Category Archives: Savings

How You Can Spot a Travel Scam

Unlike most products, travel services usually have to be paid for before they are delivered. This creates opportunities for disreputable individuals and companies. Some travel packages turn out to be very different from what was presented or what the consumer expected. Some don’t materialize at all!

How You Can Spot a Travel ScamWonder how you can spot a travel scam?

If you receive an offer by phone or mail for a free or extremely low-priced vacation trip to a popular destination (often Hawaii or Florida), there are a few things you should look for:

* Does the price seem too good to be true? If so, it probably is.

* Are you asked to give your credit card number over the phone?

* Are you pressured to make an immediate decision?

* Is the carrier simply identified as “a major airline,” or does the representative offer a collection of airlines without being able to say which one you will be on?

* Is the representative unable or unwilling to give you a street address for the company?

* Are you told you can’t leave for at least two months? (The deadline for disputing a credit card charge is 60 days, and most scam artists know this.)

If you encounter any of these symptoms, proceed cautiously. Ask for written information to be sent to you; any legitimate travel company will be happy to oblige. If they don’t have a brochure, ask for a day or two to think it over; most bona fide deals that are good today will still be good two days from now. If they say no to both requests, this probably isn’t the trip for you.

Some other advice on how you can spot a travel scam:

* If you are told that you’ve won a free vacation, ask if you have to buy something else in order to get it. Some packages have promoted free air fare, as long as you buy expensive hotel arrangements. Others include a free hotel stay, but no air fare.

* If you are seriously considering the vacation offer and are confident you have established the full price you will pay, compare the offer to what you might obtain elsewhere. Frequently, the appeal of free air fare or free accommodations disguises the fact that the total price is still higher than that of a regular package tour.

* Get a confirmed departure date, in writing, before you pay anything. Eye skeptically any promises that an acceptable date will be arranged later. If the package involves standby or waitlist travel, or a reservation that can only be provided much later, ask if your payment is refundable if you want to cancel, and don’t pay any money you can’t afford to lose.

17 Ways to Save on Your Winter Vacation

ways to save on your winter vacationAs cool fall weather sets in, our thoughts turn to winter vacation. Or at least, it should, if you want to find ways to save on your winter vacation and get great deals over the winter holidays.

(Side Note: Here’s a free report with even more cheap travel tips:

Globe Cheap’s free report

Grab it and see how much you can save from your next winter getaway.)

Whether you’re dreaming of a winter skiing destination, or would rather escape to a warm paradise, these tips will help you save big on your next winter vacation.

17 Ways to Save on Your Winter Vacation

1. Make a vacation budget and stick to it

How much can you afford, exactly? Find out now, or else have a plan to have a specific amount saved up by the time winter rolls in.

2. Plan well in advance

When it comes to budget travel, time is one of your most important tools. You need time to make advance reservations and to research the best deals.

3. Shop around

Now is the time to go comparison shopping for travel options, accommodations, and major attractions.

4. Compare different modes of travel

Depending on where you’d like to go, various means of traveling will have different costs. Also consider how many people are traveling. If you’re a family, it’s usually cheaper to drive than to fly. If you’re traveling solo, you may have more options – including carpooling with friends or family.

5. Ask for discounts

Sometimes you just have to ask, to receive discounts. At the hotel or airline, for example, ask for free upgrades on your room or flight. Ask your credit card provider about travel options they offer to clients at reduced rates, such as travel insurance coverage, etc. Don’t forget to ask hotel/hostel owners and tour operators for discount coupons, such as to the nearest attractions.

6. Share a vacation rental

If you’re traveling in a group, or can find family and friends to vacation with, sharing a rental house for a flat fee can be very economical.

7. Try a hostel

Hostels go for as as low as $20/night, so they’re a budget option you should consider.

8. Cook your own meals

Eating out can be very expensive. Stay in hotels or rentals where you can cook your own meals. Or pack your meals in a cooler, if you’re traveling by car.

9. Get as many discounts as you can

If you’re a student or traveling with a student, make sure to bring student ID cards or International Student Cards. This free report from Globe Cheap lists other discounts you or a family member may be eligible for. Also explore discount passes when buying online or by certain dates.

