Tag Archives: free

Summer Camp: 6 Reasons this is the Ideal Job for Travelers

This may seem like an odd time of year to talk about summer camp, but many camps will open up their summer staff applications soon if they haven’t already. Working at a camp offers plenty of adventures… and can earn you enough money to go on another adventure after the camp season is over!

Why should a traveler work at summer camp?

Experience Once-in-a-Lifetime Events… Every Week!


Riding an airboat! You can find me on the right in the burgundy tee

I love ziplining. But so far, I’ve never paid for a zipline experience. Working at camp has allowed me to enjoy this adrenaline rush for free whenever campers weren’t using it.
The events and experiences you’ll get to enjoy depend on what camp you go to, but here are just a few other things I got to do as part of camp work: play paintball, rock climb, walk high ropes, take the leap of faith, hold an alligator, ride airboats, jump off the high dive, play broomball on a frozen-over pool, and fly on a giant swing, just to name a few.

Shoulder Seasons are Your Vacation Time

Yes, camp work typically means giving up a good chunk of the most popular vacation time: summer. But that means you’ll also be giving up the high prices and large crowds that come with tourist season. Instead, try traveling before or after camp, when you might enjoy prime destinations for less, and maybe even have them all to yourself.

Learn Valuable Travel Skills

Gaining marketing and public relation skills… I’m in the middle

Working at camp doesn’t mean doing the same task all day, every day. You can lead a hike, plunge a toilet, perform a skit, and make a craft… all in the same hour! This means wearing many hats and learning new skills. Some of those skills will be beneficial in travel.

I know I’m a safer, healthier, and all-around more confident traveler because of the first aid and survival skills I was taught at camp. Camp also taught me more about cooking, budgeting, fitness, and getting by with few modern conveniences. All those skills have played a role in some way or another in my travels. Plus, many of my camp coworkers enjoy traveling as well, so we have exchanged some valuable travel tips.

Build that Travel Fund

Be warned, camps aren’t known as being a place that makes their employees rich. Your pay may be equivalent to less than three dollars an hour. However, all that money can go straight into savings. Think about it: at camp, your bed, food, and daily activities are covered. You may have a couple monthly bills to pay, such as for your cell phone or insurance, but those are relatively small compared to your typical monthly expenses. All you have to do is limit your spending at the snack shack and on your days off, and you’ll build a nice nest egg for more adventures (or whatever you want to spend it on)!

Satisfy that Travel Bug

I am furthest to the left, on a staff retreat with camp coworkers

This one may or may not work for you. Sometimes, camp encourages me to travel even more. Other times, it makes me fulfilled enough that I don’t feel the need to travel as much. If this doesn’t work, try exploring the surrounding area on your days off. This works especially well if your camp is far from your home.

Currently, I’m helping out with weekend retreats about twice a month. I still occasionally travel elsewhere, but it’s because I want to, not because I feel pressured to travel. If you work at a summer camp and enjoy it, try coming back throughout the year to work weekend retreats.

Another opportunity that may arise is that you could have the chance to travel with camp as part of your job. There are some adventure camps where staff take campers to all kinds of places. One way I’ve traveled with camp is by visiting other camps as a representative of my own camp, even going to multi-camp conferences in different states. Of course some business or training is involved, but that’s a small price for an all-expense-paid trip!

Inspire Others to Adventure

Camps make a difference. Many camps are also nonprofit organizations, so you can work for a cause you believe in. But you can also make a difference by encouraging the campers you work with to go after adventure. The world could use more travelers like you!

Have you ever worked or volunteered at a camp? (If so, tell me where!) What do you think is the best advantage to working at camp?


Photos were taken during my time at Camp Rivercrest in Nebraska. I’ve worked at 3 other camps and volunteered at countless more, but apparently Rivercrest provided the most photo ops!

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11 Travel Hacks that Don’t Require Credit Cards 

Do you love the idea of getting flights, lodging, ground transportation, meals, and attractions for free or steeply discounted? Who wouldn’t want that! This is what makes travel hacking so enticing. But this can be too daunting when it comes to churning credit cards and running up a big bill. 

Never fear, there are plenty of travel hacks where owning a credit card is completely optional! Below are credit-free hacks based on my personal experience, as well as a few collected from others in my travel networks.

Last trip of the summer with a free trip to Lava Beds

Plan your costly attractions around free times.

I wish I would have kept records of how much I have saved with this one simple hack; it’s probably hundreds. In Madrid, I waited to visit the art museums until after 5pm, when they are free. I happened to be in Athens for a national holiday I didn’t even know about, yet celebrated with free admission to all the ruins, including Acropolis. I’ve had even more success stateside. I planned my San Francisco schedule around free admission times to Golden Gate Park’s attractions, found a rare free day to visit Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, and I have gone on several trips to various National Park Sites on their free entry days. Just last month,  I was spelunking in over a dozen lava tubes at Lava Beds National Monument, and it only cost me the gas to drive there!

Camp in your car, even in Amish country! My Explorer in Holmes County, Ohio.

Make a bed in the back of your car.

When I first visited the Subaru dealership, I brought measuring tape with me. I wanted to make sure I was able to lay down in the trunk with the back seat down. If you road trip in a van or SUV, this could be a comfortable and cheap option for overnights. For me, I started doing this as a kid. Before getting my own tent for Christmas, I would often choose to sleep in the back of my dad’s Jeep Cherokee during family camping trips. My first car was a 2000 Ford Explorer. I bought it for about $1750, and made a large portion of that back in savings by sleeping in it at free campgrounds and WalMart parking lots. Since then, I’ve learned to fit an inflated air mattress in the back, how to make temporary privacy curtains, and that my favorite free spot to stay the night is casinos that allow RVs overnight. Just a few steps away, I have access to bathrooms, WiFi, and security!

Before arriving at Disney World that day, I responded to a medical emergency on my plane and got a free snack box. Apparently even more snacks were justified

Help others for airline perks.

Back when I was an EMT, I helped out with someone having an emergency while boarding our plane. Had this person stayed on the flight, the crew would have offered to refund my ticket to sit with her. Although this didn’t happen, a flight attendant gave me one of those super-expensive snack boxes I would never afford to buy myself. Megan Parsons shared, “this couple asked if they could help me because I am flying alone with a baby. I said yes and their boarding position jumped significantly.” Obviously opportunities like these don’t always arise, but it always helps to keep an eye out!

