Archive for the Category »frugal traveling «

  Travel on the Super Duper Cheap


Nothing like Hawaiian coffee. I am on the Big Island and it came to me – as a coffee snob, I never really take advantage of the in-room coffee maker. Nope. Id’ rather drag myself out of bed, march down to the hotel coffee bar, and order a $5.00 latte.

But – my tip to you fellow java hounds may be obvious, and I admit, super cheap, but no denying it is practical.

If your hotel provides free in-room bottled water, a coffee maker, and most importantly, GOOD coffee, take advantage of that in-room maker. Especially in a place like Hawaii where so often the beans are local and good – Kona coffee black or with cream?

For a week long trip, it could save you close to $100 for two coffees in the morning, you don’t have to leave the kids to do down to the coffee bar – and quite frankly, depending on your room, it is relaxing to enjoy it from your balcony or overlooking a view.

If the hotel doesn’t give you bottled water, ask if the tap is filtered.

I warned you this was a super cheap tip.

Now – if you want to make your love for coffee a part of your overall trip, many destinations have coffee plantation tours where you can immerse yourself in the local agricultural business.
The tours teach you about coffee from bean to cup. Some are set in beautiful locations like a rain forest. If you want to bring some home, chances are it might be easier to order from the website once you get home unless you have room in your luggage :)

Here are some websites to explore for Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii….Now go enjoy your cup of joe.



  Happy Travels With My Mom… An Affordable Way To See The World With Grandparents #homeswap

Travel With Family

When I was a young girl, my mom made family trips a priority. Many years later…  and with  three young children of my own, she and her husband were able to come with us to France for the price of airfare only.

Provence, France

See… we did a home exchange in France for one glorious month. The beautiful thing about a home exchanges is that unlike getting separate hotel rooms, you can swap your home for a villa with multiple bedrooms so your family and your parents can all stay together for …. FREE. Yes, no money is exchanged. It is a wonderful way to travel with extended family.

There are many pluses to this….

Our Home Exchange in the French Riviera

First off, some on fixed incomes have an affordable and comfortable  place to stay. Ours in the French Riviera had a guest house – perfect set up for grandparents coming along.

And…not only are the accommodations free, but you have the option of eating meals at home, saving money there too. And you don’t have to sacrifice culture – if you’ve ever shopped in the Parisian markets or grocery stores for a home cooked meal, you know the experience of which I am talking.

Secondly – bringing along Grandma and Grandpa can work out fabulously for some adult time! You have willing and happy built in babysitters for a night out with your partner.

Winetasting in Chateauneuf du Pape

Or, they can be company in fun activities! Since my mom and her husband like wine tasting, they were my company in the world class Chateauneuf du Pape region!

Then there are the benefits for the kids…. they get to share a rare experience with their grandparents… and if you travel to a region of your heritage, grandparents can also provide illuminating facts about your family history.

Home swapping isn’t for everyone, I admit. The most common question I got was – “What did you do with all the stuff in your house” “Did it bother you to have other people stay in your house?” You have to be comfortable with people you don’t know living in your home. I talked to our exchange  family on the phone before hand, and one member even was in LA for business and we had him over for dinner, so I felt comfortable. I looked at it as company was staying at our house.

Truth be told, I talked to so many different potential Europeans about staying in our house, and discovered that most of them just want to use your home as a base to travel around, and quite possibly wouldn’t be there most of the time anyway.

There are many different companies that offer home exchange opportunities – usually you have to pay a nominal  yearly membership to have access to the listings. A couple that I have tried,or know someone who has tried are: and

Two bits of advice: Plan ahead – many of the better houses started making plans 10-12  months before the trip. Also – get traveler’s insurance. I did have one house cancel on me… luckily, I had enough time to find a replacement, but had it been closer to the travel time, it would have been much more difficult.

It is more work than simply booking a hotel – but worth it. I know my mom would say so :)

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!


  Travel Tip Tuesday: Think You Can’t Use Frequent Flier Miles Last Minute? Think Again!

I just booked a flight 30 days out using my frequent flier airline miles. No – that’s not a typo – only 30 days out, to the day.

It reminded me of a tip I often give: If you have an account with an airline, let’s say American, don’t just check with American to see if there open seats for using ff miles. Check all the partners – For example, American is partners with Air Tahiti, which has flights to Paris from LAX. Who would have thought to check with Air Tahiti to go to Paris?

Auckland, New Zealand

American is also partners with Air Pacific, and Qantas….. so if you are flying to New Zealand, you have more than one option. Air Pacific doens’t only fly to Fiji! You could book a departing flight on Air Pacific, and returning on Qantas.

THe catch here is that you have to go to mulitple websites because one airline doesn’t show its partners availabilities.

