road trip is one of the cheaper ways to get out of town. If you bring a cooler and plan out meals, camp some of the time, only pick hotels with free breakfast, and stick with lower cost attractions, you can enjoy a trip filled with wonderful memories on a tight budget. Depending on your destination and planning, this could easily come in below a $1,000 total cost.

Taking the family to Hawaii or Europe, on the other hand, is rarely an inexpensive proposition. You can expect expensive airfare, hotels, and food to easily surpass $1,000 per traveler depending on how long you travel and the quality of accommodations.

If you live paycheck to paycheck, coming up with even $100 for a home repair is a struggle, let alone $4,000 to take the family to Europe. But money isn’t the only thing holding people back from vacations.

Competing priorities

The Bankrate data said that among those skipping the summer vacation, half said money is the main factor. But for 25%, family responsibilities were the contributing factor. Another 22% can’t take time off from work.

While many employers offer paid time off, a huge number of employees skip taking those days or leave a large number unused. A study from Glassdoor found that half of vacation days go unused and two-thirds of Americans work while on vacation anyway.

For entrepreneurs like us, getting away may be a pipedream. Do as much as possible ahead of time so you can avoid plugging in while away. And putting a vacation auto-away message on can help you avoid the guilt of not responding to emails quickly while away.

Create an automatic vacation savings fund

If you do want to take a vacation but find money is holding you back, consider creating a dedicated vacation savings account. You can put cash in from your direct deposit or a recurring transfer from checking without even thinking about it!

To take it a step further, consider apps like Qapital that can help you put money away on a schedule or based on some fun, automated actions. A few months ago I put $1 into my savings fund every time Donald Trump put out a new message on Twitter, as an example of what is possible for automatic savings.

This can be a simple setup or something more complex. It’s up to you to decide the best path to success.

Don’t forget travel hacking

If you want to supercharge your travel opportunities without going crazy on costs, remember that you can earn valuable miles and points for travel rewards from your credit cards and other sources.

I started travel hacking nearly a decade ago, and it has brought me huge rewards. I’ve been able to visit England, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Canada, Israel, and destinations all over the United States for pennies on the dollar. For example, a few years ago I took my then girlfriend (now wife) to my cousin’s wedding near Tel Aviv. We paid about $150 each round-trip for our flights.

I just booked a July 4th trip to visit my family in Denver, also with miles and points. Flights for three of us plus a lap child cost about $33 out-of-pocket. About two weeks later I’m off on a solo trip to Chicago and Philadelphia for an all-in cash cost of less than $20.

Make your dream vacation a reality

Vacations are an amazing way to see the world and spend time with the people you love most, but don’t let the cost keep you from going or send you into debt. By using smart budgeting, mobile wallets and travel hacking techniques, your affordable vacation may be just around the corner.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

7 Tips to Save Big While Traveling Abroad

Traveling abroad can be a life-enhancing experience. Exploring other cultures, getting lost in beautiful museums, or just kicking back on the beach takes you out of your routine. But – let’s be real – the joy of that experience is lost if it drains your bank account.

Luckily, saving money on your next big trip abroad isn’t hard. With a little planning, you can see the world without breaking your budget.

Check out these 7 tips to keep costs in check for your next international trip.

Try Alternatives to Expensive Hotels

At this point, we’ve all heard of Airbnb. But have you ever considered a home exchange or house sitting? A home exchange entails swapping houses with someone in another country or location. It allows you both to see new places while avoiding lodging costs. You’ll also be able to save money on food by cooking in a kitchen and eliminate laundry costs as you may have access to a free washing machine and dryer.

My mom has taken advantage of this travel method for over a decade. In fact, for her first home exchange, she swapped two-weeks at our Cape Cod home for two-weeks in a Paris apartment. This created a lifelong friendship. My mother met her exchange family on Home Exchange, a website that allows you to list your home for potential exchange and communicate with those interested in a house swap.

Twelve years later, my mom still travels to France for a few weeks each summer. She now cat sits for the same family in exchange for staying in their home. I’ll let you in on her little secret – cats are pretty self-sufficient.

Use a Card With No Foreign Transaction Fees

Here’s a tip: try not to pay money to spend your money. An easy way to live by this rule is to use a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

These fees can indeed add up as the standard international transaction fee at major banks is three percent, often with additional ATM fees. To avoid these charges, try to get a credit card with zero foreign transaction fees before you take off on your trip.