Even in Europe, you can find public toilets (and bidets!) for free

Use free toilets.

“Go when you can, not when you must.” I heard this from a NYC tourguide ten years ago, and it’s stuck with me as a useful, albeit awkward travel motto. Of course needing to use the bathroom when there isn’t one available can result in ruined clothes, laundry expenses, smelly luggage, and embarrassment. I’ve pointed several visitors to free bathrooms in a small tourist town near where I live, and look out for free restrooms while I travel. This tip is especially useful in areas where most public toilets cost money, since they’re still usually free at restaurants, paid attractions, churches, trains, and porta potties. (Bonus tip: always carry a pack of travel tissues. Your stall may be out of toilet paper, and in some countries the stalls don’t always have toilet roll holders!)

I even brought Laduree macarons home from Paris in my carry-on so my family could taste them.

Get free food and drinks in the airport with this simple tip.

We know that the shops and restaurants in airports are overpriced. But do you know how to get food and drinks past TSA security? More and more people are realizing that you can bring an empty bottle and fill it with water once past security, instead of dropping several dollars for a disposable plastic bottle. (If you do forget your water bottle, some airport fast food places might give you a free water cup.) You can add single-serve flavor packs if you wish. As for food, it’s totally okay to go through security as long as it doesn’t contain many liquid-based components. (Mustard on a sandwich should be fine; a heavily-frosted cupcake is a no-go.) You don’t even have to fit your food in your carry-on or personal item as long as it’s consumed before boarding. 

I planned my entire Tennessee trip around a good airline deal.

Find mistake fares and airline sales. 

Stephan Mark Smith shared, “Check each day until you find a mistake fare.” While I personally have yet to find a mistake fare, I did take advantage of a cheap airline sale a few years ago. As long as you’re not too picky about your destination, you could plan a great trip around a cheap flight!

Last year I found a gift certificate on Groupon to take my family to Trees of Mystery

Fund your trip with gift cards.

Just about every aspect of travel can be paid for with a gift card. If you have partially- used gift cards lying around, get creative and brainstorm how they can be used towards upcoming travels. For everything else, check out Swagbucks. Many people think of this site as a rebate program. But I promised that none of these travel hacks require a credit card, and this one doesn’t have to, either. On Swagbucks, you can earn points by watching videos, playing games, taking surveys, and my favorite, using a search engine. These points then translate into gift cards for gas, hotels, cruises, restaurants, Groupon, and more. You even get free points just for signing up!

Do an online search before booking tickets or making a reservation. You could find steeply discounted prices to places like Wildlife Safari.

Check the fine print on coupons.

Between free travel gear and free souvenirs, this hack has saved me a lot of money, and provided me with wonderful things I never would have gotten if I had to pay for them! I ignore most coupons because their stipulations require me to buy something I don’t need. But years ago, while backpacking Nashville, I found a coupon that offered $3 off at a local candy store- no minimum purchase!  I even surprised the cashier when I got a $2.50 nut log for free. Since then, I stay on the lookout for coupons offering free food, free souvenirs, and free gear. I also like stores that allow coupon stacking or using coupons on already-discounted items. My favorite coupon right now is the $10 rewards coupon I get from Eddie Bauer twice a year. I have to spend at least $10 to get $10 off, but it’s still a good deal for useful gear and clearance items!

Books make wonderful cheap, unplugged entertainment for camping trips. And that’s just one free thing you can get from the library!

Visit your library before leaving.

A library is more than books. When planning my trip to Europe, I learned about Rick Steves, and wanted more of his advice than what was offered online and on PBS. I went to the library and found his Europe Through the Back Door guidebook as well as a few seasons of his show on DVD. Of course my rental time wasn’t long enough to bring these with me in Europe for 90 days, but I could take notes on the most useful information for me. For shorter trips, a borrowed library book is great for downtime, as long as you make sure not to lose it. With a lot of weekend road trips I’ve been taking lately, I enjoy getting an audio book or two from the library to listen to in the car. I’ve also taken periodicals from the free magazine rack. Your library may have other perks that benefit travel as well.

Soda was just one of many sponsor freebies at Paris’ Tour de France street fair!

Double up on freebies at events.

Some of my favorite travel memories have been at free local events. I went to some of these at the advice of a local person or fellow traveler. Others I stumbled onto completely by accident. Either way, you’re likely to find a free concert, play, or street fair, especially in large cities. Not only is the event free, but you can often double up on freebies at events like this since the sponsors often give free items away. This could mean food, apparel, pens, and other items that make excellent souvenirs.

Upsides of a totaled car: massages, rentals, cash for a new car…

If something goes wrong, cash in on all you can.

I definitely would not recommend getting into a car crash as a way to travel hack. With recent personal experience, it’s a hassle, it’s costly, and it can ruin the joy of travel, at least temporarily. But if something like this does happen to you, milk it for all it’s worth. My favorite car crash perk has been the free massages and chiropractic adjustments, especially helpful since my health insurance ended just a couple weeks after my crash. You can enjoy this benefit even if you were only a passenger in a crash. When I got my rental car, I planned a weekend getaway to Redding, California. While I paid for the gas, the rental was covered by insurance, and it didn’t add mileage to my own car. Speaking of mileage, since my car was totalled before its warranty ended, I got most of it refunded. While each situation differs, look into what’s available in the event of an unfortunate incident involving a car, plane, hotel, restaurant, event, or attraction. Don’t be demanding or threatening, but be sure to get what you’re owed.

What travel hacks have you done? Let me know in the comments!

Road Trip Weekend, Part 2: Leave the Comfort Zone

It’s the weekend! What a great time for a road trip! Each day of this weekend, I’ll be sharing a recent road trip I took. My hope is that, even if you don’t take the route I did, you’ll get some tips and inspiration for wherever you go! Yesterday, I shared a coastal road trip built around meeting my favorite speaker. Today, I’ll tell how a road trip allowed me to face my fears and overcome pain. 

Exactly one week after my car was hit, I was still overcoming fears that were brought on the night of the crash. Since I was turning left when it happened, I had to psych myself up every time I needed to turn left. (I have heard of people who make three rights to avoid ever turning left, but I knew right away that I didn’t want to live in fear or make big adjustments to my life from one crash.) I was already starting to overcome my fear of the intersection where it occurred, since I drove through it almost every day. Because the driver that hit us was from California, to be honest I was a little nervous about California drivers.

