Save Big on Your Next Vacation Getaway

Your Next Vacation

The long lull after New Year’s makes us all look forward to the return of sunny spring days. The dreary wintery days are the perfect opportunity to plan for your next vacation . Unfortunately, some of us are still feeling the sting of holiday spending. Here are a few easy tips that can save you a bundle on your next vacation.

Planning Your Next Vacation

The first questions you should ask yourself are about the budget and destination. How much can you spend and where do you want to go? Before I plan any trip, I discuss points of interest and other attractions with my fellow travelers. It’s important that everyone has a good time and gets the most out of their next vacation. Talk about what kinds of activities you hope to do and how you plan to get there.

Once the destination is decided, it’s time to start booking tickets. It’s wise to check prices online to ensure you get the best deals for your next getaway and know the general costs. If you buy admission tickets ahead of time, it means you will have less out-of-pocket spending. Nothing blows a budget faster than unexpected expenses.

Alternative Transportation for Your Trip

Websites like Skyscanner and TripAdvisor are my personal preference to book airfare. They allow you to compare multiple airlines, dates, and set price alerts. Sometimes, they even offer flash deals if your dates are flexible or  shop at the last minute. This means you can free-up more of your budget for entertainment. Even though these websites are excellent search engines, I usually book directly through the airline or company directly in case you need to make changes. Third-party bookings are cheaper, but cannot be altered without a ton of telephone runaround or change fees.

If first-class tickets are above your price range or you prefer to avoid airports, then you should consider alternative transportation options. Car rentals, train, and bus tickets can all be purchased online as well. The long distance coaches are surprisingly comfortable and usually provide free Wi-Fi during your trip. Overnight flights, trains and buses are also a good way to trim the fat and save money on hotels.

Deep Discount During Your Getaway

The sooner you begin planning your next vacation, the better your chances to find a good deal. The ideal time to book discounted airfare is 45-60 days before your trip. This is when the airlines compile passenger lists and adjust prices based on the remaining seats. It can be a bit of a gamble, but if luck is on your side, you can find flights for mere peanuts.

Also ask your friends or anyone you know works in the travel or hospitality industry. They can usually offer a family and friends discount based on availability. Don’t be afraid to call and ask service representatives if they offer discounts at time of booking. Most companies offer 10% discounts for auto club or loyalty memberships. You may also get discounts through your employers, so be sure to ask before you confirm reservations.

After working for years in hospitality, these were the best ways to cut corners and find the best deals for your next vacation. I would also use the ‘everywhere’ search options if you feel adventurous, because international tickets are becoming much cheaper these days. Your next vacation can be more affordable than you think. A little time and planning can save you hundreds of dollars, or allow you the vacation of your dreams.

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Your Next Vacation

Teach English Abroad to get out of Debt

Teaching Abroad to get out of Debt

Some people spend their entire lives searching for their purpose in this world.  Although I have ventured down other career paths, I always find myself back at the same conclusion. I was born to be a teacher and have an innate passion for education. However, the American education system fails to pay teachers a livable wage. Many teachers choose to teach English abroad to help them get out of debt.

The Struggle of Student Debt

Any college student can tell you that a good education does not come cheap. My scholarships and financial aid covered a large portion of my tuition. However, I was still left with a large amount of debt to settle each semester. I had no desire to take out more loans, so I worked several part-time jobs and pushed myself to graduate early.

I also had the unfortunate luck of graduating the same year as the mortgage crisis. Being a part of the so-called “unluckiest generation” meant we were plagued with the burden of student debt, high unemployment rates, and slow economic growth. I  received a few job offers after graduation, but nothing that offered much hope to get out of debt. The teaching jobs were in the worst school districts and the salaries were on par with fast food workers. There was no possible way I could afford my rent working a single job, let alone build savings.

The Teaching Path Less Traveled

I sought advice from my mentors and family, unsure which direction to go. I ultimately decided that it was not in my best interest to accept such a low paying job. Rather than working a full-time teaching job and continuing my part-time side work, I chose to enroll in a graduate program abroad. While this meant accruing more debt in my pursuit of higher learning, I was able to finish my master’s degree in only two years at a fraction of the cost. My post-graduate degree also opened a myriad of doors that led me to other opportunities I had not even considered.

