destinations, film, resources, saving money, travel tips

Couponing for Mary Poppins Returns (and a Visit to Her Hometown!)

London skyline and pigeons
Despite the song from the original movie, please don’t feed the birds. I heard a Parisian tour guide describe the overpopulation of human-dependent pigeons as “winged rats”.

I may be a little late to the game, but yesterday I finally got to see Mary Poppins Returns.

With all the adventures Mary Poppins has with the kids, it got me thinking about my own travels. Especially about London.

But wait, I haven’t been to London yet!

However, England is on the itinerary for my next international trip. (The other potential destination on this trek includes Germany.) Consider this my official announcement! Now that the word is out, here are the two questions I know I’m going to be asked:

  1. When are you going?
  2. How can you afford it?

The answer to number one isn’t set yet, as it mostly depends on the answer to number two. And that brings me to the point of this post…

But First Let’s Return to Mary Poppins Returns

Movie Ticket and Popcorn
The ticket says it was $5.25, but it wasn’t really.

Although I saw the movie during my theater’s “Discount Tuesday”, I still didn’t want to pay that price. I noticed that Fandango had an offer for this particular movie. If I bought $8 worth of Ivory soap, I could get up to an $8 discount to see Mary Poppins Returns. Although I didn’t really need the soap, I decided to buy it anyway and try to find something useful to do with it. (I ended up selling it all for the same price I bought it.) I uploaded my receipt to Fandango, and they gave me a promo code. Even with Fandango’s reservation fee, the total of the ticket was still just under $8, so I got to see the movie for free.

But wait! That’s not all! Last month, there was a similar Fandango promotion with Chex cereal. For buying three boxes of cereal, I could either see The Grinch or get a $5 concession credit. There was no minimum spend for this deal, so I found some valuable coupons that made each box of Chex just over a dollar each. Since I’d already seen The Grinch with another free ticket promotion (disclosure: I’ve found discounts or free tickets for the last several movies I’ve been to), I decided to get the concession credit, which I finally used yesterday. I was disappointed to find out that there was a small price increase in concessions since I last went to Tinseltown, but I decided to still buy the junior popcorn. The posted price was $5.40, but I used my $5 off coupon.

I didn’t even pay for gas. I live just over a mile away from the closest movie theater. By choosing an afternoon movie time, I was able to safely walk there and back during daylight hours.

My grand total for this complete movie theater experience? Forty cents!

And since Mary Poppins Returns is a Disney movie, I’ll be uploading a picture of my ticket to Disney Movie Rewards. There I’ll get a small rebate that I can use toward a variety of Disney merchandise, tickets, and more. I also scanned my Cinemark Connections so I earned points for future movie-related discounts. And the forty cents was paid with my rewards credit card for cash back. Once these three rebates are used, I will have made money from this excursion!

So What Will I Do With the Savings?

As I just demonstrated, seeing a movie like Mary Poppins Returns in theaters doesn’t have to be expensive. Going to the real London doesn’t have to be either, although I guarantee that it will cost much more than even a full-price movie ticket! Starting at the beginning of 2019, every discount I score will be logged onto an Excel spreadsheet titled “2019 Couponing to Europe”. Although I’ve couponed before, I’ve never couponed with the goal to save for a trip!

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I have seven different categories for coupons and deals:

Swagbucks: This is my main online way to save and earn. Since doing things like taking surveys and watching videos takes time kind of like work does, I’m only counting rebates and discounts on this spreadsheet to make things simpler. Check out the “Shopping” and “Discover” sections of the website to find good deals- so will even give you a bigger rebate than what you initially spent!

GiftCardGranny: This is my other go-to online savings place. It’s a search engine specifically for finding discount gift cards. Over the past year, I’ve already saved lots of money by buying gift cards to places I normally shop anyway. Although I still have several of those gift cards waiting to be used up, I look forward to refreshing my gift card stockpile this year. By having an account, I also earn “Granny Points” that I’ll eventually redeem for free gift cards!

Other Online: This covers any online deals I found that aren’t through Swagbucks or GiftCardGranny. The one item I have in this category so far is an Amazon gift card I received through a nonprofit I helped to sponsor.

Fred Meyer: This is where I typically shop in town. (For U.S. residents outside of the Northwest, this store is called Kroger in your region.) Most weeks they offer a “Freebie Friday” deal, where anyone with a free shoppers card can download a coupon for a completely free item. Fred Meyer also accepts manufacturer’s coupons, which I’ve already taken advantage of. In addition, I use their gas station because I’ve found ways to get discounts on Kroger gas, too.

Other In-Store: This is the category my movie deals went into. It’s basically the catch-all for any coupons or discounts not mentioned above unless it’s related to my trip or my bank.

Travel-Specific: Over three years ago when I went to Europe on my Mediterranean Trek, I got two free nights in a Venice hotel since I’d made so many other bookings on HostelsClub. I still have some credit on that site, which I plan to use. While researching for my trip, if I find any discounts or free hours for attractions I was planning to visit, that goes in this column. Any freebies or specials for food, lodging, airfare, and transit will go here too.

