TRAVEL

YOU CAN LIVE THE DREAM

Who doesn’t love to travel to far away and exotic places? Unfortunately, in today’s economy,  the shortage of means, and an ever increasing middle class crunch, has kept most people’s dreams and bucket list, unfulfilled.  To that end, I have created this site.  It shows people some very informative and creative ways to save money on vacations and, hopefully, make the impossible dream, more possible.  I will show you, on my site, the most cost effective ways to make these dreams a reality.  Check out my “Current Deals” tab frequently, as the offers are constantly changing.  To make it even better, I will even offer free certificates for free rooms and other prizes that will bring your dreams closer to reality.  Come join the adventure.

“How many of us would be willing to settle, when we’re young, for what we eventually get? All those plans we make…what happens to them? It’s only a handful of the lucky ones that can look back and say that they even came close.”
Moss Hart, You Can’t Take it With You

TRAVEL

ARE YOU GETTING THE BEST HOTEL PRICE? MAYBE NOT.

untitledWhen you book a hotel room, how do you know if you are getting the best rate?  Most people don’t.  They go to one or two sites and book the better value.  Many people are fooled by the commercials that claim they have the best prices.  Don’t fall into this trap.  “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, prepare to die.” – Klingon Proverb, Star Trek. 

As surprising as this may sound, most people seem to be willing to spend up to hundreds of dollars more on a hotel vacation, rather than spending a little time to find out if they are getting the best price.  What most people on a travel budget don’t seem to realize is that the move you overpay for a vacation, the less you will have for future vacations.   In this economy can you afford to spend this kind of money if you do not need to?

So how did I find the site with the best prices, I did the research.  I checked out every travel site I could find and compared prices.  After months of investigation, I have finally found the best website to get the consistently lowest hotel prices.  I have compared them to Orbitz, Hotels.com, Trivago, Kayak and many others.   The lowest price for local, cross country and foreign hotels was at IHG.com (every time).  I am always looking for the best deals for my readers, so if anyone can find consistently lower prices anywhere else, I will award them a certificate for 7 nights’ accommodations on Maui.  Just send me the link with your contact information.

If you have an experience on finding a lower hotel price or a better hotel, I would love to hear about it and will reward you with 2 night’s hotel accommodations in Las Vegas.

Note re: VACATION CERTIFICATES

These are not Time Share promotions.  When hotels are not fully sold, they would rather give away the room knowing you will probably spend money while at the hotel.

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TRAVEL

WINNING THE WAR ON JETLAG

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Back in the late 70’s, I went on month long trip to Israel.  The day I came home, my girlfriend had surprised my with 7th row center seats for a “YES” concert later that week.  I was thrilled to go and so we did.  About halfway into the set, jetlag struck and I slept soundly through the remainder of the concert.

If something like this has ever happened to you, then you know the perils of jet lag.  Here are just a few suggestions that may help you.

“You wanna know the secret to surviving air travel? After you get where you’re going, take off your shoes and your socks then walk around on the rug bare foot and make fists with your toes.”

Bruce Willis was given this advice by a fellow passenger in the original “Die Hard” movie.  I was curious to see if this trick actually works.  While there has not been any real scientific testing that I know of, many people have reported that this trick works for them.  It seems to have something to do with stimulating the pressure points in your feet.  It is said to work better with thick shag.  Try it and see if it works for you.

They say “Timing is everything”.  This is true for flying as well.  Consider this; if you are taking a flight of about 12 hours, leaving at night will get you there in the morning with not much sleep to keep you going.  However, if you take the “red eye”, you will arrive at night and can go to sleep soon after.  Also take into account the time zone changes to determine the time of your arrival.

Another way to minimize jetlag is to avoid alcohol on your flight.  Now that I have probably ruined the trip for some people, there is a reason for this.  The pressurized cabin tends to dry out the body and alcohol effects your internal body clock by preventing a full and restful night’s sleep.  Of course if alcohol will enhance your enjoyment of the flight, have at it.  Just remember the tradeoffs.

On the opposite side of the coin, drink as much water as you can.  I always drink as much water as possible on a flight.  I will usually either buy a large bottle after the security check or ask the in-flight stewardess for one.

Setting your watch for the time zone you are traveling to can also help you out.  This will allow your body to adjust to the new time.  Try to get as much fresh air as possible and avoid sleeping during the day if you have a morning arrival.  If you absolutely must grab a little shut eye, set your alarm for about 4 hours.   The more you avoid sleep during the day, the better you are likely to sleep that night.

There are a number of ideas for reducing jet lag.  These are just a few.  Check back for more tips in the future.  If you have any tips for helping with jetlag, please tell us in the comments below.

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CRUISES TRAVEL

CRUISE DEALS. PROS AND CONS OF THE “LAST MINUTE” CRUISE DEAL.

 

 

Never try this yourself.  You show up on the dock all set to book your cruise.  What you find out, however, is you can no longer do this.  These days’ cruise lines are required to submit their passenger list a day or two in advance.  This does not mean you can’t get great last minute cruise deals.   Follow the information below to secure the best last minute cruise deal you can.

The 90 Day Ticker

You will find me often referring to the “90 Day Ticker” at “Vacations to go”.  This is always my first and best resource for last minute cruise discounts.  There I have found some amazing deals like a 7 night Caribbean cruise in a balcony stateroom for $199.

My stepdaughter asked me to look for a short Mexican Rivera cruise for her and some fri
ends.  I found a 4 night cruise for as low as $159. I recommend you check this first when planning a last minute cruise.

 

 

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You Better Shop Around

As I stated, I always check on “Vacations to Go” first for last minute cruise deals.  Don’t just stop there.  As good as the deals might look; you may be able to do even better.

I was checking deals one day and was comparing the deals from “Vacations to G
o” with deals from the actual cruise lines website.   Sometimes, but not all the time, I was able to find a better price on the actual lines site.  I also occasionally found perks like free cabin upgrade or free drink packages.  You will never know who really has the best prices until you compare.

If you know where you want to cruise to, sign up with Cruise Critic.com., there you can sign up to be notified when your cruise reduces its price.  You can also do this for other vacations on TripAdvisor.com.

No Peaking

You will find that cruise prices during peak periods such as holiday weeks can be much more expensive.  I have found that, quite often, cruise prices go up during holiday weeks or just before.  However, after the holiday, travel tends to lull, and prices can go down.  Check around these times to check for good deals.

Use Local Ports if Possible

One thing that can really decrease the value of the great last minute cruise deal is flying to the departure port.  Additionally we all know that last minute flights can be very expensive.  Try to select a cruise that departs from a local port you can drive to.  Believe it or, some people will spend a fortune in airfare to secure that great cruise deal.  Always look at the “Out the Door” price to ensure your deal is really a deal.  Real my post on Free Cruise Deals for more information on this http://wp.me/p7LgFe-5B

The Devil is in the Details

Always read the fine print.  Inside cabins can offer a great price, unless you are claustrophobic. Perhaps your balcony stateroom has an obstructed view.  You could be promised a guaranteed cabin, which gives you no choice in your cabin location.  These details may offer problems for you.  Then again they may not.  The only way to know is to determine what this deal is getting you.

The key thing to remember is, research, be as flexible as you can, keep your passport up to date and READ THE FINE PRINT.  Happy hunting.

If you have any other tips for last minute cruises? Leave us a comment below.

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TRAVEL

AVOID THESE MISTAKES WHEN PLANNNG YOUR OWN VACATION

 

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Most of the articles on this blog offer all sorts of information on how to plan your own vacation.  It is my hope that this information will bring that dream trip closer to reality.  However, in order to be fully honest and provide full disclosure, I must warn you that there can also be a few pitfalls when going without a travel agent.  Please review the article below so you can avoid these problem areas.

A mistake many planners often make is not doing the research.  Planning trips yourself can offer a wider assortment of options for your trip as well as significant discounts.  You must remember that the key to success lies in three things.  Research, research and more research.  You will find me saying this over and over on this site.  There is a good reason for this.

For example, you may have found an incredible deal for a cruise to the Bahamas in September.  Did you check the weather?  If you watch the weather reports you will know that September is the height of Hurricane season.   Always check the seasonal weather at your travel location.

You have gotten a great airfare to your vacation city.  Did you check the prices earlier or later that day?  An earlier or redeye flight that same day could be cheaper.  Also a flight on a different day of the week could also save you big bucks.  Don’t find a price you think is good and stop there.  You could be missing out on major savings you could have seen with a little more research.

I always use a physical calendar when I make a travel plan.  It is not very hard to book the wrong date, especially if it is months away.  Also make sure any vacation time you are taking from work coincides with the exact dates you need for your vacation.  You would be surprised at how many people make this simple but totally avoidable error.

Always take the time to read the fine print.  For example, make sure the hotel you got that great deal from is close to the sites you want to visit.  You can usually find this out by checking the hotel’s website.  They should will give you a listing of the close by sites so you don’t waste too much of your valuable vacation in your car.

It is also a good idea to check with a travel agent to compare the prices of your trip to the prices they offer.  Also check if they are any additional perks associated with their offer.  You may, however, find that their perks do not make up for the savings you have found.  The only way to know is to check and compare.

So, should you use a travel agent or book yourself?  That depends on you and whether or not you enjoy doing the research to avoid the pitfalls indicated above.  I always recommend, however, doing both.  Why not have the best of both worlds. Then you choose what the best deal is for you.  This keeps you in control.

To sum up, use the information throughout this blog to find the best deal that you can.  Then compare your deal with what a travel agent comes up with.  Either way, you will wind up with the best deal.

Have you ever experienced other pitfalls of planning your vacation? Leave us a comment below.

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CRUISES

6 THINGS NOT TO DO IN YOUR CRUISE CABIN.

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While on your trip, your cruise cabin (stateroom) is your private sanctuary.  The place you can go to that allows you to get away from it all.  But the things you must keep in mind are: They are not quite as private as you may think.  What you do could affect others.  As you will be on board, don’t burn any bridges, if you can avoid it.  Do not do this in your cruise cabin.