Thankfully, my car insurance provided a rental car for one month. It was a blue Hyundai Sonata. I took it one one road trip during the time I had it. Within the first five minutes of that trip, I decided that Sue would be the perfect name for this car. Sue Sonata was my Sue-bstitute for my Sue-baru. But that road trip involved a lot more than just naming a car.

I had been considering taking a road trip all that week, but wasn’t sure if I was up for it. I was still in a lot of pain, not to mention the mental obstacles that come with driving long distances so shortly after an emotional crash. So when I decided on Saturday morning that I should face my fears and have some fun along the way, I was scrambling for where to go and places to stay. Several ideas I had resulted in finding no nearby accommodations that were both affordable and available, but I eventually found an AirBnB in Redding, California.

Redding has been a stop on several of my trips, but never a destination. I’ve enjoyed several walks across the Sundial Bridge and around the surrounding Turtle Bay Exploration Park. In middle school I even had fun on a Girl Scout trip to the Redding Water Slides. But one popular thing to do in Redding,  especially for Christians, is attend a worship service at Bethel Church. That would be at the top of my to-do list for this trip.

Redding is about three hours away from my home in Southern Oregon. Since I didn’t leave until after lunch on Saturday, I only had the late afternoon and early evening to spend in Redding. I started out by checking into my AirBnB. The hosts attend Bethel, and many of their other guests also come primarily to attend Bethel, so they gave advice on when to leave in the morning. I was surprised that people are waiting to get into the sanctuary over an hour before service starts! I also learned that the 8am service was the least crowded, so I set my alarm to get up for that.

Then, I headed off to explore Redding. The waterslides weren’t in my budget, but I still enjoyed the (very Northern) California May weather by going to the local YMCA, which has both an indoor and outdoor pool. At the time, I had a membership to my local Y, which allows for free access to just about any Y location in the world. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have a sauna, though. The Ys near me have them, and since I hadn’t started chiropractic work yet, the heat was really helping my injured shoulder and other sore muscles. But I still got a decent workout in.

Next, I headed to 7 Eleven with a popcorn bucket. It was Bring Your Own Cup Day, after all! I try to take advantage of good deals like this, no matter where I am. It’s just one way to enjoy yourself while still saving money for travel.

I must confess: when traveling, I often replace a meal with ice cream. The Slurpee wasn’t filling enough for a meal, so I dined on Rita’s ice and custard. The last time I ate this was when I lives in Ohio three years ago, so it was definitely a treat.

Then, I attempted to spend the evening in Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Unfortunately, when I got there, it was really crowded. I realized that there was a rodeo going on next to the park, and attendees were parking miles away since the nearby lots were full. I had no interest in attending the rodeo, and I didn’t want to walk so far just to get to the park, so I left. I wasn’t that upset for a few reasons. I had already been before, I might be able to go after church the next day, and my AirBnB had a great view of the Sundial Bridge from the back patio. I spend some time looking over the cityscape while munching on my giant Slurpee.

I spent the quiet evening trying to write and learn about Bethel. Other than hearing the occasional Bethel Music song on Christian radio, I didn’t know too much about the church doctrine or leaders.

Up before my alarm went off, I got ready, packed up, and headed off to Bethel. My plan was to attend two services back-to-back, and visit the Alabaster Prayer House. I had no trouble finding parking or a seat for the 8am service, though the front half of seating was already reserved.

While the song selection and pastor’s message were the same in both services I attended, there were still differences. The worship in the second service was more experiential, with flag wavers and more complex lighting. That service also had a baby dedication that seemed more like a walk down the red carpet. Instead of just one or two babies, there were over twenty being paraded by their parents as their names were announced and pastors lined up to pray for them.

The first service seemed more like a church service I would typically attend, but because of its smaller attendance, it offered something that the other one didn’t: the opportunity to wait in line after service to be prayed over for physical healing. I had heard about Bethel’s physical healing ministry on Saturday mornings, but didn’t think there would be the opportunity on Sunday. I am not sure if it was a normal thing or because the theme of the morning sermon was healing, but since I still had all the pain of a recent collision,  I decided to take them up on this offer! Unfortunately I didn’t receive immediate healing like some people do, but my chiropractor has been saying that I am recovering quickly, so maybe these two are connected.

Between services, I was hungry due to only having leftover Slurpee breakfast. So I headed to the church cafe, called HeBrews. I ate a muffin on the patio, then got into the line for second service. When I got into the sanctuary, I didn’t see any available seats. Lots of people were standing against the side walls, so I joined them. I later learned that these standing people could join live worship, but would then sit in another room while the service was streamed to them. I didn’t join them, however, because a woman came up and told me there was an empty seat next to her.

After the second service, I went to the greeters who welcomed first-time visitors. They gave me a calendar and a coupon to download free sermon, which I still haven’t taken advantage of.  Then I walked over to thw Alabaster Prayer House.  This was a cute little building offering communion, books, a fountain, and other resources that contributed to a mindful place to pray. Outside of that  was a garden that I decided to walk through, especially after looking down at the driveway and seeing all the cars coming and going as slow as molasses!

When I did leave, I headed over to Turtle Bay. One thing I have wanted to do here for a couple years now was hike the trails. So after the mandatory sundial selfies, I started down a trail, but stopped at a bench overlooking the water. A couple with a thick accent asked to sit next to me. It turns out they were from Paris, but were visiting Redding for several days to attend a Bethel conference as well as church this morning. So we talked about church as well as my trip to Paris two years ago. Then I continued down the path.

I saw deer and a lot of beautiful spots along the water before I ended up next to the freeway. I then turned and walked a path that had the freeway on one side, and a marshy preserve on the other- quite the contrast! I walked some on the other side of the water, but the scattered path, hot sun, and hunger eventually forced me to turn around.

Back on the road, I sipped some soup from a mug as I listened to music and enjoyed the forested Shasta Lake area. Soup was not appeasing my hunger, though. When I saw a sign for The Pizza Factory, I recalled how in high school my youth group once went there after a houseboat trip. I guess I was too busy remembering the past, because I missed the exit for it. Fortunately, there are three Pizza Factory restaurants along the NorCal I5. I stopped at the Weed one, which turned out to be the same one that my youth group had gone to anyway. I enjoyed a delicious taco pizza.