Presidents Day Savings!

10. Borrow equipment

If you’re going skiing, bring your own or borrowed equipment rather than renting them at the resort. If you plan to go skiing often, it’s probably cheaper to buy our own equipment in the long run, instead of renting every time.

11. Explore discount packages

Hotels and travel agencies usually offer packages that include travel, accommodation, meals and entrance to various attractions. These usually cost less than if you paid for each one individually. They usually also offer discounts for early booking.

12. Travel off-season

The peak season for traveling in winter is around Christmas and New Year. If you don’t mind traveling around those dates, you’ll find everything cheaper. It’s also usually cheaper to travel on weekdays or midweek rather than on weekends.

13. Consider warm-weather destinations

Looking to escape from the cold? Consider places where the US dollar goes farther, such as small Caribbean islands, Mexico, and parts of Central America and Asia. Some destinations within the United States are also cheaper in the cold season.

14. Don’t touch the minibar

Bring everything you need so you won’t have to open the water bottle in the hotel, or get snacks from the minibar. You’ll pay ridiculous prices for these! Some hotels also charge extra if you request additional towels and toothbrushes. If you must, buy extra supplies at the nearest grocery store, not from the hotel. And don’t forget to pack those over-the-counter medications you usually use!

15. Stay out of the way

Consider staying a little farther from major attractions. You’ll save tons on accommodation – as long as you won’t pay through the nose for public transportation or parking.

16. Camp out

If you’re going to a warm destination, plan to go camping. It’s a very cheap traveling alternative. If you’re driving, find the cheapest places to get gas.

17. Look for free attractions

Entrance fees to tourist attractions can also add up very quickly. Do some research to find free attractions at your destination. These could include malls, national parks and historic streets or towns. Find out when museums are open to the public for free.

More Ways to Save on Your Winter Vacation

You can get even more FREE tips for budget traveling from  Globe Cheap’s free report.  Grab it and find more ways to save on your winter vacation.

 

How To Plan A Weekend Getaway

820x480xhorseback-riding-beach-820x480.jpg.pagespeed.ic_.8hPeS_cLiT8lChRKCgv6If you are seeking to get away and want to know how to plan a weekend getaway, you need to hone in on your destination and your desires. Do you want to be full of activity and run every minute that you are away? Or, do you want to rest and relax the entire time? Maybe you wish to do a little bit of both – rest and relax with a little excitement in between.

Once you know what you want to do, then it is time to get busy and seek out the best weekend getaway package that you can find. There are certain things you need to look for in your weekend getaway package in order to get the most out of your weekend experience.


Last-Minute Weekend Getaway Sale!

Price Point

When you are booking a weekend package, it is essential that you shop around. Do an extensive compare and contrast way before the scheduled weekend is to happen. In this way, you ensure that you have done enough research to get the most bang for your buck.

Look for packages that include many benefits such as:

  • Half price tickets to shows
  • Free bottle of wine
  • Discount coupon to local eateries
  • Group rates on sights such as museums and tourist spots
  • Something for free – whether it be free continental breakfast or a free haircut at the hotel salon

Don’t be afraid to point out to competitors what other packages are offering to see if they are willing to up the ante. Also, let travel agents know that this is your first time using their service and that you expect them to make you a repeat customer by giving you the best discounts and freebies.

“>Click Here for Last-Minute Weekend Getaway Sale!<“

All-Inclusive

If you are going to get away for the weekend, look to see if your hotel or resort is all-inclusive. Sometimes an all-inclusive resort will offer you one set price for meals, drinks, and lodging.

On some occasions, these types of lodging can save you some money.

Reputation and Customer Service

If you are booking with a travel agency for the first time, make sure to ask friends, family, and colleagues if they have ever used this agency or service before so that they can offer input.

Also, feel free to ask as many questions as you need to of the customer service agents that work for the company putting together your potential package. Chances are that if your customer service questions are not met satisfactorily, you will not have a good travel experience either.

If you find a package deal from an airline, agency, or online business, make sure you see if they offer variety, discounts, customer service, and have a good reputation to back them up, too.

So don’t wait for your annual vacation to take a trip.  Once you know how to plan a weekend getaway try taking several weekend trips every year.  It’s a great affordable way to enjoy traveling.