Things That Ignite for 100 Points

If you are a smoker, make sure you review the guidelines regarding this.  All ships prohibit smoking in your cabin and some do not even allow it on your balcony.  Review the guidelines regarding locations for smoking. Be courteous to other passengers.

Other ignitable objects such as incense, hot plates and irons are also frowned upon.  You can review the full list of these items at the lines website.

Hair Dryers

Hair dryers are permitted in ships, and often provided in your room.  However, do not plug them into your bathroom socket.  It has long remained a mystery why cruise ships bathroom outlets are usually not rated with the proper voltage for hair dryers.  They are only for shavers.  Of course you can try this on your one but will probably blow a fuse for your efforts.

Streaking in Your Cabin.

There are no specific rules about removing your cloths in your cabin.  However, remember that you are not alone on the ship.  It is not uncommon for a passenger to step out of the shower, and into the cabin, with nothing on to find a crewmember cleaning their windows or cleaning their room.  Possible a ship docked next to them.

Keep Your Balcony Door Open at Your Own Risk.

You might want to prop open that balcony door as you sail, but cruise lines don’t think highly of the idea. For starters, the warm air coming in will cause your cabin’s air-conditioning to work harder (unless you turn it down), wasting energy on the ship. Plus, leaving the door open can have some unwanted side effects.  Cruise lines have also reported that leaving the balcony door that open has been known to set off the fire alarm.  Even though there is no fire.

Plus, open your cabin door at the same time, and you create a wind tunnel in the cabin, which will send all your dining reservation notices, cruise ship dailies and art auction advertisements flying everywhere.

Drying Cloths on the Balcony

Besides being unsightly, there are very good reasons not to do this.  First off, if you forget to take them off before you sail, or if a strong wind hits suddenly, you can kiss your cloths goodbye (an environmental faux pas).  If a sudden shower turns up, your cloths could wind up in a puddle on the floor.

Keep it Clean.

Always try to keep your room as clean as possible.  I know you are on vacation, but if your room is cluttered, it may feel more like you are at home than on a cruise.  People may also see into your room when you open and close the door.  Do you really want your neighbors to see that mess?

These are just some things to consider to make your cruise experience more enjoyable.  If you have any additional ideas, please comment below.  Now go and enjoy that cruise.

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TRAVEL

STILL MORE WAYS TO SAVE ON YOUR VACATION

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As I continually search for travel discounts, I am always discovering additional ways you can save on that vacation.  Here are more of those ideas.

Flights

Most people already know that the dates you book your flight and the days you travel on can greatly impact the price.  Compare the prices for red eye flights as well as flights on Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday as these will tend to be less expensive.

The best days to purchase your tickets are also Tuesday and Wednesday.  I have also been told that 3:00 p.m. EDT is a better time.

It may also be beneficial to book directly with the airline.  You will be able to get the “Out the Door” price with al fees included.  You may also find deals only offered by the airline.

Usually travel discounts tend to be presented at the beginning of the week while increases appear at the end of the week.  The rule here is to keep checking.  You can also sign up with sites such as Trip Adviser who will notify you of price drops for the trip you are thinking of.

If you get a great deal from Priceline, make sure you contact the airline directly to reserve your seats.  I did not do this once and we wound up all over the plane.

Travel Credit Card

Travel credit cards can be another resource to earn free airfare and hotel on future trips.  Just remember that you should not charge more than you can easily pay off quickly.  Otherwise, you may defeat the purpose.

Hotels

Becoming a loyal member of a hotel chain will get you lots of benefits, such as discounted prices, better service, and the ability to collect reward points toward a free hotel stay. And if you play your “I’m a loyal member” card and negotiate, then you can even get a full refund on your money when you cancel your stay.

Before you actually book your hotel reservation, make sure you have done your research as far as comparing to other hotels (you may find a great price at another hotel).  Also check the reviews of the hotel you are considering.

Review your previous vacations on sites like Trip Adviser.  They will send you vacation discounts for your information.

Trip Insurance

Some things to consider before you pay an extra 4% to 8% for trip insurance.  Do you have a history of having to cancel things due to illness?  Do you have work emergencies at work that may require you to alter your plans?  If the answer to these is yes, it could be worth it to pay for the insurance.  While I have never had to use it, there are a number of circumstances that could come up were I would need it.

If you have other money saving ideas, please comment below.

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CRUISES

IS THAT FREE CRUISE OFFER REAL, OR A SCAM?

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Since I have joined so many cruise sites, I am always getting free cruise offers.  Therefore, I have done a lot of research on to determine if they are real or not.  Here is some of what I found out.

First I get that call, “Congratulations! Caribbean Cruise Line has selected you to receive a free 2 night Caribbean cruise for 2” to the Grand Bahama Island.  You first think “Hooray”, but then immediately think “What’s the scam”?  You are given an 800 number to call to receive your prize.

When you call, to get further information, you quickly find out that it is actually not free.  You will need to pay fees of about $69 per person.  This does include accommodations, food and entertainment so this still seems like a great deal for a 2 night cruise.

People who have called in to book this offer have reported encountering some serious issues.  Some of these are misleading pricing issues, forced time share pitches (up to 5 hours). There is oftenconfusion as to the company offering this deal.  Caribbean Cruise Lines, which sends the deal, or Celebration Cruise Line, which operates the ships.

Callers have also been given an actual price of $199 when they call.  This an attempt to upgrade them o an ocean view cabin.  Then there are addition taxes and fees that bring your total to about $270 per person. This for a total $540 for the two of you.  That is a far cry from the free cruise you were offered.  Don’t forget, if you live out of Florida, you will also be responsible for your airfare as well.

There apparently much confusion among callers as to exactly if you had to attend the time share pitch or the pitch was located.  I have gone to several time share pitches over the years to get thas free Las Vegas hotel room or that Free Hawaiian luau.  2 things to remember about these time share pitches. One is that you should go in with a strong determination that you are not going to buy anything and tell the salesperson just that.  If you do fall into this trap, make sure you have the usual two day right of cancelation so you can cancel, the next day, when you come to your senses.

While I was writing this article, I did my own research.  I found Cruises to the Bahamas that were 4 nights for as low as $159 for an inside cabin, or $179 an ocean view (before taxes and fees) as opposed to the $199 mentioned earlier.  This is without any time share pitches.

The long and short of this is.  While I would not actually call it a scam, it is clearly not free at all.  If you are willing to do your own research, and follow the guidelines presented in other articles in the bog, you can probably do far better than that free cruise.

If you have come across these free cruise offers, please comment on your experiences below.

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TRAVEL

28 EASY TRAVEL HACKS FOR ANY VACATION

 

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You are finally taking that long awaited trip and the excitement is overwhelming.  Many people just pack their bags and go.  A word of caution, There are a number of things you can do in advance that will increase your enjoyment and remove some of the obstacle that could come up on your trip.  Try some of these.

Try rolling your cloths instead of folding them.  Studies have shown that this could give you much more packing space.

Wrap your shoes in a shower cap to prevent your soles from touching your clean cloths.

Store your bobby pins in a Tic Tac container to keep them from getting lost.

Bring a change of clothes and underwear in your carry on in case of getting temporarily separated from your luggage.  See my post, “TRAPPED IN VERMONT” and you will understand what I mean. http://wp.me/p7LgFe-1K

Use travel size toiletries when possible as it saves a lot of space.  You’ll thank me later.

Pack all of your loose cables together and either place them in an old eye glass case or rubber band them together and stick them in an old toilet paper tube.

Pack everything but your morning toiletry needs by the night before.  That way you can get ready, throw them in your bag and go.

Place a dryer sheet in your suitcase to keep your cloths smelling fresh.

We generally do no bring much jewelry on your trips.  If you do, try placing them in a multi-day pill container found at most drug stores.

Unpack immediately when you get home.  Of course you will be exhausted but you will thank me later.

Wear something with deep pockets on the plane.  That way you can keep such items like tickets, boarding pass and such where you can easily get to them.

Bring wash and wear cloths as much as possible.  This can cut down on the amount of cloths you need to bring.

Call your credit/debit card company to let them know where you might be spinning money during your trip.  This will prevent emergency holds to prevent you from further using them.

Bring a plastic cereal container in your car, for road trips, to use as a handy trash container.

If there are 2 of you traveling on a plane with 3 seats, try to book the isle and window.  Chances are, if the flight is not full the middle seat will remain empty.  If someone does come, you can offer to change seats and offer them the isle.

Arrive at the airport plenty early to allow you time to deal with any issues that may come up.

If you are going to an amusement park, put your cell phone in a plastic bag to avoid it getting wet.

Use a binder clip to protect raisers when traveling.

Scan your passport, ID and itinerary and e-mail yourself a copy.

Place a copy of your emergency contact info in each suitcase.

Mark your baggage as fragile.  This will help poor handling by baggage handlers.  This will also get your luggage place on top of the stack.

Bring on empty water battle in your carry on.  You can fill it as needed after you pass security.

Use the restroom about 20 minutes before you land.  This will prevent the problem of crowded bathrooms after you land.

Use ATMs to get local currency. Using money converters in the airport usually come with their own fees and the exchange rates are a rip-off. ATMs always dispense local currency, of course, so use your debit or credit card and get your money there.

Go to the local grocery store when you arrive at your location.  You won’t need much, however, water and a few snacks can go a long to increasing your comfort.

If you forgot your phone charger, ask at the hotel as they may have one you can borrow.

Try to arrive early at your hotel and ask for a free upgrade.  It doesn’t hurt to ask and you may be surprised.

These are just some of the great travel hacks I have come across over the years.  Please list any hacks in the comments section below.

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CRUISES

MORE REASONS TO TAKE A CRUISE FOR THE 30’S AND UNDER.

 

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Stay Connected VS Disconnecting

While some people like to stay connected while on a vacation, others more prefer to disconnect.  There is no right or wrong here just personal preference.  If you’re the type that likes to disconnect and leave the regular world behind, no problem there.  However, is you have the desire to stay connected, no problem there either.

