Money-Saving Tips so You Can #TravelMore

Are you ready to travel more in 2021? A lot of people certainly are after a year of limited travel opportunities. This means that this summer and fall are gearing up to be a very busy travel season! If you’re ready to jump on the bandwagon and make up for lost trips this year, you’re going to need a little cash on hand to do it. Read on for some tips to boost your wallet so you’ll be ready for travel season!

Save that Stimulus Check

The new stimulus bill passed recently, which means many Americans are getting $1,400 or more from the government. Of course, if you need that money for bills, that should come first. But if you’re getting by ok, consider sticking that money into a savings account dedicated for future travel.

You might even want to consider opening a new or separate savings account that’s dedicated only to your travel fund. A lot of banks offer deals where you’ll get some extra money if you open a new account. Do your research and see if you can find a savings account with a high-interest rate, too, and it will make some extra dollars for you before your trip.

Enroll in an Automatic Savings Program

Putting a big chunk of money away, like a stimulus check, can be a no-brainer. But saving small amounts consistently over time can be a lot harder for people to remember to do. If you’re not used to saving frequently, the good news is there are a lot of apps and programs that can do it for you.

Here are a few examples:

·         Bank of America has a Keep The Change program where all your debit card purchases are rounded up to the nearest whole dollar, and the change is automatically transferred into your savings account.

·         Chime Bank also rounds up to set aside change into a savings account, and then also gives you a 10% reward based on what you save from that program.

·         Acorns is a savings app that puts your extra cash into a diversified portfolio. Investing isn’t always great for short-term gains, but it could be useful for a big trip down the road.

Pick Up a Side Job

If you’re serious about getting extra cash together to fund your travels, the best way to do it is to generate more income. The gig economy is growing, especially due to the pandemic, and more and more people are making a living through odd jobs online or through apps. This means that you have lots of options to make a little cash. Here are some examples:

·         Driving: If you have a car and like driving, consider becoming an Uber or Lyft driver or a delivery driver for a service like Grubhub.

·         Virtual Assistance: If you have basic computer skills like typing, spreadsheets, or social media, you can score a Virtual Assistant job on freelancer platforms like Upwork.

·         Transcription: If you’re a really fast and accurate typist, lots of companies need videos and interviews transcribed.

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#DoYouTravel – Best Domestic Destinations for a Spring Break Trip

Have you traveled much recently? Chances are you haven’t due to the pandemic. But as Spring rolls forward, more vaccines are getting into arms and we’re getting closer to returning to normal life. While the pandemic is far from over, it’s a great time to consider taking a spring break trip! Many typical destinations are off at the moment due to travel restrictions, so we’ve rounded up some of the best places to visit in the United States for your spring break trip.

Washington, D.C.

If the phrase “spring break” conjures up images of party-goers on the beach, a city filled with monuments and government buildings might not be your first thought. But Washington, D.C. is a lovely place to spend spring break, even if you don’t want to spend all your time perusing the fantastic historical and cultural offerings around the National Mall

Spring in D.C. is the time of the famous blooming cherry blossoms – and the cherry blossom festival is back this year! In fact, it’s ongoing now and peak bloom is anticipated to occur between April 2nd and April 5th. Read more here about how to enjoy the blooms and what’s happening during the festival!

Honolulu

If you’re looking for a more traditionally tropical locale for your spring break, but are nervous about navigating the regulations that come with international travel right now, your answer is a trip to Hawaii! All you’ll need to do is to get a negative state-approved COVID test within 72 hours of your last flight into Hawaii. Then you can travel freely and avoid a quarantine period upon arrival.

There are still regulations at the moment surrounding inter-island travel, so your best bet is to fly into Honolulu and stick to Oahu. You’ll still have a fantastic time though, as that island offers everything you could want on a spring break trip. Here are some ideas:

·         Waikiki: If you’re looking for a luxurious vacation where you spend your days lounging on the beach or shopping and your evenings dining, this neighborhood is your best bet.

·         Pearl Harbor: If you want to get a good dose of history and culture during your trip, head to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. The complex is packed with multiple museums, and you could easily spend a full day there.

·         Haleiwa: If a more casual and laid-back style is what you’re after, take a day trip to the other side of the island. Haleiwa is a small surf town packed with food trucks, gift shops, and beaches. While you’re there, make sure you get some shave ice!