Should I Get Travel Insurance?

key-west-81664_1280No one like to think about insurance.  That is especially true for travel insurance.  Many travel agents today will not even ask their clients if they want insurance for fear of losing the deal.  Many people considered it a rip-off and not necessary.

This is not so true anymore.  People are realizing that they potentially have a lot to lose when traveling today.  Smart travelers are considering the right insurance an essential item when planning a trip.  Some even consider it downright irresponsible to leave home without it. So when you ask yourself “Should I get travel insurance?” think long and hard before you say no.

There are many reasons why you should have travel insurance.  Here are a few:

  1. Your flight can get cancelled and totally wreck your plans
  2. Your baggage can get lost
  3. Your passport or wallet can get stolen (You need emergency cash)
  4. You get sick
  5. You get injured
  6. Your cruise line, airline, or tour operator goes bankrupt
  7. You are forced to evacuate your hotel, cruise or resort due to storms or disasters (hurricanes, wildfires, etc.)
  8. Rental car accidents
  9. Trip cancellations
  10. Peace of mind (probably the most important)

I am sure there are other reasons but these are the ones that come to my mind.  Most of them are related to recovering your financial losses, but knowing you are cared for in an emergency situation can be priceless.

What should you look for when buying travel insurance?  The first thing to consider is what coverage you may already have.  Some credit cards offer varying degrees of protection if you use them to book your travel.  Some car insurances cover your rentals.  You may have adequate life insurance coverage and don’t need any extra.  Make sure you check all of these out before deciding what travel insurance you need.

So what are the types of travel insurance?  Here are some of the basics:

  • Medical – If you travel out of the country your health care insurance probably won’t cover you.  This includes foreign-flagged vessels such as most major cruise ships.  I would strongly consider getting this if that is you situation.
  • Trip Cancellation – Most booking d3eals you get today are non-refundable.  If you have a big investment in your trip you should get this insurance.  Less than $100, not so much.
  • Baggage – Damaged, stolen or lost it’s good to have some reimbursement to get those new clothes you have to buy when you arrive.
  • Evacuation – Natural disaster or civil unrest can be very unsettling.  And very expensive to relocate to safety.  This can cover those costs.
  • Death – Think regular life insurance.  For your loved ones in case the worst happens on your trip.

Should I Get Travel Insurance?

It is very hard to put a price tag on peace of mind.  Just remember to make sure you get what you need but only what you need.  Do your research so you can have peace of mind in knowing you are covered as well as not spending more than you had to.

Why Are Airline Tickets So Expensive?

If you were flying over the Christmas holidays from the West Coast to the midwest you may have seen an airfare for over $1,000.  This probably made you ask the questions ‘Why are airline tickets so expensive?’.  There may be several reasons why you may think so:

  • Planes are huge flying machines that are expensive to maintain
  • There are hundreds of people working at airports.  Think of the salaries!
  • Airports are expensive to build and keep up (they are huge!)
  • It’s Christmas and the airlines know you want to travel really bad
  • Look at the cost of jet fuel
  • They are greedy

Well, maybe these are all minor factors but if you examine them closely (fuel prices are down but not airfares) you will find that these are not the main reason.  Why are airline tickets so expensive?  Why do the airlines charge  for checked bags and many other incidentals that were once free?  Because they can.  And there is good reason they can.

This reason can be found in this article from Slate. It seems that many of the airlines share the same investors.  Here is an excerpt:

Although we think of airlines as independent companies, they are actually mostly owned by a small group of institutional investors. For example, United’s top five shareholders—all institutional investors—own 49.5 percent of the firm. Most of United’s largest shareholders also are the largest shareholders of Southwest, Delta, and other airlines. The authors show that airline prices are 3 percent to 11 percent higher than they would be if common ownership did not exist. That is money that goes from the pockets of consumers to the pockets of investors.

So you can see that it is not int the best interest of these companies to compete against themselves.  They want prices high across the board and a price war is the last thing on their minds.

To put it another way, what we have is collusion among the major airlines.  An article from The Jamaican Gleaner outlines this.  It says:

The United States government is investigating possible collusion among major airlines to limit available seats, which keeps airfares high, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

The civil antitrust investigation by the Justice Department appears to focus on whether airlines illegally signaled to each other how quickly they would add new flights, routes and extra seats.