Disconnecting is easy off course.  Just leave that stuff behind.  I do this but still bring a cell phone for emergencies.  Other than emergencies, there really is not one communication that absolutely cannot wait until I get back.

I understand, however, that my needs and the needs of others may be quite different.   For those who, for whatever reason, need to stay connected, you can do that too.  Most ships offer Wi-Fi to cruisers, however, not all ships offer the same services.  There are variations of band width quality and cost.  Check these out prior to your trip to make sure your needs are covered.

Roughing it in Style.

If you are the rugged outdoors type (I’m more of a tender foot), you will have many options on your cruise.  Depending on where you are going, you will find an assortment of adventures.

If hiking is your thing, there a usually an assortment of these options, including hiking into a rain forest for a zip lining experience.  There are other hiking experiences you can make use of.  You can take a guided hike or a self-guided walk (but only if you are well experienced).   Check these out while planning your cruise to see what options are available.

I’ve got the Music in Me.

I’m one of those people who love every genre of music from classic rock to classical music and everything in between (OK rap maybe not so much).  If you love music as I do you can find an assortment of “Music on the High Seas” cruises.

With themes such as metal, classic, country, the 80’s, Rock the Boat. You can even find celebrity artists cruises, usually for an additional fee.  Carnival seems to specialize in these but they can also be found on other lines as well.

The Shape of Things to Come

Personally, I like to stay in shape (Hey, round is a shape).  For those of you who pride yourself in regular workouts, a cruise will not cramp your style.  You can take advantage of the gym, morning stretch programs, fitness boot camps and even Zumba (on some lines).  Some of it is free but some come with charges to check out the availabilities on your ship.

Take a Break from the Same Place, Same Thing.

While going to the beach, shopping dining, clubbing or all great things, imagine being able to do all of that in the same place.  As a bonus, or hotel room also comes with you.  I can’t recall many things as beautiful as the scenery you may see on a cruise.  The world is truly your oyster on the sea with great things to do no matter what your interest.

If you are in your 20’s or 30’s and have yet to take a cruise, do yourself a big favor and have the experience.  You can even find shorter 3 and for day cruises just to try it out.  Be warned, however, you may get hooked.\

Post a comment if you have any other suggestions for this age range.
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CRUISES

4 MORE INSIDER TIPS FOR A TERRIBLE CRUISE

 

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My previous article on ways to have a terrible cruise http://wp.me/p7LgFe-5i probably left the truly “glass half full” out there a bit unfulfilled.  So here are a few more ideas you can use to totally ruin that next cruise.  Who knows, if it’s your first cruise, maybe it will be your last.

So Why am I Here?  I’m Way to Cool for This.

You see them on every cruise.  People who sit around looking board, with that; I’m too cool for this look on their face.  You kind of feel sorry for them.  Do they truly not know how to have fun?

News Alert: This is not a board room, this is a vacation.  I’ve been on enough cruises to know, it take serious effort not to have fun.  There is every type of activity so that there is always something for everyone.   If you are into working out, you’re covered.  Do you like to eat?  Boy are you covered. Dancing, soaking up the sun, adventures, entertainment and even drinking.  Not having fun is a challenge I would not recommend.

Don’t Worry, the Staff Members Are Psychic.

In spite of many theories to the contrary, cruise staff cannot read minds.  Believe it or not, if you do not want your bed turned down at night, they will do it anyway unless you tell them otherwise.  If you want an extra olive in your drink, they will not do it, unless you ask.

There is an easy fix for this.  Just tell them what you need.  Cruise staff make it their business to satisfy your every need.  They cannot do this, however, if they do not know what your needs are.  Now they may not read you a bedtime story, but you will live.

There are always things that come up on a cruise.  Either your room at attendant or the front desk can handle just about anything.  I have never come up with a situation that could not be resolved by just asking.

There is One Thing I Absolutely Must Do on this Cruise.

My family and I were on an Alaskan cruise.  I wanted to surprise everybody with a Victorian tour on a hippo bus that drives on the land and in the water.  Well it rained that day and the bus could not go on the water.  While that did bum me out a little, we had so much to do there we still had a great time.

Imaging if our sole purpose of the cruise was to take that ride?  What a waste.  I recommend planning a number of activities you can excited about on many different part of the cruise.  That way if something does not go as planned, you still have all; that other great stuff to look forward to.

Always Sanitizing Your Hands is a Waste of Time.

It is true that cruises are one of the best ways to travel and have a wonderful time.  Just remember that giant cruise ship carry thousands of passengers.  They are what some people comically refer to as “The largest Petri dishes on Earth”.

Although neither anyone in my family has gotten sick on a cruise, we make use of the free sanitary wipes or lotions as often as we can.  The last thing you want is to spend a good part of your cruise with your head in the toilet.
If you have any suggestions on avoiding a terrible cruise, please comment below.

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CRUISES

THE TOP 3 WAYS TO HAVE A TERRIBLE CRUISE?

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Have you ever noticed that some people can go to places like Disneyland or Hawaii and have a horrible time?  It never ceases to amaze me.  I call it Whiners disease.  If your one of those people who likes to have a really bad time on vacation, I have some sure fire tips that guarantee you the worst cruise you have ever had.

Don’t Worry About Departure Times, They Will Wait for You

If you want to do something truly entertaining on your next cruise, try this.  Sit on your balcony, around departure times, and watch the people who either lost track of time or think, “They won’t leave without me”.  Watch them as they desperately run to catch the ship that they now realize is about to leave without them.  I do it on occasion and it is sad but, at the same time, really fun.

It’s like those people who will walk into a Star Wars movie, opening weekend, 3 minutes before it starts and is are surprised that there are no good seats.  Always remember and never forget, THEY WILL NOT WAIT FOR YOU.

Don’t Worry about Checking Your On Board Account, How Bad Could it be?

We all know what sticker shock is.  Well imagine sticker shock on steroids.  That what could happen if you do not remain aware of what you are spending on board.  You can review your account daily and it only takes a few minutes.  Trust me it is worth it.

On a cruise we took, a few years ago, my younger grandson (11 at the time) was having a blast playing the video games in the kid’s center.  What we fortunately discovered the second day was that he was being charged for each play.

He was not aware of this and it certainly was not his fault.  However, we were able to control this by giving him a budget.  Imagine what the damage could have been if we had never checked.  Also read my article about the hidden costs of cruising.  http://wp.me/p7LgFe-4G

Just Get the Cheapest Cabin, They Are All Alike.

Some people do like to snap up the least expensive cabin they can find.  Those people have thought in advance they, they know what they are getting themselves into and are OK with it.  The worst think you can do is to not give due consideration on the specifics of the cabin you are reserving.  Imagine four of you in a 110 square foot cabin.

Taking the extra time to select the cabin that is right for you can go a long way to your cruise enjoyment.  Read the following articles on selecting the right cabin for you.  http://wp.me/p7LgFe-1c , http://wp.me/p7LgFe-4Z , and http://wp.me/p7LgFe-1q .

If you have any suggestions on avoiding a terrible cruise, please comment below.

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CRUISES

MUST REASONS FOR CRUISING FOR 30’S AND UNDER.

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If you are in your 20’s or 30’s and have never been on a cruise, I suggest you look again. It’s nothing like you think. The days of elderly people playing shuffle board and bingo are long gone (although that is still possible). If you have previously been on a cruise, chances are it was a family cruise. Those are far distance than cruises as an adult. Here are some things you may want to consider.
More Places
Land vacation can be costly and do not usually get you to multiple locations. A cruise can take to many places, and remember, your hotel comes with you. You can also eliminate the extra costs of food. Of course getting there is half the fun.
It’s Inclusive and Exclusive at the Same Time
You heard that correctly. Cruises are inclusive as, while drinks, shore excursions and massages will cost you extra. There are many things that won’t. Meals are free unless you choose otherwise. There’s lots of free entertainment including Broadway type shows, live music, multiple pools and hot tubs and multicourse meals.
On the exclusive side you can get a quiet table at one of the bistros, private spa treatment, you can rent a private cabana. There are additionally private pools and sundecks (usually reserved for suite cabins).
No Chance of Getting Pulled Over for Drinking and Driving
Either while watching the game, partying with friend or just having a glass of wine with dinner; you never have to worry about driving home. It’s just upstairs to your left. Cruises offer a wide variety of exotic variety drinks you may not find back home.
Don’t Leave Home Without it, But Just in Case.
All ships have at least a few shops where you can pick usually pick up that one this you forgot. You may also find watches, jewelry and such. On Celebrity I found a number of great shops with sales throughout the cruise. I was able to pick up some pretty neat souvenirs at great prices. And, of course, “designer” and “duty” free live in harmony on your cruise.
What a Rush!
For the thrill seekers, there is plenty for you too. From rock climbing, surfing, bumper cars to sky diving. Today’s modern cruise ship are more like floating amusement parks for those interested.
There are also shore excursions for the active. Zip lining, scuba diving, swimming with the dolphins are just a few.
For the more subdued there is also karaoke and trivia contests of all kinds.

Post a comment if you have any other suggestions for this age range.
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TRAVEL

YOUR GUIDE TO FINDING CHEAP FLIGHTS

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We all know that the era of dirt cheap travel is pretty much over.  Airlines are under increased pressure to make a profit and are unable to reduce fares as they used to.  There is also less competition and less flying routes with planes flying more full which further lessens their incentive.  Do not lose hope as there are still plenty of killer deals to your to reduce you air costs.  Check these out as some of them could save you big.

Flexibilty

The more flexible you can be with your travel dates and destinations, the better your chances of scoring a good deal.  Ticket prices can vary depending on the day of the week, time of day and season.

Researching a little can give you a better idea of this.  Check flights on different days of the week and different times of the year.  If you can learn when your destination is off season, you are likely so save as much as 50% on your airfare as well as your hotel.

Flying on holidays will guarantee that you will pay a premium (but you probably already knew that).  Try taking your trip just after a holiday. I have found significant price drops at these times.

Since most vacationers travel on the weekends, weekday travel is almost always cheaper.  Also late night and early morning flights will be less expensive most of the time.

