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Tips

Inspiration

What Irks Me About Traveling

May 2, 2012 • By

travelingToday, I realized that I am somewhat of a strange bird. I love to travel, but there are limits to that infatuation that I’d not considered. I love all the things that make traveling special. I love knowing that when I finally reach my destination, there will be merriment and joviality not far behind. However, I detest the act of traveling….not necessarily, the packing, research or any of the precursors of getting to your destination. It is the act of fighting through local traffic in a desperate attempt to put as many miles between you and your home base as possible. Or standing in long lines during check in as punishment for being unable to have reached some fancy tier on an airline’s FF program.

I hate going through TSA checkpoints and dealing with the various attitudes and platitudes being served up at nearly every airport that you must pass through. I hate having to answer questions that will put the questioner’s mind to rest that I don’t plan to commandeer the airplane as soon as it takes off. I hate having to deal with rude passengers and increasingly ruder airline personnel before, during and sometimes after the flight. It’s all a hassle…..but as soon as I have made my way to ground transportation after waiting what seems like an eternity for my battle-scarred luggage to make its way to me on the carousel, I feel renewed.READ MORE


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Safeguarding Your Home While You’re On Vacation

March 7, 2011 • By

safeguarding

Congrats!  After making the decision to take your dream vacation, you’ve scrimped and saved and put off short term gratification in order to make that dream come true.  But before you step outside that door, have you thought about safe proofing your home while you’re gone?

There are certain steps you should take to make sure that your home is safe and sound when you return home.  In no particular order:

  • Be sure that you lock all doors and windows.  Yes, it seems obvious, but many people fail to do just that.  Before you leave, go around the house and make sure that all doors are locked; that means any entry way that can give someone a way to enter your home.  You should actually turn the knob to confirm that it’s locked.  Lock all of the windows too, including the ones on upper floors.  You will be surprised at how thieves have been able to enter homes through windows on the upper level.  How?  Oftentimes, people leave their ladders outside their home and the criminals will use it while thanking you for making their job easier.  So, be sure to take your ladders or anything else the crook can get his/her hands on to gain entry to your home.
  • Do make sure that someone retrieves your mail while you are gone.  If you recruit a trusted neighbor or trusted family member to gather your parcels and mail while you’re on vacation, ask them to do it under cover of night.  While they are at it, have them remove anything that may have been delivered to your front porch as well as newspapers.  If possible have the newspaper service interrupted until you get back.   If someone is watching your home, it won’t be difficult to surmise that you’re not there when someone walks up to your mailbox, removes the mail and drives off.  Personally, I go online and arrange for my local post office to stop delivery the day that I leave and to restart delivery the day I return: https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/landingView.do
safeguarding

Photo Credit: news.cnet.com

  • Buy a programmable light timer which will switch your overhead lights and lamps off and on periodically throughout the day.  They are pretty easy to use and can be timed to correspond with your usual schedule.  There is a version that you can use with appliances like televisions that will fool the budding criminal into thinking you are sitting right in front of your set.
  • If you are pretty diligent about lawncare, be sure to hire someone to cut your grass, etc.  Neglect screams that no one is home, so be sure to keep everything maintained as if you were at home.  I like to garden, so I make sure that I water all of my plants (indoor ones too) before I leave.  There’s nothing sadder than coming home to a yard full of dead flowers.

Photo Credit: alohapropertyservices.com

  • One thing that baffles me is when people announce on their answering machine that they are on vacation or their email response announces that they are away on vacation.  You may as well wear a sign that says ROB ME!  There is no good reason to inform anyone regarding your plans unless it’s your security company (assuming that you have a monitoring service).   With few exceptions, keep that information under wraps and give only to those on a need to know basis.
  • As a precaution, pull out that video camera that you have packed in your luggage and walk through every room indicating any valuable items and be sure to get a great close up of said items.  Take your SD card or tape and store it in a safe place like a metal fireproof box where you keep your important papers.

