Cheap Warm Weather Vacation Ideas for Winter Break

desert palm tree

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Cheap warm weather vacation ideas – By December or January, those of us experiencing winter weather are ready for a break.

But is it possible to find sunny destinations that won’t break the bank?

In a word, yes!

We’ve put together a great list of cheap warm weather vacation ideas to consider.

Read on for three U.S. destinations and three international destinations that will warm you up while saving you money.

Make it easy and less expensive too by packing carry-on luggage.

Inexpensive U.S. Warm Weather Trips

The nice thing about seeking sunny getaways in the U.S. is the lack of travel time and lower airfare, or none at all, depending on where you live.

You don’t have to cross the globe to find warm water and blue skies!

6 Affordable Winter Vacation Destinations for Students

Palm Springs, CA

An easy flight from most parts of the U.S., the city of Palm Springs, CA is a new favorite getaway for me and my family.

What it offers: desert beauty and outdoor recreation, world-class spas and golf, excellent cuisine, and perfect lounge-by-the-pool weather.

What it lacks: the showiness of Las Vegas or the harried atmosphere of Southern California.

While in Palm Springs, rent a villa instead of booking a hotel room.

Not only will you be more relaxed, but these getaways (some of which even include a chef!) are more affordable than you’d think.

Spend your mornings hiking, golfing, or riding the Palm Springs Ariel Tramway and your afternoons by the pool.

Ojai, CA

Yes, another California destination… I can’t help it if there’s sunny skies here!

If you haven’t heard of Ojai, you’re not alone.

This sleepy artist community in the hills above Los Angeles likes its privacy, as well as its visitors.

Stay at the Blue Iguana Inn to surround yourself with lush gardens and tranquil desert mountain views in all seasons.

In the winter months, travelers stroll through the art galleries downtown or visit the area olive oil farm in mildly pleasant temperatures, and feel a million miles away from the city.

Gulf Shores, AL

You don’t need to go to Florida for white sand beaches and sunny weather.

Gulf Shores offers miles of sand, the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and dolphin cruises.

There are plenty of Alabama Gulf Shores oceanfront hotels to choose from, and families will love the laid-back atmosphere so far from the spring break hotspot of Florida.

Cheap Warm Weather Vacation Ideas – Internationally

Beach Volleyball Vacation

cheap warm weather vacation ideas, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Caribbean waters meet budget-friendly accommodations in the Dominican Republic.

For easy Punta Cana travel, Dreams Punta Cana Resort and Spa is family-friendly, with onsite beaches, pools, kids’ clubs, and dining.

The Punta Cana Ecological Reserve is an easy distance from all lodging, and offers 12 freshwater lagoons and tropical habitats.

The Caribbean is a great destination for those seeking a budget vacation.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

It’s not exactly a secret that Mexico is a great destination for warm-weather travel, but Puerto Vallarta gets my top vote due to its affordable access from most U.S. airports.

The lush mountains overlooking the city are perfect for Puerto Vallarta horseback tours, and while the hotels closest to town can have a party atmosphere, lodging north and south of the boardwalk area — such as our pick, Velas Vallarta — are affordable and quiet.

cheap warm weather vacation ideas Mexico

Costa Brava, Spain

Located on the Mediterranean Sea above Barcelona, Costa Brava may not be the most affordable destination to get to from the U.S., but once there, the abundance of hotels, restaurants, and beaches make it a discerning traveler’s dream.

Known for its fresh cuisine and fun shopping, Costa Brava offers affordable fun in the form of beaches, hiking, and daytime excursions.

Honorable mention will go to Madrid because of the plentiful apartments in Madrid.
Best of Las Vegas

Best of Las Vegas

Las Vegas truly is a city that never sleeps, and a favorite party destination with tons of attractions and things to do.

Some people try their luck at the many Casinos, others spend their money on crazy experiences.

Nothing is impossible in this city, and there is something for every type.

Here are some great things to do in Las Vegas for those who want to have a great time…Tips For The Perfect Destination Proposal

Helicopter Tour of Grand Canyon

Las Vegas might be all about glitz and glamour, but awe inspiring nature is not far away, and just like Las Vegas always has to have the biggest and the best – they offer the same with nature: Grand Canyon.

The best way to explore and experience the vastness of this natural wonder is to take a helicopter tour over it.

Besides, a helicopter tour alone is an experience!

Arizona Apache Trail Drive

Roller Coaster Rides At Hotels

The action is never far away, in fact you don’t even have to leave the hotel to experience thrills and action.

The New York New York hotel and the Stratosphere Hotel both have roller coaster rides inside the actual hotel, but if you want even more rides to choose from you can always visit Circus Circus, the second largest indoor theme park in the country.

Las Vegas Show

Las Vegas has plenty of fun shows every night of the week, some which even are free.

For something truly spectacular, however, nothing beats the Cirque du Soleil shows, of which there are plenty.

Each show is different and suits different tastes and ages.

We met a couple who had been taking Las Vegas holidays for a week, and went to a different show every night.

Their favorite was Brian Hoffman’s “Remembering Red – a tribute to Red Skelton”.

Dig This

Disney World in all honor, but after enough “child friendly” theme parks it might be time for something new, something for all those parents.

How about re-living those sandbox days of being a child digging with tractors – only this time it’s for real.

Operate heavy machinery, like Caterpillar bulldozers, and dig in and move some dirt!

This is definitely a unique experience you can’t do at home.

Bellagio Fountains

If you want to check something out for free, the Bellgaio fountains won’t disappoint.

The fountain light show is easy to squeeze in to a busy schedule, as it’s on several times per hour all night.

The water show with its lights and music is a romantic little attraction to enjoy for a bit while resting your feet.

Extraordinarily Beautiful Islands to Visit on Budget

Islands to Visit on Budget: The Caribbean region, comprising of more than 700, breath-taking beautiful islands is a haven for sore eyes and enthusiastic travelers.

As some say, the islands are enough in number for you to take annual holidays on a different island each year.

From serene beaches to white, pristine sands to exotic tress and landscape, the islands entice you to extend your vacation plans.

Sigh, if only money grew on trees, who would mind weeks long vacations on these tranquil beaches?

Here we have a list of budget friendly destinations to help you get the maximum stay out of your money:

Islands to Visit on Budget

5 Islands to Visit on Budget

Aruba

Luxury hotels, boutiques and commercial ventures dotted along the western edge of the island may dazzle you but even all of them put together can be no match for the heavenly sunsets at the island.

‘Carubbian Festival’ is a weekly street party held at Aruba.

Tourists can sample regional specialties at numerous foods and drinks stall set up every Thursday.

Your best bet for a budget hotel may be MVC Eagle Beach, back on the west side with accommodation charges starting from $145.

Barbados

The well-developed west and south coast can make Barbados seem as a –not-so-exotic island but don’t be fooled by it.

An island of great beauties, Barbados has much to offer in terms of sight seeing and adventurous activities.

Botanic gardens, Barbados Museum, Barbados Wildlife Reserve and Garrison Savannah Area are some of the gems you come across during your tour.

If you prefer action-packed tour to sightseeing, then hiking, wind-surfing, diving and more are the options for you.

3 star hotels at Barbados can be booked for an average of around $120.

Chiloe

Lying off the western Coast of Chile, the Chiloe Archipelago is a place of its own, offering a unique amalgamation of cultures, custom and language due to its isolated location.

16 of the 150 wooden churches here are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Chiloe is characterized by its palafitos (houses mounted on stilts along the shore), the scrumptious curanto stew of potato, meat and seafood and a number of dishes cooked with fish and shellfish.

The Isla Grande de Chiloé (The Big Island of Chiloé) is a ferry ride away and is the second largest island in South America.

Accommodation for a day in Chiloe falls in the range of &75-$150.

Dominican Republic

You can find great deals on all-inclusives, especially on the island’s east coast, Punta Cana.

Along the north shore, you may find house rentals and hotels worth looking into.

The 27 Falls of Damajagua are a tourist’s fascination, known for their thrilling jumps and slide over the waterfalls.

Canoeing and cascading trips are also on offer on the north coast of the island.

Budget of accommodation in Residential Casa Linda villas, and with other villas is from $120 onward.

Jamaica

The flights to Jamaica are cheap and frequent and the resort destinations are many in number, making it easier for you to pick according to your budget.

Treasure Beach, houses a few of small scale hotels.

To give an estimate about budget, rooms can be booked at Jakes Hotel starting from $90 and from $111 at Marblue Villas.

Where to Travel with Babies and Toddlers: Top 5 Destinations

Cuba is becoming an island to visit on Budget: How to take a family Vacation to Cuba

Travel Guide to Caribbean for First Time Travelers

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific Ideal Golf Resort

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific provides the ideal getaway for those who love golf and the beach.

With a stay at the Ixtapa Pacific, a Club Med resort, visitors can have the best of both.

The Club Med Ixtapa Pacific is an all-inclusive property that’s suitable for guests of every age.

That means the kids can be fully entertained while the parents are having the time of their lives playing at the world renowned Club de Golf Marina Ixtapa, which is just a short drive away.

With luxurious accommodations and endless activities, a stay at the Ixtapa Pacific is sure to be any family’s best vacation ever.

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

The Ixtapa Pacific is a peaceful retreat from the hectic world.

Designed in the grand hacienda-style, the property boasts lovely gardens and fabulously convenient access to 2,400 feet of gorgeous beach.

However, the accommodations are so gracious and well-appointed that guests just might have a difficult time getting out to enjoy the scenery.

Guests may choose from among three different styles of accommodations, each more luxurious than the last.

Book a deluxe room for plenty of wonderful amenities or upgrade all the way to a suite for the ultimate in space, service and privacy.

All rooms have flat screen televisions and free WiFi access, so staying in touch is always easy.

Club Med Ixtapa Pacific
Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

At Club Med Ixtapa Pacific Resort, everything is included.

Accommodations, children’s programs, and a wide variety of sports and activities are all included with every stay.

Even dining and drinks, except for certain premium beverages, are included.

At four restaurants and two bars, guests indulge in innovative cuisine and the best cocktails in the region.

Dining at this resort truly is a feast for all of the senses.

The accommodations and dining are fabulous, but most people come to this Club Med resort because of all the activities that are available.

Chief among these is playing a few rounds of golf at the scenic Club de Golf Marina Ixtapa Club Med.

It’s possible to add a golf package to any resort stay.

Alternatively, golfers can purchase a package at the course.

Buying a package makes a great deal of sense.

It allows golfers to hit the links more than once, and it can save quite a bit of money.

Club Med Ixtapa Golf
Club Med Ixtapa Golf

Regardless of which package is chosen, this golf course is universally admired for its beauty and for its technical challenges.

Opened in 1994, the 18 hole, par 72 course is Ixtapa’s newest.

It was designed by well-regarded architect Robert von Hagge.

The result is a stunning, beachside course that keeps golfers coming back year after year.

Of the 18 holes, 13 lie along sparkling saltwater inlets.

This makes the views spectacular, but it also makes the golfing particularly diabolical.

Even seasoned players find that their accuracy is tested here, and most lose at least one or two balls in the water.

Of course, it’s the challenging holes that whet the interest of visiting golfers.

Trying to improve on the previous day’s score is a major pastime.

Most people who play the course praise its impeccably manicured greens and fairways.

Also earning high marks is the friendly staff who are always willing to lend a hand or offer a word of advice.

The caddies are familiar with each and every hole, which helps players read the sometimes difficult to decipher greens.

The pro shop is well equipped.

Anyone who didn’t bring a set of clubs can rent them here and pass the time of day with other golfers.

Club Med Ixtapa Tennis
Club Med Ixtapa Tennis

Golf Digest has called this course one of Mexico’s finest, so no avid player will want to miss the opportunity to try a few rounds.

The club is also noted for its restaurant, bar and swimming facilities.

Relaxing on the veranda with a meal after a round of golf is a spectacular way to spend a day.

Many people take a break from golf to enjoy the lighted tennis courts.

Of course, tennis and a wealth of other activities are also available back at the resort.

There’s a full fledged tennis school, and classes are included in every package.

Guests can also learn to fly on the trapeze, take archery classes or discover sailing.

Those who can’t get enough activity can try out basketball or volleyball.

Perhaps observing a cooking demonstration or lounging by the pool will offer welcome opportunities to relax.

However, the best way to truly relax and unwind is at the resort’s Wellness Center.

This luxuriously designed spa has several treatment rooms where guests can indulge in a massage, facial or other rejuvenating therapies.

Guests always feel amazing when they leave the spa.

After a hard day on the golf course, what could be better?

The Club Med Ixtapa Pacific quickly begins to feel like a home away from home.

Every niche is filled with thoughtful details, and the friendly staff is always attentive.

Best of all, one of Mexico’s finest golf courses is just a few minutes away.

Between days on the links and evening walks on the beach, guests can experience a multitude of activities or simply laze away the hours.

With a golf getaway in Ixtapa, guests get to call the shots.

Ciclovia: Open Streets from Mexico to Peru

What is ciclovia?

Imagine that you’re on vacation, traveling in a dizzying, non-stop metropolis where the lights and noises of the street keep you up late into the night.

You wake up in the morning, step outside of your hostel and are greeted not by the blare of car horns and a cloud of automotive exhaust, but with the quiet hum of bikes, roller blades, and — hey… are those birds singing?

This idyllic scenario isn’t some kind of green travel utopia, or something I made up.

It actually happens in cities around the world every week.

On three different occasions in my travels (in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2005, Mexico City in 2007, and in Lima, Peru early this year)

I’ve witnessed what is called a ciclovía (also known as “bike path,” ciclovia, or an open streets initiative).

Each Sunday, these cities close off long stretches of a major downtown street and restrict it to just runners, walkers, bicyclists, and skaters.

Ciclovia – a blissful experience

The first time I saw this I was stunned.

I had just begun working on my Master’s degree in Urban Planning and was passionate about promoting walking and biking and taking public transit as alternatives to driving a car.

It’s the best thing for the environment, reduces traffic congestion, and improves public health.

And here I was in a developing country where these cities had taken a bold move to do just that.

Close the streets — no cars allowed for several hours — every single week.

When I learned more, I found out these events had been going on for almost thirty years in the founding city of Bogotá, Colombia.

My home country of the United States could learn a lot from these cities.

Why close the streets?

There are lots of reasons why cities would want to create such open space programs.

Having this type of event reduces air pollution by getting cars off the road, and it encourages walking and biking both as transport and for public health.

It generates recreational areas, or makeshift parks, in areas that lack space for kids to play safely.

These programs can also help to improve the local economy by increasing foot traffic into shops and businesses that usually have cars zipping right past.

It helps get people outside and helps build community by letting people meet their neighbors.

In total, ciclovías help make cities nicer places to live, work, and travel.

How You Can Get Involved with Open Streets

Find an open streets event near your home or when you travel.

It was a surreal feeling to walk down the middle of the expansive Reforma, a major boulevard in Mexico City, feeling safe and not being afraid of cars.

These events are great for people watching, and are a perfect opportunity for travelers to experience life in the community.

More than 100 initiatives happen regularly in North and South America, with more forming every week.

I’m heading to South America — to Colombia and Ecuador — later this month and am hoping to check one out in Quito, Bogotá, or Medellín.

No event near you? Take to the streets!

Walking, cycling, or using public transportation when you travel gives you a local perspective on the place you are visiting and helps you make the city a better place.

Organize an event in your city.

The Open Streets Project has resources to help organize an initiative in your own community.

Planning your own ciclovia is easier than you might think!

If you have ever been to an open streets event or a ciclovía, it is sure one to remember.

Hopefully it was a very positive experience and will encourage you to find some peace wherever you are.

Oregon’s Warm Springs Reservation Land of Big Sky

If you view Oregon’s Warm Springs Intertribal Reservation on Google Earth, the sparsely populated image that displays on your screen may remind you of the surface of another planet, not rural Northwest ranch land.

It’s certainly rugged country, tucked between the craters and plateaus of Central-Eastern Oregon high desert, and accurate to say a satellite image does not do it justice.

This wild and scenic land of big sky and bigger vistas needs to be seen to be believed, though if you haven’t heard of Warm Springs Reservation, I’m not surprised.

Few people make their home here.

Horses outnumber people.

It’s far enough off the beaten-path, located along remote Highway 26, that you’re not likely to stumble upon it.

If you do make the trip, you’re probably headed for Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa located 11 miles from South Warm Springs, or the tribal casino situated strategically on the highway.

Kahneeta Resort

Oregon’s Warm Springs Reservation

We were no different.

We came to Warm Springs on a weekend in May to stay at Kah-Nee-Ta.

We looked forward to spending our days swimming in the hot springs-fed swimming pool, sampling the water slides, hiking, golfing, and indulging in a spa treatment.

We had a great time.

We noticed many families, the majority commuting from Portland for Central Oregon’s signature sunny weather, doing the same.

The trouble was, vacationing at Kah-Nee-Ta didn’t give us a feel for the Native American heritage of this square of land, or of its people.

Wanting more from our Warm Springs Reservation experience, we made our way to the Kah-Nee-Ta stables, where a local family (all tribal members) run an operation apart from the resort.

The stable uses Mustangs native to the area.

In fact, the five we rode had been wild just five years prior.

Were they the best behaved trail horses we’ve ridden?

No, but they were memorable.

They gracefully picked their way up steep paths cut into the hillsides, sidestepping volcanic rock and stopping to graze the sparse desert grasses whenever they felt like it.

At one point along a bluff, my son spotted another horse running the ridge line.

Pointing, he asked where its rider went.

He was answered matter-of-factually by our trail leader, “Oh, that horse? Looks like he’s still wild.”

Top Spots for Agritourism: From Pizza Farms to Cheese Trails

The weather was less predictable than we might have liked in late spring.

That evening, we attended Kah-Nee-Ta’s traditional Salmon Bake, held indoors instead of out on the lawn overlooking the reservation.

Even though we were in a conference room instead of under a wide desert sky, the salmon, cooked authentically in the native style, wowed us.

The tribal dancing accompanying our meal enchanted us.

tribal dancing

We learned the occasion and purpose for various styles of tribal dance, watched the intensity of the drum circle, and saw firsthand how the traditions of the Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute people are carried down today as we applauded dancers as young as age three.

The next day brought us to the Museum at Warm Springs, where our education of the previous evening was furthered by the award-winning displays and exhibits depicting the three tribes’ history spanning thousands of years.

We learned about native architecture, fishing, and hunting, diets and customs.

We even were allowed to play with hoops used in dances similar to those we’d witnessed.

Driving back to Kah-Nee-Ta, the kids spotted a gaping chasm cut into the rock of a bluff overlooking the highway.

I made a hasty promise to hike to it the next day, but didn’t really mean it; surely the kids would forget about this final activity in the task of packing up.

No such luck, and thank goodness.

Our scramble over rocks and through sagebrush to the cave proved one of the most adventurous endeavors of the weekend.

And the reward was sweet for high over the highway, the cave–clearly a favorite campfire spot for generations–proved large and deep.

From its mouth, the whole of the Warm Springs reservation seemed to open up below us.

We knew better.

The reservation spans miles further than the path of the human eye in every direction.

But what we had gained was far greater: the start of an authentic understanding of this wild landscape and its stewards.

Rafting the Rogue River Oregon with O.A.R.S.

Our guided group of 11 travelers had been rafting the Rogue River less than 48 hours when a fellow participant, a native of India, stopped me as I set to work pitching my tent.

“Look at that,” he said, gesturing toward the west, where river and mountains met the sky as the evening set in.

“This is God’s country.  It really is.”

Isn’t it wonderful to appreciate nature while traveling?

Enjoying Each Day Rafting the Rogue River

He was right. We were currently 15 miles into our 40 mile river trek, far from any road access in the heart of Oregon’s Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River.

‘God’s country’ surrounded us from Day 1, ‘putting in’ the river near Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge in Galice, Oregon.

Our first morning with rafting operator O.A.R.S. consisted of introductions to both our guides and the river, serving as a warm-up for afternoon’s Rainie Falls: Class V rapids which some of us skirted on foot.

Others were going to brave the side ‘fish ladder’ route in inflatable kayaks which O.A.R.S. dubs ‘duckies’.

We camped our first night beside the Rogue, pitching our tents on the sandy beach.

We listened as our O.A.R.S. guides explained the ropes:

How we’d form a ‘fire line’ to unload the boats each evening; where the bathroom was (a portable toilet set in nature); and camp kitchen rules.

The main rule was basically to stay out of the way while the guides prepare gourmet feasts.

Each consecutive day of our trip brought exciting river navigation, punctuated with plenty of pit stops.

Hike up a creek here, a trek to an historical site there, perhaps a stop at a jumping rock into the Rogue.

What Else Did We Do?

Evenings were spent fishing or swimming, playing games with fellow rafters and guides, and enjoying the meals.

During our five days with O.A.R.S., our guides served as river rafting pros, camp counselors, cooks, and entertainers.

Dinners consisted of salmon, tamale pie, or grilled steak.

Desserts included peach shortcake, chocolate fondue, and even surprise birthday cake.

Every evening meal was preceded by appetizers, and every morning began with a coffee call and concluded with pancakes, french toast, eggs Benedict, and fresh fruit.

Wildlife We Saw While Rafting the Rogue River

On the river, we spied weasels, osprey, deer, bald eagles, bears, and snakes. In camp, we made friends.

A vacation with O.A.R.S. is all-inclusive and 100% stress free.

During our five days rafting the Rogue River, I tried to puzzle out the riddle of a vacation that somehow managed to be both highly adventurous and highly relaxing at the same time, and eventually gave up.

Rafters and guides alike live on ‘river time’; while the schedule was set to ensure we always hit the highlights along the river, nothing was set in stone.

Should we find a great swimming hole or someone yearn to fish a stretch of river, the itinerary could be adjusted.

By Day 3 of our O.A.R.S. Rogue River tour, we made camp early above popular Mule Creek Canyon.

We spent the afternoon at the remote Rogue River Ranch (accessible only by boat or jeep) and swam in Mule Creek.

The four kids under 12 in our group played horseshoes and field games with our guides (even after rowing daily, these men and women had unending energy) while the adults socialized and relaxed.

We made the push to challenging Blossom Bar rapid the following morning, allowing for plenty of time to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.

Our final day brought us to Foster Bar ‘take-out’, but also to sad farewells: after spending the better part of a week with these rafters and guides, we were leaving friends, not just fellow travelers.

What to know before you go:

Have the correct gear for a river rafting trip

After booking with O.A.R.S., rafters are sent a detailed packing list. Following it ensures a comfortable trip.

Kids and adults need quick-dry clothing, sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats for this warm-weather trip.

Inquire about your fellow rafters

It’s okay to ask questions when you book.

Find out if the tour you’re considering has other kids attending (if you will be bringing your own).

While the trip will be fun for your kids regardless, a large part of the enjoyment for them was the friendships formed with their peers.

Bring fishing gear or camp toys

Time in camp is simply more fun with entertainment.

Bring cards, fishing gear (and a license for adults), or even a Nerf ball to toss around.

We enjoyed lawn darts and Bocce ball during our trip.

Don’t bring food

Not even snacks.

You won’t need it.

We were so well-fed, we rarely finished the food on our plates.

Plus, no need to attract bears and other wildlife to camp with stowed food.

Book your pre-trip lodging ahead of time

Every Rogue River O.A.R.S. trip begins with a group meeting the evening before departure at Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge.

This scenic lodge is a great place to sleep the night prior to hitting the river.

Alternatives include the Galice Resort or motel accommodations in nearby Grants Pass.

We learned and experienced so much on our trip rafting the Rogue River.

With experienced, friendly guides and easy-going fellow travelers, it made it even better.

Hiking the John Muir Trail in Yosemite National Park

backpacking John Muir Trail

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Hiking the John Muir Trail – The John Muir Trail is a 211 mile stretch between Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley and Mt. Whitney in the California desert.

While hardcore backpackers will hike the entire length in as little as 15 days, the Yosemite National Park portion of the John Muir Trail makes for a beautiful escape for backpackers with less time (or a lack of desire to go the distance).

Here’s what you should know before hiking the John Muir Trail.

Where to Start and End a Yosemite National Park John Muir Trail Backpacking Trip

Yosemite National Park is certainly not one of the least crowded national parks to visit, but the masses can be avoided by hiking the back country.

Backpackers hiking the John Muir trail traditionally start at the base of Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park, and climb upward past Vernal and Nevada falls, Half Dome, and Little Yosemite Valley campground while making their way toward Tuolumne Meadows.

For our 20-mile John Muir Trail trip with young kids, we decided to tackle the John Muir Trail in reverse, which allowed for more downhill sections of trail and fewer crowds until the end of our journey.

Yosemite Day 1 (3 miles):

In order to start our Yosemite backpacking trip in Tuolumne Meadows, we began at the Sunrise Trailhead at Tenaya Lake on Tioga Road.

We followed the Sunrise Trail up steep switchbacks to connect with the Forsyth Trail near beautiful Sunrise Lake (a great first night camping option).
Hiking the John Muir Trail camping in Yosemite

Yosemite Day 2 (8 miles):

From Sunrise Lake, we continued to follow the Forsyth Trail to intersect with the Clouds Rest junction, leading 2 miles to arguably the best viewpoint in Yosemite National Park.

From Clouds Rest, hikers can see the entire Yosemite Valley, including an unique view of Half Dome.

Note: the pinnacle of Clouds Rest is fully exposed, with steep drop offs on each side.

This is not a place for young children or anyone with vertigo or a fear of heights.

Since I fall into that category (hiking with a small child), we viewed the Yosemite landscape from just .2 mile below the top, which also offers wonderful vistas.

Hikers can continue past Clouds Rest to intersect with the John Muir Trail several miles later, but as this section of trail is still exposed and at great heights, we opted to return the 2 miles back to the Forsyth Trail and join the John Muir Trail much earlier.

This first section of John Muir winds through old growth forest alongside Sunrise Creek, and affords several nice campsites adjacent to this water source.

This section of the John Muir Trail is less traveled, but we were still surprised to find we didn’t encounter a single hiker all evening, night, or morning.

John Muir Trail Day 3 (5 miles):

Day 3 took us along the John Muir Trail from Sunrise Creek into Little Yosemite Valley.

This backpackers’ haven offers numerous campsites along the Merced River (perfect for swimming in after a long day hiking!).

Though lively, Little Yosemite is a fun oasis for hikers, offering conversation and companionship around the communal fire pit after days of relative isolation.

En route to Little Yosemite Valley, the John Muir Trail offers views of Half Dome, and the steady accent of hikers navigating its cable system to the top.

Should you wish to ascend Half Dome yourself, the trail intersects with the final 2 miles of the Half Dome Trail mid-way through your hike down to Little Yosemite. Note: this is another steep, exposed trail.

Though children can ascend it, be advised that very small kids may not be able to reach the cables, essential to a safe ascent.

Our 13 and 11-year-olds could make the trek, but not our seven-year-old.

For those not challenging Half Dome, it’s fun stop on John Muir Trail or Little Yosemite Valley and use binoculars to watch the climbers.
camping in Yosemite

John Muir Trail Day 4 (4.5 miles):

Our final day on the John Muir Trail led us down from Little Yosemite Valley to spectacular Nevada Fall, where the trail splits into the John Muir or the popular Mist Trail.

We opted for the Mist Trail in order to glimpse the best views of nearby Vernal Fall, but the steps descending both falls are steep and can be slippery when wet.

Be advised that the Mist Trail gets crowded with day hikers, and can be hard to navigate with overnight backpacks.

The option of continuing on the John Muir Trail has its own set of disadvantages: it’s a longer route to the valley floor, and more exposed, providing little shade.

Either route you take will lead you eventually to Happy Isles on the Yosemite valley floor, where camping, lodging, shuttle transportation, and a good meal await.

hiking the John Muir Trail

How to prepare for hiking the John Muir Trail

Anyone planning to hike any portion of the John Muir Trail must obtain a Yosemite wilderness permit.

Permits can be secured up to 168 days prior to the date desired, and for summer backpacking in Yosemite, reserving a permit the full 168 days out is recommended since the trails do fill up.

Inside Yosemite National Park, all backpackers are also required to carry bear canisters to store and secure all food (tree hanging is not permitted).

Bear canisters can be rented (for only the price of a deposit) from Yosemite National Park Wilderness Centers (where you’ll also pick up your permit) or hikers can bring their own.

In addition to food, any item with a scent must be stored in a canister, including toothpaste, lotion, bug spray, and even chap stick, so plan accordingly.

If you plan to hike Half Dome, Half Dome permits are required, and they are separate from backcountry permits (though you can obtain both simultaneously).

Be sure to carry your permits with you at all times; you will be asked to show them.

If you plan to stay a night before or after your backpacking trek in Yosemite National Park (recommended), be sure to secure lodging early, as this is one of the most crowded national parks in America.

Backpackers can also make use of free backpacker campgrounds the day before and after their backpacking trip.

Hazards to be aware of hiking the John Muir Trail

In addition to dizzying heights, bears, and crowds near the valley floor, backpackers need to be aware of the significant elevation gains to be experienced on the Yosemite section of the John Muir Trail.

Elevations reach over 9,000 feet, necessitating plenty of water intake to prevent headaches and nausea.

Other wildlife can pose a threat if hikers are not alert, including rattlesnakes — we encountered the biggest we’ve ever seen at Little Yosemite Valley.

Getting to and from your car

Whether you’re hiking the John Muir Trail from the valley floor up or from Tuolumne Meadows down, as we did, you’ll need transportation back to your car at the end of your trip.

Yosemite National Park offers free shuttle service throughout the valley, but to travel to Tuolumne or vice versa, you’ll need to take Yarts, a paid shuttle service with stops in Yosemite Village and points throughout Tuolumne.

Hikers cannot make reservations in advance for Yarts, and though we were told buses never fill up, that was not the case.

Be sure to be at the stop before the allotted time and have cash in hand.

One-way tickets were less than $10 at the time of our visit.

Hiking the John Muir Trail is sure to be a memorable experience.

What section is your preference and what advice would you offer?

Planning Your Own Hiking Tour

Hiking is one of my favorite green activities.

It’s something you can do close to home and across the world.

It can be for leisure and for exercise.

I love that it can be done solo or with a group.

Personally, I always love trekking with a hiking tour group.

The group of people keeps me motivated, plus there is usually lots of interaction and great conversation.

You can meet all sorts of interesting people during hiking tours. Sleep Sack Liner Review

Hiking questions to consider

To find one of the best hiking tours for you, it is crucial that you consider who will be going with you.

Will kids be hiking?

What are their ages?

More importantly maybe, what are their abilities?

What kind of terrain are you interested in?

What kind of scenery would you like to see?

Consider the climate and the time of year you are able to visit.

Will you be bringing your dog with you?

Be sure to look for a pet-friendly hiking group.

Are you looking to hike for the majority of the day or for an hour or two a day?

All of these are important considerations to decide if a hiking tours are for you.

If it is more appropriate for you to go but without an organized group.

Hiking Tour Companies

There are many hiking tours available, and depending on what you’re looking, for there’s probably a hiking tour for you.

Best UK Walking Cycling Holiday

Here is a very small sample of a couple of hiking tour companies that we like.

If you have ever been on a hiking tour, think about what you did and did not like so that you can craft one to better serve your needs.

First of all, remember that the greenest hiking tours will practice leave no trace, will use local guides, and support the local economy.

So we highly recommend checking out local hiking tour companies in the country that you are planning on visiting.

Gap Adventures has world-wide hiking tours and tour groups.

They are relatively inexpensive and offer a huge variety of trips.

Wilderness Inquiry is a Minnesota based non-profit that has a variety of hikes and trips all over the world.

Again, they are very affordable and specialize in trips that are accessible.

photo credit: Jenster181

Hiking Tours: Plan Your Own

If you do not want to pay for a hiking tour, you can plan your own.

There are numerous databases to help you plan your hike.

We like the following to check out routes:

Trail Database is the world’s largest trail database and it’s fairly comprehensive.

Trails.com has good US trekking maps along with some maps of Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

And Google Earth shows hiking trails so you can look directly at the terrain you are planning on hiking.

Of course, the best place to meet people to hike and to learn about trails is at a hostel nearby the location where you want to hike.

We recommend showing up a day or two before you want to head out on the trail and see what others are planning.

Best Holiday Destinations for Hikers

A last option for hiking tours is to look on Meetup.com.

Many cities have a hiking group.

We were part of a Washington, DC hiking meetup group.

Some of our most memorable hiking tours have been in El Chalten, Argentina and up to the Lake Agnes Tea House in Canada.

Hiking in general is pretty fantastic.

Remember to explore close to home whenever you get the chance.

You don’t have to wait for your yearly vacation to enjoy hiking.

There are many state parks, forest preserves, and interesting trails, some closer than you think.

When in a foreign country, sometimes it is best to go with a group and research hiking tours.

Where to Travel with Teenagers: 5 Trip Ideas Teens Will Love

boy on scuba suit holding a snorkel

Updated:

where to travel with teenagers – Travel with kids just gets easier and more rewarding as they get older.

Of course, traveling with teenagers has its challenges, but let’s give this oft-misunderstood age group a break.

Taken outside their comfort zone and their social sector, they make for some of the best travel companions.

Below, find four general types of travel teens enjoy, then read on for specific trip ideas for teens.

Where to travel with teenagers? 

Types of Travel Your Teen Will Love

Outdoor Vacations with Extreme Sports or New Skills

Teens love to challenge themselves in a safe setting (usually away from their peers at home), and family vacation is a great place for it.

My newly minted teen has enjoyed kayaking in Ucluelet, BC and navigating a ropes course in Big Sky, Montana.

Over the years, my kids have enjoyed zip-lining, snowboarding, and rock climbing.

They shouldn’t have to endure days and days of lessons to have fun.

Memorable moments can be enjoyed on one-day adventures, including kayaking, canoeing, surfing, sky diving, parasailing, and white water rafting.

Volunteer Opportunities

Teens are old enough to actually help during relief and ongoing volunteer efforts and young enough that the experience will challenge and enlighten them, as it does for all of us.

Teens don’t have to go to a third world country to volunteer and make a difference, however.

There is Habitat for Humanity to consider.

Another example is outdoor retailer REI.

They host a trail clean-up stewardship effort teens can get involved in while traveling, as does Sierra Club.

Local church groups often go on mission trips as well as do more local work.

National Parks

I absolutely love national parks. It is hard to “outgrow” them.

Not only are teens now old enough for long hikes and difficult terrain, but they’re mature enough to fully appreciate what makes our national parks so special.

World Travel

With the internet to research and to plan ahead, world travel today is much easier than world travel in the past.

It will be very enriching for them now that they are older, as teens and tweens will better understand the world history, culture, and travel experiences offered to them.

Best Ski Resorts for Kids with the Best Kid Friendly Activities

Best ski resorts – For our family, skiing and traveling go together.

We love to explore new parts of the US while we’re sampling the slopes.

I advocate taking even very young children on a family ski trip, which is made easier by resorts with activities especially for kids.

You can ski green too and protect the earth in your travels.

Here are my picks for the best ski resorts with kid-friendly activities in the United States.

Keystone Resort, Colorado:

Keystone is #1 for kids amid top Colorado ski resorts, and it’s no wonder why.

First of all, there’s an abundance of lodging options in all price ranges at Keystone.

We like to stay in the River Run village for ski-in, ski-out convenience and proximity to the ski school, rentals, ice skating, and pools, but families can get deals elsewhere as well.

Keystone’s legendary Kidtopia offers kid-friendly fun every afternoon from 3 pm – 5 pm as kids get off the slopes.

These planned activities range from live DJs to face painting, and always include a free cookie hour afterward.

Families can also ice skate in two locations at Keystone, take sleigh rides, and try out snowshoeing or nordic skiing.

Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont:

Smuggler’s Notch, or ‘Smuggs’, has — hands down — the best ski resort child care in any resort we’ve visited.

What makes them special?

Their excellent care givers, of course, and the fact that they take babies and toddlers, which many resorts cannot.

Smuggs also has a huge indoor Play Zone for all kids after skiing and many kid-friendly restaurants.

Be more eco-friendly and walk!

A bonus is that the village at Smuggs is within walking distance of almost all lodging, which means a family can park their car, and not have to use it for the length of their ski vacation.

We love the way Smuggs packages their ski vacations in a way that allows parents to purchase child care, lessons (or ski ‘camp days’), lodging, and tickets all at once, for a reasonable price.

No more worrying about what things cost while on the mountain, or deciding at the last minute whether to spring for a lesson.

Northstar California Resort, CA:

Even though we live in Oregon, we consider Northstar California to be our ‘home’ resort.

We love this Tahoe skiing destination due to the friendly, easy-to-navigate pedestrian village, great snow-making (which means kids are never disappointed by poor snow conditions), and proximity to beautiful and bustling-with-activities Lake Tahoe.

When at Northstar, we make sure we stay in or near the village, so we can take advantage of ski-in, ski-out accommodations and quick dining.

After meals in the village, we walk over to the outdoor ice skating rink for free skating and s’mores roasted in one of many communal fire pits.

In fact, s’mores is a nightly ritual at Northstar.

You’ll see their mountain employees handing out chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows to all families coming off the slopes each afternoon.

Northstar has two athletic clubs with heated outdoor pools and hot tubs, and most of its lodging offers private hot tubs as well.

The village candy shops and ice cream parlors make kids happy.

Frequent family-friendly events overtake the village center many times per winter.

Snow Basin Resort, Utah:

In general, family-friendly ski resorts offer large base villages where families can dine, stay, and play, but there are exceptions, such as the Snow Basin Resort.

What this Utah resort lacks in a ‘village life’, it more than makes up for in low crowds and a fast car-to-lift commute.

Best of all, the ski school, gear rental shop, and child care are all located in the same building, making the pre-ski day easy on parents.

Even though Snow Basin doesn’t offer an array of base activities for kids, I recommend them for their great pricing.

Kids can get outfitted, enroll in ski school, and ski all day for a very reasonable price.

Parents will enjoy the tougher terrain at the top while kids learn, and then families can meet up for group runs until the lifts close.

Silver Mountain Resort, Idaho:

Bring your swimsuits for a ski vacation to Silver Mountain!

Yes, Silver Mountain has one of the biggest indoor water parks we’ve ever seen (think Great Wolf Lodge big) attached to its resort, allowing families to take a day off of the slopes to splash indoors during bad weather or every day, after skiing.

We’ve tried their surf simulator, and let’s just say we’ll stick to skiing!

There’s also a full spa at Silver Mountain, and great package deals for families: stay, swim, and ski for as low as $49 per person in the winter.

On the slopes, it’s an easy gondola ride from the resort to the base of the mountain, and families can simply return to their lodging for nap time.

Things to Look for When Bringing Kids to a Ski Resort

It’s nice when everything is close by, preferably walkable.

The best ski resorts will promote their kids-programs and lessons geared for kids.

Fun amenities for kids such as a swimming pool and kids’ club will make it more fun and easier on the parents too.

Where do you ski as a family?

What makes it kid-friendly?

Great Trip Ideas for Tweens and Teens

So where, exactly to go?

Read on for our list of where to travel with teenagers and tweens.

US National Whitewater Center

In his post on 100 Routes Across America, Paul Entin describes this whitewater rafting center in Charlotte, NC as “Disney World for the active outdoor enthusiast.”

The US National Whitewater Center has the largest man-made whitewater route in the world and is an Olympic training ground with lots to offer families with teens.

In addition to rafting, kids can zip-line, hike, eco-trek, and more.

