4 Tricks for Fall Road Trips on a Budget

Fall is the perfect time for a road trip. The leaves are changing and there’s so much beautiful scenery to take in. Before you hit the road, take a hard look at your budget and plan accordingly. Here are 4 tips to consider for your autumn road trip that can save you some money before the pricey holiday season.

Get a tune up.
Before you take off on your road trip, be sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape. Getting a legitimate tune up and inflating your tires to the proper pressure will ensure you’re riding in a safe car. It will also help prevent you from making costly repairs to your vehicle down the road.

Stock up.
We all know eating out can cost a ton, but so can simple snacks purchased at convenience stores. If you pack a cooler with your favorite food and drinks, you can skip those frequent stops at fast food chains and gas station markets. Then, you can save up for more enjoyable meals when you reach your destination.

Go mobile and save on gas.
Over 70 million people have downloaded the GasBuddy app, which helps travelers locate gas stations near them, and most importantly the ones carrying the cheapest gas. When mapping out your trip, plan in advance to fuel up at these more economical gas stops. This will help you budget ahead of time and give you a better idea of how much extra spending money will be left over.

Book outside the box.
Can you think of the last time you spent less than $100 on a hotel room? The key to saving on accommodations is to think outside the box and step out of your comfort zone. Couchsurfing.com connects travelers with local hosts and can give you the opportunity to stay for free (and safely), at the home of someone in the area. Or if you don’t like the idea of staying in someone’s house, compare hotel prices within your destination city by using a site like trivago.com, trip advisor, or kayak.

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com

5 Staycation Ideas to Save Your Summer

Let’s face it, summer looks a lot different than it did when you were a kid. You used to spend the entire school year counting down the days until the carefree fun of summer vacation. But now that you’re a responsible adult with a grown-up job, summer mostly just means your daily work commute is hotter than usual.

OK, maybe the situation isn’t quite that bleak. But if you’re not careful, summer will come and go before you get a chance to enjoy it. Even if you can’t take a week off or spend a lot on vacation this year, it only takes a little creativity and last-minute planning to map out a staycation worth remembering. If you need a little spark of relaxation inspiration, these five suggestions may be just what you’re looking for:

Book a night at a fancy hotel in town. Yes, luxury has a price tag, but hey—it’s just for one night. Sometimes it’s worth the extra money to pamper yourself. And since you’re staying close to home, think about all the money you’re saving on gas and travel expenses! Want to make the most of your five-star staycation? Check in as early as possible and take advantage of every complementary service the hotel offers.

Take a tasting tour of your city. It’s easy to settle into a routine of dining at your favorite restaurants, so why not break out of that rut and spend an entire day expanding your palette? The beauty of this culinary adventure lies in its flexibility. You can plan your itinerary or play it loose and go wherever your taste buds take you. Start with an early breakfast and end with a late-night snack.

Spend all day in bed. How many times have you started the morning by cursing your alarm clock and wishing you could stay under the covers all day long? Here’s your chance to make those lazy dreams a reality. Stack your favorite books and magazines on the nightstand, queue up your Netflix watchlist, and keep your go-to takeout restaurants on speed dial. You’re about to take your day off to the next level.

Rent a convertible and take the scenic route. Sometimes you want to answer the call of the open road, but it’s hard to make travel exciting in the same car you drive to work every day. So, add a little fun to your staycation plans by renting a sports car (preferably a convertible) and cruising around for the day. If you have a specific destination in mind, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s even better. The magic is in the journey. Not sure where to find scenic routes near you? Download the Round app for expert recommendations.

Unplug and get off the grid. We saved this one for last because, depending on who you are, this suggestion can be exhilarating or terrifying. Since we’re talking about shutting off your mobile phone and unplugging from social media, we understand you may need to start slowly. Use a resource like AllTrails.com to find the nearest hiking or walking trails, and spend the day exploring the great outdoors. The fresh air, exercise, and lack of email will do wonders for your body and your mind.