Banking: I used to use a credit card that gave me 1% back on all my purchases. I recently got a new credit card where I get 1.5% back, plus a $200 bonus for spending $1000 in the first three months. I’ve transferred all my expenses to this credit card except for my rent, which I pay in cash. All of my credit rewards will be saved for travel, plus all of the interest I earn from my savings account. I also recently opened up a new account at a credit union that is separate from my bank where I’ll be depositing the sum of all my travel savings each month. (It currently has a little more than what I’ve saved so far since I wanted to start earning dividends as soon as possible!)

What Are the Caveats?

The problem with couponing and other discounts is that you can get caught up in such a good deal it is, you forget that it’s not even something you would normally buy. I am trying to be very conscious with only couponing if it falls into one of these three categories:

  1. It’s a discount on something I would normally buy anyway
  2. It’s something I would like for free
  3. It’s a deal that will end up making me money (this is the best kind!)

I’ve also already run into some situations where I wasn’t sure if something actually counted as a discount. For example, I made two returns to stores this year. I wasn’t sure if I should put them on my spreadsheet since that would open the door to “hacking” by just buying and returning purchases. But both of these purchases were things that I thought I truly needed at the time but the course of events changed that. I am trying to buy only what I absolutely need for the time being, so this shouldn’t be much of an issue in the future. However, I plan to start selling some of my old belongings soon, and I can’t decide if that is something that should count on my couponing spreadsheet.

Am I Saving in Other Ways?

Of course! My couponing goal is $2000, which I’m hoping covers the overseas plane ticket and most of my time in London. In Germany, I plan to spend one week volunteering, so I won’t have any expenses during that time. For other Germany expenses, possible England side-trips, and pre-trip costs (I need a new passport, etc.), here are some things I’m doing:

  • I’m currently doing an eat-out-of-the-pantry challenge to see how long I can make meals using only food I already have (or things I get for free with couponing). Since I also get free meals at work, I imagine that my pantry will last me awhile.
  • I’m taking on extra work when it’s offered for hourly or per-project pay. I currently work several jobs, which is great because I typically don’t spend money while I’m working. So more work means more pay AND less spending!
  • My spending’s on a diet. For the final three weeks of January, I’m not spending any money unless it’s my regular charity donations or I get a rebate that’s greater than my purchase price. After that, I know I’ll be more conscious about my spending and saving habits.
  • I’m finding other ways to earn through Swagbucks.
  • I’m walking a lot more, whether to run errands or just for recreation. This is partially to save money on vehicle expenses, and partially to get my “backpacker body” back!
  • $2000 isn’t the cap for couponing. If I find ways to save even more before I leave, that means even more money for fun!

With just a spoonful of sugar, saving for England and beyond can be a fun challenge!

Couponing to London.jpg

Note: This post utilizes affiliate links.

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travel tips

5 Reasons To Let Go And Travel

How many times do you stare out of the office window and wish you were out there and just living? No schlep to work, no ties with people, just you and the outdoors and total exploration of this glorious planet that we are all fortunate enough to inhabit. Many people are in this position, and it’s one of the biggest reasons that there is such a push for remote working. If you have an internet connection and a computer, you can work anywhere, doing anything you want and being the person that you’ve always wanted to be.

Deciding to travel usually starts with a shopping trip at Forest River RVs to get the best vehicle for the job – especially if you plan to work on the road. Travelling should be something that you do for the soul, but that doesn’t mean that you stop working – you need to fund yourself somehow, right? There are plenty of reasons to get out there and let go of all the stress, and here are five of those reasons.

Birds Flying Over Body Of Water During Golden HourImage Source

  1. You deserve it. It’s really very simple: this is your life. How do you want to live it? Do you want to be hemmed in and unable to move, or do you want to be free and get in touch with nature? The decision is really up to you, but making this choice will change your future. You deserve change.
  2. Life is for living. 9-5 is boring. Let’s be honest! Even if you love your job and what you do, commuting either side of your working hours is long, and working in the office is rubbish; you spend more time staring out of the window at other people’s beautiful RVs and wishing you’d done what they’re doing. Stop wishing. Life is for living.
  3. The adventure is real. A road trip is an adventure. Seeing the different terrains, sites, historical landmarks, sunsets, sunrises,foods – it’s all the biggest adventure that you will ever go on, and you need to go on it. Time is limited, and you need to maximize every minute. We don’t get those back.
  4. You’ll make memories. One day, you’re going to sit down in your lounge with your grandchildren. You can tell them to work hard and have everything by being in a stuffy office. Or, you could tell them to find a job that gives them wings and tell them all your stories that you created during your traveling adventures. Do you want to get to that point in your life with any regrets? No, I didn’t think so.
  5. It’s worth every second. Saying no to the suffocating rules that society lives by is freeing. It’s stopping yourself from being limited and it’s enjoying the time that you have while you have it. Shedding the skin expected of you, jumping behind the wheel of an RV that you’ve saved hard for and just getting out there? It’s going to change you for the better.

 

Get out of your rut and get on the road. Let go.

travel tips

Seven Reasons To Make Carlsbad Your Next Vacation Spot

On the scenic north shore of San Diego is a small town named Carlsbad. You may never have heard of it before, but by the end of reading this post, you’ll be searching how to get there. It’s known as being The Village by the Sea, bragging an impressive seven miles of beaches and perfect weather all year around – well, almost!

