The 25 Absolute Best Money-Saving Travel Tips Ever
When I tell people that I'm editor in chief of Budget Travel, I always get the same response. Whether I'm chatting with a twentysomething on her first overseas adventure, a seatmate on a fixed income, or a well-heeled TV personality at a dreamy ski resort, they invariably reply. "Cool! I'm a Budget Traveler myself!" I love the notion that each and every person I speak with understands that being a Budget Traveler doesn't just mean saving money, but also traveling in the smartest, most stylish way possible. It inspired me to jot down a few—well, 25—of the things that we Budget Travelers know. Did I leave any of your personal travel tips out? Drop me a line! 1. A REASONABLE PRICED HOTEL ROOM Budget Travelers don't snap up the first appealing room at a decent price that they find. They research location—how close will they be to a city's major sights?—and make sure that a good price doesn't also come with a time-wasting long-distance schlep every morning. Budget Travelers call the hotel and ask for the best price, the most appropriate room options, and for a free upgrade. And in a pinch, they turn to HotelTonight for last-minute deals. We're also pretty proud of our own hotel research-and-booking tool. 2. THE "BEST" DAY FOR AIRLINE TICKETS This is the question we get asked most often at Budget Travel. Traditionally, the simple answer has been: Buy your airline tickets about two months before you fly, and you'll likely get the best price by booking early in the week, when airlines often adjust fares. The "real" answer is, of course, "it depends," and you must arm yourself with an array of information to make an informed choice. That said, we also recommend that you follow all the major airlines on social media, sign up for their rewards programs, and subscribe to their free e-newsletters to get the inside track on deals. 3. PICK UP YOUR RENTAL CAR EARLY Budget Travelers book the smallest possible rental car and a pickup time as early as possible because in this case the early bird gets the free upgrade. At, say, 8 a.m., most customers won't have returned their cars yet and it's likely that the lowest-priced compact cars will be out of stock. The rental agency is obligated to give you an available car at the same price. 4. BOOK YOUR CRUISE EARLY - OR LATE Nabbing a cruise six months to a year in advance usually means getting the best price. At that early point, supply is high and demand is relatively flat, so you'll find appealing prices. As rooms get snapped up, of course, demand rises and so do prices—with one exception. Once you get down to the final few weeks before a cruise, the line may scramble to fill empty rooms, and you can again swoop in and find a deal. 5. KNOW THE RESORT FEES Resort fees are quite a bit like the old joke about the weather: Everybody talks about it but nobody does anything about it. The reality is, there's not much you can do if you've already spent your week at an all-inclusive resort and are staring at a bill that includes a hefty resort fee (which typically covers things you thought were free—those comfy poolside towels, the wi-fi in your room, the newspaper delivered to your door). The only thing you can do about it is to ask before booking so you understand the resort's fee policy. Don't care for it? Try another resort. (While you're at it, find out what beverages are included in an all-inclusive package and which you'll have to pay for out of pocket.) 6. CHECK OUT VACATION RENTALS When faced with the notion of shelling out $1,400 per week for a beach house, some travelers will blanch. That's $200 per night, right? Way more than a Budget Traveler wants to pay for a hotel room. But consider the size of your brood. A rental home that comfortably sleeps five and includes a full kitchen is going to be much more comfortable and likely save you money on food. 7. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IS YOUR FRIEND Those of you who don't live in major cities may regard life without a car as a bit like that nightmare where you arrive at work and realize you forgot to put on any clothes. Those of us who dwell in urban areas know better. When visiting New York, London, Paris, or just about any major city, learning the routes and pricing systems of the light rail, underground, and bus systems can save you tons of time and money compared with renting, gassing up, and parking a car. These days, even notoriously auto-loving Los Angeles is playing the public transportation game. Get in it. 8. PSST! MOST MUSEUMS ARE FREE! Sure, the world's most beautiful museums often have an admission price (or suggested donation) topping $20 per person. But they also typically offer free hours each week and a free day each month. Budget Travelers don't necessary schedule their vacations around a museum's free days, but they do weigh the option and decide if they can put that money to better use. They also take full advantage of everything a museum has to offer on a given day. There's no need to high-tail it from room to room trying to see everything—instead, find out when there's a guided tour, a hands-on class for the kids, or evening hours when the joint if often much quieter than during the day. 9. GO TO NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS When documentary filmmaker Ken Burns called national parks "America's best idea," he probably didn't have Budget Travelers in mind. But compared with any other vacation spot on earth, our national parks—and many state parks for that matter—deliver serious bang for the buck. Sure, there's an admission price (usually per car rather than per person), and you've got to line up lodgings (inside a major national park that can be around $200 per night), but once inside the park the wildlife, trails, ranger talks, evening presentations, junior ranger programs, and just about everything else is on the house. To paraphrase Verdi's famous quote about Italy: You may have the universe if I may have a fire-lit ranger talk at Glacier National Park on a crisp late-summer evening. 