Try adjusting your flight location as this could also save you big.  When I was researching a great price on a cruise leaving for Fort Lauderdale.  I also found a very cheap flight to Florida, but it was to Miami.  I discovered that, if I took the flight to Miami, rented a car to Fort Lauderdale to reach the cruise ship, I could get a 7 night Caribbean  cruise in a balcony stateroom for under $500 including airfare.

Budget Airlines

There are a few budget airlines in the U.S. but there are many of them in Europe.  It would be worth your time to google some of these and compare prices.  It could be worth some bucks for your efforts.

Earlier this year I was checking flight to Saltsburg Austria.  I felt really good when I found a round trip flight for $900.  I kept searching, as I always do, and found a flight for just under $500.  Even though you find a great price, keep looking, you could find something even better.  I do it all the time.

Booking During the Sweet Spot

As you continue searching for the best price possible, there are two things to remember.  Don’t book too early and don’t book too late.  Remember that booking too early can cost you, but if you book last minute you are doomed.  The best booking window is six to eight weeks before your flight, or around three months before if you are going to your destination during peak season.

Here are just some of the ways to decrease you flight costs.  If you know of others, please leave us a comment.

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CRUISES

MORE CRUISE DINING HACKS

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Here are some more tips to increase your dining pleasure on your next cruise.  Try them out and tell me what you think.

Creative Cookie Concoctions

The buffet is almost always teaming with various assortments of cookies, and they are free.  Here is a chance to get really creative and fix some real treats.  Of course there is the classic cookies and milk.

You can crumble some cookies into a bowl of soft serve ice cream, you can also add some milk and mix it up.  There you have an Instant milk shake.  Also try placing some ice cream in between two cookies for an ice cream sandwich.

Brown Bag it on Your Shore Excursion

If you want to save a little money on your shore excursion, try preparing yourself a sack lunch.  One benefit is you can never be too sure what options will be offered on shore.

Go to your buffet, before you leave, and fix yourself a lunch.  You can make a simple sandwich, or maybe a bagel and cream cheese.  Some lines will even prepare a sandwich for you.

Some shore excursions will offer lunch as part of the day.  Even so, your tummy may thank you for that extra bite if you get hungry along the way.

Dine and Dash Options

One of my favorite parts of a family cruise is dining with the family.  Of course there are times when you need to shake things up a bit.  I know my grandchildren quickly wanted to get back to their friends after diner.  On those occasions, try these hacks so you can still eat together but be on your way quickly.

We have often made use of the early dinner buffet when there are evening events we do not want to miss.  Grabbing a quick slice of pizza at the ships pizza shop is another good one.  Of course you can arrange for room service to arrive at a specific time.  If you have leftovers from last night, this is a good time to make use of them.

Some ships will offer to even pick your kids up at the main dining room and escort them to the kids club while you finish off your dinner with a little more romance.

Scope Out the Secret Alternate Breakfast Options

Some new cruisers do not know that there are alternatives to the breakfast buffet of the main dining room.  Check with your daily guide or with your steward for those other breakfast options.

When my family cruised to Alaska, we were going through the inside passage one morning.  The previous night we order room service for breakfast and watched the amazing views as we casually consumed our morning meal.

So these are a few more ways to increase you dining experiences on that cruise.  If you have other ideas, please comment below.

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CRUISES

“NO, PLEASE, NOT THAT STATEROOM”

 

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Remember that old saying, “location, location, location”?  That is especially true when selecting a cruise stateroom.  Things you must consider are size, view (if it’s important to you), noise level and privacy.  Selecting the right cabin can be fraught with peril.   These are some of the things you will want to consider.

Size Matters

Cruise staterooms tend to be significantly smaller that most hotel rooms. The average master bedroom in America runs about 200 square feet.  Inside staterooms tend to be somewhat smaller at as small as 115 square feet.   Staterooms on Carnival have some of the larger inside staterooms at 185 feet.  Balcony staterooms tend to be somewhat larger and suites even larger still.

I took my family on a Disney cruise and we were able to get the Walt Disney suite.  This stateroom was almost as big as a small house and provided plenty of room for 7 people.  Of course is not cheap.

Norwegian has a 3 bedroom Garden Villa that is 4,891 square feet with and indoor Garden and indoor hot tub.  Of course most of us would need to pick 6 very lucky lottery numbers to afford this one.

You can determine that actual size of the staterooms you are considering.  More often than not, they will also give you picture.  Beware; however, image may seem larger.

A Perfect View of Nothing

If you are looking at balcony or larger staterooms, check about your view.  Staterooms with obstructed or partially obstructed views, while cheaper, may interfere with the lovely view you paid to see.  When selecting your stateroom, always get the specifics on obstructions.  You may also want to check out the reviews of these staterooms to see what others have to say.

“What is That Noise”.

If you would like your stateroom to be a place you can get a little peace and quiet, you should check where on the ship you room is located.  New cruisers sometimes forget this detail (rookie mistake).  Here is a list of things to look for and areas to avoid.

Stay away from rooms near nightclubs, sports venues and lido deck.  Also avoid all-night eateries, especially right above or below.  A good rule is to select a passenger deck that is sandwiched in between 2 other passenger decks.

Also try to avoid being close to a family stateroom as they may house crying and screaming children.

Rough Waters Ahead

One thing that can instantly put a stop to your good time is motion sickness.  If you know or are not sure if you get motion sickness, err on the side of caution.  You will find more stable rooms near the interior of the ship in the lower decks.  Rooms with a visual view of the horizon tend to aide with motion sickness as well.

Also the ocean you are on will make a difference.  The Atlantic Ocean tends to be rougher that the Pacific.  Also winter months on the Atlantic may increase the motion.  Some aides that may help are motion sickness OTC, or prescribed, medications.  They also make a wrist band this helps as well.  My grandchildren swear by this.

One minor detail to also remember:  STAY CLEAR OF THE ENGINE ROOM.

Most cruise websites will give you specific deck plans to show you exactly were your room is so you can clearly see what it is near.  As stated earlier, they will also provide you with pictures.  Always remember, “Choose wisely”.

If you have any other tips on choosing the right stateroom, please leave a comment.

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CRUISES TRAVEL

GREAT HACKS FOR CRUISE DINING

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Eating is one of the great joys of taking a cruise.  There are so many options on both dining and snacking.  Here are some ideas that will increase your level of enjoyment and possibly save you some money

Door Buster Specialty Dining

Many people choose to enjoy dining at a specialty restaurant on the closing night of a cruise.  The problem is that closing night may be crowded making it hard to get a reservation.  What about going on the first night of your cruise to kick things off in style?

Since most people do not do this, many cruise lines offer discounts and perks opening night.  Ask your travel agent or the cruise line what these are and enjoy.

What You Want When You Want it.

Most people don’t know that cruise ship plan their weekly menu in advance.  If you ask the front desk, you can see the menus for each night.  This way you can choose what night to select the main dining room, or just hit the buffet.  Maybe even use a specific night for a specialty dining or room service.  This will give you more dining options.

When dining in the main dining room, you are not limited to one appetizer, entree or dessert.  You can have two or three if you like.  You can even order appetizer portions of entrees.  What a great ways to experiment with new foods you are not sure if you will like.

Your Way to Self-Room Service.

While room service can be a great to enjoy good food without leaving your room, your choices may be limited.  There is another way.  I like to go to the buffet, fill up my plate and bring it back to my room to eat on the balcony (reason # 387 why you want a balcony if possible).  Just don’t block the hallway with too many dishes.

You can also ask you main dining room waiter to package up you leftovers for an in your room snack or future meal.  Sometimes they will even have your leftovers delivered to your room for you.

The “I’m Not Ready for the World Yet” Breakfast

This one takes a tiny bit of advanced thought and planning, but for those who need a little extra time in the next morning, it’s worth it.  The night before, grab a few pastry items from the buffet and bring them back to your room.  Also, at dinner, order an extra dessert suitable for breakfast.  There you have it, an instant first meal of the day.

Do it Yourself Specialty Ice Cream

While any cruise lines offer ice cream from name brand shops, they will charge you dearly for it.  Try this out for size.  Get some sugary cereals or cookies from the buffet and crumble them on to the self-serve ice cream that many ships offer for free.  Again, get creative and could wind up with something even Ben and Jerry’s might envy.

Here are some dining hacks for you to try on your next cruise.  Let me know what you think.

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TRAVEL

GETTING AROUND ON YOUR VACATION

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You and arrived at your vacation destination.  What now?  How are you going to get from place to place?  I bet many of you think this out well before your trip, but you would be surprised at how many people do not.  Whether or not you have though this out before your trip, here are some tips that will help you out.

CAR RENTALS

There are, of course advantages and disadvantages of renting a car on vacation.  On one hand you have the freedom to come and go as you like.  Renting is certainly more private than public transportation and will most likely get you to your destination quicker.

On the other hand, renting can certainly be costly.  You will also have to deal with possible parking costs as well as finding parking in the first place.  Make sure your hotel has free parking if possible.

Remember that you could be in an unfamiliar place and knowing where you are going could be a factor.  If you are renting a car I would recommend mapping this out in advance as best as you can.

Things to consider:

How big of a car do I need?  Obviously the smaller car is almost always the least expensive.

How much rental coverage do I need?  Check with your own person insurance as well as your credit card company.  Chances are that you may already have the coverage you need.

What are my location needs?  If you are going to more than one city, check the cost of spilling your rental.  You may find that renting separately at each location may be cheaper than staring at one location and leaving the car off at another.  You will have to drop off ad pick up a new car each time but this could save you big.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

As mentions in a previous article, if you are not renting a car, check the cost of local public transportation and taxi services.  Your hotel may even offer free transportation to and from the airport.  This is also true for cruises.  If you are flying to a location to take a cruise, the airports will very often have free, or low cost, transportation to and from your ship.

WALKING

My wife and I like to walk if we are close enough to our location.  You will have a great experience getting close to the locals.  You may also find out about some previously unknown places to visit or dine.