 

The activities and adventures that are on offer in Carlsbad provide the tranquility that adults crave mixed with the excitement the children want, and it’s a place you could choose to spend a few days or a few weeks – there is that much to do. Finding a picturesque location that suits the entire family is not an easy thing to do when trying to balance the needs of everyone for a vacation. However, Carlsbad is the hidden gem that San Diego should be boasting more about.

 

There are so many things to see and do in Carlsbad that you’re never short on options, and the Carlsbad tourism rates are starting to rise as people discover this little town. With that in mind, we’d like to give you some insight on the top reasons you should be making Carlsbad your next vacation spot – and you won’t regret your booking by the time you finish reading!

Ocean View during Daylight

Image Source

 

 

This is a spot definitely for the families among you, because while it’s a spa resort, it caters perfectly for children, too. When you’ve spent time travelling to find the perfect vacation area, you want to really unwind and relax. When you first walk into the resort and spa, you are greeted warmly by the staff. There’s nothing quite like a welcome when you arrive as a guest somewhere new, and this resort has undergone a 50 million dollar renovation just to impress you. Families and golf enthusiasts will feel at home here, and there is a sports lounge, elegant rooms and amazing food on offer.

 

 

  • LEGOLAND California

 

The main children’s attraction is LEGOLAND California, and it sits in Carlsbad. Well, I say children, but it offers you the perfect family day out, with roller coasters and rides that look like they have been built directly from LEGO. The children can participate in workshop and activities and you can even tour entire cityscapes of US cities in perfect LEGO miniature. You can even head to their own waterpark in the summer, making it a cool place for everyone to visit.

 

 

  • The Beach

 

You cannot go on vacation and not head to a beach, and as Carlsbad is known as “The Village by the Sea”, you can’t miss it. The State Beach is one of the most popular because it’s ideal for families to visit. With swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing and beach combing. There is a paved 4-mile path that follows the state beach which is perfect for the whole family to walk, jog and cycle right on the seafront. Terramar offers something a little quieter, so those who want away from the hustle and bustle of State Beach have somewhere to go. It’s also perfect for surfers!

Selective Photography of Table Setting

Image Source

 

  • The Food

 

It doesn’t matter what you’re into or what your budget may be, Carlsbad has it. There are fine dining restaurants that have won awards and there are street food carts that win taste tests every day, and there are so many options for the kids that there are never going to be any complaints. There are farm to table selections for the freshest meat and produce, and you can enjoy a seasonal menu experience wherever you happen to be.

 

 

  • The Great Outdoors

 

While Carlsbad is known for its beaches, it’s not the only place to go. There are tons of outdoor activities for you all to explore. Aviara Trails and the Veterans Park Trails are a must for those who love to hike and if you are interested, the Buena Vista Lagoon is the only freshwater lagoon in California and yep – it’s right here in Carlsbad. You can go one better with the Batiquitos Lagoon, too, which is a coastal salt marsh that is an exciting location for birdwatchers. The Spring months have the Flower Fields open and only for 6-8 weeks!

 

 

  • The Museums

 

Everyone loves the traditional museums, but Carlsbad offers something a little quirkier than the norm. The Museum of Making Music is a must, sharing music history and vintage collections of unusual and interactive instruments. Music lovers will enjoy digging into the history here, and if you want something sparklier, head over to the Gemological Institute of America, which showcases some of the rarest jewels in the world. Oceanside hosts the history of surfing and surf culture in California, so head there to learn all about it.

 

 

  • Festivals

 

For a small town, Carlsbad does very well when it comes to hosting something fun. There are more than enough fun festivals and activities throughout the year to be enjoyed and the most famous of all is the 3 day music festival by the beach at the end of the summer months. There is a farmers market in the village every week from 3-6pm and you can really see the effort the town puts in over the holidays, particularly Christmas and Halloween.

 

Carlsbad has so much more going for it than you think and while this coastal town is small, it is also mighty. Most of the attractions are within walking distance of one another and you can really get on your feet and leave the car behind for a few days while you’re there. You can reach downtown San Diego from here on the public transport system, and if you go on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, you can be there the scenic way. Heading out on vacation is fun, but knowing that you are going somewhere that’s really going to give you the best time is even better. Ditch the city next summer and head for The Village by the Sea – you won’t regret it.

travel tips

Jump Into the Real World

You won’t realize it until you’re out of the bubble you’re in, but the real world is waiting for you out there. Throughout the whole of the first part of your life, right up until you leave college or university, you’re trapped in a bubble that you just can’t get out of. And until you get out of that bubble, you don’t realize how lucky you were to have been in it in the first place. The years of your life that you spend so protected by education, will be some of the best years of your life. But when you jump into the real world, you suddenly realize what’s actually out there for you. There’s a whole world waiting for you to explore, and a path that you need to create for yourself in order to be able to live the best life that you possibly can. So if you’re yet to jump into the real world yet, we think that there are a few ambitions that you should have and try to follow, to ensure you jump into the real world and do it right.