The rest of the drive home was pretty mundane, although I did feel a little accomplished safely driving past the town where the other driver in the accident lives. In just one quick weekend trip, I drove long distances, drove among many California drivers, turned left in plenty of intersections, started the physical healing process, and even enjoyed most of it. I wasn’t sure if I would get my car back, but it was even better to have my life back!

What fears have YOU overcome while traveling? Tell me in the comments!

Click here to get an account and discount on your next AirBnB stay. We’ll both benefit from this affiliate link!

Road Trip Weekend, Part 1: Meet a Favorite Speaker

It’s the weekend! What a great time for a road trip! Each day of this weekend, I’ll be sharing a recent road trip I took. My hope is that, even if you don’t take the route I did, you’ll get some tips and inspiration for wherever you go! Today, I’ll be catching up with a road trip along the Southern Oregon Coast. 

At age 13, I was introduced to a magazine that just about every Christian millenial girl read: Brio, published by Focus on the Family. In each issue, the “Dear Susie” column answered reader questions with the magazine’s editor, Susie Shellenberger. Susie also contributed other articles on a variety of topics like sex, drinking, and knowing whether God is real.

Although Brio is back in publication now, it did close down in 2009 along with just about every other Christian girl magazine facing the recession. Susie Shellenberger decided to start her own magazine, and my first published article appeared in the first issue of Susie Magazine. So it’s realistic to say that Susie Shellenberger was a major influence in me becoming a writer and editor.

Fast forward to April 2017. I had no idea this would be my last month with my very first Subaru. But when Susie Shellenberger posted on Facebook that she would be speaking in Brookings, Oregon that weekend, I knew I wanted to meet her there! After a couple messages back and forth, I discovered she would be speaking at a women’s conference as well as several church services and events.

AirBnB Boat Brookings Harbor
A glimpse of just one boat in Brookings Harbor. Keep reading to find out more about it!

I decided that if I could find an affordable place to stay Saturday night, I could attend the Saturday evening service and at least the first Sunday morning service, possibly the second service if I thought I could get back in time to start my 3 o’clock work shift. Most coastal hotels are pricey, and the only Oregon Coast hostels are in the northern half of the state. Since it would be rainy and chilly, I wasn’t up for camping. So I decided that, for the first time ever, I would make a reservation on AirBnB.

Once lodging was figured out, I started getting really nostalgic about my teen years. Brio was a part of my teen life, as was Lake Bradley Christian Camp, a retreat center in Bandon-by-the-Sea. I spent summers in high school working there. Although Brookings is the closest town on the Oregon Coast from my house, maybe I could take a longer route and drive up to Bandon first.

And if I did that, I would go up the I5 until I got off around Roseburg. One of my high school friends lives in Roseburg now, so I decided to see if she would want to meet up Saturday morning. She recommended a coffee shop for us to meet up at.

Cranberry Sweets Cheese Fudge
If you visit Bandon, Oregon, make sure to sample your way around the Cranberry Sweets store. Definitely make sure to ask for a piece of the cheddar cheese fudge!

With a rough plan in place, I headed out on Saturday morning. I felt kind of bad only spending about a half hour in the Roseburg coffee shop, but there was a lot to pack in before the service started at 6pm! From Roseburg, I went to Bandon to walk around Old Town and drive by Lake Bradley and other old familiar sites.

Then I headed South. I wanted to see the Prehistoric Gardens, but didn’t have much time, nor did I want to pay the admission fee. But there are two life-size dinosaurs to take pictures with in the parking lot. I also stopped at Gold Beach, hoping to find a glass float this time, but was unsuccessful once again.

Prehistoric Gardens Apatosaurus
Was so glad that my favorite dinosaur was one of the ones visible from the Prehistoric Gardens parking lot.

After several hours of driving and sightseeing, I finally arrived at my AirBnB near Brookings Harbor. For being my first AirBnB experience, it provided an unbeatable experience. I stayed in a sailboat that circumnavigated the world! During check-in, the owner told lots of stories that led to how this boat ended up in his front yard, surrounded by remains of another boat.

Because of these stories, check-in took longer than expected, so afterward I rushed across town to Brookings Nazarene Church. Susie’s message that night was about cemeteries and castles, which caused us to think about which of those two options we were currently living in, and which one we would rather be. I was thankful that it was a fairly small church, because that meant I had the opportunity to spend some time with Susie afterward!

Susie Shellenberger
Me and Susie. I’m holding the first issue of Susie Magazine, which contains my first published article!

That evening was spent listening to music and watching the sun set over the sea from the top of my AirBnB boat. I woke up to the sound of rain. After lounging around the boat a bit more, I headed back to church.

There were two Sunday morning services. The first was a repeat of Saturday night’s, but I still gleaned more from it. The second service was about sanctification. I wish I could have stayed even longer, but I had to leave right after the second service to make sure I arrived at work on time that afternoon. However, I had a lovely drive through the Redwoods on the way! Looking back, it’s bittersweet that it would be my last long drive with that car. It would be totaled a few weeks later. But at least it left on a high note!

Question: Have you ever traveled to see a specific person? If not, who would you want to see on your travels?

AirBnB
Inside the AirBnB boat. Behind me is a map of the route it took when it circumnavigated the globe.

I enjoyed my night on the boat, and it only cost $50! Click on this affiliate link to get $40 off your first AirBnB stay!

Summer 2016: Adventures with Girlz 4 Christ

As both an avid traveler and the editor of a magazine for teen girls, I do have to be sensitive to the fact that teens are pretty limited when it comes to travel options. Even though I think my teen years involved more travel than most, I couldn’t do much more than family vacations, school travel, and youth group-sponsored trips. Designing my own adventures was basically impossible. However, I still want to encourage wanderlust and give a sense of adventure to the girls I write and edit for.

About two years ago, I attempted to start a travel section in the magazine called “Girlz on the Go”, which would have a feature of an interesting place and other articles containing travel tips. Unfortunately, it did not receive any positive response. Looking back, it wasn’t very realistic of me to suggest these things to teens and preteens. But I have since learned from my mistakes!

Summer 2016 Cover - real official

With the summer issue of Girlz 4 Christ Magazine that released today, I tried something a bit different. Instead of encouraging travel that probably isn’t attainable to the readers, I rounded up ways to make an adventure out of whatever they’re doing this summer. Since even those of us who are no longer teens can often feel “stuck” when it comes to travel dreams, I’d like to offer some of what is in the magazine here too.