Whether you pick one of these ideas, find a way to do them all, or come up with a fresh staycation of your own, the most important part is permitting yourself to have fun. Even if they’re only for 24 hours at a time, vacations (or staycations) offer benefits that can make every area of your life more enjoyable.

5 Summer Travel Safety Tips

We’ve got about one month left of summer. Time flies when you’re having fun doesn’t it? If you’ve got an upcoming vacation planned, don’t miss these essential summer travel tips.

1. Make copies of important travel documents.
Make copies of your travel itinerary, health insurance cards, credit cards, and passport. Then give the copies to someone you trust in case of an emergency. It’s also smart to email any important information about your trip to yourself before you leave so it’s easily accessible if something gets lost, especially if you’re traveling overseas.

2. Don’t overshare on social media.
Not only do you not want every person with access to your social media accounts to know that you’re away from home (hello, burglars!), you also don’t need your followers (or lurkers) to know where you are in real time. This can invite all kinds of unwanted attention and danger. You should also avoid posting any pictures with personal information, like your boarding pass or passport, to social media. These photos might look fun on Instagram, but they also give cyber predators easy access to your secure data.

3. Don’t use public Wi-Fi to access financial information or make online purchases. It’s very easy for hackers to steal information from public internet servers. Furthermore, you should never leave your laptop or cell phone in a vulnerable position (i.e. at the breakfast table while you run to the bathroom or on your beach chair while you take a dip). This might seem like common sense, but it’s easy to let your guard down when you’re on island time!

4. Use a prepaid debit card specifically designated for traveling. A prepaid travel card will help you stay within your budget while you’re on vacation and keep your personal information safe. Prepaid travel cards, are not linked to your checking or savings account, so if your card information is compromised, you’ll have less of a mess to clean up down the road. Another bonus: you won’t have to worry about foreign ATM skimmers and various other threats to your financial data while trying to relax on vacation.

5. Research, research, research. It’s important to learn the ins and outs of your destination and do some digging to find out what areas are safe and what areas should be avoided.  A good place to start? Read hotel reviews online to see what neighborhoods and destinations other travelers recommend. If a location seems unsafe or makes you feel uncomfortable, you should leave right away. Download the State Department’s Smart Traveler app (travel.state.gov) and sign up for the State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows U.S. citizens who are traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Above all – enjoy your trip and have fun. Just be prepared before you go and plan ahead!

Article Source: Naomi Anderson for CUInsight.com

Can’t Do a Vacation This Year? 11 Ideas for a Great Staycation

It’s that time of year again. The kids are out of school and you really want to spend time with them and make wonderful memories, but a vacation is out of the question. You can’t get away and, even if you could – it’s way out of your budget.

For a beautiful time creating memories with your loved ones, you need only two days and some imagination. Try these staycation ideas for a grand time (without spending a grand).

1. Hit the road in your own city, armed with cameras and snacks.

If you’d be willing to visit a strange town, pretend yours is just that. If you live in or close to a metropolis, it’s easy — there are always places you don’t often see that should be fun to explore. If you live in a rural area, hit Google Maps and then the road. Fill your time with laughs, snapping goofy pictures everywhere you go.

2. Go on a scavenger hunt.

Make a list for the family and get on the road with clues to help you find everything on it. The more obscure you get, the longer the hunt will take – great for bigger kids, but not so fun for the little ones, so plan accordingly.

3. Go to a motel in a neighboring city.

If your timing is flexible, bid on rooms via Priceline, or try calling and negotiating lower rates with the manager before accepting whatever they offer. After all, the goal is to save while you stay, right?

4. Make it a movie marathon day.

Choose flicks that the whole family can watch together and enjoy. Start after breakfast and have a little family exercise break in between. Oh, and make it a PJ day to really relax and enjoy!

5. Drive to anywhere.

Don’t use a map. Don’t have a destination. Just plan to drive in a direction for X hours, then stop and explore and stay where you are. If you can spend the night, BONUS! If not, that’s okay. Have fun exploring your new locale, taking pictures and snagging souvenirs.

