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How To Vacation with Your Lover Without Killing Each Other – 10 Tips

How To Vacation with Your Lover Without Killing Each Other – 10 Tips

This vacation planning article is inspired by and dedicated to my wonderful friends Tony Amos and Rita Cristoph who have traveled to over 27 countries together and counting. It’s a blessing to see their pictures and smiling faces, and they encourage me every day to get out and explore the road less traveled.

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Anonymous

Tony Amos and Rita Cristoph - vacation planning
Tony and Rita

 

In my opinion there is nothing more fun then taking a trip with your love. It’s you and them against the world, exploring new frontiers, learning about each other, building a bond and creating new memories. Like anything worthwhile in life is does take hard work and patience, but if you follow these tips and keep an open mind, your can use your vacation time to build a stronger bond with your partner, and improve your overall relationship for the better!

 

  • ORGANIZE FINANCES BEFOREHAND 

Urgh the ugly subject of money. It’s embarrassing to bring up but it has to be done. When vacation planning, discuss who is paying for what and when and stick to it. You might choose to split the costs evenly, pay proportionately to your means/income, or simply divide costs. One person pays for tickets, and the other for hotels for example. Make sure that you are both saving towards the vacation or have money put aside for it and talk about the financial needs often. Money is a subject that causes many arguments, so plan ahead to avoid the stress!

 

 

  • BE IN A SECURE RELATIONSHIP

Most people don’t think about this, but going on vacation can make or break a new relationship. It’s important to know someone well before agreeing to go anywhere with them. You are going to be around this person in close quarters for days on end. This includes sleeping, going to the bathroom, showering and eating. If you haven’t done all of these around your partner yet, a vacation is not the time to introduce them to your toilet habits, or ability to make small children cry with your snoring!

 

vacation planning

  • EXPLORE SOMEWHERE NEW

While it’s fun to bring your partner back to your hometown and introduce them to your 50 aunts, uncles and cousins, save this for the holidays. Pick a vacation destination that you both really want to go to and haven’t been before. Half the fun is exploring somewhere new, being out of your element and enjoying the unfamiliar together, If one partner is familiar with an area and the other is not, it can cause different expectations and an uneven travel experience.

 

 

  • BOOK ADEQUATE ACCOMMODATION

In my romantic youth I used to think that as long as you are with someone you really like, you can sleep on the floor and be happy. Umm NO. Having a little bit of luxury and adequate sleep, is the key to having an enjoyable vacation. Sure, some couples are quite happy to go camping, or slum it in a backpackers, but in my experience, the more comfortable you are and the less stress you have physically and mentally, the better. This is your vacation, enjoy it and have a little bit of what you don’t get everyday at home.

 

vacation planning cruise

  • CONSIDER TAKING A CRUISE

Cruises are a great idea for people looking for some time away together. They offer different lengths and destinations, can be relatively cheap, include food, you have your own room and privacy and offer day stops at exotic destinations. All the stress of finding accommodation and restaurants everyday is taken out and you are free to relax and enjoy each others company. Bare in mind that some cruise companies will take one credit card for use while on the boat so make sure you discuss extra expenses ahead of time.

 

 

  • PACK LIGHTLY AND BE LOW MAINTENANCE

A vacation together with your significant other is no time to be a diva or a divo and pack your entire collection of Mac cosmetics or colognes. Keep essentials to a minimum and resolve to the fact that this person will see you without make-up or a shower, looking wretched, sweating, possibly drunk and enjoying life. This is especially true if you will be carrying your luggage with you a lot and going from place to place. No it’s not cool to ask him to carry your stuff. Pack light, have an appropriate carry bag and handle it yourself.

 

 

  • PLAN TO DO SOME THINGS ALONE

For some reason I always hook up with guys that need or want to take naps. No they aren’t old men, that are men in their prime who believe that a vacation time is sleep time. Now there is nothing wrong with that per se, if that’s what you like, but it’s not for me and it drives me mental. When I’m on vacation I want to experience everything and it’s go go go! I always bring a bathing suit and workout shorts with me and when this happens, I go and amuse myself for a few hours and burn some calories.

 

vacation planning being alone

  • USE THIS TIME TO OBSERVE YOURSELF AND YOUR PARTNER

It’s so true that travel can make or break a relationship, and it’s also true that a lot of couples use a vacation as a marriage test run. Travel puts us in all kinds of situations that not only test our comping skills, but also how we deal with problems and interact with others as a whole. You can tell a lot about a persons character by how they deal with stress or disappointment and we can also learn a lot about ourselves. Maturity and entitlement have a lot to do with how we cope. Use this time to look at your relationship and decide if this person has qualities you really seek in a partner.

 

 

  • LEARN TO HAVE PATIENCE

As any good wife will tell you, picking your battles is key to mutual respect and a happy partnership. As mentioned above, travel is stressful and fear of the unknown and inadequate sleep can cause us all to lash out and overreact. Sure if something your partner does really irritates you then speak out and say something in a constructive manner, but avoid being snappy, blowing up and taking your frustrations out on your partner. Understand that they are people too and are probably also stressed or tired.

 

 

  • HAVE YOUR OWN MONEY AND A PLAN B

I know I say this all the time but it’s so true. Money is security, food and a bed for the night, especially when you are traveling. Take it from me, I know how important this is first hand. I have traveled with others before and felt uncomfortable or been involved in conflict and have had to step out and get my own hotel room and transportation home. I wish it never happens but it does. Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Accidents also happen on the road and it’s wise to have alternative options available. Just plan for everything.