10. LOOK FOR PACKAGE DEALS Don't tell! Airlines and hotels are willing to practically give away their inventory rather than see it go empty. That's right. Airlines sell their seats at rock-bottom prices. Hotels do the same for their rooms. Why haven't you heard this before? Because they don't exactly go parading down the street announcing it to the world. Instead, they roll those empty airplane seats and hotel beds into package deals. When you book a package deal, you'll get a good rate on airfare and hotels, some meals, often guided tours, and some ground transportation. Don't believe us? Take a look at a package deal and then try to book the airfare and hotel separately—the package will almost always be significantly less. 11. PACK LIKE A PRO Budget Travelers know that a light suitcase is not just easier to travel with but can also save you money on baggage fees. Pack early so you're not in panic mode, and put some thought into packing matching tops and bottoms (rolled, not folded), as few shoes as you can handle emotionally, and wearing your heaviest layers on the plane. When in doubt, leave it at home. You never regret the things you don't pack. 12. WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE Honeymoon? Romantic island getaway with your sweetie? Engaged? Tell everybody! It may seem counterintuitive when you're trying to get some alone time with your Sig-Oth, but mentioning your romantic status to flight attendants, waiters, and hotel managers can yield complimentary wine, upgrades, private balconies, and other surprises. 13. GO TO SMALL TOWNS Budget Travelers know that some of the coolest places to visit in the United States are towns with populations under 20,000. Whether you want a warm welcome, a vibrant main street, a craft beer, cutting-edge gallery, or tasty bowl of chili, America's small towns make for some of the finest—and affordable—vacations on earth. 14. ASK AND YE SHALL RECEIVE Problem: You booked a hotel room with two king-size beds at a decent rate for your family of four, but now you have dreams of an unaffordable suite where the kids could have their own room. Solution: Ask for a free upgrade. Worst case scenario: The hotel manager says no. Was that so hard? You'd be surprised at how few people bother to ask for upgrades, late checkouts, complimentary breakfast, and other negotiable perks. You're a Budget Traveler. Go for it. 15. TRAVEL WITH A SMILE (AND CHOCOLATE!) The announcement just came over the loudspeaker: Your flight has been canceled due to bad weather. You jump on the airline's website to find out what your options are, and you get in line at customer service. When it's your turn to speak with the ultra-harried airline employee, you're going to do two things: Smile and offer him/her chocolate. Because Budget Travelers aren't just the smartest people at the airport. They are also the nicest. Make the difference in that beleaguered airline rep's day and he might make the difference in yours. 16. KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE In general, Budget Travel has not always recommended travel insurance. Instead, before you travel, check all your existing insurance policies to make sure you'll be covered wherever you'll be traveling—including health, auto, and any possessions (which are sometimes covered by home insurance). That said, if you're booking a package tour or cruise make sure you understand the cancellation policy and consider paying a small premium if you think there's a chance you'll cancel. 17. KEEP THE LITTLE ONES BUSY Keeping traveling children "happy" may be impossible. But keeping them busy is a breeze. You just have to travel with plenty of activities, games, art supplies, and patience. Old standbys like license plate bingo and I Spy still get plenty of mileage—and the fun of playing together (instead of losing themselves in a tablet screen) is priceless. Some Budget Travelers hit the dollar store right before traveling with little ones. Stock up on affordable activities and hand them out whenever the kids get restless. 18. SENIORS HAVE MORE FUN Start with the fact that travelers 55 and up can usually get a cruise discount by mentioning their age, then consider the boatloads of seniors taking off for the Caribbean in a few weeks. Book a package tour of any European country and you'll see busses packed with empty nesters and retirees. Sure, Millennials and Gen-Xers are happily checking off their bucket list items, but these days it looks as if the Boomers are the ones having a blast out there. You know who you are, and we know you're proud Budget Travelers. 19. GET YOUR SHOTS In addition to T-dap, measles/mumps/rubella, and annual flu shots, Budget Travelers know to check the health risks of the region they are planning to visit. A travel clinic is a one-stop-shopping option for obtaining vaccines for serious risks such as typhoid and hepatitis before visiting a developing region. 20. GO ROAD TRIPPING Budget Travelers know that a plane or cruise ship is optional when going on vacation. Some of the best trips are to be had on America's highways. And to celebrate the Great American Drive, we regularly cover accessible getaways, including itineraries, directions, lodgings, attractions, and food along the way. 21. KNOW YOUR HOME'S "ONE-TANK ESCAPES" Looking for something between a staycation and a road trip? Budget Travelers love "one-tank escapes." You can start by exploring locales within a two-hour drive from your home. For most Americans, that includes gorgeous parkland, cool small towns, food you won't find at home, and often the kinds of surprises that most of us travel for. 22. LEARN CULTURAL ETIQUETTE Don't be "that guy." You know, the one hitting McDonald's in Rome. Or wearing an "I'm With Stupid" T-shirt to a museum of tolerance? Learning how to say hello, goodbye, please, and thank-you in a foreign language will yield more goodwill than you can imagine. Learning the ins and outs of a culture's body language, hand gestures, food customs, and tipping will help you fit in, avoid embarrassment, and possibly nab you a deal at a bazaar or shop where haggling is expected and even encouraged. 23. TRAVEL FRIENDLY WITH CREDIT CARDS No, Budget Travelers don't charge trips they can't afford. (One rule of thumb: If you wouldn't ask your parents or close friends for a travel loan, don't borrow the money from a credit card company!) But there are credit cards that partner with airlines to deliver rewards points, mileage, free upgrades, free baggage checks, and more. 24. FASTEST WAY THROUGH AIRPORT SECURITY Ok, this isn't exactly a secret—and we don't have a magic wand to get you through security any faster than this—but we're seeing more and more people using the TSA's Pre-Check program, which allows pre-approved individuals to bypass much of airport security for a more efficient arrival at their gate. 25. KNOW WHEN AND WHERE - OR NOT- TO DRINK THE WATER Water and food safety is an issue in most parts of the world. When traveling outside the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia, there are many countries where tap water should be avoided, including ice cubes and mixed drinks unless you're on the grounds of a resort. When in doubt, drink bottled water or other bottled beverages, and don't eat fruit or vegetables unless you peel them yourself. Avoid street food unless the food is hot out of the oven and the cart is free of flies.