Photo Credit: geoffreylsmith.com

  • Reduce your electric bill by unplugging items that will not be in use while you are gone.  Of course, keep those lamps/lights and your tv and radio on standby for the timer, but unplug that computer or anything else that’s unnecessary.  For anything that does make the cut, be sure to protect them by plugging them into surge protectors in the event a nasty thunderstorm tries to claim them.
  • This has less to do with security than just peace of mind.  I try to clean the house thoroughly before I leave.  Why?  Because after a long trip away, I hate coming back to a filthy house.  It’s a psychological thing.

Photo Credit: cleaningservicesorlando.biz

  • Be sure to make sure that your pets are taken care of.  Arrange for boarding or you can kill two birds with one stone (in a manner of speaking) by having someone to housesit and take care of your pets.  This addresses the security issue and pet care.  A definite win-win providing that you really trust this person.  Otherwise, it could be your worse nightmare if you come home to a wrecked semblance of your former home and all of your neighbors now hate you.
  • Stop buying groceries up to a week before you leave, especially perishables.  It would be a shame to come back to a fridge full of spoiled food.  Remember to take any leftover trash outside at the very least so that your nose won’t be greeted by decayed food remnants when you get home.

Photo Credit: savingcheap.com

  • Reduce your heating bill by adjusting your thermostat to lower temps or conversely, your cooling bill by raising the thermostat depending on what time of the year it is when you take your trip.
  • I like to pack the car with our luggage the night before when it’s nice and dark.  When we get in the car to leave the next day, no one is the wiser about what our plans are.

Photo Credit: vidhinidhi.wordpress.com

  • Invest in motion controlled outdoor lighting.  It’s been my experience that thieves scatter like roaches when the spotlight is on them.  Make it difficult for them to violate your property by installing motion detectors.  It will be a sure tip-off for any trusted neighbor who is aware of your absence.
  • If you are inclined to keep a spare set of keys hidden on your property, try to find the most inconspicuous place to do so.  It’s surprising how many people still put them underneath a welcome mat or some out of place rock close by the steps.  At least make the thief break a sweat before the cops come to take them away.

What things do you typically do before setting sail on your vacation?

Renee King is an Atlanta, GA based administrative assistant by day who spends most of her waking hours plotting the next excursion to anyplace outside of her zip code.  She wants to teach those who think that traveling is some unobtainable dalliance for the rich and famous or the well connected, that it is not true.

If you have never traveled before or want to learn tips on how to see the world for as little as possible, subscribe to her RSS Feed for inspiration, reviews and trip reports that will help you to sample the world by traveling at a fraction of the price!

 

 


Inspiration

Never Put Off Tomorrow What You Can Do Today – Traveling On Your Own Terms

February 20, 2011 • By

Recently, I was asked to write a guest post at Baby Boomers Traveling by another travel friend, Doris Gallan.   I soon realized that it was actually a continuation of a post that I wrote last month, “How to get out of your own way and live the life you want“.  With Doris’ permission, I am posting it here.  I hope that it inspires someone to reach out and grab life with gusto:

I was raised in a household of ten kids with two parents and as you can imagine, freedom of movement was a scarce commodity. I think that is where my first yearning for wide open spaces came from. It’s difficult to live life feeling confined, so I suppose that gave rise to my desire to be unencumbered; unrestricted. I had always been interested in geography because I learned so much about places so far removed from the reality of my life. It was like a pleasant dream to politely acknowledge, but I never believed that it would or could possibly come true.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to visit Paris – the venerable city of lights. Like so many would-be nomads, I allowed the dream to sit unfettered in the deep recesses of my mind. I never allowed myself to believe that it could become a reality for me. It was safer to let the years drift by; to craft excuse after excuse as to why it was OK to not do a single thing that would get me closer to that elusive goal. Until one day, I had a ridiculously simple epiphany: “Just Do It”. Nothing was going to happen until I made it so. No travel agent was going to come knocking to see what my plans were. I believe so many of us are sitting, waiting for supernatural signs to tap us on our collective shoulders. It will not happen that way. As with anything worth having, you have to work for it, to plan for it….that is truly the only way it will come to pass. It’s about taking a leap of faith, of believing that you have as much right as anyone else to live dreams previously unfulfilled.