And it goes on to say:

Thanks to a series of mergers starting in 2008, America, Delta, Southwest and United now control more than 80 per cent of the seats in the domestic travel market. They have eliminated unprofitable flights, filled more seats on planes and made a very public effort to slow growth to command higher airfares.

So in other words there is really no competition between major airlines anymore, in effect creating a monopoly.  The same investors own all of the airlines and call the shots while the smaller airlines have gone out of business.  Only a few remain and offer deals but they are not major players.

Also remember that the airlines are corporations and are in business to make money.  They don’t care whether you can afford to fly or not as long as they are still packing the airplanes.  As Frank Werner, an associate professor of finance at Fordham University’s business school says:

“As for people who can’t afford to fly, the airlines really are not interested any more than Daimler-Benz is worried that many people cannot afford to purchase a Mercedes

What can we do?  Unfortunately not much.  We can refuse to fly but that is not practical.  We can call our congressman but the airline lobbies are some of the most powerful lobbies in Washington so it will be difficult to get them to listen to you.

It’s not hopeless though.  Fly the smaller guys if you can.  Talk to people and make them aware.  Start a social media campaign.  The more public awareness and outrage that happens the more the powers that be will notice.

And be smart when you fly.  This is the system we have today so try to work it the best you can by doing your research when you must fly. Technology can help travelers find the lowest available airfare.  Use it to your advantage.  Be flexible.  These can all help you save

However, if the airlines are in fact colluding with each other to keep fares high, they are certainly not making it easy for everyone to fly the friendly skies.

Planning a Disney Vacation on a Budget

Do you think a Disney vacation is totally out of reach?  It is probably every child’s dream to go to Disney World.  So what can you do to keep it from being your nightmare?  Or do you have a Disney addiction but find yourself unable to return because the prices keep going up and up?

Yes, we are aware that Disney is one of the most popular places in the world.  Disney is aware of that and they are also aware that they can charge just about anything they want and people will gladly hand it over.

So what can you do about it?

Here are a few tips on planning a Disney vacation on a budget and enjoying yourselves without breaking the bank.

Look for Discount Tickets
Daily admission to the Magic Kingdom at Disney World is $105/$99 and not much cheaper at Disneyland.  For a family of four that is a pretty big outlay.  If you are staying more than a day you can save money by buying a multiple day ticket.  If you are a member of AAA you can sometimes get discounts through them.  Many companies offer discount tickets to their employees so it would pay to check that out.  So it definitely makes sense to buy tickets ahead of time.  Check online (but not Disney’s site) at places such as Undercover Tourist.  You could save a bundle.

Save on Food
Eat breakfast in your hotel room.  Bring your own snacks to the park.  You can even brown-bag it to an extent.  If you do dine in the park look for the counter service stands, they are usually cheaper.    If you are really into food and you are a big eater you might check out the Disney Dining Plan.  Do plan on splurging on at least one nice meal if you can swing as that can be part of the total experience.

Do One Park a Day
The adult ‘park hopper’ pass lets you visit multiple parks in one day.  However, the cost for one day is $142 compared to the $105 for a day at the Magic Kingdom but the daily prices drop for longer stays.  There is plenty in each park to stay busy for an entire day and unless you are totally sure you will need to visit multiple parks stick with the one-park pass and avoid the needless expense.

Save on Your Accommodations
Another way to save is to consider the value hotels.  If you are staying in the park there are several moderate and value resorts available.  There is even a campground.  You may think it would still be pricier to stay on site but if you consider the free transportation opportunities you can eliminate the need for a rental car (if you didn’t drive).  You can also sometimes get ticket deals if you didn’t buy them in advance.  But don’t stay in the pricier hotels, if you are spending all day in the parks that is definitely  a waste of money.

Buy Souvenirs Ahead of Time
If you really want to save money do NOT buy the overpriced merchandise sold inside the Disney theme parks.  Shop the local stores or look online before you travel.  You can even hide them from the kids until you get there and dole them out daily.  This could also help eliminate the wanting of the high-priced merchandise that they will see at all the shops.