Best of all, it’s affordable.

Teens can enjoy all of the offerings for significantly less than a day at Disney.
where to travel with teenagers

Olympic National Park

It’s no coincidence that of all the fantastic national parks on offer, Olympic gets my pick.

As most female tweens and teens know, it’s home to Forks and La Push, setting of the popular young adult books series Twilight.

Even if your teens are beyond the Twilight stage (or skipped it altogether), it’s fun to see where a fantasy series has come to life.

And it is a beautiful place, filled with lots of outdoor activities to enjoy.

Spend the day rafting, kayaking, or biking.

You can even horseback ride through the rain forest.

where to travel with teenagers

Sand Dunes of Ica, Peru

Outdoor adventure takes on a wild edge in Ica, Peru, where teens can have a blast sand boarding down southern Peru sand dunes with an Ica tour company.

If you need to stay closer to home, amazing sand dunes can also be found in Death Valley National Park as well as at the Great Sand Dunes in Mosca, Colorado.

I’ve also seen tweens and teens haul snowboards to the top of Logan Pass in Glacier National Park.

Crow Canyon, Colorado

Tweens and teens and their family can volunteer side-by-side with archaeologists at this Puebloan dig site outside of Mesa Verde, Colorado.

You might not think you’re on vacation while in the dirt, hauling buckets of mud.

However, teens are learning a profession, personalizing anthropology they usually see only in museums, and getting their hands dirty.

Worldwide volunteer opportunities abound, too.
where to travel with teenagers

Rome, Italy

Teens are ripe for international travel, and what better place to start than one location with nearly everything: ancient history, interesting sites, nice weather, and incredible art.

And what teen doesn’t love pizza and gelato?

It only takes a few days to hit the major sites in this culture-rich city, but half the excitement of Rome for teens is riding the public transit, walking through the eerie underworld of the catacombs, and seeing what they’ve only glimpsed in text books in the Vatican.

This post is part of our series on “Where to Travel with Kids.”

Catch up on Part 1: Where to Travel with Babies and Toddlers, Part 2: Where to Travel with Preschoolers and Young Children, and Part 3: Where to Travel with School-Age Kids.

Where have you traveled with tweens and teens?

What locations and activities have they enjoyed?

Where to Travel with Kids: From Babies to Teens

Family travel can be an incredible way to bond with your kids, show them the world, and escape from the hustle and bustle of life at home.

But where to travel with kids?

Traveling with kids is very different than traveling with other adults, and if you pick a destination that’s not age-appropriate, your vacation could go downhill quickly.

Don’t worry, though: we’ve got you covered.

Our four-part series provides helpful family vacation planning tips and great destinations for travel with kids of all ages, from babies to teens.

Read these posts and you’re sure to have a memorable family vacation.

Tips for where to travel with kids

Here is a summary of our tips for where to travel with kids.

Where to Travel with Babies and Toddlers: Top 5 Destinations

If you’re a parent with young kids, you’re probably starting to wonder where to travel with babies and toddlers.

The hardest part of vacationing with young children is not the vacation itself, but getting there.

And back.

And to all those points in-between.

And think of the packing!

Read this post to learn the easiest types of destinations for families with young kids.

Plus, we asked five of the top family travel bloggers for their picks, and here’s what they told us.

Each of these destinations will make a vacation with a baby seem like… well, a vacation.

Where to Travel with Preschoolers and Young Children

The good news: this age group has likely graduated out of diapers, cribs, and high chairs (hurray!), so packing for your vacation will no longer require a U-Haul.

The bad news: their attention spans are still short, and while they may be too big for the stroller, they’re often too small to walk long distances.

Here’s what to look for in vacation for preschoolers and young children.

Keep in mind at this age, as kids begin to learn more about their world, everything can be an adventure.

Usually, everything is fun, even things that are commonplace in our world like checking into a hotel room.

Where to Travel with School-Age Kids: 5 Family Trip Ideas

In my opinion, school-aged kids are the best travelers.

They are old enough to appreciate culture and history (and carry or pull their own luggage), but young enough to still enjoy vacationing with their parents.

School-age kids are a vacationer’s dream. Read this post to learn five types of vacations your school-age kids will love, plus five specific destinations for a perfect family vacation.

Remember to incorporate them as you plan ideas.

They may surprise you with things that will interest them.

A bonus is if they are learning about it in school.

Where to Travel with Teenagers: 5 Trip Ideas Teens Will Love

Travel with kids just gets easier and more rewarding as they get older.

Of course, traveling with teenagers has its challenges, but let’s give this oft-misunderstood age group a break: taken outside their comfort zone and their social sector, they make for some of the best travel companions.

They do not have to be watched every minute like younger children, and they can take responsibility for their packing and their own entertainment along the way.

They are old enough to maybe even appreciate the sights they will see.

It is important to involve them in the planning as well, and find something that will really interest them.

In this post, find four general types of travel teens enjoy, then read on for specific trip ideas for teens.

No matter what the age group, remember to think of travel activities for kids in advance.

It might be enough for each older child to bring a chapter book and the little’s some coloring.

Electronics like DS devices and iPads are always convenient and make kids happy too.

Where to travel with kids becomes easier when you do what works best for each age group.

Think back to your favorite vacations if you were lucky enough to go as a child.

Here are more great places for family vacations.

Remember your best practices for parenting while at home, bring them on the road to keep the routine as routine as possible, and enjoy the time you get to vacation with your children.

Where to Travel with School-Age Kids

In our “Where to Travel with Kids” series, I’ve offered destination ideas and tips for traveling with babies through young children.

However, I believe that school-aged kids are the best travelers.

They are old enough to appreciate culture and history (and carry their own luggage), but young enough to still enjoy vacationing with their parents.

It is a magical time.

They are still naturally curious and still are excited about so many things.

Everything can become an adventure.

Read on for great ideas about where to travel with school-age kids.

Family Travel Ideas for Elementary-School Age

Theme parks:

School-age kid may not become starry-eyed at the sight of Mickey any longer, but they’re tall enough for most all of the attractions and old enough to better handle longer days in the parks.

National parks:

Once kids can hike longer distances, they’re prime for a national park vacation.

Old enough to participate in all Junior Ranger activities and outdoor exploration, they’re also great campers.

Most have hiking, wildlife viewing, and camping.

Some even have sand dunes to explore and “sled” down.

City touring:

School-age kids may have had the social studies lessons necessary to understand the significance of city sights such as the Liberty Bell or the Statue of Liberty.

They’re also old enough to be exposed to cultural or urban experiences.

What an impact it would make to visit a place your child recently learned about in school.

Historical sights:

This is great time for a history lesson at a national historic site, battlefield, or town.

School-age kids can drink in the information presented to them at museums and cultural centers.

Ambitious road trips:

Thanks to electronic devices and kids who are old enough to read, the best road trips with kids are within this age range.

Not only are road trips now do-able, but a very rewarding and economic way to travel.

In addition to the electronics and other road games we enjoy, we make it a goal to read aloud one longer chapter book during each trip.

We took turns reading “Charlotte’s Web” on our last 4-day getaway.

And yes, I did most of the reading, but the kids were captivated.

It is so much easier to eat healthy when on a road trip, which will make your kids feel better during the course of traveling.

And if you are dealing with food allergies and sensitivities, a road trip is a lot easier than restaurant choices.

You will save money and vary their diet (as mine children will usually only eat fries and chicken strips at restaurants) and you don’t have to rely on restaurants the entire time.

Pack your cooler, and visit a few stores when necessary to pick up fresh produce and other items.

Top 5 Destinations for School-Age Kids

New York City, New York

The Big Apple is perfect for school-age kids.

They’re old enough to walk the city, use public transit (and learn to read maps), and enjoy the many art and natural history museums.

We love to stay in midtown for easy access to both Central Park and Times Square, and pick boutique hotels that offer personalized service, common lounge areas to relax, and kitchens so we can shop locally and prepare some of our meals.

Top attractions for families include Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, and the Museum of Natural History.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Of course, any national park is a great option for school-age kids, but Glacier gets my pick because of its stunning beauty and fun hiking and boating opportunities.

Stay in the park at the amazing Many Glacier Hotel to enjoy alpine sunsets on the expansive decks and bear watching along the banks.

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg is a history lover’s dream… but not terribly fun to explore with toddlers and preschoolers.

School-age kids will love the costumed historical figures, the tutorials in blacksmithing and candle making, and the opportunity to put each other in the stocks.

Stay on-site to get the most of your stay, (it can be humid and hot in summer, and you won’t want to commute far) or extend your vacation to include a Great Wolf Lodge stay, where they teach eco-responsibility in their water parks and hotels.

National parks road trip

There are too many great national parks to limit this list to just one region.

Depending where in the United States you live, you probably have a national parks road trip near you.

Our personal favorite has been a tour of Southwestern national parks, which included a route through Grand Canyon, Zion, Mesa Verde, and Great Basin national parks.

Boston, Massachusetts

In few other cities can school-aged kids experience urban culture, outdoor activities, and extensive U.S. history.

Kids over age five are old enough to walk the Freedom Trail in its entirety, and still have energy to explore the Boston Children’s Museum and Science Museum to boot.

Now that you have some ideas of where to travel with school-age kids, we hope you thoroughly enjoy this special time in your child’s life.

You can fuel their curiosity and sense of wonder and help develop their love of traveling.

Where have you traveled with school-age kids?

What would you recommend adding to a kid-friendly itinerary for this age?

Where to Travel with Young Kids and Preschoolers

Summer is here! It’s time to schedule that family vacation before the carefree summer days are gone, and it’s back to school already.

In previous articles, we tackled summer destinations for babies and toddlers, where to vacation with school-age kids, and even where to vacation with teenagers.

But where to travel with young children and preschoolers?

Here are some things to keep in mind.

The good news: this age group has likely graduated out of diapers, cribs, and high chairs (hurrah!), so packing for your vacation will no longer require a U-Haul.

The bad news: their attention spans are still short, and while they may be too big for the stroller, they’re often too small to walk long distances.

Here’s what to look for in vacation for preschoolers and young children.

Tips for Where to Travel with Young Kids

Destination resorts are still a good vacation idea

Families only need to pack and unpack once, kids can stay put (no long bus, train, or car travel once on vacation), and most resorts offer a plethora of kid-friendly activities.

If your kids are potty trained, a cruise might be in the cards.

Theme parks are ripe for introduction

While you may want to save the “big” theme park visits for school-aged kids, now’s the time for your kids’ introduction to Mickey and the gang.

State parks and campgrounds are king

Hold off on the big national parks until your kids can trek with the adults, and opt instead for smaller, easier accessed natural areas.

Single tank of gas road trips:

Again, think small.

Introduce your young children to the concept of road tripping without the multi-day hassle.

Plan on a single night out, maybe in tandem with a campground or cabin stay.

You’ll save money, too.

So where, exactly, to go?

Read on for our top vacation ideas for families with preschoolers or young children.

Top 5 Vacation Ideas for Traveling with Preschoolers

Disney Cruise

Cruising with kids is one of the most relaxing ways to spend a family vacation.

As with an all-inclusive resort, all of your entertainment, food, and activities are at your fingertips.

You only need to unpack once, and after you’ve scheduled your excursions (well before departure), there’s no stress about your itinerary.

While I advocate small ship cruising for families with older kids, I recommend a Disney cruise for the younger set because of its industry-setting childcare programs.

A Disney cruise kids’ club exists for every age, comes at no additional charge, and will please even the pickiest (or most uncertain) preschoolers.

Disney cruise ships lead the industry in eco-cruise measures, and they know how to give young families a good time.

Their entertainment programming is always nap- and bedtime-friendly.

Their pools, slides, and off-shore activities are always inclusive of younger children.

Note: if your child is not potty trained, you may want to wait on a cruise.

Nearly all cruise lines ban diapers of any sort in any pools, though other water play areas for toddlers do exist.

Read up on Disney cruising tips.

Dreams All-Inclusive Beach Resorts

All-inclusive beach resorts are great for kids of any age, but their hassle-free vacation plan is especially welcome for families with young kids.

In addition to our recommendations for babies and toddlers, any Dreams resort will fit the bill.

Combining relaxation for parents with all-day fun for young kids, I recommend Dreams because of their high standard for quality combined with their family-friendly, no-frills atmosphere.

You don’t sacrifice luxury, and you know your kids are welcome.

Our pick: Dreams Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Travel Guide to Caribbean for First Time Travelers

Disney Theme Park

You’re probably itching to introduce your preschooler or young child to Mickey Mouse and Co., and for good reason: this age is ideal for getting those precious photo ops.

Young children are old enough to “get” Disney, and still young enough to enjoy all the character fun.

That said, go easy on your first Disney theme park vacation!

You’ll likely be back with your children as they get older (you’ll need someone to ride Space Mountain with, after all), so plan to tackle only a few parks in one preschool visit.

If you’re on the West Coast, the smaller size of the Disneyland Resort is ideal.

Reserve character breakfasts for stress-free face-time with everyone from princesses to Pooh.

If possible, plan to stay on-site at Disneyland or DisneyWorld with preschoolers, preferably on the Monorail line in DisneyWorld.

Doing so makes returning to your room for daily naps possible, increasing vacation enjoyment for everyone.

If Disney doesn’t seem like the greenest destination, check out their environment and conservation initiatives.

Great Wolf Lodge

If a Disney theme park vacation is still too daunting, plan a “theme park lite” vacation at any one of the 13 (and counting!) Great Wolf Lodges across the U.S. Families will find huge indoor water parks, fun interactive treasure hunting games, art and activity play spaces, dining, and family-friendly accommodations all under one roof at Great Wolf Lodge.

Though not cheap, a Great Wolf Lodge vacation costs families much less than a standard theme park trip, and can be much less stressful.

Plus, Great Wolf’s green measures are industry-leading, and programs are in place throughout their resorts to teach kids about conservationism.

Plan to stay 2-3 nights for time to do everything in a relaxed manner.

Bring groceries for quick and easy breakfasts and lunches in your room.

Spacious counter space and mini-fridges make this easy.

Car Camping at a State Park

For a fun, easy mini-vacation one tank of gas or less from home, check your state’s park listings (Google “Oregon state parks,” for example).

Every state has affordable, beautiful state parks, and many of them offer overnight camping.

If you plan to backpack or camp regularly with your kids (yes, it is possible to backpack with babies and young kids!), car camping at a local state park can make for a great introduction.

Preschoolers love to camp: they seem to be immune to dirt, cold, or the irritation of bug bites.

They’re (finally!) old enough to sleep (fairly) well in new environments, and can follow basic outdoor safety rules.

Plus, it’s easy to hop in the car for a dinner out, check out a local activity like a children’s museum if the weather is poor, or pull up stakes and leave altogether if the going gets too tough.

In our state, we can reserve state park camping sites as far advance as 9 months, but you’ll want to check your listings for varying policies.

Our most recent favorite state park: Jed Smith Redwoods State Park on the Northern California coast.

The answer of where to travel with young children and preschoolers is also determined by how long you can be away; your budget; where you live; and your child’s health and disposition.

Consider if your child is overwhelmed by change or too much stimulation.

With the above choices, there are opportunities for everyone to have a stress-free and fun time.

Tips for Where to Travel with Babies and Toddlers

With summer just around the corner, it’s time to start planning family vacations.

If you’re a parent with young kids, you’re probably starting to wonder where to travel with babies and toddlers.

The hardest part of vacationing with young children is not the vacation itself, but getting there and back.

Save the road trips and multi-city or country itineraries for when the kids are older.

A single destination resort where you can unpack, settle in, and relax, without having to strap kids into car seats, strollers, and backpacks every day.

Accommodations with kitchens, laundry facilities, and room to spread out (and fit all that baby gear), such as a home rental, home swapping, or family suite.

Nearby points-of-interest with low-key outings you can experience at your own pace, such as nature walks, beaches, and self-guided tours.

But where, exactly, to go?

Read on to learn where to travel with babies and toddlers.

We asked five of the top family travel bloggers for their picks, and here’s what they told us.

Each of these destinations will make a vacations with a baby seem like… well, a vacation.

Velas Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The Puerto Vallarta resort area of Mexico is very safe for traveling families, and Velas Vallarta is perfectly appointed for babies and toddlers.

Rooms are all suite-style, making it easy to prepare food and bottles in the full kitchen.

The in-suite fridge is always stocked with complimentary bottled water, fruit juice, kid-friendly snacks, and cereal and milk.

This makes inconvenient trips to a grocery store unnecessary.

Since Velas Vallarta is an all-inclusive resort, your toddler can eat whenever he’d like, and whatever he’d like.

The resort’s three on-site full restaurants, poolside service, and snack areas all cater to young kids.

The resort features a beautiful beach, but since waves are present, babies and toddlers (and their parents) will feel more comfortable at one of the three free-form pools and lazy river.

One pool has a zero depth entry area.

The town of Puerto Vallarta is only five minutes away and easily accessible by taxi…no need to rent a car.

Families can walk miles along the beach in each direction for a relaxed tour of the colorful local tourist scene.

Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont

Smuggler’s Notch is located in the heart of scenic Vermont.

It isn’t just a winter vacation destination (though even in snow, Smuggs is great for babies and toddlers!).

Families stay in spacious condos at Smuggs, allowing parents to spread out from little ones.

Hopefully allowing everyone to get a good night’s sleep.

There’s so much to do right within the resort, there’s no need for long drives.

Toddlers will love having the pick of eight pools and hot tubs.

There’s lots of hiking and nature trails, and Smuggs’ programming for babies and toddlers is one of the best we’ve seen.

Sandpearl Resort, Clearwater Beach, Florida

Family travel blogger Debbie Dubrow of Delicious Baby recommends Sandpearl Resort for babies and young kids.

It’s small enough to navigate easily, but has several restaurant options on-site, including a takeaway coffee shop and a lovely spa.

The zero depth-entry pool never gets so deep that an adult (or an adult carrying a toddler) can’t stand and there are lots of young kids to play with.

Families won’t need a car once they’ve arrived at the resort since there are several good restaurants in easy walking distance.

A public trolly connects the hotel with Clearwater’s boardwalk and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter the dolphin.

While you are in the area, it might be worth a drive down to Casperson Beach or Venice Beach to look for shark teeth.

Your baby or toddler won’t be able to join in the fun but it is a unique experience for older children and adults.

Runaway Bay, Jamaica

For families seeking sun, sand, and sea in the Caribbean, Jamaica fits the bill.

It’s safe, clean, and easy to get to from so many points throughout North America.

Perhaps the most difficult decision parents will have to make is which family-friendly resort at which to stay!

The Franklyn D. Resort and Spa in Runaway Bay has attentive vacation nannies (yes, vacation nannies).

Each room is assigned one.

The nanny is available to care for your children from 9 am – 4:40 pm.

It is nice should the adults need some grown up time, and to offer that extra pair of hands parents always wish they had.

Five star service in a casual resort surrounded by lush vegetation, a calm baby-friendly beach, awesome jerk chicken, and symphonic tree frogs.

Wherever YOU Want to Go

The best part of traveling with babies is their portability.

Coming in second is their lack of an opinion on the day’s itinerary.

An eight-month-old won’t care whether he’s at home or at the Louvre, so long as he’s comfortable, fed, and stimulated.

This will all change soon, so before you’re required to (temporarily) adjust your travel style to cater to your young kids, hit the cafes, museums, and historical sights they’ll be too squirmy for in a matter of years — or months.

If you can’t decide where to travel with babies and toddlers, consider going somewhere you would have gone in your pre-parenting days.

Cities are especially conducive to baby and toddler travel, as they’re stroller-friendly and visually stimulating.

WalkingOn Travels blogger Keryn Means recommends Victoria, B.C., where she entertains her toddler at Butchart Gardens, especially at Christmas time, when the entire place is prettily lit.

If you hit the city with your baby or toddler, just be sure to stay somewhere central to your daily destinations to keep travel time to a minimum.

What is your experience?

Do you have family travel plans with babies and toddlers?

Where are you headed?

What recommendations would you offer?

Traveling While Pregnant: 6 Tips That Make it Easy

So you’re pregnant (congratulations!), you want to travel, and you’re full of questions.

We’ve got you covered.

Traveling can be intimidating when you’re pregnant, but it doesn’t have to be.

No doubt, your pregnancy will influence your travel plans.

It may determine where you go and when.

But it doesn’t mean you need to stop traveling.

There are wonderful destinations that are great for pregnant travelers.

And, if you plan well, traveling while pregnant can be a great way to unwind and relax.

Before you book your next trip, check out these 6 tips that will make traveling while pregnant a breeze.

Check your health insurance policy

If you’re traveling domestically, you probably won’t have too many issues with health insurance (other than potential out-of-network costs).

This is especially true if you purchase a plan from one of the health insurance marketplaces as they are more extensive with what they cover.

But if your trip involves international travel, it’s essential to find out if your insurance will cover pregnancy-related complications.

If not, you’ll should look into additional travel insurance to cover healthcare expenses.

Even if you don’t anticipate needing it.

Buy travel insurance

I’ve never purchased travel insurance, but I will definitely buy it for trips I take while I’m pregnant, for both domestic and international trips.

Especially if you’re booking a big trip, it’s worth the extra cost to purchase travel insurance.

Make sure you do your research because there are different kinds of travel insurance.

Some will just cover the cost of your trip if you have to cancel while other travel insurance will cover medical needs, as well.

Pregnancy affects each woman differently and you have no idea how you will feel 10 weeks from now.

It’s best to be prepared in case you can’t travel.

Or, frankly, in case you don’t feel like leaving the couch.

Be prepared

Be sure to make copies of emergency numbers, medical information, and your insurance information and pack them in your carry-on.

Being prepared is a good idea in general, but it’s especially important during pregnancy.

Before you book your trip, talk to your doctor or midwife to see if they have any concerns.

It’s also a good idea to ask your healthcare provider for a copy of your medical records to bring with you.

Pick a pregnancy-friendly location

If you’re in your first trimester and are planning a big trip for later in your pregnancy, it can be easy to overestimate how much energy you’ll have or how (un)comfortable you’ll be.

As you think about trips that would be good for pregnancy, think about how much walking you’ll want to do and where you’ll want to stay.

While camping may be your first choice typically, you may want to re-think it when you’re 7-months pregnant; a good night’s sleep at that point will be hard enough in a bed, much less in a sleeping bag.

A road trip can be a wonderful vacation, but sitting a car for more than a few hours at a time could be really uncomfortable toward the end of your pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a great time to stay closer to home and enjoy relaxing vacations.

Plan a spa weekend with the girls

Relax, spend quality time with friends, and find a location that specializes in pre-natal massage.

Dive into a beach getaway

Pack a good book, spend time lounging outside, and appreciate that you’re not chasing a toddler down the beach — yet.

Head to the city

This might seem counter-intuitive since it might include a lot of walking, but there are ways to make a city pregnant lady-friendly.

Pick a hotel in a central location and spend a little extra on cabs here and there.

Enjoy good restaurants and pack comfortable shoes to do some shopping.

Check airline and cruise policies

When we were planning a recent vacation, we thought a cruise would be a good option.

We were about to book and I checked the policies at the last minute.

I’m glad I did because most cruise lines won’t let you travel past 20 weeks.

It’s also essential to check your airline’s policy.

While many airlines will let you fly domestically well into your third trimester, international flights may have different regulations.

Remember, sometimes your flights will be operated by an airline that’s different than what you actually booked through.

So check all of their policies.

Regardless, it’s a good idea to carry a doctor’s note when you’re in your third trimester.

Get comfortable!

Whether you’re driving or flying, you want to be comfortable when you’re traveling while pregnant.

It’s also a good idea to walk around to prevent blood clots, so an aisle seat will make it easier to get up and stretch.

Rejuva Health compression socks also help with blood flow and circulation.

While a window seat offers a better view, if you’re like me, you’ll want to stick to the aisle so you can get up and go to the bathroom without asking the people next to you to move.

It’s also a good idea to walk around to prevent blood clots, so an aisle seat will make it easier to get up and stretch.

Drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeine.

If you’re traveling by car, be sure to plan for adequate stops.

Carry bottled water and healthy snacks.

If your feet are prone to swelling, bring slippers or socks to wear as a passenger.

In both cases, wear comfortable clothes.

It’s a good idea to wear clothes that will make frequent trips to the bathroom easy.

Like drawstring or elastic pants.

While it’s fun to get dressed up on vacation, you’ll be more comfortable if you pack sensible shoes that will accommodate your sometimes swollen feet.

Traveling while pregnant can be a great way to get some rest and relaxation before your bundle of joy arrives!

Just be sure to take it easy and talk to your doctor before doing any sort of travel.

Have you traveled while pregnant?

Do you have tips for other pregnant travelers?

How to Travel Cheaply with a Large Family

These days, the average family has increased from two kids to three, and yet when traveling, families still encounter the same ‘family of four’ classification.

With our family of five, we’ve personally found this frustrating, and I’m sure families with four or more kids agree!

If you have a family larger than the supposed ‘average’ family of four, fear not: you can learn how to travel cheaply with a large family.

Drive instead of fly

Even with soaring gasoline prices, there’s no doubt about it: driving with a large family will be cheaper than flying.

To reduce fuel costs and their impact on the environment, plan road trips that are big on attractions, not miles.

We took a stellar California Highway 1 road trip during which we only drove 2-3 hours per day, and filled the rest of our week’s vacation with sights along the way, historical tours, and state beaches.

Other ways to travel cheaply while driving are that you can pack your cooler with healthy food, snacks and drinks, and save money by not having to eat in restaurants all the time.

Driving instead of flying might limit your possible destinations, but it increases your ability to see, feel, and, in the case of fun road-side diners and farmer’s markets, taste your route.

We find we enjoy the journey more when we’re driving along state highways instead of 10,000 feet in the air.

Traveling with an infant? Read these 12 tips for car travel with a baby.

Find accommodations that fit your family

If you’ve tried to squeeze a family of five or six into a standard hotel room, you know it’s miserable.

And yet, reserving adjoining rooms can sometimes be more expensive than a hotel suite.

Instead, look for vacation home rentals at your destination, even if you’re only staying a night or two.

Our favorite rental home sites include HomeAway and Dwellable.

For longer-term trips, consider a home swap.

Go outdoors!

Camping or national park stays will always be more affordable than city hotel stays, because nearly every campground and park charge their nightly rates and park entrance fee rates by the carload or family, not per person.

Plan a vacation around several national parks with multi-day admittance fees per carload.

Take advantage of free and low-cost programs like Junior Rangers.

Note: National park historical lodges are one of our favorite ways to spend a night in a park, but because these hotels are often older and their rooms are smaller, they are rarely economical for large families.

Instead, consider a state park yurt or cabin stay if you don’t want to camp outdoors.

Look for attractions with family admission rates or family season passes

Some of our favorite wildlife parks, zoos, and children’s museums offer family season passes or annual memberships.

For families of four, the price of one family pass is equivalent to 3-4 visits, but when your family includes 3, 4, or more kids, an annual pass can be cheaper than a single day’s admittance.

Many of these attractions offer reciprocal benefits for museum members for similar types of museums in other parts of the country and world.

Some science museums and children’s museums offer a discount if you show your annual pass from another museum at their admittance desk.

Look online in advance, and remember to pack your membership cards. Visiting the Mary Kay Museum in Texas

Travel during ‘shoulder seasons.’

A ‘shoulder season’ includes the weeks just prior to and after a destination’s peak season.

For instance, a ski resort’s shoulder seasons would be late November-early December and early April.

A beach resort’s shoulder season may be May or September.

Visiting a popular or expensive destination during a shoulder season is more economical.

Save money by going off-peak and save on lodging and airfare.

Hint: This is especially true for a Disney theme park vacation.

We love traveling in the autumn, when the weather is still nice, but the resorts are less crowded… and less expensive.

Note: Resorts are more likely to upgrade families to roomier suites during a shoulder season as well.

After all, they’re likely sitting empty.

You can travel cheaply

With some planning and creativity, you can travel and create wonderful memories for your large family.

Do you have a large family?

What ways have you found how to travel cheaply?

How do you keep vacation costs down for your family of five or more?

Photo credit: Amy Whitley and Mike Baird, peruviaje and channone

Itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa in 3 Months

Victoria waterfalls

Updated:

Itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa for planning a trip to the large continent of Africa is daunting.

With over 50 countries on the massive continent, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Whether you’re driving or taking public transportation, we recommend starting with Southern and Eastern Africa.

Generally, these areas are simpler to navigate than other parts of Africa.

Here we have planned the itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa for you.

Take it as it is or use it as a guide.

Have you dreamed of trekking gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda?

Been glued to National Geographic as you watch the legendary wildebeest migration through the Serengeti?

Travel through Africa is a constant adventure. Trips for Butterfly Watching

Biggest Cities in South Africa for the First Time Visitor

Itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa

Southern and Eastern Africa are home to many spectacular destinations, like Zanzibar, an island off the cost of Tanzania, Victoria Falls, and the mysteries of the Namibian desert.

A trip through over a dozen countries can easily be completed in 3 months in Africa.

Is Flying in Africa Expensive

Itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa

Itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa

Africa Day 1-18:

Arrive in Cape Town.

Spend a few days sightseeing and picking up last-minute necessities.

Depart Cape Town and travel via the Garden Route to Durban.

The Garden Route is a beautiful way to travel the coast.

Soak up some sun on the Durban beaches.

Depart Durban and travel to Swaziland.

Spend time exploring Swaziland National Parks and learning about community projects.

Depart Swaziland and head to the Kruger National Park (via Nelspruit).

Get out those binoculars!

You can self-drive through the Kruger (the majority of the roads are paved) or sign up for organized game drives.

Leave South Africa and arrive in Maputo, Mozambique.

Africa Day 19-36:

Travel up the coast, stop in seaside towns like Inhabane, and don’t miss the Bazaruto Archipelago.

Most towns have spectacular scuba diving (and offer certification).

Travel into Malawi and arrive in Blantyre.

Spend the day in Blantyre.

Travel along the coast of Malawi, stay in coastal towns like Monkey Bay and Nkhata Bay.

Head into Tanzania.

The further north you go, the borders will get more hectic.

Be sure to allow plenty of time.

Take a couple of days to travel through Tanzania to Dar es Salaam.

Are you still with us? Aren’t you glad we have already prepared your itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa?

There sure is a lot to do in this amazing country.

Think of planning on spending some time to volunteer in Africa as well.

Be sure to check out Animal Husbandry at South Africa’s Predator Sanctuary Project.

Tip: When arranging your trip always check AccommoDirect to get terrific accommodation in Durban, Garden Route, and all around South Africa.

Africa Day 38-44:

Enjoy Dar es Salaam.

While there isn’t a lot to do in the city, it’s a good place to stock up on supplies and dig into a good meal.

Take the ferry or fly to Zanzibar.

Spend a couple of days wandering through the winding streets of Stone Town before relaxing on one of the northern beaches.

Africa Day 45-53:

Arrive back in Dar es Salaam.

Drive to Moshi and, if you’re lucky, you’ll start to see Mount Kilimanjaro through the clouds.

Continue on to Arusha.

Spend a few days exploring the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater.

Tours leave from Arusha.
Itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa

Africa Day 54-70

Back in Arusha you can buy supplies and get some rest before traveling north to Kenya in the morning.

In Nairobi, check out the local market for crafts.

Wherever in Africa you are, be sure to look for sustainable souvenirs only.

Plan a trip to the mall if you need clothes or supplies — which you might after nearly 2 months of travel.

Be sure to stop at a local coffee shop to have some true Kenyan coffee before making your way to the Masai Mara.

Spend a few days seeing wildlife in the Masai Mara.

Enjoy a couple of days on the banks of the Nile.

There are a variety of adventure activities, like white water rafting, available.

Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, is a great place to rest before continuing your journey to Rwanda in the morning.

Drive to Rwanda, stay in Kigali and visit the Genocide Museum.

Head to Volcanoes National Park to get ready for your gorilla trekking adventure.

You’ll awake bright and early to spend the day in Volcanoes National Park trekking gorillas, afterwards head back to Kigali.

Spend the day in Kigali.

Africa Day 71-77:

Leave Rwanda and head back into Tanzania.

Spend a few days traveling to Zambia via Mbeya, Tanzania.

As you exit Tanzania, you’ll drive into Zambia.

You’ve officially left East Africa!

Travel through Zambia and head to Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.

In the morning, you’ll drive from Lusaka to Victoria Falls, one of the world’s most amazing waterfalls!
Itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa

Africa Day 78-90:

Spend the day at Victoria Falls. Zambia holds 1/3 of the magnificent falls and there are hiking trails so bring plenty of water and snacks.

Head to the Zimbabwe side of the Falls.

Take part in adventure activities like white water rafting and bungie jumping.

Drive from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, to Maun, Botswana.

In Maun you can organize tours into the Okavango Delta.

Head into Namibia and drive to Swakopmund via Windhoek.

In Swakopmund, be sure to take quad bikes out on the sand dunes.

From Swakopmund, go south to Sossusvlei to see Dune 45 at sunrise and hike to Dead Vlei.

Travel south to Cape Town, be sure to stop at Fish River Canyon on your way out of Namibia.

If you are looking to spend 3 months in Africa, this itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa is a great place to start.

From strolling the narrow, winding, streets of Zanzibar to white-water rafting down the Zambezi, traveling through Eastern and Southern Africa is an adventure of a lifetime!

Animal husbandry means providing care for any animal in a captive environment, meaning anywhere but their natural habitat, such as zoos, labs, sanctuaries etc.

This means providing adequate diet, habitat, providing shelter, stimulation and enrichment.

The care of captive animals is a huge issue in today’s society all over the world and all countries now have laws in place protect animals in captivity.

Visit Jeddah Attractions Tourists Are LOVING

What is Animal Husbandry?

Day in the Life at South Africa’s Predator Sanctuary Project

6:00am: Keepers awaken.

6:15am: We gather in the kitchen and prepare 700ml of milk, warming for 1 minute 40 seconds.

We divide this into two bottles with teats and into two bowls.

6:30am: The two white Bengal are walked from their indoor enclosure to their larger outdoor enclosure for the day, where they are given their bowls of milk each.

6:40am: The two Siberian tigers are also walked from their overnight enclosures to their outdoor enclosures and each given their bottle of milk.

If the cheetahs have been brought in they are also walked to their outdoor enclosures.

6:50am: The large number of cats are fed and given water each morning.

The honey badger enclosure is cleaned and if necessary the water damn is cleaned and refilled.

The honey badger is then walked from his night enclosure to his outdoor enclosure.

7:00am: The cercal, the owls and the skunk’s enclosures next are cleaned.

7:15am: All keepers gather and follow the green path shown on the map around the predator park checking each enclosure has clean water.

Removing bones from the previous evenings feed and removing any feces.

The electricity of each enclosure is also checked and recorded on a check list.

The electricity should range from 7000v and 8000v.

8.30am: Keepers eat.

8:45: Karen and Jurg the two owners of The Predator Sanctuary Project clean the more dangerous enclosures such as the lions and the Bengal tigers.

They also interact with the animals, often playing with the lion’s ball and any one on one interaction, as seen below, is used to check for ticks as well as interaction.

Jukka, the male Bengal tiger, is also given his bottle of milk while Karen cleans the enclosure.

9:30am: If needed in the larger enclosures with the large water damns will be drained and cleaned with chlorine before being refilled.

This is always done early time so the park isn’t too busy with visitors when the tigers are moved.

12pm: There are four tours throughout the day at 10pm, 12pm, 2pm and the feeding tour at 4pm.

Visitors are taken around the predator park while the keepers give short talks on each animal.

Animals at the front of enclosures also are given a treat through as part of their daily interaction.

2. 30pm: The food preparation begins, with each animal being catered for individually.

Each piece of meat is cut to the right size and everything is recorded so the food amount can be monitored.

4pm: This is the most popular tour and is when all the animals are fed, entering at the lions enclosure and following the route through to the Bengals, the white lions and cheetahs, feeding the Siberian and white Bengal cubs last.

It also the tour Jurg and Karen give talks on the animals.
Predator Sanctuary Africa
The food is thrown over the fence to most of the animals.

The food for the Several is placed on a large rock, to encourage him to come closer to the front of the enclosure as he is very shy.

The cheetahs are fed from plates because they are very hygienic animals in the wild (highly unusual among big cats).

They don’t eat the skin of their prey using it as a protection from dirt and bacteria.

They don’t return to kills and will also leave the bones or entrails of prey. (Eaton, 1974)

5.30pm: The milk is prepared for the Bengal and Siberian tigers.

5.45pm: The Siberians are walked to their night enclosure.

6:00pm: The white Bengal tigers are walked to night enclosure.

6.15pm: If the weather is very cold or very wet the two cheetahs are also walked to their indoor enclosure.

6.30pm: If the tigers den needs cleaning it is drained and scrubbed with chlorine and refilled.

The Siberians and white Bengal enclosures are also cleaned each night.

7:00pm: End of the day for keepers.

During the day also extra jobs that vary such as taking the honey badger or the skunk out for a walk for some interaction and a chance to explore.

We also build anything needed for old or new enclosures. Including fencing, enrichment, shelters, signs etc

White Bengal tigers at South Africa’s Predator Sanctuary Project

Angelo and Mish are not fully grown and were due to be moved into larger enclosures once they had outgrown their cubbie camps.

However due Angelo’s condition it now means they will remain in the cubbie camp as it somewhere Angelo knows and is comfortable in despite his condition worsening.

He has Progressive Retinal Degeneration which means he will eventually become blind.

Unfortunately there is no cure for this but to try and slow the progression of the degeneration Angelo gets the eye tablets “Eyes RX” (McCalla, 2010).

He gets two tablets daily, wrapped up in a cut of meat.

They are brought in at night because since they were very young they brought in because the enclosures were so far away from the main house and now they have outgrown the camps there is an added danger they could escape and would be unheard from the house.

Conclusion Animal Husbandry

The health and happiness of the animals at The Predator Sanctuary Project is at the top of everybody’s concern that works here, especially the owners who work daily with the animals, interacting with them and overseeing their daily husbandry and routine.

Every aspect of the animal’s life is looked at to ensure they are as happy as possible from the hygiene of their enclosures, to their diet, to their enrichment, mentally and psychically. project Eco-Friendly

Adventuring in Southern Africa:

The Great Safaris and Wildlife Parks of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Malawi, Lesotho, and Swaziland.

Editors Note: I love reading “Day in the Life of” Posts; it’s fascinating to learn what exactly people do day-to-day with their volunteer projects.

Samantha Hollick from Chester University, England.

She volunteers with the EDGE of AFRICA Predator Sanctuary Project.

For details on working with Predators in South Africa visit http://www.EDGEofAFRICA.com/

Itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa in 3 Months

Breathtaking Attractions of Johannesburg South Africa

Whatever the time of year, there are a million and one reasons to visit Johannesburg South Africa.

With a beautiful, sunny climate that brings pleasant temperatures all year round, a rich and vibrant history, and a bold and colorful culture, Johannesburg is one of the most fascinating and intriguing destinations in the world, perfect for the intrepid traveler.

What makes Johannesburg so appealing is that it really is a place of contrasts.

While the high rise city is busy, bustling, and cosmopolitan, it is surrounded by quiet, serene, and incomprehensibly vast spaces dedicated to the protection of some of the world’s most majestic creatures.

The beauty of taking a trip to Johannesburg is that, as South Africa’s largest city, the sights and attractions are easily accessible from all four corners of the globe.