With the cold air starting to nip at our nose and the holiday season upon us, what better time to start planning your next winter getaway. But which ski resorts are the best bang for your buck? Holidu, the search engine for vacation rentals, decided to carry out a study to determine which US ski resorts offer the least expensive trips without having to sacrifice on the slopes this season.1. Powder Mountain, Utah $74 (Average per person per day; ski pass + accommodation) Coming in at the top of our list is snowy Powder Mountain in Utah. Located in Eden, Utah this slope comes in with a whopping 135 km, and has the most skiable acreage of any other resort in the United States. Open 9AM to 9PM daily and with 9 operational lifts, you are sure to get your money’s worth on this mountain. On Powder Mountain there are 154 runs, 25% of which are best for beginners, 40% are designed for intermediate, the remaining 35% is reserved for the advanced. With over 500 inches of annual snowfall, Powder Mountain should be at the top of any ski enthusiast list. Total Ski Area: 135 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $1.83 2. Schweitzer Mountain, ID $78 Considered some of the best skiing in Idaho, Schweitzer Mountain, located in Sandpoint, comes in second for the most affordable places to ski in the United States. Considered the largest ski area in Idaho, there is truly something for everyone at Schweitzer Mountain. From Nordic Skiing trails to Terrain Parks you are sure to find something that suits you within its 95 km of slopes. With 10 lifts carrying a whopping 15,900 riders every hour, Schweitzer Mountain is sure to impress. Schweitzer Mountain also offers many other fun experiences such as twilight trails and even tubing! Total Ski Area: 95 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $1.21 3. Mt. Hood Meadows, OR $103 Next on our list is Mt. Hood Meadows in Oregon coming in with 90 km of ski slopes. Located in Mount Hood, Oregon this resort is only 90 minutes from Portland. With a special permit, this resort operates in the Mt. Hood National Forest and intern has some of the most stunning views! Check out some of their specials or events including Breakfast with Santa on December 22 + 23, or get your ski on this New Year’s Eve and check out their extra special celebratory dinner presented by pFriem. No matter the reason for your trip, make sure to check out Mt. Hood Meadows for all your ski and snowboarding needs this winter season. Total Ski Area: 90 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.87 Mt Hood Wilderness, Oregon. Photo by Laura Brown, Budget Travel 4. Alta, UT $109 Celebrating its 84th winter, the next on our list is Alta in Utah. With 85 km of skiable slopes, this resort packs in 105 trails and 12 lifts. Alta offers everything from ski school for the kids to mountain adventures and helicopter skiing for the thrill seekers. Alta also has 19 restaurants, 5 of which are even directly on the mountain for all your apres-ski needs. So what are you waiting for! Plan your next winter wonderland trip to this snowy mountainside. Total Ski Area: 85 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $1.12 5. Purgatory Resort, CO | $110 5. Purgatory Resort, CO $110 Head on down to the charming ski town of Durango, Colorado for our next top pick, Purgatory Resort. With 116 km of ski slopes, this resort is equipped with 119 runs and 6 lifts. Ski through the wide open mountain or check out one of their more challenging tree trails, Purgatory has so much to offer. Nestled along the San Juan Mountains you are sure to get your ski fix in this snowy town! Total Ski Area: 116 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.77 Purgatory Resort in Durango Colorado 6. Mt. Baker, WA $112 Mt. Baker is located in the North Cascades of Washington nestled on the border of Canada, this resort gets a whopping average snowfall of 663 inches, making it the perfect place for your next ski adventure. This expansive resort has a variety of 38 widely ranging trails on its 100 km of slopes, making it perfect for any type of skier. If you are looking for a ski season without having to break the bank, look no further than Mt. Baker! Total Ski Area: 100 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.89 7. Sugarloaf, ME $117 Sugarloaf is located in the heart of Carrabassett Valley, with 162 trails & glades on its 87 km of skiable slopes. Maine's Western Mountains surround this gem that holds the title of the second-tallest mountain in Maine! With 57% of its mountain dedicated to intermediate and beginner skiers, this is a great place to bring family and still be able to enjoy the 43% reserved for advanced and experts! Get ready for a trip of a lifetime that won’t leave holes in your pocket. Total Ski Area: 87 km ///// Recommended For: All levels ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.74 8. Mission Ridge, WA $125 Open since 1966, Mission Ridge is located 12 miles from Wenatchee, Washington. It is home to 100 km of skiing slopes on the Cascade Mountains. With only 10% of the trails labeled as easy, this is definitely not a mountain for the faint of heart. The chair lifts are equipped to carry over 4,900 skiers every hour to its 36 designated trails. Grab your skis and polls for a winter packed of skiing on a budget! Total Ski Area: 100 km ///// Recommended For: Intermediate to expert ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.80 9. Mt. Bachelor, OR $132 As the 6th largest ski resort in the US, Mt. Bachelors has 4,300 acres of terrain accessible by ski lift and 100 km of skiable slopes. Located in Oregon’s Central Cascades, Mt. Bachelor is actually on top of a shield volcano, making it a super unique skiing destination. This mountain has 101 runs and gets an average of 462 inches of snowfall every year. With over half its trails focused on more intermediate to expert slopes, Mt. Bachelor is definitely the place to go to get your ski on if you are a more seasoned skier. Total Ski Area: 100 km ///// Recommended For: Intermediate to expert ///// Cost per km of slope: $0.76 Mt. Bachelor, Oregon. Photo by Bobbushphoto, iStock. 