Category Archives: Budget Travel Tips

JetBlue weekend getaways from Long Beach

Sometimes, you just want to get out of town for a couple of days.  And with JetBlue’s affordable, nonstop flights from Long Beach, you can jump on a plane after work on Friday and be sipping a cold drink in another state by the time the summer sun sets.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

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Airplane by Tracy Hunter is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Long Beach to Seattle: 2h 38m

Escape the heat and jet off to the beautiful Emerald City, surrounded by mountains and resting on the shores of Puget Sound.  Summers here are known to be sunny and pleasantly warm, usually in the 70s and 80s during the day.  Start by exploring Seattle’s fun and unique neighborhoods, each one with a different feel.  Wander through the Fremont market, roast marshmallows over a sunset campfire on the beach at Golden Gardens Park, or sip a cold beer at one of the dozens of craft breweries.

Long Beach to Vegas: 1h 8m

Skip the long desert drive and jump on a short flight to Sin City for a weekend away. Though the nightclub and live music scene is world-famous, you might not know that Las Vegas is also an extremely popular destination for sports competitions and conferences.  For those who can manage a weekday getaway, many hotels are half price, and you can find nonstop JetBlue flights for as low as $49.   

Long Beach to Portland: 2h 11m

If you’re looking for some great outdoor concert series, but would rather not spend hours sweating under the blazing sun, try Portland.  The cooler climate is the perfect host for dozens of concerts and festivals in and around the city.  As a bonus, most have an abundance of craft brews available, which the city is famous for.  If that’s not your scene, take a stroll around the famous Pearl District, or rent a bike to explore the Rose City’s beautiful neighborhoods.   

Long Beach to Austin: 2h 52m

If you’re a museum or music buff, Austin is a fun weekend destination.  People flock from all over the world for the famous Austin City Limits and SXSW music festivals here, as well as the nightly live music scene up and down 6th avenue.  History lovers will want to spend hours exploring Austin’s museums, including the Mexican American Cultural Center, the Mexic-Arte Museum, and the Bullock Texas State History Museum, among others.  Not sure where to start?  See what the locals recommend in Austin.

Martha Burwell

Hola, Bonjour, Sabaidee! Having traveled the world, Martha Burwell is a writer and consultant based in Seattle who loves sharing stories about places she’s been. But her heart will always be in the Pacific Northwest, where she explores the nearby mountains on foot, by mountain bike, and by snowboard. Martha regularly writes for www.StreetAdvisor.com, and also consults on gender equity via www.MarthaBurwell.com and blogs about intersectional gender equity at www.EqualiSea.org.

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The Truth About Budget Airlines

The United States hasn’t jumped on the budget airline trend yet, but countries like Europe and Asia have embraced it. If you’re flexible to what day and time your flight is, you can get a flight for much less than a train would be. Booking a flight through a discount company can save lots of time and money, but it’s important to be aware of how a budget flight can add up.

Be Flexible With Locations

Say you want to go to Zurich, Switzerland, but the flight is a little pricey. Consider flying into the cheaper option of Frankfurt, Germany instead and then taking the train down. It’s often much cheaper to fly into certain airports depending on the location. On that note, be careful you know which airport you’re flying into. There can be several within a large city, and you don’t want to spend the money you just saved on a taxi trying to get to your hotel all the way across town. Spend a decent amount of time researching your options.

Use Different Search Engines

There are many different ones to use, and all will come back with a different price. Use a variety to compare which one has the best price. Sometimes it’s cheaper to book directly through the airline’s website, so take a look at that as well when comparing.

Don’t Make Tight Connections

Budget airlines are not known for being on time. They can often be delayed by hours, or just flat out cancelled. If you have booked several budget airlines together in order to get to a farther destination, the airlines most likely won’t refund your ticket on your later flights because your original one was delayed. Space them out several hours apart, or consider exploring the city for a day before taking another flight to your next destination.