 

So there you are! I hope these tips help you and your partner to plan and enjoy a wonderful vacation filled with fun, romance and adventure. Go create some memories together!

vacation planning lovers - hit the path

The Pros And Cons Of Guided Tours

The Pros And Cons Of Guided Tours

Guided Tours is a topic I often debate with fellow travelers, and it really does depend on who you are, where you are and what you are doing. It’s no secret that my personal preference is to travel alone, meet local people and make use of their hospitality preferably for free. Partly because I’m a cheapskate, and partly because in my opinion, you get a true taste of the local culture by fully immersing yourself in a destination and stepping outside your comfort zone. Nothing says ‘learn to walk’ like being dropped in a strange city and having to find your own forms of sustenance and transportation. The unpredictable is what turns me on, but I understand others prefer a more structured/scheduled approach to travel. Let’s

divine leaders  - hit the path
Na na na na na Leader!

face it, the only way you’d get me on a guided tour is if I was in North Korea on a state mandated tour bus, while I sucked down Kimchi and conveniently avoided taking pictures of ‘the great eternal leader’. But for everyone else, let’s press on….

So without further ado, here are the pros and cons of going on guided tours! Woohooo!

PROS:

 

  • Everything is already planned and ready to go.

For those of you who like to know where you’ll are going, what you’ll be doing, what you’ll be seeing, where you’ll be staying and what you’ll be eating, guided tours are for you. The good news is most tour agencies have full itineraries to view and feature several online reviews from previous travelers with tips to make your vacation experience a good one. Make use of this pre-planned information and make your vacation a customized and memorable one.

 

  • Local guides and translators

The greatest hurdle to cross when traveling is overcoming language barriers. I speak Arabic and English and I still have problems communicating! I hate to admit it because I do preach tolerance and multiculturalism, but it really bothers me when it takes sign language and 30 minutes just to order lunch! Have no fear, tour guides provide you with a translator and potentially a free pass into places you might not have the opportunity to go on your own. Life is so much easier when you’re with a native speaker.

camel tours  - hit the path
yes, you can even tour by camel!
  • Transportation and Airport pickups

Transportation is always something that gives me anxiety when I travel. It might seem easy to get a ride from the airport, but in reality it can be a nightmare. I wish I had all the money back that I have had conned out of me by taxi drivers, and it’s not just them, hotels will charge upwards of $20 for an simple airport pickup, even in the poorest of countries. As mentioned above, public transport is also unreliable and there’s no denying that hiring a tour company takes away all that stress and worry and allows you to focus on enjoying your vacation.

 

  • Good for people with limited time

Let’s face it, most Americans only get 2 weeks off a year and since time is of the essence, booking a guided tour with a strict timeline is a good option. Vacationing alone takes a lot of time to plan and things don’t always go the way we hope. If you don’t want to be inconvenienced by unreliable public transport and have no flexibility on time and dates, let a tour guide company figure it all out for you. You get to see a selection of local attractions and don’t have to waste time finding food and accommodation.

  • Included meals and hotels

Because tour guides are booking for large groups, then often get good discounts on food and accommodation. A lot of them offer 4 star hotels and good quality local dining options. Oftentimes lunch is not included, so that is an extra cost to be aware of and also there is limited options available. You either eat at the same restaurant with the group or pay for your own meal somewhere else.

guided tours  - hit the path
Nom Nom Nommm

 

CONS:

 

  • Not a lot of opportunity to meet locals

As I have mentioned in my other posts, meeting locals people is truly the cornerstone to a wonderful and memorable vacation. I believe that everybody has something to offer and teach, and putting myself in positions to learn from others has allowed me to be an open minded and well educated individual. Being on tour does not allow for a lot of social interaction with people other then the translator and tour coordinator.

 

  • Can’t get a taste of local culture

While it’s good to see the top local attractions in a city, that’s where it begins and ends for tour companies. Attractions are a must for any traveler, but what I enjoy the most about my vacations, is the option to stroll down the streets, talk to new people, eat snacks and even just to sit down at a local park and appreciate where I am for a minute. Take it all in and do it in my own time.

 

guided tours bus  - hit the path
Nicer then my own transpo….
  • Can be rushed and time limited

Having everything taken care of on a trip can reduce stress for some, but for others it can add to it. Going on tour means early mornings, scheduled meals, set allotments of time at different places, and a huge sense of rushed uneasiness that I would call anything but fun. Yes tour guides do a great job at squeezing in everything in the shortest amount of time, but be aware of the schedule ahead of time and if it’s not your thing, opt to go it alone.

  • Stuck in a group

This is something I don’t do well with and it’s no secret that I’m not a huge people person. I spend most of my home time in my mountain cabin alone 7000 feet in the air. The people I have in my life I choose to associate with, and remember on a tour you have no choice of who’s on your vacation. You might get lucky and blend in with an amazing group of people. You might also get stuck with a bunch of louts and loudmouths that could make your holiday a miserable hell. It’s the luck of the draw and you have to personally weight the pros and cons on what you are willing to tolerate and what you won’t.