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Image Source

 

The Job To Give You The Lifestyle

 

So, if you’re going to have any sort of ambition at all, it should be aimed towards your career. What career you chose is literally going to guide you through life, and it will determine what type of life you have. Some people land jobs that see them travelling the world doing all sorts of things, and some will stay in a small town supermarket. Whatever floats your boat, and whatever is going to get you through life comfortably! Some of the best jobs for college students are definitely ones within business, especially the bigger companies that are dominating the business world, If you want to have money, and you want to have potential, this is pretty much the only way to be able to do that! Of course, it all does depend on what course you took at college, and what that was intended to set you up for!


A Set Of Travelling Goals

 

We really think that you should all set yourself some traveling goes. When you jump into the real world, you’re jumping into freedom. The only thing holding you back will be your job, but even that won’t hold you back much. There’s a whole world out there to explore, and there’s no better time to do it than when you’re fresh out of college. Jumping right into the working world properly might be a bit intimidating, so see if you can have a small job to begin with to save some money, and then go traveling the world for a little while!

 

Managing The Working World

 

Circling back to the working world a little bit, because we feel like this is going to be the biggest shock for you. If you are to manage the working world, you need to have a life outside of it. It’s so important to have friends, family, or a partner that you can disconnect from the working world with, and actually enjoy life!

Accommodations, camp, holiday, resources, road trip, saving money, seasonal, travel tips, Winter

How I Paid Next-to-Nothing for a Hotel Room

I rarely ever stay at hotels. There are so many other accommodation options that typically provide a better value in terms of service, activities, and price. But I recently decided to book a short end-of-year weekend trip to the Oregon Coast. I usually camp when I’m on the coast, but since I don’t have a heated RV, that isn’t a practical option in the winter. I did check out the state parks to see if they had any heated yurts available. I only found one campground that had one yurt available for one night. I reserved that for a grand total of $51, but that still left me with another night of no accommodation. That’s when I turned to look at hotels.

I ended up finding a hotel room in an ideal location that included breakfast and a few other amenities I would enjoy. Although the room was listed for $70, I used some creative techniques to get the price even lower than the cost of my night in the yurt. And then I did a little bit more to get it for practically FREE!

I will be doing the same process to save money on hotels in the future, and you can too! You can use either tip separately, or combine both for maximum savings!

2 Simple Tricks

This post utilizes affiliate links

Tip 1: Hotels.com Hacks

I decided to book on Hotels.com so I could easily compare the prices of different hotels. It turned out that Hotels.com offers even more savings than just price comparisons! I found a hotel that normally started at $70 but was discounted to $65.

That was okay, but I wanted it for less, especially after taxes and fees were added to that price. I found a Hotels.com promo code that saved me 10%. With that included, my grand total was down to $63.06. Not bad, although I wanted to do better. I booked it anyway.

After paying, I read up on Hotels.com’s price guarantee. Basically, it said if I could find the same type of room at the same hotel for the same dates for a lower price anywhere online, they would match that.

It only took me one Google search to find several booking sites that offered rooms at this hotel for $51. But upon closer inspection, these were for rooms with a queen bed. I had booked a king bed, since on Hotels.com they were both the same price. But on these sites, the king room was still at $65. No savings there.

Then I decided to visit the website for the hotel itself. Oftentimes, booking directly will be a little cheaper since the hotel doesn’t have to pay commission fees. Sure enough, I found a room with a king bed for $51 on their website. I took a screenshot and filled out a quick form on Hotels.com. Pretty soon, I received a refund of $14.58.

That meant I got what might have been a $70 room (not including taxes and fees) for a grand total of $48.48 (including taxes and fees). All I had to do was use a promo code and a price match. I’ve stayed in some hostel dorms for more than that! It was even $2.52 less than my campground yurt!

(Note: Hotels.com has a rewards program where if you buy 10 nights, you get one night free. However, my promo code excluded me from collecting rewards points. But since getting 10% off a night now is better than possibly getting a free night sometime in the future after 10 other nights, I didn’t mind. If you’re trying to decide whether to use a promo code or the rewards program, check out tip #2 for one more thing that may help you decide!)

If that sounds like a good deal to you, feel free to stop reading here. If you’d like to save even more, check out the next tip!

Tip 2: Swagbucks Savings

Swagbucks is essentially savings central. You can earn points called SB by doing things like searching the web, online shopping, and taking surveys. I’ve even earned quite a bit here by donating to charity! After earning SB, you can trade them in for real cash. You can cash out to PayPal or a Visa card, or buy one of hundreds of gift cards. These gift cards can even buy your way to free travel. 

If you don’t have a Swagbucks account yet, click here to sign up with a 300 SB bonus!

Join Swagbucks!

I earned enough just from my regular Christmas shopping to get a Hotels.com gift card. Adding the Swagbucks app to my browser has notified me of lots of cashback opportunities I didn’t even know existed. If you don’t want to spend any money at all, you can still earn with Swagbucks. I’ve earned gift cards by taking surveys, using the Swagbucks search engine, and checking out free offers- no purchases are needed to get a gift card!

Hotels.com is one of the online stores where you can earn cash back on Swagbucks. Although the offer varies from time to time, you will always earn more SB if you book a hotel room without earning Hotels.com Rewards. So if you book a room on Hotels.com with a gift card that you earned on Swagbucks, and you get SB for your stay, you’re basically getting paid to stay in your hotel room!