Beware of Hidden Costs

One downside of budget airlines is they charge you for almost anything extra. If you want to choose your seat in advance, there’s a fee for that. If you have an additional bag besides your one small carry-on, there’s a fee for that. It’s best to pack as lightly as possible for flights like these to maximize your savings.

Marissa Pedersen

Marissa is a freelance writer, travel blogger, and social media marketing manager from Seattle. She runs the travel blog Postcards to Seattle, which captures all her journeys from around the world. She likes to stay active wherever she goes, from kayaking in Italy to snowboarding in the Alps.

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Flying to Europe Might Get a Whole Lot Cheaper… in 2017

The airline Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA just announced its plan to sell $69 one-way tickets to Europe from select U.S. airports. The initiative is slated to roll out by as soon as 2017 (although for would-be international travelers, “soon” might be a relative term).

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Flying to Europe On a Budget: Here’s the Scoop

While the lure of cheap international tickets may have travel-lovers drooling, travelers looking to take advantage of the deals will be limited to only a few destinations—namely, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Bergen, Norway.

The airline believes it can reduce fares by flying out of U.S. airports that currently offer limited international service (or none at all), reports NBC News. That’s because those airports will charge airlines lower operating fees, meaning both airlines and travelers won’t incur the same costs that they would at more heavily trafficked international airports. Currently, Norwegian Air has its eye on New York’s Westchester County Airport and Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport.

Thanks to this low-cost strategy, Europe’s third-largest budget airline anticipates charging an average of $300 round trip for the nonstop routes named above—that’s several hundred dollars cheaper than the average cost of flights leaving from the United States’ busier international airports.

Still, travelers looking to take advantage of these deals will want to remember that the flights will come with added fees for everything from checking luggage to booking a seat assignment or ordering an in-flight meal (even for overnight trips), reports Condé Nast Traveler. Savvy travelers can subvert some of these budget-friendly airline tactics by packing everything in their carry-on and bringing along their own snacks for the flight.

In charging lower fares, Norwegian Air hopes to draw customers away from more well-known international carriers. The airline has already ordered 100 new Boeing jets and plans to receive the first five in 2017, at which point it expects to begin rolling out the cheaper flights. Of course, the airline’s ability to do so will hinge on the smaller U.S. airports’ willingness to set up customs stations that are equipped to process international travelers.

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The Beginning of a Trend?

Norwegian Air isn’t the only airline to start toying with lower cross-Atlantic fares. Iceland’s Wow Air reportedly has started offering $99 one-way fares from Boston to Paris, while Eurowings (a subsidiary of Lufthansa) has also begun offering some cheaper international flights. And while Norwegian Air awaits its arsenal of low-cost jets, the airline is offering $300 nonstop, round-trip tickets from New York to Oslo, Norway from December 2015 through February 2016.  

In the meantime, travelers looking for other ways to save money on holiday travel should consider purchasing flights in October and booking hotels in December, according to our evaluation of historical travel data. Those looking to book cheap flights to places other than Edinburgh or Bergen can save money every day by utilizing Hipmunk’s mobile app and online travel booking options. And remember that the best time to book a flight varies by destination, so your best bet is to consult destination guides that provide insight into the most strategic times to buy flights to specific locales.

As for whether recent initiatives in low-cost cross-Atlantic travel will inspire other airlines to follow suit? We’re keeping our fingers (and toes) crossed.

 

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How to Buy More than Flights with Your Frequent Flyer Miles

Just like any other type of rewards program, frequent flyer miles are what you make of them. Many people hoard their points in order to purchase flights, and we’re big proponents of that. After all, getting to fly more often means getting to travel more often, and that means opening yourself up to all the unique experiences and lessons that travel affords.

But redeeming miles for flights isn’t the only way to take advantage of frequent flyer rewards programs. Regardless of whether you fly every week or once a year, here are some surprising ways to get the most out of those points beyond the sky.

The Low-Down on Frequent Flyer Miles

Also called airline miles or travel points, frequent flyer miles are earned by participating in loyalty programs offered by airlines or credit card companies (which may or may not limit participants to earning points on a specific airline).