-I’ve suggested it before, but attending church is something that can be done for free just about anywhere in the world! Even if you don’t regularly go to church, I’d encourage you to visit and get a new grasp of local culture where you travel, or even a different perspective of your hometown! Author Kristen Hogrefe explains four benefits of this practice in the issue.

-One of my favorite reasons to travel is that it helps me discover more about myself. Another way to learn more about ourselves is through counseling. Whether it’s for mental health management, planning out achievement potential, or something else, we could all benefit from adventures through counseling. The lovely Adelee Russell writes about her experience and gives tips on how to handle an adventure that can initially seem as scary as new travel!

-When I can’t travel, I still like to learn about culture! I connected with two international Girlz 4 Christ readers so that they could share their life with all the other girls around the world. One lives in Rome, and I actually attended her church when I was there last September, so it was a nice walk down memory lane for me. The other is from Australia, an area where I haven’t even come close to, but I want to go now more than ever!

-Another exciting interview I had the privilege of conducting was with John Luke and Mary Kate Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. They share tidbits of their life between Louisiana and Virginia. And since the theme of the interview was accomplishing goals, the advice they give can definitely apply to the goal of travel!

-Emily Joy shared how she connects with people from all over the world through her social media ministry, Encourage All. Just looking at her Instagram photos was inspiring enough!

-The more I travel, the more I consider how I can help the people in need around me. While voluntourism is a controversial topic, I definitely got some at-home training by watching Poverty, Inc.

-One of the fashion articles is actually just about how I’m preparing for my upcoming trip to Maui. I share how to shop on a budget, how to effectively pack, and how to make homemade, natural beauty treatments.

-When I’m not traveling, I take mental vacations largely by reading books. Scattered throughout the current issue are eight suggestions for your next “bookation”. These include books by Duck Dynasty’s Robertson family, a book by amputee Lauren Scruggs Kennedy, and even a book giveaway from Kimberly Rae!

-And because travel isn’t always smooth sailing, (in fact, life itself is rarely problem-free) Adelee Russell wrote another article about how to deal with those awkward and embarrassing moments.

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These are just some highlights of this jam-packed issue of Girlz 4 Christ. The magazine itself is very traveler-friendly: it can be accessed on virtually any device and subscriptions are free! Click here to visit the website and get this freebie!

 

PS- If you want to see other travel writing I’ve done recently, check out this post about Letters to Juliet in Verona, Italy!

Three Things to Read


I can’t wait to share what adventures I’ve been up to lately! But my computer is in the repair shop, so until I get it back and can share the photos I took, here are a few things that can take up your reading time.

Packing for a Bus Trip?

Overnight Greyhound Bus
Good Ol’ Greyhound

This is my second time being published on Travel Fashion Girl. I wrote a packing list for long-distance bus travel. It seems like lately I’ve been writing a lot about long-distance bus travel. The last time I rode a bus was in August, going from Barcelona to Nice. (Well, I guess I rode Istanbul’s city bus in October, and while it seemed like it took forever to get across that city, I’m talking about true long-distance bus travel!) But between July 2014 and August 2015, I rode the bus a bunch! I took a bus trip to Niagara Falls, rode the Greyhound across America, and used Eurolines bus service instead of Eurail for my first month in Europe.

Meet an Italian Girl!

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This is me in Italy, but I’m not an Italian girl. 

I actually wrote three articles for the April/May issue of Pristeen Magazine. While it’s a fashion-based magazine, I got to write more about adventure-based things. My first article on page 10 is “Who in the World is Fanny Crosby” a historical figure I look up to. But the really exciting stuff starts on page 56. I wrote about my experience in Italy for the “Around the World” column. Then I interviewed Osayi, a 17-year-old from Rome. Although I haven’t personally met Osayi, it’s possible that we were in the same church service once! I got connected to her by e-mailing a pastor at an English-speaking church I attended in Rome. You can read all about Osayi, Rome, and all of Italy by reading Pristeen for free here!

Travel the World, Then Change the World!

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I took a day away from my Niagara Falls trip to serve at an inner-city ministry.

I don’t always write about travel. But I do believe that travel is one way to help better understand the world, and therefore know how to change it. Some of these principles are applied in each and every issue of Girlz 4 Christ Magazine, which you can subscribe to for FREE! As Girlz 4 Christ’s editor, I love submissions from how people are impacting their communities. In the past issue, I got to write an interview with actress Cozi Zuehlsdorff, a documentary review and interview with an adopting family, suggestions for those times you have to stay put but want to take a “bookation”, and a collaboration of five previous cover girls to celebrate the magazine’s fifth birthday. I’m working on the next issue which will feature a famous Christian on the cover, and even include some adventurous articles inside!

Two Days, Two States, Two National Park Sites!

It has been quite the weekend! In addition to Earth Day on Friday  and celebrating the entire weekend with Earth Day-themed posts, I was out celebrating nature as well! Just between yesterday and today, I took two trips, both to National Park Service sites. And one of them even called for hopping the border between Oregon and California!

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For several weeks, my friends and I have planned to go on a trip to Northern California this Saturday. We were supposed to go to the Redwoods, but people and plans changed, so my friend Steph and I made a last-minute switch and headed to Lava Beds National Monument instead, which is east of the Redwoods in Northern California. Although both of us had been here many years ago, with the length of time since our last visits and flying by the seat of our pants, we weren’t sure what to expect. Yet we left incredibly impressed with all that there was to do!