I realize this involves soem finesse, and it often gets complicated doing all the research about partner airlines and available flights to frequent fliers.  So in this instance, I would recommend calling the airlines., Yes, there will be a $25 or so fee for doing so, but if you can save $1000 on a flight and book with your miles, it is worth it.

Happy Travels!



  Travel Tip Tuesday: Getting the Best International Fare


Thinking of taking a trip abroad soon?

Well, according to some travel research, there is a better time to do your ticket shopping.

According to Kayak travel website,  international airfares are at their lowest 34 days before the departure day. Another research group from Expedia found them to be lowest between one and three months out.

I found Kayak’s results to be true recently, but I am clearly not a scientific sample, it was just one incident.

Whatever you do, try not to wait until the last week – that’s when fares typically rise.

So according to the number crunchers, if you are thinking about a trip to Europe over spring break, this week will be the good time to look! (Another reason this is a good time is that airfare to Europe is most expensive in the summer.)

Happy Travels!


  Would You Travel During Hurricane Season? Here’s a Smart Way To Do It
"Hurricane Sandy"

Hurricane Hits the Caribbean from

Hurricane Sandy is on the East Coast….heading for the North Atlantic… after blasting the Bahamas and Cuba.

Cruise Ship

Cruise Ship

Dozens of cruise ships have rerouted itineraries…. and ships that port in New York are heading northward to beat the storm.

But what if places you wanted to visit are eliminated due to bad weather? It is not exactly the same cruise for which you paid.

This is a chance we travelers take when we book travel  near the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico between July and November. There are plenty of good reasons to travel during this period – prices are generally lower because it is hurricane season, and in many places not much rain.

One way to protect yourself, and I am a big fan, is to buy travel insurance. Some insurance providers sell a plan called “Cancel For Any Reason, ” which really follows it’s name. If your cruise ship is rerouted to places you’ve already been and don’t want to see them again… or some other reason….you can usually cancel two days before departure. It depends on what kind of plan you bought as to how much money you get back.

Hurricane Sandy in Florida, from Orlando Sentinel

Even if you don’t think anything could happen to you on a “safe” trip, there could always be a health issue or disruption from home that may preclude you from your plans.

Typically, you should count on insurance costing about 10% of your trip.

Here is an example of one policy that I found, so you can see if it would be valuable to you.

For two people traveling on a trip that costs $2000 per person, here is the coverage PER PERSON, even though the cost covers both people. This is one of the more comprehensive coverage plans:

Cost: $429 for the two travelers.

What it provides:

–$1,000,000 in emergency evacuation

—75% non-refundable costs if you employ “cancel for no reason”

–$50,000 in rental car collision

–$2,000 in trip cancellation

–$3,500 in trip delay

Plus, baggage coverage, regular medical coverage that doesn’t involve evacuation, etc.

If nothing else, wouldn’t the $429 be worth the peace of mind?

There are plenty of websites to help you:, and are just two.

Have a great weekend, and you on the East Coast, stay safe.

  Travel Tip Tuesday: Book Flights Now For Thanksgiving


If you are planning on traveling for your turkey, and haven’t booked your airline ticket, you should do it ASAP to save money. According to Cheap Air, ticket prices are already 6% higher than the same time last year. Fares will only go up as supply dwindles.

According to a spokesman at FareCompare any ticket for 500 miles that is $120 or less is a TOTAL bargain. For 500-1500 miles, $300 or less is cheap.


Of course, keep in mind the old travel secrets for the busiest travel days of the year – if you can be flexible in your booking dates, that can pay off. Leave Tuesday or Thanksgiving morning  instead of Wed evening if possible…and come home Saturday or Monday.

Try to book the first flight of the day  and fly non-stop so you don’t get caught up in delays that may occur as the day goes on.

By the way – if you are one of those who likes to collect free tickets, then book during the busiest time possible – you are more likely to be asked to volunteer your seats in exchange for airline credits or tickets! I have seen this happen many times flying over Thanksgiving.

Most of all – good luck getting to where you want to be…with whom  you want to spend time. :)


  Travel Tip Tuesday: Work Your Hotel for Better Prices and Experience

There’s some good news/bad news for we travelers who like nice hotels.

Ravel Hotel, Long Island City, NY

Good news: Hotels are spending $5 billion in improvements in 2012…. renovating lobbies and rooms, and installing flat screen tvs, high speed internet service, and nicer beds. Yay!

Some higher end hotels like the Bel Air in Los Angeles, the New York Mondrian SoHo, some in the Four Seasons’ chain are even adding iPads – a nice convenience that allows guests to order room service, call for a taxi, set a wake up alarm, or request a bill for check out.