San Francisco

San Francisco is a perfect place to start any spring break trip, whether you like bustling city activities or getting back to nature. If you’re coming for the latter, San Francisco is the gateway to some beautiful natural areas:

·         Redwood Forests: This area is a hiker’s paradise! Take a day trip to Muir Woods, or travel a bit further afoot to Redwood National and State Parks.

·         Wine Country: If you’re looking for a more sophisticated spring break trip, Napa Valley is the perfect place to have a laid-back, adult vacation.

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Activities to Try This Spring for the #AdventureSeeker

Calling all Adventure Seekers! The weather is warming up, which means lots more outdoor activities are possible once again. If you’re feeling some spring fever and are itching to have a little adventure, you can do that this spring without even hopping on a plane! Here are some great activities you can try this Spring that will make you feel like you’ve had an adventure.

White Water Rafting

Spring is actually the best time to go white water rafting, for several reasons. For one thing, you’ll be in for a much more thrilling activity because melting snow runoff makes rivers higher and faster. You’ll also benefit from smaller crowds because a lot of people are less active during cooler, shoulder-season months. And finally, if you’re into spotting wildlife, they’ll be more active in the springtime as they come out of hibernation.

If you’re heading out for your very first white water rafting trip, make sure you book a licensed, professional outfitter and you listen to your guide at all times. Like any adrenaline-inducing activity, it can be dangerous, so you’ll want to pay attention to all safety tips and keep your life jacket and helmet on during the activity.

If you don’t have any great rafting rivers near you and you’re feeling inspired to book a spring rafting trip, check out some of these ideas.

Skydiving

For many, skydiving is the ultimate thrill-seeking adventure. And the good news is, you can go skydiving pretty much anywhere without having to travel too far from home. So, if it’s on your bucket list, how about making this Spring the time you finally make the leap?

Summer is typically the most popular time to go because of warm temperatures and school breaks, but there are a lot of pros to taking your adventure in the spring. One, of course, is that it will be less crowded which means it will be easier to book and you won’t have to wait in long lines to board the aircraft. The unofficial start of skydiving season was the second Saturday in March, so what are you waiting for?

Bungee Jumping

If skydiving seems like too big of a leap right now, a great entry-level activity for burgeoning adventure seekers to try is bungee jumping. There are a lot of great reasons to try bungee jumping, including that it will help you overcome your fears and build confidence, can strengthen muscles, and can help reduce stress and anxiety.

To get started, find an accredited/licensed place to go where you’ll be sure that the instructors are knowledgeable and the safety equipment is up to date. Feel free to arrive early to watch other people jump before you if this will put your mind more at ease! But the biggest piece of advice we have for you is don’t overthink it! Trust the instructors and give it a try and chances are, you’ll be hooked.

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#RoamThePlanet -Destinations Abroad Where Americans can Currently Travel

Are you ready to take a vacation abroad? While much of the world remains shuttered to Americans during the pandemic, there are still plenty of places Americans can travel. And more are opening up all the time! Here’s a guide – broken down by region – with some countries that are currently allowing Americans to help inspire your next trip! Keep in mind, many countries with high infection rates are allowing visitors, but we’re only listing countries ranked by the CDC as Level 2: Moderate Risk and below.

Central American & The Caribbean

·         Grenada: You’re allowed to enter the country with a negative COVID test, but you must then quarantine in a government-approved hotel for four days before taking another test.

·         Bermuda: You’ll need to complete a travel authorization process online ahead of time (for a $75 fee) and obtain negative test results no more than 5 days before arrival.

South America

Most of this region is open to Americans, either completely or with restrictions. However, this comes with a caveat. Most countries are also considered high risk by the CDC, as places like Brazil are in crisis with surging COVID situations. Therefore, we recommend reconsidering travel to South America at this time.

Europe

A lot of Europe is still closed off, and the few countries currently open to Americans are considered high risk. Hope is on the horizon though:

·         Iceland: Beginning April 6th, Americans who can show proof of full vaccination can visit the country.

Africa

·         Uganda: Tourists are allowed to visit without quarantine as long as they provide results of a negative COVID test taken within 120 hours before their flight.

·         Sierra Leone: You’ll need authorization before arrival, but US citizens are allowed to travel without quarantine with a negative PCR or serology test taken within 72 hours of travel.

·         Rwanda: You’ll need to upload negative PCR test results to an online contact tracing site and then quarantine for one week upon arrival.

The Middle East

While several countries in this region are open to Americans, they’re also considered high risk by the CDC. Therefore, we recommend reconsidering travel to The Middle East at this time.

Asia

There are several low-risk countries in Asia where Americans are allowed to enter. You’ll want to have lots of time set aside for your trip, though, as many require a 14-day quarantine period for all foreign arrivals.