Traveling

That is my main purpose in starting my travel blog, A View To A Thrill. It is a call to action to anyone who has the desire, but perhaps, not the knowledge to explore this vast world that we live in. It is an appeal to believe in the possibilities; to believe in your own ability to navigate through this life on your own terms. Rest assured, there will always be naysayers; those that can think of every reason on earth as to why you’ve left your senses. You will be surprised to see that their protests are usually deeply rooted in their own self-doubts. And yes, there are those who will think that you see yourself as high and mighty simply because you want to expose yourself to different cultures, different experiences, different….anything. It goes against their predictable and limited expectations and some would even ask what are you running from?

When I travel, I never put restrictions on myself. If there is something that I want to do, I do it anyway…even if some folks thinks it’s for other people. If I want to go to a country music concert, I’ll go. You’d be surprised how many people (black and white) would find it odd that I enjoy country music. Never let others define you and tell you what you should be doing, do what pleases you. I think older people are probably most guilty about towing the party-line. Sometimes, you have to risk being judged or even mocked. If you have unconventional tastes, own it! You only go around once, live it to the fullest! I’ve always said, unless you pay my mortgage, utilities and buy my groceries, you don’t get a say in how I live my life. Conformity takes the color out of rainbows, harmony out of a song and the joy out of living.

Traveling

My goal is to reach out to those who want to travel on a budget without sacrificing comfort and also to provide guidance to those who want to travel, but never have. To that end, my blog focuses on the reality that most people are living paycheck to paycheck. In these economic times, it is even more important to share ways of traveling on a budget. It’s about making adjustments, even sacrifices to your current lifestyle. There are lots of tricks to save money without even trying to or learning how to deny yourself when you see that pair of jeans that cost more than a fancy winter coat. It’s not going to be a piece of cake, but the reward will be worth it. Just as important, is the person who wants to travel, but has no idea of how to get started. My desire is to share some of the things that I wish others had told me about when I was just starting out.


Reviews, Travel Advice

In Search Of The Perfect Massage

January 1, 2011 • By

This is the third in a series of infrequent articles that feature spa deals for the budget traveler.

I consider myself to be a fairly practical person.  I’m not (usually) wasteful and I pride myself on making cogent financial decisions.  So, I was a little bit surprised when I found myself clicking the buy button on one of my favorite discount sites, Living Social.  There was a great deal for a ninety minute massage at a local spa with three additional services to choose from for a grand total of $49.00!  In my neck of the woods, this price was crazy since one hour massages usually are priced in the $100.00+ range and the three add-on services could easily quadruple that price.  Obviously, offering such a fantastic discount was their way of introducing people to the spa.  I wasn’t familiar with them, but I figured with such a small investment , it would be worth investigating.

wellspa

WellSpa Suites (Office: (770) 948-8000 351 Thornton Road, Suite 106 Lithia Springs, GA 30122) is located in a quiet, unassuming office park adjacent to I-20 and located west of Atlanta.  I will admit to some reticence as I drove up.  Luckily those feelings begin to wane as soon as I stepped inside.  I was warmly greeted and was escorted into ‘the quiet room’ since I was a little early for my appointment.  Along the way, there were individual suites on either side that were workstations where one could get a massage, mani-pedi, colonic and reflexology sessions.

Massage

The quiet room was serene with very soft sepia colored lighting. You could hear the gentle flow of the water fountain in the corner of the room. A small self-service bar with hot tea and condiments was in the adjoining room.

READ MORE


Budget Tips, Reviews, Travel Advice

The Best Search Engine For Finding Lower Fares, Hotel and Car Rentals?