Do some Free Stuff
Spend one day in the hotel at the pool, sometimes kids are just as happy being able to play in the pool all day.  Take in the sights at the resorts.  Ride around on the monorail.  There are free playgrounds around the park, younger kids don’t know the difference and will still have fun.

So by planning ahead and budgeting you can keep your costs as low as possible. Don’t miss out on the experience of seeing your child’s delight meeting the characters and seeing the sights for the first time.  And knowing you saved a bundle will be the second best part of the trip.

How to Get a Refund on a Plane Ticket

You’ve planned your trip to the last detail, booking hotels and waiting until the exact moment that airfare was lowest to book.  Then the unexpected comes up and you must change your plans.  If this is the case you may find yourself stuck with an airline ticket that you can’t use.  You probably booked online and got the cheapest fare, which is usually non-refundable.  Is there anything you can do? Would you know how to get a refund on a plane ticket?  You probably won’t get a full refund (since it is non-refundable), but there still may be some ways to recoup some of your costs.

The 24 hour rule
If it has been less than 24 hours since you booked you are in luck.  The U.S. Department of Transportation regulations require that, as long as you’ve booked a non-refundable ticket 7 days ahead of your flight, you’re entitled to hold your reservation and the fare and change or cancel your reservation within 24 hours of booking, without paying a cancellation fee.  You can either cancel the reservation or change it within that window.  If you decide to change it you will have to pay the fare difference, but there is no penalty.

Rule 260 – The ‘Involuntary Refund’
There is a rule in airline contracts of carriage that states if the airline refuses to carry you for any reason, or if your flight is delayed more than a designated length of time, or if your flight is canceled, you can apply for a full refund.  This applied even for non-refundable tickets.  So if you bought a ticket and you have passed the 24 hour rule limit you can still avoid the cancel/change fees if something happens to your flight like being canceled or severely delayed.  You still have to check in for your flight, but it may be worth your time to show up at the airport and hope something happens.

Change of Schedule
You can also get a refund if there’s a significant schedule change before your departure.  For example, if your flight is moved from 10 a.m. to 7 a.m., or they change the layover time or cause you to have an overnight stay.  It could even apply on a change from non-stop to connecting flight. Just remember that the airline man not notify you it there is a qualifying change, so it would be in your best interests to check the flight schedule to see if there are any changes.  If there have, call the airline and tell the the change is not good for you.  Just make sure the change is significant as just a few minutes does not qualify.

If all else fails, review your airline’s policy on ticket exchanges.  You may not get a full refund but you may be able to get a voucher for another ticket though you will probably pay an exchange fee.  Also, if your reason for needing a refund is an emergency, check with your airline’s website or representative.  If you have to change plans due to illness or death in the family the airline may have more lax rules on exchanges. Just make sure you can provide documentation to prove the emergency.

Of course, if you are worried about losing your money on a ticket you can’t use you can always buy a refundable ticket or make sure you buy travel insurance.  You will pay more for the ticket or extra for the insurance but it will give you peace of mind if you are risk-averse.

How to Save Money on a Road Trip

family road trip in car with luggage rack clipart

Road Trip!

Most of my trips these days have been through the air.  But I still like a good road trip every now and then, and I still remember the road trips we used to take when I was younger.  In fact, I did not fly until I was in my late 20’s.  So some of my fondest vacation memories were created from the back seat of a Ford.

So if you are planning on a road trip soon, maybe you are doing it for the fun of it or maybe it is because air travel can get expensive with a family.  Either way, I thought that these tips on saving money on a cross-country road trip would come in handy.  By using a little planning and common sense you can get great value for your money since this could still be a big expense.

So here are four tips that I have used to save money while traveling, check them out and let me know if you have used any of them.