·         South Korea: You’ll need a negative PCR test within 72 hours before arrival, followed by quarantining for 14 days upon arrival, even if you’re fully vaccinated.

·         Thailand: To enter, you need a negative PCR or serology test. Travelers then must quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.

·         Cambodia: You can enter with a valid visa and negative PCR or serology test. You’ll have to get a second test on the 13th day of a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

Oceania

While much of Oceania is currently low-risk, countries there are trying to keep it that way by maintaining strict border controls. The area largely remains off-limits to American tourists.

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5 Jobs You Can Do from Anywhere So You Can #WorkandTravel

For the past several years, the economy has been shifting to include more gig-based work, which allows people the freedom to set their own schedules. And with the pandemic last year forcing many people to work from home, a lot of these jobs have gone virtual, too.

If you’re looking to travel more but also need to support yourself, consider becoming a Digital Nomad. This term refers to people who do remote jobs abroad to fund their travels. Whether you want to rent a room with an ocean view in Bali and work from your hotel for a few months or do gig jobs in between legs of your trip backpacking through Europe, there’s an option for you! Here are five jobs to pursue.

Teaching English

Teaching English has long been a top choice for folks looking to live and work abroad. But the great news is, now there are lots of opportunities to teach English online, from anywhere! While you’ll likely need to do a little legwork ahead of time to get qualified for a job, there’s a ton of demand for English teachers right now, so you’re sure to find work. A few companies to look into are VIPKid, Skooli, or DaDa. Most just require a bachelor’s degree, but you can earn more if you have additional qualifications.

Virtual Assistance

If you have basic computer skills you can score a Virtual Assistant job on freelancer platforms like Upwork. Duties vary, but common ones include setting appointments, writing emails, social media management, data entry, and basic research. For most, the only equipment you’ll need is a computer with an internet connection. A great spot to find these types of jobs is the freelancer platform Upwork.

Transcription

If you’re a really fast and accurate typist, look into getting a job in transcription. Lots of companies need videos and interviews transcribed. Usually, you’ll need to study up a bit ahead of time to learn their preferred style guide and formatting for the transcription, and it’s recommended that you invest in a foot pedal so that you can transcribe efficiently. A few companies that always need transcribers are Rev (they also offer captioning jobs) and GoTranscript.

Copywriting

There is a huge need for copywriting in the world! From basic web content to emails to tailored advertisements, companies require written content. Even if you’re not a polished writer, you can start small and teach yourself the skills you need. There are plenty of these jobs available on the aforementioned Upwork, and you can also find plenty on We Work Remotely.

Tutoring

Similar to teaching English, there is a huge demand for tutoring – especially as the pandemic has caused a tumultuous school year across the board, and many students need a little extra help. What’s great about tutoring is you can find a niche for almost any skill you have, like math, reading, foreign language, or SAT prep. A few companies that offer online tutoring jobs are InGenius Prep, Magoosh, and Pearson.

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#Travelpreneur – What it’s Really Like to Be a Travel Blogger

Hungry to see the world and want to get paid to do it? You might be thinking about becoming a travel blogger. The lifestyle seems glamourous, freeing, and exciting – after all, a travel blogger’s job is to travel around the world and to have amazing experiences. But, there’s a lot more to it than the curated snapshots you see on bloggers’ Instagram feeds. If you’re thinking about becoming a #travelpreneur by blogging, here are some potential downsides to consider:

You’re Your Own Boss

Being your own boss is what sells this lifestyle to a lot of people. After all, if you’re sick of being trapped in a cubicle, making your own schedule and your own rules sounds incredibly attractive. But keep in mind that this means you’re also responsible for everything. When you’re your own boss, there’s no guarantee of a paycheck. It takes discipline and hustle to make the business side of your blog work. Additionally, since you’re venturing out on your own into entrepreneurship, you’ll have to figure things out by yourself without a boss or mentor helping to guide you.

You Can’t Hide from Chores

You know all those pesky parts of real life – laundry, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, getting enough exercise? They don’t go away just because you’re traveling. And when you’re traveling for a living and constantly in a new place, those chores become much more difficult. Of course, all these things are still possible no matter where you are, but it will take extra time to figure out where and how to do them in each new location. And you might run into roadblocks trying to do life management tasks that require consistency – such as being a registered voter or having the same doctor give you prescription refills – unless you have a home base you can return to a few times a year.