When it comes to airline loyalty programs, miles can be earned by flying or making purchases at certain stores or restaurants specified by the airline. For credit card programs, miles are earned by making purchases with the participating credit card. These miles can then be redeemed toward flights or commercial goods.

Ready to put those miles to good use? Here’s a run-down of the wide array of options available to points holders.

  • Book a hotel or rent a car. This can be a good option for people who have earned a ton of miles and can’t redeem them for the flights they want. While miles might not be worth quite as much as if you redeemed them for a flight, applying them toward hotels or car rentals can be a great way to plan a vacation without letting points go to waste.
  • Join the club. Some airlines allow travelers to apply miles to an annual club membership. Members enjoy access to airport lounges that typically offer complimentary snacks, beverages, and Wi-Fi in a quiet setting away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the airport. While your miles may have more value when applied directly to flights, no one can deny the allure of a comfortable chair and some peace and quiet.
  • Buy a gift voucher or gift card. These can be exchanged for goods or services at a specific store. By purchasing a voucher instead of a commercial product, you’ll be able to wait to buy the item until it goes on sale, thereby saving some extra cash.
  • Buy merchandise. Most points experts advise against applying miles to merchandise, because it’s rarely the best way to squeeze value out of those points. However, anyone looking to offload extra points (or simply feel like you’ve gotten a new iPhone for “free”), can apply miles to any number of items, from sunglasses, to books, juicers, e-readers, smartphones, laptops, espresso machines, exercise systems, watches, and even furniture.
  • Share the love. Tired of traveling solo? Offer to let friends or family redeem your miles for their own flights. Occasionally it might even make sense to transfer your miles into the other person’s account so they can redeem points for flights on their own. However, most often you’re better off simply making the purchase from your own account on their behalf.

When it comes down to it, how you use frequent flyer miles is up to you. While you’re likely to get the most value by booking flights, you earned those points and they’re yours to dispose of—so if an espresso machine is calling, we promise we won’t judge.

 

6 Football Stadiums That Beat Watching The Game From The Couch

Fans across the U.S. are rejoicing as football season finally gets underway (or, more accurately, they’re yelling at their TV screens and drinking a lot of beer). While many fans opt for the comfort of couch viewership, they don’t know what they’re missing live and in person. NFL stadiums around the country are vacation destinations in their own right, and each boasts a distinct vibe and set of amenities for a total experience that’s well worth the trip. Here are six stadiums to check out this season.

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1. AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium) – Arlington, TX

“Everything’s bigger in Texas,” indeed. The NFL’s largest venue can pack in more than 100,000 fans underneath its retractable roof. It boasts an HD Jumbotron that spans the entire distance between the 20-yard lines, luxury boxes level with the field, and unobstructed sightlines thanks to the stadium’s impressive construction, which avoided the use of pillars. And don’t miss the nearby Cowboys Hall of Fame.

Where to Stay

There are a number of hotels near the stadium that are cheap and decent at the same time. Check out the Rosewood Crescent if you’re feeling fancy, the MCM Elegante Hotel & Suites if you’re looking for affordable comfort, or the Courtyard by Marriott Dallas Central Expressway if you’re in the mood for a clean stay without any frills.

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2. Lambeau Field – Green Bay, WI

One of the most legendary (and loudest) stadiums in all of NFL history, Lambeau Field (named after the Green Bay Packers’ founder, E.L. Lambeau) has been making a name for itself since its opening in 1957. While it’s undergone several massive renovations in the years since—including expansions to the concourses, seating capacity, locker rooms, and luxury suites—the stadium is still beloved for its old-school feel. To visit Lambeau is to revisit football moments of yore, from 1967’s “Ice Bowl” to the legendary coaching of Vince Lombardi.

Where to Stay

The area outside of Lambeau Field includes a variety of hotels as well as bars and restaurants. The family-friendly Tundra Lodge includes access to a waterpark while the Motel 6 Green Bay offers rock-bottom prices.