Johannesburg flights are available online and can be easily booked, so start searching for one that will complement your budget and enjoy the vacation of life afterwards.

Johannesburg is a beautiful, exciting, fresh city that caters to those striving for a relaxing getaway, travelers looking for adventure, and holidaymakers looking for eco-friendly tourist destinations.

Adventuring in Southern Africa: The Great Safaris and Wildlife Parks of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Malawi, Lesotho, and Swaziland

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens of Johannesburg South Africa

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens of Johannesburg South Africa

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens may seem like they’re a man made haven for rare and exotic wildlife, especially as they’re maintained by The South African National Biodiversity Institute, but these gardens are actually naturally occurring.

They have drawn all manner of wildlife, and encouraged the growth of unique plants and flowers, due to their diverse landscape which comprises of a mix of lush, green grassland and sparse, barren Savannah.

The mix of both environments ensures a healthy blend of species which thrive in the differing conditions, such as the Verreaux’s Eagle which can be found in only a few places around Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and the antelope which flourishes in Savannah conditions.

For travelers who don’t want to make the trip out to see the Big 5, this is the next best thing.

Lesedi Cultural Village Johannesburg South Africa

Lesedi Cultural Village

While the Lonely Planet guide describes this Johannesburg attraction as ‘very cheesy’, it’s actually a very educational and inspirational experience.

The traditional village is more of a museum set up than an authentic community these days, but an overnight stay here is a wonderful and fun way to learn more about South Africa’s history; how the landscape and economy has changed over the years, and how there are still whole communities dedicated to the preservation of the country.

Visitors to the village will get to witness, and partake in, an ‘Afrofusion’ dance performance typical to South Africa, and dine on mouthwatering cuisine native to this part of the world – particularly potjiekos filled with a colourful medley of local vegetables.

Montecasino Bird Gardens

Montecasino Bird Gardens

In Johannesburg, you’ll find amazing attractions in the most unlikely of places, such as the Montecasino.

Primarily known as a place of over-18 debauchery, drinking, and gambling, what many don’t know is that this entertainment complex is actually home to a wide range of wonderful creatures that are provided with a large, clean, fresh, and, most importantly, safe environment in which to live.

The white pelicans, red ruffed lemurs, gentle sloths, and color-changing chameleons live in harmony amongst hornbills, cranes, and flamingos, making for a truly breathtaking attraction.

The bird gardens have recently partnered with the University of South Africa’s Nature Conservation Program, aiming to provide a great tourist experience while still protecting the environment.

Old Kromdraai Gold Mine

The Johannesburg gold rush of the 1880s was a real turning point for the city.

Not only did the economy boom during this time, but, following the gold rush, the city really expanded and became much more like what we know it as today – full of high rise skyscrapers and contemporary architecture – all due to the economical boost.

It was largely this gold rush that made Johannesburg what it is today.

Visitors to the city can take a tour of one of the original gold mines – the Old Kromdraai Gold Mine – which operated between 1887 and 1914.

Not only will visitors get a unique view inside a real gold mine, but they’ll also have the opportunity to learn more about the traditional techniques which were used back in the 19th century, and stroll through the eerie, abandoned tunnels which give a whole different view to South Africa.

Diversity is Key

Johannesburg really benefits from its diversity in terms of tourism, attracting travelers of all demographics, from all over the world, and with a wide range of interests.

While the above attractions offer some of the most breathtaking scenery, amazing wildlife encounters, safaris and fascinating historical and cultural experiences, they are far from a comprehensive list of what Johannesburg has to offer.

Ranging from observation decks on the tallest city center skyscrapers to green parklands and compelling museums, no traveler will ever get bored of Johannesburg, whether they visit for just a quick getaway or spend months in the city.

Itinerary for Eastern and Southern Africa in 3 Months

photo credit: epcp Zest-pk

Top African Safari Destinations and Eco-Friendly Lodges

Rising to the dawn chorus of the African bush or spotting lion in the wild, is on the bucket list of many an animal lover.

Africa is a magical travel destination.

It is filled with exotic sights and cultures.

But with so many luxury safari options to choose from, where do you start?

Kruger National Park, South Africa

The Kruger National Park is located in the north of South Africa.

It boasts over 140 large mammal species which is the most in Africa.

There are over 500 bird species, with in excess of 240 resident species.

This abundance of wildlife has resulted in the Kruger Park attracting more yearly visitors than any other reserve.

The Big 5

The most popular attraction is of course “The Big 5.”

The Big 5 consists of lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and the notoriously shy leopard.

You will almost surely spot the first four.

However, it is more rare to see a leopard, unless you know where to go.

Sabi Sabi Reserve

The Private Sabi Sabi Reserve borders Kruger Park and is Africa’s most luxurious safari destination.

It is also the home to dense concentrations of leopard.

This reserve is sculpted into a slope of the earth.

It’s almost invisible in the landscape.

Here lies Africa’s most environmentally-sensitive lodge, The Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge.

The Earth Lodge consists of 13 ultra-luxurious suites each featuring individually designed furniture, private plunge pool, en-suite glass fronted bathroom and indoor and outdoor showers.

The natural elements of the lodge create a sense of calm and a setting for restoring the spirit in the wild.

During a stay at Sabi Sabi, you’ll depart for twice-daily game viewing, either in an open top vehicle or on foot, accompanied by an armed and knowledgeable game ranger.

Best time to visit Kruger Park

The best time to visit Kruger Park is from late July to early October when the temperatures are cooler, but not as cold as the winter months.

The vegetation is less dense this time of year.

The animals are more active during the day, resulting in better game viewing opportunities.
Zarafa African Safari Camp

Selinda Reserve, Botswana

The 130,000 hectare Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana is home to the Zarafa Camp.

Wildlife can roam freely.

Additionally, conservation and eco-tourism are the central focus.

Zarafa Camp

Zarafa Camp is setup in a way that has minimal impact on the incredible surrounding wilderness.

The Camp makes use of a revolutionary “solar farm” consisting of 150 solar panels that produce enough electricity to handle all the camp’s electrical needs each day.

In addition, they used only recycled woods and canvas to the construct the camp.

A “bio gas” plant recycles waste into usable cooking gas.

Drinking water at Zarafa Camp is treated through a UV filtration system allowing the Camp to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles.

The result is one of the greenest camps in Africa.

Zarafa Camp is also Botswana’s first and only Relais & Chateaux property.

Slenda Reserve

The Slenda Reserve lies at the crossroads of Botswana’s most prolific wildlife areas with abundant year-round animals.

Popular species in the area include leopard, lion, elephant, zebra and giraffe.

You can also see less popular wildlife, including cheetah, sable, roan and African wild dog.

Nearby, explore the Zibadianja Lagoon.

Here you will enjoy excellent birding opportunities with Black egret and African skimmer.

The lagoon is also home to hippo and the mighty African elephant.

Best time to visit Botswana

The best time to visit Botswana is from May to September during the dry season, when you can view large concentrations of animals at the many water holes in the region.
Mara Plains African Safari

Maasai Mara Reserve, Kenya

The Maasai Mara (known locally as the Mara) region of Kenya is one of the richest wild ecosystems in the world.

It comprises in excess of 375,000 hectares.

Across the world, people know The Mara for its large populations of Masai lions, Kenyan cheetahs and African leopards.

It is also the setting of the annual migration of more than 2 millions animals.

This includes over 1.5 million wildebeest from the Serengeti each year, between July to October.

Mara Plains Camp

Located within in this spectacular reserve is the Mara Plains Camp by the Great Plains Conservation group.

They designed Mara Plains without using any cement.

This is an effort to minimize the impact on the surrounding environment.

This makes it possible to remove the camp completely without leaving a trace.

They built the Mara Plains camp structures on decks that are raised.

This limits the covered surface area and provides a low-impact safari operation.

They source water from the local Loita Spring.

It is filtered and 100% chemical free.

Solar energy powers the electricity used throughout the camp.

The design of Mara Plains is understated with quiet class.

Planners carefully designed it to highlight the magnificent nature which surrounds it.

The ancient Swahili heritage is reflected in the large wooden doors with accents of deep red and purple to honor the great Maasai chiefs who lived there for millennia.

Best time to visit Maasai Mara

The best time to visit the Maasai Mara is from August to November, but this may vary depending on the seasonal rainfalls.

Safari costs

The costs of visiting the different camps and lodges depend on the location and time of year you wish to travel, and the level of accommodation required.

To get more ideas see the African Safari Home Packages, which include tours for South and East Africa.

African Safari Home can also give you insider’s information on the best deals available and when is the best time to travel.

They have more than 20 years luxury safari planning experience and the most competitive rates in the industry.

Popular Africa destinations

  • Cape Town in South Africa
  • Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe
  • The ever-popular Serengeti in Tanzania

While costs may vary greatly, you can expect to pay around $500 per person sharing nightly, for a four star African safari.

It is approximately $1,000 per person nightly for a five star experience.

These rates can be as much as $4,000 per person nightly at the premium five star lodges of the Sabi Sabi.

Rates for both four and five star options typically include all meals and local drinks.

Prices do not include international airfare.

Check in advance to see if the lodges welcome children under 12 years old.

How to have a green safari adventure in Africa

Imagine being able to witness the legendary wildebeest migration first-hand, or getting to watch dozens of elephants at a watering hole.

Going on a safari in Africa is an adventure of a lifetime.

Although safaris are not known for being green, it is possible to have an environmentally friendly safari experience.

I’ve gone on a dozen safaris and compiled these tips for having a green safari adventure in Africa.

Aim for Environmentally Friendly Transportation

This can be a tough one.

Driving a diesel-guzzling Land Rover through the bush and blazing new trails to track animals in their natural habitat hardly seems environmentally friendly.

I guarantee it will be impossible to find a safari company willing to drive you around in a Prius through the Serengeti.

But there are still ways to go on a green safari.

Instead of going on a private safari, ask to be put in a full vehicle.

Not only will this save you money, but it will use less fuel and resources.

Also, be sure to book travel with a company that is committed to staying on existing roads and 4×4 trails.

Off-roading can damage the natural vegetation so much that it could take years to recover.

green safari adventure in Africa

Waste Not, Want Not

Many luxury safari companies are there to provide for your every whim.

This can create a wonderful experience, but is not always the most eco-friendly.

Look for companies that are committed to recycling and avoiding waste.

This might mean having compost piles and a commitment to conserving water and energy.

Additionally, consider lodges that have been built using low-impact construction and that source their food locally.

You can help, too.

There are a lot of little things you can do to make your experience more eco-friendly, like requesting that your towels aren’t washed everyday and, if you get a packed lunch, asking for it to be put in a reusable container.

Choose a Camping Safari

Most safari companies offer a camping option.

Even if you are not a hardcore camper, I urge you to consider it.

These camping safaris range from luxury to very primitive — so you can pick which fits your budget and needs.

The company will always provide all of your meals and usually even the camping equipment.

Even if camping is typically not your thing, I think you’ll find a camping safari is easier than you expect.

The safari company handles all of the meals and setting up camp, so at the end of a long day in the bush you will be able to relax and prepare for the next day of adventure.

There are many national parks for camping in Africa as well.

Go on a Non-Driving Safari

Depending on where you are going, many safari companies will offer walking safaris, horseback safaris, and even take you out on a canoe.

Walking safaris can be a great way to learn about the local flora and fauna; the guide will be able to point out birds and other unique features of the area.

For my birthday a couple of years ago, my husband took me on a horseback safari.

It was amazing to ride horseback through a tower of giraffes.

And riding down a river in Africa in a canoe can be a great way to see animals up-close and personal.

Pick a Company Committed to the Community

When thinking about green travel, it is important to pick a company that values and invests in the local community.

Tourism is often one of the greatest revenue sources for the area and hiring local staff is a way companies can invest in the community.

I guarantee you will appreciate the local staff.

While on safari you will spend hours each day in a vehicle with your driver and tracker, providing you ample opportunity to get to know them and learn more about their culture.

Additionally, be sure to book with a company that gives back.

Whether it is funding water projects or building schools, make sure that they are supporting the local community.

If you are planning on visiting other countries after your African safari, learn about hassle-free border crossings.

Is it too intimidating to start with a safari your first time in Africa?

Consider other options, like visiting the animal sanctuary in South Africa or learn how to volunteer in Africa.

These tips will help you have a green safari adventure in Africa.

It will be low-impact and be more of an authentic experience as well.

Have you been on a safari?

What are your tips for a green safari?

Guide to hassle-free African border crossings

After over four years of living and traveling in Africa, I only had one border agent threaten to throw me in jail.

Thankfully, when she realized she wasn’t getting a bribe, she let me go.

Border crossings are one of the most intimidating parts of traveling through Africa.

I’ve been through my fair share, and still I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach every time we have to get our passports stamped at an African border.

Regardless of how much research you’ve done and how prepared you think you are, things constantly change, so it’s best to expect the unexpected.

The good news is there are simple things you can do to make the process go more smoothly.

After a couple dozen crossings, I thought I’d make it easier for everyone else with this guide to hassle-free African border crossings.

Be Prepared

Although things constantly change, it’s a good idea to be as prepared as you can be.

Do research, talk to fellow travelers, and even call the embassy before you leave your home country to find out what you’ll need.

If they advise getting a visa before you get to the border, do it.

While you may still be able to get your visa at the border, I think it’s best to try to get in and out as quickly as possible; having a visa ahead of time just expedites the process.

Being prepared also means having exact change for visa or border crossing fees — in the correct currency.

If you have an American visa, some countries, like Zimbabwe, may only allow you to pay in US dollars.

Use Current Information

Many travel books have country-specific guides to border crossings.

While these can be helpful for general guidelines, they are often outdated before they even go to print.

Use information that is as current as possible when doing research and planning your trip.

Travelers you meet on the road are often the best resource since they have crossed recently.

These days, many travelers have blogs with valuable, up-to-date information for border crossings.

The African Overland Network is a great place to find blogs of travelers from all over the world and an excellent resource for finding current information from fellow travelers.

Keep Valuables Out of Sight

Whether you’re driving or backpacking and camping through Africa, be sure to keep your valuables out of sight, especially whenever there are a lot of people around.

African borders are notorious for being hectic, so it’s best to keep anything of value hidden.

Avoid Fixers

Although they’ll tell you otherwise, fixers are typically unnecessary at border crossings.

A fixer is typically a local who claims to be able to get you through a border quicker than you could on your own, in exchange for payment.

We went through borders throughout Southern and Eastern Africa without hiring anyone for help.

Most certain, in some areas, like Eastern Africa, you’ll have a half dozen men hounding you and telling you how much you need their expert assistance.

Chances are you don’t.

Buildings are typically labeled and if you’ve done your research, you already know what paperwork you need and how much it will cost.

However, we did hire someone to help us get into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He was recommended from other travelers and helped us get visas as part of a package that included a guided hike up a volcano.

If you do find that you need to use a fixer for countries like the DRC or some Northern African countries, make sure that they come recommended and don’t give money up front.

Do Not Pay Bribes in Africa

I’ve heard countless dramatic, captivating stories that involve travelers bribing their way into African countries.

Just like bribing police officers for traffic citations encourages the practice, bribing at borders just sets the same expectation for fellow travelers.

If you’re not allowed to visit certain areas because of your passport country, it’s best to abide by the the guidelines rather than paying bribes.

Stay Calm and Confident

There’s not a lot of about travel that gets me flustered, but hectic border crossings definitely make me nervous.

Regardless of how prepared I feel, one crooked border agent can make life very difficult.

By staying calm and acting confident — even when you don’t feel it — you’ll have an easier time navigating the sometimes involved process.

If you look lost, you will be an obvious target for opportunistic fixers and border agents.

If you are volunteering in Africa and/or traveling with a group, it is best to always stay together.

photo credit: aleutia

Border crossings may be one of the most difficult, and sometimes dangerous, aspects of traveling through Africa, but if you follow these general guidelines you get enjoy hassle-free African border crossings without a hitch!

Kid-Friendly Eco-Resorts that Your Kids will Love

Sea turtle swimming

Updated:

Kid-Friendly Eco-Resorts – The face of the eco-lodge resort vacation is changing.

No longer accessible only to the most adventurous of travelers, eco-resorts have become more popular as eco-travel has become more accessible.

Many resorts make for environmentally-friendly and educational family travel.

Wouldn’t it be fun and educational to expose your child to kid-friendly eco-resorts?

Any hotel can claim to be ‘green,’ but the following best eco-lodges for families have all been certified as a green business by an independent third party program or has shown significant initiative toward reducing the property’s environmental impact.

All provide some type of environmental programming or conservation effort.

All of them are located in wilderness or rural areas that add to the overall travel experience.

Kid-Friendly Eco-Resorts to Explore

Maho Bay Camps, St. John, US Virgin Islands

Read any listing of family-friendly eco-accommodations, and you’ll likely find Maho Bay at the top.

I thought about omitting it from this list, just to be unique, but couldn’t.

It is that great of an eco-resort.

Located in the heart of Virgin Islands National Park, Maho Bay Camps was conceived long before anyone had heard of ‘going green.’

Families choose from two types of accommodations.

There are the Maho Tent Cottages or Harmony Studios.

The tent cabins are elevated over the white sand beach by extensive walkways, and feature porches and balconies.

Most have shared bathrooms.

There’s an on-site restaurant, as well as a store stocked with necessities.

The studios are mores similar to hotel rooms, but include bathrooms and full kitchens.

This makes it a lot easier to eat green on the road and the way to go if you’re traveling with small children.

Activities at Maho Bay range from water sports to art classes for kids in their sustainable ‘trash to treasure’ studio.

Nightly stays are really affordable for families, with tent cabins starting at under $100 a night.

Where else will you find beach-front accommodations for that price?

Travel Guide to Caribbean for First Time Travelers
kid-friendly eco-resorts

Out ‘n About Treesort, Cave Junction, OR

For a truly unique eco-tourism experience, spend the night in a tree!

Our kids love Out ‘n About Treesort, a funky eco-lodge located adjacent to Oregon Caves National Monument in rural Southern Oregon.

Despite being located outside a tiny town, travelers come from all over the world to see Out ‘n About’s amazing tree house architecture, and stay the night in one of the dozens of tree house overnight accommodations.

During our stay, we slept in the ‘Swiss Family’ tree house, which featured two cabin sheltered nestled into one large tree, connected by ladders, rope bridges, and even a fireman’s pole.

Tree houses feature beds and blankets and have shared bathrooms and kitchens (on the ground).

A large communal fire pit and a cozy breakfast in the main lodge (included) make for a very fun, communal atmosphere.

During the day, kids can explore the many above-ground bridges connecting the tree houses (with adult supervision), swing on tree tires and rope swings, and swim in the completely natural swimming hole.

Adventurous families will want to book a horseback ride or a session on one of the many zip lines.

Heron Island Resort, Queensland Australia

For diving and snorkeling, Heron Island, located on a natural coral cay off Queensland on the Great Barrier Reef, cannot be beat.

Families can swim right off the beach and have immediate access to coral teeming with colorful fish and marine life.

From November through February, wildlife is abundant on the island, with turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs along the beach and thousands of black noddies and mutton birds nesting in the trees.

An ecotourism and research station is located on-site.

Plus, Heron Island Resort is relaxed and low on frills: you get lodging in low-rise buildings or family-friendly cabins, with three meals included daily.

A Junior Rangers Program is available, too!
kid-friendly eco-resorts

Tortuga Lodge, Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Set on 50 private acres in Tortuguero, Tortuga is a river-front lodge perfect for wildlife viewing.

During summer, thousands of Atlantic Green Sea Turtles come to lay their eggs at night along the beaches of Tortuguero.

Turtle watching tours can be booked by families nightly from June to October, making for a very fun adventure.

During the day, kids can see monkeys, macaws, toucans, iguanas, sloths, and a variety of other wildlife on guided boat tours along the rivers and back water ways.

The Caribbean Conservation Corporation’s center and turtle museum is located in the nearby town.

Here kids can adopt and name their very own sea turtle.

There’s even a pool.

Rooms are simple but comfortable, and meals are kid-friendly.

North Country Farms, Kauai HI

For an authentic Hawaiian experience in a world removed from the touristy hotels dotting the islands, book a few days at a tropical farm.

My east coast editor and her young family enjoyed a recent ecotourism stay at North Country Farms, and declared it perfect for a relaxing vacation with preschoolers and babies.

Families stay in cottages on this working organic farm, where kids get the run of the place, and can eat all the fruit off the trees they desire.

Book early, because they only have two cottages available.

This means you’ll never feel crowded during your stay.

Located on Kauai’s North Shore, there is lots of beach-side hiking.

Swimming is located within just a few miles.

Be sure to visit the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Easy ways to be green while traveling with kids

Yes, it’s possible! Read on for easy ways to be green while traveling with kids.

You used to be so eco-conscious before you had kids… packing light, eating local, and leaving a light footprint was so easy.

You may have even judged others who couldn’t seem to hack it.

But then you had children, and suddenly keeping a posse of little people happy demanded all of your previously well-intention energy.

Going green went right out the window — at least on vacation.

Sound familiar?

Living a green lifestyle is hard enough solo: add kids who seem designed to consume, consume, consume, and you may feel doomed to detour from your eco-conscious path.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Below are the top 20 easy (even obvious) ways parents can travel green with their kids.

Pack light and shop local.

Instead of bringing everything you think you will need but probably won’t use anyway (and will cost you in luggage fees or car space), wait to see what you’ll really need while on vacation, then buy it locally.

Picnic instead of going through a drive-thru.

You’ll save money, stay healthier, and produce far less trash.

It will be a much-needed rest for the driver who may want to keep “driving through” to get to your destination faster.

The kids will love time to run around too.

So take time to stretch, walk and get some fresh air.

When you do need to grab fast food, try to dine in but if you can’t, at least skip the straws and lids.

Transfer drinks to reusable sippy cups or stainless steel water bottles.

Our family regularly brings in our water bottles and fills them up with water from the soda dispenser.

We are saving money, saving on plastic and paper cup waste, and staying healthier too.

You will also produce less trash when you dine in.

You won’t need a bag, extra napkins, drink lids and holders, and all that extra “packaging.”

Visit local farmers’ markets and dine at food trucks in cities.

It’s healthier, cheaper, and more fun than dining out at a restaurant.

You will get a better feel for what the locals eat.

If possible, opt for slow travel.

You’ll stay longer at each destination, consuming less gasoline or aviation fuel, and get to know your destination better.

Book condos or vacation homes with kitchens and cook your own meals.

Go shopping once and think of all the stress and headache you will save yourself not having to get everyone ready and drive to a restaurant for every meal.

Reusable tote bags or tubs to avoid paper or plastic.

Bring mesh laundry bags to store soiled clothing to avoid the temptation to snag plastic hotel laundry bags.

Using hotel soaps and shampoos like I do, use them in their entirety.

No need for duplicates every day.

If your hotel offers the kids toys or goodie bags at check-in, only take what you think they’ll actually play with.

A simple “no thank you” is fine.

This is the same at restaurants.

If your kids don’t need a children’s menu and/or crayons to occupy them, just say no.

Take public transit in cities.

It’s an educational and fun way for kids to travel, and you’re helping the local environment.

And probably saving your sanity too: no getting lost or getting stuck in traffic!

Seriously, there are hidden perks of public transportation.

Rent a hybrid vehicle at your destination or for the duration of your road trip

We recently saved hundreds of dollars driving a Prius through Northern California instead of a minivan.

Plus, some hotels will give hybrid or electrical car owners perks like discounted parking or free charging station use.

Look for the LEEDS when booking a hotel for your family.

This designation, not easy to obtain, means the hotel is going above and beyond to recycle and reuse.

Tucson Sporting Chance LEEDS Certificate
Tucson Sporting Chance LEEDS Certificate

Rent bikes to see cities and towns up close and personal.

It’s a better way to orient yourself, and you keep the car parked.

You will be supporting a local business too.

There are easy apps to find bike routes wherever you are.

What a great way to spend a few hours!

Want to be even more green?

Try to rent a bamboo bike.

Turn off the lights and turn down the thermostat when leaving your hotel room.

Told you some of these would be obvious!

Bring water bottles for every member of your family.

Use them.

Kid-friendly snack foods that can be bought in bulk, to avoid excess packaging.

If needed, repackage snacks into individual portions in reusable bento boxes or extra sippy cups.

Camp!

You’ll save money, use less energy, and even get your hands dirty.

You will enjoy spending downtime with your family and will save money by bringing your own food.

Visit natural reserves or state parks instead of family fun centers or other high-consuming kiddie havens.

There are some amazing state and national parks to explore.

Take your hotel maid up on the offer to only “refresh” your room when staying multiple nights.

Admit it: you don’t change the linens every night at home, either, and everyone gets by just fine.

If you have a diaper-wearer, consider eco disposable options if cloth diapering on the go just seems too daunting.

Even if you pick up a few new ways to be green while traveling (Legoland California trip) with kids, you and your family will be making a huge difference.

Traveling green with kids is always worth it. Soon your new ways will become habits for the next generation.

Find A Babysitter When You Travel Anywhere – Babysitter Reviews

Find A Babysitter When You Travel – When I first heard about finding a babysitter when were traveling, I was skeptical.

Finding a childcare provider online seemed a bit scary.

Would I be able to find someone I could trust?

How would the hiring process work?

After asking around and hearing from mom friends who’d had good experiences with the nannies and sitters.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to hire a nanny or babysitter when you are traveling, reviews to interview and hiring tips.

I’ve find babysitters and nannies in three (going on four) states.

I found great sitters in Colorado when I was there for business trip, Texas during a cousin’s wedding, and Minnesota, where I live.

I’ve hired one-time sitters, occasional babysitters, and a part-time nanny.

Each time, I’ve gotten a good pool of applicants and been very happy with the people I’ve hired.

For the Dallas and Minneapolis postings, I got dozens of responses.

I got fewer responses to the Keystone, Colorado posting because it’s a ski resort town and I was looking for someone in the middle of the summer. Visiting the Mary Kay Museum in Texas

That said, I still had a number of qualified candidates to choose from and ended up hiring two — one to watch my son during the day and another to watch him during conference-related events at night.

Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at finding good childcare at home and while traveling.

Babysitter Costs

Costs vary, depending on how you sign up.

If you need childcare often, I’d recommend signing up for the annual subscription rather than monthly (which is more expensive per month).

Babysitter When You Travel

5 Key Questions Before You Choose A Ski Resort For Your Family

13 Tips to Find the Perfect BabySitter

Attracting the Right Candidates

Treat this like any other hiring process

This is one of the most important things you can remember when hiring a babysitter (no matter how occasional or part-time) or nanny:

This is a job interview and hiring process.

Treat it like one.

Be professional and respectful and expect the same of your job candidates.

Have a plan before you get started.

Show some personality

As with any job interview, the prospective employee (your babysitter) needs to impress the employer (you) — but the reverse is true, too.

It’s your job to make your family look appealing to job candidates.

When you set up your Care.com account, you’ll have the opportunity to add a family photo a bit of information about your family.

Do it.

It doesn’t have to go into too much detail, but include your kids’ ages and list a few things you like to do together as a family.

Put together an excellent posting

As I mentioned above, part of your job is “selling” your family to nanny candidates.

If you come across as stand off-ish or demanding, it’s less likely that people will want to work for you.

Or if you’re vague on the details, candidates will wonder why and may not apply.

Be specific and mention essential details like where you’re located.

Share information about your family and be clear about expectations.

For more tips on how to write a good posting, check out the Do’s and Don’ts of How to Post a Job on Care.com.

Pay a fair amount

If you offer $5.00/hour, you’re probably not going to get good applications — if you get any at all.

There are babysitter rates calculator that takes into account number of children, years of experience, and number of hours, week, then tells you the going rate.

Ask for a resume and cover letter

As with many other jobs, you should ask for a resume and cover letter from applicants.

A cover letter will tell you more about the candidate and give you a better sense of them than a resume alone will.

Plus, you can eliminate candidates who don’t send both the cover letter and resume with their application.

If a candidate’s not responsive, don’t hire them

If you email a candidate and she takes seven days to get back to you, cross her off your list.

You’re not going to want to wait a week to hear back when, after you hire her, you need to have her come early or on a different day.

If you see any red flags, pass the candidate up

If there’s anything in the candidate’s profile or letter to you that just doesn’t sit right, don’t feel bad about moving onto the next candidate.

Hiring a caregiver is definitely a time to go with your gut feelings.

Don’t try to make it work. Patience is the key.

Request the free background check

Many babysitter and nanny candidates will automatically give you access to free background check when they apply for your position.

If a candidate you like doesn’t automatically give you access, just request it.

Read previous reviews

Candidates who have been around for a while might have been reviewed by a previous employer.

Check and see what the reference said.

Finding babysitter when you travel

Interviewing and Hiring – Do a phone interview

If you have a few candidates you like, a phone interview is a great way to make sure you get along well and look for red flags.

Phone interviews take less time than in-person interviews, so I always like to do them to screen candidates.

Some babysitters might looks great on paper, but be a bad fit for your family.

Have an in-person interview

Once you’ve talked to 2-3 candidates on the phone, invite your top nanny candidate to come to your house for an in-person interview.

When I’ve done this before, I have the candidate come over when the whole family is home.

That way my wife and I can both talk to her and she has a chance to meet our son (and our two big dogs!).

The first part of the interview is spent talking with the nanny and the second part I let the nanny play with our son for a few minutes while my wife and I step out of the room.

Leaving the room helped us see that one candidate interacted a bit awkwardly with our son one-on-one.

Call references

Once you’ve found a candidate you really like, ask for a list of references and call them.

Calling strangers might feel a bit awkward, but most people are happy to recommend babysitters they love.

Even in a professional business environment, I’ve seen hiring managers skip the essential step of calling references.

And I’ve seen it have dire consequences that ended with the candidate being fired.

Save yourself the hassle and worry and call at least 2-3 of your candidate’s references.

Pick the best babysitter for your family

It’s always hard saying to a babysitting candidate you like, especially if she’s qualified.

Ultimately though, you need to pick the candidate that’s the best fit for your family and your schedule.

There are great resource for finding reliable, affordable childcare when you’re at home or traveling.

With these tips and resources, and reading care.com reviews, you’ll be able to find an excellent nanny or babysitter for your family.

Tips to Find a Babysitter When Traveling

Whether you’re on a vacation and booking a date night or at a work conference with baby in tow, you might find yourself looking for a sitter in a faraway city.

The process can be overwhelming.

You want to find someone trustworthy and experienced, but where to start?

We’ve been there and we’ve got you covered.

These 6 tips will tell you how to find a babysitter when traveling.

Talk to Your Hotel or Resort

Some resorts offer childcare for a fee, but most require reservations, so plan ahead.

Even if your hotel doesn’t, it’s worth inquiring; they might be able to refer you to a reputable childcare agency.

Check Out Online Babysitting Services

We’ve had great luck to find excellent babysitters and nannies, both at home and when we’re traveling.

We’ve used it to find five different babysitters in three different states and they’ve all been great.

My favorite things are that you can request background checks on applicants for free and that applicants are rated and reviewed by other parents.

I always conduct an in-person and/or phone interview and call references so that I’m confident in the person I hire.

There’s a similar service, SitterCity, but I’ve never used it.

Babysitter When Traveling

Look Into Local Babysitting Services

Google “babysitting service” along with the name of your city and see what comes up.

I just did that for Minneapolis and found Twin Cities Nanny and Sitter and Jack and Jill Sitting Service.

If you find companies this way, do your due diligence to make sure they’re reputable.

Look up online reviews and see if they’re on the BBB’s website, then ask for references when you talk to the company.

Reach Out to Your Social Networks

We all have Facebook and Twitter friends we don’t see often (or ever) in-person and some of them just might live in the city you’ll be visiting.

It’s worth posting a shout out to your social networks asking if anyone can recommend a good sitter.

Ask Around in Your Community

Your neighbor’s sister might live in Seattle (or whichever city you’re traveling to) and she may be willing to sit for your kids, or know someone who is.

It doesn’t hurt to ask a few friends or family members in your hometown if they know anyone you can reach out to for your vacation.

Ask Friends Who Live in the Area

If you need a babysitter in Chicago and a friend of yours lives there, ask her if she knows anyone who might be available.

Even if she doesn’t have kids herself, she might know of a neighbor, coworker, or friend’s teenager who babysits often.

When I traveled to a family wedding in Dallas, my cousin was able to recommend a friend’s mom’s babysitting service.

6 Tips for Traveling by Rail in Europe with Kids

Tips for Traveling by Rail in Europe with Kids

Train travel in Europe is almost always affordable, comfortable, and safe, making it the ideal way to get around Europe with kids.

Given the choice, I’ll opt to sit back and relax instead of attempting to navigate by car in a foreign country any day, and my kids would thank me for it.

On trains, kids are not confined full time to seats like in cars or on planes and the scenery is much easier to see out the window.

All this said, traveling by rail in Europe can be confusing.

Here’s what you need to know when planning to travel in Europe by rail with kids.

Here are some ideas for finding a baby sitter while traveling.

Travel by train in Europe with rail passes or specific destination tickets

Which to buy?

It can depend.

In rural areas and small towns, often non-reservable, or ‘open’ destination tickets are the only option.

If nothing else, plan for these accordingly.

For some high speed trains, even families with applicable rail passes must purchase reservable tickets.

Generally speak, however, if you’re traveling from city to city or country to country, you’re almost always better off with a rail pass.

Note: France is an exception. Learn more about rail travel in France.

Plan your itinerary before purchasing tickets

This seems like a no-brainer, but with rail passes, it’s possible to purchase Global or Select country passes, then decide where to go later.

While spontaneity still has a place in travel with kids, you can’t compare ticket pricing options effectively if you don’t know where you’re going.

Start at country rail travel sites like TrenItalia for Italy, and add up the price of your tickets a la carte.

Then head to Eurail and see if a Global, Select, or Country pass will save you money (and allow for some spontaneity).

Or, you can let Rail Europe do the work for you: you put in your itinerary, and they decide which rail options suit you best.

Rail Europe is generally trusted among travelers to provide competitive pricing, so this is a viable option.

When mapping out your itinerary and selecting your rail pass, keep in mind that you’ll need to pay even for countries you’re only passing through, not stopping in.

Decide whether to travel first class or second class

Second class is fine (think airline coach), but first class is not much extra per ticket and includes various perks such as wifi or light meals, depending on the train.

Often, only first class tickets are reservable, worth the extra price for the peace of mind alone.

If you have teens, you may be forced to travel second class or pay extra for adult passes. Why?

Youth ages 13-25 are eligible for discounted pass prices with Eurail (approximately 35% less than adult), but only on second class tickets.

If your family will be traveling first class, teens will need adult tickets (or you could make them sit alone in second class, I suppose, which might be warranted… kidding, of course).

The good news: children ages 4-12 are always 50% discounted, no matter the class, and children under age 4 are always free.

Decide on your number of travel days

When selecting which Eurail pass is right for you, you’ll need to select between a number of travel days.

Bear in mind: these days do not refer to the number of days you’re on vacation, but the number of actual rail travel days.

You can save considerably by traveling by rail only once every 3-4 days instead of every day, and your kids will feel more rested as well.

Bring snacks, toys, and games for train travel

A ‘train day’ can be a day to rest and recoup after busy travel and sightseeing days.

Let kids spread out with games and books, or use the electronic plug-ins you’ll have at your disposal in first class.

Bringing food on the train is always cheaper than purchasing on-board, and the luggage and carry-on allowances are much less strict than during air travel, making packing a meal easy.

Know the difference between sleep compartments

Overnight trains are a great way to save daylight for sightseeing, and are a great adventure for kids.

However, it’s helpful to know what to expect.

In second class, you usually have the choice between sleeping compartments (small compartments of bunks that are gender specific) or couchettes, which are cabins with 4-6 beds that are non-gender specific (perfect for families).

In first class, you’ll almost always encounter single or double sleeping compartments, which means more room, but the necessity for families to split up for children to be accompanied by adults.

Family Friendly Places to Ring in the New Year

Just because you’re traveling with kids doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the new year in style.

As more parents jet-set with their kids, cities and resorts are offering Family Friendly Places to Ring in the New Year festivities that appeal to both generations.

The following New Year’s Eve events for families combine celebration with relaxation, starting your year off right.

If you’re not lucky enough to be in Thailand or Australia to ring in the New Year, these photos will help you celebrate vicariously from afar.

From Mexico and Sweden to Argentina and Japan, here are our picks for New Year’s Eve photos from around the world.

5 Key Questions Before You Choose A Ski Resort For Your Family

London, England

The famous London Eye makes for a dramatic backdrop for New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Over 135 meters high, the Eye is the world’s tallest observation wheel, and the focal point for a stunning (and free!) fireworks display.

The visual display starts immediately after Big Ben chimes midnight and always lasts approximately 15 minutes.

Yes, it will be crowded, so make a day of it with the kids and scope out a good spot in the afternoon.

Where you’ll want to head: Westminster Bridge or the north side of the River Thames.

To find a great place to stay (and a cheap holiday) with your family in London or the UK, checkout Sunmaster

Whistler, BC, Canada

Come for the Christmas holiday skiing and stay for New Year’s!

Whistler’s First Night celebration takes place throughout Whistler Village, along the pedestrian-only “Village Stroll”.

Best of all (when crowds and kids are concerned) Whistler’s First Night is an alcohol-free public event.

While not free, it’s a cheap night out for ski resort standards at $15 for adults and $5 for kids.

Families will count down to midnight listening to live music, enjoying art workshops, and watching street entertainment.

At midnight, the firework display rivals that of large cities.

And if you have small kids, there’s a 9:30 pm countdown as well.

Glenwood Springs, CO

In my opinion, this is one of the best places for New Year’s Eve in the U.S.

Ring in 2013 with your family in the comfort of a Colorado swimming pool!

Don’t worry, this one’s heated… naturally.

At Glenwood Hot Springs, the world’s largest natural hot springs pool will stay open until 1 am.

This outdoor pool is fed by the nearby Yampah spring so you can soak while you party the night away.

Go ahead and spend the day (or days!) before skiing or snowboarding at nearby Colorado ski resorts.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s Noche Vieja is a literal dance party in the streets.

Unlike most dance parties, however, kids will learn cultural dances from ballroom dance to salsa to flamenco to rock — all over the city.

Festivities last for as long as a week, making this New Year’s Eve celebration flexible for families’ schedules.

At midnight on the 31st, a great clock strikes twelve, and families can experience the old Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes (one for each bell sound).

Don’t leave on January 1st: kids will love to see Barcelona’s Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Parade) on January 5th.

The Three Kings, much like Santa Claus, arrive by boat at the waterfront and proceed through the streets of the city throwing sweets to the children lining the route.

Sydney, Australia

Be among the first in the world to ring in the new year from Sydney Harbour.

One of the top green cities in the world, the Sydney fireworks are legendary, and accompanied by music filtering over the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Like in London, you can expect crowds (more than a million people traditionally attend the Midnight Fireworks), but there are plenty of vantage points from which to get a good view.

If you get the chance, the best spot is from one of the many boats dotting the harbor.

Other people will recommend reserving a hotel room in Sydney which will not only be more exclusive but also give you a higher view of the fireworks.

There are night clubs that will be ringing in the new year with some of the best DJs and celebrities.

Don’t forget it will be summer in Sydney: wear your swim suit and don’t forget sunblock!

Celebrating the New Year Around the World

Traditional Dance in Chiang Mai, Thailand Fireworks in Gothenburg, Sweden Crowded Streets in San Juan, Argentina new year Pinata in Cerralvo, Mexico

Summer Vacation Ideas for Family Travel

Summer’s here!