November 24, 2010 • By

Search Engine

While attending the Travel Bloggers’ Exchange convention in New York this past June, I was invited to a presentation for a revolutionary, but relatively new flight search aggregator called Momondo.  I was vaguely familiar with the company because innovations in the travel world are usually spread like wildfire through the social media realm.  We (my daughter and I) were running a little late because we were caught in the moment while viewing the phenomenal skyline from the top of 30 Rockefeller Center.

Luckily, we weren’t very far from our destination at 1290 Avenue of the Americas.  The company hosting the event, Kintetsu International (the Japan specialist travel agency), was kind enough to provide saki libations and crudites, fresh fruit slices, sushi and sushimi for all of the invited travel industry professionals to snack on.  It was interesting to find out that the particular brand of saki that we were served was available in 50%, 60% and 70% proof.  Knowing my low tolerance for alcohol, I decided to sample the 50%, god help me if I had tried the 70.READ MORE


Budget Tips, Travel Advice

When Your Luggage Looks As Tired As You, It’s Time For A Change!

October 26, 2010 • By

This is the first in a series of infrequent articles about Travel Gear for budget travelers

Quick….name the one thing that every serious traveler must own? If you said some form of luggage, backpack, duffel bag…you win! Unless you plan to buy everything you need at your destination, you will need some way to carry your possessions in an orderly fashion. While I am usually the first to extol the virtues of spending as little as possible when it comes to travel, I have to make an exception for luggage.

I’ve gone the discount route when it comes to luggage. There’s always some deal for a 4-5 piece set for 80 bucks or less at the local department store. If you happen to come across such a deal, walk away. OK, let me rephrase that. If you are simply taking a road trip and there will be very few people handling your bags, get the cheaper ones. But if you will need to check your luggage or if anyone will be responsible for hauling your luggage from the plane to the baggage return, invest in the sturdier pieces. I learned the hard way during my trip to Myrtle Beach. I had forgotten to prepay for my carry-on bag on Spirit airlines. As it turned out, it was actually cheaper to check my bag (25.00 vs. 30.00) so I did. Little did I know that my poor bag would be spat out of the baggage return like a kid hacking up ipecac syrup!

My formerly pristine, but cheap, Pierre Cardin carry-on looked like it had been run through a paper shredder! I was so ticked off, but what can you do? It would be my word against theirs….I just thanked my lucky stars that everything was still intact and none of our souvenirs were broken. This was my wake up call. I asked myself why I didn’t think it was important enough to invest in something that (if I took my traveling seriously) I would need to see me through seven continents? I had to make a resolution that I needed to reserve the Pierre Cardin for road-trips and INVEST in a decent set of luggage.READ MORE


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide To Applying For A U.S. Passport

August 27, 2010 • By
U.S. Passport

Photo credit: jamesheywood.com

Now that you’ve decided to take the plunge to do a little traveling across the border, you should know that there have been several changes regarding the issuance of U.S. Passports in recent months which will affect your travel plans.

All U.S. citizens are now required to have a Passport card in order to cross the borders to Canada or Mexico. To travel anywhere else outside the U.S., you will need a standard Passport.

When should I apply for a Passport?

My advice is to go ahead and apply for your passport if you have a reasonably good idea that you will be traveling internationally in the coming months.  You can never predict a delay of some sort happening, so don’t chance missing your flight by putting this off.

How long will it take to receive my Passport? READ MORE


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s No-Fuss Guide to Maneuvering Your Way Through The Airport

July 4, 2010 • By
Airport

Photo credit: www.visitingdc.com

Since the tragedy of 9/11, there have been numerous safeguards put into place by the US government.  Some would argue, many of them are unnecessary and only serve to create longer lines than greater security.  Whatever your position on the matter, suffice it to say that these rules are here to stay and will only become more intrusive as time goes on.  So, how do you as a new traveler deal with so many unknown variables?  First, I would recommend that you do not panic.  My advice would be to travel smart.  If you plan to do any consistent traveling, you should get into the habit of packing light.  Only bring what you know you are going to absolutely need which will bring you untold freedom as you begin to understand how heavy luggage becomes an albatross all too quickly.