 

  • Hidden costs and fees

This is double edged sword that a lot of people aren’t aware of when they book a tour. A lot of companies (especially the budget ones), will charge extra for day excursions and added on services that are not included in the original price. Also some tours expect extra money for tipping and alcoholic beverages. Just because you are quoted $1200 for a 10 day tour doesn’t mean that’s all the money you will need. Bring extra cash with you, you don’t want to have to miss out of an additional experience because you were not aware beforehand.

guided tours  - hit the path
Ohh Santorini

Which Option Is Cheaper?

I put this as a separate category because it really does depend on where you go, for how long and what you plan on doing. International tours often include airfares which are cheaper than those you could book for yourself so that’s a plus, but you might also be paying for attractions you really have no interest in seeing, and meals that you just won’t eat. Accommodation is also something to consider, and these days there are many options for discount travelers. Shop around for all vacation ideas and see what’s best for you.

 

Before booking a tour look at the itinerary, read the reviews and ask as many questions as you can in order to make an educated decision on your next vacation. It’s your dime and your time, make it as memorable as possible and above all else, enjoy yourself 🙂

yes, don’t be like Sarah
Couch Surfing – Is it really worth it to be a guest or host?

Couch Surfing – Is it really worth it to be a guest or host?

couch surfing

 

Couch Surfing…It’s the latest craze, and the promise of traveling the world for very little money is appealing to all. Accommodation is a huge expense on any trip and unless you have family or friends to stay with, you will undoubtedly be spending a small fortune on a bed for the night. Couch surfing is an online community linking travelers with people willing to take them into their home for free in exchange for company, language help and the promise of cultural enlightenment with a new friend.

The program is not without problems and here we will examine the pros and cons of being a guest and a host, and you can see for yourself if the Couch Surfing community is really something you would like to be involved in.

Being A Host

Pros:

  • Meeting new people. I think this is the number one reason why anyone would open up their home to a stranger.
  • If you can’t afford to travel or don’t have the time, hosting international guests is the next best way to get a cultural experience.
  • Patriotism. Some people are proud of their heritage and want to show their country off to the world.
  • Being a nice person. Knowing how expensive travel is and trying to pay it forward.

Cons:

  • Having strangers in your home is a HUGE risk.
  • It’s not free for hosts. Guests use electricity, water, do laundry and then you have to figure out the food situation.
  • It’s a huge time expense. Most people expect you to spend time with them and show them around.
  • They are using your house and belongings and damage does occur.
  • There have been a few reported incidences of theft.
  • Some guests have no intention or interacting and have even invited other people back to the hosts home.

 

Being A Guest

Pros:

  • A free place to crash! what could be better?
  • Meeting new people and making new friends.
  • Free tour guide and first hand knowledge of the city and culture.
  • If you are lucky your host might offer free dinner or breakfast.
  • Language help if you are into learning the hosts language.
  • Invitation to local festivals/weddings/family functions etc.

Cons:

  • Safety. This has been a huge concern since the beginning and rapes and assaults do happen.
  • Unmet expectations. There are a lot of people on CS that use it for the explicit purpose of a free hook up.
  • People are unreliable, they cancel last minute and you must have a back up host or plan.
  • popular cities such as Paris and NYC are extremely hard to find a host in.
  • Discrimination, women are chosen over men by hosts of both genders.
  • What people offer might not necessarily be what you get when you arrive. (i.e people lying about sleeping arrangements).
  • You are in somebody else’s house and must follow their rules.
  • You might be asked to help out with household chores or pay for things that were not originally agreed upon.

 

 

 Tips, Observations and Concerns:

 