If you’re planning to hit the road or grab a flight with your family, you’re in luck: there’s still time to plan that quintessential family summer vacation.

Whether you’re looking for summer vacation ideas to go big with an international trip or stay close to home with a weekend getaway, we’ve got you covered.

Here are our top family vacation destination picks, for every category under the sun.

Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Summer Vacation Ideas – Beach Summer Vacation Ideas

Nantucket, Massachusetts

For the idyllic beach town experience, Nantucket can’t be beat.

Families find a walkable town, calm, kid-friendly beaches, fine dining, and maybe some celeb spotting.

Lodging doesn’t come cheap during the summer months (look for a autumn stay if you want to snag a deal), but vacation rental homes are abundant on this bike-able, walk-able island.

Laguna Beach, California

My own stomping ground, Laguna Beach screams “beach vacation.”

Warm weather, warm water, surfer dudes, palm trees — this beach town has it all.

Kids will love the beachside playground and boogie boarding, while parents will appreciate the California atmosphere and great dining.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

With indoor and outdoor activities galore, it won’t matter if it’s muggy and hot or rainy and cool at the Outer Banks.

Explore Outer Banks beaches for kids, or eat on the piers.

Bandon-by-the-Sea, Oregon

This little beach town nestled on the Oregon coast is ideal for families who want to get away from it all and get off the beaten path.

Kids will love the wild, scenic beaches, nighttime bonfires, and kite flying.

Parents will love the fresh seafood and peace and quiet.

Monterey, California

Monterey is great for families because it’s not just a beach, it’s several.

With a vibrant downtown, world-class aquarium, and historic significance thrown in.

Parents will enjoy seeing Steinbeck’s stomping grounds, and kids will love spotting all the seals and sea otters along the piers.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

A beach destination and an international destination rolled into one, Puerto Vallarta offers affordable luxury, miles of warm-water beaches, and a fun town with lots to see and do.

Kauai, Hawaii

Less touristy than some Hawaiian Islands, Kauai offers families lush vegetation, warm beaches, and great hiking options.

A stay at a working farm, such as North Country Farms, really gets families off the beaten path.

It also offers a huge Kauai vacation rentals and its the best alternative for families and for everybody.

Acadia, Maine

For a rugged beach vacation that still keeps families pampered, Acadia is both adventurous and relaxing.

Families can hike and bike or beach-comb, or shop in the small town.

Check out the national park while you’re there!

City Summer Vacation Ideas

New York, New York

With so much to see and do, families can’t go wrong with a New York City vacation.

Plan to spend at least a full day in the cool sanctuary of Central Park, then devote some time to the traditional sights such as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Empire State Building.

For something unique, bike across the Brooklyn Bridge!

You will enjoy eating your way through this diverse city.

Boston, Massachusetts

A city tour and a history tour rolled into one, school-aged kids are the perfect age for the famed Freedom Trail.

Families of all ages will love the Duck Tour, and everyone can enjoy Boston Common.

San Francisco, California

San Francisco has something for kids of all ages, from hands-on science museums to aquariums to famous prison tours.

The city is visually stunning and fun to navigate via cable car, and best of all, families will beat the heat (you may even need a sweater!).

You will love how easy it is to get around San Francisco with their public transportation.

San Diego, California

Looking for a city destination and a beach destination in one easy location?

San Diego is tops for families who want to explore theme parks and city attractions and enjoy some beach downtime.

Stay in the city center close to beaches, and take day trips to the zoo, Legoland California, and more.

And visiting San Diego in the off season means you can avoid the crowds.

And if you try camping there, you’ll enjoy even more family fun.

Chicago, Illinois

Families visiting Chicago have a little of everything close at hand: museums and exhibits, ball games, beaches, and theme parks.

A Chicago stay is perfect mid-Midwest road trip, too.

If you stay in the Chicagoland suburbs, you can save money on your hotel and enjoy area attractions.

Go northwest for Legoland Chicago (actually in Schaumburg) with a visit to Busse Woods and Woodfield Mall.

You can go to to the western suburbs and enjoy the Brookfield Zoo, Morton Arboretum and DuPage Children’s Museum.

Venture north and enjoy the Kohl Children’s Museum and the Chicago Botanic Gardens (actually in Glencoe).

Orlando, Florida

An obvious choice, but one that can’t be omitted from the list!

If you’re looking for a theme park stay, you can’t beat the mecca for Disney and Universal that is Orlando.

Stay in a home rental to save money, or get the full theme park experience staying on-site at a theme park resort.

You can also go to Florida to enjoy the beach and relax too.

Atlanta, Georgia

If you can stand the heat, there’s so much to see and do in Atlanta.

Visit the Centennial Olympic Park, tour the Fernbank Museum for kids, and take a day trip a plantation or nature reserve.

Mountain and Lake Vacation Ideas

Big Sky, Montana

Perfectly situated beside Yellowstone National Park (but still away from the crowds), Big Sky offers hiking, extreme mountain fun like zip lines and ropes courses, and white water rafting.

Take a day trip to Yellowstone, then retreat back to the sanctuary of the mountains!

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

You will be sure to love Wyoming and all there is to do.

This cowboy town offers summer ski resort fun, mountain hikes, rodeos, and proximity to Grand Teton National Park.

Take the kids horseback riding under the shadow of the Tetons!

Authentic Cowboy Town Cody, Wyoming

Lake Tahoe, California

This breathtaking lake offers boating fun, swimming, and even scuba diving.

When out of the water, families can hike, bike, or visit any one of the area ski resorts, which offer all kinds of summer offerings ranging from gondola rides to bungee trampoline jumping.

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Boat, kayak, swim, or just relax by the calm waters of this stunning lake.

A summer tradition with many East Coast families, Lake Winnipesaukee lodging can be difficult to come by; for last minute deals, check out home vacation rental listings or look at nearby camping.

The Berkshires, Massachusetts

To a West Coaster, the Berkshires more resemble hills than mountains, but they still offer the same level of outdoor opportunities for active families.

We love the river rafting along the Deerfield river, and the hiking and extreme sport offerings at resorts like Bousquet Mountain.

Vail, Colorado

The Keystone Resort in the Rocky Mountain region of Colorado makes for the perfect summer (or early fall) escape for families.

The hiking is gorgeous, and the rivers are clear and beautiful.

Families can stay for cheap at ski resort properties like Keystone.

Just be sure to get used to the high elevation change in Denver, first.

Gacier National Park, Montana

For some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, head to Glacier.

Stay at one of the national park’s breathtaking national park lodges (rates are more affordable than you might think), and spend your days hiking or taking one of the park’s many guided tours, which include boating and hiking.

International Vacation Ideas

Dublin, Ireland

While nearby London will be busy with the Olympic Games, Dublin and the surrounding areas of the Emerald Isle make for a great international vacation spot.

Tour the museums and the famed Kilmainham Jail with school-aged kids.

Just save the pub crawl for an adults-only trip!

Rome, Italy

Filled with history, art and crowds, families often think Rome is beyond them, but in fact, this city is family-friendly.

With pizza and gelato on every corner, kids will be well-fed and with advanced planning (and preparation for what they’ll see), tours of the Colosseum and Vatican are wonderfully enriching for children.

Paris, France

Can Paris really be beat?

In summer, it’s warm without being uncomfortably hot, and families can choose to be active or leisurely.

Rent an apartment for a week or more to see the sights and sample plenty of corner Parisian cafes and public parks at a nice pace.

Barcelona, Spain

Cultural, exciting, elegant, and accessible, Barcelona is the ideal destination to please both kids and adults.

The food is fantastic, parks and kid-oriented activities are abundant, and beach day trips are within reach.

Vancouver, Canada:

One of the cleanest and prettiest cities I’ve ever seen, Vancouver offers a lot.

You can tour the city, learn about when they hosted the Olympics, have fun in the parks, including some amazing indoor water parks, and have fun exploring outdoors in this scenic city.

It’s the perfect destination for families who want to do it all.

National Parks Vacation Destinations

Zion National Park, Utah

Enjoy hiking and rock climbing? Zion is heaven.

If you are a geology buff or awed by nature, you will love Zion.

Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy seeing who makes their home in Zion.

Stay just outside the park boundary and take the free shuttle buses in to hike and explore each day.

Plan to spend afternoons by the pool.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon had to be included, didn’t it?

What many families don’t realize is how much there is to do here away from the park rim (where the crowds gather).

Plan an excursion with older kids down to the canyon floor, either by Colorado River rafting or donkey-back.

While you are in the area checkout Prescott, Arizona.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

With so much for young families to do (trails are very accessible and easy to navigate in the main touring areas), the Great Smokies provide a nice introduction to wilderness travel.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, Michigan:

This national park is in easy reach of low-key, fun beach towns, scenic beaches, and family recreation while still give visitors an outdoor, wilderness experience.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Though technically in the high desert, Mesa Verde is at a surprisingly high elevation, so heat isn’t a big issue.

Families with kids of all ages will love exploring the ancient Pueblean villages carved into the cliff-sides.

Channel Islands National Park, California:

Less visited than most national parks — likely because you have to schedule a boat — the Channel Islands are a great place to spend a day (stay in Ventura, CA) or camp out (book a site at Santa Cruz Island).

Historic (and Educational) Vacation Ideas

Williamsburg, Virginia

A history buff’s dream, Williamsburg engages kids and adults alike with its famed historical reenactments and tours.

Stay right in the village for an authentic experience.

Washington, D.C.

Yes, it’s a city destination, but a historic and educational one at heart.

Best saved for when your kids are school-aged and able to comprehend the American history and government associated with the city, families will love the Smithsonian museums and Capital Hill sights.

Gold Country, California

Revive the California Gold Rush in the California foothills, with visits to the gold mining museums and sites in the small town of Grass Valley, and Sutter’s Fort State Park in Sacramento.

Head north toward Tahoe to see the Donner Party Memorial, too.

Bighorn, Montana

The site of the Battle of Little Bighorn, this section of Montana offers rich Native American history and the chance to learn about Custer’s Last Stand.

De Smet, South Dakota

For Little House on the Prairie fans, South Dakota offers a network of sites mentioned by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Kids too young to understand the novel references will still have fun visiting the small Midwest towns and outdoor spaces.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Kids will learn all about this turning point of the Civil War at Gettysburg, plus have fun at the interactive exhibits, museums, and tour of the battlefield.

Plimoth Plantation, Massachusetts

Stroll around a pilgrim village, learn all about the Mayflower, and see how the Wampanoag people helped the earliest settlers to America.

Theme Park Vacation Destinations

Disney World, Florida

Well, of course, right?

But where to stay?

And for how long?

Staying on-site at Disney has many perks, but doesn’t have to break the bank: consider a moderate resort such as Port Orleans, or camping at Fort Wilderness.

Stay a week to do it right!

Then move over to Universal for at least two days there!

Legoland, California

Legoland is located only miles from San Diego in Carlsbad, CA.

On-site and near-on-site lodging does exist, but be on the lookout for a new Legoland resort to open soon!

Plan to spend two days at Legoland since they’ve added water features section to this already large park.

There is also an awesome Legoland in Chicago we’ve visited over 12 times

Disneyland Resort, California

With CarsLand and two full parks to explore, Disneyland is a wonderful option for West Coast families.

No need to travel all the way to Florida!

Stay on-site at the newly renovated Disneyland Hotel.

Hersheypark, Pennsylvania

Hersheypark, similar in style to California’s Knott’s Berry Farm, offers fun for the youngest kids up to family thrill-seekers.

Time to get your roller coaster riding done!

Note: Something great about visiting Hershey is you can also have a wonderful time just visiting Hershey’s Chocolate World attraction and not the amusement park.

We were there in the off-season when the amusement park was closed and had a wonderful visit learning all about Hershey.

We rode the (free) “ride” in the Hershey center.

We booked a trolley tour around Hershey grounds… kids loved the free candy samples!

We also paid to make our own Hershey candy bars.

Their souvenir shop is amazing too!

Great Wolf Lodge:

Great Wolf Lodge (with locations across the US) isn’t strictly a theme park, but it falls in the same category.

One part water park, one part interactive play zone, and one part lodge, get tips on planning a Great Wolf Lodge stay that promise good old fashioned family fun for a fraction of the usual theme park price.

My kids have traveled the country, and still always ask to go back to Great Wolf Lodge.

You can also make a wonderful vacation out of going to Wisconsin Dells.

There is a Great Wolf Lodge there along with so many other amazing water parks, inside and outside.

Camping Vacation Ideas

White River Campground, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

This campground, voted one of the west’s best by Sunset Magazine, has it all: stunning scenery, nice amenities, and no advanced reservations.

First come, first served!

Sunset Bay State Park, Oregon

Sunset Bay offers RV and tent camping, as well as our favorite, yurt camping!

Located right next to a wonderful beach, clamming and hiking is also on offer.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

This beach-side campground is perfect for Midwest vacationers looking to get away from the daily grind.

Kids love camping right next to the sand and playing on the dunes!

It’s incredible that this unique oasis exists here.

Lake of the Woods, Oregon

This campground-lodge hybrid sits on southern Oregon’s Lake of the Woods, tucked away below Crater Lake National Park.

Opt to stay in a cabin or tent, but make sure you bring the insect spray — the mosquitoes love to snack on vacationers!

Tuolumne Meadows, California

Located above the busy, crowded Yosemite Valley floor, Tuolumne Meadows offers several camping and lodging options, ranging from backpacking routes to car camping to cabin or canvas tent stays.

Just be sure to book early!

Apache Trail, Arizona (Honorable Mentions)

Today the Apache Trail remains one of Arizona’s most scenic drives.

Twisting over jagged ridges and plunging into sheer-walled canyons, it steers its wild course along the northern flanks of the Superstition Mountains, linking the Valley of the Sun and Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

Rocky Mountain Park Inn

The beauty and serenity of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado have awed many visitors for years.

Visitors to the area can enjoy a modern hotel or bed and breakfast stay and then step outdoors and be surrounded by natural beauty.

We loved our time at the Rocky Mountain Park Inn. Located in Estes Park, Colorado, it’s in the heart of the mountain range.

It’s a simple, two mile drive to get to the Rocky Mountain National Park or just a short half-mile walk to get to the center of this charming town.

Forever Earth Environmental rooms and meetings offer a unique view on the environmental ethics of the hotel.

They can instruct visitors on life changing ways of environmental responsibility.

This includes a comprehensive environmental health and safety management program that is available to guests.

Top swimming holes in the USA

Top Swimming Holes – Out of summer vacation ideas

Whether you’re traveling or spending the remainder of the summer close to home, there are plenty of sunny days left to explore a favorite swimming hole.

Don’t know where to go?

This list of top swimming holes across the US should get you started.

Often, the key to a good swimming hole is its relative secrecy.

For some of the locations below, you may have to do a little detective work on Google to find exact directions (though I get you started).

Other swimming holes are well-known.

You’ll earn your swim with hikes into some, while others are adjacent to major roads.

All are free unless otherwise noted.

Lastly, take some advice from a country girl: always check depth before jumping into a swimming hole.

Northwest Swimming Holes

South Umpqua Falls, OR: Located about 20 miles from Canyonville OR, these rock falls on the South Umpqua River are perfect for sliding and jumping.

Primitive camping in the Umpqua National Forest is nearby.

On summer weekends, be prepared for crowds: this is a local favorite.

Moulton Falls, WA: Moulton Falls, in 387-acre Moulton Falls Regional Park just over the OR border in WA, is an easy spot to find.

The swimming hole on the Lewis River is popular, so avoid weekends.

Buck Lake, OR: Buck Lake is only 70 miles from downtown Portland, but few locals make the journey, as the last 15 are windy Forest Service roads and the final half mile must be traversed on foot.

Those who get this far are rewarded with a stream-fed swimming hole in relative seclusion.

Three Pools, OR: Unlike Buck Lake, Three Pools, on the Little North Fork of the Santiam River, is easily accessed, making it a popular spot with Salem, OR residents.

With no hike to the water, expect it to be busy on hot summer days.

There’s also a $5 fee.

California Swimming Holes

Johnsville Swimming Hole, CA: This small swimming hole in the high sierra near Plumas-Eureka State Park packs a powerful punch with near-freezing water.

The summer temperatures are usually in the 80’s and 90’s though, and there are plenty of granite slabs to warm yourself on between swims.

Located in historic Johnsville, CA in Plumas County, the swimming hole is accessed by a short but steep hike from the local pioneer-era cemetery.

Aztec Falls, CA: Located along Deep Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest, swimmers can drive (mostly on dirt) all the way to the PCT, where they’ll hike only .4 miles to Aztec Falls.

Yosemite Creek, CA: Yosemite Creek is found in Yosemite National Park About 20 miles east of Yosemite’s Big Oak Flat entrance on Tioga Road (Route 120).

From there, swimmers take State Road 120 (Tioga Road) to the parking area for Yosemite Creek and the Ten Lakes Trail.

Southwest Swimming Holes

Slide Rock, AZ: Slide Rock is an incredibly popular series of swimming holes and rock slides in Slide Rock State Park outside Sedona, AZ.

On summer days, swimmers will want to arrive in the morning to get a parking spot, let alone a place to sit and soak up the sun, but the slick network of slides and pools are well worth it.

A state park fee (per car) applies.

Fossil Springs, AZ: Fossil Springs is only accessed with a six-mile round-trip hike from the Fossil Springs Trailhead four miles west of State 87 on Fossil Creek Road.

The pool is shaded with cottonwoods, but hikers will need plenty of water for the uphill trek back.

Midwest Swimming Holes

Lester Park, MN: Located in Lester Park near the city of Duluth, these pools are a series of three swimming holes on the Amnity Creek and Lester River, all within sight of Lake Superior.

Amnicon Falls, WI: The pool below Amnicon Falls is located on the Black River where it runs through Amnicon Falls State Park.

While this spot can get busy during summer weekends, it tends to clear out during mid-week.

Ocqueoc Falls, MI: Ocqueoc Falls is located near Mackinaw City and Black Lake State Park.

Along the length of several hiking trails in Ocqueoc Falls State Park, visitors can find small swimming holes and falls for sliding and jumping on the Ocqueoc River.

Camping is located nearby.

Johnson’s Shut-Ins, MO: Located in the heart of Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, swimmers will find a great pool where the East Fork of the Black River rushes through a trough of rock.

Jumping is prohibited here, and crowds abound due to the paved trail access.

Northeast Swimming Holes

Huston Brook Falls, ME:

Located near the Sugarloaf ski resort area, this cold swimming hole is accessed by only a .1 mile walk in.

The nearest town is Carrabassett Valley.

Diana’s Baths, NH:

Outside of Bartlett, NH in the White Mountain National Forest, Diana’s Baths include plunges, cascades, and slides.

The hike in is .6 miles, and there is a parking fee.

Twenty Foot Hole, VT:

I’m not sure if the hole really is 20 feet deep, but there are ample small plunges and cascades at this popular-with-the-locals swimming hole on the north branch Black River near Reading, VT.

Plan on a .6 mile hike in.

Blue Ledges, NY:

Located on the Hudson River, at the top of the Hudson River Gorge in Adirondack Park, Blue Ledges starts with a narrow run with rock walls and is popular with kayakers.

It’s accessed by a .6 mile trail in from North Woods Club Road.

Bingham Falls, VT:

This hole on the West Branch of the Little River in Smugglers Notch State Park is six miles from Stowe.

Swimmers can expect a .4 mile walk in before reaching stunning falls with several tiered pools.

Southeast Swimming Holes

Turtleback Falls, NC:

Turtleback Falls are located in Nantahala National Forest, where a stretch of the Horsepasture River becomes a flat sheet of rock, descending 12 feet into a deep catch basin.

It’s a less than 1 mile walk in, but the climb is steep coming back out once you’ve taken the plunge.

Fargo Swimming Hole, GA:

This swimming hole can be found in the Suwanee River in the town of Fargo west of Okefenokee Swamp.

Swimmers can spot the river as it flows swiftly past the town of Fargo near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Bonus Swimming Hole

For those willing to go the extra mile (or nine), Havasu Falls offers both a hiking challenge of nine miles (and 2,350 vertical feet) each way and a spring-fed, 29,600 gallon pool at the end of a 100-foot-fall.

Havasu Falls offers impossibly clear blue water originating from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

The trailhead is 170 miles from Flagstaff, AZ, and hikers will need to call ahead for a permit.

Plan to overnight camp.

Photo credit: popejon2, bobistraveling, and DACphoto.

Where are your top swimming holes?

They are what summer dreams are made of… enjoy!

Photo credit: German Saavedra R. and AroundTuscany, surlygirl, Scott & Elaine van der Chijs, ubrayj02, SnorkelingDives

Green Days in San Francisco with Kids

san francisco cable car

Updated:

I’ll start with a disclosure statement: three days in San Francisco with kids is nowhere near enough.

However, if three days is all you have, as was the case for us last week, you can make the most of your time by organizing things to do in the city and touring with kids by neighborhood.

On our last morning in San Francisco California, my husband and I chatted with a local couple while our kids played in Golden Gate Park.

After giving them an overview of our past 72 hours, they remarked on how much we had seen and done in such a short time.

Read on for our itinerary for San Francisco with kids.

San Francisco with Kids Day 1: Fisherman’s Wharf and the Embarcadero

Yes, Fisherman’s Wharf is touristy and crowded, but as an introduction to San Francisco, it grabs kids’ attention like nothing else.

With its bright flags, colorful street performers, and eye-catching novelties, everyone will be entertained.

And there are genuine cultural and historical attractions to see.

Start your first morning with a tour of Alcatraz Island.

This historical tour departs by boat at Pier 33 and is run by the National Park Service, which means that kids can earn Junior Ranger badges (pick up booklets at the info desk at the boat dock on-island).

School-aged kids will love the inside peek at the superman prison (mine consider it the highlight of their trip) and even young kids will enjoy the boat ride across the bay and tour of the island.

On clear days, the ferry ride offers stunning views of the skyline and bay; even in dreary weather, at least it’s short, clocking in at only 10 or so minutes.

The self-guided audio tour is excellent and included in admission.

It kept my kids entertained for the full 45 minutes.

Tickets aren’t cheap, but many visitors don’t realize they can be included in CityPASS bundles, which makes it very affordable.

The catch: you can only purchase CityPASS booklets that include Alcatraz at the Pier 33 ticketing office, not online.

But if you make Alcatraz your first San Francisco stop, this inconvenience won’t matter.

Alcatraz with kids

Plan to picnic at the Alcatraz loading dock or do what we did and break all the rules: walk from Pier 33 to Ghiradelli Square (8 blocks) to indulge in hot fudge sundaes for lunch.

Believe me, the experience will be memorable!

After eating, either return to Pier 39 to take in all the crazy touristy fun (though I’d skip the Aquarium of the Bay in favor of the Academy of Sciences later in the trip) or walk from Ghiradelli two blocks to Pier 47 to tour the historic ships at San Francisco Maritime National Monument.

On nice days, the adjacent park is a great place to let them burn off that sugar rush.

End your day with a San Francisco cable car ride.

Hop on at the Hyde Street turn-around by Ghiradelli and ride past famous Lombard Street to the Cable Car Museum and back down Powell-Mason to the Wharf.

Be advised that rides are $6 per person one way unless you’ve purchased CityPASS booklets, in which case unlimited rides are included.

Eat dinner on Pier 39, sharing sourdough bread bowls of steaming clam chowder or corn dogs.

carousel at children's playground

San Francisco Day 2: Golden Gate Park and the Presidio

On Day 2, advance from cable car riding to MUNI bus commuting, taking San Francisco’s easy-to-navigate public transit to Golden Gate Park.

While waiting for the fog to clear, head to the California Academy of Sciences where you’ll spend the whole morning amid penguins, anacondas, and planets.

This museum, which is one part planetarium, one part life science museum, and one part aquarium, will captivate everyone.

Be sure to tour the rain forest dome and ride the elevator upstairs to the “living roof.”

Picnic outside near the music shell

On nice days (if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a lunchtime performance) or eat in the museum cafe.

Afterward, take young kids to play at the first kids’ playground in the U.S., The Children’s Playground near the carousel.

Bonus points if you can find a scrap of cardboard for them to slide down the concrete hill slides on.

An alternative for older kids and teens is the De Young Museum, adjacent to the Academy of Sciences.

If the weather isn’t cooperating, skip the playground and opt for the reasonably-priced Conservatory of Flowers instead.

For under $20 for a family of 4-5, you can tour these warm greenhouses and check out exhibits such as “Plant-a-soarus Rex,” a study of prehistorical plants.

You could spend the entire day at Golden Gate Park, but then you’d miss the beauty awaiting at the Palace of Fine Arts in the Presidio.

A short bus ride away, including a dramatic view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace’s beautiful architecture houses not only fine art, but the Exploratorium.

The other location your kids will beg not to leave.

Note: the Exploratorium is planning a move from the Presidio to the Wharf in late 2012.

Filled with hands-on experiments and exhibits, you’ll truly lose track of time in the Exploratorium.

Everyone will have fun, but the best age is around 5-15; little ones will find few places to crawl and sit on the ground safely.

If you still have some steam, take the bus out to City Beach, where kids can play in the sand and (cold!) surf and families can grab a casual bite to eat.

Nob Hill, Chinatown, and North Beach

On Day 3, check out the center of the city with a cable car ride up California Street to Nob Hill.

Peek into beautiful Grace Cathedral and gape at the gorgeous and elegant hotels hugging the hillside.

Hop off at the gates to Chinatown and do some shopping.

Kids will love the stores stuffed with Chinese wares, and many of the restaurants are kid-friendly with family-friendly pricing.

Eat a lunch of dim sum or sushi, then take a bus to North Beach for a dessert of gelato.

If you have book lovers in your family, seek out City of Lights Bookstore, where Jack Kerouac held court.

If you enjoy shopping, ride next to Union Square for all the top-end shops.

If not, your time will be better spent on the other side of Market (SOMA) at Yerba Buena Gardens.

Kids will love the rooftop playground (though it’s all very open… keep an eye on little ones!) and older kids will be interested in the avant garde offerings at the Museum of Modern Art.

Eat dinner at a San Francisco food truck along Market, or do as we did and catch a ball game at Candlestick or AT&T Park.

California Academy of Sciences rain forest

Where to Stay in San Francisco

Since San Francisco is easy to navigate via public transit, almost any area of the city will put families in range of MUNI or BART.

Cheaper accommodations will be found across the bay in Marin (I recommend the Acqua Hotel in Mill Valley) or even Vallejo, but bear in mind: you’ll be paying tolls and hassling city parking daily.

In the city, we stayed at both the Radisson Fisherman’s Wharf, which is ideally located right on Pier 39 and offers a heated pool for a moderate rate, and Omni San Francisco in the heart of the financial district on California Street, located right on the cable car line but sporting a much higher price tag.

For green hotel option, check out the InterContinental San Francisco and read about how to find a green hotel in San Francisco.

Almost anywhere in the city, you’ll pay overnight parking fees, so budget accordingly.

After exploring San Francisco for 3 days with kids, I can guarantee one thing: you’ll be ready to come back for a week or more!

San Francisco in Pictures

One of my favorite things to do when planning a vacation is to go to Flickr or Google Images and search for the city I’m visiting.

I use the photos as a guidebook.

Sometimes they’ll show the most common tourist sites or sometimes there will be hidden gems.

If you’re not already planning a trip to this fabulous West Coast city, you’ll probably want to after checking out the photos below.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

photo credit: chadh

Alcatraz

photo credit: derekskey
San Francisco Pier 39

San Francisco Pier 39

photo credit: John Morgan

San Francisco Cable Cars

photo credit: @Andywithcamera

San Francisco Skyline

photo credit: El Frito

Lombard Street

photo credit: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

InterContinental San Francisco LEED Certification and Green Initiatives

Are you looking for a green hotel in San Francisco?

Then check out the InterContinental San Francisco.

This 550 room hotel in downtown San Francisco just received their LEED Gold Certification this year.

Here’s a bit more about the certification and their current green initiatives.

LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council awarded InterContinental San Francisco the LEED Gold certification for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance.

LEED is one of the few reliable ratings systems for building energy efficient buildings.

To earn LEED Gold, the hotel was evaluated on efficiency and minimization of environmental impact.

It’s the largest hotel property to date to receive LEED EBOM certification in California.

And it’s only one of 13 other hotels in the nation to receive this certification.

Green Initiatives

The InterContinental San Francisco has undertaken many initiatives to become greener and receive their LEED Gold award.

Green Microsite

The InterContinental San Francisco has a green microsite that lists some of their green initiatives.

Transportation Microsite

The transportation microsite allows you to plan your visit based on what’s within walking distance from the hotel and lists public transportation options from the airport.

Use of Public Transportation

The hotel’s concierge assists guests with traveling by public transportation in San Francisco.

And more than 95% of the hotel’s staff use public transportation to get to work.

Carbon Offsetting

InterContinental San Francisco is 100% carbon neutral as it purchases renewable energy credits to offset 100% of its electricity and natural gas use.

ENERGY Star

The US EPA awarded the hotel the ENERGY Star rating.

Solar Power and Alternative Energy Use

Solar Power and Alternative Energy Use

The InterContinental San Francisco uses solar panels to power some of their equipment and uses regenerative braking power in the elevators.

Temperature Sensors in Rooms and ecoMode Button

While most of a hotel’s green initiatives are behind the scenes, as customers we mostly notice what happens in our rooms.

One particularly cool feature in this hotel is an “ecoMode” button.

When you enter your room you press the ecoMode button which relaxes the room temperature by a degree or two.

Also, the rooms have temperature sensors to adjust the temperature for energy savings when the rooms are unoccupied.

Local Food

What’s not to love about fresh, local, organic food?

The InterContinental San Francisco features local and organic options.

Congratulations to the InterContinental San Francisco on achieving the LEED Gold certification!

GGTG hopes that more hotels continue to follow its lead.

InterContinental San Francisco Hotel, which is proudly LEED® EBOM Gold Certified under the U.S Green Building Council (USGBC), and is the largest LEED Gold Recipient of existing buildings in California, and the 3rd largest in the U.S.

Best Nature Inspired Vacation Activities

Iceland with Kids: Travel with a Baby, Children or Teenagers

parents with two kids on outdoors

Updated:

Iceland with kids – We were excited to take our first international trip with our son, who will be 9 months old when we go.

I’ve scoured the internet to learn about travel to Iceland with kids — what to do, where to stay, and how to get around.

Here’s what I’ve found before going and what I learned after going to Iceland with a baby.

Iceland with Kids: What Should We Do, Eat and Drink?

When we first started talking about going to Iceland, my knowledge of the country was limited to Björk and the fact that Iceland is green while Greenland is icy.

Not a whole lot to get excited about.

But now that we’ve done our initial planning, I can’t wait to visit Iceland.

It’s beautiful and, compared to other European countries, quiet.

The population is just over 300,000 — about 8% of the population of Los Angeles.

And there’s much wildlife to see (can you say puffin chicks?).

We’ll be traveling east from Reykjavík along the southern coast for 10 days, and one of our favorite things to do is eat.

We also like light hiking and we’ll be traveling with a baby.

Where we’re staying overnight in Iceland:

  • Reykjavík
  • Eyrarbakki
  • Westman Islands
  • Vík
  • Vagnsstaðir
  • Kirkjubæjarklaustur

Be sure to read the entire way through as we have returned from our trip with some great advice for traveling to Iceland with kids.

Some of our research was around these questions:

  • What should we do in Iceland?
  • What should we eat?
  • What should we drink?
  • What else should we know?

photo credit: Luca Venturi Oslo

We’re back from our trip to Iceland with kids!

Here’s some things we learned.

Where to Eat in Reykjavik, Iceland: Best Restaurants

Reykjavik is home to some of the best restaurants in Iceland.

And because one of our favorite things to do while traveling is to eat, we managed to squeeze plenty of dining experiences into our short stay in the capital city.

If you’re wondering where to eat in Reykjavik, Iceland, we’ve got you covered — from fancy restaurants to cheap street stands.

Best food in Iceland Grill Market

At Grill Market (Grillmarkadurinn), which features local food and works with local farmers, we had a delicious meal of fried vegetables, lamb, fish, wine, and two fantastic desserts. It was expensive, but absolutely worth it.
Delicious desserts at Grill Market in Reykjavik

Best Seafood in Iceland: Fish Market

If you want to sample amazing seafood, don’t miss Fish Market (Fishmarkadurinn).

We skipped it because of a shellfish allergy, but our friends who went loved it.

You’ll find fresh lobster, crab, shrimp, and even puffin on the menu.

Best Bakery in Iceland: Bakari Sandholt

Looking for a good cup of coffee or a sweet treat?

Stop by Bakari Sandholt on Laugavegi 36, one of the main streets in Reykjavik.

We had the most delicious chocolate pastry there.

Note the website is in Icelandic, so you’ll need to translate it to read the menu.

Best Take Out in Iceland: Austurlanda Hradlestin

If you’re in the mood for Indian, check out Austurlanda Hradlestin (on Hverfisgotu 64a).

We got a ton of fantastic Indian food for a reasonable price — reasonable by Icelandic standards, anyway.

You can dine in or get take out.

Best Hot Dog in Iceland: Baejarins Beztu Pylsur

For a true Icelandic experience, don’t miss the best hot dog in the world at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur.

Before you turn up your nose at that suggestion, know that hot dogs in Iceland are far better than American hot dogs.

They’re made with real meat – usually a combination of lamb, pork, and beef.

Rather than the processed mystery meat you’ll find in hot dogs in the U.S. They are delicious, and cheap.

Although dining out in Iceland is expensive, it’s worth the splurge.

There are some fantastic restaurants in Reykjavik, so take advantage of them.

Especially if your Icelandic travels will take you outside of the city.

Once you leave Reykjavik, the pickings are slim for eating out.

Whether you’re in the mood for something fancy, take out, or a cheap meal, there are great options in Reykjavik, Iceland.

World’s Best Hot Dog ~ We Found It in Iceland!

I enjoy a good hot dog as much as the next person, but “amazing” is not a word I would use to describe most American hot dogs.

Long associated with baseball games and summer cook-outs, hot dogs in the United States are as ubiquitous as cracker jacks, pizza, and hamburgers.

But they’re little more than glorified junk food and are often filled with mystery meat.

We weren’t looking to find the world’s best hot dog, but we found it, in an unlikely place: Iceland.

In Iceland, it’s a whole different ballgame. Icelanders are proud of their hot dogs, and rightfully so.

Icelandic hot dogs are made with real meat — usually a combination of lamb, pork, and beef.

And you can definitely taste the difference.

They are nothing short of mouth wateringly delicious.

Order one with everything, and you will get a hot dog with fried onions, raw onions, sweet mustard, and a mayonnaise-based relish served on a lightly toasted bun.

Some places also throw ketchup into the mix.

They were all magnificent!

It took a lot of willpower not to eat a hot dog every day on our recent Iceland trip.

Not only are they tasty, they are one of the only cheap meals you can find in the country.

Here are two of the many hot dog stands in Iceland.

This is where we went to go to find the world’s best hot dog.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavik, Iceland

Its name translates to “The Best Hot Dog in Town,” and while they might be right, we considered them among the world’s best hot dog.

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur has fantastic hot dogs that are not expensive.

BBP is a hot dog stand conveniently located near the harbor in Reykjavik, so you don’t have to go out of your way to find it.

Icelanders are serious about their hot dogs.

At Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, there are hot dog holders built into the table.

Pylsuvagninn in Selfoss, Iceland

After a long day of driving, we were starving and on the lookout for cheap eats.

Pylsuvagninn in Selfoss fit the bill.

It’s a drive-through hot dog restaurant with tasty dogs.

This was my first Icelandic hot dog tasting experience, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The novelty of driving through to order a hot dog, then having it delivered to the car, was fun, too.

I would recommend at a stop (or three) at Pylsuvagninn if you find yourself in Selfoss.

Yes, this is a drive-through hot dog stand

What makes them the world’s best hot dog?

It was a surprise to us to learn about the hot dogs in Iceland.

We were expecting a lot of other cuisine such as whale and shark.

We learned that Iceland does not import any live animals.

Also, sheep are very plentiful in Iceland, outnumbering the people there.

So Icelandic hot dogs are made from lamb that is free-range, hormone-free, and grass fed.

You probably won’t find that in hot dogs anywhere else.

You will definitely want to try hot dogs in Iceland if you are ever fortunate enough to visit Iceland.

They are everywhere.

See for yourself if they are indeed in the running for the world’s best hot dog.

Best Attractions in Greenland

Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

Icelandair Review: What to Know Before You Book

We flew Icelandair direct Reykjavik for our trip to Iceland via Icelandair is considered a discount airline and many people fly it not just from the US to Iceland, but all the way to continental Europe.

If you’re planning a trip to continental Europe, I definitely recommend a 3-day stopover in Reykjavik or at least a half-day to visit the Blue Lagoon.

If you’re considering taking a trip to Iceland, our Icelandair review will tell you everything you should know before you book a flight.

We’re back from our trip so if you want to learn more about Iceland check out Pictures of Puffins, 24 Hours in Vik, Blue Lagoon Iceland Guide, and Where to Find the World’s Best Hot Dog.

icelandair review

Overall, I’m a fan of Icelandair.

It’s a discount airline so it doesn’t have the same perks you get on other international flights.

But Icelandair does have a few perks to offer, notably:

Glacier Water

When you board the plane you get a free bottle of glacier water.

The people ahead of us each took 2 bottles and said they had been looking forward to the water ever since they had flown Icelandair the year before.

It was good water, but I don’t think I’ll be craving it for the next year.

Free Skyr (Delicious Icelandic Yogurt)

There was no free meal on the flights (more on that below), but on the flight to Iceland we received free skyr first-thing in the morning before we landed.

If you’re not familiar with skyr, it’s very similar to yogurt, except not as sweet, with a stronger flavor, less caloric, and overall far better.

I think the skyr company provides these to entice you to buy more skyr when you’re actually in Iceland as you don’t get a free skyr on the plane ride home.

If this hunch is in fact their marketing plan, it worked amazingly well as we consumed at least 1 container of skyr each a day while in Iceland. Even our 9-month-old son loved it.

Movie Consoles

A final perk of Icelandair is that all of the seats had their own movie and game consoles.

The selection of movies is the best I’ve seen on a plane and I definitely made use of the device being available.

Note, though, that you have to bring your own headphones or buy them onboard.

Things to Know Before Going to Iceland with Kids (The Less-than-Good)

While we enjoyed our Icelandair experience as a whole, there are a few things to know about the airline before you book your flight.

Small Plane

Icelandair uses Boeing 757s, which are six seats across divided into three and three.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this configuration, but it does have a few negative aspects.

If you’re used to much larger planes on international trips with multiple aisles to pace for exercise, or less turbulence due to a larger plane, you aren’t going to find that on your flight with Icleandair.

No Bassinets

If you’re traveling with a baby to Iceland, you might expect to have access to a bassinet as you do on most international flights.

International airlines can’t promise that your child will actually sleep, but at least they make bassinets available.

Because Icelandair’s planes are small, they aren’t configured for the front row/bulkhead bassinet set up other airlines have.

So, plan on holding your baby the entire flight.

This isn’t too bad because it’s only a 6 hour flight direct from Minneapolis to Reykjavik, but it makes it difficult for you to sleep because you’re holding the baby.)