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  • We admired all the volcanic rock we passed on the way in the monument.
  • We watched an informational video at the Visitors’ Center about the history of the lava tube formation and American Indian tribes that were forced out of this area.
  • A park ranger taught us about the white-nose fungus that is killing bats and quizzed us on our past caving experience to see if any of our clothes needed to be decontaminated. Once we passed, she gave us a caving permit.
  • We drove around the Cave Loop and stopped at any caves that were open. (Some were closed to protect the bats living inside.)
  • Since caves are 55 degrees year-round, I was glad I had left a coat in my backseat! We ended up getting warm from all the exercise we did, anyway.
  • Although the Visitors’ Center loans out free flashlights since battery-powered lights are required to enter the cave, we decided to use our cell phone flashlights just so we’d have one less thing to lug around. I learned that my phone flashlight turns on and off by shaking it. Typically I might think that was convenient, but it wasn’t so helpful when I stumbled around caves!
  • One of my favorite cave names was called “Hopkins Chocolate”, which is named because some of the lava coating inside looks like dark chocolate is dripping down the cave walls!
  • There were other neat-looking things in other caves. Some of the caves had what looked like moss growing on it. (Not sure if it was something living or just the way the rock was colored.) When scattered among the dripping moisture creating stalactites, shining a flashlight on it makes the green specks look like fool’s gold, and the white looks like specks of silver!
  • The next time I go, I’ll probably want to bring a helmet, a headlamp, and maybe gloves so I can go further into some of the lava tubes. Since we weren’t equipped, we decided not to go anywhere that required crawling, but there were quite a few areas that involved ducking down!
  • There were some nice places to walk, too! Both Steph and I really wanted to hike up Schonchin Butte, a .7-mile uphill trail that leads to a fire lookout. The lookout itself is closed for the season until tomorrow, but we got some great views!
  • Although there was so much more we could have done, we decided that the last activity for the day would be to walk around Captain Jack’s Stronghold. This was an area where the military fought against the natives to force them out of this area. Although the history is sad, it was neat to see some of the rock structures that they built that are still standing today.DSCF5028

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I had so much fun on Saturday, I decided to continue the National Park and volcano-themed weekend my closest National Park, Crater Lake. Since this wasn’t as long of a drive, I decided I could make it to church (although I did attend the 9 am service instead the 10:45 service I normally go to), and then head out. With only slightly more planning today than yesterday, I ended up going alone this time. I went to Crater Lake almost exactly a year ago, and it was so odd to see how different it looked this year!DSCF5031

  • It was already a rainy day, and I was praying that it wouldn’t rain while I was at the park. That prayer was answered, but not in the way I expected! As I crossed the park boundary line, I noticed that all the trees were covered in snow. In fact, it was actively snowing most of the time I was there! It’s late April!
  • My first stop was the Visitors’ Center, where I watched the video about the surrounding nature and how Crater Lake was formed by a giant volcano eruption followed by years of collected rain and snowfall. I had to enter and exit the Visitors’ Center from the side entrance because the front entrance was covered with snow all the way up to the roof!
  • I then drove up to Rim Village (being careful in the Avalanche Zone), and parked next to the lodge.
  • After browsing the gift shop in the lodge, I went up to the top floor, which is supposed to have an observation window. Maybe it works on clearer days, but with all the snow and clouds, it was impossible to see the lake from here! Instead I read the museum-style informational signs.
  • I decided that the only way I would have a chance at seeing the lake was to walk through the snow myself. Fortunately, I still had my coat in the back of the car, although I definitely would have benefited from more winter gear!
  • I followed the others who were also outside to the farthest point that could be reached without crossing the safety line. As I looked out, I could barely see Wizard Island, the large island in Crater Lake. After a few minutes in the cold, the air cleared up for some precious seconds where we got to take pictures. It still didn’t display the bluer-than-blue color I’ve seen on sunnier days, though!
  • I warmed up in the lodge for awhile longer, when a park ranger told me to look out the window. You could barely make out part of the back rim, but he said that was the clearest it had been all weekend. Yesterday they basically couldn’t see the lake at all!
  • I went out to the safety line for one more photo shoot, but then decided to turn back and head home. In the summer you can usually drive around the whole lake, but since it snows year-round at Crater Lake National Park, they limit their snowplowing in the winter to only the roads to the South Entrance, Visitors’ Center, and Rim Village.
  • On the way back, I stopped for a short walk by Union Creek. My family used to go camping there when I was a kid. I walked by the Rogue River Gorge and saw the Living Stump!
  • My family had a dinner all together tonight, and since I knew my sister had gone to Crater Lake National Park last weekend, I asked her how well she could see the lake that day. She looked at me confused as she told me it was a perfectly clear day and that many of the visitors were wearing shorts! It’s funny how much the weather can change from one week to the next!DSCF5036

Where to Next?

Hmm…good question! I had been admiring the National Parks Passport for some time now, and finally decided to purchase one at Lava Beds National Monument. This is an informational book about all the National Parks in the United States. Every time you visit a National Park, Monument, or Historic Site, you can get a page of the passport stamped. Since I knocked out two parks in just this weekend, I already have two stamps! Now it will be used as encouragement to visit more National Parks.

The Oregon Caves National Monument is fairly close to me, so I may go there sometime soon. Of course, we need to reschedule our trip to the Redwoods that we had originally planned for Saturday! Although we were going for the Trees of Mystery and the Tour-Thru Tree, I can stop by a Redwoods National Park center for a passport stamp.

Although I would love to become a National Parks junkie, it was really only financially possible for me to visit two National Parks in just one weekend because it was part of National Park Week, and the National Park Service allowed all parks and monuments to have free entrance. Normally Lava Beds and Crater Lake each have a $15 entrance fee per car. I would definitely love to take advantage of the upcoming entrance days in August, September, November, or any of the other free days listed here. To save money on National Parks in the future, I may consider getting an annual pass (I can’t wait until I’m 62 and can get the discounted lifetime pass!), or I may try to find out which of my friends have a fourth-grade child, since a car with a fourth grader in it can enter National Parks for free! Some National Parks and Monuments are always free, which thankfully, the Oregon Caves and Redwoods both fall into the free category!

Traveling Can Be Green, Too!

Happy Earth Day! Most of what I write here is creative ways to travel that will save you green. But in honor of today’s holiday, I’m going to shift gears a bit and talk about another way to save the green.

Many environmentalists frown upon travel as it causes greenhouse gases and a bigger carbon footprint. True, carbon costs associated with travel can be astronomical, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be cleaned up and greened up. Since Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22nd, here are 22 ways you can make your travel more green!

(Bonus: In addition to saving the green for the environment, many of these will save the green in your wallet, too!)

Green Accommodation

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Share your campsite to make an even lower impact!
  1. Stay in Hostels Staying in a hostel dorm with others requires less square footage and encourages community. Hostels also often tend to buy in bulk and cut out worthless amenities, so you won’t create excess waste with miniature shampoos.
  2. Go Camping Get in touch with nature, and then be encouraged to preserve it! Any kind of camping is probably helpful for the environment, but you can take it a step futher with primitive camping, where you won’t have electricity hookups, WiFi, or possibly even flushing toilets!
  3. Stay with Friends Instead of creating a demand for a temporary place to sleep, go somewhere that’s already being lived in. Your friends will probably equip you with the same shower, dishes, and bedding they always use instead of providing disposible or temporary supplies like a hotel does.
  4. Don’t Request Sheet Changes Unless Absolutely Needed In your own home, you probably realize that washing sheets from just one bed is enough to load an entire washer and dryer. Save the water, soap, gas, and electricity by skipping sheet changes. You don’t replace your sheets at home every day, do you?