Remember you can even select a combination of renting and not renting to suite your needs and budget.  As always, be creative.  Either way, plan to get around based on the needs of the location you are going to, as well as your budget and person preferences.

If you have other transportation ideas, leave us a comment below.

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TRAVEL

MORE WAYS TO SAVE FOR YOUR VACATION

 

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As much as most people love vacations, they seem to be getting further and further from reality due a constantly worsening middle class economy.  The only way many people can actually achieve this goal is to work outside the box.  In other word, GET CREATIVE.  I have below some additional ways you can reach that elusive goal and possibly be on your way by next year.  It will take some effort, but these ideas are meant to not also limit your lifestyle.  Try some of these.

Money Jar

My wife and I have a habit.  When we pay cash for something, we never use coins.  We save the coins and, at the end of the day, we put all of our coins in a jar.  You will be surprised at how quickly it adds up.  Put this jar where you can see it every day and watch you vacation money grow.

Of course change alone will probably not reach your goal for you.  You can speed up this process by not using one dollar bills for buying things.  Also slip these singles in at the end of the day as well.

If you want to go even further and light speed your savings, throw in a Five or Ten every so often.  I doubt you will even miss this money and, along with the other ideas on this blog, you could be you on that dream vacation sooner than you think.  Try it and you may even have a lot of fun with this as you see your trip getting closer and closer.

The 52 Week Challenge

This was an idea I read about on another blog post.  The plan is to start small and slowly increase the amount as the year progresses.

Start out putting away $1 the first week.  That’s right just $1.  The second week you put in $2 and so on until you put away $52 on the final week.  At the end of the year, you will have saved $1,378. GET OUTA HERE!  Yes it’s true pull out your calculator and check it out.

If you have a travel partner or spouse, you can each do this and bring your total to $2,756.  If you follow the other saving and deals listed on the blog that can easily send the two of you on a cruise by next year.

There are, of course, variations on this plan such as starting with $2 the first month and increasing accordingly.  This will bring your total trip saving, for the two of you combined, to $5,512at the end of the 52 week challenge.  Or you can do a 104 week challenge.  Whatever your budget will allow, this idea can help you reach that goal.

Automated Transfers

There is another way to save money you might not miss.  I have a designated amount of money transferred each month from my checking account to my savings account.  I do this in a way that I don’t even realize that the money was ever there in the first place.  This amount can be small or large depending on your financial abilities.  The bonus is that, if a small emergency comes up, you will have that extra money to help you out.  Just try not to touch it, if you can avoid it, and watch your savings grow.

Now that I have shown you some additional ways to save for that trip, what is preventing you from starting today?  Remember that the longer you wait, the further away that trip will remain.

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CRUISES

HIDDEN CRUISE COSTS: FIGHT BACK

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Don’t let this happen to you.  You have just completed an amazing cruise vacation and get your final bill.  You almost pass out when you see your ship board expenses.  When you see a great cruise deal that states “All Inclusive”, make sure you read the fine print.  Items usually not included are drinks, specialty dining, shore excursions, spa treatments and some special activities.  All these can add to huge increases in your overall cruise expense.  There are ways to greatly mitigate these expenses.

Specialty Dining

More and more cruise ships are offering specialty dining, but at an extra cost.  While most ships offer free dining in the main dining room as well as buffets, they will attempt to lure you with foods from around the world, special dishes and desserts.   Most of these will run you about $15-$45 extra per person.  If you want wine with your meal, costs could go as high as $100 per person.  There are a few ways to get around this.

One, DO NOT GO.  I went for specialty dining once, just for the experience.  However, I found that meals in the main dining room can be excellent or even better depending on your individual tastes.  If you have the means, feel free to indulge yourself.  However, if you are on a budget, you may wish to stay away and enjoy the many free options available on the ship.  It is also possible the get free specialty dining as a cruise bonus.

Shore Excursions

Shore excursions can be the highlight of any cruise vacation.  If you have ever gone swimming with the dolphins, or zip lining through a rain forest, you will know what I mean.  Cruise lines offer the services of booking these for you; however, they do inflate the prices above what the tour operators charge.

There are a few ways to get around this extra cost.  Check for the available shore excursions on the cruise website.  You can review and select the must do excursions and purchase them, in advance, at a lower cost.  Or you can try a self-guided tour ending up at some attraction you are interested in.

Drinks and Beverages

Most cruise lines these days charge extra for alcohol and wine.  Many are also now charging extra for soda and bottled water.  These charges can add up quickly as these charges are usually not store priced but restaurant prices.

Most cruise lines, however, offer a variety of drink packages to choose from depending on your specific needs and desires. Paying a little upfront could mean big saving in the long run.  In my experiences, I have found them to be cost effective.  Plus, you can always order a bottle of wine and save whatever you don’t finish for the next night, which can be cheaper than always ordering wine by the glass.

Photos

My Kryptonite!  I take my family on these cruises and cannot resist purchasing photos from the ships photo gallery.  While we do take much of our own pictures, there are certain photos that I feel I must have.  Be warned though, these photos can easily run you $20 or more each.  You have three options on this.  One is to stay away completely from the photo gallery as once you see the pictures, you may not be able to resist.  Two, set yourself a budget and stick to it.  There are almost always certain pictures you did not or could not get yourself.  These are lifetime memories and, if you can afford it, you should have them.  Your last choice is to just go wild and purchase all the photos you like.   In my experience, the second choice is the most reasonable.

Spa and Salon Treatments

Who doesn’t love a good massage, however, be prepared for sticker shock when you see what they charge.  You could wind up paying $120 to $180 for a massage and up to $200 to $500 for a more exotic treatment.  As most of the spa staff is paid by commission, they will try to give you the hard sell to buy their pricey products.

You can sometimes get big spa discounts on the first day of sailing or on port days.  Also, be bold; and tell the staff upfront that you do not want any product sales pitches.  If you do get sucked into one of these sale pitches all may not be lost.  This happened to me once and I went to the ships desk and returned the products for a full refund.

Internet

Internet rates on cruise ship can be very costly and have sometime slow connection speeds.  For me, aside from emergencies, there is not one person I absolutely must talk to while on vacation with my family.  However, if your situation requirements are different, there are some things you can do.

You can often find discounted rates in port if you are willing to spend the time.  Many ports have internet cafes with free Wi-Fi.  Many newer ships are starting internet service packages for one discounted fee.  Also some of the suites may offer free Wi-Fi.  Look into these if needed, or you can do like I do, “Hey, I’m on vacation, leave me alone”.

In order to get the most out of your cruise experience, you should plan ahead and put some money aside to make sure these incidentals don’t break the back.  Consider as part of the cruise cost.  You will be better able to relax and just have fun.

More to come on this.

TRAVEL

TRAVEL HACKS TO SAVE MONEY ON THAT VACATION

29152509So you are finally taking that once in a lifetime vacation.  You have been saving the money you feel you will need and are ready to start your planning.  There are many things you can still do to reduce your expenses unless you have money to burn.  There are tips you can use to save money both planning your trip and while on your tip.  Check below to see which tips could help you save more on that vacation

Airfare:

One of your biggest expenses on your trip is likely to be the airfare.  Here are some hacks that could save you getting to your location.

Try to plan your trip far enough in advance so you can do your research.  By checking the travel discount websites you will find that price can vary quite a bit.  Just because you have found a fare you think is good, don’t stop there.  Keep checking and you may be astonished at what you find.  I was researching a trip to Austria a few months back and thought I had found a very good round trip price at about $900.  Over the weeks that followed, I kept checking other sites and prices.  I finally found a round trip fare at $500.  I had to recheck is several times as I could not believe it was real.  If you have any flexibility on you travel days, this may also present an ability to save.

Most people prefer direct flights (who wouldn’t).  If you are seriously looking for the best price, non-direct flights may be the way to go.  My wife and I were planning a trip to Vermont, a few years back.  After checking multiple sites, we found that the airfare was cheapest if we have a few stopovers, two in fact.  While this was certainly less convenient, we were able to afford a trip that we might not otherwise have been able to take at the time.  It also became part of a great adventure you can read in my post “Trapped in Vermont”. http://wp.me/p7LgFe-1K

Other ideas on saving money on airfare include round trip tickets vs 2 one way.  Traveling as light as you can to avoid those hefty baggage fees you may otherwise incur.

If you have the flexibility, try to schedule your trip in the offseason. I have found significant savings planning a trip this way.  Hotels and airfares can to be a low as 50% cheaper.

You may also find significant saving by bundling your airfare and hotel.  Try it and see what you can come up with.  I have found the best fares on FLY.COM
Accommodations:

Granted, most people on vacation do not spend a lot of time in their hotel room, other than sleeping or changing cloths.  It is still a good area where you could save some bucks.

You have probably already figured out that staying in the center of town, while certainly more convenient, can also be much more expensive.  Try to find a hotel on the edge of town and you could be surprised at the savings.   Last year my wife and I went to our son’s wedding in San Francisco.   I did quite a bit of research on the local hotels and found that the hotels near the center of town were, not only much smaller, but were also much more expensive.   We found a very nice, family owned, hotel about 10 minutes out and saved about 50%.  They also included a free breakfast.  Such a deal!

If you are traveling with four or more, check into the prices of 2 bedroom suites vs 2 regular rooms.  They will often cost less and offer more room with just as much privacy.

I have found the best hotel prices on IHG.COM

Dining:

This can be a very important part of any vacation as, who doesn’t love to eat.  You can still have wonderful dining experiences without breaking the bank.  Here are just a few ideas.

Plan ahead.  It is not very hard to check out the eating options in the place you are going to and these places will often list their prices.  This can avoid the very uncomfortable situation of finding yourself at a restaurant a bit above your budget.  It is also a good idea to have a little bite to eat sometime before you go out to dine.  This will reduce the risk of overeating and putting a big dent you budget.