No Free Meals or Drinks

Icelandair doesn’t offer free meals or alcoholic beverages on its flights to those seated in the standard economy cabin.

It is a long flight to not eat anything besides the skyr on the flight to Iceland, so be sure to pack yourself a snack.

You can also purchase food inflight.

Overall Icelandair Review

Flying Icelandair is definitely better than flying on domestic flights, but it’s a far cry from fancy international airlines.

I would recommend booking with Icelandair if the flight prices are cheaper and if you get a more direct flight because of it.

But if flights are comparably priced and equally convenient and you have the option of airline with all of the perks of international travel, I would choose the other airline.

Iceland with a Baby or Toddler

  • TripAdvisor Boards: Iceland with a Baby (6-month-old)
  • Lonely Planet Message Board: Iceland hiking, camping, and hostels with a baby (8-month-old)
  • Lonely Planet Message Board: Iceland with a toddler (11-month-old)
  • Simon Seeks Forum: Traveling to Reykjavik Iceland with a Baby (16-month-old)
  • Fodor’s Forum: Six Days in Iceland with a Toddler and Photographer Hubby (2-year-old)
  • TripAdvisor Boards: 10 Days in Iceland with Toddler (2.5-year-old)
  • The Guardian: What is there to do in Iceland with Kids? (4-year-old twins)
  • Outdoor Baby Network: Iceland is very baby-friendly
  • Travels with Baby: Various posts about one family’s trip to Iceland (toddler and big brother)

Travel in Iceland with a Baby

Iceland with School-Age Kids and Teenagers

  • Lonely Planet Message Board: Iceland with small children (4-year-old and 6-year-old)
  • Lonely Planet Message Board: Iceland with kids? (7, 16, and 17 years old)
  • TripAdvisor Boards: Iceland with children (8, 10, and 12 years old)
  • Pughville: Iceland with Kids, The Golden Circle with Kids, and Eastern Iceland (school-age)
  • Amazing Kids! Adventures: My Travel Journal to Iceland
  • TripAdvisor Boards: Iceland with teenagers (three teenage boys)

What to do in Vik, Iceland

Vík í Mýrdal, more commonly known simply as Vik, is conveniently located on the Ring Road in Iceland.

Vik is known for its stunning black basalt beaches and it’s a great place to stop on your way from the Westman Islands to Skaftafell National Park.

It’s a small town with under 300 inhabitants, but it’s one of the last place to stock up as you head east on the Ring Road.

Here’s what to do in 24 hours in Vik, Iceland.

Where to Stay in Vik

Book a night or two at the Nordur-Vik Hostel, where you can get a 6-bed private room for $180 US (including four sets of linens).

They have one of the best breakfast spreads I saw in Iceland: it included waffles and eggs.

Where to Eat in Vik

Be sure to stop in for a meal at Halldorskaffi Restaurant.

It’s cozy and reasonably priced, and the food was quite good.

I tasted the char (a fresh, local fish) with a baked potato and veggies, skyr cake, and meringue cake.

The skyr (Icelandic yogurt) cake wasn’t as dense or sweet as American cheesecake and was tasty.

Iceland does meringue very well and the meringue cake was delicious.

The char was fresh and delicious.

Skyr cake, Halldorskaffi Restaurant, Vik, Iceland

What to Do in Vik for the day

Stroll along the black basalt beach, where you can watch puffins on the nearby cliffs.

Wander around the town and take in the view of the church on the hill.

Then swing by souvenir shop Icewear / Norwear to pick up wool, clothing, and other souvenirs.

Before you leave Vik, stock up on food and drink at the grocery store Kjarval Vik.

It’s the last decent sized grocery store on your way to Skaftafell National Park, unless you stop in for Klaustur.

Black basalt beach, Vik, Iceland Church on the hill, Vik, Iceland

24 Hours in Iceland – Kirkjubaejarklaustur (Klaustur), Iceland

Klaustur, also known as Kirkjubaejarklaustur, is a tiny town in southern Iceland with a population of just over 100.

If you’re heading east on the Ring Road, it’s the very last place to stop and buy groceries before heading into Skaftafell National Park. Klaustur has quite a religious past.

Originally settled by Irish monks, it is best known as being home to Benedictine nuns in the 12th century.

Today, it makes a scenic stopover off the Ring Road.

Don’t plan on staying more than one night, though; there’s not much to do in this sleepy town.

What to do in 24 hours in Klaustur, Iceland.

24 Hours in Iceland
24 Hours in Iceland

Where to Stay in Klaustur

You can find farmhouse accommodations near Klaustur, but be sure to book ahead.

Accommodations are limited and get booked early in the busy season.

We ended up staying at the Hotel Klaustur IcelandAir Hotel, which felt quite high-end and was quite expensive; we paid $220 for one room.

If you’re in the mood to splurge a bit, Hotel Klaustur is a nice place to do it.

If you’re on a budget, there’s also scenic camping.

Where to Eat in Klaustur

We had a fancy dinner at the Hotel Klaustur restaurant, where two lamb specials and two glasses of wine cost $84.

The breakfast spread there was the best I saw in Iceland.

You can also try Restaurant Geirland, which is just outside of Klaustur and has lamb, fish, and vegetables.

If you’re a budget traveler, check out the hot dog stand near the visitor center.

Be sure to stop by the Sveitabragginn farmers’ market, located next to tourist info center, which sells big containers of locally made ice cream and crafts.

What to Do in Klaustur

By far the most popular attraction in Klaustur is the basalt columns of Kirkjugolf.

Once thought to be a church floor, these honeycomb basalt columns form a flat surface you can walk on.

To get to them, follow the path through a field (ask around if you can’t find it).

You can also check out the Systrastapi (Sisters’ Pillar), where nuns were killed for supposedly having relations with the devil.

There are also a number of scenic hikes out of Klaustur.

Basalt columns of Kirkjugolf, Klaustur, Iceland…Inspiring Places in the World

Pictures of Puffins: Our Best Puffin Photos from Iceland

One of the things I was most looking forward to about visiting Iceland was seeing puffins.

Our first spotting was on the ferry to the Westman Islands.

But they were flying and far away.

Despite their distance I still tried to capture a few pictures of puffins.

None of those photos made this cut.

When we arrived in the Westman Islands, we drove a short way up a hill to a hike through a field of sheep, where we discovered hundreds of puffins.

And in Vik (at Dyrholaey) we saw even more puffins.

They were even cuter in real life than I thought they would be.

Here are my favorite pictures of puffins.

Best Puffin Photo

Have you ever seen a puffin?

What’s your most memorable wildlife viewing experience while traveling?

Blue Lagoon, Iceland Guide

When I saw photos of the Blue Lagoon, Iceland, I was intrigued but wary.

The beautiful, milky blue water looked inviting, but I’d been warned that the Blue Lagoon was a tourist trap.

In the end I decided it was worth the risk to see it and I’m glad I did.

Even though the sky was overcast, visiting the Blue Lagoon was a great experience.

The Blue Lagoon (Bláa lónið) is a man-made geothermal spa located between Reykjavik City and Keflavik International Airport in Iceland.

It came about accidentally when the runoff from a geothermal power plant pooled and formed a temptingly warm pool.

The Blue Lagoon is crowded and a bit expensive, but it’s a must-see on your trip to Iceland.

bluelagoon Reykjavik Iceland
bluelagoon Reykjavik Iceland

How to Get to the Blue Lagoon

Many people visit the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa on their way to or from the airport since it’s about 50 minutes from Reykjavik and 20 minutes from Keflavik airport.

If you have a rental car, it’s an easy stop on your way to Reykjavik.

Just follow the signs for Bláa lónið off of Route 41.

We were jet-lagged, though, so we decided to sleep and explore Reykjavik on our first day in Iceland, then return to the Blue Lagoon on our second day.

Since the Blue Lagoon is only 20 minutes from the airport, you can even stop in if you have a long layover on your way to mainland Europe.

Reykjavik Excursions offers round trip bus tickets from the airport, with admission to the Blue Lagoon, for just 8900 ISK (about $75 USD).

For 3200 ISK, you can get a round trip bus ticket to the Blue Lagoon that doesn’t include admission.

View of the Blue Lagoon Spa, Iceland

What to Do at the Blue Lagoon

Upon arrival, the first thing to do at the Blue Lagoon is decide which spa package you want to buy.

Basic entrance in the summer months (the “standard” package) is about $45 USD and you’ll need to bring your own towel.

For a more extravagant experience, get the Experience for about $95 USD.

The Experience package includes entrance, a towel, a bathrobe, a mask, a drink at the swim-up bar in the Blue Lagoon, and the lunch buffet at LAVA Restaurant.

Once you’ve paid for your package, you’ll be given a bracelet that track your purchases and allow you access to the lockers, then you’ll head toward the locker rooms.

At this point, I was annoyed when all of the lockers on the main floor were full; I needn’t have been because there are more locker rooms upstairs.

You use your bracelet to open and lock the lockers and the instructions are a bit confusing.

To claim an open locker, close it, then quickly swipe your bracelet in front of the nearest sensor.

Be sure to remove all jewelry, as the sulphuric water can corrode metal.

Hose off in the communal shower (yes, you have to get naked) before suiting up and heading into the Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is family-friendly, but note that kids under 7 are required to wear arm floaties (which are provided).

Our 9-month-old son loved splashing around in the water and didn’t mind the arm floaties at all.

Once you’re in the Blue Lagoon, you’ll have no trouble finding your own space to relax.

Hang out by the back wall for maximum heat.

When you want to cool off, head to the swim-up bar and order a cold beer or sparkling wine.

If you need a break from lounging in the water, relax in the sauna or geothermal steam baths.

For a natural massage, stand under the waterfall then apply a mask of white silica mud, which is said to be great for your skin.

Swim-up bar in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Where to Eat at the Blue Lagoon

You’ll be sure to work up an appetite after all of that lounging, so head to the LAVA Restaurant for an extensive lunch buffet.

The buffet is about 3900 ISK ($32 USD) per person and is included in the Experience and Exclusive Experience packages.

You’ll see traditional Icelandic foods like local fish and seafood, meat soup, lamb, and skyr (Icelandic yogurt) on the menu.

For lower-key fare, dine in the cafe, where you’ll find sandwiches, salads, paninis, and chips.

A panini is 1350 ISK (about $11 USD) and you have a great view of the Blue Lagoon.

After your meal, you may want to relax even more with a massage, head back into the Blue Lagoon, stop in the gift shop for Icelandic clothing and souvenirs, or call it a day.

The Blue Lagoon and the geothermal power plant that warms it

Is it Worth the Trip?

It may be a bit of a tourist trap, but there’s something magical about the Blue Lagoon.

It’s crowded, but there’s plenty of space to spread out and relax in the geothermal pool.

I would definitely recommend a stop at the Blue Lagoon if you find yourself in Iceland, even just for a short stopover on your way to mainland Europe.

Have just 24 hours in Iceland?

You can fill an entire day with a trip there, but I was content after a solid half-day.

The Blue Lagoon is a conveniently located, family-friendly destination in a beautiful country.

If I’m in Iceland again, I’ll be sure to return to the Blue Lagoon.

photo credits: Dan Harrelson and Bill Ward’s Brickpile

Have you traveled to Iceland with kids? What advice would you give?

There are so many great resources about traveling in Iceland with kids.

We had a once-in-a-lifetime trip there.

Least Crowded National Parks You Should Visit

Park boardwalk

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Least Crowded National Parks, There is much to see and explore in our mighty United States, and visiting national parks tops my list.

My top five picks among the least crowded US national parks are no less worthy of visiting than the big Y’s: Yosemite and Yellowstone.

They are simply more remote than the top US national parks, perhaps smaller, or in some cases, vastly larger and often harder to access.

What does this mean for the adventurous traveler?

Jasper National Park ~ A Place to See Incredible Wildlife

Plenty of unspoiled landscape, unmarred views, and lots of room to roam.

The Best of the Least Crowded National Parks

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Lake Clark National Park is teaming with volcanoes, waterfalls, rivers, and glaciers.

While most visitors come in the summer months when ranger headquarters are staffed, it is open year-round.

Top activities include kayaking the Cook Inlet Coast, where you are almost guaranteed to spot Alaska brown bear.

Nearby towns include Homer and Kenai.

Where to stay at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska

While visitors to Lake Clark can certainly go remote, they don’t have to.

Lodging is available in Port Alsworth which is near 50-mile-long Lake Clark in the center of the park.

Day hikers can explore the wilderness and return to a bed at night.

This is a fantastic book which includes facts about our 59 National Parks.
Congaree national parks

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Home to the largest intact expanse of old growth bottom land forest remaining in the southeastern U.S.

Congaree National Park is comprised of a network of floodplain and swamp accessible primarily by foot or by canoe.

There are over 25 miles of walking trails, designated by colored marker in the floodplain, and two miles of boardwalk.

Canoes are available to rent in nearby Columbia, or visitors can bring their own.

They are not available to buy or rent within the park.

Free camping permits are offered.

Stop at the visitor’s center to get yours along with a map.

Where to stay at Congaree National Park, South Carolina

If you’re not camping, there is no lodging within the national park boundaries.

However, Columbia is not far away, and offers everything from budget motels to five-star hotels.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Often the least crowded national park in California, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers far more than its signature bubbling sulfur hydrothermal deposits (though those are fun) and volcano.

Visitors will find crystal clear mountain lakes, streams, and alpine forests, especially in the back-country.

We’ve backpacked throughout Lassen with our children and without them.

There are plenty of trail options to keep everyone happy.

Plus, it’s an easy drive from various small cities such as Mt. Shasta and Redding in Northern California.

Where to stay at Lassen Volcanic National Park in California

There are eight campgrounds within Lassen.

If you opt to find a real bed, our favorite pick is the St. Bernard Lodge, located minutes from the park entrance.

Best Nature Inspired Vacation Activities

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Great Basin National Park spans from subterranean Lehman Cave to Wheeler Peak at over 13,000 feet.

Since the park is relatively small, you can experience both in the same day though beware of altitude sickness.

Our three school-aged boys loved the tour of Lehman Cave.

The most spectacular aspect of Great Basin is the clear night sky over the vast Nevadan desert.

Where to stay at Great Basin National Park

Is located in Baker, Nevada, which has precious little to offer in terms of lodging.

We stayed comfortably enough, though certainly not luxuriously, at The Border Inn motel in town.

Campgrounds are available in the park boundaries, though if you’re tent camping, don’t underestimate the weather.

Campgrounds in the Nevadan desert are located at high elevation.
Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Accessible only by seaplane or ferry, Isle Royale National Park is an island of rugged and somewhat unexpected wilderness surrounded by Lake Superior.

One of the only parks to close during winter, Isle Royale is a summer paradise for backpackers and boaters who want to get away from it all.

Where to stay Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

When you return from the wilderness, stay a night or two at the Rock Harbor Lodge, accessible by water taxi.

Visitors have been known to see moose and the northern lights.

Bonus for Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

If none of the above least visited national parks in the USA are remote enough for you, you might consider Kobuk Valley National Park, AK.

With no roads, campgrounds, or trails within the park, most visitors are skilled backcountry explorers and locals.

I have a feeling Kobuk is beyond my wilderness capabilities, but it’s officially on my bucket list!

Not to overlook Niagara Falls, gotta check that off my bucket list as well with a Niagara Falls Tours.

Places are usually more pleasant when they aren’t crowded which is why we enjoy frequenting our list of least crowded US national parks.

But remember, even the most crowded national parks are almost desolate during their off-seasons.

They can be breathtakingly beautiful during the fall, spring, and winter months.

If you’d like to avoid the crowds but still visit the most popular parks, consider Yosemite in winter, Olympic National Park in spring, or Shenandoah National Park in fall.

Hiking Shenandoah National Park in Pictures

To celebrate Labor Day, we went for a hike in Shenandoah National Park near Front Royal, Virginia.

It’s an easy day trip from DC.

About an hour and a half drive.

It was pretty and peaceful in the summer, and I imagine it’s gorgeous in the fall.
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
View from the road
Shenandoah National Park Berries

View from the trail

Shenandoah National Park

Pede of some sort (centi? milli?)
Appalachian Trail Sign Shenandoah National Park

Appalachian Trail sign
Shenandoah National Park Boulder

Giant fallen boulder
Shenandoah National Park Views
Guys hanging out at a viewpoint

Enjoy all you want to do when traveling to one of these least crowded national parks.

The nature abounds and the views are priceless.

Jasper National Park ~ A Place to See Incredible Wildlife

Jasper National Park ~ Situated in the Canadian province of Alberta, Jasper National Park is one of the world’s premier destinations for wildlife lovers.

The park is majestic, covering an area of 4,200 square miles in the Canadian Rockies.

Its spectacular mountain scenery.

Including awe-inspiring glaciers, tranquil mountain lakes, thundering waterfalls and steaming hot springs.

Is home to a wide range of animals, making it the perfect place to experience nature at its most majestic.

In fact, there are no less than 53 mammal species in this National Park, living in the diverse range of the habitats that the park provides.

Jasper National Park

Image source

Wildlife at Jasper National Park

One of the park’s most iconic inhabitants is the moose.

It’s often considered the second symbol of Canada, just behind the maple leaf.

The park is home to well over 100 moose.

Your best chance to see them is near the park’s many lakes and streams.

You can recognize these enormous animals.

Which tend to be solitary, unlike many other smaller members of the deer family.

By their enormous antlers and a face that in many ways resembles a horse’s.

Yellowhead Pass and the Pocahontas Wetlands are two of the best places in the park to see moose.

However, the moose is only one of a number of deer species in the park.

The most common of these is the elk.

Known locally by its Native American name of wapiti.

There are also mule deer.

Look for the distinctive black tipped tail and large ears.

As well as white-tailed deer, although both of these are relatively rare.

You will also find caribou grazing on the grasses and lichens in the park, although these are difficult to spot in the summer since they head to high pastures at this time.

Since deer are relatively shy creatures, you will need to approach them stealthily if you want to take good photographs of them.

In fact, if you are an avid wildlife photographer, you may want to set up a deer blind to provide camouflage.

Smaller mammals at Jasper National Park

The park is also the residence of another Canadian icon – the beaver.

These are the largest rodents in North America, and can be found building their dams and lodges in valleys throughout the national park.

Although these industrious animals were driven to the brink of extinction by trappers in the 19th century, they have now made a strong comeback thanks to the dedicated work of conservationists.

Many other smaller mammals can also be found in the park, including porcupines, marmots, squirrels, weasels and pika – also known as rock rabbits.

Jasper National Park

Image source

Learning about National Parks

Here is an excellent resource for visiting all 59 National Parks.

It includes example itineraries, depending on how long you will have.

There are gorgeous photos as well.

You are sure to enjoy this fantastic book long after your trip.

It may well inspire you to plan more trips to National Parks.

Planning a trip to Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park is also home to a number of impressive predators.

There are wolves and coyotes, as well as mountain lions and lynx.

However, these two cats are elusive, so you will be fortunate to see them.

There are also black bears and grizzlies.

These are actually omnivores that eat more vegetation than they do meat.

Exercise great caution if you do see any bears, since they have been known to attack humans.

It is a good idea to stay at least 100 yards away from them.

You will have the trip of a lifetime spending time at Jasper National Park.

The scenery is breathtaking and the wildlife is diverse.

There are 59 National Parks. Yellowstone National Park Insider Tips

You may well be inspired to plan many vacations to National Parks.

Olympic National Park Photos ~ Here’s What to See When You Visit

Entering Olympic National Park on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is akin to stepping foot onto the surface of another planet.

The only temperate rain forest in North America, the peninsula’s dense terrain and near-constant downpours call to mind a South American tropical jungle.

Only the temperatures and seasonal snow give away its North American location.

Beautiful Olympic National Park

Most of the Olympic National Park rain forest interior is accessible only by foot or bike, but if you didn’t come prepared to backpack or cycle, the coastal boundary is easily traversed by car along windy Highway 101.

Multiple days are needed to properly see the whole park, but if you only have 24-48 hours, I suggest touring the lush southern section far removed from the busier visitor centers of Port Angeles and harder-to-access Hurricane Ridge.

Lake Quinault

From Highway 101 past Neilton, you’ll first be greeted by the stately Lake Quinault Lodge, where you’ll want to stop and book a room for the night.

Not only is this historic lodge an Olympic National Park institution, it participates in the Green Thread Environmental Program (as does its sister lodges in the park).

Be sure to stop and get a National Park Pass!

Get an annual one and visit National Parks around the country.

Side note: There is a special program going on now where 4th graders get a free annual pass.

We took my son to get his at the Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona and were shocked to learn that if he is with us, our entire family gets in free.

What a fantastic new program!

If the weather is nice and you’re visiting in the summer season, rent kayaks on the lake, or brave a chilly swim to the floating dock.

If the peninsula is producing its typical drizzle, opt for a seat by the fireplace or swim in the indoor pool instead.

In the afternoon, cross the street to take a hike through the Quinault Rain Forest, where a network of easy to moderate trails wind through maple glades, cedars, and ferns.

Kalaloch

The next morning, drive the 30 miles along Hwy 101 from the lake to the coast at Kalaloch, where, in addition to Kalaloch Lodge, the vast, windswept Olympic National Park beaches yield piles of weather-hewn driftwood and wide vistas.

Kids and kids at heart will also find the most impressive tree climbing you’ll likely see anywhere.

Hoh Rain Forest

Further north, take the Hoh Valley Road inland to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, where the easy mile loop trail of the Hall of Mosses awaits.

Note: visitor center is closed in the off-season, but trails are open year round.

Be careful, or you might just turn into moss yourself:

Forks

Pop culture étiquette dictates I mention the proximity of Forks, Washington and La Push, but if you’re not a Twilight fan, I suggest skipping it.

As we drove by, we paused to do our best vampire impressions.

A return to Quinault Lodge or Kalaloch Lodge ensures another night’s rest before leaving this enchanted park the following day.

Top 5 Least Crowded National Parks You Should Visit

It’s always fun to explore and no better place to do it than one of our esteemed national parks.

These Olympic National Park photos will hopefully inspire you to plan a visit.

Jasper National Park ~ A Place to See Incredible Wildlife

It will be worth your time as you explore this wondrous part of our country.

As always in our national parks, bring your camera and leave everything as you find it.

Photo credit: MiguelVierira and Northfielder.

Best Jobs with Travel Perks and Travel Discounts

disney world cinderella castle

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Best jobs with travel perks – No matter where you are going, travel is usually expensive.

Whether it is purchasing camping gear, or booking flights—it seems to add up quickly.

Thankfully, there are several jobs that offer great travel discounts and perks for frequent travelers.

If you’re a frequent traveler, then these may be the jobs for you.

Here are some of the best jobs with travel perks and discounts to enjoy.

Best jobs with travel perks

Theme Parks

An annual pass at Walt Disney World in Florida is expensive, for kids and adults.

If you love theme parks, but can’t handle the hefty park entry fees, try getting a job at one of the theme parks.

At Walt Disney World, not only do you get free theme park admission, so do your kids and your spouse.

best jobs with travel perks

Cast members get exclusive sneak previews of new attractions, parks, and resorts. Traveling to California?

Your cast member ID will get you into Disneyland for free and you also get discounts on Disney cruises.

You do not have to work directly in the theme parks to get all of these perks.

Whether you are a parking attendant or a Vice President, you get free theme park admission for you and your family.

If you have kids, or you are just a kid at heart, Walt Disney World may be the best place to work for you.

Airlines

These days, on top of already expensive airfare, we get nickel and dimed by airlines like paying for each bag we check, but employees of many airlines are flying for free.

If you are looking for jobs with amazing travel perks or discounts, an airline is a great place to start.

Southwest Airlines employees fly free on Southwest Airlines flights on a space-available basis.

Travel is unlimited and starts your first day on the job.

Not only that, spouses, dependent children and parents all get the same travel benefits.

Traveling somewhere Southwest doesn’t fly?

The company offers discounted flights on other airlines as well.

Check out how to save money with Priceline bidding tips.
best jobs with travel perks

Luxury Hotels

Do you have champagne taste on a beer budget?

If so, a job at a luxury hotel may provide you with the opulence you are after, on a budget you can afford.

Employees of the Four Seasons receive complimentary stays at Four Seasons properties with discounted meals.

Is the Ritz Carlton more your style?

If so, starting on your first day of employment you can experience luxury accommodations with discounts at hotels around the world.

Your benefits also include dining discounts and discounts on spa treatments.

Retail

Do you prefer camping over hotels?

By the time you purchase a tent, sleeping bags, other camping gear, and the appropriate clothing–the cost of camping can add up quickly.

Thankfully, there are jobs that offer discounted camping equipment.

REI employees receive 50% discounts on REI gear and apparel.

In fact, some items end up being priced at or below the wholesale price.

Need to rent skis?

Not a problem, gear rental is free if you work at REI.

best jobs with travel perks

REI Adventures offers active trips around the world and employees get discounts on these trips as well.

Whether you want to climb Kilimanjaro or go on white water rafting trip, they have something for you.

As a bonus, REI is continually on Fortune Magazine’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

photo credits: Phillie Casablanca, Dennis Wong, mariachily

It’s great when you love your job and the company you are working for.

When employers treat their employees well and encourage them to become consumers of their brand, it’s a win for everyone.

These best jobs with travel perks will help you want to go to work everyday.

12 Awesome Hacks to Manage Money Traveling Abroad

Hacks to Manage Money Traveling – In most cases, planning a successful vacation requires focus but it is also a thrilling experience.

However, it is important to figure out the best ways to manage the funds once you have taken the vacation.

The safe and cheap access to your money is critical if you want to enjoy a getaway without worrying about security and sufficiency of the funds.

In this article, we’ll look into the various ways of ensuring you get the most out of your vacation money.

Manage Money Using cash

Depending on how you look at it, cash is great when in transit but it also comes with some setbacks.

Basically, cash is acceptable with most vendors and it gives you some bargaining power when you are transacting with local dealers.

On the flip side, if you lose the money chances of recovering the same may be quite slim.

To minimize this risk, you can keep the money at different places when traveling.

You can distribute the cash between different pockets, in the luggage and a strategic point in your hotel room.

This ensures that if someone stole your cash, you will still be having some backup cash with you.

Manage Money Traveling with Debit cards

A debit card gives you a convenient way of accessing your account when you are far away from home.

It also enables you to make purchases through electronic money transfers.

However, the fees associated with these cards can make it uneconomical to use.

At the same time, if criminals get hold of your card and PIN, you risk losing every dollar in your account.

Nevertheless, you can keep your money safe by protecting the personal details of your debit card.

When making purchases or withdrawals, always ensure the PIN isn’t exposed to bystanders.

At the same time, it is critical that you keep the funds in different accounts rather than the one linked with the card.

This means that your money will be safe just in case the account has been compromised.

Manage Your Money Using Online Finances Management

Today, online banking has become the norm.

After paying the bills, you probably need to check the transactions online.

Whether you are doing it on your smartphone or laptop, it is always important to stay safe.

If you are accessing the account from a café, always sign out and clear your browsing activity.

In addition, you need to use a two-factor authentication every time you use online accounts to make payments for services when traveling abroad.

As a rule of thumb, you should avoid using a public computer to make the transactions unless it is the only option you have.

Smart Credit Card Hacks

If you are a regular traveler, using a credit card is a great way of making purchases since you are going to get some cool rewards like airline miles.

Depending on your destination, using a credit card is safe especially after the magnetic strip cards were phased out.

Even if your card number is copied, the money is still relatively safe.

To make sure all your purchases are approved when shopping abroad, always let the credit card company know that you will be traveling with your card.

This way, you will be able to make the purchases since the system will clear your account for an offshore purchase.

If you ever lose the card, the first thing should be notifying the company so that you won’t be responsible for the loss.

This way you can protect your money as well as your reputation.

Consider initiating automatic payments

While you are lots of miles away, it’s likely that you still have several important payments to make like credit cards balances, realistic personal loans, utility bills.

Using automated payments is one of the best ways of meeting all your financial obligations while you are traveling abroad.

While you could also make online payments, it’s not always possible to predict if the itinerary will remain the same or not.

Create Travel budget Hack to Manage Money

When you are sure about your destination, creating a plan on how to spend the funds can be very helpful.

Take sufficient time to make conscious decisions on what is important during the vacation.

This will minimize the chances of overspending while abroad and you won’t have to deal with hefty credit card bills once you return home.

Depending on the length of time you will be staying abroad, you will decide the exact money you will need.

Although it is recommended that you only spend the planned amount, always be ready to cover some extra expenses just in case something else came up.

Consider travel insurance

When you are planning to go abroad, having good travel insurance is always a good idea.

Basically, anyone who isn’t in apposition to take a travel insurance is most likely not ready to take the vacation.

While it’s not obvious, an accident can occur when you are away.

It can protect you from the adversaries caused by an injury, disease, or some luggage loss.

Familiarize yourself with international rates

Just before you travel to a foreign country, always check the exchange rates.

This will help you know how much you need to exchange for your daily needs as well as protecting yourself from being shortchanged.

To make the process simpler, you can get an app that will help you keep track of the exchange rates on whenever you are.

Make sure your bank account supports multiple overseas transactions

Most banks have limitations when it comes to international transactions.

But this doesn’t mean that you won’t access your money.

If your bank supports the transactions, the only thing you need to do is notify them of your intended travel.

Nevertheless, some banks tend to charge more when you use the services from abroad.

If you want to keep the charges low, ensure you have opened an account that supports unlimited use from different destinations.

Get enough local currency early

While you can get some cash at the airport, it’s not obvious that you will get the best deal at the airport.

Besides, what if you are going to a destination where the service is not available on demand.

If you are in a hurry, you don’t want to waste time locating some ATM’s at the airport.

Besides, you can easily ask your bank to provide you with some currency of your target destination.

Keep track of your expenditure constantly

Once you’ve created a budget, it would be appropriate to keep an eye on your expenses just to make sure that you stay within the set limits.

It will also keep you from second-guessing whether you have enough money to participate in some great activities.

If you want to make this easier, try breaking the expenses into categories and monitor each category.

If you find it boring to write down the expenses, you can download an app that will help you track expenditure effortlessly.

Hauz Khas Village Pubs for the Party Peeps

Final Hacks for Managing Your Money Traveling

When traveling abroad, taking a multifaceted approach towards managing your funds can prove quite fruitful.

It gives you several alternatives when faced with different problems making your life a little easier.

Having a combination of cash and plastic money eliminates the probability of getting stranded if one method fails to work.

Nevertheless, a great experience abroad requires meticulous preparation before leaving your home country.

Manage Money While Traveling – Save Cash and Be Green

Manage Money While Traveling – Whether you’re thinking about long-term travel or a week-long international trip, managing your finances on the road can be a challenge.

ATM fees or foreign exchange fees can add up quickly.

And it’s a nightmare if your wallet is stolen while you’re traveling.

After living overseas for several years, I have a few tricks for how to account for your travel budget, Earn Money from Home and manage your money while traveling.

Avoid ATM Fees

ATM fees can add up quickly.

One of the ways we have saved money over the years is by using credit unions.

My nationwide bank was going to charge me $5 each time I used an ATM.

And that doesn’t include fees from the bank that owns the ATM.

With my credit union, we didn’t pay ATM fees at all.

This will vary from bank to bank (or credit union to credit union), but it’s a good idea to shop around and ask about ATM fees.

Some banks will even reimburse you for the fee the ATM itself charges you.

Another option is to see if your bank participates in the Global ATM Alliance.

If it does, you can avoid ATM and bank fees.

For example, if you have Bank of America in the United States and are traveling to the UK, you can avoid bank fees by using Barclays ATM’s.

Call or email your bank to ask which ATM’s you can use in the country you’re visiting.

Regardless of what bank you use, make sure you know the charges before you leave home to avoid surprises on your statement.

Have a Back-Up Plan

I’ve traveled to over two-dozen countries in the last few years and managed to get by without having anything stolen—until earlier this year.

A few weeks before we moved back to the United States from South Africa my husband’s wallet was stolen.

Because we were headed back to America soon, we had allowed some of my cards to expire and hadn’t replaced them yet.

So, when his debit cards were stolen.

I didn’t have my cards either.

We didn’t have access to the majority of our money.

Thankfully, we were able to have someone deposit money into the one account I had a debit card for and managed to get by until we got back to the States.

Find the best travel debit cards on the market before traveling just to be prepared.

But, it was a big lesson learned.

It is important to always have multiple ways to access your money—especially when overseas.

Manage Money While Traveling Hacks:

If you share bank accounts with someone you are traveling with, make sure that you both have your cards.

Be sure to have an emergency card hidden somewhere outside of your wallet.

Getting a cash advance on your credit card is never ideal, but make sure you have your pin number in case there is an emergency and you need to get one.

Have both MasterCard and Visa cards.

There are some countries that will only take one or the other.

Check out this Chase Freedom Unlimited review as it features no annual fee and 1.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases.

Avoid Travelers Checks

Even as recent as the late 1990’s, I went vacations and used travelers checks almost exclusively in stores and restaurants.

These days, travelers checks are much more difficult to use.

To avoid hefty fees, travelers checks need to be exchanged for cash at an American Express store.

And in many places it can be difficult to find anyone to accept them.

Using an ATM is typically a better option.

Exchange Money in Bulk for the Best Rate

I typically carry United States dollars with us while traveling for emergencies.

If I can’t access an ATM, I can exchange this for local currency.

I was thankful to have cash on us last year when there was only one ATM I could use in Rwanda.

But, exchanging money can get expensive fast.

Exchanging in bulk can help save on transaction fees.

Typically, it is cheaper to just use an ATM.

Especially if you are using a bank or credit union that isn’t charging you ATM fees.

Have a Budget…

Stick to it.

The best way to manage your money while traveling is to know where it’s going.

Whether you have an excel spreadsheet or use a app on your phone or iPad, make sure you are tracking all of your expenses.

Even the little things add up.

This is especially true when traveling long-term.

You want to make sure you’re going to have enough money to last you to the end of your trip.

The economy’s in a downturn.

Your cash isn’t worth as much.

And your must-see-before-I-die site has just been added to the endangered destinations list.

You can’t change or control a lot of things but you can do some things.

Here’s how to save cash with green travel.

So, how exactly do you get there without drowning in debt — or in glacier melt-offs?

46 tips to save cash and manage money while traveling

  1. Bus instead of flying
  2. Train instead of flying
  3. Take a ferry or ship
  4. Use Search Green Travel to save money on flights while saving the environment
  5. Buy your tickets online (since over-the-phone charges fees)
  6. Prepare your car for the trip by inflating your tires
  7. Take public transportation to the airport

Transportation: Getting Around

  1. Walk
  2. Rent a bike
  3. Buy a bike (if you’ll be in one place for an extended period of time)
  4. Hitchhike safely
  5. Take a bus
  6. Share a ride (also known as “slugging”)
  7. Drive to hypermile
  8. Take a tram
  9. Take the subway/metro
  10. Take a trolley car

Manage Money While Traveling

Packing

  1. Carry one bag
  2. Pack light when checking luggage
  3. Bring an extra foldable bag with you

Manage Money While Traveling Accommodations

  1. Camp
  2. Hostel
  3. Stay in an eco-lodge
  4. Take overnight flights, buses, or trains to avoid paying for one night’s accommodations

Hotel Specific

  1. Put housekeeping on hold (uses fewer resources and saves on the tip)
  2. Request to stop newspaper delivery to your hotel door

Food

  1. Bring your own water bottle
  2. Bring a food carrier such as a wrap-n-mat to store leftovers and carry snacks
  3. Make your own food
  4. Skip the food on board plane/train
  5. Skip the drink on board plane/train
  6. Share a meal
  7. Eat from local food stands
  8. Buy food from local markets

In Public Places

  1. Recycle
  2. Use the air dryers and not paper towels
  3. Don’t litter (you’ll avoid fines, too)

Vacation Planning

  1. Plan a trip close to home
  2. Visit a park or forest
  3. Stay in one place instead of country hopping
  4. Volunteer
  5. Unplug all electronics and appliances before you leave home

Electronics

  1. Share converters and other electronics so you don’t buy new ones
  2. Use a digital camera
  3. Use rechargeable batteries

Manage Money While Traveling by making smart Purchases

  1. Don’t buy souvenirs (if you do, buy sustainable souvenirs)

Start implementing some of these eco-friendly ideas, and it will be easy to save money as well as manage money while traveling.

What are helpful tips have you used?

How Can You Take Your Dream Vacation on a Budget?

There are so many places you dream about visiting, but every time you look at your bank account balance, your face falls and you wonder if it will ever happen.

Dreaming big is one thing—living big is another. Is it possible to take your dream vacation on a budget?

You actually may be closer to achieving your travel dreams than you think.

There are many ways you can save up toward a trip.

There are also a number of things you can do while traveling to cut your overall costs down.

If you plan carefully, you may very well be able to take your dream vacation within the next couple years.

Everyday Ways to Save and Earn More Money

The first thing you can do is go over your budget in detail and figure out where you are spending money unnecessarily and how you can reduce your ordinary everyday expenses in order to save for travel.

This may be possible even if you already budget pretty tightly.

You may not be getting the best deal on your utilities for example.

Or you may be wasting money on brand name products when you can buy generic goods for less.

You might be spending more money than you need to on alcohol or non-essentials.

If you are diligent and focused, you can laser in on these excess expenses and eliminate them.

For example, you might see credit card debt as an insurmountable drain on your cash flow.

However, many credit card companies offer limited opportunities to do a balance transfer to a 0% interest credit card offer.

But if you don’t start paying down your balance after you’ve transferred your balance, you’ll be right back to square one.

It takes discipline to stick with some of these changes, but it will all be worth it when you save up enough to go on that life-changing trip.

The easiest way to get started is to download a free budget template and tweak it to meet your specific needs.

Earn Money from Home – 12 Ways to Make Money as a Stay-at-Home Mom

What are the Best Ways to Make Money While You Travel?

5 Ways to Travel the World While You Work

Get a credit card that offers travel rewards

You probably already use a credit card for your everyday expenses.

It’s worth considering switching to a travel credit card.

With a travel credit card, your purchases allow you to earn points toward travel-related purchases.

This includes hotel stays, restaurants, and flights.

Some cards offer amazing promotions, like 100,000 bonus points after you spend your first few thousand dollars.

Some have restrictions you do it within months of opening your account.

If you anticipate a big expense coming up, this would be a great time to choose a credit card that offers rewards for travel.

Book Early and Travel Off-Season

If you know where you want to travel, and you have a pretty good idea as to when it should be possible, you can book your trip early.

Doing so can save you a significant amount of money on the cost of airfare, cruises, accommodations, tours, and more.

It also gives you the chance to check how rates fluctuate throughout the year.

There are many destinations where tourism is a seasonal industry, generally booming in either the summer or winter months, depending on the nature of the location.

Therefore, if you are open to traveling outside peak season, you may find incredibly reasonable rates.

Oftentimes this means saving hundreds of dollars a night on expensive hotel stays.

This can add up to thousands of dollars overall for your trip.

We just visited San Diego in the off season where we went camping.

We saved a lot of money not staying at pricey hotels by the beach.

Also, we ate healthier and were able to travel green by cooking our own meals.

Take the Road Less Traveled

Popular destinations around the world are always going to be among the most expensive to visit because they are in high demand.

Hotel owners, charter companies, and airlines know this, and price everything accordingly.

However, there are many exciting destinations which are off the beaten track.

They will often cost significantly less because they are not on everyone’s bucket list.

You will save money traveling to these lesser-known locations.