  • At the time I’m writing this there is no host or guest verification processes. Yes you can get ‘verified’ by the Couch Surfing site, but this is just a way for CS to make $20. In the past week I have opened 5 profiles in 5 major cities and have been inundated with requests to host and come and stay as a guest with no verification and nobody knowing if I was even a real person or not. This is extremely scary and my advice to that is, do as much research as you can about people before agreeing to meet. Reviews can also be fabricated by friends and family, so don’t base your opinions solely on those.
  • You might not be the only one they are hosting at that time. You might be in a house with 3 other couch surfers. I must be getting old, but to me that’s just weird. May as well go stay in a hostel if that’s your thing.
  • I hate to be judgmental, but I really worry about the mental sanity of people who have tons of references and make CS into a permanent lifestyle. What’s their motive for doing all this for free? Are they so lonely that they need to open their house to complete strangers and act like a taxi driver/tour guide? no disrespect, but it just seems like really odd behavior.
  • Unfortunately a lot of men use Couch Surfing as a way to get free sex. They prey upon the vulnerability of women being in a strange country in a strange house and use that for their own sexual gratification. Don’t believe me? check this opportunist out then: How to seduce naughty couch surfing girls.
  • For the aforementioned reasons, if you are a single man with no verification or references, you will have a really hard time finding a host. Men usually prefer women for the possibility of a ‘hook up’, and the women will choose other women for security and safety reasons. I’m not sure what the gay/lesbian scene is like on CS, but I’m sure it’s the same across the board.
  • Crime is real my friends. There have been countless reports of rape, stabbing, assault, theft etc resulting from CouchSurfing. People are under the misguided assumption that because CS is a legit website, and these people who join have agreed to abide by the terms of service, that it’s safe and it’s just not. If fact it’s the perfect breeding ground for problems. Strangers + vulnerability + unmet expectations + the possibility of alcohol = absolute disaster. Now I’m not saying everyone is like this. There have been countless wonderful examples of human kindness and generosity, but your safety should be your number one concern.
  • Don’t expect reciprocity. Just because you host someone doesn’t mean you will be hosted back someday. A lot of these travelers live in remote areas of the world, live with family and/or simply are not interested in hosting for whatever reason. If you agree to host, take it for what it is, and don’t expect a new best friend, a place to stay or even to stay in touch. Some do and some don’t.
  • Be wary of scams! Six times now I have been asked to buy expensive electronics (laptops, GoPros, PS4’s etc.), and told I would receive payment as soon as I arrive. Really? Ummm NO.
  • Expectations. Nothing is free in this world right? and this goes for CouchSurfing. You will often be expected to help out with household chores, provide food/drinks, give language help or whatever it may be. Now this might be perfectly fine for some people, but if you really can’t be bothered, your better off paying the $50 and staying in a hotel.
  • Along with worrying about the motive of some of the hosts, I seriously wonder about the motive of some of the guests. I’ve received requests from people offering to buy me dinner and drinks in exchange for crashing on my couch. Now I’m no math expert, but if they can afford to buy me a $50 dinner they can afford a hotel.
  • On a positive note, If you use CS as a place for just hanging out and meeting locals it’s fantastic! Chances are these people have experience with foreign guests and cultures, know where all the good tourists spots are and the best places to eat. That kind of knowledge is invaluable and it’s free! Make use of it and meet up with locals wherever you go.
  • Host availability is solely dependent on location. You might have a real hard time finding a place in Paris or New York City, and no trouble at all in countries that have been a little bit cut off from the tourist track as of late, such as Iran, Egypt and Turkey. Most of these people are longing for tourists and interaction from foreigners.
  • Before traveling, look at the Couch Surfing community at the place you are going. CS is totally accepted in America and Europe, but some countries, especially in the middle East and Asia, operate on a whole different dynamic. Some Arabic cultures don’t allow outside guests in their homes and having an unmarried/unrelated male or female in your house is totally forbidden. To some people, a person who travels alone and is unmarried is seen as loose or slutty. Also remember that some cultures haven’t caught up with the women’s liberation movement and by accepting an invitation to stay. you just might be getting more than you bargained for!
  • Before agreeing to stay with someone, you really need to sit down with them and come up with a plan. Some hosts will expect you to be with them 24/7, and others will hand you the keys and walk away. You really need to be on the same page as far as what’s expected or it can cause a lot of animosity and unmet expectations. Communication is king. Let people know of your plans and find someone who is on the same page.
  • Some people are just unreliable and don’t care about anyone else’s situation. They will cancel the day you arrive, leave you standed at the airport or train station, come up with a million excuses for their behavior and there is nothing you can do about it. You are not paying for a room and there is no contract or obligation to carry out the intended agreement. If you are like me and expect to have an itinerary and a place to stay when you arrive, have a plan B. Urgh! Being stuck in a foreign country with nobody you know and nowhere to stay makes me want to cringe!

 

So this has been my experience with couch Surfing so far. A good option for some, a not so good option for others. I would love to hear your experiences and if I have left any points out, please feel free to add them below. 🙂

10 Things To Do Before Taking A Trip

10 Things To Do Before Taking A Trip

So you’re going on a big trip huh?? Ooo, lucky you! While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, there’s some things you need to do before embarking on your journey. This is a list of my usual routine, some things are necessary and others are just niceties that ease your mind, and allow you to get the most enjoyment out of your vacation. I hope these are helpful, tick them off as you go and have a fantastic time!

 

10 things before taking a trip plane

Call to confirm

Boy have I learned this one the hard way…..Booking through an external travel site can sometimes be cheaper and easier, but they are renown for not letting customers know about cancellations and changes quick enough to adjust, and have left many a person stranded for hours or even days. So if you book through a travel site call them before you leave AND call the airline and make sure the itineraries are identical and there is no unforeseen changes.  It’s also a good idea to do this before you leave to come home too. Knowledge is everything.

 

Clean your house/apartment

This is not necessary of course, but it’s also so nice and welcoming to come home to a clean house. This is especially true if you are going back to work shortly after arriving home.  You will be tired and it’s the last thing you will want to deal with. I always throw away all perishables out of the fridge and plug in an air freshener and take out all trash.

 

Winterize your living space.10 things before taking a trip winterizing

I always tend to travel in winter (because I’m always going to the Middle East and winter is the best time to go), which means that my cabin in the mountains needs to be winterized before I leave. This entails shutting off the water, draining all the pipes, and leaving the furnace on the lowest setting in case of  a snow blizzard. I have come home before to a busted pipe and a flooded house, so it’s best to prepare beforehand. Get all of your personal hygiene done first, switch everything off, drain the pipes and leave.

 

Pay bills

Depending on how long you are planning to be away and where, it’s always a good idea to pay your bills first. It doesn’t really matter too much if it’s something like phone or internet, they usually give you a wide grace period, but credit cards are a different story. They expect a payment or they will start piling on fees. Most countries have reliable internet so you can pay bills online, but to be sure, pay what you can before you leave.

 

Call the bank

Ahhh some banks just love cutting off your credit card and the slightest inkling of fraud, don’t they? This is only a minor inconvenience at home, but if you’re overseas, it can be really frightening. Call them and put a travel alert on your account. Tell them where you will be and from which dates and they will put a note on your file.  I was told recently this isn’t really necessary now with the introduction of chip cards, but i would still cal anyone. Having full access to your money is the difference between eating and paying for a hotel, or not.