Since I used a promo code I was not eligible to earn SB on this particular trip, but I ended up saving more with the promo code than what I would have earned in SB. However, when I make a reservation in the future, I will check to see if Swagbucks has a better current payout than the available promo codes!

(Note: On this road trip, I’ll also be paying for gas with gift cards earned through Swagbucks. Check out this post for more details.)

Now I have a great trip at a great price to end 2018. One of my 2019 goals is to pay for a trip with creative couponing (such as using Cardpool as well as Swagbucks and tricks like these for Hotels.com) so you can expect to hear more great ways to save in the new year!

travel tips

 5 Tips for Organising Your Finances to Travel the World

Image via Pixabay

Getting out on the open road (or the high seas, or flying through the sky) and seeing new places is arguably one of the most uplifting experiences that a person can undergo. At least, if you’ve got a temperament for wanderlust and the desire to step out of your comfort zone on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, though, you need some resources in order to go on your adventures, and there are a few logistics involved. Some people put off their travels indefinitely, telling themselves that they’ll get around to it one day – maybe in retirement. But life is unpredictable, and it’s better to get a start on living your dreams sooner rather than later.

One of the leading reasons why people defer their travel plans is due to an apparent lack of finances. While there is, hypothetically, always the possibility of looking into personal loans no credit check as a way of financing your Around-the World-in-Eighty-Days-style adventure, it’s best to explore avenues of fundraising that won’t accrue debt, first.

So, here are a few tips for organising your finances to travel the world.

Ask the question; “what sacrifices am I willing to make to travel?”

If you’re currently unable to finance both your lifestyle as it is today, and also cover the expenses involved in travel, the most obvious and immediate short-term solution is for you to change your current lifestyle so as to be able to put more money aside for seeing the world.

In other words, you need to ask yourself “what sacrifices am I willing to make to travel?”

Maybe you’re willing to do without your Netflix account. Maybe you can stop eating at restaurants for the next few months. Or maybe you can quit your gym membership and train at home.

Only you can identify the specific areas of your life where you’re willing and able to trim the fat and salvage a bit of money, but if you’re anything like the majority of people in the developed world, you’ve likely got more than a few regular expenses that aren’t integral to your survival or wellbeing.

Get organised in general — use a personal planner and organisational system to structure your plans

The more organised you are in general, and the more organised you are with regards to planning your travels, in particular, the better able you are going to be to structure things in a cost-effective manner and make them happen.

There’s a general productivity principle that goes; “whatever is measured, improves”, and the same holds true for personal planning and organisation in general.

Create a planner system, perhaps along the lines of David Allen’s Getting Things Done method, or perhaps in the form of a Bullet Journal. The key thing is that you make a systematic list of the things you’ll need to do to turn your travel plans into reality, as well compiling essential information and comparing potential accommodation, package deals, and so on.

Handle things in a systematic way, and you’re likely to find that you’re able to achieve much more than you ever were before, when you were doing things “on the fly”.

Budget meticulously, don’t just save and manage your finances by intuition — account for every penny

If planning out logistics meticulously is essential, budgeting meticulously is certainly no less essential.

Many people manage their finances by intuition. They know how much money they’re going to be paid each month, they know how much they have to spend on rent, and they more or less guesstimate the rest and hope for the best.

Often, this system more or less works out — but it’s far from ideal, and always allows far more money to escape between the cracks than you might like.

When you budget meticulously according to a zero-based budgeting model, that assigns a job to every dollar — in the parlance of the company You Need a Budget — you ensure that all the margins are tightened up and that you can reduce financial waste dramatically — maybe all the way down to nothing.

That, of course, means that you will be able to free up a lot of money that can be spent as you see fit in arranging your next travel adventure.

Budget for spontaneity on the road

It’s very easy to completely misjudge how much you need to budget for a travel outing, especially one that is set to last for a significant amount of time — a week or more, let’s say. This is because it’s all too easy to budget from a position of “idealism”, rather than from a position of realism.

For example — you set aside a certain amount of money to cover the cost of your accommodation, and you can generally be pretty accurate about that. Then you set aside an exact amount of money to spend on your flights and transport. So far so good — what was all the fuss about, anyway?

But then it comes to the less predictable expenses. Stuff like buying snacks during the day, paying for buses, picking up souvenirs on location. And here is where many people dramatically under-budget, only to inevitably over-spend at their destination, and end up in real financial trouble.

Rather than doing this, include budget allowances for spontaneity and unseen expenses on the road. This might sound a bit funny, but it really means you should err on the side of caution and leave yourself a spending buffer, to ensure you don’t overspend.

Consider travelling with others

If you can travel with a partner, a friend, or even a relative, you are likely to be able do certain things in a more cost-effective manner, while also benefiting from companionship on the road.

You could, for example, book an apartment and go halves on the cost, and then share the food bill and alternate meal duty. Or you could enjoy group discounts to various sites. Or maybe you could take advantage of a packaged travel and accommodation deal.