You will also enjoy greater seclusion and a more unique travel experience.

On that note, how much of your own local region have you explored?

Chances are good there are many opportunities for weekend breaks or longer trips within your own state to amazing destinations.

Because these locations are closer to where you live, you will not have to pay nearly as much to go and visit them.

Staycations support your local community.

Staying local also minimizes your impact and supports sustainable travel and green travel efforts.

Look For Cheaper Ways to Travel

How will you journey to your destination—and how will you get around and sleep once you arrive?

If you do your homework, you will find that there are many ways you can save money on transit and accommodations while you are seeing the world.

For example, instead of staying in hotels, you can try home swapping.

You can camp in a tent, a 4WD vehicle, or motorhome, any of which you can rent.

Tents for camping can now be rented online and shipped directly to your location.

For your flight, you choose an airline which offers bare bones service at lower rates.

Minimal service can mean no meals in flight, strict luggage requirements, etc.

Even if none of this was originally how you were planning on vacationing, sometimes taking your dream vacation requires rethinking your dream and envisioning it in a different way.

You might not have imagined camping under the stars while touring the countryside, but you might love every minute of it.

A budget flight may not sound like fun, but think of all the ways you could use the money you save at your destination.

You could spend it on gourmet meals, luxury accommodations, or souvenir shopping.

Or you could use it to extend your stay for a few extra days.

Taking Your Dream Vacation on a Budget

So if you still have not taken your dream vacation, get out your maps and start planning your itinerary.

Think carefully about how you are going to budget your money during your trip.

Consider how you could save up more beforehand to afford it.

If you keep an open mind and you remain disciplined and committed to your budget, you may well find that the trip of a lifetime is within your reach after all!

Establish a Travel Budget – Managing It and Sticking to It

When going on a vacation or taking a trip, it’s all too easy to spend, spend, spend. After all, it’s vacation, right?

Soon into your trip you may find that your hard-earned savings to fund the experience start dwindling away much more quickly than anticipated. Be proactive: set a travel budget and a vacation food budget.

It usually happens that we under-budget. This is usually due to higher than expected costs.

Large portions of your budget such as travel, accommodation and meals or unplanned expenditure can be difficult to calculate exactly.

As long as you perform due diligence during the initial planning of your trip, you shouldn’t be too far off.

Here are a few tips on what to include in the travel budget and how to make it work.

Advance Travel Booking

Do the research if there is a choice of destination for a vacation.

A trip to Europe, for example, needs a bigger travel budget than one to South East Asia because of the higher costs of accommodation and food.

A few online searches will indicate if it will be cheaper to arrange travel well in advance or to wait a few months until closer to departure time to get last-minute deals.

Shopping around for budget packages that include travel and accommodation options is also a good idea.

Daily spend

Setting a daily travel budget provides a useful guide and one that should govern how expenditure pans out.

Always build in a contingency to cover eating out, local transport costs, spending money, and unforeseen circumstances.

It is possible to use prepaid travel cards that can be loaded up with a set amount in the local currency before departure.

However, these can prove difficult if on a touring vacation and visiting countries with different currencies.

Cash alternatives may be too bulky to carry easily.

Online money transfers

In case of emergencies, it is best to have a number of different financial resources available.

It is equally important not to let this be a temptation to over-spend.

For example, when traveling on a budget it might be useful to take a supply of cash for most ordinary purchases.

It makes sense to keep a debit card or ATM for cash withdrawals, plus to carry a credit card.

Be strict, however, and use emergency funds only in an emergency.

Alternatively, set up the option to manage money online.

To find out how online money transfers work check out.

The great thing about online transfers is that they can be done quickly, and the facility is available worldwide.

Stick to the rules

Before setting off on a trip, decide what rules will apply when it comes to making choices about spending money.

If Italian shoes are irresistible, budget for a new pair when taking a vacation in Europe.

If local crafts are always tempting, make sure the budget includes an allowance for them.

Save in advance for what you consider to be must-have items.

Taking these precautions and sticking to your travel budget ensures that all your vacations and trips abroad will leave you with happy memories and not debt.

How to Save Money on Road Trips

My family and I are lucky enough to live in a beautiful region of the Pacific Northwest.

Since we’re a family of five and airfare is sometimes out of the budget, we often opt to save money on road trips.

While more economical than flying, road trip costs can add up, especially as gas prices and hotels often increase in the summer months.

Aside from traveling in a fuel-efficient car, what can you do to lower road trip costs?

Here are five key ways to save money on road trips, whether you’re traveling solo or with the whole family.

Plan your itinerary with gas prices in mind

Road trips (at least the pleasurable kind) aren’t about going the farthest possible distance in a given number of days.

Instead of seeing how far you can get, look for itineraries with lots to see and do in a smaller square mileage.

Drive only a few hours per day, and spend the rest of your time renting bikes at your day’s destination or exploring by foot.

California’s Highway 1 is a great area for a multi-stop road trip, which will help you save money on a road trip.

Tent camp

Camp in a tent or reserve a state park cabin or yurt.

Any of these options will be far less expensive than driving a gas-guzzling motor-home or hauling a camper trailer.

Plus, camping is far cheaper than reserving a motor inn or hotel room, and twice as much fun.

Going to California and want to spend time at the beach and the attractions?

Camping can be a cost effective and fun way to vacation.

Dine al fresco

Eat outside while on the road.

Stopping en route to pick up breakfast or lunch and eating them at recreation areas, rest areas, scenic overlooks, and even at a regional park not only saves you money, but is healthier and allows you to see more of the area you’ve driven to see.

If you’re traveling with kids, parks and recreational areas provide the additional benefit of being kid-friendly.

Let them run around and exercise before getting back in the car.

Tip: find parks and natural areas by using Google Earth on your smart phone while on the road.

Budget gas money by using a gasoline price calculator

We use Cost2Drive, which determines the estimated gasoline cost of any road trip, based on your beginning and ending destination and make and model of your car.

Cost2Drive is especially useful when several people or parties are sharing in the gas cost of a trip.

There is no need to split the cost at every pump. You can just divide the price ahead of time or afterward.

Park your car and use public transit while staying in cities

While staying three nights in San Francisco next month, we’ve decided to park our car at a BART station outside the city, take the train in, and enjoy our city touring car-free.

Not only will our visit be more relaxing (who wants to navigate unfamiliar city streets in a car?) but we’ll save over $100 in overnight and curbside parking fees.

We’ve traveled back and forth across the United States many times.

Pack up your car, give the kids something to do, and explore all there is to do in America.

Read all about great road trip ideas to Milwaukee, Chicago, and Iowa, Nebraska, fossil hunting in Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona.

Are you taking any road trips this spring or summer?

What do you do to save money on road trips?

Photo credit: brownpau.

Best green travel credit card Hacks

Best Green Travel Credit Card Hacks – Several companies have launched credit cards that focus on giving back to the environment.

But until recently, I hadn’t found a card that focused on the green traveler’s needs as both an environmentalist and a traveler.

Is there such a thing as a best green travel credit card?

I was invited to beta test the ZYNC Card from American Express, and I’ve been exploring its benefits for a few months.

Overall, I like what I’ve found.

The ZYNC Card has “packs” — essentially interest areas — that are aimed at twenty- and thirty-somethings and benefits that will appeal to eco-conscious travelers.

Give Back: Get Paid to Volunteer

You don’t quite get paid to volunteer with the Give Back Pack, but you can get up to hundreds of dollars worth of gift certificates (or hundreds of other rewards) each year just for volunteering.

And the ZYNC Card rewards you for donating to nonprofits.

The Give Back Pack is free to use.

Give Back Pack

Earn points for each logged hour of volunteer service

Earn points on your charitable donations, more using your American Express card.

Shop Green, Ask Green, Go Green

With the Eco Pack, you earn extra points when you shop at certain green merchants and you get access to an eco-concierge.

I know who I’ll be calling in my search for an environmentally friendly mattress.

Like the Give Back Pack, the Eco Pack is free to use.

Eco Pack

Earn twice the points when buying from 4,000+ green merchants — as rated by Greenopia

Points redemption discounts on certain eco-friendly merchandise enabling you to redeem 25% less points for qualified eco-friendly products and carbon offsets.

Travel Securely

The Travel Pack costs an extra each year, but you get additional discounts on rental cars (be sure to book a hybrid) and double membership rewards points on various travel purchases.

Green Travel Card Hacks and Benefits

2X points on airfare ticket purchases

Discounts at Avis, Budget and Hertz

Enrollment in Credit Card Registry, which allows you to easily cancel and replace all of your credit cards should they be lost or stolen.

And the ZYNC Card gives you other American Express benefits that will save you money and stress while traveling.

Emergency assistance when you are 100+ miles from home

Free car rental loss and damage insurance

24/7 roadside assistance

Baggage insurance plan

And because ZYNC is a charge card (not a credit card), you pay it off in full each month.

This means that you can set a better budget for your travel, and you won’t rack up hefty interest fees.

Downsides of ZYNC Card

For me, the big downside of the ZYNC Card (and other AmEx cards) is that many locally owned and small businesses don’t take American Express.

While that can be a bit of a hassle, I’ve just made sure to have a backup credit card with me at all times.

You also have to make sure the benefits you get from the card justify the expenses of the annual fee and the packs you choose.

But AmEx really does have great benefits that I didn’t know about before.

So I would recommend reading up on those to be sure you take full advantage of them.

There are lots of reasons to use a credit card while traveling.

Overall, I think the ZYNC Card is a great option for green travelers.

How to Prepare and Protect Your Identity Theft Protection

Identity theft is more prevalent than ever.

Learn what identity theft protection is and take measures to protect yours.

Identity theft continues to be a major concern as statistics show the incidents are on the rise.

Identity theft protection is essential.

Unfortunately, there are still many people who don’t realize the risks and dangers, which makes them even more vulnerable.

Yet, there are ways to protect yourself.

The best way to start is to learn what identity theft is, the dangers and what you need to do in case it happens.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a criminal act wherein an impostor steals your personal information.

This could include your Social Security number, credit card numbers or driver’s license.

The purpose is to impersonate you.

The information they steal is used to avail of services, credit and merchandise under your name, or it could be used to give the thief false credentials.

Aside from causing you to run up debt, identity theft also causes false identification.

This could lead to legal trouble; you could end up with a criminal record or have arrest warrants issued because your identification was used for committing a crime.

Types of identity theft – True name identity theft

The perpetrator uses your personal information to create new credit card accounts, open a checking account, get a bank check or set up a new cell phone service.

Account takeover identity theft

The thief uses your personal information to access your current accounts.

What usually happens is the thief changes the mailing address on your account and produces a huge bill before you realize there’s a problem with your account.

The Internet has made identity theft easier because transactions are done minus any personal interactions.

How criminals get your information

Thieves use various methods to obtain personal information.

They may hack into a database. Some will sort through discarded mail and paperwork left unattended.

Another way is called “shoulder surfing.”

This is when the thief stands next to someone at the Bureau of Vehicles or other public office and take note of the information the person ahead provides as he/she fills out a form.

Ways people steal identification

Go through trash to find personal information

Obtain personal information from redundant office or IT equipment like hard drives, USB memory sticks, mobile phones, PDAs, servers and desktop computers that have been discarded in dumping sites.

If such equipment are not properly disposed of or sold without deleting private information, they may be obtained by an identity thief.

Use information in official registers to find public records about people

Mail theft, pick-pocketing and housebreaking are also used to steal credit cards, ATMs, passports, identification cards, etc.

Identity thieves sometimes pose as representatives of banks or government offices and ask questions like:

“What was your first pet’s name?”

“What was your first car model?”

“What’s your mother’s maiden name?”

Skim data from credit cards and bank accounts using card readers, producing clone cards in the process

Use contact-less credit card readers to obtain information in RFID passports.

Watch people input their login username and password, ATM numbers, calling and credit card numbers in public areas

Steal personal information off computers using Trojan Horses, malware or keystroke logging programs.

Such techniques are often used to hack into databases, systems and networks to steal personal information, usually in voluminous quantities.

There are other ways that ID thieves obtain data.

This includes taking advantage of breaches that result in the mistaken publication of persona data such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, addresses, names etc.

Be careful what info you share on a resume

In addition, some ID thieves work together and publish bogus job applications online.

Their purpose is to collect resumes and personal information.

Also, you need to be careful about the information you provide in your resume.

Aside from your name, resumes usually need to include email addresses, location, contact numbers and more.

To avoid ID fraud, apply only in legitimate companies and do not provide banking or financial information in your application form.

Hackers

Reports also show that ID thieves are taking advantage of insider info and exploiting the access of IT users to snatch data.

There are a growing number of cases of hackers infiltrating IT companies to steal valuable personal data as it is being processed.

ID thieves also impersonate trusted and reputable companies via phone calls, SMS text and emails in an attempt to persuade you to divulge personal data or login credentials.

What they usually do is create a fake website.

If that doesn’t work, ID thieves might go after weak passwords.

Once they gain access to your account, your personal details will be at risk.

Social networking sites

ID thieves obtain data by going to social networking websites and searching for personal information that users post.

The information they obtain

Categories of identity theft

The Identity Theft Resource Center has divided identity theft into the following categories:

Criminal identity theft:  Someone poses as you

Financial identity theft:  Someone uses your name to purchase goods, services and credit

Identity cloning:  Someone uses your personal information to assume your identity in daily living

Medical identity theft: Someone uses your name and personal information to obtain drugs and medications

Child identity theft is becoming more common as well

There are many reasons for identity theft aside from money.

Several cases have been linked to funding and facilitating criminal activities such as espionage, phishing, terrorism and illegal immigration, among others.

There are also a growing number of identity cloning which have been used to go after payment systems, medical insurance and online credit card processing.

You need to monitor your email and check for any irregularities.

Some ID thieves try to divert emails and posts to gain access to personal information.

You should monitor your credit card statements, bank accounts, and bills regularly.

What to Do if My Identity is Stolen

If you discover that you’re a victim of identity theft, do the following immediately:

Call the national / local fraud department and inform them your identity has been stolen

Ask the relevant institution to freeze your account.

If you’re the victim of credit card theft, call your bank immediately.

Tell them what happened and ask to have your account frozen.

Change your pin number, login or password if they’ve been stolen, and notify your network administrator immediately.

The next step is to place a fraud alert and work on getting a credit report.

Contact your state or local credit bureau (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

Contact your bank and file a report to the FTC.

Go to the FTC official website and fill up the online complaint form, making sure that you provide as many details as possible.

If you haven’t done so already, file a complaint with the local police and bring the following:

A copy of the FTC Identity Theft affidavit

A government photo ID

Proof of address (utility bill, rental statement, mortgage statement etc.)

Any other evidence you may have of the theft (IRS notices, bills, complaint letter you sent to the bank, etc.)

After you file an identity theft report

Once you have filed an identity theft report, get in touch with the fraud department for all the businesses where the theft occurred.

Before you call each one, remember the following:

Explain what happened and provide as much information as possible

Request the business to freeze or close your account

You should also ask the establishment to furnish you with a letter stating that the fraudulent account is not yours.

It should state you are not liable for what happened.

Be sure the illegal transactions are removed from your account.

Keep the letter the establishment sent you in case the fraudulent transactions appear on your credit card report later.

The next step is to have the bogus charges and transactions removed from your account.

This is something the business will help you with.

However, do your part by explaining what happened and showing them which charges are bogus.

If you’ve been the victim of multiple fraud, repeat the same steps above, and make sure to keep all confirmation letters that these businesses send you.

The business establishment might ask you to furnish them a copy of the identity theft report you filed or ask you to complete a complaint form.

In either case, keep a copy of the form.

You should keep a copy of all forms, letters and documents you submit to the establishment so there’s no confusion later on.

Writing a complaint letter Hacks

Specify in your letter who you have contacted and when

Always ask for a credit freeze.

Do this even if you haven’t noticed changes in your account.

This will make it harder for the thief to use your account or create an account in your name.

If you do request a freeze, know there will be extra steps needed when you apply for a cell phone service or a new credit card.

It will happen anytime a service requires a look at your credit.

Not asking for a credit freeze isn’t recommended, but if you opt for that, at least send out a fraud alert to the proper authorities and establishments.

File your taxes as early as possible before the scammer does it before you.

Otherwise you could become a victim of tax identity theft.

Tax identity theft occurs when someone utilizes your Social Security number to get a job or a tax refund.

If you get notices from the IRS concerning any irregularities, respond to them immediately.

Better yet, inform them that you have been the victim of identity theft.

They will then be prepared for any tax identity theft attempts.

Do not believe anyone who says you’ll be arrested by the IRS unless you pay for the debt or the taxes that were incurred.

Don’t listen to them even if they have your Social Security number.

There’s a process to be followed.

Once you’ve filed the reports, conduct follow ups regularly.

Although your bank will probably notify you of any updates.

Keep a close eye on your credit reports for any irregularities.

The most important thing to remember is not to panic.

However, the longer you take to do something, the greater the damage.

What Will it Cost Me if My Identity is Stolen?

The dangers posed by identity theft are real.

If you don’t handle it properly, it could lead to financial disaster and legal trouble.

The first thing you need to realize is that identity theft can happen to anyone.

It’s not just rich people who are targets.

Cases of identity theft have been rising.

It’s imperative you protect yourself.

Identity theft is not just a nuisance as it can do a lot more damage.

Financial Consequences of Identity Theft:

ID thieves usually go after your credit card.

This can lead to numerous financial ramifications.

As the FTC has noted, ID theft can result in you owing thousands of dollars in debt.

It can scar your credit score.

Also, it will impair your credit history.

ID theft could lead to denials in mortgages, loans and employment opportunities.

This will affect your ability to open a bank account.

It’s possible you could end up with errors in your financial statements for months or years.

There’s also the fact that losing your ID could lead to life threatening situations.

Medical ID Fraud Ramifications

Victims of medical ID fraud will have a difficult time getting prescriptions.

If you’re taking medications for a serious medical condition, the situation can be life threatening.

Medical errors may also occur because of incorrect data under your name.

Medical ID theft makes sorting out your health records very difficult and time consuming.

If you need constant treatment, this will have a detrimental effect.

You could even face legal charges if you can’t prove there was a theft.

Legal trouble with medical ID theft usually happens if the ID thief gets cited or commits a crime using your name.

If this happens, you could be liable for the crime even if you weren’t involved.

How to Protect Myself from Identity Theft

First of all, you must guard any and all personal information you use online.

Most people today do their banking and shopping online.

Therefore, your passwords and account numbers are vulnerable to ID thieves if you don’t take care of them.

Prevent ID theft Hacks

Use alphanumeric passwords. Jumble them up so hackers won’t be able to guess them easily.

Do not give your password to anyone.

Change your passwords and logins monthly.

Do not login to your bank or shop online on a public computer.

Pay with your credit card since they are under the protection of Federal Law.

Be wary of phishing, which attempts to trick you into giving personal information.

Phishing uses pop ups that appear like real banks or financial institutions.

They are accompanied by a letter requesting for personal information.

Ignore these messages because banks will never ask you to submit sensitive data in emails.

Check your bank and credit accounts regularly.

This way you’ll know immediately if something is amiss.

If you notice a purchase you didn’t make, notify the bank immediately.

Check your mailing address with the proper financial institutions and the post office.

ID bandits usually fill change of address forms to keep you off track.

Check your credit report during and after an ID theft.

It’s a good idea to check your credit score even if you haven’t been victimized.

If anything’s amiss, you’ll know it quickly.

Store sensitive files and documents in a secure place.

Shred outdated ones.

Don’t just throw these papers in the thrash.

Get a shredder and destroy outdated credit card applications, bills, bank statements and any document that contains personal information.

Check your junk mail because they might contain personal data too.

When to use a company for ID theft protection

Some companies, for a fee, will provide ID theft protection.

Is this necessary?

The answer depends on your activities and how vulnerable you are.

ID protection

If you spend a lot of time shopping online

You don’t have the time to check your personal information

Reporting and coping with ID theft is stressful and time consuming.

Investing in ID protection might be a good option.

If you’re interested in paid ID protection, keep in mind that this will cost you.

Remember, no matter what the ads may say, it’s not 100% guaranteed you won’t fall victim.

If you decide this is what you want, be prepared to spend time researching the various options available.

Things will be a lot easier if you opt for the ID protection services provided by your insurer or bank.

Most banks will notify you if there are any large transactions or purchases that transpire involving your credit card.

Some of them even offer to pay insurance or legal fees in the event of fraud or ID theft.

Some insurers bundle ID theft protection with auto or home coverage.

Keep in mind these offers usually have exclusions.

Therefore, read the fine print before agreeing.

You’ll also find specialty companies who advertise themselves as ID theft specialists.

They offer a wide array of reactive and preventive tools to keep your credit and identity safe.

Fraud alerts

Features vary among these companies.

However, they usually have some type of fraud alert built in.

They’ll notify the appropriate credit bureaus so action will be taken if you become a victim.

What makes this feature useful is it will force the bank to balk or proceed cautiously for any credit request.

Apart from fraud alerts, these companies can also conduct credit freezes.

These are far more effective than alerts.

When your account is frozen, it prevents companies from getting to your credit.

It effectively locks your records against a new creditor.

Credit freezing rules vary, and it’s certainly inconvenient.

However, if you’ve been the victim of ID theft, this is the best option available.

While this is something you can do on your own, having a company do it for you can be handy if you don’t have the time or don’t want to mess around with the paperwork.

Whether you get paid ID protection or do it yourself, make it a point to take care of your checkbook and other financial data so no one is able to access them.

Banks and financial institutions will do everything they can to protect you.

However, you also need to take steps to protect yourself from these ID thieves.

Identity theft protection is essential

Identity theft protection is a necessity and not something you should ever take for granted.

Usually, when we read about it the assumption is that “it will never happen to me.”

That’s not how you should think because as has been repeatedly stressed by the authorities, ID theft can strike anyone.

When you take measures to protect yourself, you reduce your risk.

It can seem to be hard to get a Credit Card with Bad Credit.

While a good credit history is vital in getting an approval on a credit card application, there are ways where you can still get a credit card with bad credit rating.

This article will explain your next credit card option.

It is very hard to effectively function these days without a credit card.

How can you make internet purchases?

How can you check in a hotel?

It is very unlikely for a modern person as to not have the experience of having a credit card.

A more realistic problematic scenario is a person may have abused his credit line.

This may result in applying for bankruptcy or having collection issues.

The real question is on how to get a credit card with bad credit rating. Earn Money from Home

Pre-Approved vs Pre-Qualified Credit Card

You can always try applying for an additional credit line.

You will encounter two terms that sound similar but have entirely different meanings.

These are the terms “pre-approved” and “pre-qualified”.

Understanding the difference between the two will give you an idea as to what stage of the credit application you are in and will avoid the build-up of high hopes, wrong expectations and emotionally draining disappointments.

Most lending companies offer pre-qualification services as a means to get you enticed on filing a loan or credit card application.

It basically involves supplying all relevant information about yourself so that the lending company can tell you what sort of credit card, specifically described by the amount of credit limits and other flexibility, that you can apply for that is befitting your financial credentials and situation.

By no means does a pre-qualification guarantee an approval as one’s credit rating has not yet been taken into consideration at this stage.

No inquiries have been made regarding your credit history.

The lending institution has no sufficient reference to your paying habits.

Most pre-qualifications are done on the phone or online.

And the basis of the pre-qualification are only with references to the information that you have supplied.

Regardless of whether the info you supplied were truthful, the lending company will still investigate on five important factors that will make up your credit score.

Did you make your due dates

Have you used up your credit lines

How long you have maintained your credit lines

Your most recent credit account or application

The diversity of your loans

Once the lending company has checked on these matters, they are now in a position to give or deny an applicant pre-approval.

In every sense, the term pre-approved has a very heavy meaning versus the term pre-qualified.

While a pre-qualification will provide you with the opportunity to apply, a pre-approval will ensure you of approval if you apply.

How to Get Credit Card with Bad Credit

Secured Cards vs Unsecured Credit Cards

If you know that you have been missing due dates, then even if you get pre-qualified, you know what’s going to happen after you submit your application.

The lending company will get your credit rating from Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.

And if your credit is as bad as you expect it be based from your credit misdemeanors, your application will be denied.

A credit rating is a three digit number, ranging from 300 to 850 points.

Credit approval and denial

A credit applicant with a credit score between 300 to 580 points will most likely get a denial.

One that has a credit score between 581 and 650 will have a chance of approval but only for the highest and most costly rates.

A credit rating in the range of 651 to 710 will qualify one for credit at moderate interest rates.

A credit score is from 711 to 750 will qualify an applicant for credit at competitive rates.

The best scenario of a score of 751 or higher will gain the lowest rates in the market.

If you have not been making your payments on time and have all your credit lines used up to their limits then, you’ll probably fall on the first category and will get denied but you can still have an option in getting a credit card. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion

Secured credit cards and unsecured credit cards

Unsecured credit cards are those credit arrangements that are based on trust which is founded by a sufficient paying capacity and a healthy credit history.

We already have identified what a healthy credit history looks like.

It ranges from a credit rating of 581 points to 850 points with the highest scores gaining the best credit deals and options and the worst scores getting the highest rates with the least flexibility.

Credit ratings from 300 to 580 are high risk borrowers and won’t be approved for an unsecured card.

But, never think of a denial as a punishment for your credit demeanor’s.

Lending companies are businesses that are out to make as much money as they can.

They want you to use their credit card but can’t simply trust you to pay when your bills are due.

They are more than willing to give you a secured credit card where they can simply pull out from your secured deposit an amount equal to your unpaid balance if you fail to pay for it on its due date.

A secured credit card works this way.

You make a “non-withdraw-able” deposit of say $500 dollars to secure a credit card that will also have a $500 credit limit.

You have to sign some documents allowing the lending company to withdraw an amount corresponding to your unpaid balance upon failure to pay it on its due date from your deposit and apply it to the loan.

In this set-up, the lending company will benefit from your business risk-free and you get to enjoy the advantages and convenience of a credit card for purchases and satisfy the credit card requirement on hotel accommodations, car rentals and the likes.

A secured credit card is not a post-paid or debit card.

While it offers the same safety features of a debit or prepaid credit card for both holder and lender, its transaction records are reported to the various lending bureaus to be incorporated in your total credit rating like a normal credit card usage.

In a way, you can use secured credit cards as a means to alleviate your bad credit reputation.

Giving banks what they want

For the risk of giving an applicant an unsecured credit card, the bank is basically looking for two things.

The applicant must be in a position to pay off the credit card to the full extent of the limit with his income.

This will take out the risk of non-payment due to insufficient funding.

You will need to show information about your employment or own business.

They will verify claims about years of employment and salary.

They will check and business tax reports if you own your own company.

Applicant must be in the habit of paying his debts and paying them on time.

When the bank is satisfied with the information and confident you have a steady enough income to be able to pay for the extent of the credit limit they have in mind, they will look at your credit history.

Credit rating

The bank will be very particular about your credit rating.

This system of describing credit health was developed by Fair Isaac and Company.

They established the idea of machine-generated data to determine credit worthiness.

By the 1989, the company was able to formulate the equation behind the credit rating that is still being applied today.

Fair Isaac and Company didn’t see the need to let the public know on the process and the components that make up the three-digit score.

It was only during the early part of 2000’s, with much pressure for the United States Congress and private industries and consumers that they revealed to the public how they come up with ratings.

We are going to discuss the five components while we discuss the topics on the details of what the banks are actually looking at.

As we said earlier, banks are not only looking at an applicant’s capacity to pay for a certain credit limit but would want to see a numerical description of how likely is an applicant going to pay a loan if he has the financial capacity to so because.

Being able to pay and wanting to pay are two different things.

7 Credit Items Banks look at

Payment history

The bank would like to see how true you are to your word, especially in the aspect of paying a debt.

It’s not just a matter of paying your credit card dues, paying them on time is very important as well.

When you receive you credit card statement you will notice that the lending company is giving you two options to settle your present billing.

If you cannot pay the total amount due for the cycle, they are giving you a minimum amount of payment and you can pay for.

Anything from that minimum up to the full balance will cover you for that cycle.

While paying the minimum amount or anything more is allowable, you will have a slight dent on your credit rating.

Even if the lending company is offering you this leverage, the original credit deal was that if you used your credit card for a purchase.

It’s only a deferred payment where you have to pay for the whole amount of the purchase at the end of the cycle.

If you fail to do that, it’s a case of breaking your word which creates a negative mark on your credit worthiness.

For purchases that you know you cannot pay in full by billing date, register them under installment credit where you can pay for the full price in installment basis.

These feature come with zero-interest anyway.

If you do this, the installment amounts will be spread in several cycles that you can handle.

Length of credit

The bank would like to see a genuine habit of prompt payment.

A good habit can only be established by years of good practice.

One year of prompt payments is not enough to establish that you are in the habit of making prompt payments.

It only tells the bank that for the past twelve months you have paid on time.

Three years of this practice will tell the bank that you are likely to pay on time.

Five years, can already be reflective of your personality that you are indeed a responsible borrower who make payments on time.

This is the reason why everyone needs a credit card more so if they don’t need it.

And that’s because, people need to establish a good credit score so that when the time comes when they have to make a major loan, an investment like a home mortgage, a car loan or a study loan that is life-changing.

They can have a high chance of approval for the best rates in the market.

Diversity of credit

There are credit card purchases that are on a deferred payment scheme and there are purchases on a credit installment scheme.

There are also cash loans that are drawn from your credit card.

How do you tell which purchases will go to what and monitor which billing will fall in which cycle?

Figuring all these things out require financial sensibility and organization skills which the bank is also looking for.

If you have a credit card, it would be wise to study each purchase carefully and try to figure out which credit card scheme it will best fit it.

Small recurring purchases like gas and grocery should paid on a deferred payments scheme.

Big one-time purchases like a washing machine or a cell phone will best be paid on a six-month credit installment scheme.

Emergency expenses like car repair is best placed on longer credit installment schemes like cash out which can extend up to two years of monthly installments.

Debt-to-credit ratio

According to John Ulzheimer, president of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the debit-to-credit ratio is one of the most important measurements in your credit score.

To compute for it you have to divide the aggregate outstanding balances of all your credit cards by the total limit across all the cards.

With this computation, the more you use the cards closer to their limits, the lower your score will be.

It might seem a bit odd to discourage usage but if you look at it closely, it has nothing to do with it because the purpose of the credit card is really for deferred payment which a person is expected to pay off after every cycle.

There should be no balance in the first place.

If you look at it on the standpoint of a lending institution, it is very risky to extend a loan to someone who is also busy paying off other loans.

If the credit limit is reflective of what a person can pay based on his salary, imagine the impact of having multiple credit cards stretched to their credit limits to pay.

There will come a time when that borrower will have to choose which card he will pay and which ones he will ignore.

An approving bank would not want to do business with this guy at this stage in his credit career.

The truth is this; if an individual is not in financial difficulty, he won’t be paying minimum in each cycle and continue on using the card up to the full extent of its limit.

Chances are this person is already using the few remaining available balances in his cards to pay for his living necessities because his entire salary is already exhausted in paying minimum installments for his credit card billings.

And, you can tell a person is really desperate, when he decides to apply for another credit line at this particular situation to create an even deeper hole for him to get out of.

Debt-to-income ratio

The debt-to-income ratio is the way lending institutions measure an applicant’s ability to pay for the purchases he incurred on deferred payment.

To calculate for this numerical information, you have to add up all of the applicant’s monthly debt payments and divide the sum by his gross monthly income where the gross monthly income is the amount the applicant is earning before taxes and other deductions.

A credit card puts you in this scenario:

You will be placed in a situation where your monthly income should be enough to pay for your current needs as well as your monetary obligations from you previous month’s expenses which you chose to pay today.

It’s like paying for today’s and yesterday’s expenses all with your present month’s salary.

Lending companies would like to make sure that your financial condition can accommodate this duplicity because when a choice has to be made between survival and the credit card dues, a person will naturally choose to buy the current necessities versus paying debts.

It is very bad business for a lending company to extend a credit line to a person who is on the verge of making this decision.

Credit lines

The age of your credit lines also play a very important role in determining your credit worthiness.

If you have recently applied and have recently been approved by another credit card company, it is a bit suspicious why you would be applying for another credit card.

The point is this, if a credit limit is reflective of the amount that you can handle based on your income and credit score.

Wanting to have two of these limits in two cards will suggest that you have intentions on borrowing an amount which is double of what you can pay.

This scenario would be more exaggerated if you have several other cards that are full.

Credit score

All the items discussed in this section except for item number 5 about credit-to-income ratio summarizes what’s in the three-digit number called the credit score.

Components of the credit rating are as follows

Thirty-five percent (35%) weight is given to your prompt payments

Thirty percent (30%) weight is given to your debit-to-credit ratio

Fifteen percent (15%) weight is given to the length of you credit history

Ten percent (10%) is affected by new credit lines that you have opened

And the last ten percent (10%) is based on the diversity of your credit accounts

What if I’m under 21 years old?

The Card Act of 2009 imposes strict limitations to lending companies with regards to issuing credit cards to minors (issuing Credit Cards under 21 years old).

It states that an applicant must be at least 18 years old to qualify.

A person under 21 years old will have to show proof of independent income or assets to show that he will be capable of making minimum payments.

Or, he should have a cosigner who will share the obligation with him.

Otherwise his only choice is to be approved by his parents or guardian to be an authorized user of their credit card.

If it so happens that the young applicant’s income is enough to qualify for a credit under his name, he is solely responsible for making his payments.

In the case of having a co-signer or being an authorized user, the other individuals involved will share his financial obligations.

Whether the young credit card applicant gets an approval for an independent credit line, becomes an authorized user or gets a co-signer all transaction records and payments made will form part of his credit history that will affect his credit rating.

For parents who want to give their 18 year old son or daughter a credit card to use while he or she is out for college or want to start them off in creating good credit ratings.

Best option is to help them apply for a secured credit card that will help keep their credit card use at bay and ensure of positive marks for their credit score.

Their credit score that will help them in the more important loans they will need later on in life.

The challenge for parents is to figure out the right secured credit limit.

Before we end, it is important to stress one very important point.

Approving credit card applications is something every lending institution wants to do.

It is in these credit approvals where their business thrives.

If ever lending companies reject an application, both applicant and approving bank losses on the opportunity.

These are just some of the decisions that they have to make to minimize possible losses.

If you have honest intentions and all you need is the convenience of a credit card then you can still get a credit card with bad credit rating.

All you need to do is secure the line with a non-withdrawable deposit which you will authorize the bank to draw upon in case you default on your payments.

When you don’t qualify for a credit card, request for a secured credit card instead.

Travel Insurance How You Can Choose the Best Plan

Travel Insurance – It’s natural to presume that nothing could go wrong on a trip.

After all, you would have spent a considerable amount of time and money planning it down to every last detail.

From travel arrangements to accommodation, everything has been taken care of.

In your mind, you are already there, looking forward to the relaxing time you will spend on your holiday.

And then, someone in your family falls sick and you can no longer make the trip.

Why is that a problem?

You can just cancel the bookings, right?

It’s not as simple as that…but it can be if you have Good Travel Insurance.

In most cases, you can cancel your bookings and get a refund.

However, there is usually a deadline.

For instance, if you are booked on a cruise, you would have to cancel at least 7 days prior to the date of departure.

As far as plane tickets are concerned, you can cancel the tickets a couple of days before the flight in order to get a refund.

But, what if something goes wrong at the last minute?

And it is not just before you leave on your trip that you can experience such problems.

It is quite possible that you have to cut your trip short and return home.

In that case, getting a refund would be next to impossible.

You also have to take into account the possibility of lost luggage, medical expenses you have to bear in the place you are going to and of course, crime.

There is one solution that can help you prepare to deal with any such problem that occurs before or during your trip: travel insurance.

The problem with travel insurance has been the numerous myths and misconceptions doing the rounds.

People don’t understand the extent of the coverage the policy will provide them.

Hence, they avoid buying it.

What they don’t realize is that having travel insurance ensures their safety and also protects their money from unexpected loss.

Let’s look at some of the myths and misconceptions:

Travel Insurance: Myths – Coverage – Benefits

First off, there is a common perception that travel insurance is expensive.

This is not the case at all; you can get adequate coverage for $2 a day.

The cost depends on the extent of the coverage you opt.

The more exhaustive and extensive your policy is, the more you will have to pay for it.

Yet, compared to the loss you can suffer, it is a considerably small amount.

Most travelers believe that the coverage their credit card provides them is sufficient and that they don’t need to spend money on buying additional insurance.

You may be covered to a certain extent, particularly for medical expenses.

Yet, if you plan to embark on any adventurous activities, it is best to get a new policy.

It is a good idea to check the extent of the coverage provided by your credit card company.

Insurance companies are notorious for denying claims, but 99.9% of the time they have a genuine reason for it.

However, their clients believe that their claims are unfairly denied every time.

That is why most people don’t even consider purchasing insurance, travel or otherwise.

Perhaps the most common misconception about travel insurance is that it only covers lost luggage.

This is preposterous to say the least.

As mentioned above, there are many scenarios in which having coverage can help you out while you are traveling.

In fact, it is a good idea for you to know the different ways in which travel insurance covers you.

What Does Travel Insurance Cover?

Cancelled Trips

If your trip has to be cancelled (Cruise Insurance) for any reason, the insurance company will compensate you.

This includes the travel expenses, accommodation and any other amenities and facilities for which you have already made the payment.

In case the expenses are refundable, you won’t need to use your policy.

Therefore, this coverage only kicks in when there are any non-refundable expenses, usually prepaid, expenses you have made for your trip.

Reasons to Cancel Your Cruise

Sickness or injury to someone in the travel party

Sickness, injury or death of a family member

Work commitments

Travel provider going bankrupt

The destination is damaged by extreme weather (e.g. hurricane destroys the resort you were going to)

Weather makes travelling impossible

Involvement in legal proceedings or called for jury duty

These are some of the most common reasons why people cancel their trips.

If you have to cancel your trip for any other reason, the insurance provider will take the situation into account.

Interrupted Trips

Travel insurance also covers you in the event that you have to cut your trip short and return home.

The reasons for interrupting your trip might be similar to the ones listed above.

The insurance company decides on a case to case basis.

If there was a genuine reason you had to get back (why else would you?), you will be compensated for the prepaid, non-refundable expenses you did not derive any value from.

In fact, you will also be compensated for the flight you have to take to get back home.

Medical Emergencies

It is quite possible that you or a member of your travelling party gets sick or injured upon reaching the destination.

Most people believe that if they have medical insurance, they needn’t worry about the medical expenses.

This is not often the case.

Unless you are absolutely certain your policy will cover you, don’t rely on it.

If you have health insurance but your provider doesn’t cover you for treatment or the trip back home, your travel insurance will.

You will be covered for accidents and emergency medical and dental care.

Evacuation

There are some situations in which emergency evacuation is the only option available to you.

For instance, a person in your traveling party may have to be airlifted for medical reasons.

The issue is that emergency evacuations are expensive.

For evacuation due to medical reasons, the cost could be upwards of $50,000.

Not to worry as your insurance provider will cover the cost of the evacuation.

Lost Luggage and Flight Delays

These are some of the additional things for which you are covered by your policy.

It is incredibly frustrating to reach your destination and discover that the airline has lost your luggage.

In that case, the insurance company will provide the money you need to buy essential items, like medicines, toothbrushes, toiletries, etc.

Even if your luggage is delayed, this coverage is provided.

In the event your flight is delayed, your accommodation expenses will also be borne by the insurance company.