Even if you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, you should also make sure you have a plan in place to access cash while you’re away. Why? Those beautiful flower markets in Paris or a busy bazaar in Istanbul won’t take your AmEx. So, make sure you carry a debit card with no foreign transaction or ATM fees. Chime Bank, which offers the Chime Visa Debit Card, has no fees at all. Not only this, but you can actually use your Chime card to start saving up for your trip before you leave. By enrolling in Chime’s Automatic Savings program, you’ll save money every time you make a purchase on your debit card. How? Chime rounds up your transactions and transfers the amount directly into your Savings account.

Find Deals to Save Money on Tourist Attractions

Museums and popular sites with high entrance fees aren’t the only way to experience a city. Get out and walk around your new surroundings. Explore small shops, have a picnic in a local park, and people watch.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to use free entertainment guides to find cultural events and free activities. TimeOut, for example, offers up-to-date cultural activities for over 20 cities, including free options, like this tourism guide for London. These guides often include outdoor concerts, parades, or free entrance nights at museums and art shows.

If you also want to visit popular tourist attractions, be sure to look for deals. For example, London Pass, HIPPO Singapore Pass, and I amsterdam City Card offer steep discounts if you plan to see multiple attractions, while still giving you the flexibility to set and change your schedule.

Get Around for Less With Public Transportation

Most tourists choose to take taxis or ride shares around foreign cities. It is the simplest way to get from point A to point B without getting lost. But taxis get expensive fast. Instead, you can save big by familiarizing yourself with a city’s public transportation system before you visit.

In London, for example, Taxi Fare Finder estimates it would cost you $20.17 to take a taxi from Big Ben to The Tower of London. Yet, it would cost only about $3.30 if you took the Underground.

You can even save more on public transportation by adding a transport pass to a city tourism package, like the ones mentioned above. Barcelona’s City Pass from Turbopass, for example, costs $97 for two days and includes an unlimited public transportation pass that would cost $24 if purchased separately. This is a great deal as your transport pass is paired with free admission to more than 20 tourist sites with skip-the-line entry, a pass for the Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour, transportation from the airport, maps, and more.

Check Out Restaurants Locals Recommend

Restaurants in major tourist destinations often jack up prices and fill menus with Americanized options. This may be best for business, but it isn’t great for your wallet or taste buds. Instead, wander outside of tourist areas and look for local hot spots.

Not sure where to start? Check out reviews on Yelp! or TripAdvisor. Or, strike up a conversation with a local and ask for dining out tips.

Save on Cell Phone Costs

Failing to prepare to use your cell phone while overseas can lead to sticker shock when your next bill comes in.

To plan ahead, ask your cell phone provider for information on global plans. You may be able to add this service for just a month. Another option is to have your cell phone unlocked. A locked phone can only work with one carrier, but an unlocked phone can pick up signals from other carriers. This means you may be able to purchase a SIM card for a local cell service provider for $10 to $50 on Amazon, depending on where you are traveling.

If you can’t unlock your phone or add a global plan, be sure to lean on text and voice apps using free Wi-Fi, such as WhatsApp and Facebook messaging.

Set (and Keep!) a Budget

Whenever you’re preparing to travel, be sure to create a budget. Incorporate spending money for transportation, food, lodging, experiences, and souvenirs. Then check in on your travel savings account regularly as you plan your activities. This will ensure that you stay on track.

With a little planning, the confidence to stay away from tourist traps, and a no-fee bank account, you can make room for foreign travel in your budget. Bon Voyage!

 

Top Hacks to Save Money on Holiday Travel

‘Tis the season—to go broke. If the stress and inherent hustle-bustle of traveling during the holidays weren’t enough to pull your hair out, factor in the costs. Not-so-fun fact: Americans spent an average of $1,003 on holiday-related costs in 2016. Yikes.

Whether you’re traveling to visit family or to enjoy an end-of-year getaway, here are our tips to avoid getting sucker-punched with holiday debt hangover (hey, it happens to the best of us). Take a look at our top holiday traveling hacks:

Book early

Just like there are last-minute gift shoppers, there are last-minute travel bookers, says Ben Luthi, travel enthusiast and money writer for Student Loan Hero. As the demand increases for holiday travel, so will the prices. “Of course, booking early won’t mean you’ll get screaming deals,” says Luthi. “Holiday travel is usually more expensive than average regardless of when you book.” But the sooner you do it, the less of a premium you’ll have to pay.