Travelling with others won’t necessarily be more cost-effective in every situation, but it will likely make your trip more enjoyable, not to mention improving your security on the road.

road trip, saving money, travel tips

How I Get Discounted (Or FREE!) Gas Every Time

How would you like to pay less than the posted gas prices every single time you visit the pump? Better yet, how would you like to get some road trip snacks and even the gas for FREE? Yes it’s possible. I would know; I haven’t paid the price that the gas station sign has indicated for a long time! Whether you want to make a road trip less expensive or want to save up for your next goal during your day-to-day commute, here’s how to do it:

Subaru Forester

Note: I typically use Kroger-brand gas stations (known regionally as Fred Meyer, Turkey Hill, etc.) because it turns out to be the cheapest for me locally. If your Kroger gas is for some reason expensive or you don’t live near one of their pumps, don’t worry. You can still apply most of these tips to get a good deal on gas near you!

Look Up Prices

Go to GasBuddy.com or open the GasBuddy app before you decide where you’re going to fill up. This service lists up-to-date gas prices at stations near you. When I’m at home, the cheapest place is typically either Fred Meyer or Costco, which are the only two gas stations I ever use! If you’re on a road trip, it’s helpful to know where you should fill up.

Now that you know where the cheapest pumps are, let’s knock some more money off that gas price…

Become a Member

Go to the customer service desk of Fred Meyer, King Soopers, Ralph’s, Baker’s, or any other store under the Kroger umbrella and ask to get a shopper rewards card. This is free to get and automatically gets you three cents off per gallon at most Kroger-owned gas stations. You can also sign up for a credit card that has a few more perks, but I think that the rewards card is a safer way to go, and if you follow the tips below, could ultimately give you more savings.

The rewards card isn’t just for three cents off. Every grocery store purchase earns you fuel rewards points. If you spend enough at the grocery store (and earn at least 100 points), you can get anywhere between ten cents and a dollar off at the pump! You can also download store coupons right onto this card.

I’m not as familiar with rewards policies for other gas stations, but it’s worth checking out as you can get some great deals. Sometimes, my Costco gas station is cheaper than my Fred Meyer gas station even after the three-cent discount. Since you have to show your membership card to get Costco fuel, that certainly has been worth it!

Use Your Receipt

Almost every Friday, Kroger-owned stores have a “Freebie Friday” coupon that you can download from the digital coupon section of their website. Even if you normally use a different grocery store, make sure to put this on your card and take advantage of the free item (you have three weeks to pick the item up from the store before the coupon expires). You don’t have to buy anything else to get this deal. Just scan the free item, scan your rewards card, and grab your receipt.

Make sure to take a good look at that grocery receipt because it can lead to even more gas savings. My receipt often says that if I go online and fill out a survey about my shopping experience, I will get 50 fuel rewards points. So after just two receipt surveys, I’m getting 10 cents off per gallon, and I didn’t have to pay a cent to do it! You can earn fuel points up to once a week, so get your weekly freebie and fill out its receipt survey to enjoy 20 cents off per gallon.

After following the above steps, you’ll really start to see some savings in your gas budget. For a while, these steps were all I did. But we’re just getting started!

Buy Gift Cards

I recently got involved with buying discounted gift cards online. My favorite website to go for this is Gift Card Granny. It’s basically a search engine for gift cards that shows you where you can get the biggest discount. I can usually get a 2-4% discount on grocery and gas cards. (For more frivolous stores, such as movie theaters and restaurants, the discount is usually more like 10-20% off!)

I normally buy my gas at Fred Meyer stations, but since Fred Meyer is owned by Kroger, I look up other Kroger-owned stores on GiftCardGranny to see what currently has the biggest discount. If you’re using another gas station, find out what other gift cards may also work there. (For example, if you buy gas at Safeway, also look up gift cards for Vons.) Once you receive your gift card, just make sure to use both your gift card and rewards card at every gas station visit.

Special! If you’ve never used Cardpool before, then use this link to get a bonus $5 off your first purchase!

Just in case you’re wondering, most discount gift cards sites verify the cards they sell and have a guarantee for all your purchases. I’ve never had a problem buying discount gift cards.

Once you add this tip to your routine, you should save several bucks on each fill-up. Are you ready to do one more thing to get FREE gas?

Use Your Computer or Smartphone To Make It FREE

If you read money-saving blogs, you’ve probably heard this before. But ever since I started to seriously use Swagbucks, my gasoline budget has become non-existent!

After signing up for Swagbucks, install a couple things onto your browser’s task bar. First, make Swagbucks your primary search engine. You’ll get paid for every few web searches. Also make sure to install the Swagbutton. If your shopping online, the Swagbutton will notify you about any coupon codes or rebates that your purchase qualifies for. These are the best ways to easily earn Swagbucks that won’t affect your daily routine, but if you’re interested, you can also fill out surveys, watch videos, play games, and more to earn Swagbucks!

Get a 300SB bonus when you sign up for Swagbucks here!

You can exchange your Swagbucks for a variety of gift cards. Swagbucks has gift cards to some gas stations, like Safeway, Sunoco, and Chevron. That’s an easy way to get free gas. However, I usually redeem my SB for a $25 or $50 prepaid Visa card. I then go back to GiftCardGranny and pay for my discount gift card with my free prepaid Visa card. You can also do the same thing by cashing out your SB into PayPal, but prepaid Visa cards usually give you more bang for your Swagbucks.