For instance, if your flight has been delayed by a day because of weather, you can stay at a hotel and you will be compensated for it by your insurance provider.

These are some of the things that travel insurance covers you for.

As you can see, you are safe against loss and many out of pocket expenses you would otherwise have to bear.

There are other situations in which the policy will cover you.

It depends on the policy and provider you choose.

This is why it is important that you choose a policy that suits your needs perfectly.

How to Select a Travel Insurance Plan

As you can see, travel insurance can get you out of tight spots on your trips and holidays.

You don’t have to worry about bearing any losses if something goes awry.

Therefore, there is no doubt that buying a plan is a must before you embark on your travels.

However, not all plans are made equal.

You have to pick the right insurance plan so that you receive adequate coverage and can enjoy your travels with absolute peace of mind.

Here are some tips on how to select insurance plan:

The first thing you need to do is ascertain the requirements of your trip.

For instance, if you are going on a cruise, the requirements will be different than if you are flying out to Disneyland.

Let’s say you are going on a cruise, you have to ensure that your insurance plan covers delays and cancellations because of weather conditions, emergency evacuation and lost or damaged luggage.

Check out the different things that are covered under the policy and choose accordingly.

Medical coverage is extremely important, regardless of the mode of travel you have selected and the distance you are traveling.

This is because you never know when someone might fall sick or get injured.

While you are at it, it is a good idea to add life insurance to your plan if you are going to a ‘dangerous’ or ‘adventurous’ destination.

Make sure there aren’t any items on your policy that you won’t have any use for. For example, you don’t need to get rental car insurance if you are going on a cruise.

At the end of the day, it comes down to how much you are willing to spend on travel insurance.

Keep a budget in mind so that you have sufficient coverage without having to give an arm and a leg.

Benefits of Travel Insurance

The extent of coverage you can get through an insurance plan for your travels has been described above.

Yet, that is not the only reason why you should consider buying a policy.

Key benefits of travel insurance:

First and foremost, you get absolute peace of mind that you are covered in case of any untoward incident or emergencies.

You can make the necessary arrangements to deal with the situation, whether it is flying back home or checking into a hospital.

Having the right insurance plan will ensure that each and every contingency is covered.

You won’t have to bear any expenses out of pocket.

More often than not, your entire trip would go smoothly.

The weather is perfect, you make the flight and the place you are going to is wonderful.

But, what if you are mugged or your luggage gets stolen?

If you are in a foreign land, recovering your lost belongings could be a major hassle.

Moreover, you will have to make extra arrangements to cope up while your items are found.

Your insurance plan ensures you don’t have to bear this hassle.

One of the, if not the, most important benefits of travel insurance is that the leading providers offer round the clock phone assistance.

You need only place a call to the helpline and a member of their staff will answer your queries.

The great thing is that they not only help you with matters pertaining to your policy but also if you need assistance finding a pharmacy or booking a last-minute flight.

This means that not only are your expenses covered, the insurance company will ensure you don’t have to bear too much hassle making the necessary arrangements.

In most cases, your current insurance plan will not cover you once you leave the country.

In that case, you will have to pay for any medical and associated expenses you have to bear while you are there, that is, unless you purchase a travel insurance plan.

Not to forget that the cost of insuring your trip will not be too high.

You will easily be able to afford the coverage.

Compare this to the loss you might have to face in the event something goes wrong and you can see how beneficial buying insurance will prove to be.

Regardless of how well you plan your trip, something could go wrong.

This doesn’t mean that you cancel your trip altogether and stay home just to avoid the inconvenience.

The thing you need to keep in mind is that travel insurance is a fail safe.

You will only have to use it should something go wrong.

If everything goes to plan (why wouldn’t it?) you won’t have to use your policy.

So, buy insurance just to be on the safe side.

You will enjoy your trip more when you know you are covered.

Good Travel Insurance Should Cover Financial Loss or Medical Expenses

Good Travel insurance may assist you in covering any financial losses or medical expenses that might occur during your trip.

Also, having travel insurance is regarded as the ideal protection for individuals traveling overseas or domestically.

However, there are certain factors any good travel insurance should cover (including cell phone) and you need to be aware of these factors prior to signing the policy papers as they’ll help you remain protected from the unpredictable.

Following are the few factors any good travel insurance should cover:

Medical Insurance

People are generally aware of their co-pays costs when it comes to their plan within the United States, but they usually lack the knowledge associated with international travel.

There’s a pretty good chance that your coverage will not last beyond borders.

Thus, your insurance plan should cover travel medical insurance along with major medical insurance.

These can help you when you’re injured or ill while traveling.

Travel medical insurance covers short-term medical requirements and may last from 5 days to a whole year (according to the policy) while major medical insurance is ideal for travelers wishing to spend more than just a few months abroad.

Having these insurances may assist you in covering various medical expenses along with locating hospitals, doctors, foreign-language services and healthcare facilities in the event of an injury or illness.

Thus, it is always a good idea to inquire the insurance company regarding medical care as it will help you decide whether you should buy medical insurance or not.

Trip Cancellation

Cruise fare, plane tickets, hotel rooms, golf green fees, tour packages and chartering fishing boats all require pre-paid investment and are mostly non-refundable and that’s why trip cancellation cover is a must for any travel insurance policy.

However, the cancellation coverage can reimburse your prepaid and non-refundable expenses.

Usually, insurance companies provide you with a list of cancellation covered reasons.

Travel Insurance Covered Cancellations

Flight cancellation or destination damage due to hurricane

In the event of terrorist activity in the destination city

Travel supplier bankruptcy

Injury, sickness, or the death of a traveling companion or family member

Jury duty

Work emergency or being laid off from work

Travel Delay, Delayed or Lost Bags

Your travel insurance should cover the delay of flights and baggage or along with baggage loss.

Any baggage lost, damaged, or stolen can be reimbursed with baggage coverage and if your baggage is delayed, the delay coverage can provide you with enough money to purchase essentials like a change of clothes, a toiletry kit or swimsuit until it arrives.

Also, if our flight is delayed, coverage for travel delay provides compensation for added expenses, such as a restaurant meal or extra night at the hotel.

Emergency Evacuation Coverage and 24/7 Phone Assistance

Emergency evacuation costs can be distressing and having coverage along with a 24/7 assistance lifeline to deal with such situations can provide some amount of relief for the traveler.

This coverage will make payments for emergencies like airlifts plus flights with medical facilities to transport the traveler to a hospital of their choice.

Also, in the event of losing baggage or medical emergencies, a 24/7 support should be provided by the insurance company.

The next time you’re planning a trip, considering the above factors any good travel insurance should cover can help you make the right choices and travel with peace of mind.

How to Choose Travel Insurance

Insurance — be it car, home, health, or travel — is always difficult to compare and buy.

One of the most frustrating aspects of our pre-trip planning for our 4 month excursion to Argentina and Belize was finding travel insurance.

Specifically narrowing down travel health insurance options.

We ended up choosing World Nomads (you can read our World Nomads Travel Insurance review roundup here) in part because it was just an easier process with more clearly communicated policies.

But, comparing travel insurance and deciphering health specific travel insurance options shouldn’t be complicated.

So, we’ve put together a short series about how to choose travel insurance.

Check out the next three posts to learn more about comparing travel insurance.

How To Compare Travel Medical Insurance

For me, the single most challenging piece of traveling for an extended time was figuring out medical insurance before I left.

Because I quit my job to travel, I no longer had medical insurance.

Because a medical issue can cost an enormous amount of money.

The number one reason people declare bankruptcy is because of medical bills.

It’s critical that you have some sort of medical coverage while traveling.

The trick is determining if you need just a basic travel insurance policy or a policy that is specifically medical.

This guides you through how to choose and compare travel medical insurance.

photo credit: ssoosay

Travel Medical Insurance Determine Your Resident Country’s Medical Insurance

Depending on where you live, it’s possible that your country’s medical care system will cover you while you’re traveling abroad.

If you a US citizen – the US government doesn’t provide any sort of coverage for you.

And, if you already have health insurance, there’s a strong possibility that your medical insurance won’t even cover you while you’re traveling internationally.

Check your policy.

Determine Coverage for While You Are Home and Not Traveling

Again, I can only speak to this piece from a United State’s perspective.

If you’re quitting your job to travel you have the following options for health insurance:

Travel Insurance Options

COBRA is an option if you want to stay on your current health plan.

However, it’s extremely expensive.

Check with your employer to find out more about COBRA coverage.

E-HealthInsurance

EHealth Insurance offers Short Term Health Insurance Policies.

However, note that pre-existing conditions are not covered for most short term plans.

Though this may be changing with the new health care bill.

If you’re a regular healthy person this probably won’t be a problem.

But if you have a chronic illness or injury, this may not be for you.

It’s important to have some sort of medical insurance for right before you leave to travel and for when you get home.

Note that these plans probably don’t provide coverage for you while you’re abroad.

But they are important for providing coverage once you are home.

Determine Your “Host” Country’s Medical Insurance

If you’re going to travel to a single country, such as New Zealand or France, it’s possible that if you get into an accident while there you’ll be covered by that country’s health care system.

You should look into health care in the country you’ll be visiting and how you would be covered.

If you’re going to multiple countries you should definitely buy travel medical insurance or at least travel insurance that covers emergency medical issues.

Buy Travel Medical Insurance

Most likely, after researching the above you are going to want to buy an international travel medical insurance policy.

What to Look for in a Travel Medical Insurance Policy

Pre-existing condition coverage

Many international medical insurance policies do not cover preexisting conditions.

However, some policies will cover “acute onset” or “unexpected recurrence” of a pre-existing condition.

This essentially means that if suddenly your knee goes out due to a football injury when you were in high school, you’re ok.

But if you’ve need continuous treatment for the condition then you’re not covered.

What’s the limit for pre-existing coverage conditions.

For plans that offer pre existing condition coverage I’ve seen ranges from $1000 – $100,000 in maximum coverage.

Emergency Medical Treatment

Does the plan offer emergency medical treatment coverage?

What are the limitations and exceptions?

See high risks sports section below and preexisting condition coverage above?

What is the limit to the most amount of money they will pay for emergency medical treatment?

Emergency Medical Evacuation and Medical Repatriation

Squaremouth defines as: “Emergency Evacuation arranges to medically transport a patient to an appropriate medical facility.

Medical Repatriation arranges for a patient to return home to receive care.

Repatriation of Remains arranges for return of deceased remains back to the place of residence.”

What are the maximum limits per person and per policy?

This may also include death/funeral/return of remains coverage.

Death/Funeral Expenses

Is there coverage for return of remains in case of death?

What about funeral expenses?

Yes, this is terrible to think about, but you don’t want your family to have to pay these expenses if you were to die while traveling.

Accidents for “High Risk” Sports

Skiing and snowboarding are considered high risk and not covered by many policies.

Evening if you get injured during something as low key as canoeing you might not be covered.

The World Nomad’s policies are known for covering most activities and adventures.

Where to Buy Travel Insurance

Squaremouth

Squaremouth is essentially a search engine for travel insurance and travel medical insurance.

It has an amazing (the best I’ve seen) comparison chart for international medical insurance.

If you need coverage for a preexisting condition Squaremouth shows you good policies. excellent.

These policies may be more specific to medical insurance and may not offer basic travel insurance coverage for issues like trip cancellation or theft.

World Nomads

World Nomads Travel Insurance is used by many backpackers and twenty-somethings.

It has especially good coverage of high risk sports, easy to understand policies, and an easy to file claims system.

World Nomad’s policies tend to be general travel insurance policies.

Allianz Travel Insurance, is another that is worthy of checking and comparing

How to Protect Your Home When You Are Away

A vacation is a precious opportunity to escape the everyday cares that are a part of most people’s lives.

You can ensure your peace of mind by following some tips to protect your home while you’re away.

Nothing tips off potential burglars to the fact that you’re not home the way that piled up mail can do.

Arrange with the post office to hold your mail for the duration of your trip.

Also, make sure to suspend any newspaper subscriptions.

Another great way to protect your home is to have someone house sit for you.

You can ask a trusted friend, relative or neighbor to do this.

At the very least have them collect your mail or newspaper if you did place a hold.

Alternatively, a professional house sitting service can also be engaged.

Whether you go with a pro or not, a house sitter can make certain that the plants get watered and that pets are cared for in addition to simply making your house look occupied even while you’re not there.

If you’re going to be gone for a considerable length of time, ask your house sitter to periodically mow your lawn.

One of my favorite things to do when EVER I’m not at home regardless if it’s a quick run to the store or a month long trip is to leave a radio on.

It’s also advisable not to advertise the fact that you’re out of town.

Don’t post explicit travel plans on social media websites, and resist the temptation to alter answering machine or voicemail greetings.

Wait until your return home to post your amazing pictures and update your social media.

You never know who’s watching or listening.

Technology can be your greatest ally when you are seeking to protect your home.

Smart home technology makes it possible for you to double check your home’s security from the other side of the world using your cell phone or other mobile device.

Check in to making your home a smart home well before you leave as the installation of security cameras and other devices may be required.

These systems may enable you to turn lights on and off and do other things to make your house look inhabited, a valuable tool while you are far from home.

A monitored security system is another excellent means by which you can protect your home.

Whether it’s a break in, flood or fire, a monitored security system is always on the lookout for problems and can get in touch with you and the proper authorities, if necessary.

Vacations should be times of rest and relaxation that allow you to take a break from the worries that are a normal part of life.

By ensuring the security of your home, you’ll rest easier while you’re away knowing you protect your home while you’re away.

World Nomads Travel Insurance – Buying and Reviews

One of the things I posted about in my checklist of things to do before a trip was finding travel insurance.

Specifically, insurance that would cover health emergencies while I’m abroad, even though it’s not completely “travel health insurance”.

Like from World Nomads Travel Insurance.

After sorting through numerous websites and reviews, we’ve settled on World Nomads travel insurance.

World Nomads travel insurance

Has competitive prices and what seems to be a solid policy.

I’ve read a number of posts and reviews by people who have actually had to made claims on their travel insurance policies.

To me it doesn’t help to read reviews by folks who’ve never made a claim.

Turns out World Nomads travel insurance has, for the most part, been extremely helpful, according to the reviews.

That is, in the Travel Insurance Reviews, people said that they had good success on their claims.

World Nomads reviews included claims for a dropped camcorder, lost jacket, and other valuables.

Of all of the Worlds Nomads reviews I read, there was only one bad one.

There was one complaint by a person who was angry that World Nomads travel insurance didn’t pay a claim on a stolen backpack because it was “unattended.”

But the complaint was the exception, and most people had positive things to say in their World Nomads travel insurance reviews.

My Personal World Nomads Review

Update: We used World Nomads travel insurance for the entirety of our trip abroad.

My overall review is that it was good.

We luckily never had to make a claim, but knowing that the World Nomad reviews were positive we felt that if we had been in trouble World Nomads would have been there to help.

Thus, while our personal experience with World Nomads was positive, it’s probably more important to note that other World Nomads travel insurance reviews were good.

Buy World Nomads Travel Insurance

It was really easy (and quick) to buy World Nomads travel insurance.

We just went to their site, entered our information and credit card number and they emailed us our policy.

I was even happier to read that World Nomads Travel Insurance is doing their part to give back.

World Nomads offers you the chance to contribute to various social, health, and educational programs when you make your purchase.

On their website World Nomads writes:

“If you think you are too small to make a difference you haven’t been in bed with a mosquito.”

In 2007, WorldNomads.com and our customers funded 300 sight-saving surgeries, built a primary school and repaired another, trained over 200 teachers and helped 40 kids get through school, gave a whole village solar-lighting, installed water and sanitation facilities in 3 schools and 2 villages, provided educational supplies in 4 schools and medicines to 3 communities and 4 orphanages, helped create two kitchen gardens and buy 300 egg-laying chickens, built capture fog-nets for fresh drinking water and provided a safe-home for girls of sex workers.

Also from the World Nomads travel insurance site:

5 things you should know about World Nomads Travel Insurance

How do I make a claim?

With World Nomads Travel Insurance you can claim online even if you are still travelling.

And if you don’t entirely trust insurance companies, have a look at how World Nomads have helped some of their travelers.

Who can buy it?

World Nomads Travel Insurance is available to residents of over 150 countries.

Extend your cover Had a change of travel plans? Unlike other policies, World Nomads allows you to extend your policy indefinitely.

Because it’s online, you can do it 24/7 from anywhere in the world.

What can I do?

World Nomads cover most adventure sports from bungee jumping in New Zealand to white-water rafting in Colorado.

How do I buy it?

You can only buy World Nomads policies online using a credit card.

Should I Buy Travel Insurance?

Last week we found ourselves with a cancelled flight home due to a snowstorm.

It required an extra night in our destination, needing to extend our rental car reservation and with other travel expenses.

I found myself thinking “I should have bought travel insurance.”

But it was a short trip and I never even asked myself before the trip “Should I buy travel Insurance?”

Amount of Time You’ll Be Gone

The longer you’ll be gone the more likely it is that you’ll encounter some type of challenge or problem that would require insurance.

For trips of a week or more I would definitely consider buying travel insurance for your trip.

But even for weekend trips to a different country or a dangerous (or snowy) city, it might be worth it the added cost.

If you’re going on an around-the world-trip for a year, you should not even be asking yourself this question, just jump to the where to buy travel insurance section or to backpackers travel insurance.

Where You’re Traveling To

I always buy travel insurance when I plan an international trip.

Why?

Not because traveling overseas is necessarily more dangerous, but because I would prefer to have more comforts and reassurances if something did go wrong.

Also, the costs if something happened (from medical emergencies to needing an early flight back home) are exceptionally high.

Even if you’re going somewhere in country – if it’s an expensive trip or a family vacation it is likely worth it to buy travel insurance.

If You Have Special Medical Needs

If you have any sort of medical needs you should consider travel medical insurance plans specifically.

While the cost of medical care abroad may be cheaper, emergency medical evacuations are expensive, and more importantly, having insurance will make you feel better and relieve stress related to finances in cases of emergency.

Refundability of Your Trip

Is part of your trip non refundable if you cancelled unexpectedly?

Your airline tickets most likely are not refundable.

Hotel reservations and car rental reservations are likely the only things that you can cancel with just 24 or 48 hours notice.

Cruises (see note below) also require buying travel insurance.

Consider whether or not your trip is refundable to help you decide if I should buy travel insurance.

The Cost of Your Trip

The more your trip costs the more you have to lose if it got cancelled or interrupted in anyway.

Say, for example, that you paid $9,000 for a Galapagos Cruise, then due to weather delays you get there two days late.

You have to stay in a hotel for extra nights and pay the extra cost of meeting the cruise at the next destination point.

If your cruise was only tens days you’ve missed out on twenty percent of the trip.

Your Ability to Pay Unexpected Costs

If the trip you’re planning is a once in a lifetime trip that you’ve saved money for for a long time.

Or you’re on a fixed income and couldn’t afford the added expense of an additional night or two at a hotel or a cancelled cruise, then you should buy travel insurance.

The added security in case something goes awry is well worth it.

Are You Going on a Cruise?

If you are going on a cruise, buy travel insurance.

I have heard countless stories of people having to fight cruise lines for money back due to an unforeseen circumstance.

Had they purchased travel insurance they would have had a much easier time.

Compare Cheapest Travel Insurance: Price Comparison

After writing the previous posts about how to find and what to look for in backpackers insurance and travel medical insurance it’s now time to look at the numbers and answer the question: “How much does travel insurance cost?”

So, I’ve put together this guide comparing the cheapest travel insurance.

I came up with three different scenarios and then ran them through Allianz Travel Insurance, Squaremouth and World Nomads to get price comparisons and figure out which was the cheapest travel insurance.

Note that Squaremouth does not offer travel insurance directly, rather it is a travel insurance search engine (but it doesn’t search World Nomads.)

So, essentially by searching with Squaremouth I am searching 20+ policies at once.

Compare Cheapest Travel Insurance:

Person Needing Insurance: A 20-year old single male citizen and resident of Washington DC, United States.

Travel Information: Policy starting on September 5, 2009 and lasting for 2 weeks.

A worldwide policy with the majority of travel taking place in Argentina

(Squaremouth requires you to indicate where you’ll be spending the “most” time.)

World Nomads Insurance Price Results – Total Cost: $64

Travel Insurance Policy Includes:

Trip Cancellation: $5,000
Emergency Medical/Dental Coverage: $100,000
Emergency Medical Transportation $500,000
Travel Accident: $10,000
Baggage Coverage: $2,500
Sporting Equipment Coverage: $1000

Squaremouth Price Results: Cheapest Policy: $132

Travel Insurance Policy Includes:

Emergency Medical: $2,500 – covers preexisting conditions
Medical Evacuation: $10,000
Baggage Coverage: $500
Trip Cancellation: $5,000
Trip Interruption: $5,000

World Nomads Definitely provides more coverage at a cheaper price.

However, the policy that was cheapest with Squaremouth offers preexisting condition coverage as well as trip interruption coverage.

Scenario Comparison 2:

Person Needing Insurance: A 25 year old female from British Columbia, Canada seeking a family policy.

Travel Information: Policy starting on October 4 for 1 month of travel worldwide, spending the most time in Greece.

World Nomads Insurance Price Results Total Cost: $250 Canadian (equals $229 USD)

Travel Insurance Policy Includes:

Trip Cancellation: $1,000
Trip Interruption: $5,000
Emergency Medical/Dental Coverage: $1,000,000
Emergency Medical Transportation $500,000
Travel Accident: $10,000
Baggage Coverage: $2,500
Sporting Equipment Coverage: $2,500

Squaremouth Price Results: Cheapest Policy: $132 US

Travel Insurance Policy Includes:

Emergency Medical: $2,500 – covers preexisting conditions
Medical Evacuation: $10,000
Baggage Coverage: $500 per person
Trip Cancellation: $5,000
Trip Interruption: $5,000

World Nomads provides better coverage at a much more expensive price.

Scenario Comparison 3

Person Needing Insurance: A 30-year old single male citizen and resident of United Kingdom.

Travel Information: Policy starting on September 15, 2009 and lasting for 6 months.

A worldwide policy with the majority of travel taking place in Japan.

Coverage for lightest level of adventure (level 1 for World Nomads price comparison)

World Nomads Insurance Price Results Total Cost: 191 Pounds (equals $314 USD)

Travel Insurance Policy Includes:

Trip Cancellation: 5,000 pounds
Trip Curtailment/Interruption: 5,000 pounds
Emergency Medical/Dental Coverage: 3,000,000 pounds
Baggage Coverage: 1,250 pounds
Loss of Passport/Travel Documents: 600 pounds
Personal Liability: 2,000,000 pounds

Squaremouth Price Results: Cheapest Policy: $313 US

Travel Insurance Policy Includes:

Emergency Medical: $50,000 – does not cover preexisting conditions
Medical Evacuation: $50,000
Baggage Coverage: $250
Trip Interruption: $5,000
Deductible: $250

The two have prices that are comparable — nearly the exact same amount.

Even though the Squaremouth policy that is cheapest in this scenario comes up with higher emergency medical coverage, World Nomads still provides more coverage.

Travel Insurance Results

World Nomads travel insurance was the cheaper policy is 2 out of 3 scenarios and always provided more coverage for medical emergencies.

However, the trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage was not always better with World Nomads.

Clearly there is no “cheapest travel insurance” rather you will find the cheapest by comparing several options.

I really like Squaremouth because they compare prices and policies for you.

Any time you enter information you get a dozen or so policy options, many of which you can customize.

But, if you are younger, World Nomads generally provides more comprehensive policies for the price.

It pays to compare the policies — so just take a quick look at Allianz Travel Insurance, Squaremouth and World Nomads next time you’re searching for the cheapest travel insurance policy.

Where to Buy Travel Insurance Online

Most likely if you are asking yourself – should I buy travel insurance – the answer is probably “yes.”

So where should you buy travel insurance online?

We did a post about comparing the cheapest travel insurance and found that the best places are either from Allianz Travel Insurance, World Nomads or Squaremouth.

World Nomads was cheaper in 2 out of 3 of our scenarios.

It is easy to run comparisons on these two sites and determine what is cheaper.

We usually choose World Nomads Travel insurance – you can read our full World Nomads Review.

Is Travel Insurance Worth It? 5 Questions to Ask Before You Buy

As I contemplated future travel expenses, I found myself wondering: Is travel insurance worth it?

Travel can be expensive and travel insurance seemed like an unnecessary expense.

But then I talked to fellow travel writers and enthusiasts, from family weekend trippers to round the world travelers, and they all said the same thing: you need travel insurance for every trip, to any destination.

I turned to doctors and emergency personnel, and they said the same.

I also read lots of non-sensational but still frightening travel mishaps, and that really drove the point home:

For most people in most situations, travel insurance is worth it — but you have to do your research.

Here are the 5 questions you need to ask before you buy travel insurance.

Should I buy travel insurance?

Travel insurance usually covers three things: trip cancellation, lost property or luggage, and medical emergencies.

While the first two categories are convenient and will save your financial headaches, the third is crucial.

The health insurance you have at home likely won’t cover you abroad, and if it does, foreign health care systems rarely like dealing with it (would you?).

This leaves you with sky-high bills likely requiring out-of-pocket payment (and a lengthy battle for reimbursement as your holiday souvenir).

Of course, exceptions are out there, so the first thing you want to do before shopping for travel insurance is check what your standard health insurance already covers.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who enjoy comprehensive medical coverage abroad, you may only need a limited travel insurance plan to cover trip cancellation or lost luggage.

How expensive is travel insurance, really?

It’s not as expensive as I assumed! Cheap travel medical insurance can be found.

I personally requested quotes from three top travel insurance companies for my family of five for a hypothetical 15-day, moderately luxurious trip.

The rates varied only slightly, and all were under $300 total.

These days, you can barely check your bags for that!

Two of the best travel insurance companies are Allianz Travel Insurance, Squaremouth and World Nomads.

Travel insurance questions:

Will the policy pay upfront, or demand that I cover the bills and reimburse me later?

Remember, emergency bills can easily rise to the thousands, ten thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The last thing you want to deal with during a stressful time is covering the bills, even temporarily.

Be sure to carefully compare policies to find the best one for you.

Can I find one carrier to cover me for multiple trips?

Shopping for travel insurance isn’t exactly how most people like to spend their day, so pick an insurer (and policy) that will see to your needs down the road.

Round-the-world journalist Heather Greenwood Davis recommends researching how long of a trip a potential insurer will cover in her article What to Look for in Travel Insurance.

Planning to take advantage of the coverage offered by the credit card you used to book the trip is tempting, but most limit coverage to a maximum of 15 days.

Do your homework and figure out exactly what a potential insurer will cover and how long they will cover you.

Read our post Travel Medical Insurance: How to Compare for more on this.

Does the medical coverage include evacuation?

Most people never think of the need of medical evacuation unless traveling to a very remote region.

In truth, medical evacuation can be needed in developed areas, and can cost over $100,000 a flight.

Find out before buying: does your coverage include evacuation?

If not, consider buying a membership with a service such as MedJet.

Does the coverage include my entire travel party, including children?

Knowing when to seek medical attention while traveling is hard for any parent.

You don’t need the stress of wondering whether you’ll be charged for the full cost of a hospital stay or emergency room visit on top of caring for your child.

The good news: most travel insurance companies include free coverage for children with every paying adult.

If coverage is through a credit card company, do you need to pay for all or a portion of the trip with the card in order to qualify?

Be sure to ask!

If you plan to charge only a portion of your trip on your credit card with travel insurance benefits, make sure you still qualify.

If not, consider paying with a card that gives you air miles or cash back instead, and put the savings toward a travel insurance policy.

Do you travel with travel insurance?

If so, we hope you haven’t needed to use it!

Comparing the Best Backpackers Travel Insurance

Backpackers are typically young, unemployed, and healthy.

So, if you’re looking for backpackers travel insurance, you most likely want a plan that fits your demographic and not that of a wealthy couple going on a cruise to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

So, we’ve put together this guide to help you choose the best backpackers travel insurance.

Backpackers Travel Insurance: What to Consider

Backpacking Health insurance Price

Obviously the price of the travel insurance policy matters.

Compare several cheap backpackers travel insurance plans to find a price that works with your budget.

If you can’t find a travel insurance plan that you can afford, you probably can’t afford to travel.

Medical Coverage and Evacuation

When comparing backpackers travel insurance take a close look at the medical coverage policy.

Does it cover pre-existing conditions?

Most don’t. So if you know you have asthma, and you suffer from an attack, you’re not going to be covered.

You’ll need a separate policy.

Hospital costs for emergencies are extremely expensive.

Take a close look at the maximum coverage limits.

Also look at what happens for an emergency medical evacuation.

Your Stuff, Baggage, and Theft

What happens if you accidentally break your camera?

If your luggage gets lost in transit?

Or if someone steals your backpack out of your hostel locker?

What if someone takes your backpack while you’re looking the other direction?

Most travel insurance policies won’t cover theft if your bags are unattended.

And “unattended” can mean if you’re looking the other way.

How to Make a Claim

How easy is it to make a claim if you need coverage?

Do you have to call a number?

Is it a 24 hour hotline?

Can you file a claim online?

What sort of proof do you need?

Countries Covered

Most backpackers travel insurance companies will provide coverage for the majority of the countries of the world. (World Nomads covers 150.)

But, if you’re planning on going someplace obscure or dangerous, double check that you’ll be covered while you’re there.

Cancellation

See if your policy has trip cancellation insurance.

If a family member dies or you get extremely ill, will your policy repay you for unused tickets?

To get this coverage you have to buy the policy when you book your tickets and not wait until you’re leaving and suddenly need to cancel.

Liability

Accidents happen. What if you knock over a case of expensive wine while browsing a hole-in-the-wall-specialty-wine-shop in Bernkastel, Germany?

Someone has to pay for this.

Read this section of your policy carefully to know if you have personal liability coverage.

Activities Covered

What sort of traveler are you?

Do you like extreme sports? (Or even regular sports?)

Not all policies cover injuries incurred from sports – or certain types of sports.

For instance, if you’re hurt while cave diving, World Nomads won’t cover it.

But hang gliding?

You’re covered.

If you know you’ll be participating in some exciting adventures, make sure your policy covers you.

Best Backpackers Travel Insurance

If you’re looking for cheap backpackers insurance, to find the best backpackers travel insurance policy you need to consider your needs.

Go through the list above and see what your policy needs to include.

Carefully compare insurance policies.

We recommend World Nomads and use them for our travels.

Lonely Planet and Rough Guides also recommends World Nomads, in case their endorsement is more important than ours.

Allianz Travel Insurance and SquareMouth are solid websites for comparing travel insurance plans.

However, they don’t cater to the backpacker the same way World Nomads does.

So, there isn’t a best backpackers travel insurance, there’s only the best backpackers travel insurance for you.

Photo credit: Ell Brown and EuropeDistrict.

Cruise Travel Insurance: Is it Worth It?

Travelers so often ask, “Should I buy travel insurance?”

that we’ve written about the subject more than once.

And if you’re going on a cruise, you’ll probably find yourself wondering about cruise travel insurance.

Is it worth it for you and your travel companions?

The short answer is yes.

Why Buying Cruise Insurance

Cruises are expensive

Never is the adage ‘time is money’ more apt than while on vacation.

Cruise vacations are expensive, and missing 1-2 days of your sailing time due to unforeseen or unavoidable circumstances can mean a loss of 20% of your 10-day cruise.

Chances are, you shopped around for the best price for your cruise, and 20% isn’t an amount you’re comfortable throwing away.

Cruise vacations typically require several legs of transportation to and from the ship’s port

Everyone knows that the more layovers a traveler has on an itinerary, the more things can go wrong.

Even if you’re able to book a direct flight to your port, you still have to drive there, either by renting a car or taking a shuttle service or taxi.

This may or may not require an overnight or rental agreement, either of which could get delayed, overbooked, or lost, leading to a potential late arrival to your ship.

I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, I’m a positive person and choose to believe things will go right on 99% of vacations, but why invite stress on what should be a relaxing trip?

Unless you’re able to drive your own car to your port, travel insurance is a smart purchase.

Cruises don’t wait for travelers

Cruises tend to stay on schedule, a favorable trait, provided you’re on the ship when it departs.

But if a weather emergency has delayed you, or a medical problem has caused you to take an extra day elsewhere, you’re out of luck.

You can’t stop the ship from departing, but you can be reimbursed for the time missed with cruise insurance.

Most travelers book cruises well in advance

Advanced planning when it comes to travel is a good thing, of course, but it also means that there’s plenty of time for unforeseen problems to arise.

When you booked that cruise last December, the following August seemed so far away, but now it’s rapidly approaching and you’re stuck in a cast.

If you’re booking a cruise last minute, cruise insurance may not be crucial, but if a lot of time will pass between your booking date and your cruise date, be on the safe side.

What Cruise Travel Insurance won’t cover:

Bad weather:

While your cruise insurance will cover weather-related incidents that prevent you from getting to your cruise, it will not cover 10 straight days of rain in Fiji. Sorry.

A change of mind

To cancel your cruise without penalty, you need more than ‘I just decided not to go’ on your side.

This includes circumstances that cause the cruise to be unexpectedly too expensive, such as the loss of a job.

Make sure the cruise is really the vacation you want to book before buying, and that you have enough set aside for it.

‘Free’ aspects of your itinerary, such as frequent flier miles

It hardly seems fair, since you earned them, but frequent flier miles or other loyalty program perks are not covered by cruise insurance.

Ditto for comped items for any reason.

Why?

They’re not considered to have ‘value’.

What type of Cruise Insurance to buy:

You know you need it, but what type to buy?

Skip the insurance offered directly from your cruise line.

Yes, it’s convenient, but it’s likely overpriced.

Also pass by secondary insurance that only kicks in after your primary pays out.

You could be waiting a long time for your claim to be settled.

Don’t rely on your homeowner’s insurance, it will only cover your possessions, not your medical needs.

Pick a primary cruise insurance that covers medical (including evacuation) and covers your children (if applicable).

Insurance bought through your credit card company can be a good choice, but make sure you can pay bills with any card, not just theirs.

We recommend travel insurance any time your trip will take you out of the country, is planned far in advance, and is of considerable expense for your budget.

In most cases, insurance is less than 5% of your vacation cost, making it well-worth the peace of mind it brings.

Also be sure to read 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Travel Insurance, which covers topics like the cost of travel insurance, whether travelers need to pay costs up-front, and what — exactly — the insurance in question covers.

Rent Apartment with Bad Credit ~ Why Do Landlords Check Your Credit?

How to Rent Apartment with Bad Credit – Maybe someone has told you that trying to rent apartment with bad credit is a waste of effort, but that’s not necessarily the case.

It’s true that bad credit can result in a denial of the application.

Not all landlords will automatically reject you as other factors are taken into consideration.

Such as your salary and previous rental records, if any.

Landlords check your credit score (How Credit Reporting Agencies Work) because they’re looking for evidence that you are predictable, consistent and stable.

For these reasons, it’s very important you learn how to have a good credit score.

You prove your consistency by doing the same thing over and over, so if your credit score shows that you’ve had late payments, then it isn’t going to build confidence and can make them doubt your ability to handle the financial obligations.

Landlords determine stability in different ways, including the number of years you’ve been working for a company, how long you have had a job, your payment history, the number of accounts you have and so on.

If you’ve been working with the same company for a long time and have had no problems there, it’s a sign that you’re stable and can be relied upon.

Given these facts, it’s easy to understand why landlords want to check your credit score.

That being said, there are a lot of strategies you can use to overcome this problem.

Strategies to Get Your Rental Application Approved

The first thing you need to do is check your credit score and figure out what’s wrong with it.

Is it really as bad as you think it is?

Read the score before you go hunting for an apartment so you’ll know what you’re dealing with.

Since your landlord is going to review the information there anyway, you might as well check the credit score.

If there’s any inaccuracy, now is the time to settle that dispute, rectify those mistakes and improve your credit score.

Rental Application Approved Hacks

If you don’t want to deal with credit score issues at all, then look for a landlord that doesn’t check credit scores.

Usually, apartment complexes are run by large, complex management companies and demand a credit check.

So you’re better off renting apartments operated by individual landlords that don’t check credit or who are willing to take a chance on tenants that don’t have a solid credit history but has a steady income.

Check online classifieds for individual landlords: online classifieds is one of the best places to find apartments run by individual landlords rather than by large companies.

Just go to the housing section in the classified ads where there are townhouses, condos, apartments and houses and make sure you look in your area.

There used to be a time when only companies were listed there, but that’s no longer the case as individual landlords are now listed online regularly.

While you’re looking for locally available apartments for rent, inquire from the landlord about the criteria used to approve a tenant’s application.

Knowing what to ask a landlord is important so make sure you know what to do.

Your chances of being approved go down if you have unpaid balances to utility companies or landlords, so pay those debts now and ask the company to write a letter indicating that your debts are now fully paid.

Write a letter to your prospective landlord explaining why you had financial problems in the past, be it medical bills, divorce, job loss etc.

However, make sure that your letter points out that you are now financially settled and capable of making payments.

If you have a steady source of income now, chances are the landlord will overlook a bad credit score.

If your income is three to four times the required rent then you’re in good position, but you do need to present evidence of your income such as two months’ pay stubs.

That ought to be enough to convince the landlord to take a chance on you.

You may also consider getting someone to cosign the lease agreement, but make sure the co-signer has a good credit standing.

Just remember that if you get evicted or skip on the rent payment for whatever reason, the landlord has a legal right to go after the co-signer as well.

Pay more upfront

even if you do get approved with a poor credit score, you’re likely going to be asked to pay a higher security deposit or anywhere from one to three months in advance.

If you don’t have a good credit score and plan on renting an apartment soon, save money now since you’re going to need it for the advance payment.

What if I Have No Credit?

Having a good credit history helps in renting an apartment, but what if you don’t have any credit at all?

Suppose you’ve just graduated from college and haven’t established any credit history?

Your situation is actually a bit simpler compared to those who have a poor credit score, but your approach will be similar to them in many ways.

Rent an Apartment With No Credit Hacks

Look for an Individual Apartment Owner:

As has been pointed out earlier, individual owners are receptive to these situations and allow people with no credit to rent their property.

What’s important is that you prove that you have a steady source of income.

If you can prove this then your chances of getting approved will be high, and in fact it’s probably going to be a lot higher than those with bad credit.

Offer to Move in Immediately:

An empty apartment takes its toll on landlords because they have to shoulder the utilities and mortgage without getting compensation because nobody’s renting.

If the apartment is empty and the demand for renters is low in that area, you’re likely to get approved if you offer to move in quickly.

In short, look for apartments in places where there’s little demand.

Show Your Savings Balance:

Even if you don’t have a credit history, you could get approved if you can show the landlord your savings is more than sufficient to pay the rent.

Balancing your finances will be much easier if you keep the rent expenses to a maximum of 1/3 of your monthly income.

So if you’re bringing in $3,000, look for apartments with a monthly rent of no more than $1,000.

If you don’t have a stable job yet, try to convince the landlord by showing him your savings account.

The amount that will be needed to “impress” the landlord depends on how much the monthly rent is and on other requirements.

To be safe though, your savings have to be such that you can pay several months of rent.

If you can afford it, you should pay a few months’ worth of security deposit, around two to four months will be nice.

This will provide some assurance to the landlord that you’re not going to run off for the next few months.

Second, it increases your credibility and demonstrates that you’re willing to pay.

