Cash Smarter

travel

05/04/17 Sharing Economy , Travel # , ,

How We’re Saving $4,000 on Summer Vacation With a Home Swap

How We’re Saving $4,000 on Summer Vacation With a Home Swap

The three main costs of a vacation — transportation, lodging and food — can be so high that affording a getaway can be difficult. Eliminating one of those costs with a home swap, however, can make it affordable — especially during the high season of summer vacation when more people take time off.

There are free ways to fly (credit card rewards points for free flights) and you can find cheap food anywhere. But you still have to come up with some cash to eat and to earn the rewards points.

Lodging can be trickier. There are cheap options such as renting a room in someone’s house or staying for free at a relative’s or friend’s home. But wouldn’t it be better to have a home to yourself for a relaxing vacation?

A home swap can do that for free.

A month in Europe

This summer my family is going to Europe for free for almost an entire month. We’re visiting Paris and Brussels for a week and staying in hotels — at a discount with a travel package through an airline — and then staying in a home in the Netherlands for almost three weeks for free by exchanging our home in the Bay Area with a Dutch family.

We made the swap through HomeExchange.com, a service that has more than 65,000 homes in 150 countries. You just search for homes in areas you want to visit, then email the homeowners to see if they want to do a swap.

At about $200 a night for a hotel room, I’m estimating we’re saving about $4,000 by exchanging homes. Continue reading

0 likes 2 responses
03/14/17 Travel # ,

A Local’s Guide to Visiting San Francisco

A Local’s Guide to Visiting San Francisco

 

Any first visit to a major metropolitan area can be fun and stressful at the same time. Visiting San Francisco, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, can be difficult for new visitors but I think it’s still a lot easier than other big cities because it’s relatively small.

I’ve lived in the Bay Area almost all of my life. I live in a suburb that’s about 30 miles east of San Francisco, and we can get to the City, as it’s sometimes called, in about 45 minutes or less by car or subway.

I’m not an expert on all that is happening in San Francisco, but there are some areas I like to regularly visit and events I like to go to every once in awhile. What follows isn’t a comprehensive guide to visiting San Francisco, but are some insider tips on getting around, what to do and what to avoid.

It doesn’t include every tourist attraction in San Francisco. Not that those aren’t worth a visit. I’ve just found the ones listed here are more interesting than driving down a crooked street.

How to get around

visiting San FranciscoTo get to San Francisco, and many places in the Bay Area, the easiest method is riding BART. The Bay Area Rapid Transit District is more costly to use than other mass transit systems, and the trains don’t run as often as they do in other cities (Europe), but the seats are comfortable and it’s a lot easier than driving.

The map at left shows how far BART goes. Taking it from San Francisco International Airport to Concord takes 1 hour and 13 minutes. That trip costs $11.30 one way for an adult and $4.20 for a youth or senior.

A roundtrip ticket from the Concord station, near where I live, to the Powell Street station in San Francisco is $11.60 roundtrip for an adult and $4.30 for a youth or senior.

Each rider must have their own ticket. If you’re going to ride BART more than once during your trip, I’d recommend putting as much money as you think you’ll need for your trips on one ticket. The fare will be deducted each time you exit a station. Otherwise, add only enough money to cover a round-trip ticket. Continue reading

0 likes no responses
05/09/16 Travel # ,

Westin Gets it Wrong on Vacation Days

Westin Gets it Wrong on Vacation Days

 

I’m a sucker for vacation photos. If a hotel chain puts up a social media post about great spots with a photo of a deserted beach, I’ll likely click on it. My life goal is to be on a perpetual vacation, and this is one way to do it.

Vacation photos and websites for hotels dot my social media accounts, and a sponsored post by Westin Hotels & Resorts in my Facebook feed last week caught my attention for its stupidity:

vacation“You Don’t Need More Vacation Days. You Need More Unforgettable Days.”

Or as Westin’s social media person wrote above a photo of a lush valley somewhere (Hawaii?):

“You don’t need more vacation days, you need better ones.” Continue reading

0 likes no responses
02/11/15 Sharing Economy , Travel # ,

Travel Like a Local and Get $10 to Start

Travel Like a Local and Get $10 to Start

 

If you’re going to travel like a local, you’ve got to save for it. It can be an expensive pleasure, and even when it isn’t too expensive because you’ve found deals, it still costs money to travel like a local.

It’s too easy getting sucked into visiting the landmark highlights of a new city. The Eiffel Tower is a must-see, but a tour by a local of the best places to photograph in Paris at night is a sidetrip that’s a little more difficult to find.

Travel like a local

After you’ve gone through the travel guide and gotten tips from your friends who have been to your travel destination before, how do you find the best activities to do there? And at a reasonable cost? Enter Vayable.com, a website I discovered while researching an earlier post I was writing for CashSmarter.

Vayable offers unique tours from locals with inside information that you might not get anywhere else.

For example, for $14 you can meet a local in Amsterdam over a beer and hear their tips for places to visit. Or for $75 you can skip the line at the Louvre in Paris and get a one-hour tour of the highlights, then stay on your own to explore it more. Continue reading

0 likes one response
Search All Articles
Welcome
Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.