 

Turn off appliances

It’s always a good idea to do this. Not only do they constantly draw on your electricity, they are a potential fire hazard, and if there is any power surges you wont have any destroyed appliances. Some people also disconnect their fridge, or cut off power to the house altogether. It’s up to you what you feel is necessary and how long you will be away for.

10 things before taking a trip mail

Tell the mailman

My post office only seems to want to keep packages for 2 weeks and then sends them back. It’s not a huge deal if your just getting mail, but i sign up for monthly package subscriptions, so i have reoccurring things being sent to my house every month. I always tell my postman to hold everything. I wouldn’t even know how to get things that have bee sent back, you might even get charged extra shipping.

 

Wash clothes and pack

There’s a real science in packing a suitcase and we always forget things we really need. The best thing to do is lay your open suitcase out days before your trip and conceptualize what you need to pack and what you don’t. Wash all your clothes and pack them first, then finish with your toiletries, put them in bags and pack them before you leave. Always leave extra room for souvenirs and things you will buy on your trip. I always put 2 washing pods or some powder in a zip lock bag. You never know what the washing facilities are like, especially when going overseas.

 

Fill your prescriptions

Obtaining medicine in other countries is really hit and miss, especially when there is a language barrier. Not only could it mean going in for a foreign doctors appointment, a lot of medicine, especially in developing countries could be made anywhere and contain anything. Some things you can buy over the counter and others your can’t. It’s best to bring everything you need. I’ve also heard a few stories of people getting sick overseas and desperately needing antibiotics. If you think this is going to be a problem for you then speak to your doctor about it, and also any immunizations you may need.

 

Be prepared for Anything

Make copies of your passport and keep them in a separate place, make sure that at least 2-3 nights of hotels are booked and paid for, you have transport from and to the airport, you have timetables for any internal train and bus travel and you have maps and people to contact at home and abroad. If it’s an unsafe area, register at your embassy and let them know of your whereabouts,

10 things before taking a trip passport

 

Be safe, prepare for anything, take everything you need with you, make sure your home and vehicle is secure, and don’t forget to have a great time!

If I have missed anything, leave a comment below. thanks! 🙂

 

Tips For Hiring A Rental Car

Tips For Hiring A Rental Car

Thinking of hiring a rental car for your next road trip, vacation or work travel? Check out these tips to get the best value for money, and make a wise choice for your personal needs.

rental car

Why hire a rental car?

Unless you have an older reliable car that’s super cheap to run and fix, I highly recommend hiring a rental for your next trip.  According to AAA. the average cost of running a vehicle (including gas, maintenance, insurance, depreciation, registration and tires), is $8,558 a year or 57c a mile, and goes up exponentially with the size and make of your vehicle.  This is just a basic figure and doesn’t account for anything that can and does happen when driving for long periods of time.  Hiring a rental car takes all the stress and worry out of car travel, and for $20-40 a day, it really is worth having piece of mind.

 

 

Search and compare on all rental car and travel sites.

 

First thing is first before you seriously start searching, clear your cookies folder.  This goes for ALL travel related searches.  As soon as these websites know that you have looked at something a few times they’ll jack up the prices.  I learned that the hard way last time I went to Dubai, I just thought it was because it was getting closer to the weekend but nope, they were scamming me through my previous search history.

Look on all rental car and travel websites and keep a note of the prices and what’s available.  Websites you wouldn’t normally look at for car rentals (like Priceline), actually do the price comparisons for you and offer reasonable prices.

 

 

Sign up at rental car websites

OK so this is an obrental car alamovious one but it really is worth while.  I always create a fake junk email account (mail.com is good because they don’t ask for a telephone number or any personal verification information), and I use that to sign up for as many travel service mailing lists as I can.  As long as you are not signing up for a credit card service, getting sent these emails is free and the coupons are worth it. Everything from hotels to car rentals, airport parking and flights can be couponed and discounted and you’d be silly not to take advantage of it.  Scan though the emails once a week and keep the ones that are of interest to you.

 

 

My favorite game

I’m sure I invented this but I probably didn’t, and it’s a sneaky thing to do, but print off 2 rental car coupons that say “Free Vehicle Upgrade”. Go inside and pay for your rental car with one coupon, then when you go outside and pick your vehicle, show the attendant your second coupon and tell them that you are eligible for a free upgrade, then walk over to the luxury grade vehicles.  This doesn’t work every time and it depends who’s working on the lot, but I have seriously gotten some awesome vehicles doing this including a V8 Camaro, a convertible mustang and a Cadillac. Take note of the attendants name and when you pull up to the gate to leave, tell them “such and such” said you could take this one. Haha! It really does work sometimes so give it a try!

 

Time of the year matters!

It really does suck that there is a HUGE price discrepancy between peak and off-peak times.  Iv’e gotten a car for under $100 a week in winter and in between seasonal times, and then had to pay $400 a week during school vacation times….Welcome to the travel industry…

Make note of all high peak and popular times and if you can avoid them or hold off your trip, then you’ll be much better for it.  Not only will attractions and roads be less congested, but you will save a bunch of money.

rental car mustang

Inspect your vehicle

I cannot stress this enough and once again, I learned the hard way. I was running late for a meeting and grabbed the first car in my category and took off. Little did I know that it had a huge dent in the passenger side door and when I went to return the vehicle, they said they had no record of it and I got lumped paying for repairs.  My insurance company was involved and I had to pay a $500 deductible. Now i don’t care how late i am, I go over that paintwork with a fine toothed comb.