In my final months, I met some foreign exchange students who planned to use their diplomas to teach English abroad. We were all disenchanted with the unfulfilled promises of a college degree. The prospect piqued my interest, but the opportunity, salaries, and benefits packages seemed too good to be true. I had no desire to return to the United States to work a minimum wage job or live in my parents basement. I returned home with a sense of cautious optimism and a burgeoning plan.

Teach English Abroad

I spent months comparing job offers in Latin America, Europe and Asia. I agonized over my decision before I realized it was time to stop dreaming and make it a reality. Ten years later, I can tell you  that it was the best financial decision I have ever made. While some postings are definitely better on paper, many ESL jobs offer competitive wages, free accommodations, flight reimbursements, and national health care.

By comparison, Asia offers the highest salaries with the lowest cost of living. This means you can maximize your savings and pay off your debts without resorting to a diet of instant noodles or a life of social hermitage. I was personally able to pay off all my credit card debts and student loans in my first year living in Taiwan, and have built a healthy nest egg that has allowed me to start planning for a more comfortable future.

Where to Start

The starting salaries for teaching English abroad differ from country to country.  Graduate degrees and certifications also secure better pay. Currently, the highest paying jobs for English teachers are in Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. The best paying teaching positions will likely take you to exotic and remote locales, but there are still decent positions in popular tourist destinations like Thailand and Vietnam. Some countries in the Middle East even offer contracts that pay up to $80,000 for only nine months of work if you are brave enough to travel there.

It was a difficult decision to teach abroad, but for me it provided the keys to my financial freedom. Many English teachers only spend a year or two before returning home to find employment, but I have chosen to make a career of teaching English overseas. I have been able to pay off all my debts, save nearly $1,000 each month,  have affordable health care and am rarely required to work more than 30 hours each week. While this may not be an ideal solution for everyone, it provided a clear path out of debt and helped me gain control of my life and finances.

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How to Plan Your Staycation

staycation

I love a good staycation. The truth is that I don’t like traveling all that much. It’s important to me to travel now and then – either to see my family or to experience new things. Nevertheless, I find travel stressful. I don’t find it relaxing. I’m one of those people who come home from a vacation feeling like I need a vacation. That’s why I always try to wrap up any trip with a few staycation days before I return to my regular life.

What is a Staycation?

A staycation is exactly what it sounds like – a completely relaxing, rejuvenating, energizing vacation that you take in your own home. You might take a staycation because you need a break but don’t really enjoy traveling. Or perhaps your travel options are limited due to cost or other limitation. Whatever the reason, a staycation gives you the benefits of a vacation without having to leave your own home or hometown.

Figure Out Where You Will Stay

I love my home. I’m always happy to take my staycation right in my own home. I save money. I enjoy the peace of my own place. All of my craft supplies and books are right there with me. I don’t have to pack a thing.

That said, it’s also possible to take a staycation in someone else’s home. This gives you the chance to enjoy your own city in a new way. Some options for that type of staycation include:

  • Petsitting or housesitting for someone in your city who is going on vacation
  • Swapping houses with a friend who lives in a different neighborhood
  • Renting an AirBnB, possibly even in a shared house to get to know someone new
  • Staying in a local hotel or even hostel to get that vacation experience
  • Camping in your own backyard

Plan Your Staycation Itinerary

When you go on vacation, you probably have a plan for what you would like to do each day. You should plan similarly for your staycation. If you’re the type of traveler who likes to book just one or two things and leave the rest of the day open, then do the same with your staycation. On the other hand, if you love taking tours and seeing all of the sights, then use your staycation as a chance to stay busy learning new things about the place where you live.

When I plan my staycation, it typically involves a combination of structured time and free time. I might make a list of things I want to visit (museums, theaters, walking tours, and art galleries are my favorites). I also brainstorm a list of things I want to enjoy at home (books, art projects, lounging with the dog). Personally I find it helpful to make these lists to remind myself of what I want to do so I don’t get stuck in the habit of doing chores and errands. This is a vacation after all.

Make A List of Rules

In keeping with that vacation mode, I also make myself a list of rules to remind myself of the things that I don’t want to do on my staycation. My list usually includes:

  • Don’t overbook myself.
  • It’s okay to watch TV but not all day.
  • Set an email vacation responder and don’t ever check email.
  • Likewise, stay off of social media.
  • Do all chores before the staycation and none while I’m on my break.
  • Try at least one new thing each day.

Everyone’s needs are different therefore everyone’s staycation will be unique. As long as you think it through, it can be one of the best vacations you’ll ever take.

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