What do you budget for pet travel or care over the holidays?

It used to be quite rare to find a pet in the cabin of a plane; but according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, about 2 million pets are transported by air every year in the U.S. Out of curiosity, I went to a couple websites to see how much it costs to travel with a pet:

  • Southwest - $95 per pet carrier
  • Delta - $125
  • American - $125
  • Jet Blue - $100 (non-refundable, but the fee also earns 300 points/segment)

So if your holiday plans include a trip to see family or a well-deserved vacation, you can take Fifi along for another $190 to $250. If you're staying at a hotel, tack on another $10 to $85/night at a Holiday Inn.

Hypothetically speaking, a family flying with a pet next week could pay an extra $260 to $845 if they stay at a hotel for the week.

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How do you entertain out-of-town guests for free?

The holiday season is fast approaching, and you might be planning to travel home to spend time with family — or your family could be coming to see you. Either way, travel expenses add up quickly, leaving little to no room for entertainment once you're together. Sometimes that's not a problem because there's so much to do anyway. But other times, it really could put a crimp in your budget or strain your guests' finances. That's why it's a great idea to have a slate of activities and events that you could substitute into your plans so that no one has to overextend just to participate.

First, be the Guinea Pig

There's a lot of free stuff out there to do, and most of it is really fun — but sometimes there's a reason something's free too. Whatever you decide to do, it works out best if you've done it yourself before your guests arrive.

Father and son tourists visit the Golden Gate Bridge

For instance, my husband, Terry, was looking for something fun to do one weekend, and he came across these free walking tours in the city of San Francisco. They're offered by the public library system and they're absolutely excellent.

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5 ideas for a productive staycation

According to a recent blog by the Wall Street Journal, Americans leave $52.4 billion on the table each year in unused paid time off (not including sick or personal leave). This lowers employee productivity and can lead to burnout and retention issues. It is also quite expensive for companies themselves, since the time and money associated with PTO are liabilities on their balance sheets.

Sometimes, though, it is just not feasible to get away, even if you follow these tips to save money on a family vacation. However, even if you're not able to get away to an exotic (to you) locale, that doesn't mean you should let your vacation days go to waste. Here are some ideas for a fun and productive staycation.

1. Complete a Home-Based Project You've Been Putting Off

Is there a project you've been hoping to complete that's too big to accomplish in a weekend? It may just be the perfect candidate for a staycation! Ideally, you want to take enough time off to finish what you have in mind -- with a day or two left to relax and admire your creation, whatever it is.

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Ideas for a cheap vacation

It's been a long time since my wife and I had the luxury of thinking in terms of vacation. When we came to America more than 30 years ago, we also discovered two things:

  1. People in America work very hard, probably harder than anywhere else in the world. Two weeks' vacation seems to be the norm here, while in Europe and the rest of the world anything less than a month is inhuman, insane, or both. (I am not convinced they're wrong, by the way.)

  2. With all our family on other continents, we needed to spend those two precious little weeks every year with them. That led to employing all manner of strategies and devices -- like accumulating as much vacation time as we could and squeaking out an advance on the coming year -- so we could spend two whole weeks with our family and another week just for travel, there and back.

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7 things camping can teach you about money

My wife and I are new to camping. Well, it sure seems that way. When we came to America over 30 years ago, we bought Kermit, our green camping van, which we took coast to coast three times.

original camper 500

We were young, our hair still had color. And we (being students) had time enough to see all the states (except, for some unexplained reason, West Virginia). But then, what I playfully call the American experience got hold of us: Work, work, work -- no vacations, trying to get ahead, not being as financially responsible as we should have been. Before we knew it, 30 years had gone by … and we had forgotten such a thing as camping even existed. Because of work, our travels changed to ritzy resorts all over the place where we usually stayed for free (long story). Continue reading...

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10 amazing waterfront rentals for under $1,000 per week

It's getting to be summertime, and the living should be easy. But if you've ever priced out a week-long vacation, you already know what a shocking experience it can be. Even when you're frugal, the costs that come with domestic and international travel are inescapable and really add up quickly.

Not only are you on the hook for lodging at a hotel or resort typically, but you may also have to pay for airfare, a rental car, resort fees and travel-related taxes. And if you want to have any fun or eat, your expenses won't stop there. Add in the cost of park tickets, excursions, shows, and meals and you're ponying up a great deal of cash for your relaxing getaway.

Combined, all of these costs can take a heavy toll on the average American family's pocketbook. According to a recent study from American Express, an average vacation in 2013 cost approximately $1,145 per person, or $4,580 for a family of four. That's a whole lot of money to spend for an annual trip, especially when you consider the fact that the median household income still sits at around $52,000 a year.

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Pay what you want — and get what you need

Looking for a cheap date, some budget-friendly culture, or ways to make your next vacation more affordable? Four words: "Pay what you want," or PWYW.

Theaters, museums, comedy troupes and other organizations may offer PWYW days or nights, where you hand over only as much as you can afford. Think of it as happy hour for entertainment -- a way to get out of the house without your budget going off the rails.

How far does it go?

The lively arts aren't the only PWYW option out there.

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12 ways to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend

(From time to time, we look into the subject of frugal travel and vacation ideas. Holly Johnson's post on How to save money on family vacations is one example. This year, we thought it would be fun to find some frugal and interesting ways to celebrate Memorial Day around the country. We'd love you to share your tips for a frugal Memorial Day weekend in the comments!)

Memorial Day is when, collectively, we remember the men and women of the armed forces who died while serving our country. Virtually every town and hamlet across the nation has something planned to honor our nation's heroes, so it shouldn't be too hard to find some kind of Memorial Day event near you.

If you are traveling, though -- or just looking for a different way to start the summer -- read on for some of the best Memorial Day weekend events and interesting things to do across the country.

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Cheap luggage or expensive luggage?

It's spring! Don't you just feel like hitting the road? Well, maybe you do if you don't travel for a living.

Either way, luggage. I've had my fair share of experiences with luggage over the years. Lost luggage, broken luggage, matching luggage -- you name it. Currently, I travel with a non-descript, black roller that I can barely distinguish from anyone else's. I bought it for $49 at Target in 2008. It replaced a smaller roller that lasted two trips and cost all of $19. (No wonder, right?)

I can get away (haha) with a $49 roller because I don't travel a lot these days. If anything, it's a weekend jaunt to visit family and friends every six months or so. I expect I will have to buy something new later this year because one of the wheels is shot and it wobbles when I walk too fast. (It doesn't just wobble, actually. It starts to wobble. And then if you don't slow down or stop, the wobbling gets more and more violent until it actually flips itself over! It's really fun when your flight was delayed and you have 10 minutes to get to your next flight on a different concourse.)

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How to save money on family vacations

Earlier this month, my little family of four embarked on a much-needed spring getaway to the Caribbean. I'm sure that doesn't sound frugal at all, but rest assured that it was. After a year of planning and a whole lot of strategizing, we were able to book that particular trip for what amounted to a boatload of hotel loyalty points, a bunch of airline miles, and around $700.

I know that isn't cheap by any means, but it was a good deal when you consider the fact that our trip price included round-trip airfare for four, a six-night hotel stay at an all-inclusive resort, transportation, and tips. Pretty sweet.

Still, this whole travel-with-kids-on-a-budget thing is getting infinitely more difficult. We used to be able to travel anytime -- off-peak, off-season, and last-minute. But now that my oldest daughter is in school, we are stuck planning our budget travel for the school breaks that take place during spring, fall, winter, and summer. Needless to say, the school schedule sure does throw a wrench into my plans.

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