The bad news: Why are they doing all this? Hotels have seen higher occupancy than in years past, and are charging higher room rates and fees. So the average traveler needs to be equipped with road warrior knowledge to make smart travel decisions:

–When booking a room, instead of settling for high prices, do a little homework without spending way too much time. If you find what you think is a good price on a travel website, call the hotel desk directly – not the 800 number – and ask if they can do better. They have access to exactly how many rooms are left, and a manager can make a pretty good assessment if they are going to sell out – or if he or she should cut you a better deal to get your business.

Those travel websites take a mark up, so you won’t be paying for that by going directly to the front desk.

–Also – when asking for recommendations for activities or restaurants, use a reliable website like Trip Advisor or Yelp to read reviews from locals. Or ask someone at the hotel other than the concierge. I have found concierges often recommend the same places… and aren’t always the better ones, just ones who are marketing to the concierge, or places they have known about for years and haven’t bothered to update their repertoire. Many times, they are more expensive.

Have a great day!




  The Best Time To Book A Flight

I am often asked the best time to purchase an airline ticket. Although is is impossible to be totally accurate, since sales can happen at a moment’s notice, a recent study sheds some light on ways for you to save money on air tickets. found that booking flights 21 days before departure will garner the best prices. A study back in January said 6 weeks in advance brings you the lowest prices…. however, this more current study found tickets about $28 dollars cheaper 21 days before.

One thing both studies did agree on: Booking the week of travel is when tickets skyrocket – by around 30%. With airlines cutting back on flights, there is more demand and less supply, so they can raise prices.

Even considering the 21 day better fare conclusion, I still would suggest getting your holiday plans together now since that is a crazy-busy time to travel!

Anyone going any place interesting?

  Travel Tip Tuesday: How to Beat the Two Night Minimum Follw up

Happy Tuesday!

I am writing a follow up to last week’s post about how to stay at a hotel and pay for only one night when they have a two night minimum. One of my followers wrote me with another great tip that I will publish.

She is a travel agent, so tried this for a client. She spoke with the hotel directly  – which is something you should always try instead of going through a reservation service. She asked the hotel for a different rate for one night – for example, if the hotel was $250 a night with two nights minimum, she got the one night for a little more money – $290. It paid off for that traveler to spend $290 on one night, rather than spend $500 for two nights.

Thank you Tracy at!

Anyone else with good tips you’ve found?

  Hotel of the Week: Summer on Sale

If a topsy turvy stock market… high gas pries.. and expensive airline tickets have you looking for a bargain vacation, you have to know where to look. The deals are there!

First,  use social media  – Twitter, Facebook – to be a regular follower of your favorite hotels or airlines. That way YOU don’ t have to work that hard, the deals come to you.

For instance – I subscribe to the Joie de Vivre hotel group, and they are having a 25th anniversary sale on their properties. Joie de Vivre is a boutique brand, more fun and funky than high-end luxury.

One of the hotels, the Saguaro in Palm Springs, is offering up to 30% off – But you have to book that by today!! There are other deals that don’t expire today, so visit the website.

I actually visited the hotel recently because I had read so many articles about it. Located right on the edge of town in Palm Springs, CA,  you can’t miss the colorful motel-turned hipster hang out.

Personality it is not lacking.

Hang out by the pool… or in the bar….Or wander into town. Palm Springs has changed a lot in the past 30 years…

I took my kids to lunch at a new restaurant there recently, LuLu California Bistro right on the strip. The vacation town isn’t as kid friendly as it used to be – more of an adult crowd with the families staying in Rancho Mirage or La Quinta – but LuLu was fun and had great people watching.

Other properties by Joie de Vivre include:  Hotel Vitale in San Francisco where I have stayed a few times… (near the Ferry Building!!) Carmel Valley Ranch in Carmel.. and Hotel Angeleno in Los Angeles. SO go to the website to check out the special packages to celebrate 25 years of Joie de Vivre. (I like the sound of that..)

For other summer deals, popular wisdom is – go where it is off-season. Cheaper to Australia (winter there)… or the Caribbean, where it is hurricane season. Typically the storms come end of summer, but you never know. For that reason I’d recommend buying travel insurance.

Atlantis in the Bahamas is one example of Caribbean deals – and good for families – $199 a night right now for summer.. and if you can wait until the end of summer, it goes down to $99 mid August! (Bahamas is not in the Caribbean, but considered part of that community.)

Mexico is another place on sale…Travelocity has some Playa del Carmen hotels on sale starting at $119 a night. Book me please.

Las Vegas is another place to look for hotel deals – The Wynn is offering rooms this summer from $139 a night Sunday -Thursday… and from $219 a night Friday and Saturday.

Go get your summer set! Love this time of year.