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3. Lucas Oil Stadium Indianapolis, IN

Those looking to enjoy the game from the lap of luxury should book a flight to Indianapolis, stat. Lucas Oil Stadium—home of the Colts—boasts state-of-the-art amenities at every turn, from the retractable roof (which is temporarily being kept shut) to the club lounges, field-level suites, spacious concourses, climate-controlled walkways, cushioned seats, accessible vendors, and a window wall that showcases downtown Indianapolis.

Where to Stay

Comfortable and affordable lodging abounds near the stadium. You can’t go wrong with the well-rated Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, the Westin Indianapolis, or the Embassy Suites Indianapolis Downtown.

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4. Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, CA

High-tech is the name of the game in Santa Clara, where the NFL’s newest stadium (home of the 49ers) is pioneering advances in technology. The $1.2 billion stadium includes a bridge made from solar panels, LED video boards, Wi-Fi that works throughout the whole stadium, an interactive museum, and a stadium-specific app that tells users where to find parking, provides real-time stats from other games, and lets fans order food directly to their seats. It’s also the first professional football stadium to earn LEED Gold certification in recognition of its energy-saving initiatives.  

Where to Stay

Don’t confine yourself to the stadium—get out and explore all that nearby San Francisco has to offer. Stay in the middle of the action at the luxurious Fairmont San Francisco, historic and budget-friendly The Mosser, or the exclusive Park Central Hotel San Francisco.  

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5. Soldier Field – Chicago, IL

The NFL’s oldest venue, Soldier Field was first constructed in 1924 and then extensively renovated in 2003. Its historic nature—this is the field where the “Monsters of the Midway” claimed four titles in seven years—makes it a must-see for any football devotee. Its views of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan aren’t bad, either.

Where to Stay

Chicago may be a pricey city, but it is possible to find affordable accommodations near Soldier Field. Check out the spacious River Hotel, the budget-friendly Inn of Chicago, or the swanky Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.   

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6. Sports Authority Field – Denver, CO

Opened in 2001, the newest home of the Broncos is almost twice as large as the team’s original stadium. Head to Sports Authority for the gorgeous views—not just of the Ring of Fame, which honors legendary Denver players and is visible from every seat, but also the Rocky Mountains (visible even from within the stadium) and the public works of art that line the pedestrian walkways.

Where to Stay

Peak travel season for Denver runs through October, so book hotels for November or later in order to get the best deals. Scope out good prices and great amenities at the Double Tree by Hilton Denver-Aurora, the Red Lion Hotel Denver Southeast, or the Hyatt Place Denver Airport.

Prices for flights and hotels will rise as the season kicks into high gear, so book early for the best deals. Whether in Indianapolis or San Francisco, enjoy the game!

 

Use travel aggregation sites to save money on hotels in Amsterdam

5 Ways You Can Cut Down On Foreign Travel Costs

Traveling helps expand your mind and offers direct insight into the amazing cultures found outside of your home country. To maximize your travel budget, here are a few well-guarded secrets on how to save money on foreign travel.

Send Foreign Transaction Fees Packing

You might think that foreign transaction fees are nothing to worry about, but since these fees can inflate your purchases by over 2 percent on average, it’s in your best interest to avoid them whenever possible. Fortunately, there are a large range of credit cards, such as the BankAmericard Travel Rewards and the Capital One Venture Rewards credit cards, that don’t charge these fees.

Be Proactive About Parking

While it’s ideal to have someone drop you off at the airport when leaving the country, some people simply like having their vehicle immediately available when they get back. This means using airport parking, and if you’re doing this, you should definitely book in advance.

Like most other things in life, booking airport parking in advance will save you money. As your departure date approaches and less space is available, the price of parking for any length of time will go up. By planning ahead, however, you can save a fair amount of money when your vehicle can’t go on vacation with you.

Monitor Your Eating Habits

“Don’t eat out all of the time.” This is a time tested rule for saving money. However, when you do choose to eat out, try to eat local. It’s very tempting to visit a restaurant that has the comforts of home on the menu, but you’ll usually save money by eating at the restaurants that locals enjoy.