10. Winter Park Resort, CO $135 With over 80 years of history, Winter Park Resort is the state's longest continually operated ski resort. Located in Winter Park Colorado about 66 miles from Denver and is argued the closest major destination resort to Denver’s International Airport. This resort has 23 lifts, 166 trails, and a summit of over 12,000 ft. With 26% reserved for beginner to intermediate and the remaining 72% for advanced to experts, Winter Park skiing is no joke! But with its expansive slopes covering 143 km the whole family is sure to find suitable slopes. Look no further than Winter Park Resort for your next snowy adventure. Total Ski Area: 143 km ///// Recommended For: Intermediate to expert ///// Cost per km of slope: $1.06 Winter Park, Colorado. Photo by bauhaus1000, iStock -------- Methodology: Holidu surveyed over 500 ski resorts in the United States and selected all with over 80 kilometers of slopes for the 2021/2022 Ski Price Index. The vacation rentals data was collected on 11/23/2021 from the Holidu database. The travel period 12/06/2021 - 12/27/2022 (high season) and 03/28/2022 - 04/25/2022 (low season) were considered. For the price analysis, an average was taken from the median weekly price of vacation rentals per person per night. The prices for ski passes were taken from the official websites of the ski resorts. Where seasonal prices for 2021/2022 were not available, prices for 2020/2021 were used as a reference. Ski resorts could not be considered if no ski pass prices were available for the ski resort. About Holidu Holidu’s mission is to finally make the search and booking of vacation rentals easy. Its search engine for vacation rentals allows travelers to book the ideal accommodation for the lowest price. The company also helps vacation rental owners multiply their bookings with less work through its software and service solution under the Bookiply brand. Brothers Johannes and Michael Siebers founded Holidu in 2014. The high-growth startup is headquartered in Munich and has local offices in the most attractive travel destinations in Europe and the US. For more information, see https://www.holidu.com and https://www.bookiply.com.
Priceline.com has released a list of the most affordable NYE destinations around the USA. *Based on average round-trip ticket costs and average daily hotel rates for travel anytime between December 17, 2021 - January 1, 2022. Most affordable round trip flights Times Square in NYC. Credit: schalkm, Getty Images 1. New York ($312) The ball drop in Times Square is a rite of passage, and Manhattan tends to go all out for new years eve festivities. 2. Las Vegas ($314) Vegas throws great parties! Our recommendation for NYE is this affordable 80s and 90s dance party on Fremont Street (must be 21+). Buy tickets here. 3. Fort Lauderdale ($317) Celebrate the new year in downtown Fort Lauderdale, which will have a band, free street festival, and a brilliant fireworks display at midnight. 4. Chicago ($319) Chicago has a new year's party for everyone. We count almost 30 different options for you to celebrate on the official city website, ChooseChicago. 5. Atlanta ($326) Atlanta celebrates the new year with a college football bonanza. Check out the Chic-fil-a Peach Bowl, and then celebrate your favorite team into next year. Most affordable hotels Credit: Sean Pavone, Getty Images 1. Las Vegas ($130) Say what you want about Vegas, it knows how to throw a party! Our recommendation? Dance the night away and then find a cheap hotel off the strip. Travelers can find great deals in Las Vegas on Priceline.com. 2. Pigeon Forge ($139) Pigeon Forge's Winterfest is a great family-friendly place to ring in the new year. The city puts up over 5 million lights to create a winter wonderland, as well as a fireworks display at midnight. 3. Washington, D.C. ($140) DC has a new year's party for every style and price range. Check out the list of great parties by clicking here. 4. Kissimmee, FL ($145) The Orlando area theme parks are a fabulous experience around the holidays, and several are staying open until midnight to ring in the new year, including Disney World's Epcot and Magic Kingdom. 5. Houston ($146) Houston has tons of family-friendly events to ring in the New Year. Our favorite is the High Noon Countdown at the Woodland Children's Museum on December 31. Celebrate with a dance party and several balloon drops, then get the kids home for bedtime! Check out Priceline's Season of Savings event - 6 weeks of rotating weekly deals on all types of travel. Travelers can save up to $625 on packaged bookings with extra discounts on select hotels in Las Vegas, Orlando, Mexico, and Hawaii including The Venetian Resort (LV), Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, Curio Collection by Hilton (LV), B Resort and Spa (Orlando, an official Walt Disney World Resort), Sheraton Waikiki (HI), Secrets The Vine Cancun Resort & Spa (MX, All-Inclusive and Adults Only), and more. All bookings must be made by Sunday, December 5, with travel to occur throughout 2022 (see website for exact details and terms as travel dates vary by hotel to receive additional savings). Be sure to check out Priceline.com to check out the deal of the week which is unveiled on Monday each week through January 3, 2022.
Getting to Hawaii with United Airlines
Hawaii maintains its mandatory 10-day quarantine to travel the islands. Still, partnerships like one with United Airlines allow travelers to bypass the procedure by receiving a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel. United Airlines became a Trusted Travel and Testing Partner by the state in October of 2020 after announcing plans to offer COVID-19 testing options earlier. United Airline's widespread approach offers many opportunities to save time, skip quarantine and travel safer. United Airlines introduced their touchless solution called “The Travel-Ready Center,” where flyers can review COVID-19 entry requirements, find local testing options and upload any required testing and vaccination records for travel, all in one place. United has long partnered with the state and committed to safely returning travel to the islands. Please note that some Hawaiian islands have additional requirements that may be subject to change. For updated information, be sure to read up on policies here. Since their first flight service between the mainland and Kona in 1983, United Airlines remains a pioneer to the Hawaiian Islands nearly 70 years later. Despite the shutdowns and halt on travel, United Airlines used the time to prepare for a Hawaiian travel surge when restrictions lift. This summer, they plan to launch their first-ever routes servicing Chicago to Kona and New York/Newark to Maui, totaling 21 routes to the islands. “We know customers are dreaming of summer getaways, and we want United to be their top choice for travel to Hawaii,” said Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of International Network and Alliances. “Our new Hawaii routes from Chicago, Newark, and Orange County, in addition to the dozens of flights United already operates from the mainland to Hawaii, offer travelers even more options, greater convenience, and shorter travel times to the fantastic outdoor offerings Hawaii has to offer.” As the needs of Hawaii’s tourism sector change, United hopes to continue its support. The recently announced Movers and Shakas program, an initiative in Hawaii to recruit talent to live and work remotely on the islands, give insight into such travel trends. As a platinum partner in the program, United will provide flights. The program hopes to introduce a new income stream for the islands that allow for a unique travel experience. If you are planning or dreaming of a trip to Hawaii, stay tuned for more content to come. For more information on United Airlines’ procedures and services to the islands, go to their website.