Green Packing

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Unless you need a Delorean because you’re going on a time-travel vacation, don’t pack enough to fill a truck.
  1. Bring Your Own Toiletries in Reusable Containers I’ve shared some of my favorite travel toiletry containers here before. Whether you use my recommendations or not, siphoning toiletries from bulk containers into smaller, reusable containers is much better than purchasing one-time bottles from the travel section of superstores.
  2. Lighten the Load with Carry-On Only No matter which mode you travel with, you’ll always save fuel if you take a lighter load. I backpacked the Mediterranean for 92 days with just a carry-on! I think going on a weeklong vacation with only a carry-on is a piece of cake.
  3. Borrow or Buy Used Travel Gear There are some items that may be necessary while traveling, but useless in everyday life. If you absolutely cannot go without it, ask your friends, family, and social media followers if you can borrow their tent, or ice chest, or lawn chair, or… you get the picture.
  4. Do Laundry Effectively If you need to do laundry on your trip at all, first see if there is anything you can wear more than once between washes. Bring your own eco-friendly soap instead of the single-serve packets found at the laundromat, and try to line-dry your laundry, even if you have to do so indoors.

Green Transportation

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You could travel by boat for a really fuel-efficient getaway. But if going by raft, you may get wet!
  1. Carpool If someone else is available to travel with you, going in one car instead of two will cut your emissions in half. Better yet, if you’re both licensed drivers, split the driving time to help keep alert and avoid accidents.
  2. Take the Bus or Train I love both of these options! You get to see so much more of the country, and reap the benefits of extremely low passenger miles per gallon! Trains are often a vacation in themselves, and long-distance buses make travel available to all income levels!
  3. Walk or Bike Everywhere at Your Destination Make a point to do this everywhere you go, even if it means staying closer to the city center. I can’t imagine all that I would have missed out on if I took cars or city transportation everywhere I’ve been.
  4. Don’t Fly First Class I’ve flown first class one time, and it was WAY overrated. Flying in coach means that the seating allows for more passengers to fly (and thus cuts down on emissions per person), plus lowers the waste of beverage cups and snack wrappers.

Green Eating

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My take-away container was already full when I bought these in Paris. But I could recycle the cardboard and bag!
  1. Pick Restaurants that Serve Local Food You’ll get a better sense of the local cuisine and prevent excess trucking and shipping of food.
  2. Become a Vacation Vegetarian I’m not saying you have to give up meat. (Not everyone can!) But try to select veg options in your travels. Besides the environmental advantages, vegetarian options often cost less, and you will be less exposed to those icky stomach bugs that travelers fear.
  3. Bring Washable Dishes or Stay Somewhere that Offers Them It’s not that time-consuming to wash your dishes after eating instead of throwing them away.
  4. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle!) Vacations tend to make me thirsty! Instead of buying drinks everyday, I’m saving my wallet, my waistline, and the Earth with a reusable bottle.

Green Entertainment

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See those love locks at practically every major attraction? Skipping this activity will reduce the waste of the lock and packaging, reduce the pollution caused when the key is tossed into the water, and reduce the repairs needed on the structures that are getting vandalized and weighed down!
  1. Recycle Ticket Stubs (or Use an eTicket) These are usually recyclable, but rarely do people think to recycle them!
  2. Visit Local Parks Fresh air, green plants, and a free place to explore the local culture. What’s not to love?
  3. Borrow Books or DVDs for Downtime Sure, you could buy a paperback for those times you need to relax. But many hostels, and now even some hotels, offer lending libraries or book/movie exchanges. Reduce the demand for new materials, and lighten the weight of that carry-on you brought!
  4. Visit Ethical Attractions What you define as “ethical” is ultimately up for you to decide, but consider how workers are treated, how animals are used, how waste is disposed of, and how guests can contribute to the community.

Green Shopping

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Arnold Schwarzenegger bought this bear statue as a souvenir of his time as governor, but then left it at the California State Capitol! I guess he couldn’t even fit it into his suitcase.
  1. Avoid It Why do you need a tacky souvenir (that’s probably not even made at your destination), when there are more effective, and more eco-friendly, ways to capture your memories? One of my favorite mementos are my travel journals. Photos are another great option, or if you absolutely want to buy something, send yourself a postcard or letter from your destination.

What to Expect with a Letter to Juliet

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Before even watching the movie “Letters to Juliet”, I was excited to go to Verona as part of my Mediterranean Trek. So I planned out my visit to this city mainly by borrowing the movie from a friend. The only mistake I made was that I booked a mere two nights in Verona, leaving me with just one full day to experience all that this quaint city has to offer.

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My first night in Verona was spent arriving by a delayed train, then struggling in the dusk to find where my BnB was before finally giving in and taking a cab, so I didn’t see much in the midst of that stress. I started the next day bright and early with a walk to Juliet’s courtyard. This is what you see in “Letters to Juliet”, and it’s the perfect place to write a letter to Juliet! Because I got there early enough, there were only a few other people there. I found a quiet place by the grafitti wall of love to write my letter. In the movie, you can see women sticking their letters into the cracks of a wall. You can still do that, however, to make sure that a secretary of Juliet receives your letter, there are better practices in place now. The best thing to do is stick your letter in the red mailbox. Alternatively, if you go inside the house, you’ll find computer kiosks where you can e-mail her!

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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go inside the house at the time, so I headed over to the area where you can find Juliet’s tomb. It turns out that you can get a discount by getting a combination ticket to Casa de Giulietta and the museum with her tomb, so I did that. The tomb was the best feature of the museum it’s housed in, but there are other art and artifacts to enjoy as well.

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I eventually went back to the house, Casa de Giulietta. Inside were a lot of artifacts from some of the Romeo and Juliet movies, such as costumes and a prop bed.

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But the best part of the Casa was getting to stand on Juliet’s balcony, and pondering “Wherefore art thou?”

