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.)
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.
Should you travel in your 20s?
When my mom was in her early 20s, she took a few months to travel abroad with a few of her college friends. I wouldn't call it an around-the-world trip since they only visited a few regions, but I would call it amazing.
So amazing, in fact, that my mom shared numerous stories of her travels with me as I was growing up. I remember those stories well. At the time, it all sounded so exotic, so mysterious. To this day, she even has the letters she sent her parents from abroad, many of which share vivid details of what it was like to travel internationally some 45 years ago. My mom grew up poor -- with seven kids in a two-bedroom household -- so you can imagine how thrilling it must have been for her to fly overseas and experience other worlds.
Fast forward 30 years and I was intent on traveling much like my mother did. But then life happened. I spent my 20s busy with school and my social life and then, all of a sudden, I wound up married with a good job, a house, and more than enough responsibility. Kids followed shortly thereafter and, consequently, the thought of travel became the furthest thing from my mind.
Best way to redeem travel points: Why hoarding points is a bad investment
For most people, pursuing credit card rewards is a game of cat and mouse. You keep a watchful eye on your credit score, seek out the best offers, and strike when the iron is hot.
But that is just one component of the hobby; the other part of the equation is that it can be extremely exciting to watch your point balances climb. Obviously, the more credit card rewards offers you sign up for, the more sign-up bonuses you earn, and the more spending you complete over time, the more points you accumulate.
If you love to save like I do, it can be tempting to do the same with your points and miles and hoard them in the same fashion as you would your monthly paycheck. But there are a number of reasons why you shouldn't treat your airline miles and hotel points like cash in the bank. Here are a few:
Retirement travel and frugal living
Retirement travel is in. Out is the era of spending unending retirement days on a golf course in plaid pants and interminable games of bridge with the blue-rinse set.
The new generation of retirees is looking for more adventure, with more activity … and lower costs. Few strategies deliver like the recreational vehicle (RV) retirement lifestyle.
Painless ways I save money in every category of my budget
I get frustrated when people don't understand what it means to be frugal. A few criticisms of frugality I've come across:
Frugality is a waste of time.
Frugality distracts you from earning more money.
Lifestyle inflation: How to decide if it’s ever okay
Despite that I don't own it, I like my apartment. It's got a mountainous view, it's comfortable, and my neighbors are few but friendly. Sure, I'd like to own a home someday. But, unless I move to another city, that probably isn't going to happen in the next few years. I'm fine with that. Like my neighbor said, I'd rather live here than anywhere else, at least for now.
If you sense a wee bit of defensiveness in my tone, you're not imagining it. Part of me is trying to justify something.
After my upstairs neighbor moved out a few months ago, our management company began gutting their apartment. We found out they were completely updating it and tearing down walls to put in central air, a dishwasher and an entirely different floor plan.<
Travel on a budget: The all-inclusive vacation
Last year, I was talking with a friend right after she had returned from a relaxing week in the Caribbean. "We did an all-inclusive," she said to me with a glimmer in her eyes. "A what?" I had no idea what she was talking about. After chatting about it for a quite a while, she clued me in on how an all-inclusive vacation works and what some of the perks were. To say I was intrigued would be an epic understatement. According to my friend, she could travel to any all-inclusive vacation spot in the Caribbean or Mexico and have almost everything included in one low price. I couldn't believe what I was hearing; my friend and her husband had paid only $700 per person for an entire week at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun. Not only were their flights and lodging included in her cost, but all of their food and drinks (even alcohol) were included as well. She seemed downright enthusiastic about their experience and went on and on about how amazing the whole thing was. I had to find out more.
To satisfy my curiosity, I started playing around with dates and locations on travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity. What I found out was a complete jolt to my system: all-inclusive vacations were cheap. Dirt cheap. Since I love to travel and hate to spend money, I started to wonder if I should go on an all-inclusive vacation myself. My husband and I had been putting off a honeymoon for nearly seven years at that point, mostly due to being stingy with our cash. Could an all-inclusive vacation provide the answer?
Our First All-Inclusive
Once I showed my husband my research, he quickly got on board. Of course. Why wouldn't he want to travel to a tropical beach and enjoy unlimited food and drinks all day and night? We bounced back and forth between several locations. I initially had my heart set on going to Aruba. However, my enthusiasm waned as the price crept slowly upward with each passing week. Then it was Club Med in Turks and Caicos. Then Jamaica. Then Mexico. We ultimately chose to do our first all-inclusive vacation in the Dominican Republic. When all was said and done, we paid less than $1000 per person including airfare to spend 7 days and 6 nights at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana.
How to save money while seeing the world
Forget what the magazines say about travel. Forget what you see in commercials. They're all wrong: Travel isn't expensive. How do I know? Because I've been traveling the world for six years and have found that everything you learn about travel is generally wrong.
Experience has taught me that travel isn't expensive. Locals don't spend hundreds of dollars per day in your destination -- and you don't spend hundreds when you are home -- so why do something different when you travel? Traveling taught me that there are myriad ways to cut expenses and turn your dream vacation into a reality a lot more easily than you might think possible.
We're conditioned to believe travel is expensive for few reasons.
A few things to consider before becoming an expatriate
There are plenty of possible reasons you could want to leave the U.S. Perhaps you've always dreamed about making the sand and surf your front yard or longed to master a foreign tongue. Maybe you've been offered a job abroad. Maybe you feel your taxes are too high. I'm not here to question your motives, traveler. I'm just here to pass along what I know and help you get to your new home with your personal finances in order.
Settling Your Accounts
You're going to need a bank account when you first land on that once-foreign soil. Common expat advice is to set up an online savings account before leaving. Start out by keeping your money with a well-established and nationally available bank -- at least until you get a good sense of the banking landscape in your new home.
Be aware, though: If you're still a U.S. citizen while living abroad and ever wind up with more than $10,000 in your new accounts, you'll need to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts with the stateside IRS. You can be hit with serious penalties for neglecting to do this, so do the paperwork or renounce citizenship before you start making any serious money.