How to save money when you're traveling
This content is sponsored by Here's our guide to making your travel money go further, so you have more to spend when you get there. Tip 1: Drive! The easiest way for anyone, especially families, to save money when they travel is to avoid the price of plane tickets and making your travel money go further, so you have more to spend when you get theredrive to your destination instead. Driving allows you to see more of the country, have more bonding time, and prevents you from having to pay for rental cars or rideshare when you get to your destination. Remember to make sure your car is road trip ready before you leave, and make sure your insurance is up to date. Looking to save even more? GEICO could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance. Tip 2: Use Skyscanner Alerts If your destination is too far away for a road trip, we recommend using Skyscanner alerts to make sure you get the best price on airline tickets. Skyscanner lets you enter your departure and arrival destination and will email you alerts when the price drops. It will also let you explore the prices by date and by month so you can make sure you’re going when the flight is the cheapest. Tip 3: Take advantage of “shoulder season” The time between a particular destination’s peak season and off-season is known as “shoulder season.” Shoulder season allows you to experience some of the destination’s best offerings without the crowds, and for cheaper rates. To determine when shoulder season is for the destination you have in mind, Google to find out when the peak season is, then start researching the months that bookend the peak. For prime family destinations, such as DC or Florida beaches, save money by booking during times when schools are typically not on break. Shoulder season is a great time to have a more laid-back travel experience, and to save money. Tip 4: Buy travel insurance The advice to buy travel insurance can sound counterproductive on this list of money saving tips, since insurance will raise the cost of your trip. But consider how much extra expense could be added to your budget if something goes wrong. Even something as simple as locking the keys in your rental car can cost more than $200 to fix. Travel insurance will cover the costs of any unintended emergencies and give you the peace of mind to enjoy your trip without any nagging worries about expenses. Tip 5: Book with points Travel credit cards allow you to earn points for your everyday purchases that you can use toward booking travel. Look for credit cards specific to travel. We really like the Chase Sapphire card and the Southwest Airlines card. You’ll even get extra points if you’re able to recommend them to a friend. Like all credit cards, make sure you have a plan to pay them off at the end of each month. Carefully crafted collaboratively between GEICO, Budget Travel, and Lonely Planet. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.Sponsored by GEICO
So, you’re thinking of living the RV life. Here’s what you need to know
This content is sponsored by In the last few years, RV sales have skyrocketed as more and more Americans decide to live nomadically while traveling the country. We decided to dig into the lifestyle by interviewing six individuals or couples experiencing it themselves. Here’s what you need to know. Why do people typically choose an RV over other methods of long-term travel? There are many ways to experience long-term travel in the US. People have lived in their cars, gotten into #vanlife, or have even survived by moving from vacation rental to vacation rental. Why did those we interview decide to go with RV life? In a nutshell, the answer was space. Partners need room to do their own things: Whether it’s space to work creatively or to have simultaneous work meetings, having just one room doesn’t work for many couples. Friends and family can visit: Many RVers went into the lifestyle thinking they wanted family and friends to be able to visit and travel with them. Having a bigger space like an RV meant they could convince more to do so. Keep all your traditional conveniences: Those we interviewed wanted to travel more but didn’t want to give up the convenience of spaces such as a kitchen, living room, and bathroom. For some, switching to something smaller than an RV, like a van, would have been too much of a leap. For the amount of time they anticipated traveling, it made sense to get a bigger space they would be comfortable in. A place to call home (that actually feels like a home): One of the biggest reasons for RV life is for something to come back to at the end of the day that felt like a home, rather than just a suitcase or a small vehicle. The @wherewildonesroam family bought their first RV in 2017 and started off as part-time RVers who traveled on weekends. They moved into their rig full-time in 2018 and never looked back. They have no plans to stop the nomadic lifestyle any time soon. Photo courtesy of @wherewildonesroam, via Instagram Where do you sleep? There are quite a few places you can park your RV at night. These are the most common. Campgrounds: Using campgrounds that provide hookups is the classic RV parking method. Boondocking: Boondocking refers to finding a piece of land to camp on where you’re not hooked up to anything. It’s much more affordable than staying at a campground but does require some investment up front. Being self-sufficient in an RV is often synonymous with things like solar panels, extra batteries, extra water tanks, and extra fuel tanks. Boondocking is infinitely easier to do out West. Moochdocking: Moochdocking is where you set up camp on a friend or family member’s driveway. What type of RV should you get? While selecting your RV is a very personal choice, there are a few things everyone should consider. Power to get over mountain passes: One of the couples we interviewed used to have a class-C RV that had trouble with this task. They began to feel limited on where they could travel – the exact opposite of their intention in buying an RV. Personal safety considerations: One RVer who used to travel solo said she loved having a drivable RV for the safety aspect. When she parked somewhere for the night, she had the ability to simply move into the back to go to sleep. She didn’t need to walk around outside in order to access her bedroom. Ease of use while driving: Fifth wheels are going to be easier to tow than travel trailers as they are less tricky to back up and generally shift less in the wind. Keep in mind length corresponds with difficulty of driving. Age of the RV: A newer vehicle will likely need less renovations within. However, older RV electronics can be easier to maintain for those without a lot of RV knowledge. Newer rigs are generally more complicated, often requiring you to go to the dealership when something breaks. How do you finance your RV? For the most part, there