Be flexible

Flexibility is key when it comes to snagging the best travel deals. For example, if you’re flying for the holidays, be willing to potentially fly in early and stay a bit longer to miss the rush, says Luthi. Here’s another tip: the least busy travel days are often Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, according to personal finance and travel writer Robyn Parets. In addition, you’ll often find a bargain airfare if you’re willing to travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday rather than on other days during the week. These two days, along with New Year’s Eve, tend to be the lowest priced days to travel during the holiday season, says Parets.    

Road trip it

If you can spare the time and your destination isn’t too far away, consider driving, taking a bus, or traveling by train – instead of flying, suggests Luthi. For example, Luthi and his wife are driving from Utah to Portland for a two-fold purpose this holiday season: to attend his sister-in-law’s wedding and to spend time with the family over New Year’s. While Luthi originally booked a flight, it was ridiculously expensive, so he canceled it and plans to drive instead.

Hold off on holiday shopping

Instead of hauling gifts on a flight or shipping them, wait to buy gifts when you reach your destination, suggests Jessica Garbarino of Every Single Dollar. “It makes your travel less stressful and saves money,” says Garbarino.

Here’s a solid reason why traveling with wrapped gifts can cause anxiety and cost you money: if a TSA agent decides to inspect your bags, he may decide to unwrap your presents to see the contents. This will not only hold you up and stress you out, but you’ll spend money on more wrapping paper to re-wrap those gifts when you arrive at your destination, says Parets.

Another tip: avoid traveling with gifts altogether and buy your present online. This way you can take advantage of free shipping deals or have them directly shipped to your destination via Amazon Prime.

Consider flying out of another airport

If you find flights are outrageously priced from your home airport, try considering alternatives, suggests Holly Johnson, personal finance and travel writer at Club Thrifty. For instance, while the Johnsons live in Indianapolis, they frequently drive to Chicago for better airfare deals. It’s occasionally $300 to $400 less per person per flight, which nets a grand total savings of up to $1,600 for the family of four. Johnson says the savings make up for the three-hour drive to the airport.

Use your reward points and travel on a budget airline

If you’ve racked up a significant number of reward points on a credit card, consider redeeming them for airline travel, suggests Ruby Escalona of A Journey We Love. Some travel credit cards also let you redeem points for buses and trains too. Just make sure that, if your credit card comes with an annual fee, you gain enough in travel perks to offset that cost.

Get a co-branded airline credit card

When traveling during the holidays, airplanes are more packed than usual, which makes it more challenging to find overhead bin space. To save on checked luggage fees, consider carrying the co-branded credit card of your preferred airline, says Lee Huffman, a travel blogger at Bald Thoughts.

This helps in two ways, says Huffman. First: most airlines don’t charge you to check bags when you book a flight on its credit card. Second: if you prefer to travel with a carry-on-bag, these cards often offer priority boarding. This means you’ll enjoy earlier access to overhead bin space.

Search for online deals for food and fun

Want to have fun on a dime when you arrive at your travel destination? Scour deal sites to find deals on food and entertainment using apps like Groupon and Goldstar before you leave home, suggests Huffman. You should also always carry your membership cards like AAA and AARP to secure discounts at participating locations. In addition, sometimes public transit may offer discounts to nearby attractions and restaurants. For instance, in Los Angeles, you can score “destination discounts” with a Metro transit card.

Seek gourmet food halls

To save on food when traveling, be on the hunt for gourmet food halls, suggests Amy Rutherford of Go With Less. “Think mall food court with ambiance and inexpensive, delicious options,” says Rutherford.” They’re popping up everywhere!” Some gourmet food halls include the Time Out Market in Lisbon, Chelsea Market in New York City, Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, and Mercado Roma in Mexico City.

Ready, set, go

While holiday travel can get expensive, keeping these travel hacks in mind can help you save big bucks while avoiding serious debt hangover in the new year. Your pocketbook and budget for 2018 will thank you.

 

How to Save Money During Wedding Season

Wedding invitations are piling up on your desk and all you can think is: “How will I ever afford this?” You want to support your friends and celebrate love. But let’s face it, wedding season can wreak havoc on your wallet — especially if you’re attending multiple weddings in the span of a few months.

According to data from the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, wedding guests in 2016 were expected to spend $703 — per wedding. Even worse, millennials spent about 27 percent more, or an expected $893 for every nuptial. With Americans slated to attend an average of three weddings per year, the costs of being a wedding guest can easily surpass the $2k mark.