Make certain that your payment is properly documented so there won’t be any misunderstandings later.

If you’re going to rent the place for a while, keep copies of all the payments you make as well as other documents so if there are issues later on you’ll have the papers to back you up.

There are other ways to boost your credibility even if you don’t have any credit history.

One of the best ways to do this is to show your would-be landlord that you have a solid reputation with your previous landlords and business associates and employers.

While landlords can be strict with requirements, most of them will be happy to give you a chance if you show them that you have a good reputation at school or work.

If your employers or former teachers say that you are of good character then it’s going to help convince the landlord that you’re responsible with money and can be trusted.

Your character reference can be as important as your financial standing so don’t discount that element.

You can also talk to the landlord and offer to go on a short lease or start month to month.

Usually it takes landlords several months to complete an eviction of a tenant who doesn’t pay.

If you offer to sign up for just three months or month to month, you give the landlord the option not to renew you if you don’t meet the required standards.

Even if you know that you have the capability to pay the rent every night, this approach will give him more flexibility, and it also demonstrates your willingness to be flexible.

For many, the idea of trying to rent apartment with bad credit seems impossible, but really it’s not, provided you have the know-how.

Even if you have bad credit or no credit at all, just following the tips given above will increase your chances of having your application approved.

How Credit Reporting Agencies Work

The business of lending money entails a lot of risks hence the importance of the Credit Reporting Agencies.

Financial institutions like banks and insurance companies take a lot of risk in lending to people for various purposes like acquisition of homes and vehicles, or payment of their children’s tuition.

These companies try to minimize the risks of extending loans by looking at the credit history of their prospective clients.

Borrowers who have been found to have a good credit history are usually given low interest rates, while those with a poor credit history are subjected to high interest rates, if they get approved at all.

How do financial institutions know about the credit history of a borrower?

They approach credit reporting agencies, also called credit bureaus.

These are companies that compile and maintain the credit history of all citizens in the country.

If you have a credit card or have taken out a loan from any financial institution, then you have your credit history.

Credit reporting agencies collect and maintain the credit history of a borrower by gathering all your activity or involvement with financial institutions like banks, mortgage firms and credit card companies.

These firms then create a comprehensive credit report which is the basis of a person’s credit score, a three-digit grade that can affect your financial plans.

Fair Credit Reporting

In the past, the credit history and credit score of borrowers were revealed only to financial institutions such as banks and credit card companies.

Consumers back then had absolutely no idea of what their credit history and score was, and how these bits of information affect their financial liabilities.

Everything changed in the 70’s with the enactment of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

This law basically gave U.S. citizens the freedom to ask for a copy of their credit reports for free, and to receive a copy of the report with adverse findings if they are denied of a loan.

Under the same law, you can also report errors on your credit report and have the credit bureau respond to your complaints in 30 days.

If it is proven that there are indeed errors in your credit history, the credit bureau is required to correct these issues within 30 days.

On the other hand, if all the information on your credit history is correct and you have adverse credit findings.

This information will be removed from your credit history after seven years.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is one of the many laws passed during the 70s that protected and promoted the rights of consumers.

Other laws that were also passed during that time include the Truth in Lending Act.

The Truth in Lending Act basically shields you from unfair and untruthful billing processes employed by banks and other financial institutions.

3 Credit Reporting Agencies and Credit Bureaus

In the United States, there are three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Collectively, they are referred to as the Big Three. The 3 credit bureaus, however, are not the only credit reporting agencies in the United States.

There are also other smaller and industry-specific agencies that provide credit reports and similar risk management services.

The 3 credit bureaus are the most popular since they dominate the consumer credit information industry.

For example, Experian has credit information of at least 66 per cent of the total U.S. population.

This gives you an idea of how big the operation of the Big Three is.

The Big Three  have two basic services.

They gather and process credit information of all U.S. consumers.

In gathering credit information, these companies receive monthly consumer credit information from all lending institutions in the U.S.

The information may pertain to the total debt of individual consumers and their repayment history.

Information like your monthly income and contact details are also sent to the credit bureaus.

Similarly, the Big Three also gather public records on financial information like court records regarding bankruptcies.

Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can get all of these pieces of information by requesting for a copy of your credit history from any of the Big Three credit bureaus.

Your request for information is called a soft inquiry, which pertains to all requests by consumers and employers.

Hard inquiry, on the other hand, pertains to requests by financial institutions.

The Big Three are independent from each other, and thus collect information on your credit history in different ways.

So a credit report from Experian is very different from one issued by TransUnion, in the same way that its report will differ slightly from the report of Equifax.

Also not all lending institutions report to these credit bureaus which lead to more discrepancies.

Credit Score

Credit bureaus don’t just gather information about your credit history.

These companies also process the details to come up with the credit score, a three-digit grade that can affect your ability to avail of the loan.

The credit score ranges from a low of 300 to a high of 850.

Basically, a low credit score prevents you from getting a loan, or subjects you to high interest rates.

On the other hand, a high credit score gives you benefits most remarkably low interest rates.

If you have a high credit score, you can apply for a housing loan or auto loan and pay lower amortizations compared to another consumer with a low credit score.

Think of a credit score as your grade in school.

Credit rating agencies look into different variables in coming up with the credit score.

These variables include your payment history, outstanding debt, length of time you have been part of the credit system, and your new credit.

Your payment history comprises the biggest bulk of your credit score at 35 per cent.

Creditors would want to know your track record in paying off your loan obligations.

If you are habitually late in paying your bills, or if you have bankruptcies before, then you can expect to have a very low score in your payment history.

In turn, your credit score suffers.

The next component that credit bureaus look at in computing your credit score is your outstanding debt.

The total amount that you owe all your creditors will be considered here by the credit bureau.

Other components in calculating credit score include the length of time that you have been part of the credit system (15 per cent).

Your new credit (10 per cent) and the types of credit that have been extended to you (10 per cent).

How Credit Score Affects You

The credit score computed and reported by credit bureaus can have a huge impact on your life.

Your plans like purchasing your own house or getting a new car may be derailed if you have a poor credit score.

Banks and other financial institutions may still give you a car loan or a home acquisition loan, but chances are high that you’ll be subjected to high interest rates.

To cite an example, say you are applying for a vehicle loan. If your credit score is within 500 to 589 range, then a bank may  give you an 18 per cent interest rate for 36 months.

But if you have a credit score of 700 to 850, the interest rates may go as low as six per cent.

Of course, there are other factors that may affect interest rates aside from your credit loan.

These factors include your equity, the type of property that you are acquiring, and so on.

How to Improve My Credit Score at Credit Reporting Agencies

Now that you have learned how your credit score affects your quality of life, then you should also be aware of ways to improve your credit score.

Financial advisers have many tips on improving credit score such as reviewing your credit history and correcting any errors.

Studies have shown than 1 out of four U.S. consumers have incorrect information on their credit history, affecting their credit score in the process.

You should also limit your use of credit cards.

Keep your total credit to 75 per cent or less of your total credit limit.

If you can keep it to as low as 25 per cent, then the better.

You must also make it a habit to pay your bills on time.

As mentioned earlier, payment history comprises 35 percent of your credit score.

Prompt payment of your credit card bills will improve your payment history and positively affect your credit score.

Generally speaking, frequent inquiries on your credit report can negatively affect your credit score.

So don’t inquire on your credit report unless you really need to.

If you are interested in applying for a loan, it would be best to make multiple inquiries with banks first before requesting for your credit report.

This way you can limit the inquiries on your credit history.

The bottom line is that Credit Reporting Agencies and credit bureaus have a significant impact on your life.

So make sure that you are aware of your credit history and more importantly, if you have a less than stellar credit rating, you should learn the different ways to improve your credit score.

What is a Credit Score?

You’ve probably never heard people talking about their credit scores to others.

Just like a social security number, your credit score is one of your most important metrics.

A good score opens more financial options for you.

Your credit score is a measurement of your financial capacity to pay off a loan.

Lenders from banks, credit card companies and even government agencies use this score to determine how credit-worthy someone is before they award someone credit.

This score is reported in the form of a number between 300 and 800.

The higher the score, the better the status. Ideally, everyone would want a high score.

That is found in between 700 and 850.

If your score falls in this range, that means you present a low risk for creditors because of your good payment history and high creditworthiness.

If your score falls below 600, that means you’re a high risk.

But this wasn’t always the case a long time ago.

Before the inception of this system, lenders and banks in the 1980’s had to rely on their experiences in the industry to judge if lending a particular consumer money was good enough for it.

This caused a myriad of problems that stemmed from human error.

Standardizing credit scores

When the time came that the losses in the industry were too high due to failure of payments, an organized system was constructed in order to protect lenders and provide consumers with an accurate idea of where they stand in terms of credibility.

While it may seem demeaning to compare people to a mere number, this system has allowed both lenders and borrowers to review their chances before they make a financial decision.

Creditors have the chance to screen applicants.

Consumers have the chance to improve their score using the system.

As of today, many countries use this standardized system to review their applicants.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Japan use this system.

However, your credit score doesn’t just affect your chances of getting a loan or credit.

This score is also used to determine a suitable interest rates for loans.

If you have a good enough credit score, lower interest rates are afforded for you because of your standing.

If your credit score is low, you will have trouble getting approved for a loan.

You’ll also be given higher interest rate so you’ll be “encouraged” to immediately settle your balances.

It’s essential to keep track of your score.

But doing so isn’t as easy as always paying your loans on time.

It pays to understand where your score comes from and what factors affect its growth or declines.

And the first place to look for answers is at your credit report.

What is a Credit Report?

Your credit report is a compilation of all things related to your financial background.

It also includes basic personal identifying information about yourself.

When a creditor needs to obtain someone’s score, they contact organizations known as credit bureaus or credit reporting agencies.

These agencies then pull up your records to determine your score.

Therefore, it is important to understand your credit score is a separate entity from your credit report.

While a credit report is a collection of your history and actions with money, your credit score is merely an interpretation of this history illustrated in the form of a numerical value.

In line with that, creditors may use just your credit score. Or they may use both your score and your report to assess if you qualify for a loan.

It depends on their screening process.

Equifax, TransUnion, Experian

The various financial institutions you use do business with these organizations to help protect them from poor lending habits.

In the United States, there are three Credit Reporting organizations that sculpted their business model on credit scores.

These are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Banks, lending institutions and other creditors do business with these agencies via requests of credit scores.

As a consumer, you also have access to these reports.

They are also up for contention if you feel that something is amiss with the way your data is treated.

Part of the things that make up your credit report is a record of all your loans, mortgages and payments.

These details will also include which balances were settled on time and which ones came overdue.

These overdue balances are even segregated based on how long they’ve been overdue until the moment that they have been absolved or settled.

Keeping good payment records

When you’re able to keep a good payment record on your loans and balances over a long period of time, that contributes positively to your score.

That means you’re punctual with your payments and plenty of creditors would love to give you more loans and credits for you to use.

Apart from your actions, your age in the financial industry is also accounted for in your credit report.

It would be unfair if all consumers were graded on the same bases.

That would mean a fresh, new borrower would be the same as an excellent borrower who has worked hard to maintain their good credit score.

This is why credit reporting agencies compare scores of people who share the same length of financial history.

You are graded in comparison to how well other people have fared who are just as “financially young” as you are.

On the other hand, if you have a poor payment history, creditors will see you as a liability that might cost them more money than they invested in you in the first place.

This is especially true if you’ve had any balances that have gone into collections.

When a loan comes into collections that means your payments have become so overdue that your creditor has resolved invest more money in a collection service agency to recover the debt you’ve made from them.

Collection agents

Have you ever been pestered over the phone by agents reminding you about your balances, those are collections agents who are called when you’ve gone long overdue.

And when a collections agency becomes involved, rest assured that your overdue payments have also been reported to the credit reporting agencies, severely pulling your score down.

Depending on the places where you do business, your actions may end up getting reported or not to the various credit score agencies.

Some companies or banks choose not to report petty late payments or unpaid fees that you might have forgotten.

On the other hand, there are also companies that make it a point to be as transparent as possible, reporting every single payment you’ve made, whether it’s on time or late by a day.

This is why phone, internet and even cable TV subscribers always ask about their service provider’s credit reporting habits before signing up with them.

Creditors use these as risk factors in order to see if you have a history of missing your payments or if you have erratic spending habits.

Ideally, you would want to present yourself as someone who isn’t a high risk.

That would mean creditors can entrust you with higher credit and more benefits.

What are Credit Scores Used For and Why are Credit Scores Important?

Fortunately, the answer to both of these questions are the same.

Credit Scores are important exactly because of what they’re used for.

Primarily, Credit scores are used to approve loans such as mortgages and car loans.

As mentioned earlier, you can also get these loans at lower rates if you show yourself to be a low risk with a high credit score.

If you have a good enough score, the loan is given to you.

When you don’t, you might end up being advised as to how to improve your score in order to get the loan approved.

If in the case that your initial application did not pull through, going to a different lender or company isn’t going to be any easy nor will your chances improve.

This is because your score stays with you wherever you go.

That means the next creditor will be looking at the same score even if they’re in a different state or locality.

You scores are also used for various services that require monthly payments like phone lines, cable TV services and internet services as well.

Service providers also do business with credit reporting agencies before approving these applications.

Credit scores

But credit scores aren’t just used for loans and subscriptions.

Apartment rentals and even job applications sometimes require a review of your credit score.

And in these cases, having a good score can actually save your life.

This is because you’ll never know when you’ll be needing a loan.

Emergencies can happen at any time.

If you’re short on finances, a good credit score can make it easy for you to obtain loans or apply for jobs when you need them the most.

On top of that, today’s economy is growing into a credit-based environment.

People are now carrying cards in their wallets instead of actual money.

Everyone’s wealth is now going into banks where their money is safe.

People are now buying appliances, vacations and even houses with credit cards instead of bank transfers.

There’s a lot you can’t do without a credit card or a good credit score.

Credit cards

Credit cards are starting to become the foremost choice when it comes to making payments.

They’re used in almost every establishment.

From your local coffee shop to the grocery store, people are now paying through their credit cards which give them benefits and bonuses as compared to paying with cash.

And with a bad credit score, you’re missing out.

Even professionals are beginning to carry portable card readers to help make their business more accessible to their consumers.

Finally, the most important thing you have to remember about your credit score is that it takes time to repair.

If in the case you have a low score or you’ve been hit by a severe negative action, it could take you at least five years to repair the damage that’s been done to your credit score.

So you may be looking at years of rejected loan applications before you can apply for another one.

And if it’s hard to improve on a score, it’s unfortunately easy to ruin one as well.

A few months of overdue payments are more than enough to negatively impact your score and pull it down by several hundreds.

And when this happens, you might have to work on this setback for a few years to get your score back up.

What is My Credit Score and What is Good Credit Score?

You will almost always want to ask for your FICO score.

Although it sounds like an acronym, FICO is the name of a company that deals in a concept known as “predictive analytics”.

This is an approach that takes your current financial data and computes what your future financial actions will likely be in the future.

Your FICO score is probably the most important reading you’ll get as far as credit scores go.

This is because more than 85% of American businesses and banks deal with FICO scores more than any other type of credit score.

It is important to remember that although FICO gives credit scores, it is not a credit reporting agency.

It’s a separate business entity that provides other financial services to its clients.

Obtaining your credit score

You can request a copy of your score from them as well, but it will come at a price.

In fact, the most direct approach would be to contact these credit reporting agencies and request for your scores yourself.

Of course, this will come at a price.

You might also have to surrender your credit card information to these agencies so that they can pull up your data.

But there are more affordable solutions as of today.

Instead of going to the agencies directly, some credit card companies afford their card owners regular credit score reports as part of their memberships.

You can ask for this before signing up with a credit card company.

There are also online subscriptions to websites that offer free reporting for their members as well.

Another efficient and affordable way to check your scores is to go online.

There are several internet sites that will allow you to request your scores for free.

Some of these places are Credit Sesame, Quizle and Credit Karma.

When you get your credit score, you’ll be given three ratings.

Each of these ratings comes from the each of the different credit reporting agencies.

Different credit scores from different agencies

The first thing you will notice is that these your score from each is different from the other.

This is nothing to be worried about, though.

Remember that each agency uses different measures to check your creditworthiness.

But in the case that the difference is very large, this might mean that one score might not have been updated as of the moment.

You would need to contact the credit reporting agency to have them update your scores.

The first thing you want to look at is the three digit number that represents your rating.

As mentioned earlier, the higher the number, the better.

And depending on where you get your report, you might find different values with little variations among each other.

This is because different reporting agencies and sites use different computation methods to translate the data from your credit reports into your credit score.

Depending on where you get your score, it will also come with comprehensive data about your credit report and other notable things that have contributed to the score that you’re seeing.

You could have gone down several points because of a balance that went into collections.

You could have pulled up a few points because of that payment you sent in early.

Some scores and reports could pull these details to give you a better picture of your score.

If in the case that your score is low, the next best thing to do is to look at your own finances.

Have all your balances been paid off?

Were all your payments on time?

Did you change your buying behaviors?

These things could have caused a negative change in your score.

And if you think that there’s a problem, you can contact your creditor and have them correct the error or investigate.

Why You Need to Check Your Scores Regularly?

Unlike exams that you only take once, your Credit score is an ever-changing measure of your creditworthiness that is affected by all your financial actions.

With that in mind, monitoring it on a regular basis only makes common sense.

The first thing you accomplish by checking your credit score regularly is an update on your progress.

You’ll know if your actions have improved your score or if they’ve pulled you down.

You may also detect abnormalities within your score that could have been brought about by fraudulent activities.

Other people could have been using your name to apply for loans you’ve never authorized.

People could be taking out a mortgage with your credentials without you even knowing it.

And looking at your credit score on a regular basis will help you catch anything out of the ordinary.

Errors in credit scores

You can also find errors in some reports that might have been made on your account.

A machine error from your bank might still show on your report, causing a dent in your score.

You can find these anomalies and have them corrected if you check your score regularly.

You can also check to see if your scores are regularly updated by the different credit reporting companies by regularly checking your credit score.

By checking your score, you’ll also become accustomed to what actions help you and what actions don’t.

Seeing your raw score is a good way to recall your actions during the past period that might have put a dent on your score.

In addition to that, it’s always a wise option to know where you stand.

You will be able to approach lenders with confidence if you’re already aware of your score and its contents even before anyone requests to have it pulled up.

On the other hand, you’ll also become aware that you need to start working on a low score long before you need to apply for any loans or credits.

It’s always good to be prepared and informed.

But you have to be careful about how regularly you check your scores.

This isn’t some simple statistic that you could pull up every week without consequence.

You can potentially hurt your score by requesting for it too often.

The ideal time frame on which to do that is every 365 days.

This is the ideal period of time long enough for you to see visible improvements in your score.

It is also short enough for you to quickly detect anything that’s harming your score before it does any more damage.

Credit reports show responsibility

In totality, your credit report is your representative to the financial world.

You can have a million dollars in your bank account but have a terrible credit score.

This could be because of all the bill payments you’ve missed.

Your credit score is not a measure of wealth.

It measures the skill in handling the responsibility of credit that has been afforded to you by your creditors.

And if you can take good care of your credit score today, your credit score will take good care of you tomorrow.

How to Improve My Credit Score

If I improve my credit rating, I get approval with the best interest rates for housing loans, car loans and study loans.

Here is how credit ratings are computed and how they work for your advantage.

You want approval for credit and the best rates for the most significant loans you may need.

Everyone has heard the terms “debit” and “credit” before.

Your financial stability is based on a Credit Rating.

Even if you have over a million dollars in the bank, you need to be able to demonstrate credit worthiness.

You do this by using credit options and pay them when due.

This helps you to establish credit and improve your credit rating.

Yes, it’s important for a person to have the means to pay their obligations.

However, it’s equally important to show he/she is in the habit of paying them.

It’s about establishing a character or an image of credit worthiness.

What a lending company wants to know

On the part of the lending company, it all boils down to three questions:

Should I extend credit to this applicant?

What does his credit history show?

How did he pay his previous debts?

Now, you may think that loans and credits only concern those who are lacking in funds.

However, you will see this is everyone’s concern.

It may be even more important for those who have money.

Why should I improve my credit score

Everyone stands to benefit from the financial flexibility which a credit line can provide.

It allows people to invest on assets that they cannot afford.

Examples of who needs credit:

Take the example of the family’s bread winner who can generate two sources of income by having the mobility to jump from one job to another with the convenience of an auto loan.

Perhaps there is a family who will eventually save on rent when they finish the mortgages on their newly acquired property.

Through student loans, a young rank and file employee can improve his chances for attaining supervisory and managerial status or a blue collar worker can improve on his employment options.

For small bakery businesses, a credit line can be a means to purchase a bigger oven that can satisfy the increasing demand.

For a mega business venture, it could be used for the construction of a gigantic mall that could satisfy the needs of a growing community.

Reasons to improve credit ratings

There are basically two important reasons why you everyone should improve their credit score.

Your credit rating will determine the loans that you will qualify for.

Your credit rating determines the interest rates you will need to pay.

The credit score or credit rating is a three-digit number that helps lenders predict how likely you are going to repay a loan and make those payments on time.

The credit score was formulated by Fair Isaac and Company.

During the initial stages of its application, they decided it would create more confusion to explain how it worked to the public.

Therefore, they kept the formula and its components exclusive to lenders.

However, due to pressure from U.S. Congress, private industry and consumer groups that started in 2001, everyone can now view their credit rating for a fee from credit monitoring and reporting agencies.

The credit rating is a three-digit number that ranges from 300 points to 850 points.

How a credit score is determined

Lack of funds, negligence and absolute refusal to pay are not the only factors that will cause overdue payments.

A person can simply forget about an installment payment.

You may get confused with the dates.

A person who can show that he’s had a lot of experience with various types of loans may be less of a risk in terms of default.

Majority of your score is made up of two things:

35% of the score is acquired from your payment history

This will show a lender if you are paying your loans promptly.

It shows how many times you were late in your payments.

It shows how many of your loans had to be sent out for collection, and if you filed for any cases of bankruptcies to be saved from collection and litigation.

The most recent of these incidents will work worse for your overall score.

This is obviously very important for lenders because, as a business entity, they want only to extend loans to those you are most likely to pay them.

30% is based on your outstanding debt

All credit lines have limits.

The agency checks on all of your available credit lines and if they are maxed out.

The more credit lines you have which are fully extended to the limit, the lower your score will be.

This tells if a person is living beyond his means.

A person who keeps on getting credit lines and exhausting its limits is bound to reach a point where all his income won’t be able to pay for the monthly minimum fees for the lines and will eventually file for bankruptcy.

15% of the credit score is based on the length of time you’ve had credit

The longer you’ve had a credit line, the better for your overall rating.

This factor is very important because it describes your habit.

As this stretches for a longer period of time, it defines your character as a borrower.

Long years of statistics will give lenders a more accurate picture of how you are as a borrower and more importantly as a payer.

10% is affected by new credit lines that you have opened

If you have recently opened a credit account, it will have a negative impact on your credit score.

A credit line is based on your paying capacity.

It is supposed to be a representation of the maximum amount of debt that you can pay with your current income.

Imagine you have been recently approved by another lender for a credit line.

Then you apply for another one.

There is concern you might exhaust your credit line on both accounts.

Then, you would end up with a debt that is double than what you can actually pay.

10% is based on the types of credit accounts that you have

This speaks of your financial management abilities.

It would be very good to have several types of loans.

You can have both revolving credit loans and installment loans.

Being up to date with several loans with several due dates will show how mindful you are on your obligations.

It speaks of your financial discipline, experience and organizational skills.

It demonstrates you can mix and meet your financial obligations.

Improve My Credit Score

It is wrong to conclude the best way to improve your credit is to stop using credit cards.

If you refrain from using your credit cards after their approval, you are not providing good info about your creditworthiness.

You are providing zero-basis.

This will discourage lending companies from approving major loan applications even if you can show proof of paying capability.

Improving your credit information simply means using your credit card for purchases you manage to completely pay off when they fall due.

Or, allocate the purchases to installment credit if they need be and pay the installments as they fall due.

Credit card companies and commercial establishments will lure you into purchasing luxury items on credit.

Remember, credit cards should be reserved for items you purchase for investment.

This will bring forth the opportunity for more earnings.

Try to maintain a good credit score for those more important investments.

These include a car, house or student loans.

These will can be significant improvements in your life.

The worst situation is when you rely on credit for the essential basics of daily life.

If you pay the credit cards each month on time, it’s fine. Then you are using the credit cards as a convenience.

However, when you need them when you don’t have the money — for gas and groceries — then you are using them out of necessity and not by choice.

How to Eliminate Debt

If this information about getting a good rating has reached you at a stage where you have fully exhausted all your credit cards and would want to remedy the situation to get a good credit score for a major loan, you have to start over by getting your balances to zero.

You have to eliminate your debt.

4 Hacks to Get out of Debt

Fix one credit card at a time

Pay the minimum amount due on all other cards.

Focus on putting all your money on one credit card at one financial institution to get it back to zero balance.

When this is done, you can work on another credit card.

Follow the same procedure for the rest until all cards have a clean slate.

Ask for lower rates

It seems credit cards are standardized and formal.

Yet, you are actually dealing with a person.

You can call and ask for lower credit interest rates.

With lower interest rates, you will be able to pay a larger portion of the entire balance.

The lower the interest rates, the faster you can pay down the balance.

Transfer your balance

Another good strategy is transferring all balances to the credit line which has the lowest interest rate.

The logic follows the same principle or could be the next wise step after you have done option number 2.

But, this will only work if the lowest charging interest card’s line is not fully exhausted and can accommodate more.

It would be a perfect scenario when the lowest charging credit card has just been approved and has a clear balance.

This will be a rare stroke of chance and you should avail of this advantage.

Make two minimum payments a month

Avoid being stuck in monthly cycles of interest-only payments.

Instead, try paying the minimum payment twice a month.

The first payment you make would have paid for the interest charges.

This will probably be just a small slice on the total balance.

The next minimum payment you will make after two weeks will be eliminated from your balance.

This will reduce it considerably.

You will notice as you apply this principle, your monthly minimum payments will reduce.

This will eventually give you the capability to pay minimum payments on a weekly basis.

This will take your total balance to zero faster.

It’s hard to eliminate all debts because you have to pay for current needs and past purchases.

You may need to put off your yearly family vacation and other luxuries.

It is hard but it will make you cautious as to what purchases to buy on credit.

Ways to build my credit

To get information on your credit report, you can check with three agencies; Equifax, Experian and TransUnion by going to annualcreditrepport.com.

For a fee, you can get your actual credit rating.

You can get a free credit report as well.

What do these scores mean?

With a score ranging between 300 to 580 points, there is minimal chance for approval.

Your loan application has a 100% chance to be denied.

For scores anywhere between 581 and 650, you’ll have a chance for approval.

However, this will be for the highest rates.

With a credit rating in the range of 651 to 710, you’ll qualify for credit at moderate interest rates.

If your credit score is from 711 to 750, you’ll qualify for credit at competitive rates.

With a credit rating of 751 or higher, you’ll get the lowest rates in the market.

Immediate steps to build credit

Apply for credit lines even if you don’t foresee a need for it.

If you are planning to apply for a major loan, say a housing loan, in five years’ time, you need to start using smaller types of commercial banking lines, like credit cards, so lending companies will have a record to inspect.

Even if you have a stable high paying job, a lending company has to see your credit and paying habits.

Then they can have confidence to approve your loans.

It’s not enough to show that you have the ability to pay the installments.

They have to see you have it in your character to actually make the payments when they fall due.

Open at least three credit accounts

One credit line has something to say about you and more credit lines will have more accounts vouching for your credit worthiness.

Having multiple credit accounts in good standing with good track records will work for your rating.

A new one will be an open book that has nothing to tell.

This uncertainty will pull down everything positive your other accounts will tell about you.

If you want a good credit rating for any major loan that you have to make, refrain from opening a new credit account up to two years before you are planning to apply for that major loan.

Keep your credit usage to all accounts at a maximum of 25%

If your credit limit is up to $5,000, maintain nothing more than a $1,500 balance.

Never go beyond this.

This will show lending companies your financial status is not stretched to the limit.

Remember, the credit ceiling given to the individual is based on the paying capacity of that individual.

All lending companies want to maximize on their clients’ business through manageable credit.

If you use all your credit lines to the limit then, you are hovering within the fine line between being financially capable of meeting your debts and starting to have over dues.

Another credit line will likely tip you over to the delinquency list.

Make your due dates

Whenever you make purchases on your credit card, you are expected to pay for these items on the maximum  45 day float.

For all purchases you make during a given month for the 1st day to the 31st, those purchases will have to be paid on the 15th day of the following month.

The exact amount of your purchases will appear but so will a figure that will represent a minimum amount of payment that you have to make in case you cannot pay for the whole thing.

For the purpose of getting a good score on this category, you should pay for all of your purchases on deferred payment.

If you know you cannot pay for the entire amount, you should apply that purchase under a credit installment option.

Diversify on the type of your credit loans and make the payments

For credit card purchases, study each purchase.

Decide which ones to apply on an outright payment on a deferred scheme and which ones to pay on credit installment.

Use both credit schemes on the totality of your purchases.

Being able to mix these and successfully pay all obligations demonstrates you are a smart borrower and a dependable payer.

It shows you are most likely to be able to handle your new loan approval with the same diligence.

Credit Building Strategies

There is a way around the system if all you want is a good credit rating without the actual credit card.

You can get a secured credit card.

If you don’t want the temptation of falling into the uncontrollable urge to exhaust credit limits, use a secured credit card that will only allow you to purchase an amount equal to what you have deposited.

This is different from prepaid cards and debit cards that don’t report your transactions to credit bureaus.

A secured credit card provides you with the safety of a debit card and the credit history building advantages of a credit card.

Or, you can be an authorized user of another good credit account.

If your parents, brother or sister have a good credit rating, you can benefit from their good credit practice if you are one of their authorized users.

This means that their good credit scores will also be yours as you are sharing in the account.

It may be a little hard to win this trust but maybe if you let them keep the actual extension card, they will be convinced of your non-malicious intent.

If you already have a credit card then, these tricks will help you get a better credit rating.

You can apply for an increase in credit limit and not actually use the available credit.

This will improve you scores dramatically in that 30% component of your credit score which refers to your available credit line.

Increased credit limit

An increased credit limit will win you more points for as long as you don’t.

Increase your usage as well.

Also, one of the most effective ways of ensuring that you make those payments as they fall due is to apply for an automatic paying system or automatic debit system against your bank account.

You are not likely to forget to supply your deposit accounts with the sufficient balance especially if this is your salary and family savings account.

Lastly, you can always pay multiple payments.

This system will work best for people who get bi-monthly and weekly salaries.

Your current pay check may only be sufficient to pay the minimum on your monthly credit billing.

There is no rule against making another payment one week or two weeks after when you receive another paycheck.

Of course, this scheme will only work if you also work on limiting your credit card usage as well.

The rule is very simple, if I improve my credit, I will have better chances of getting approvals on the significant loans from the best lending companies that offer the lowest rates.

It is all a matter of setting the right perspectives in life.

Use your credit cards for less important purchases for credit rating sake so you’ll get the best chance for being approved for life-changing investments.

Yurt Camping Guide: Year-Round Yurts in State Parks

lady sitting outside camping tent during winter

Updated:

Thanks to yurt camping, the newest camping craze taking off across the U.S., you don’t need to own a gas guzzling RV or camping trailer to enjoy state parks and campgrounds all year long.

Park systems in nearly every state now feature these fun, functional, and cozy shelters in at least a handful of their state parks.

Some states, such as Oregon and Washington, offer yurts in nearly all their coastal state campgrounds.

Yurt Camping Guide

Tips for Camping with Kids

What Is a Yurt?

The word “yurt” originally referred to the circular tents used by nomadic people in Asia.

The yurts you’ll find in the U.S. nowadays are strong, semi-permanent structures based on that circular design.

Typical “rustic” yurts are 16 feet in diameter, and offer beds and mattresses for five to six people, table and chairs, electricity, and heating.

Deluxe yurts in state parks can include TVs, kitchenettes, and even bathrooms.

Yurt camping in the off-season allows travelers experience year-round camping.

 

Advantages to Yurt Camping

Yurts are a great way to get away from it all without having to completely rough it.

With yurt camping in state parks, you can:

Travel Cheaply

Nightly yurt rentals cost approximately $45 per night in summer, and can dip as low at $30 in winter (depending on location and amenities), making them far more cost effective than the hotels or lodges located in rural or wilderness areas.

Yurts are ideal for long-term or spontaneous travelers who don’t want to pack extensive camping gear: no need for a tent, lantern, or heavy bedding.

Experience Nature in the Off-Season

Winter or spring in your favorite state park may offer a completely different experience than in the summer.

For instance, spring is the only time to observe the seal rookeries (baby nurseries) in the caves along Oregon’s central coast near Sunset Bay State Park.

At other parks, fall may provide the best leaf peeping or winter the only cross-country skiing.

Enjoy Seclusion

We love reserving state park yurts in the off-season because we’re nearly alone in the park!

Yurt camping in fall or spring is ideal for families:

Kids can enjoy the run of the park without parents worrying about disturbing fellow campers.

And s’mores taste just as good (if not better) in the cold!

yurt camping

The inside of a yurt

How to Find and Reserve a Yurt

Browse available yurts through your state’s park system website (as opposed to nation-wide sites).

From the Oregon.gov site, I can click on Yurts and Cabins and see all available units at an array of state parks.

Reserve early for May-September yurt vacations.

Most state park systems allow campers to book nine months in advance, which may seem extreme for a camping trip, but is absolutely necessary to ensure a yurt reservation in the summer months.

On the flip side, yurts are usually available with a week’s notice or less during off-season travel!

Bring only the essentials.

Yurt campers need sleeping bags, cooking supplies and tools, and seasonal clothing.

At most state parks, cooking must be done outside the yurt over a fire or using a camp stove.

What you can skip: tents, mattresses, lanterns, and camping furniture such as canopies or tables.

yurt camping

Few Things to Note About Yurt Camping

While some yurts are now pet-friendly, be sure to check your state park’s policy before bringing dogs.

Check your email before departure.

Most state park systems will email you your yurt site number and lock code, so that no check-in is required.

At the end of your yurt stay, remember to sweep up and pick up after yourself for the next camper!

Usually basic cleaning tools are provided.

Tips for Green RVing: Reduce Your Impact on the Road

My dad has worked at an RV company for years, so growing up, my only experience camping was in a 30-foot Winnebago Motorhome.

I have branched out a little bit since then; my husband and I spent three months camping throughout Africa last year, but I still like the comforts of a home that you can get in a RV.

Unfortunately, a gas guzzling RV doesn’t always make me think green.

But, thankfully, there are ways to make it a more eco-friendly travel option.

Stay Close to Home

Growing up, this is one of the ways my parents saved money on RV travel — we didn’t venture far from home.

Staying close saves money on fuel and is more eco-friendly than a long-distance trip.

Check out the campsites near your home — you may be surprised to find hidden gems within a short drive.

As an added bonus, if you’re traveling with kids they will love the camping experience and you won’t have to hear as many “are we there yet?” questions from the backseat.

Bring Bikes

If you’re traveling by RV, consider bringing bikes.

This is a green way to travel to the store or around your campground without having to use the fuel to drive the RV.

If you need to travel further than you’d like on a bike, consider bringing a Vespa or small vehicle that will use less fuel and get you where you need to go.

Practice Green Living on the Road

Many of the eco-friendly things you do at home to reduce your carbon footprint will also work on the road.

Open the windows in the RV rather than using the air conditioning and take shorter showers so you don’t use so much energy on hot water.

If you own your RV you can also install solar panels and use energy efficient light bulbs to reduce your energy usage.

Driving at, or under, the speed limit will save on fuel.

While it may be more convenient to stock up on disposable plates and silverware for your vacation, go green by washing your own dishes.

Go Small

Once you see the luxury of some of the newer motorhomes on the market today, it can be tempting to rent a 43-foot RV for your next vacation.

However, a smaller RV will be more fuel-efficient and reduce the overall carbon footprint of your vacation.

Many of the smaller motorhomes are great options for green RV’ing.

You may have to pack light, but your vacation will be more environmentally friendly, and you will probably have a little extra cash in your pocket from the money you save on fuel.

Practice Green Camping

Just because you’re in an RV doesn’t mean that the basic rules for camping don’t apply.

Be sure to practice leave-no-trace camping; take all of your trash with you when you leave.

If you’re camping with your dog, remember he has an environmental impact too — so plan accordingly.

Only camp in designated campsites and make sure that recycle everything you can.
Road tripping across the United States
Learn more about the progress green RV’ing is making.

Road tripping across the United States

For many, a road trip across the US is the ultimate vacation, allowing the kind of freedom that no organized excursion can match.

Experienced wanderers value all aspects of a road trip, including the terrain they cover, the diverse people and cultures they encounter, and the food and music they enjoy along the way.

First-time road trippers might want to check out some of the classic historic routes before moving on to trips of a quirkier nature.

Here are some ideas for experiencing an unforgettable drive…

East-West Pilgrimage

New York to San Francisco is a fabulous, if demanding, cross-country journey.

Direct routes cover some 2,900 miles.

However, interesting diversions along the way can easily increase the total to 3,500 miles of travel, and a minimum ten days is needed to do justice to this kind of trip.

The original pioneers journeyed in this direction from east to west, and the landscape becomes more rugged, dramatic and imposing as the trip proceeds.

Along the way, spend time admiring the national parks and the majestic Rockies, looking out for bears and wolves, and experiencing the character and atmosphere of the wilderness.

Further along the road, Utah and Arizona beckon.

A little southerly dip in the route means road trippers can bypass the flat plains of the Midwest for the charms of the South, where the music, storytelling and barbecued cuisine in neighborhood bars and diners are endlessly appealing.

Route 66: Main Street of America

This is truly the quintessential road trip in American history.

The route extends from Chicago to Los Angeles, though it’s no longer possible to travel the entire 2,400 miles without switching roads.

However, it’s a great adventure to spend time enjoying the iconic destinations found along the way, some of which are being restored to their former glory.

Rent a car in Chicago and drive diagonally through Illinois to St. Louis.

The Meramec Caverns in the Ozarks, near Stanton, Missouri are worth a pit stop.

This is a 4.6-mile network of caverns created over millions of years by the erosion of limestone deposits.

The ongoing route passes through the southwest corner of Kansas and continues into Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle.
this point, I-40 replaces the former Route 66.

As road trippers continue their drive, there are two important stops to make in Arizona, at the Painted Desert and at the Petrified Forest, before catching a glimpse of the Grand Canyon en route to California.

Pacific Coast Highway

Running north to south along most of the Californian coastline, the Pacific Coast Highway makes for a wonderful scenic road trip.

Set out on the 101 south from Eureka in Northern California and head towards Fort Bragg.

The road will then join Route 1, which meanders along the coastline and offers views of the Pacific Ocean on the right and valleys and mountains on the left.

Destinations along this route include state beaches and parks.

Ideal places to picnic, rest up or do some hiking or swimming.

This zigzagging, twisting road leads south to the spectacular harbor-front sights of San Francisco.

Many people like this part of California so much that they decide to settle down in one of the many San Francisco condo rentals in the area for a week or two.

Memorable road trips are slow journeys where every moment is savored.

Taking the time to meet people, learn about local culture and sample the cuisine will make for an unforgettable experience.

(photo credit: 1qwrrty – Fil.Al, uniteddiversity