  1. Plan Your Accommodations Wisely.
    Do you like to camp?  You can usually save a lot of money at campgrounds as opposed to hotels.  Still want to stay at a hotel?  Use a property that you have travel or reward points with when you book.  Even if you don’t have the points for discounts yet you will be building for that future trip.  Another way you can save on accommodations is to go through a cash back site such as Dubli.  We saved around $200 on a week stay in Las Vegas this year.
  2. Watch Your Speed.
    One of the fastest way to eat up the gasoline in your tank is to drive fast.  You would be surprised at how much difference there is between 65 mph and 75 mph.  And you don’t save that much time with the extra speed.  And we all know that gasoline is one of the major expenses on a road trip.  Also, keeping your car well-tuned can help save gas and make things run more smoothly.
  3. Have a Picnic.
    Another big expense on road trips is food.  Eating at restaurants can add up quickly, especially with a large family.  Why not bring a cooler, fill it with drinks, snacks, and sandwich fixings and stop at a roadside table  It can be fun and save money at the same time.
  4. Check Out the Discounts.
    You can almost always find discount booklets at hotels and restaurants on the road.  You should never have to pay full price for an attraction.  Another good source of discounts are sites like Best of Orlando, which offers online discounts specific to a given city.  Other discount sites include Groupon and Living Social, just make sure you sign up for the cities you will be visiting so you can receive the discounts.

So here are just a few tips on how to save money on a road trip.  While I am sure there are many more ways you can find to save while taking a road trip, these have worked well for us.

How do you save money on your road trip?

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com.

5 Tips for Fun Family Vacations on a Budget

Some of the fondest memories I have while growing up was of the times we took our family vacations.  It seems like in those days it didn’t cost nearly as much to travel and, even though we stayed in mostly budget hotels and ate a lot of fast food and sandwiches, we still had loads of fun.

trampoline-241899_1280So maybe today you are wanting to create these memories for your family but can’t find the funds to do so.  Everyday life gets in the way, kids expenses, house repairs, etc., and the short vacation seems out of reach.  But don’t let these things take away potential family memories that will last forever.  Here are some tips originally posted in Moneyning.com which can help you have your fun family vacations on a budget, and some of these will even become part of the memories themselves!

  1. Consider group travel.  Have you thought about vacationing with another family (that enjoy spending time with)?  You can find that splitting the cost of a cabin or vacation home can many times save over the cost of two hotel room, and you can usually find great, roomy accommodations.
  2. Don’t travel during the peak season.  Most people travel during the summer because of kids being out of school and the weather being warmer.  But if you travel during the off-season you can get much more bang for your buck.  Resorts will often give off-season discounts, cruises are much cheaper, and many time you can find travel incentives.
  3. Pack your lunch.  One of the biggest expenses when traveling is the cost of eating out, especially if you have a larger family.  If your kids are like mine they can pack away the food.  One thing we have done is to bring a cooler along.  When we got to our destination one of the first things we did was hit the local grocery store to get snacks and sandwich materials.  We found we could use this to offset at least one meal a day (sometimes two if we had a light breakfast).  This always resulted in a huge savings which can be used to do other things or help stay within the budget.
  4. Order delivery.  Our kids loved pizza and we always had pizza night at least once a week..  Why not have pizza delivered to you hotel room.  Our kids actually preferred that since they could stay around the hotel without having to stop what they were doing to get dressed to go out.
  5. Find out what the local do.  Usually the people who live in the area are glad to share where the best places are to eat and visit.  They may even be able to clue you in to specials and discounts that you could find otherwise.  So strike up a conversation with the desk clerks, waiters, bartenders, and bellhops.  Be friendly and usually people will be friendly in return.

These are just on few tip you can try if you are vacationing on a budget.  Please let me know if you have other tips or what you think of these.

The original article was posted in Moneyning and can be read here.

5 Tips for Finding the Best Restaurants While Traveling

Restaurant on the Pier. Santa Cruz, California, USA

Restaurant on the Pier. Santa Cruz, California, USA

One of the hardest things to me about traveling is finding nice places to eat near me.  If you are like me you don’t want to just take the safe choice and go with the old stand-by chain restaurant that can be found on every corner.  I want to enjoy some of the local eateries, try new things, maybe have some local cuisine.  But how do you know what is tasty and different and has the right ambiance?  I have spent countless hours wandering around looking at menus on the outside, many times not venturing inside because I could not make up my mind.  I found myself worried that if I try it I will regret it and if I don’t try it I will regret it.