How would you like a free breakfast?  Ask your waiter for some bread to go the evening before.  Also consider asking for a doggy bag, if you have significant leftovers, so you can maybe get two meals for the price of one.  Check out if your hotel offers free breakfast.  Many do and some can be quite good.  One hotel we went to last month offered, not only the traditional cereal, Danish and coffee, but eggs, waffles, toast juice and a wide assortment of other options.  Choosing one of these hotels can make for substantial savings.   You can also run out for a muffin or Danish from the local bakery and have it with the free morning coffee offered in most hotels.

If you are in a foreign location, check out the local grocery stores.  You may find some great and low cost, eating ideas.

Transportation: Read my article “The hidden costs of that vacation for information on this http://wp.me/p7LgFe-3G

General:

There are some other ways to save on your vacation.  For example, if you are not renting a car, or even if you are, consider walking to the closer locations.  Even though my wife is disabled, we still walk whenever we can.  If you are going to a city you have never been to, this will give you and, otherwise missed, opportunity to check out the local atmosphere.  I guarantee this will enhance your trip.  You may also find that, meeting with the locals, could give you inside information on great places to visit and places to eat.

These are just some of the ways you can save on that trip and increase your experience.  Keep checking back as there is a lot more information on this to come in future articles.

If you have found a travel hack, not listed here, please tell us about it.

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TRAVEL

YOU CAN AVOID THE HIDDEN COSTS OF THAT VACATION

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“Good morning traveler. Many people spend time planning a vacation within their budget only to find that, once the trip starts, they are bombarded with mountains of unforeseen expenses. This can cause a terribly stressful trip not knowing what the final tab is going to be.  Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to seek out these extra expenses and remove them whenever possible.  Here is additional information that will help you on your mission.  Good luck traveler.”
Getting Around from the Airport.

You have landed at your destination and just want to get to your hotel, take a long shower and maybe even a nap.  So what’s the best and most cost effective way to get there?  You will come across many options, all claim they are the best and cheapest, but most seem to cost a small fortune.  This is where planning in advance will really pay off.

If you are not renting a car, check the cost of local public transportation and taxi services.  Your hotel may even offer free transportation to and from the airport.  This is also true for cruises.  If you are flying to a location to take a cruise, the airports will very often have free, or low cost, transportation to and from your ship.
When you are renting a car, most of your work may already be done.  Although, before paying for that expensive rental insurance, check with your own person insurance as well as your credit card company.  Chances are that you may already have the coverage you need.

Make sure you choose a hotel that provides FREE PARKING.  If not, some may offer valet parking which can be cheaper than pay parking.  A little trick I learned in Las Vegas is that, almost all major hotels will charge you big to park.  However, most of them offer free valet parking with only the cost of a tip.

Also check the parking fees of the places you plan to visit.  If the fees are too great, check the cost of public transportation.  You may find that taking the bus could be less costly and even more convenient.

Extras You Can Avoid and Those You Cannot

To make that trip, a real vacation, often requires a little indulgence like room service, the minibar, and even a trip to the spa.  These are optional, of course, and can be allowed if funds permit it.  Just make sure you know these expenses in advance to avoid sticker shock.

If you are going on a beach holiday, make sure you check the hotel policy on beach towels.  Some hotels allow you to use them for free while at the hotel, others will charge you.  If you have to pay rental for your towels, check out a local souvenir shop.   Use that  towel and take that towel home as a remembrance of your trip.

One of the most dreaded, and potentially the most costly, fee is the resort fee.  Locations that use these resorts fees include, but are not limited to, Las Vegas, Florida, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico.  A check of your hotel’s website will often contain information on this.  If not, call the hotel directly or ask your travel agent.

 

ATM Fees

Getting cash from other banks can be expensive, even locally.  Before you leave on your trip, check with your bank to see if they have partners in the locations you are traveling to.  They may still charge you but it will be a lot less.

If you are not working for the I.M.F. (Impossible Missions Force), hidden costs can really take a big bite out of your wallet. The worst part of this being that many of these extra costs are not honestly declared in advance.  Now that you have been equipped with this special insider mission information, Use must now the information you have armed with.  Seek out and, if possible, eliminate these fees.

More on this coming in future articles.

Have you ever experienced a hidden cost on vacation? Leave us a comment below.

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CRUISES

HOW TO PAY FOR THAT CRUISE NEXT SUMMER

Cruise ship at the docks letting people off.
Cruise ship at the docks letting people off.

 

Almost everyone loves a cruise, but who can afford it these days.  Due to the every shrinking middle class economy makes it tougher and tougher each year just to make ends meet.  What if I told you that you and your family could be on a cruise next summer without putting any crimps in your current standard of living?  In facts the tips that follow could help you increase you lifestyle permanently.   Don’t believe me, read on and I will show you just how to do it.

STEP 1.  Read my post “I CAN’T SAVE ENOUGH FOR THAT DREAM TRIP”.  This will give you a lot of the basics on saving for that trip without hurting your lifestyle.  Learn how to save big on food, entertainment and even your cable bill.  Just follow these tips and be amazed on how quickly the savings will add up.  Using these ideas, I was able to put an extra $500 in the bank almost every month.  How much can you save?

STEP 2. I have a number of articles on this blog that will show you how to get the lowest prices on a cruise.  I am currently seeing 7 night Mexican Riviera cruises for four for as low as $382 per person for an inside stateroom on Carnival.  This is an advantage as Carnival inside staterooms are, on average, 40 square feet larger than on many other lines.   You can step up to a balcony stateroom for only about $50 more per person (my recommendation).  Just do a little research and be surprised at what you find.  If you send me an email, of what you are looking to do, I will even try to help you the best deal.

STEP 3. Of course there are additional expenses you will incur on the cruise.  There also many ways to reduce or get around these addition expenses.  See my articles on “cruise credit” and “What the cruise lines won’t tell you” for more information on those.

STEP 4.  Coupon your way to your next cruise.  Before you stop reading, I urge you to read on.  Most people use grocery coupons as follows: If they happen to see a coupon for something they need, they may clip it use it accordingly.  The problem is how often does that happen?  How many times do your search the coupons and find almost nothing you can use.  It sometimes seems like a futile effort.

I have found a better way.  What if I told you that you could get $1000 worth of the coupons you want for the groceries you want delivered to your home when you want them?  I could not believe it either until I tried it.  Using this program, I was able to cut my grocery bills by 40% to 50%.  Think about your monthly grocery bill and imaging what your savings could be.  What about annually?

Send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

7312 Paso Robles Ave.

Lake Balboa, CA 91406

I will send the program to you, at no charge, and you can decide for yourself.  Please believe me that this is not a scam.  The program only charges a one-time $10 postage fee (which will pay for itself many times over with your first order of coupons).  I have used these programs to great benefit and am using it now.  My only desire is to help you take your family on a trip you will never forget.  I’ll even help you find the best possible cruise deal.  I urge to order now and not let the dream slip away.

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CRUISES

WHAT THE CRUISE LINES DON’T TELL YOU

Cruise ship at the docks letting people off.

So what do I know that the cruise lines won’t tell you?  Plenty, as you will see by reading on.  There are a number of things you need to know to properly navigate your way through these mysteries.  So why wait to find out the hard way.  Here are some of the biggest tips to know.

FOOD-

On sailing day, most people dine in the buffet while waiting for their rooms to be ready.  This makes for large crowd and lines.  However, you have other options that may make your first meal less stressful.  Many cruise ships have alternative venues open — the main dining room or a mini-buffet.  Ask a crew member or check your daily newsletter to find an alternative.

When dining in the main dining room, you are not limited to one appetizer, entree or dessert.  You can have two or three if you like.  You can even order appetizer portions of entrees if you like.  What a great ways to experiment with new foods you are not sure if you will like.

Most people will not use the specialty restaurants on the first night of a cruise as they have not looked into them yet.  This would be your best opportunity to check one of these out.  You will generally find it easier to get a reservation and may even get some extras like a discount or a free bottle of wine.

Do you like ice cream (who doesn’t)?  Most cruise ship have name brand ice cream shops like Ben and Jerry’s and will charge you for that name.  However, there are ways you can get your ice cream at no cost at the buffet or at soft serve stands usually found on the Lido deck.  Do your research an ask one of the staff.

DRINKS

Cruise ships do not have an open drink policy.  You can bring drinks from a bar or buffet to your cabin or elsewhere on the ship and no one will bat an eye. (Same goes for food).

It is often cheaper to buy a bottle of wine than separate individual glasses.  They will even put you room# on the left overs for use another night or even a different venue.

Groups of beer drinkers can save by ordering buckets of beer. You get four or five beers in a souvenir bucket at a per-beer cost slightly cheaper than ordering individual bottles.

ENTERTAINMENT

Cruise ship spas often offer discounts on the first day or port days.  I made use of this and got a big discount on my massage.

If you want to see a show, but it is sold out, do not fret.  Many people book these free shows but, for some reason, do not show.  So get there a little early and get in line.  The staff will let you in if space is available.

So here are some tips that, hopefully, will help you out.  If you have any secrets I have not mentions here, please let us know and I will send you a reward for your efforts.

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CRUISES

HOW TO GET CRUISE CREDIT AND GREAT WAYS TO USE IT

man-woman-deck-cruise-ship-17515014WAYS TO SCORE ON BOARD CRUISE CREDIT (OBC)

Free Money!  While I never really understood the exact meaning of that expression, I certainly love the intention.  Would you like a free massage on your next cruise?  How about free booze or dinner at a specialty restaurant or even a free shore excursion.  All this can add up to major savings on your cruise or just really neat free perks.  If you are on a budget, as many of us are, this could make a big difference in your pocket book.  But how do you get it and what types of services can you use it for?

Ways to get Cruise Credit

One of the easiest ways to get cruise credit or on board credit (OBC) is just by booking your cruise with an agent.  Many cruise sites will give you that information straight out, but others you may need to ask to find out.  On one cruise we received $500 in cruise credit and did not even know it.  Just for booking with Vacation to Go.  Many sites will try to entice by listing it up front.  Some will even offer packages like free drinks, free gratuities, shore excursions and so on.  Checking for these can be a real money saver.