 

 

Other useful tips:

-Don’t return late.  You will be charged a full 24 hours not part there of.

-Rent though budget brands.  I always do and never had a problem with good old Thrifty and Dollar. Alamo is awesome too.

-Don’t pay for extra insurance if your policy already covers rental cars.rental car gas pump

– Look at renting further out and organizing a pick up. Airports have surcharges.

– Always pump your own gas and return it full. Don’t trust them to add extra charges

– Don’t rent a GPS. It’s $10 a day extra and It’s always a good idea to bring your own or navigate using your smartphone.

– Pre-pay. This is hassle free and some companies also offer percentage discounts.

– Pay by the week even if you don’t really need all that time.  They often have cheaper rates for longer bookings. Do your research and change dates.

 

Yay! Now you know how to book a car, save money and get the most out of your Rentals. Enjoy your trip! 🙂

 

 

 

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION – PART 6 – Saving Money On Bills!

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION – PART 6 – Saving Money On Bills!

Bills!! Welcome to the last and final installment of the ‘How to afford a vacation’ series, and here are more providers that expect a chunk out of our paycheck every month and how to save on them.

 

ELECTRICITY –afford your electricity bill

Here is an industry that sees many changes happening now and in the near future with solar and wind energy becoming more popular. Some argue that it means steeper electricity costs for those of us who still rely on the grid, because somebody has to pay for the maintenance and upkeep on the lines and power stations, but I don’t know.  Here in Southern California we get a green energy rebate twice a year which virtually makes my bill only $8-10. Ha! I wish it was like that all the time! For those months that we have to pay through the nose, here are some budget friendly tips.

In Extreme Temperatures:

Try and suck it up. I know it’s so hard. I hate being uncomfortable too, but resist the urge to take the easy way out. Using climate control is like eating at a restaurant. At the time you’re all for it and want everything on the menu, then when its over you regret having to pay the bill.

In winter wear as many clothes as you can, this is the cheapest option by far. If you have a fireplace shop around and purchaseafford your electricity bill a cord of wood.  It might cost a couple hundred bucks upfront but is much cheaper than electric options. I normally do this for the really cold days and for the rest of the time I make do with an electric blanket and I sit upstairs in bed working and watching TV. It’s certainly a lot cheaper to warm one room compared to the whole house.

Last winter I was up in my wood cabin 6,700 feet up and a tree fell on the power lines. I was without all electricity for 3 days and it was extremely tough. I had to cook food on an open fire like a cave woman and I kept myself blissfully warm and unaware by being drunk most of the time trying to warm my stomach with brandy. You don’t realize how much you appreciate modern conveniences until your neighbors tree takes them away. It did teach me that I can survive and so can you.

 

In Summer wear minimal clothes and keep your house well ventilated. Purchase a water spray bottle from the dollar shop and keep spraying your body with water when needed. It really cools you off and it’s essentially free.  You can also fill it with rose water, Aloe Vera juice or cucumbers to make it therapeutic.  Air conditioning is super expensive and only use it if really needed. Try keeping it on for only a few minuafford your electricity billtes at a time to take the heat out of the air and switch it off.

As an Australian I think I’m a pretty good authority on extreme heat. I remember days when the roads were so hot they would take the skin off your feet and it was hotter in the swimming pool than it was outside.  We would also turn everything into a Popsicle. fruit and drinks were kept in the freezer and eaten frozen (grapes and juice boxes were my favorite). My grandmother would also load us in the car and take us down to the shopping mall….Why pay for electricity when you can use somebody else’s.  Keep spraying yourself and if it’s impossible to sleep at night strip off and keep a fan on low circulating the air.

Other power usage tips:

Do a walk though before bed every night. Make sure everything is turned off and unplug things you are not using regularly.  Remember everything that’s plugged in is receiving a small current. This goes for computers, kitchen appliances and personal care products.  When going away on vacation unplug everything. If its for an extended period of time switch your power off at the mains.

Start using energy efficient light bulbs. We don’t really think about it but we use lights for hours and hours every night and it can add up. Also clean/replace your air filters and if you are not a complete transient like me, think of upgrading your fridge and washer/dryer to a newer more energy efficient model. It will pay for itself in savings before too long and it also pays to only use dishwashers/washers and dryers when you have full loads to do.

 

WATER –

 

when I first came to the states I was completely shocked at how much water was being used. everything from households to landscaping. I remember seeing lush green grass over here for the first time in many many years. I took off my shoes and reveled in feeling it between my toes for hours. While it’s all fun and nice to look at it’s incredibly wasteful of one of our precious resources, one that we all need to survive. I’m using to living in the depths droughts and after a while it becomes second nature to turn taps off and only use exactly what you need.

I also don’t like wasting money on bottled drinking water, what a scam that is! I brought a Brita filter jug
and use a recycled bottle to drink out of. It tastes better and cleaner than most commercial brands anyway.afford your water bill

 

Landscaping: If I owned a house I would definitely get fake grass. It costs a bit to purchase but saves so much money and time. no watering, no mowing, no hassle, its awesome!

Also plant dafford your water billrought resistant plants and succulents. I know they might look boring but some of them flower and offer great design characteristics. Experiment and have fun, you could also grow medicinal plants like aloe or edibles like prickly pares.  If you can turn your landscaping into something you can eat or utilize, all the better!