6. Go to a waterpark.

It’s likely that your city or one nearby, has a waterpark. What better excuse to jump in the water than saving money? If you can’t stay on vacation for a week or so, a day at a waterpark may be the next best thing.

7. If you can’t park it, raft it.

River rafting is another amazing excursion, and one that’s often cheaper than waterparks. Check for restrictions on ages if you have little ones, but many river dock rental places have options for the younger clientele too.

8. Go camping.

Even if you can’t head to a nearby mountain range (bonus points if you can!), you can still hang with the neighbors and have a neighborhood camp out at home in the backyard. Or go it alone with just you and your loved ones. Either way, pack up the tent and make a rule to not go inside for anything.

9. Host your own neighborhood field day.

Make it complete with hilarious games and amazing prizes — and don’t forget the pictures! Top off the afternoon with a cook out and ice cream sundaes.

10. Call for a Blackout Day (or weekend).

Turn off all electronic devices for at least 24 hours. Spend the entire day focusing on the fun you’re having with your favorite people.

11. Call in a cleaning service.

Why do we love going on vacation? We love feeling pampered. But if you can’t go and be pampered, bring the pampering home to you. Check Care.com or Craigslist for a cleaning service that’s reasonable. Let them worry about the dusting, sweeping, mopping and bed making for a week.

Article Source: Vincent King for moneyning.com

4 Tips for a Budget-Friendly Plan B Getaway

Maybe you’d like to plan a vacation this summer, but you don’t exactly have several hundred or thousand dollars just laying around right now, not to mention other expenses like meals, souvenirs, and the like. Or perhaps you don’t want to spend your savings on a “non-essential” trip at the moment. Whatever the reason, a “Plan B” getaway can help keep your financial goals on track, and can still be just as fun as an extravagant vacation.

1. Don’t view the decision (or need) to opt for Plan B as a sign of financial failure; see it as setting yourself up for greater financial freedom in the future.

It can be disappointing to pass up your first idea for the perfect getaway, but try to see the positive side: by using wisdom and self-control in the present, you’re positioning your finances to be in the place where you can spend money on the things you enjoy without guilt or debt.

2. Look for frugal travel advice to maximize Plan B and to keep it under budget.

Sure, you’ll save money by not splurging on your first plan, but don’t fall into the mental money trap of anchor price comparison. Even if Plan B looks much cheaper than Plan A, you might end up going over-budget because you think you’re saving money. When you decide where your Plan B destination will take you, browse through Pinterest articles written by people who have visited the destination. Travel websites and blogs are another great resource, and can help you maximize your time and eliminate overly-touristy destinations too.

3. Take a road trip and skip the hotel.

Hotels can be a waste of money unless it’s absolutely necessary to stay overnight. Since you hardly spend any time in the room if you’re sightseeing, you probably won’t be taking advantage of all the amenities you paid for if you book at a nicer hotel. One possible exception is when the hotel is your destination. If that’s your main expenditure, then by all means, enjoy your luxury!

Day trips are another idea. It might mean getting up a little earlier, driving home a little later, and drinking a few extra espressos, but you’ll save money and be more motivated to fit in the most meaningful experiences you can.

Don’t think there’s anything interesting enough within a day’s journey of where you live? Check out your state’s tourism website and see if there’s something you might have missed.

4. Take to nature — it’s free.

Minus the fees you might need to pay for admission to a state or national park, nature is free and much more personal than a cookie-cutter tourist experience.

Planning a budget-friendly getaway means getting a little creative and doing a little research, but these very things could ultimately lead to an experience of a lifetime. In the end, it’s not how much you spend on a vacation that makes it’s great – it’s the memories you make.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for moneyning.com

Traveling with Your Credit Card: Safety Precautions to Consider

It’s summer, which means that many of us are packing up our bags and heading for the hills (or the beach, or the museums). The last thing you want to worry about is your credit card.

Unfortunately, all too many of us face hassles with credit card security while traveling — especially during trips abroad. These problems can range from the annoying to the devastating, but most of them are very preventable. Here’s how to have a worry-free vacation.