You can also earn credit in a number of other ways.  Booking a future cruise while on board can get you cruise credit.  Loyalty programs are also a big way to get credit.  Most cruise lines believe that loyalty is king.  They will reward you as much as $1,000 per room for frequent cruisers.   You could also get cruise credit for referrals, although this is generally about $25 per referral. You could wind up with cruise credit if you have already paid for the cruise and the price drops.

 What Can You Use Cruise Credit For?

As previously stated, you can use OBC for spa treatments, drink packages, specialty restaurants and shore excursions.  You can also use it for casino play, souvenirs, photo packages (trust me you want one of these), internet packages and gratuities.  You may even be able to use OBC while them while in port.  Just because you’re on land, doesn’t mean your OBT is null and void. If you’re making a port call to your cruise line’s private island, for example, then your on board account applies to any purchases made there. This includes the reservation of a private cabana.

Some people tend to not think about OBT very much.  Others use it to their full advantage.  Whether you use it to discount your expenses or to get some perks you otherwise could not afford.  It’s there for the taking, so why not make the most out of it.   What is that one thing you would love to do on your next cruise but could not afford?

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CRUISES

CRUISE DEAL OR CRUISE SCAM?

ferry-boat-123059__180Are you getting a great cruise deal or are you being scammed?  As part of my constant search for great deals, I get dozens for cruise deals every week.  What I try to determine, before passing them on is, is that really a deal or not.  Buy one get one half off, cruise discounts of 50% to 90% or free shipboard credit.  Most of these cruise deals look very good on the surface but, when you take a closer look, you may find it’s not such a good deal after all.  Here are some of the things to look for to help you make this determination.

Discounts Off the Brochure Price

Would you like 50% off the brochure fare, how about 75%.  The first thing in many peoples mind is’ (yes, yes a thousand times yes).  But wait a minute, exactly 75% off of what?  Some cruise lines use the brochure fare while others may use a mythical fare only used in the add.  Others may inflate prices so they can offer a big discount later. The bottom line is that a cruise fare could mean anything.  It could be a price no one has ever paid for that particular cruise.  The real question here is, “Is this a price I am willing to pay for this cruise?”  Percentage off fares may also not always be the rock bottom price you are looking for but they still can be a well discounted price.

BOGO (Buy one get one)

One common offer I see practically daily is, buy one get one half off.  This is essentially just another way of offering a discount.  It does not take a math expert to figure out that a second fare at half off the $1,000 fare is really just 2 fares at $750.  Once you determine the actual price per person (and remember 3rd or 4th person per room is discounted even further) you can decide if the fare is one you are willing to pay.

Free Airfare or Hotel

These are common on luxury cruises.  This deal is attractive as airfare and hotel can be a significant add on to the cruise expense.  The first thing you will learn about these deals is that they only offer fares from specific airports, usually from major cities.  Other cities will be at an additional charge.  If you need to fly out from a smaller city, you will most like have to pay.  Many experienced cruisers opt out of these airfare packages as they could get a credit for not using the air or hotel.  It is often possible and even probable that, if you are a savvy shopper, you can get better prices yourself.  When I took my family on an Alaskan cruise, I declined the airfare provided by the cruise line and found a much better deal myself.

Kids Sail Free

Kids sale free offers are very tempting as this looks to be a significant discount.  The first thing you need to know about these deals is that they refer to the 3rd and 4th passengers in a room (which is usually already severely discounted).  If wanted to put the kids in a connecting room next door, you will have to pay full fare.  Also the cheaper rooms on some ships do not offer births for a 3rd or 4th passenger requiring you to upgrade to a more expense room.  Finally, you should be aware that, even of free fares, the passenger may still need to pay for taxes and gratuities.  When this is compared to the deep discounts for already given for 3rd and 4th passengers, you may find that you are not getting much of a discount at all.

The take home from all this is whether the deal is one you are willing to pay or not.  Cruise agents are usually very good about giving you the “out the door” cost if you ask.  You should definitely ask.   Once again, do your research.  It may take a little time but could lead to big savings on your trip.

See my article about ship board credit for further details on those discounts.

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CRUISES

ADDITIONAL WAYS TO GET BETTER CRUISE DEALS

thUsing the information in this blog, you have booked a great cruise at a great price.  But is it the best price?  It is a wonderful feeling knowing you got the best deal possible.  There are a number of things you can do to make that deal better either before you book or after you book.  Here are a few ideas that could save you big.

Book Your Next Cruise While on Your Current Cruise.

Cruise lines offer significant rewards for customer loyalty.  Devoted cruisers can get special perks such as cabin upgrades and shipboard credit.  First time cruisers can get perks if you book your next cruise during your current cruise.  For example, a cruise line could offer you $500 shipboard credit while you would get only $200 if you book later.  As credit can be used for just about anything, that is an additional $300 off your bottom line.

Keep Researching the Deals.

So you have booked a great deal well in advance (as I often do).  If you want a chance to make it an even better deal, your work is not yet done.  Use you built in flexibility to search for additional discounts on your cruise.  Many cruise lines are so interested in maintaining your loyalty; they will let you combine your on board booking with another deal.  This could get you additional credit, drink packages or even free gratuities.  Also keep an eye out for flash sales that could score you additional cruise add-ons.

Use a Travel Agent to Get an Even Better Deal

If you have booked a cruise with the perks you like, you could increase the deal by transferring your booking to a travel agent. In addition to keeping the deal you already have, you could be eligible for additional perks like additional cruise credit.  That’s right, you can double dip.  Agents can also work with you to discover future price drops and cabin upgrades.

Check Your Cruise Price Regularly

Yes, cruise prices tend to change.  What I did not originally know is that, Cruise lines could give you the lower rate up to the date of your final payment (and sometimes longer).  If you find a lower rate for your cruise, contact your travel agent or the cruise line to ask for the lower rate.  You can also use Cruise Critic.com to help monitor prices.

Use these ideas both before and after you book to make that great deal even greater.  You can also get better deals or perks by booking with a group or referring another customer.

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TRAVEL

I CAN’T SAVE ENOUGH FOR THAT DREAM TRIP. DON’T BE SO SURE.

 

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Do you feel you could never save enough for that dream trip?  What if I told you that you could be wrong.  Over the past years, I have seen blog after blob with people telling about the amazing places they have been to.  Most of them seem to be, as most of us are, average people with limited means to take such adventures.  So how do they do it?  I have some answers that could make that impossible dream more possible.

“How many of us would be willing to settle when we’re young for what we eventually get? All those plans we make…what happens to them? It’s only a handful of the lucky ones that can look back and say that they even came close.”
Moss Hart, You Can’t Take it With You

  1. WORK HARD: Do I need to even include that one? I’m sure most of you are hardworking people and earn the best money your skills will allow.  There are, however, ways you might be able to give yourselves a raise.  Overtime is one way.  Many companies, due to recent labor lawsuits, pay people by the hour rather than at a salaried rate.  When they need a little more work done, some will provide overtime.  If your company provides overtime, use it.  I would do as much overtime as my company would allow.  By the end of the year, I was astonished to find that I had earned over $10,000 more.  Even after taxes, how much closer would that bring to your dream?
  2. TAXES: That’s one of the two certainties of life. But how can we use this necessary expenditure to our advantage?  There are 2 ways you can plan to pay your taxes.  Some of us overpay our taxes and give the government a free loan in order to get that big tax refund.  Or they pay the correct amount (or as close as you can get), and put the extra money aside yourself.  Either way, if you don’t plan on receiving that big tax return and put it directly in savings, you might not even miss it.  If you pay less in taxes to pay the correct amount, simply put that difference aside.  I put away a certain amount every months and it is great to see how fast it can turn into a wonderful vacation.
  3. MONTHLY EXPENSES: Of course there are certain expenses that have to, and should, come first. House payments, car loans, food, and household bills being a few of them.  There are ways to save a lot of money on monthly expenses.

Your cable bill for example.  Cable companies will give you a low introductory rate then shoot up the price later.  First thing to go is to make sure you need all of the services you added.  Cutting those premium movie channels can add up to a lot.  The monthly fees for Netflix or the annual fee for Amazon Prime could save you hundreds per year and offer you a much better selection of movies.  Another way to lower your bill is to negotiate with your provider.

Due to the above mentioned services, cable companies are losing customers who choose to cut the cable cord.  Tell your cable company that you are a faithful customer, but you can’t afford to pay these high rates when new subscribers, who often switch back and for to get the introductory rates, get a better deal.  I have gotten them to give me the introductory rate for 6-12 months every time.  If you don’t believe me, try it and let me and other readers, know how it turned out.

 

How about food, we all have to eat right?  Well there is eating in and eating out.  Most people like to eat out due to the convenience.  I have a better idea that will save you big.  Learn to love cooking.  No, I don’t think I’m out of my mind.  My wife and I rarely eat out, mostly because we love to eat at home.  I have learned, over the years, to make some very easy, very tasty meals and very cost effective meals.  I make a shrimp scampi that most of my friends and family love, at a fraction of what it would cost to eat it out.

South Beach Diet has a series of cook books that will turn you into a lightning fast world chef.  These foods are great tasting, low cost, quick and healthier for you, I call that the best of all worlds.  Michelle and I have a moto.  After a great meal I would ask her if she liked it.  If she says yes I respond, then say it with me.  We recite together, “We eat good here at the Cohen house”.  It does take some time and energy but trust me; you will love the food as much as you will love the savings.

 

What about grocery shopping, we can’t change the prices?  Oh, but you can, and there are several ways to do it.  Everyone knows about sales and coupons.  Looking for the sales is often an easy way to save money.  What if you could use a sale price with a coupon for the same item?  Check your Sunday paper carefully.  Many grocery stores have super sales for items saying, “With coupon in this paper.”  Look for it, I find it more often than you would think.  Stock up on staples while on sale.  Some stores even give you further discounts to stock up (Buy 5 and save even more).  Also look at your store brand products.  Ralph’s near me has a line of their products “Simple Truth Organic”.  These are lower cost, healthier versions of the named brand that taste great and are better for you.