Other Ways to Save Even More On Gas

  • When shopping for a new car, look for one that has better gas mileage than your old vehicle.
  • Coast whenever you go downhill, need to slow down, or approach a stop sign. Basically, the less your foot is on the gas pedal, the better.
  • Can you limit your drives to work by doing something like working double shifts or working partly from home? Last December I changed my commute from 10 miles to one mile by moving closer!
  • Walk or bike when you can. As a bonus, you’ll exercise, get fresh air, and better enjoy the beauty of the route.
  • Try not to drive for just one thing. Combine your trips.5+ Ways to

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travel tips

 4 Tips for Staying Well-Fed While Travelling

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Image via Pixabay

 

Quick question; what circumstance can completely ruin your enjoyment of an otherwise excellent vacation, and guarantee that you miss out on a good deal of the joy, energy, and enthusiasm you could have otherwise enjoyed while exploring a new culture?

 

There are, of course, all sorts of things ranging from relatively minor to incredibly severe, which could have this effect. One of the most common problems, however, is simply not managing to stay well-fed throughout the trip, for various different reasons.

 

It may seem like a silly thing to complain about, but not getting your three square meals a day while travelling can really have an immense dampening effect on the entire experience. Don’t underestimate the degree to which food can affect your well-being, not only in the sense of being able to enjoy delicious local cuisine, but also in the sense of just having enough to eat, in general.

 

Here are some tips for staying well-fed while travelling, so that this issue hopefully doesn’t befall you.

 

Setup your home base in an area where all the amenities are easily accessible

 

Hunger while travelling often happens as the result of certain vacation or travel formats, particularly backpacking. If you’re constantly on the move, with few supplies, and only a vague sense of what amenities will be available in the next location you stop at, it should hardly come as a surprise if you find yourself chronically hungry and unable to enjoy reliably timed, filling, and tasty meals.

 

Keeping this in mind, one of the best things you can do in order to ensure that you remain well-fed while on vacation, is to take a more “settled” approach to your trip, meaning that you stay in one central location, and do your day trips and so on from that central location.

 

Setting up your “home base” in an area where all of the amenities are easily accessible both makes it easier for you to grab snacks on the go, but also for you to buy ingredients and do some cooking in your accommodation itself.

 

HDB Tampines is, for example, the largest “HDB” estate in all of Singapore. HDB estates house the vast majority of Singaporeans, and feature shopping and entertainment facilities in addition to the accommodation itself.

 

Staying in an HDB estate, such as the one at Tampines would, therefore, go a long way towards helping you stay properly nourished while enjoying the country.

 

Supplement your restaurant experiences with meals you cook for yourself using local cookbooks

 

This ties in with the previous point, but it may be the case that it’s not financially viable for you to eat at a restaurant three times a day for the entirety of your stay, but nonetheless want to not only stay well fed, but in indulge in delicious local cuisine throughout the duration of your stay, as well.

 

Assuming you are, in fact, staying in accommodation where your own kitchen facilities will be made available to you, in addition to having access to nearby shops, you can supplement your restaurant experiences with meals you cook for yourself, using cookbooks focused around the local cuisine.

 

Needless to say, the skills and insight you acquire from preparing local recipes on your trip, will carry over so that you return home with an expanded knowledge of different delicious cultural dishes to use at your discretion.

 

Don’t only eat the local foods that seem “familiar”, be daring

 

Sometimes, you may be under-eating, or at least, passing up on trying some delicious local delicacies, because you are reluctant to try some of the more “exotic” dishes that are presented to you.

 

It’s natural for people to be reluctant to try foods that are alien to them, and to stick with what feels familiar wherever possible, but there are a few good reasons why you might want to alter your policy towards novel dishes while travelling abroad.

 

The first, and perhaps most obvious reason, is because while you are travelling, you have a unique opportunity to experience the cultures of different places, and should take advantage of the opportunity in as many ways as you reasonably can, including by trying the local cuisine.

 

Of course, it’s also the case that you may find it very difficult to find your usual meal of choice when overseas, and may struggle to stay well-fed if you scorn the local dishes, as a result.

 

Finally, refusing to try the unfamiliar food may rob you of the opportunity to try dishes that you would genuinely find delicious if only you gave them a chance.

 

You should, of course, be mindful of not doing anything which would have a negative effect on your health, or violate your ethical standards, but you should still err in favour of trying the unfamiliar food whenever you can.

 

Research culinary guides to your destination, so that you can be sure that you’ll only dine at worthy establishments

 

There are many great culinary guides on offer which allow you to get a good sense of the kinds of places you should go during your travels to get the best possible meals.

 

Guides can include anything from walking “culinary tours” of a particular city, to a highlight reel of the top cafes in a given area, or a “top 10” of the best cultural dishes to be found in a country, along with some information on where you should go in order to enjoy said dishes.

 

Guides will also frequently include tips on things like where to find the best street food, how to eat well on a budget, and how to stay well-fed in general, all else being equal.

 

As any trip you take into a new country will, for all intents and purposes, be a venture out into the unknown, it will be more than worth your while to investigate the top culinary and travel guides you can identify, research them, and take their advice to heart.