Once you arrive at the terminal (You will see the signs as you are transported there) where your airline is located, you may see a counter outside of the airport terminal.  This is where you can check in your bags (if you have any) and where they will weigh them to make sure that you are not over the standard 50 pound limit.  Any overages will result in additional fees beyond their standard checked bag charges.  Be sure to use TSA approved locks on checked bags, if you use the lock and key or combination locks, be aware that they will saw them off in order to inspect them.  All inspected bags will have a TSA sticker on it indicating that they were randomly chosen for that honor.  One caveat about checked luggage.  Do not put anything that is of particular value to you in a checked bag! I can’t stress that enough.  Do not check your ipod, camera, laptop, expensive jewelry (which should be left at home anyway) or the like.  There is a very good chance that you will never see them again.

If you do not see an outside counter, you will need to go inside the terminal to check in (if you have not already done so on the airline’s website).  Most airlines make it easier to check in and print out your boarding passes if you do not have checked luggage.  Just walk over to your airline’s nearest free standing kiosk and input your info.  Your boarding passes will print out on the spot.  If you do have checked bags, you will need to stand in line and the counter agent will take your checked bags and print out a boarding pass for you.  Remember from that point on to have a piece of ID and your boarding pass in hand until you reach the gate where your flight leaves from.   The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents will need to review, scan and/or mark it as you go through the next step for you which is security.

Airport

Photo credit: www.silentgardens.com

Make sure that everything that you are carrying through the security checkpoint that is run by TSA is legal.  At this point, you should be prepared to remove your shoes as soon as you get to the point where you can get one of the bins that you place on the conveyor belt that leads to the x-ray machine.  Place your shoes, jewelry, gloves, handbags, coats, belts, coins, hats, sunglasses and backpack in the gray bins.  Do not overcrowd the bins; use as many as you need.  If you are carrying a laptop, place that in a separate bin.  Ditto for any medical aids like a C-pap machine, which you should take all of its components apart and place in a single bin.  Once you have placed your items on the belt and they are going through x-ray, you will have to walk through their metal detector when prompted.  Be sure to keep that boarding pass and ID in hand!

Photo credit: www.practicalhacks.com

Once you are cleared, proceed to the area where your bins have now exited.   Do not be alarmed if security pulls you or your bin(s) aside and do another thorough check.  If a beep goes off as you walk through the x-ray, you may have forgotten a coin or something else in your pocket.  The agent will use a wand detector to figure out where the beep emanated from and once it is found you simply walk though again.   It is standard procedure and happens to almost everyone at some point, so don’t get flustered and always be polite.

Photo courtesy: www. slipperybrick.com

Do not bring any weapons (sounds obvious, huh?) because you will be surprised at how many people have done just that.  Do not bring any liquids (here are exceptions) that are over 3.4 ounces in volume which must be placed in a zip lock bag and placed in a separate bin from your carry-on.   This includes your faithful water bottle.  This will be confiscated.

Photo credit: www.sciencedaily.com

Once you have made it past security, you will need to locate your gate area.  This info should be located on your boarding pass right next to your seat number.  The airport signage will guide you were to go to get to your gate.  Sometimes, the terminal that you need is in an entirely different building (concourse) so an airport will provide several means of getting there.  They may have people movers that resemble escalators that move forward, not up or down.  They may have air-trains to get you from point a to b.  They may have subway type trains (or automated people movers) to get you from one concourse to the next.  The one at Hartsfield Jackson is one of the best, in my opinion.

Photo credit: www.bombadier.com

Once you have reached your designated concourse, you will need to review the overhead signs to locate which direction your gate will be.  Be sure to allow yourself some time to get there and get settled because the seats fill quickly especially if the flight is full.  If you are there early enough, look around, there are plenty of places to eat, get a beverage or take a bathroom break.  Remember to always keep your eyes on your carry-on.  You will hear plenty of warnings about keeping your luggage with you at all times over the intercom system. You will find the boarding times on your boarding pass.  Unless the plane is late showing up at the gate, the airlines attempt to hold to that schedule.  Take note of which zone you have been assigned.  Typically, the airlines will allow passengers with children under the age of two, infirmed passengers or first class passengers to board first.  Next, the people in zone 1, etc. will be called to board.

