April is Financial Literacy month! A great reminder to check out all the informative resources available through your local library, credit union, or good old Google on ways to clean up your financial house and start on a path towards financial literacy. If you're on this blog, you're already ahead of the pack! At Financial Fives, we take financial literacy very seriously, as it allows the leveling of the playing field and opportunities for all. Whether it's learning how to negotiate your salary or the price of a used car, financial literacy equips you with the basic knowledge to succeed in today's world. What's a big part of financial literacy? Learning how to save money of course! Now that the CDC says people who are vaccinated are ok to travel, and the weather beckons cooped up people from their homes, travel is revving back up to high gear. For me, I recall a memorable trip to underrated Pittsburgh PA, and I have to say I am seriously considering moving there. Three rivers hug a vibrant downtown with impressive bridges crossing them, and picturesque nature in all the right places. There are a few things I learned on this trip that may help you save money on your next adventure. Many young adults are traveling to check out new places to settle down now that they can work remotely, interview for a job or maybe just take in new experiences. Here are ways to accomplish that and feel good about your bank account when you return.
1) Join a Hotel Rewards Program: Sure, you could jump on Airbnb or shack up in a hostel, and these are excellent options. However, if the idea gives you jitters and you want a clean, secure place to grab some Z’s, joining a rewards program from Hyatt, Marriott or another chain will make you appear more loyal in the hotel’s eye. Hotels are really trying to cash in after the most difficult year of travel in 2020. In addition to getting points toward a stay, you can score free breakfast, free parking, free wi-fi, and preferential room choices. I've even been to hotels where they lend you a bike to get around town, have a free shuttle to help you avoid paying for parking in urban areas and have a generous happy hour (free food? why yes thank you). It’s also easier to bring up concerns about your stay which may translate into more free stays.
2) Consider the Train: This is a good option if you are not in a time crunch. What I’ve found is that if you take the train (Amtrak), you usually arrive at your final destination in the morning and can sleep in the seats overnight. They’re actually quite comfortable. The train is the way to go, especially if you want to hit up multiple cities on a route. Amtrak also offers sales throughout the year, and discounts through membership organizations like AAA. Plus, unlike airports, the stations are usually in city centers, so you don’t have to pay for a shuttle or taxi to get somewhere. Bonus, no checked bag fee, you bring all the food you want and don't forget your tent!
3) Fly if You’re by Yourself; Drive with Friends: Just do the math. It usually works out in your favor to split the gas a few ways when driving. Be sure to add tolls, parking, and food. If you’re flying by yourself, try to fly on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday for cheaper fares. Again, it depends on what kind of trip you are looking for. If you just want to spend a long weekend in Seattle, don’t feel obligated to drive to save money. You may have to take more time off, and if you feel tired after all that money, you might need another vacation, anyway. On the other hand, if you want to see many places along a route, such as when driving from Boston to Washington D.C., then it may make sense to drive. The other reason to drive is if you are not just hanging out in a city, but driving to state or national parks, beaches, or mountain towns, where long distances and little-to-nonexistent public transportation can hamper your ability to move around. If rental car prices are insane like they are these days, try an app like Turo or check into discount programs through Costco.
4) Don’t Be Scared of Public Transportation: When I went to Chicago, Vancouver, Phoenix, and a few other places, I found taking the light rail or express bus was much cheaper. Rather than paying $60 or $70 for a taxi (or a little less for Uber/Lyft), I spent around $2-$7. Plus, you get to explore some points of interest along the way and get a feel for the locals there. Strike up a conversation! Most people are happy to share places you should check out, overrated attractions, tips, or insider tricks to getting tickets/reservations to a sold-out event. They'll even tell you about neighborhoods to avoid. I’ve also found public transit to be more enjoyable, as you can spend your ride planning your next outing or just looking out the window to get a feel for the city. No need to find/pay for parking, either. Also, buy a pass on your arrival/departure dates, as you can usually get free transfers throughout the town and then to the airport/train station. And if you're worried about social distancing on transit, know that public transit is actually pretty safe, given the mask and sanitation guidelines they follow.
5) Actually Visit the Visitor’s Center: I get that you don’t want to look like the fanny-pack flaunting tourist. But the staff there are usually really helpful in terms of helping you find the top places to see and the best times for festivals, events, etc. You can also find discounts and freebies for restaurants, activities, and nightlife. They have tons of useful information, free souvenirs, and tricks for saving money and beating crowds. In addition, you can also get a solid opinion on a place you wanted to check out which perhaps you found on TripAdvisor.com to see if it’s really worth it or if there is a cheaper attraction to better suit your needs. Think of the visitor center staff as your travel concierge. They are really helpful!