are two options for buying your rig: Purchase it outright Finance It’s very similar to a car purchase, and financing makes breaking into the lifestyle a realistic achievement for those without too much in savings. Jim and Jessy are two musicians who live full time in their fifth wheel. They are self-proclaimed newbies who moved into their RV towards the end of 2020. You can follow their travels at @makingmcfarlin. Photo courtesy of @makingmcfarlin, via Instagram How much does RV life cost? The cost of RV life will depend heavily on how, where, and when you prefer to travel. Daily cost: Daily cost of living for items like food, campsites, and gas will vary wildly depending on the area you’re in. If you’re seeking out big destination areas (as many travelers like to do), you’ll be spending more money than elsewhere. Speed of travel: No matter where you park your rig, slowing down can help you save money. Oftentimes, campgrounds will give discounts for weekly or monthly stays, compared to nightly rates. You’ll also spend less on gas by traveling more slowly. RV life can work for every budget: In general, however, you can spend as much or as little as you want. Some get into RV life to save money. Others find themselves breaking even when compared to their previous life. Others find themselves spending more. You can make RV life work for whatever kind of budget you’re comfortable with. What do RVers do for income? The answer is a wide variety of things. Some have their own businesses that allow them to set their own hours. Some make money from YouTube, Instagram, and their blog. Many work regular full-time corporate jobs that are remote. Some work just part time to cover daily expenses. Some work seasonal jobs and travel the rest of the year. Others live off savings for a while. People make their transition all different ways. You have to figure out for yourself what will give you the independence to live in your RV while still making enough money to meet your financial goals. What safety essentials should you consider? Everyone has different levels at which they feel comfortable, so not all of these items will seem essential to every reader. But these are all safety measures taken by at least one of our RVers. Take a look and see what speaks to you. Wasp spray: Wasp spray can be used as a personal defense item. With a similar use case as pepper spray, this type of spray doesn’t dissipate into the air as easily. Firearm: A few of the RVers we spoke with are registered firearm carriers. Depending on the type of RV and the state you’re in, your home may be considered a domicile rather than a vehicle. This makes it simple to travel with a weapon of this sort across many state lines (but not all). First aid kit: Do your best to be prepared for small medical emergencies by purchasing the classic safety essential, a first aid kit. Home security camera: See who (or what) is outside your RV without needing to open the door. You can also use a security camera inside to keep an eye on your belongings or pets while you’re away. Motion sensing security lights: Just like many homes have, motion-sensing lights can be placed on the outside of your rig. Alarm system: You can have the same alarm systems installed for your RV as you would your stationary house. Get alerts to your phone if there’s suspicious activity. Built-in GPS for the internet: Having GPS connected to your internet allows you to see where your rig is as well as how fast it’s moving. This can be useful when you take it in for service. By utilizing this tool, some RVers have discovered that their mechanics have not treated their RVs properly. Bike lock: If you have a bike, be sure to get a good lock. Bike theft is one of the most frequent criminal acts RVers encounter. Fire extinguishers: Yes, fire extinguishers plural. Keep one in all areas in which your path to the exit could be blocked. Don’t forget to learn how to use one before you need it. Automatic fire suppression systems: There are now fire suppression systems that will automatically deploy. These can be installed in places such as your refrigerator or battery compartment. Kingpin: A kingpin is a locking mechanism that stops someone from simply coming over and taking your towable RV. Rachael from @rvadventuregal is a solo female RVer who began living in her fifth wheel about eight months ago. She’s passionate about showing other solo women that they have the ability to live this lifestyle if it’s something they want. Photo courtesy of @rvadventuregal, via Instagram What are automotive essentials associated with RV life? Many who enter RV life don’t know anything about RV or vehicle maintenance, and that’s ok. It’s important to know the basics, however, and have a general awareness of what’s going on. The most essential thing you can do is monitor your RV (and truck if you’re towing) so you can address a problem right away. One RVer equated RV maintenance to house maintenance. Just like you’re always fixing something for your stationary home, so too will you always be fixing something on your rig. Engage in preventative maintenance as much as is reasonable, have tools on hand in case of a tire emergency, and know you will likely end up becoming a little bit more handy once you’ve been in your RV for a while. What to monitor: Be sure to regularly monitor tire pressure, check fluids, inspect the seals on your windows, check your brake and turn signal lights, and keep an eye out for leaks or cracks that are forming. Stay proactive: Staying proactive on things like oil changes, power steering, and tire rotations will help you avoid problems in the future. Tools to keep on hand: You may want to consider keeping the following tools with you: a general tool kit, tire pressure gauge (perhaps even a remote tire pressure monitor), air compressor, and all tools necessary to change a tire. What are helpful resources for those either thinking about RV life or those in it already? YouTube: The number one answer: YouTube. With everything from maintenance how-tos to people speaking about their RV life experience, YouTube has got answers to practically all of your questions. Instagram: Instagram was used by those we interviewed for a wide variety of RV-related tasks, including finding a rig to buy. It can also be used for research. Learn tips and tricks by following accounts of those who live the lifestyle. People are happy to help you with questions if you message them! You can also reach out to fellow RVers on Instagram who are in your area in order to make friends in person. One of the individuals we interviewed has met over 100 people this way. Facebook: Facebook Marketplace is a useful tool for selling items before you move (or while on the road if you realize you brought way too much stuff). You can also find RVs for sale there. Facebook groups such as those surrounding RV life or working remotely can also be helpful! Craigslist: Craigslist is a great tool in finding RVs for sale. Campendium: Campendium is an app that helps travelers find places to camp in the US, Canada, and Mexico. It features user-generated reviews and cell service reports. We spoke with Cait from the dynamic duo of @rvwithrandc. When an opportunity for them to move abroad in 2018 fell through, they decided to explore some more of their own country. They now have a fifth wheel they live in full time as well as a truck camper Photo courtesy of @rvwithrandc, via Instagram What are the best parts of RV life? Seeing friends and family: Living in an RV makes it much easier to see friends and family. As one couple put it, they’re now able to visit with family they would normally only see at weddings and funerals. Spending more time in dream destinations: When you work a traditional 9-5 with limited PTO, your travels are also limited. Over the course of a year, you may go to a couple destinations for a week at a time. Because it’s a lifestyle rather than a vacation, living in an RV allows you to stay in these places for longer stretches. It also allows you to see so many more places than you can with just a few weeks off a year. What are some challenging aspects to living on the road? The first few months of transition during which you’re learning the basics can be difficult. Here are a few areas in which those we interviewed struggled. Small living area: There are many things you don’t think about when you imagine taking off in your rig down the road towards some of America’s most beautiful public lands. One of those things may be the fact that you’re going to be crammed into often less than 300 square feet. RVs are usually much larger than vans, but they’re still tiny in comparison to the stationary homes people leave behind. It takes some getting used to. Personal space and communication: Managing personal space can be a significant challenge. When you’re upset with someone, you can’t necessarily go to a separate room like you can in a regular house. Learning to honor and respect each other’s space is crucial. If you’re traveling with others, communication becomes essential. It’s easy to see this lifestyle leading to strained relationships if you don’t learn to be patient and communicate properly during frustrating situations – and you’ll have them, trust us. Weather and seasonal differences: Living on the road, you're at the mercy of the weather. Your life becomes much more connected to the elements. Becoming weather-aware is critical, especially because you likely won’t be used to a lot of the weather you encounter. Not every season of living in an RV is equal. Winter can be a difficult time to live in a small space. The days are shorter and the temperatures are colder, forcing you inside more frequently. Planning exhaustion: When you’re constantly traveling, that also means you’re constantly planning everything from where you’re going to sleep at night to what hikes you’ll doing that week. At the beginning, always thinking about logistics can be taxing. As you practice and figure out what tools you like, planning will become easier. Campground scarcity: Because the lifestyle has become so popular recently, some things have become more difficult. It can take time to get repairs and parts. Additionally, campsites are filled far ahead of time in some areas of the country. One couple we spoke with said they have sites booked out six months in advance because of how saturated the campgrounds on the East Coast are. Slight changes in daily chores: There are also much smaller daily challenges. One of these is laundry. It can be a hassle to spend a whole day washing your clothes at a laundromat when, before, you simply threw them in the machine at home. You also have to tweak your mindset when it comes to groceries. For many RVers, a full-size fridge is a luxury they don’t have. Additionally, while many grocery stores have similarities, there are also differences in layouts and brands across the country that can have you shopping for far longer than you intended to. Caroline and Aiden from @outrightravel are an RV life couple who travel in a drivable RV. Tethered by limited vacation time, they decided to create their own consulting businesses and move into their rig last year. By the time they finish the journey they Photo courtesy of @outrightravel, via Instagram What should you do before hitting the road? Financial planning: Make sure you’re entering this lifestyle responsibly. Ideally, you should begin with as little debt as possible. When you’re traveling the country, you don’t want to be stressing about credit card payments. It’ll only detract from the experience. Decide what to do with your home: If you own a home, decide whether you’re going to keep it or sell it. Many sell theirs, but it’s also possible to keep it and rent it out while you’re away Determine your residency: Many keep their current residency, some establish residency in a state in which they have close family, and some utilize residency programs for people who work remotely such as the one in South Dakota. Downsize: You will need so much less than you think you will. Downsize, downsize, downsize. It’ll save you weight, you won’t encounter nearly as many headaches when it comes to organization, and you’ll have more space. Anything you don’t bring with you can be easily purchased while on the road. Organize: When you have such a small space to work with, organization is key. If you do it right, you won’t feel like your space is small because you’ll be able to fit so much. Set yourself up for success right at the beginning by investing in storage solutions that not only allow you to fit everything you need, but also make those items easily accessible. Prepare to make mistakes: As with anything you try for the first time, there’s a learning curve during which mistakes will happen. Don’t beat yourself up about them or let the idea of them hold you back. Things will go wrong. Mentally prepare yourself for these and cut yourself some slack when they do inevitably happen. Dive in: The only way to learn everything you need to know about RV life is by jumping in. There’s only so much preparation you can do ahead of time. Do I have to get rid of every material thing I love? The easy answer to this question is no! Absolutely not, in fact. An RV really is like a mini house, so you’ll likely not give up too many items. Those we interviewed brought things like board games, books, blenders, office supplies, diffusers, espresso machines, and framed photographs. For sentimental or irreplaceable items, many RVers use storage, whether it be storage at their family members’ homes or in a storage unit. What should you do if you’re on the fence of joining RV life? Rent a rig: Before you head to a dealership (or Facebook Marketplace) to buy your home on wheels, consider renting an RV. This will give you a taste of the lifestyle before you