 

After all, food at least as much of a cultural experience as visiting a museum is.

travel tips

Road Trip Vacation First Timer? You Need To Read This

I’m taking a quick break from the summer camping theme to go on two back-to-back camping trips! While I enjoy that, enjoy this post!

PixaBay.com

An epic road trip is, without a doubt, something that every keen traveler should experience at least once. Road trips offer a freedom that few other forms of vacation can provide; you are able to go wherever you want, for as long as you want, at whatever time of day you want. There’s no need to worry about rushing to the airport on time or waiting for a bus to the local historical site; you set your own rules, and travel in the style that suits you and your family only.

Of course, while road trips do offer all the benefits detailed above, they are far from a worry-free choice for a vacation. As well as managing concerns such as preparing your car for the trip and finding a hotel that lines your chosen driving route, you will have to face arguably the biggest road trip problem of all: trying to pack too many items into your vehicle.

Why this is such an issue

Over-packing your car may not sound like the biggest worry a road trip can throw at you – and perhaps, in and of itself, it’s not that much of an issue. However, what over-packing your vehicle does is produce a number of additional problems. These include:

  • Having to spend more on gas than you otherwise would due to the car being overweight

  • Struggling to organize your luggage due to it being crammed into a confined space

  • Spending large amounts of money in the lead-up to the trip on “road trip essential” items… that you never actually use, as you either cannot find them, or they are not actually as “essential” as the manufacturer would have you believe

However…

… the above points are accurate, but they cannot be taken in isolation. Reading through the above, it would be tempting to ensure you don’t overpack, by taking as little as possible; instead, you’d just visit the likes of AromaTech to grab an essential oil air freshener, throw a change of clothes in a bag, pack a tire repair kit, and then you’d hit the open road, a veritable Marie Kondo of traveling.

Unfortunately, this isn’t possible. Road trips require substantial preparation and you will need to ensure you have the essentials you need – but without going overboard!

Five tips to keep in mind when packing for a road trip

  • Weigh every item you are considering packing in your vehicle. If an item weighs more than its usefulness merits, leave it behind.

  • Be realistic about what you will be able to buy on the road. For example, there’s no need to take a spare bottle of shampoo – if you run out, you’ll be able to buy one during your trip.

  • However, don’t rely on being able to buy esoteric items. If an item can’t be bought at your nearest corner store, don’t assume you’ll be able to find it easily on the road.

  • Don’t pack the car to the brim. You will almost certainly want to buy items along the way, so you’ll need space to store these items.

  • If you’re really struggling for space in the trunk, consider a roof rack or even a trailer – though bear in mind both of these options will also increase your fuel consumption.

In conclusion

With the above thoughts and tips in mind, you should be able to ensure that your first road trip experience avoids the usual over/underpacking problems that cause so much stress. This should, in turn, leave you free to enjoy the road trip in style.

travel tips

5 “Travel Different” Ideas For Your Next Trip 

Now, if you’re reading this blog, then you’ll already know that traveling is awesome no matter what form it takes. However, there is sometimes an issue: we end up taking the same kinds of trips. If we’re culture vultures, we make whistle-stop tours of the world’s greatest cities. If we’re the rough and ready type, then we go for off the beaten path, budget destinations, and so on. There’s nothing wrong, necessarily, with this, but it is sometimes a good idea to mix up how we travel from time to time. Below, we take a look at a few ideas that’ll have you doing things a little differently next time you venture forth.

Source: Pexels.com

City v Nature

Most people place themselves on one side of the “city v nature” debate, but there’s no reason to be so absolute. Cities can be a lot of fun, even if you’re normally off swanning around the mountains. Likewise, the great outdoors can work its charms on you even if you’re more of a fine dining and fancy hotel type of person; it’s where we belong, after all! So the next time you’re revisiting one of your popular destinations, think about mixing things and going to the other end of the spectrum. Who knows…you might like it!

A New Activity

It’s a big and beautiful world out there, and there are a million and one things you can do. If you haven’t made an activity the basis for your trip before, then what are you waiting for? There’s much enjoyment to be had by going on a skiing, surfing, or hiking vacation. If you want to try your hand at surfing, book yourself into an Outer Banks oceanfront hotel; the region is highly recommended for watersports. For skiing, it’s about picking a mid-size resort (avoid the gigantic resorts until you have the activity down). And for hiking…pick a beautiful spot, and get out there.

Follow a Theme

If you’re looking to add some structure to your travels, then why not look at following a theme? If you’re a literature fan, you can follow a tour through your fictional or non-fictional heroes footsteps. There’s much to enjoy about retracing Hemingway’s travels through Spain, for instance. If you’re a foodie, then it’s hard to imagine a scenario where traveling through Italy, tasting the fine food (and just a bit of wine), won’t make your heart sing.

Slow Travel

If you have a few weeks to play with your next travel adventure, why not practice the art of slow travel? With this, you’ll spend a few weeks just in one place, soaking up all that it has to offer. You learn much more about a place the longer you stay there! Most people try to cram in as much as possible into their trips, but you might just find that visiting one place very well is better than just passing through several places. Give it a try…it might just change the way you travel for good.

Stay tuned for more “travel different” ways involving camping!