Okay, I know what I was doing sounds pretty stupid, but stupid is as stupid does, right?  So I came across these 5 tips for finding a good restaurant while traveling and thought I would pass them along.  The article was originally posted on the Real Simple site.  I have tried some of these and I will tell you it beats walking (or driving) around and trying to guess what a place is like.  Just keep in mind what kind of place you need.  Do you need kid-friendly or are you solo or a couple and want to go high-end?  These tips can work for whatever your situation.

  1.  Look in the local publications.
    You can often times find restaurant reviews in the newspapers (have you read a newspaper lately?) and many times you can find local guidebooks or magazines at you hotel.
  2.  Where do the chef’s eat?
    Find out who some of the local chefs are.  You can often check Twitter or Facebook or even Pinterest amd Instagram.  Many chefs love to post about their dining experiences and who better to judge?  Try following some of them and see what they enjoy.
  3.  Check the blogosphere.
    Do you follow blogs by foodies?  There are many food blogs out there.  Find a few that match your tastes and you will probably find out their dining establishment choices.  You can also get tips from some of the television travel show hosts as they often seek out the authentic eateries.
  4. Don’t be afraid to check out national publications and websites.
    If you want the opinion of someone who is devoted to finding the best places to eat, look at the food and travel writers.  It’s is not only their livelihood but also their passion.  They have visited many places and only feature what they feel is worth visiting.
  5. See what the locals say.
    Find a safe place you know you will like and make friends with bartender, waiters, or chefs.  These people usually have the inside scoop on everything from the fanciest restaurants to cheap diners.

So if you like to eat good food during your travels, do some research before you leave.  But don’t be afraid to just stumble into something.  Many times a place not listed anywhere can be the best place around.  See what the locals are doing.  If it is busy and the food is looking good take a chance (and don’t have any regrets).  It’s great to go to that unexpected place and just say “Why not?”.  It can turn out to be what you remember most about your eating experiences (and if you are like us, you love to eat!).

Read the original article on Real Simple.

The Cost of Theme Parks – Florida and California

If you are going to visit any of the major theme parks in Florida or California this summer (think Disney, Universal, etc.) then you may want to count the cost before you go. Here is a quick guide to what it is going to cost you. Yes, the ticket prices continue to rise but if you check the multi-day packages you can find yourself saving money on your vacation.

Disney_Mickey_MinnieFlorida

DISNEY WORLD
Tickets to the Magic Kingdom cost $105 plus tax for a one-day adult, for children ages 3 to 9 it’s $99 plus tax.

If you are going to Epcot, Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios the price for adult admission (one day) is $97 per person, plus tax. For chisldren agese 3 to 9 the cost is $91, plus tax. Kids under age 3 can enter at no cost.

For Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach the one-day admission is $58 for ages 10 and older, and $50 for children ages 3 to 9.

If you want to take advantage of the Park Hopper options you will find that the prices begin to get more confusing as you add more dates and options. If you get additional days they will be specific for one park,. If you want to explore different parks, you’ll have to add those to the park hopper prices.
For multi-day passes the prices are the same, regardless of park.. The two-day tickets cost $192 for ages 10 and older, and $179 for ages 3 to 9. If you want a three-day ticket it will cost you $275 and $256, and if you go for the four-day ticket the prices are $305 and $285. Five-day tickets are $315 and $295. As you can see, if you go for the longer visits you will pay less per day, and if you choose the five-day option the ticket prices drop to $63 for adults per day. So the most expensive item will be a five-day hopper with water park access where you will wind up paying $765.

Now if you want to be able to hop parks you will need to add $64 to the original cost. To visit the Disney water parks along with one park, add $64. If you want to visit all parks, including the water parks, add $90.

Another expense will be parking. By staying at a Disney World Resort Hotel, you can benefit from the complimentary shuttles that operate during park hours, as well as free parking with a valid Key to the World Card or Resort Parking Permit. Not staying at the resort? The price for parking your car will be one fee of $17 for all theme parks per day. Parking at the water parks and Downtown Disney is free.

LEGOLAND
One-day tickets for just LEGOLAND are $89 for ages 13 and older, and $82 for children ages 3 to 12 and seniors 65 and older. In case you want to visit the park and the water park together the costs are $104 and $97, respectively. You can save with multi-day passes with a two-day pass for LEGOLAND costing $104 and $97, respectively, or $119 and $112 if you want to add the water park. Children under 3 are free. So the most expensive item will be a two-day pass with water park access for $119.