dive in with a purchase. Live in the driveway: Whether or not you try living in an RV before purchasing one, take some time to test out your rig before you hit the road full time. First, live in your RV while it’s stationary. Get a feel for the space and learn what you do or don’t need in daily life. This step is especially important if you have pets. They need to get accustomed to the new space so they’re as comfortable as possible when it begins to move. Go on a test trip: Once you’ve gotten a little more comfortable, go on a month-long trip far from your home base. This allows you to get out of your comfort zone and get a taste for what full-time RV life is like while still allowing you the opportunity to fine-tune things before you head out permanently. After this point, you can bail if you decide RV life isn’t right for you. Commit to a time frame: If you’re still interested in the lifestyle, set a time frame that you’re going to commit to before you hit the road for real. There’s going to be an adjustment period, so it’s recommended you commit to at least six months. Consider the worst-case scenario: Lastly, ask yourself what the worst-case scenario is. Realistically, it’s that you don’t like living in an RV, you sell it, and you move back into a stationary home. Doesn’t sound like the end of the world, does it? In fact, it sounds exactly like what you were doing before. Cara at @caraostara is a full-time RVer who has experienced the lifestyle both alone and with a partner. After realizing her successful career was no longer making her happy, she took a chance to pursue solo RV life. Now in her third year of living this n Photo courtesy of @caraostara, via Instagram Finally, here are a few parting words of advice from those we interviewed: If this lifestyle was easy, everyone would do it. That means there will be challenges. If you think it’ll make you happy despite those challenges, do it. Fears of the unknown are normal, and you may simply be fearful that it’s unknown. The more you educate yourself, the less scary things will be. RV life isn’t for everyone, but it says a lot about a person if they’re considering this lifestyle. If there’s something inside of you that makes you want to do it, chances are pretty high you’re going to like it. It’s important you remember why you’re getting into this lifestyle. The highs are going to be high, but the lows are going to be low. Remember your why throughout it all. Society doesn't set you up to live in an RV full time, so things will never feel exactly right. Because of this, you’ll never feel perfectly ready. You just have to make the leap. SPONSORED BY Carefully crafted collaboratively between GEICO, Budget Travel and Lonely Planet. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.Sponsored by GEICO
What to do if your travels are disrupted by wildfires
The Western United States is coping with an ongoing series of wildfires as well as forest fires that started from human interference across California, Oregon, and Washington. According to NASA, the fire season is from late spring until seasonal winter rains or snow arrive. It’s possible to safely enjoy a vacation out west during the fire season. Travelers planning trips to fire-prone areas should prepare for the worst-case scenario and pack a few critical items. Be Prepared A smart traveler is always prepared. “Adopt the attitude that ‘it can happen to me.” The best time to plan for a crisis is before the crisis occurs,” says Randy Haight, Senior Director of global risk consultancy FocusPoint International. “Conduct a review of ingress and egress routes into and out of an area before you go.” Have a plan for multiple routes as some roads may be closed or inaccessible during a fire. There are a significant number of fires ongoing in California. If you’re headed to The Golden State check out CalFire and the state tourism board’s travel alert for the most up-to-date information and resources. Haight recommends using tools that offer predictive analysis about the wildfire season such as National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook. Also check the Active Fire Mapping Program and air-quality conditions on AirNow.gov. Consult local weather and air-quality forecasts and search for news reports about fire alerts, road closures, and power shutoffs. Ask your accommodation about their contingency plan should you need to make an emergency evacuation and follow their instructions closely. Book flexible accommodation with the option to cancel should you need to change your plans due to fire or smoke. If you’re unable to cancel your hotel see if you can offer the room for local evacuees. ©Poul Riishede/Getty Images Pack Smart Should you need to evacuate, do so at your earliest opportunity to avoid taking critical resources away from locals. If you’re relying on public transportation have a backup plan for how you can safely remove yourself from danger. If you’re driving, have a full tank of gas. Bring an emergency kit with a First Aid kit, water, blankets, cell phone charger, spare medication, a wind-up radio capable of receiving emergency weather broadcasts, and N-95 masks which can help filter smoke particles. Ensure your loved ones know exactly where you are so they can track you down if there’s an emergency. Ask them to alert you if they learn about fire dangers in the area where you are. If you’re going hiking in a dry area during the fire season, share your geo-coordinates with them. While spending time in nature, practice extreme caution during dry conditions. Be sure to read up on local laws regarding open fires before your trip, especially if you’re camping. If you encounter a fire, leave immediately. Don’t try to put out the hot spot. Once you’ve reached safety, contact emergency services to ensure firefighters have dispatched. What do I do if I get caught in a wildfire? Fires can move at the speed of one football field every second. “If caught in a wildfire, don’t try to outrun it,” Haight says. “Find a body of water and get in it. Or find a clearing or depression and get low to the ground. Try to breathe the air closest to the ground when fire is near.” If you can’t find a body of water wet your towels, blankets, and clothes and use them as protection against the flames. Support those affected To support those affected by the wildfires contribute to reputable NGO organizations supporting aid efforts. Traveler Kay Kingsman was living in an evacuation zone for the Oregon fires and suggests sending donations of water, clothing, and air purifiers if you live near an impacted area. Many winemakers have been damaged from fire and ash—order a crate of wine to support their business. Everest Effect is a mutual aid crisis recovery platform providing immediate help and relief to those affected by the disaster. Lola Méndez is a sustainable travel advocate who writes the responsible lifestyle blog Miss Filatelista.