So what can you do to save money during wedding season? Read on to learn more.

Save money on airfare

Traveling costs to get to the wedding can take the biggest chunk out of your budget, especially if it’s a destination wedding. To save money on flights, timing is everything.

Based on research from CheapAir.com, the best time to book travel is between one and three and a half months prior to the wedding. You can also use Yapta and Hopper to track prices so you can be sure you’re getting the best deal.

Lower costs on lodging

Do you have other friends attending the wedding as well? If so, share an Airbnb and split the cost. If you’re flying solo, see if you have any friends in the area that are willing to host you or let you stay at their place. You may be in luck. Last year I attended a wedding and stayed at my friend’s place while he was out of town. It worked out perfectly.

You can also use sites like Orbitz, Hotwire, Trivago, and Travelzoo to look for the best deals. If you’re willing to wing it, you can always use the Hotel Tonight app, which offers discounts on unsold rooms booked at the last-minute. For those looking to seriously save on lodging, consider splitting up the cost of a hotel room with friends with the help of money transfer apps.

How to gift on a budget

Wedding gifts are a big part of the wedding process.  But if you don’t play your cards right, you could be paying the price — literally.

Many wedding registries have tiered-prices — some low priced gifts, moderately priced gifts, and higher priced gifts. Guess which ones go first? If you don’t want to get priced out of affordable gifts from the registry, purchase a gift early on!

If you don’t act fast, you could also give cold hard cash and choose an amount you can afford. Based on the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, cash came in second place for wedding gift preferences, behind gifts from the registry.

If neither a registry gift or cash fits your budget, you can always make a gift yourself. In the digital age, a printed photo and frame can go a long way. Check out more DIY wedding gifts for a boost of inspiration.

Dress for less

If you’re attending several weddings in a short period of time, the last thing you want to do is to be caught on the ‘Gram or Facebook wearing the same outfit again and again. But if buying several dresses or suits is just not an option, what can you do?

For starters, consider buying a staple like a black dress which you can accessorize with different cardigans, shawls, jewelry or shoes to give it a new look. An affordable place to shop is actually Amazon. Sure, you can’t try on outfits but in most cases, you can return clothing within 30 days.

To save even more money, see if you can get a little help from your friends. Your friends might have clothes in a similar size that you can borrow. I did this a few years ago with no problem. I didn’t have to spend any money and I borrowed a dress that was sitting in my friend’s closet.

Looking for something a little higher end? You can also check out Rent the Runway to get serious discounts on designer wear. This way you can rent a different dress for each wedding.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out your local thrift shop where you might find some hidden gems.

Just say no

With wedding season in full swing, you may feel pressured to say “yes” to every invitation. But if you’re struggling to conquer debt or save money, consider politely declining. This is especially true if attending the wedding may send you into debt. Yeah, it’s not fun or ideal to sit out, but sometimes saying “no” is the best thing you can do for your finances. Here are some tips from The Knot on how to send your regrets.

Bottom line

Attending multiple weddings can add up fast. But with a little planning and creativity, you can lower costs as a wedding guest. By doing so, you can celebrate the nuptials of your closest friends, while keeping your financial life in good standing.

 

How to Save Money at Music Festivals

Music festivals are a great excuse to round up a group of your best friends, see your favorite artists and hang out with thousands of other music lovers in a beautiful location.

Unfortunately, these events – often held over several days – can be expensive. Not only that, but the recent Fyre Festival disaster elevated the term “buyer beware” to a whole new level. In the case of Fyre, festival-goers paid $1,200 for tickets to what they thought would be a luxury music experience in the Bahamas. They arrived to find sparse unassembled tents, cheese sandwiches, and canceled bands. If these festival-goers learned anything, it was this: Do your research and choose a festival with an excellent reputation and track record. You can start your search on a site like The Festival Guy, which offers up information on a variety of festivals and performers. It’s also a good idea to check reviews on sites like Consequence of Sound (COS) and of course, ask your friends which festivals they like the best.

Once you’ve done your due diligence, it’s time to plan an affordable trip to a music festival. Before you do this, however, here’s a dose of reality: The $1,200 ticket price to Fyre isn’t that much higher than a frugal Coachella experience, which will run you about $1,006, according to Time Magazine. But, if you’re mindful of your money and follow these 7 steps, you can still get the VIP festival experience on a budget. Take a look:

Step #1: Decide on A Budget

As a first step, decide how much you’re willing to spend on the festival. Maybe this is your big splurge of the year and you want to go all out, or maybe this is merely the first of a summer filled with music festivals. Once you’ve come up with your max number, you can then decide how much you want to spend. If you don’t want to cut back on any festivals or travel costs, all is not lost. Perhaps you can work a side hustle for a few months beforehand to cover the extra expenses.