Watch Out for Big Name Travel Sites

Purchasing your flight or hotel online is a great way to save money on foreign travel, but you should always compare pricing in order to get the best option for your money. Many people choose a site like Travelocity, Priceline or Airbnb to find what they think is the lowest price for their travels.

What they don’t realize, though, is that the same hotel in Amsterdam could have varying prices between these sites. Fortunately, there are travel aggregation sites that search each of the major sites and provides their lowest prices in one spot. This can help save time and money when planning a budget abroad experience.

Utilize Technology

Even if you took the time to research and save money on hotels in Paris, Capetown and other international destinations, you’re still going to want to get the most out of your trip. This usually means hiring a tour guide or at least taking a few advertised tours.

However, mobile apps like PocketGuide can act as an offline or online tour guide. If you’re traveling through Paris, for instance, it will track and alert you of sites that are nearby. It also provides audio guides, which act just like a real tour guide, and information from locals themselves. You’ll undoubtedly save a bundle this way.

Traveling abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences you ever have. Thankfully, you don’t have to overspend to enjoy your travels. With just a little forethought and preparation, you can have a low-cost foreign vacation fit for royalty.

 

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Hacking The Budget Airline

Buying tickets on a budget airline can be a great way to save, literally, hundreds of dollars on airplane tickets. However, while most people will be dazzled by the low, low ticket prices, they’ll fail to notice the dozens of quirks that can make budget airline travel challenging.

For starters, travelers will encounter hefty baggage fees. Most budget airlines allow only one (very small) carry on bag with no complimentary checked bag. Fees vary from airline to airline, but are often upwards of $50 for each checked piece of luggage! Plus, many budget airlines charge by weight, so going over the allotted limit will result in extra fees as well. Curtail this problem by packing everything into your carry on. It’ll be tight, but if you minimize clothing to essentials and opt to buy toiletries at your destination, you’ll be able to make it work.

Another annoying surprise that many travelers discover on budget airlines is that there generally aren’t any complimentary food or drinks, which means that packing your own will be essential. It’s especially important to bring water, which most likely won’t be provided on the flight (or will cost you a few dollars.) Other creature comforts that definitely won’t be provided: pillows or blankets. Thankfully there are a plethora of compact blankets and pillows available that roll up tightly and pack well in carry ons.

Don’t expect TVs or in-flight movies, either. While this may not be a problem if you’re taking a quick local flight, it can make for some serious boredom if you’re going to be traveling for three or more hours. Make sure to download a movie on your smartphone and take a look at how to fashion a first-class entertainment experience with nothing more than a phone and a ziploc bag.

But while you’re enjoying your state of the art entertainment center, do be mindful of your seatmates as space is limited. Space is tight on budget airlines because they’re attempting to fill the plane with as many seats as possible in order to reduce costs, which is also why there are no upgrades available and why most customers will be assigned seating once they arrive at the gate. To give yourself a sense of privacy amongst all the other passengers, plug in some noise-cancelling earbuds and throw on an eye mask. You’ll still be surrounded by a lot of people, but it’ll help you to relax and feel more centered.

Once you arrive at your destination, you may find that the airport is located miles from the city center, often in a small rural community. Though airlines will provide transportation to and from the city, the added time can be a big detractor for some customers. Check to see if this will negatively affect travel before booking because most budget airlines do not allow customers to change flights.

At the end of the day, though the inconveniences of the budget flight can add up to some real frustration, careful planning can help to ensure that your travel experience will be a pleasant, peaceful, and affordable one!

 

Staying in a non-central Florence hotel will save you money on your upcoming Italian vacation.

5 Ways to Stretch Your Budget in Florence

Florence — the Cradle of the Renaissance — is a magnetic and romantic riverside city that evokes wonder and amazement. A cultural and artistic gem, this city buzzes with tourists all year. With so much to offer, a trip here can get expensive. However, these savvy tips will help you stretch your budget to get the most out of your Italian vacation.

