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

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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!

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photography, seasonal

Fall Foto Fun

I’ve been enjoying the fall colors and associated activities over the past few weeks! Before the constant rain started, I decided to take my last mud-free opportunity of the year to hike Table Rock and see the foilage from above.

I went to the pumpkin patch twice this year. On my second trip, I decided to get a blue pumpkin, which I never had before. The following days were all pumpkin-themed. I roasted the seeds from my pumpkin, baked cookies and cheesecake brownies from canned pumpkin, and carved the pumpkin in a park under the colorful leaves of a tree.

Last week was the first Friday of the month, which called for an evening trip to Ashland for the First Friday Art Walk. After that I headed down the street to Southern Oregon University, where I joined a haunted tour. But the most incredible thing I saw happened before all that: I parked my car at Lithia Park, and saw these trees between the duck pond and Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

If you want to see more of my pics, be sure to follow me on Instagram. I’m @jessicalippe.

destinations, seasonal, travel tips

6 Things To Do In Finland This Winter

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Finland is the ultimate festive wonderland if you are looking for a place to get yourself ready for Christmas. During the winter months, Finland is covered in thick snow and has plenty of amazing places to visit, from national parks, to Santa’s home, to bustling cities filled with festive smells and sights.

So the question is, what to do in Finland in winter? Well, here are some great ideas for you…

1.Santa Claus Village

This village is underneath the Arctic Circle, and takes you away from the real world and into Santa’s. You’ll find yourself in the midst of everything festive as you bake with Mrs Claus, meet the man himself and even attend elf school. If you weren’t feeling festive before, you will be now.

2. Kemi

If you love the snow, then a visit to the village of Kemi will be just the thing for you. You’ll be able to make towering snowmen, have fun in the snow with your skis, or even go sledding with the kids. It’s like the ultimate snowy wonderland for you and your family.

3. Lapland

Santa lives in Lapland, and you will find no shortage of the festive spirit visiting the northernmost region of the country. Reindeer roam wild in the forests, and you will be able to ride and feed them too. At Santa’s grotto, you will be able to experience a magical sleigh ride and plenty of festive fun.

4. The Festival of St Lucia

For those of you who haven’t heard of this festival: it occurs every December 13th and celebrates the life of St Lucia. St Lucia was a Christian girl who became a martyr in 304. The festival celebrates her life with a girl wearing a crown of candles. Everyone parade through the streets and eats great food to celebrate the life of this young saint.

5. Christmas Markets, Helsinki

The Christmas markets are one of the most festive places to be in December. They happen all over Europe, but in Finland the most impressive is in the capital, Helsinki. In this city, an ice skating rink is open to the public throughout the winter, and snow covers the entire landscape. You’ll be able to walk around and smell various cheeses, meats and sweets cooking on the street; as well as warm your cockles with a mug of mulled wine. Walk around and do some Christmas shopping as you enjoy the full immersive festive experience.

6. Turku

If it is an old-fashioned, quirky village experience you are after, then Turku is the best place to visit at this time of the year. Turku is not only the former capital of Finland, but it is also the oldest city in the entire country. As you walk through the cobbled streets and thin alleyways, you’ll be able to visit tonnes of independent shop owners selling unique pieces and wears. The whole city becomes blanketed in snow during the colder months, so you’ll be able to fully experience walking through a winter wonderland.