Pre-departure Preparations

You wouldn’t leave home without booking your flight or packing your bag, and credit card security is just as important. Make sure to add a few credit card specific tasks to your pre-departure list.

  • Call your card issuer to notify them of your travel plans.

Many credit card issuers have built-in fraud protection that could shut down your card if it’s used outside of your normal purchase pattern. The last thing you want is to have your card denied at that fabulous Italian bistro, so give your card issuer a heads up.

  • Do some research regarding foreign transaction fees.

If you carry multiple credit cards, you should know that there might be a wide variation between your cards when it comes to foreign transaction fees. Call your card issuers or do some digging online to compare fees.

  • Learn how to contact your credit card issuer while abroad.

Toll-free numbers don’t typically work abroad, so you’ll need a different way to contact your credit card issuer if you encounter problems during your travels. Some cards have international numbers printed right on the back. If yours doesn’t, call them up before you leave and ask them what number to use. Write down this number and keep it with your travel documents.

  • Make copies of the front and back of your credit cards.

This is one step that’s frequently overlooked, but if your cards are stolen, having photocopies can be very helpful. Many travelers also do this for passports.

  • Make sure your card will be accepted abroad.

Not all cards are taken around the world. Consider getting an EMV chip card (if yours doesn’t already have this feature), which is more widely accepted abroad – especially in Europe.

EMV Chip Cards

EMV security chip cards are fairly new to the U.S. market, but they have become the go-to standard in other countries. These cards feature embedded microchips that can hold a large volume of dynamic data. They also require entry of a pin in order to complete a transaction, and that means that a thief who simply has your card number can’t use your card.

If you bring an American swipe card abroad, expect it to be rejected at several common locations, including:

  • Gas stations
  • Parking meters
  • Many merchants and retailers
  • Destinations in Europe other than major cities

Handling Your Credit Card While Abroad

So you’ve taken all the precautions before boarding the plane: what about when you’ve reached your destination? There are several steps you can take to avoid fraud, theft, and unnecessary trouble abroad.

  • Avoid use of your credit card in less-than-secure situations.

The street vendor may have a lovely smile and even better food for sale, but this probably isn’t the best place to pull out your credit card.

  • Have your travel companion carry a different card as a back-up.

Even if you plan on relying primarily on one card, it’s not a bad idea to have a back-up along — and to have it carried by someone else. That way, if your wallet or money carrier is lost or stolen, you aren’t completely out of luck.

  • Keep your credit card in sight.

Try to hand your credit card directly to the person who will be processing the transaction. You’ll want to avoid situations where someone takes your card out of sight to process a transaction, because that scenario makes it easy for them to steal your information.

  • Be cautious with ATMs.

ATM fees can be extremely steep for international transactions. In addition, many foreign ATMs (especially outside of western Europe) are not as secure as we may expect from our U.S. counterparts. If you are traveling abroad and you must use an ATM, choose one that is attached to a legitimate business (preferably a bank).

  • Carry cash or travelers checks as back-up.

Try to carry enough local currency or traveler’s checks to get by each day (but not so much that you’re a ripe target for muggers). Credit cards are convenient, but if yours is declined or stolen and you don’t have an alternative method of payment available, you won’t think it’s very convenient. Look into getting a discreet carrying pouch specifically designed for passports and money, which is much more secure than a wallet or purse.

  • Document everything.

Keep receipts of all purchases in case mysterious charges are added to your account later. Keeping receipts also helps with expense tracking, so you can stay on budget.

The Bottom Line

This list may have left you a little uneasy. Don’t worry — you’ve already taken the first step by informing yourself. Credit cards are usually part of the solution — not the problem, when you’re traveling abroad. All you have to do is take proper precautions and exercise a bit of due diligence. Just think about how much more relaxing that well-deserved vacation will be, knowing that you don’t have to spend a moment worrying about your credit cards.

Bon Voyage!

Article Source: Ellen Gans for thesimpledollar.com