1. Stick to Cheap Eats

Tuscan food is downright delicious. In Florence, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy it. During your stay, stick to affordable eateries. Order homemade tagliatelle at Il Vinaino, eat from the buffet at Oibo and get everything from soup to cow stomach at Da Vinattieri. Taking advantage of the complimentary breakfasts at your Florence hotel will also help you save.

2. Save on Lodging

You could spend hundreds of euros on one of the best hotels in Florence, but why do that when you’ll be out sightseeing most of the time? There are plenty of cheap hotels in Florence available, from hostels to chain motels. During any point of the year, you can spend well under $100 per night on a comfortable room in a nice area of town.

3. Get a Firenze Card

If you plan on seeing several museums and other attractions, the Firenze Card is a no-brainer. It’s affordable and allows you admission to most major tourist sites in Florence, including Galleria degli Uffizi, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Museo Galileo, and others. The card also gives you free use of the public transit system, helping you avoid a costly rental car.

4. Haggle When You Shop

When you shop for artwork, leather and other goods in areas like Oltrarno, know that prices are typically negotiable. That painting you just love could be had for 75 percent of the original asking price — if you know how to haggle.

5. Come During Off-Season

Arriving in Florence when it’s not tourist season is a great way to pay less on your flight and accommodations. These are two of your biggest expenses, and you can save hundreds if you come between mid-September and March, excluding Christmas time.

From booking affordable hotels in Florence to bargaining, there are a myriad of ways to stretch your budget. Just remember to not spend extra money when you don’t need and you’ll have more money left in your pocket at the end of your trip.

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8 Hotels That Are Excellent for Last Minute Booking

Sometimes, it’s not the early bird that catches the worm–it’s the late one! The days of super advanced booking are over, which is great for travelers who prefer spontaneity over early planning. Many hotels offer generous deals for day before or same day reservations; check out our list below to see some of the great hotels that are excellent for last minute booking!

1. Hotel Nikko  — San Francisco, CA

Just steps from Union Square in San Francisco sits Hotel Nikko, a sleek and cutting-edge hotel that offers 532 spacious rooms, a 10,000 square foot health club, and a top-tier nightclub theater, Feinstein’s at the Nikko. Though a night at the Hotel Nikko is certainly not cheap, they’ve got great last minute deals where upwards of $100 can be slashed from the normal price.

2. Aloft — Brooklyn, NY

Located in the heart of downtown Brooklyn, Aloft Hotel is a cool spot for vacationers looking for a twist on the typical New York holiday. Offering premium loft spaces, an amazing rooftop bar, and easy access to the best offerings in Brooklyn, the Aloft is also great for last minute booking because of it’s removed location from the over-packed touristy areas of Manhattan.

3. Casulo Hotel — Austin, TX

Known for its effortless blend of urban chic and zen simplicity, the Casulo Hotel is a popular spot for Austin-bound vacationers. Situated between downtown and the Austin airport, the Casulo is not only hip and trendy, but also conveniently-located. Plus, last minute bookings here are easy to finagle and can often be cheaper than an advanced booking.

4. Hotel Lincoln — Chicago, IL

Set on a gorgeous tree-lined street near Lake Michigan, the Hotel Lincoln offers its patrons a hotel that is in parts hip, trendy, vintage and wholly Chicagoan. With great amenities and a large rooftop bar with a view of the leafy Lincoln Park, it’s no wonder this hotel is a dream for tourists, whether booking in advance or snagging a last minute deal the day before.

5. Motif Seattle — Seattle, WA

Located just minutes away from some of Seattle’s best tourist sites, the Motif Hotel embodies the spirit of the Emerald City. Offering a plethora of packages to its guests, such as a Romantic Getaway Package and a Style Package, the Motif is also great at offering last minute deals for travelers who can sometimes save up to $75 on day-before bookings.

6. Portofino Hotel & Marina — Los Angeles, CA

With a laid back SoCal vibe and a nautical aesthetic sure to please sea-lovers as well as land-lovers, the Portofino Hotel & Marina in Los Angeles is the perfect spot for a relaxing beach vacation. Known for its breathtaking sunset views over the sea and the dolphins that dip in and out of the marina, the Portofino is also known to leave rooms vacant for same-day booking.