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While foot traffic inside the Casa wasn’t so bad, the courtyard was getting jam-packed with tour groups and other visitors. Here’s a tip: If you want a truly magical and meaningful experience with Juliet, go in the morning before the day trippers roll in!

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I went to the courtyard for a third time in the evening, and it was even more crowded then! But this is when I enjoyed putting my own graffiti on the wall entering the courtyard. I’m not a vandal, it’s actually encouraged!

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In another spot of the courtyard is the only place in Europe where it’s actually encouraged to place a love lock, as it will eventually become a part of an art piece. (But seriously, don’t put a love lock anywhere else! I saw locks on every fence and bridge in every city I went to, and it just looked inconsiderate and trashy.)

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There are a lot of other things to do in Verona, such as go to the Arena, walk by the river, or explore the castles. I did some of these things, but since none of them are directly related to Juliet, I’m going to fast forward to today.

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I had heard it would take a long time to get my letter back from Juliet. I was hoping it would arrive to my house around the time that I came back from the Mediterranean, but such was not the case. I kept it in the back of my mind, and thought about it sometimes when I went to get the mail. But today, I was totally not expecting it!

I opened the mailbox and grabbed the letters out. One had an Italian postmark, and the return address said it was from “Club di Giulietta”! I squealed in excitement. I scared my dog by my squealing. I hope the neighbors didn’t hear me squealing. I raced back to the house so I could carefully open the envelope.

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I don’t remember exactly what I wrote to Juliet, but it was a decent-sized letter that could be summed up as “where is he?” I was honestly just expecting the response to be a canned sentence on an index card. I was surprised at how much thought was put into the letter I received! Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the letter.

“Finding love isn’t easy. In fact, it should be something they teach in school along with how to manage your finance and finding a job that you like.”

“Some people fall in love quickly- others warm to it slowly. But there is one common thing about it- that love doesn’t happen if you don’t take action.”

“Take the plunge- and live it, not dream it.”

By the way, while I would definitely encourage a trip to Verona if you can, you don’t need to go there in order to get a letter from Juliet. Just send your letter to:

Club di Giulietta
Corso Sant’Anastasia, 29
37121 Verona, Italy

In an age where it’s rare to receive a beautifully handwritten letter, it’s even more special to receive one from a fictional character!

Letter from Juliet

How to Travel with Free Gift Cards

I’m in the beginning stages of planning my next big trip. This time around, I’m challenging myself to see how much of a quality trip I can obtain for free. And now, I am pursuing that goal in part with the earning site Swagbucks. (If you are not yet a part of Swagbucks, click here so you can sign up. Both of us will earn a sign-up bonus if you do!) So, what can you get for free with Swagbucks? Well, basically anything related to travel!

Free Attractions 

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You probably already know that Groupon offers great deals on travel and attractions. It’s not uncommon to go to the site and find deals for 50% off. But what if you could use Groupon to get 100% off? You can with Swagbucks! Use your earned points to buy Groupon gift cards, ranging from $15-$100.

I just quickly visited the Groupon site with my Oregon zip code, and in return I was offered a ton of travel deals! Steep discounts on hotels in popular tourist cities, half-price admission to various animal encounters. and deals on water activities like whale watching or white water rafting were just a few. If you need clothing or food for a trip, Groupon has offers for that too.

You can also use Groupon to earn swagbucks! If you’d like to purchase a Groupon, purchase it through Swagbucks’ site. For Christmas, I bought my sister a Groupon to a local attraction. By using Swagbucks, I got back 7 points for every dollar I spent. This is a fantastic deal, as most of the shopping deals only return 1-3 points per dollar!

Free Gas and Auto Repairs

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The Rewards Store on Swagbucks as an entire category labeled “Gas Cards”. Click on it and you will see gas cards for several different companies in various denominations. If you’re going anywhere that involves driving, gasoline seems like an expense that you can’t get out of. But if you use your swagbucks to get one of these free gas cards, that’s one expense you can eliminate!

Need to change your oil or have some other work done on your road trip car? You can take care of this too! Next to the gas cards, you will find some gift cards for Jiffy Lube.

Free Food

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Restaurant.com seems to be a popular way to get discounted dining lately. It is kind of like a Groupon site specifically for local restaurants. Also like Groupon, you can turn Restaurant.com from a good deal into a free deal by using your swagbucks to buy a free gift card.

If you don’t have enough swagbucks to get a Restaurant.com gift card, you can purchase one through swagbucks and earn 12 points for every dollar spent.

For specific restaurants, you can trade swagbucks for gift cards to places like Starbucks, Burger King, Cold Stone Creamery, Panera Bread, Olive Garden, and Applebee’s, just to name a few. Would you rather shop for groceries than eat out? Swagbucks has you covered. Get a free gift card to Sam’s Club, WalMart, or Whole Foods

Free Outdoor Activities

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If you like outdoor adventure or simply more rugged travel, then you have at least stepped inside a store such as REI, Bass Pro Shops, or Cabela’s. Guess what? You can earn gift cards to all these places, plus other companies like Columbia or Foot Locker, and sport quality gear on your next outdoorsy trip.

Free Travel-Specific Gift Cards

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How does free airfare, hotels, or cruises sound? Okay, it may take a long time to earn enough swagbucks to get a completely free rate, but these gift cards will at least bring in a nice discount!

Currently the only airfare gift cards are from Southwest. For cruises, you can choose from Royal Caribbean or Celebrity Cruises. Hyatt offers gift cards for their hotels, and you can also get gift cards for travel sites such as Hotels.com and Orbitz. The hotels brands offer a special deal even if you purchase the gift cards in cash. Earn between 1 and 3 points for every dollar spent when you order through Swagbucks.

Free Money for Anything

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Everything I’ve mentioned above makes up for just a tiny part of what is free for the taking at Swagbucks. You can also buy gift cards for clothes, beauty supplies, and even charity donations. I think they can pretty much cover any expenses associated with travel, but we all know that sometimes, there are those random expenses that just pop up. That’s where cold, hard cash comes in. You can use Swagbucks to purchase PayPal gift cards.

When I get PayPal money, I immediately transfer it to my bank account. Then I use my rewards credit card to pay for things, and pay off the credit using the money I got from PayPal. That means I’m getting money back for spending money that was essentially free to me anyway!Travel Free Gift CardsHave you ever earned or gotten something for free? Share about it in the comments!