Photo credit: www.nikibrown.com

As you go through the gate to board, have your boarding pass (not ID) ready to hand to the attendant.  Once you have given them the pass and they give you your receipt proceed to the airplane.  If your luggage is deemed to be too large to fit in the overhead bins, they may ask you to leave it at the doorway and an attendant will make sure that it is placed with the rest of the checked luggage.  Usually, they will not charge you for this service.  However, given their propensity to charge for fees at will (See Spirit Airlines new fee for CARRY-ON luggage) don’t be surprised if that changes.

Once you have located your assigned seat, place your carry-on in the bin overhead or wherever there is a space for it.  Just remember where you put it.  If you have a handbag, you may place that under the seat ahead of you.  Please be aware that if you order refreshments after the plane takes off, you will have to pay for it.  Free food is practically non-existent these days unless you count pretzels as food.  Be sure to visit one of the airport restaurants before hand  or eat before you leave home.  Now that you have taken your seat and listened to the flight attendants’ emergency instructions, sit back and enjoy the ride to your destination.  Your flight attendant will instruct you where to pick up any checked luggage once you arrive there.  Happy Travels!

Photo credit: www.kayak.com


Budget Tips, Travel Advice

The Spendthrifts Guide to Traveling on the Cheap – Tip # 2

November 12, 2009 • By

The Spendthrifts Guide Tip Two |

The Spendthrifts Guide to Traveling on the Cheap

Start Saving Money Whenever and However You Can!

It is never too early to start saving for your trip. As soon as you think that there may be a possibility of your leaving town, you need to set the wheels into motion that will assure that you will have enough discretionary income squirreled away to ensure that you will have a fabulous time.

Re-evaluate How You View Money in General.

Are you fast and loose with a dollar or are you in the habit of questioning the necessity of a purchase BEFORE you buy it?  I think developing a frugal nature in your everyday life helps to pave the way for more traveling in general.   That is where it all begins, if you learn how to value every dollar that you’ve earned, you will see your savings account grow exponentially.  Give up that daily visit to Starbucks, start making your lunch and take it to work or learn to start shopping in discount stores instead of the high priced ones.   These are good habits to develop in general, not just if you are trying to learn how to save for a vacation.READ MORE


Budget Tips, Travel Advice

The Spendthrift’s Guide to Traveling on the Cheap – Tip #1

November 1, 2009 • By

The Spendthrifts Guide Tip One

This economy has forced most of us to step back and re-evaluate our finances, particularly when it comes to discretionary spending. Most of us have been forced to tighten our belts and carefully consider every dollar that leaves our bank accounts.   However, there is still a way to be fiscally responsible and satisfy your wanderlust.

In the coming weeks, I will be sharing tried and true tips that will help you to get the biggest bang for your traveling buck. Feel free to add your own suggestions as well.

Plan ahead!

The sooner that you decide where you want to go, the more likely you are to realize your best deals. Visit travel oriented websites like Frommers, Fodors, Priceline, Virtual Tourist, Igougo and Rick Steves among others to get solid ideas of where you want to travel. Once that has been established, start looking for airfare and hotel deals to the destination.

The further out you plan your itinerary, the more lead-time you will have to locate deals, especially during that destination’s off-season. While there are last minute deals to be had via sites like Last Minute or Last Minute Travel, it’s prudent to take a proactive approach and plan early.

Once, I missed out on a great deal to Paris because I hadn’t decided if I really wanted to go there until much later, which meant that I had missed an opportunity to save a lot of money because I was not decisive. If you take nothing else from this tip, just remember that you must be ready to pull the trigger once a cheap fare or cheap hotel rates comes along, because you will never know when a great deal will come your way.

Stay tuned for more Spendthrifts Guide Tips that can help you travel without having to drain you bank account!