 

 

 

Toilets: Not many people in this country make use of low-flow toilets. They really are helpful and make complete sense! Not every trip to the throne requires a full flush. If you don’t want to or can’t invest in a new toilet, then fill up and cap off a half gallon bottle of water and put it in the cistern. This will trick your toilet into using much less and then thinking it’s full.

showers: I’ll tell you a secret. I really don’t like bathing or being clean and only shower 2-3 times per week and less in the winter. It might be my English blood, but I’m like a puppy that stands there with my head down whimpering and crying the whole time. I just have soo many things to wash and clean and shave, it’s so tiring. I pretty much have it down to a science now, get in, get it done and get out. Time yourself if you must but really, there is no reason to be in there for more than a couple minutes.  You can also keep a bucket in the shower with you and use it to water your plants.

 

BANKING AND FINANCE –afford your credit card bills

Examine your statements: This is the time to really sit down and look at all of your monthly expenditures.  My neighbors recently looked over their finances and discovered they are still paying hundreds per month in online services and subscriptions they haven’t used in years.  Granted these people aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but you’d be surprised at how many things can slip through the cracks when you aren’t paying attention to them, and these companies are certainly going to keep taking as long as you let them, especially the ones who use automatic billing in their fine print upon signing up.  This is basically a license to steal money from those who don’t keep an eye on the bottom line and banks are also guilty of taking hidden fees and services out of your accounts.

The good thing about online banking is the transparency aspect.  You have instant access to view all of your transactions for the month anytime you want and make full use of it.  Check it every few days to make sure no one is drawing on it that shouldn’t, and if you do see unusual behavior then contest it immediately.

Credit:  Yup we love using credit and it’s so easy to forget that this money DOES have to be paid back. Please don’t feel bad if you have been caught up in credit card debit at one time or another in life.  It’s happened to me and it’s happened to many good people and some of the situations behind it, like being laid off or having an unforeseen health problem or emergency, are understandable.  Of course other people are just irresponsible, but no matter what, try and avoid getting caught up in it at all costs. My mother always said “If you cant afford it, chances are you don’t need it”, And she’s right. Most things in life we can live without.  If you are in debt call around and try and get a consolidation.  It might not save a huge amount of money, but only having to pay back one bill helps and stops the urge to ‘Take from Peter to pay Paul’. Credit card interest charges are HUGE and Pay it off as soon as you can and stop using it until you are well in the clear again.  If you can’t learn how to use credit responsibly then simply don’t have it.

Have a good look at what cards you do have, what are costing the most money and what ones your really don’t need.  It’s flattering to get offered a new credit card, but if you don’t need it don’t accept it. Look at what services you need in your life and what you don’t. For example, if you travel a lot, look for a credit card that not only offers good rates, but also frequent flyer miles and hotel discounts.  You may as well be getting some perks out of it.

 

afford your credit card bills

Debit: I have a friend who is a compulsive gambler.  She wont come directly out and admit it, but after years of being yelled at by friends and family, and finally realizing she could have paid off her house, brought a new car and gone on several vacations by now, she’s starting to finally see the error in her ways.  She now takes action to curb her spending habits whilst still enjoying her vices.  One of these ways is leaving her debit and credit cards at home.  This is an excellent tip. If you are going out and you know you will be in a place of temptation, or consuming alcohol, take a set amount of cash with you and leave everything else at home.  That way you are not using more than you’ve allowed yourself and not putting on financial strains that you will later later regret.  Just make sure you have enough money to get home.

 

I hope you have enjoyed the 6 part ‘How to afford a vacation’ series and can get plenty of ideas and practice use out of it. Remember you and only you are responsible for your finances and if you don’t keep on top of your money, nobody else will. Make being responsible and conservative a part of your daily life and be sure to teach your children the value of a dollar and how to save for their future. It’s a very unstable world and who knows what will happen in times to come. Making small steps to hold on to what you do have now is rewarding in itself, and will help towards having a happier, more comfortable and more stable home life.  Save now, enjoy your vacations, and here’s to a great future.

cheers and thanks for reading! 🙂

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION – PART 1 – Saving Money On TV & Internet

HOW TO AFFORD A VACATION – PART 1 – Saving Money On TV & Internet

Think you can’t afford a vacation? Think again oh awesome one!

saving for a vacation beach bridge

Saving isn’t just good practice for vacation planning, it’s a great lifelong strategy to implement and when done right, it creates more happiness and satisfaction than the fleeting shopping high you get from a impulsive splurge. Having a few bucks in the bank and something to fall back on creates a security net that will ultimately give you more freedom and options in life. The people who are least affected by recessions and economic downturns are those with more financial reserves and the more you have, the further away you are from living in a tent city.
In today’s world our future economic growth is ambiguous to say the least. We owe trillions in national debt, manufacturing is disappearing, companies are moving overseas, jobs aren’t as readily available and competition for salaries is high when existing in the modern global economy. Many economists suggest keeping 6 months of living expenses on hand for any upcoming emergency, and there is no reason we can’t delve further into frugality and use that extra money to create some awesome vacation experiences.
Now it’s time to create some budgets, which as an economist I find extremely fun! (I know right, I need to get laid!) You will be surprised how much fat you can trim when you examine your spending habits.
The first step I found very useful was to notify family and friends of your new plans and financial constraints to avoid any confusion and worry. Most people will be very supportive and suggest cheaper activities as opposed to expensive entertainment and dining options.
Everyone’s situations are different, and not all options will suit everyone, but see what you can do. Even $100 a month in savings will get you a pretty kick-ass vacation at the end of a year! Let’s examine some basic living expenses, and see what we can do to save some $$$.