The cost of parking will cost $17 per day. If you want to park closer (preferred parking) the price is $22 per day.

UNIVERSAL
The Universal Orlando Resort is comprised of Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. My advice is to visit both. If you want to see both areas of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter you’ll need park-to-park admission. Hogwarts Express travels to both parks.

For a single park the admission is $102 for adults and $197 for children. To visit both parks, the price rises to $147 and $142, respectively. Fortunately, children 2 and younger are free. If you are going to add additional days you will find that two-day single-park passes are $150 for adults and $140 for children. For three days the prices are $170 and $150 and four days will cost $170 and $160. In case you want to see both parks on multiple dates, plan on paying $195 per adult for two days, with children costing $185. The three day prices go up to $205 and $195, and for four days you will find yourself paying $215 and $205.

Another feature you can purchase is an unlimited Express Pass that allows you to jump to the front of the line on participating rides and attractions throughout the day. The prices start at $50 for one-park and $60 for two parks. The parks also offer VIP Experiences. This allows guests to have front-of-the-line priority, behind the scene tours, complimentary valet parking, breakfast daily, reserved seating at shows and exclusive viewing areas for evening shows and parades. The prices start at $329 for a one-day, one-day, non-peak ticket. So the most expensive item will be a four day, two-park, Express Pass admission for $455.

The cost of parking is $17 for Universal, the preferred parking package will run you $25. For a premium, valet parking is available.

BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA
Since I have always liked Busch Gardens, I will mention their prices as well. It is easy to head west to Tampa’s Busch Gardens location. If you’re planning to visit Busch Gardens, a single-day ticket will cost $97 for ages 3 and older. For children 2 and younger there is no cost. On weekdays the ticket prices are lower. By becoming a Pass Member (especially if you live in the area) you can save money. So your maximum cost is $97 per day.

Parking costs at Busch Gardens are $17. If you want preferred the price is $22.

 

California

DISNEYLAND
In California, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure one-day tickets will cost you $99, before taxes. Children ages 3 to 9 are $93. Children under 3 are free.

Going with the two-day tickets option the costs are $185 for ages 10 and older, and $172 for ages 3 to 9. The three-day ticket option will cost you $235 and $224; four-day tickets cost $260 and $245; and five-day ticket prices are $275 and $259. As with Disney World, you’ll save more when you purchase more days. By going with the five-day option the ticket prices drop to $55 per day. However, if you want to visit both Disneyland and California Adventure the cost is an additional $40, regardless of age or number of days. A five-day park hopper pass will cost you $475.

Parking costs at Disneyland and California Adventure are $17 per day.

LEGOLAND
One-day tickets for LEGOLAND are $89 for ages 13 and older, and $83 for children ages 3 to 12. If you want to add the Water Park or SEA LIFE attractions the price goes up to $92 and $86, respectively. To shoot the works and see all three attractions the cost will be $113 or $107, respectively. So the most expensive item will be a three-park pass that will cost you $113 for one day.

Parking is going to cost you $15 per day, with the closer, preferred parking costing an extra $10 per day.

2941551448_b3ea80442f_qUNIVERSAL
Unlike it’s Florida counterpart, Universal Studios Hollywood offers only one park with one price for kids and adults. This makes it much simpler in terms of ticket prices. A one-day ticket costs $95 per person. Kids 3 and under are free. Two-day ticket prices change with age, so you will pay $119 for ages 10 and older and $111 for children ages 3 to 9.

The park does have Front of the Line tickets where you can get just one-time priority access to each ride, show and attraction during your visit. The price for these tickets are $189. They also have VIP Experience available, where you get escorted priority access to all rides and attractions and behind-the-scenes visits to closed sets on the studio’s back lot. These are only available to guests ages 5 and older and start at $329, depending on date. So the most expensive item will be $329 for one-day, VIP access.

The cost of parking is $17, but it will go up to $25 for preferred parking and $40 for parking spots closest to the gates.

 

This article originally appeared in Family Vacation Critic and can be read here.

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