Step #2: Plan Ahead to Save on Ticket Prices

One of the biggest expenses associated with music festivals is the admission ticket. In fact, Coachella 2017’s general admission ticket was $399, while the VIP ticket was $899. Yet, with a bit of planning, you may be able to avoid paying for tickets altogether. Here’s how: Festivals run on volunteers. By volunteering, you get free admission. In return, you help check people in, clean up after performances, or work in another capacity. The trick is to apply months ahead of time as volunteer spots fill up fast.

As a volunteer, the perks are plentiful. For starters, you get access to areas and events that the average ticket holder doesn’t. Sure, you might be at the Kendrick Lamar private party because you’re there to pick up empty bottles. But, at least you’re at the Kendrick Lamar private party!

If volunteering is not an option, planning ahead can still save you money as some festivals offer early bird discounts for tickets purchased months in advance. At the very least, buying early means you can snag general admission tickets, which are often hundreds of dollars cheaper than VIP packages. For example, ACL General Admission tickets are $255, whereas the VIP passes are $1,100. General admission tickets often sell out in the first few days of sales, so acting fast saves you big time.

Step #3: Skip Festival Food and Drinks

Everyone knows festival food tent prices are inflated and generally not so healthy either.

So, why not skip eating the food sold there altogether? You can do this by brown-bagging it. Although some festivals may not allow you to bring in your own food, you can often get away with this by putting small snacks in your pockets, like granola bars and fruit. Also, if you plan ahead, you can eat before arriving at the festival. This way you won’t crave the tent food and spend money unnecessarily.

If you’re camping at the festival, you can certainly bring your own food and this makes perfect sense. You can cook what you want and save money. If you drove to the festival, you can even shop ahead of time at low-priced grocery stores so that you can avoid shopping at more expensive convenient stores near the festival grounds.

Step #4: Plan Your Travel Wisely

Depending on how far away you live from the festival, transportation costs can vary widely. If you have to fly, be sure to research flight prices on comparison sites like Kayak or Priceline. Southwest Airlines is not part of third party flight aggregator sites so be sure to check Southwest flight deals separately.

If you can avoid purchasing airline tickets, explore bus fares and train ticket costs. You’re best bet: carpooling. Getting four friends in a car together means you can split parking and gas costs.

Step #5: Fashion on a budget

Let’s face it: music festivals are an Instagram free-for-all. You’ll want to frame the perfect shot and load it up with the perfect hashtags.

In order to get that perfect shot, you might think you need to spend a ton of cash on clothes and photo tools. Yes, a shot of you in a Free People top, paired with your Ray-Bans, might score a lot of likes. It can also wipe out your budget. To save money on the clothes you’ll be rocking to concerts during the day, skip the name brands. Festivals are a no rules playground. Pick up your threads at a thrift store, or borrow from a friend. Better yet, pair clothes you already own together in new ways to make your outfits feel fresh.

By saving money on your fashion-forward clothes, you can spend a bit extra on important outerwear that you may need, especially if you’re camping. For deals on outerwear, be sure to check out sales at stores like REI and L.L,Bean. This way you may be able to score some high-quality outdoorsy clothes that last for several music festivals.

Step #6: Where to Stay

If possible, camping at a music festival will give you the VIP experience. Tent camping at Coachella, for example, costs $113/night. You might think of camping as roughing it, but you’ll be on festival grounds 24/7. That means any pop-up parties, shows, or random dance parties will be yours for the taking.

If you prefer to stay off-site and camping isn’t your style, check out nearby options on  Airbnb. You and your friends might be able to score an affordable house rental and split the cost or perhaps you can split up and rent a couple of rooms with local Airbnb hosts.

Step #7: Festival Insurance

If you’re concerned about protecting your investment in your music festival experience, you might want to consider purchasing travel insurance. Yes, it’s an added expense, but it’s also a good way to ensure that you won’t lose your money if you get sick and can’t attend. Or, if the festival is canceled or a complete mess, like Fyre, you can file a claim with your travel insurance company to try to get your cash back. To shop for affordable travel insurance, check out InsureMyTrip.com and Smartmouth.com.

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