 

Entertainment and media:
– Cable Television 

saving for a vacation TV

Do you really need cable? That’s a $100 a month in savings right there on most packages. I quit my ties with cable TV companies 2 years ago and I’ve never been happier, and it wasn’t just about the money either. I work from home and was spending far too much time watching it. I wasn’t accomplishing anything and since turning it off I have dramatically increased my IQ and knowledge base, learned Arabic fluently, studied major historic and political events to better understand the world today, and thanks to geographical education websites such as lizardpoint.com, I can now point to and identify every single country and capital city on the map! It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s improved my self-confidence dramatically. I can now speak to anyone from any country and respect them enough to at least know where they are from and a few basic facts. It’s also fueled my travel bug.  Why sit there watching other people having fun, when you can go out and have the fun yourself!

 

I also have a problem with their business practices and ethics. They lock you in for a 2 year contract, but every month it increases by a few cents and a few cents which adds up to several dollars per month over 24 months, and the part I hate the most is calling up after that time and fighting with them tooth and nail for hours to lower the price or put me under a new contract. It’s extremely stressful and a huge waste of time and energy. That energy and money I now put into my own betterment and life enjoyment.

 

I won’t lie, I still miss watching new episodes of my favorite shows, but sometimes people upload them on YouTube and if you really must, u can buy one off or whole seasons online. These days I opt for free and low cost programming and it works for me. I pay the minimal Netflix membership, and run free programs like YouTube and crackle on my PlayStation. I did have Amazon prime, but I don’t order enough to make it worthwhile, and like everything else, that keeps going up in price exponentially.

 

INTERNET –

saving for a vacation google

Now I need a pretty fast internet connection. On any given day I’m trading the stock market, blogging, streaming PornHub and watching re-runs of The Golden Girls all at the same time, but the reality is that most at home internet users don’t need the fastest connection possible. Unless you have a home business that relies on split-second data downloads, think about opting for a smaller usage plan.

 

Here are some simple tips on how to cut Internet and Television costs:

 

  • Buy your own internet router. you can save $120 a year from buying your own as opposed to renting from your cable provider for $10 a month.
  • I know its a pain in the ass but call your provider once in a while.  You’ll be surprised at how many people get upgraded and are paying for extra packages and channels they don’t even want, need or know about.  Ask them to explain everything you are being charged for and opt out for things you don’t want.
  • Look over the TV channels in the packages you signed up for and consider what channels you watch and can do without.
  • Test your band width every month (do a google search, a lot of free scanners available), and make sure you are getting the speed you pay for.
  • Have a look at what other Providers there are in your area and don’t be afraid to threaten to take your business elsewhere if they don’t lower your costs or offer you an affordable plan. Remember knowledge is power so check your figures and do your research.
  • Ask to be put through to the cancellations department.  These people are trained to keep customers and are willing to drop it like its hot to keep you around. Wow, i wish my dating life was like that…..
  • Some providers offer vacation hold for when you are away on your fantastic trips. Don’t pay for a service when you are not physically there using it.
  • Sign into your account on their website.  This way you can keep a close eye on your everything and notice any changes right away.  Remember these companies rely on people not checking their accounts and getting overcharged….Don’t be one of those people, i know you’re smarter than that.

 

Phone –

Ahh the good old money suck. I remember when I was 18 and acquired my first cell phone. I rung up an $800 bill and had no idea how i did it or how i was going to pay it off. It tarnished my record for 5 years and ever since then I’ve been “The queen of careful communication.”

I haven’t had a landline since back in the day, and find it totally unnecessary for my lifestyle, (if you don’t need it either then cut it off). As for the cell phone there are so many ways to cut the costs down. First let’s do some basic maths and examine a typical 24 month plan with one of the

 

big carriers:

phone down payment: $200

24 months @ $100 a month: $2400

 

Total: $2600 for 2 years

saving for a vacation iphone

 

Yea, I’m not paying $100 a month for phone service thank you very much! What I have done for the last 4 years is buy an unlocked iPhone outright for $800 custom. Then I signed up for a pay as you go carrier (H2O wireless) for $25 a month unlimited talk and text.  Yes, I don’t have any internet or data plans but in all honestly I have never found it a disadvantage, even whilst traveling! It requires a little more planning. maps have to be downloaded before leaving for the day and stops have to be made at WiFi hot spots. I’m usually in there taking a leak anyway. The quality of the H2O prepaid plan is great too, it runs off the AT&T network, so the coverage is comparable.

 

My Phone Costs:

phone down payment: $800

24 months @ $25.00 a month: $600

Total: $1400 for 2 years

 

Now I keep my phones for 4 years before upgrading, so that’s:

4 years on a main carrier contract: $5000

4 years on my pay as you go plan: $2000

 

That’s a $3000 saving over 4 years! Imagine the kind of vacation and luxuries that money can buy!

 

As for other entertainment, well… you don’t need me to tell you that you cant go out every weekend and get blind rotten drunk unless someone else is footing the bill….

 

cheers, big ears! 😉 saving for a vacation partying

 

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