 

Many people do not often use coupons as they can never find the right coupons for the items they buy.  What if you could get the coupons you want, when you want them?   Believe it or not, you can. I have been using a program called “Supermarket Magic”.  They will provide you with $1,000 worth of coupons for the products and brands of your choice.   Just write your comment on this post and click on follow for future post on how to save on vacations and other stuff. I will be happy to tell you how to get one.  I have saved as much as 50% of my grocery bill using this program.

  1. ENTERTAINMENT: There are many ways to save money on entertainment, many of which you may already know. I’m not sure why more people do not go to matinee movies.  Less trouble finding seats, as opposed to the sardine effect, and of course the lower cost.  To take a family of 4 to an evening movie could cost you up to three figures after refreshments.  A lot of movie chains, Pacific Theaters for one, sell group activity tickets for $8 that can be used for any matinee, or first run movies after 2 weeks.  That’s almost half the cost of full price evening admission.

 

For live theater, which is very expensive, I have found a way to get betters seats at half the cost and better.  You can also get great tickets at a highly reduced rate if you check last minute.  Last year Michelle and I took our grandson to “Phantom of the Opera” for $49 each in orchestra seats.

Another way to save money is to buy your tickets at the theater box office in advance.  It’s worth the trouble, if you have the time, as you can get better seats than through a ticket agency, and at a much reduced cost.  When possible, that’s always my way to go.  Also check various ticket agencies, if necessary, as prices can vary greatly.  I recently found tickets to a show Michelle really wanted to go to but was just too expensive at $200 for balcony seats.  After I did my research, I found great orchestra seats for under $70.

As you can see, there are multiple tools to help you reduce the cost of many of your needed or greatly desired expenses.  Why not put some off those savings away to take that trip you never thought you could.  Throughout this blog, you can find other ways to save money on the actual vacation.  If you give it a little time and effort you may not have to dream the impossible dream.  Maybe you can live it.

Remember, write a comment in this post or another suggestion on saving for that trip, I you will receive $1,000 in your choice of grocery coupons.

 

 

TRAVEL

15 OF HAWAII’S MOST BIZARRE LAWS AND CUSTOMS

 

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Hawaii is America’s paradise. One of the most popular vacation spots in the world.  If you are planning a trip there, however, there are some laws and customs you may want to be aware of.

  1. No Double-Fisting

When in Hawaii, it is popular to visit the local drinking establishments.  Be aware though.  State laws state that you can only have one drink in front of you at a time.  If you feel you can only be satisfied with two or more drinks at a time, just take a six pack back to your room.

2. Fish, Again?

This one is more of a rule (or warning) than a law.  When traveling to some countries, you are warned “Don’t drink the water”.  In Hawaii the warning is “Beware of the SPAM”. Most of you already avoid the canned meats at the market (because, YUK).   Hawaiian’s loves their  spam and are the country’s largest consumers of this……stuff.

3. No Bathing Suits Allowed

If you are walking the street of Waikiki you’d better cover up or you could find yourself in legal trouble.  It figures that this law either came out of a sense of public propriety or jealous husbands.

4. Don’t Eat Your Second Wife…Wait, WHAT?!

One of the state’s indigenous Polynesian people, the Orakama, is very careful to insure the safety of the women who get married. They have declared it illegal to eat your second wife. Whether or not that same rule works for the first, third, or any subsequent wives isn’t for sure.

5. No Cat Ladies in Hawaii

This one is just cruel.  It is illegal in Hawaii for a private residence to have more than 15 dogs or cats.  Apparently, Hawaiian Legislatures have see one too many horror movies.

6. People of the Sea

There is an active state law that states that you can be fined for not having a boat. Of course, this one might actually take care of itself considering the state is actually split into a bunch of little parts scattered around the ocean.

7. No Wandering

At one point in the state’s history, they must have really discouraged aimlessness because it was illegal to actually leave your house without knowing where you were going. This kind of seems unfair, to be honest. After all, when the beach is never far away no matter where you are, wandering sounds like an incredible past time.

8. Don’t Bother the Pigeons

According to public custom, it’s inappropriate to annoy any bird who’s lounging within the limits of a public park. That’s ridiculous, of course, because if you’ve ever seen a pigeon, you know they’re just asking for it. I guess if you have some pigeon angst to work out outside the parks, they’re fair game, though.

9. Behind the Ear Tattoos Are Forbidden!

Unless an actively working doctor is in attendance, Hawaii has outlawed its residents getting a tattoo behind their ear or on their eyelid (why would anyone want to get a tattoo on their eyelid?!).  Now if they can outlaw tongue piercings, they will have something

10. Don’t Feed the Sharks

Do we even need that rule?  That’s like saying, “Don’t swallow a hand grenade”.  Anyone who thinks it would be cool to provide that kind of enticement to one of the world’s most efficient killing machines kind of deserves wat’s coming to them.

11. The Double Standard

In Hawaii, it is apparently illegal to ride in the back seat of a car without wearing a seat belt (common safety).  However, it is perfectly fine to ride in the back of a pickup truck with no safety equipment at all.  Hawaii apparently has a very strong pickup truck lobby.

12. Twins Are Never Allowed to Work Together

According to state law, it’s illegal for twins to work for the same company. I have no response to that!

13. The No Coins in the Ear Rule

Do you remember that old trick that your grandpa or uncle did where they pull a penny out of your ear?  It would make you long to see more magic tricks (done to someone else).  Well there is an official law against coins in ears in Hawaii.  I guess you will have to stick to the ever classy sneezing a coin out of your nose trick.

14. Pidgin – “Language of Emotions”

English and Hawaiian are the official languages of the state, but there’s also a mash-up of these two tongues that’s been evolving ever since the 1800s as a result of the influx of new people to the state. This hybrid pidgin/creole is considered the “language of emotions” and it’s spoken by a large portion of the state’s population (though they’re also English speakers).

15. Billboards Are 100% Illegal

We could learn a thing or two from Hawaii.  It is illegal to post any billboard sign in this tropical paradise.  Great idea, unless you one of those that thinks that a good anti constipation add beautifies the lush scenery.

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CRUISES

BOOZE FOR YOUR CRUISE

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Whether you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, indulge in the occasional all-night bender or never touch the stuff, cruise line alcohol has been the subject of controversy for as long as we can remember. Here are most answers surrounding onboard alcohol. Bottoms up!

What Are Some Interesting Cocktails Served Onboard?

Every imbiber has a go-to drink. In tropical locations, we prefer pina coladas, while a simple rum with Coke will do when we’re in less temperate climes. Whatever your preference, there are still a few signature tipples that resonate with cruisers. Some of your favorites include:

  • Carnival’s Cucumber Sunrise
  • Royal Caribbean’s Mango Tango
  • Princess’ The Isaac
  • Celebrity’s Caribbean Sunset Martini
  • Norwegian Cruise Line’s Mr. Worldwide
  • Holland America’s signature “muddled” drinks
  • Disney’s Icy Pop
  • MSC’s Tiramisu Martini
  • Crystal Cruises’ cosmos

Are Cruise Line Alcohol Policies Fair?

Most cruise lines enforce the U.S.’s drinking age law, which means passengers younger than 21 are forced to stay away from the hard stuff. Many Cruise Critic members say the drinking age is fair, while others believe 18 is acceptable. Still others argue it should be left up to parental discretion on a case-by-case basis.

Another controversial policy-related topic is whether cruise lines should allow passengers to bring their own alcohol onboard. Most mainstream lines prohibit liquor but allow a certain amount of wine to be carried on, often accompanied by a corkage fee for cruisers wishing to consume said wine in onboard restaurants. While some Cruise Critic members have no problem with these regulations, a large number resent the limitations, arguing that it’s the cruise lines’ way of forcing passengers to pay exorbitant prices for drinks. One way to avoid this is to sail with a luxury line that includes alcohol in its fares. Many luxury lines also have more lenient rules about the types and amounts of alcohol that can be brought onto the ship for passenger consumption.

Is Alcohol Smuggling a Good Idea, and What’s the Best Way to Do It?

More than half (66 percent, to be exact) of the 8,000 Cruise Critic members who responded to an alcohol-related poll said they’ve either smuggled or attempted to smuggle adult beverages onto a ship. We’re certainly not condoning the practice, but apparently many of our members are. Here are a few of the creative and hilarious methods they’ve recommended:

  • “Bought seven bottles on St. Thomas … had six packed in a box and one ina regular bag. When reboarding, ‘gladly’ handed over the box (for safekeeping!) and just walked by carrying the bag … smooth!”
  • “I have been told that some people have visited wineries on their trip and the wineries have special labels (like ‘Apple Juice’) for their cruising visitors — innovative.”
  • “Look mature, responsible and old (easy for some of us).”
  • “Fake colostomy bag?”
  • “My wife hides a one-liter bottle in her pants — wears an outside shirt to cover it up. She has even smuggled in a 750-ml bottle between her breasts.”
  • “Bring it in a flask (plastic is the key though, to avoid the metal detectors).”
  • “Send bon voyage gifts to yourself.”

Are All-You-Can-Drink Packages Worth It?

Several lines have begun offering all-you-can-drink packages, which are great for those who want to enjoy themselves without worrying about the shock of a tremendous onboard bill at the end of their sailings. However, with most packages running about $50 per passenger, per day, for the duration of the cruise, many feel they wouldn’t drink enough each day to warrant the cost. There are often restrictions, too. For example, such packages generally impose a limit to the number of drinks the package-holder can consume in a day, and the plans often don’t include more expensive top-shelf liquors. Another catch — at least on most lines — is that if one person purchases a package, all other adults of drinking age who share a cabin with that person must also buy one — even if they don’t drink.

What’s the Best Way to Get a Deal on Drinks?

There are several ways to get deals on drinks. Spend lots of money at the casino. Take enough cruises to earn free drinks as a perk of your loyalty club status. Many cruises will offer a free drinks package as a perk.  Attend an art auction. However, our members’ most tried and true suggestion is to make friends with your favorite bartender early in the cruise, and tip him or her well. It doesn’t always work, but generally your generosity won’t go unnoticed.