7. Hudson Hotel — New York, NY

Energetic, dynamic, and unconventional are a few words vacationers use to describe the Hudson Hotel, a new hotel that has sprung up near Central Park in New York City. Complete with a lounge, rooftop garden, and some seriously spacious rooms, the Hudson is a great place to stay while taking a bite out of the Big Apple. It’s also great with last minute deals, where quick travelers can save up to $50 on same day booking.

8. Le Pavillon Hotel — New Orleans, LA

Sitting adjacent to the French Quarter in the heart of New Orleans, Le Pavillon Hotel is a classy, historic landmark in the city. Grand in scale and refreshingly un-modern, the Pavillon provides its guests with a traditional stay with all the trappings of an old world Parisian hotel. Plus, they accept last minute booking and even sometimes offer reduced prices on their otherwise expensive rooms.

la sagrada familia, barcelona, spain

Making My Travel Dream A Reality

Riomaggiore, Italy

The beautiful waters off the coast of Italy.

I grew up with stories of my parents’ travels all around me. There was the vase from Sri Lanka, and the batik painting framed in the living room. I had to tip-toe around a case of glass ornaments from England, and a silver wrought-iron model of a house from some other exotic countries. Growing up with whispers of stories from lands beyond my reach, and pictures of exotic clothing, extravagant yachts (and even one of a large tortoise carrying my older brother!) made me yearn to see the world for myself, preferably with the comfort of a nice hotel room, but not contingent on that particular luxury. I was willing to rough it.

And so I began to save – scrupulously, and what seemed like endlessly, I pinched pennies off my small luxuries; who needed to watch a movie every weekend anyway? I took small, on-again, off-again neighborhood jobs like mowing lawns, washing cars, walking dogs – anything to get a few extra bucks for my Travel the World fund. My parents were quietly supportive – never discouraging me, but viewing the entire thing as “our daughter’s silly scheme”. So when high school graduation came around, I was determined to prove just how seriously I wanted to travel.

I had to, of course, choose the most affordable way to travel – no Ritz Carltons or Hiltons for me, thank you. It all started with the luggage. I packed light – essentials and comfy jeans only – anything I could carry in a small bag. Then came the most important part – the getting there. When my parents realized that this was going to happen one way or another, they stepped in to help with the planning. I could fly to France, and then take trains like the Eurorail to see nearby European countries. That was probably the best way to maximize my wanderlust to wallet constraint ratio. Speaking of my wallet…

I had enough money to buy a ticket, but then was left with a dubiously small amount to carry me through the summer. Dad offered to pitch in by sharing some of his frequent flyer miles with me. He had around 75,000, which wasn’t enough to get me to England, but was enough to save me a considerable amount if I bought the remainder of the miles instead of purchasing a ticket outright. I went online and looked up the different websites offering airline miles for sale. Some, like The Mileage Club, Award Traveler, etc. had deals that seemed ideal for my situation, and bloggers like the Points Guy offer tips.

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The churches of Europe are beautiful, like La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

With the money that I saved by not buying a ticket, I resolved to be the quintessential European tourist, buying T-shirts and mugs for the family, taking photos of the breathtaking views and always, always learning something new from every culture I got to explore. Some things I did to prepare that might help the first-time traveler: buy a map beforehand – a nice one, in English – preferably one of those books that has all the places you plan to visit in it for convenience. Mark each of those places clearly, and if you can, start to define how you’ll get there – this may seem vague and tricky, but will save you a lot of time once you actually get there. Set yourself reminders of important things you want to experience, on your phone or on a memo pad. It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill and confusion of being there, and you may forget something and regret it later.

So that’s the story of my first trip, and how I got around to making it happen. Just goes to show you don’t have to be wealthy, or even “lucky” to get to go on such a trip. You’ve just to set your mind to your goal. Happy traveling!

Beatrice Ware

Beatrice D. Ware is a travel-hungry 22-year-old vacationer from Maine who spent a summer in Europe and now years exploring Africa.

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