It’s a Lot of Work

Of course, every job is a lot of work so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. But if you’re focusing on the traveling side of being a travel blogger, make sure you’ll enjoy the blogging side, too. It will require lots of time taking and editing photos, writing engaging content, researching important links to include, promoting your blog on social media, maintaining a following of people interested in your content, and then finding a way to monetize all that. When you’re first starting out, you’ll probably find yourself working more hours than you were at your desk job to get your business off the ground.

Is Travel Blogging for You?

None of this is meant to scare you away from trying to become a #travelpreneur by starting a blog, but rather to make sure you consider some of the less-than-glamorous sides of the life before you take the plunge. Travel blogging can be an incredibly rewarding field and there is a huge community of digital nomads out there you can network with on your journey. Bon voyage!

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#HotelLife – How to Make the Most of an Extended Hotel Stay

While the COVID-19 pandemic has stopped most spur-of-the-moment vacations and long weekends away, it’s generated a new kind of travel – long trips. This means that this past year, a lot of people have found themselves in a new situation: staying in a hotel for weeks or even months. 

There are many kinds of travelers in this situation. Some are nurses who have been sent to a hard-hit area to help treat patients, others have just arrived in a new place and need to quarantine for two weeks before leaving the hotel, and still others lost their desk job and decided to go work remotely in a nice location. And if this describes you, you probably want to know how to feel at home in your hotel during your long stay. Here are some ideas.

Choose Wisely

If you’re able to choose your hotel (i.e., you don’t have to stay in a government-mandated quarantine hotel) you’ll want to think carefully about your needs before you book. The kinds of amenities you looked for in a hotel in past years might not be the ones you need for this situation.

  • Remote Workers: If you’re planning to spend your time at the hotel working on your laptop, you’ll of course need to make sure the room comes with Wi-Fi and a comfortable desk. You should also try to stay in a place where you can work in other locations (i.e., next to the pool, in a nearby coffee shop) for when you inevitably need a change of scenery.
  • Travel Nurses: If you’re coming to work at a hospital, you’ll probably be exhausted in your off-hours at the hotel. Find a place with a pool, gym, or sauna so that you can keep yourself healthy and relaxed. Also, look for laundry service and room service for when you need convenience.
  • Quarantine: If you’re going to spend 14 days straight in your hotel room, you’re going to need more than a comfortable bed and a TV to keep yourself sane. Try to get a spacious room (especially a suite) so that you can move around and do home workouts. It’s also important to look for rooms that come with private balconies so that you can get a little fresh air and sunshine without breaking quarantine.

Make it Feel Like Home

Living out of a suitcase and staring at boring hotel art is hard. To keep your stay cheerful, put in a little extra effort at the beginning to add a few decorative and organizational touches to make your space feel more like home. These can include:

  • Bring some things that make you feel at home. This could include your pillow, your favorite coffee mug, or a scented candle.
  • Bring a few organizational items. If you’re going to be in the room awhile, you’ll want to keep it clutter-free, which items like power strips, jewelry trays, pencil cups, and the like can really help with.
  • Decorate! It’s as easy as throwing a colorful scarf over the dresser and draping a few string lights around the windows. No command strips needed!

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#ResponsibleTravel – How to Choose a Trip Location Responsibly

If you’re trying to figure out how to travel responsibly in the near future, you’re not alone. There’s currently a lot of buzz that this summer is shaping up to see a huge tourism boom. Given that most people have spent the past year abstaining from travel, there’s little wonder why. 

But of course, the pandemic is still ongoing across the world, so we can’t yet travel as we used to. If you’re planning an upcoming trip (and you should while prices are still low!) it’s important to practice responsible travel. A huge element of that right now is choosing your trip location wisely.

Domestic Travel

If possible, it’s best to stick to domestic trips right now. The main reason is that it will be easier for you! Many countries with low rates of COVID-19 shut down their borders to stop the spread of disease and still have tight entry restrictions. You’ll also be helping to stop the spread by traveling a bit closer to home.

Many states do not have restrictions or only require a negative COVID test. Here are some examples:

  • Hawaii: You can easily go on a tropical vacation as long as you get a negative PCR test at a Hawaii-approved testing partner 72-hours before your trip and upload it to the state’s travel portal.
  • New York City: If you want a trip to the big city, New York is no longer requiring domestic travelers to quarantine upon arrival.

Of course, no matter what the state’s requirements, the most responsible thing to do is to get tested both before and after travel. Think of it as an excuse to kick back and relax in your hotel room for the first couple days of your trip!

International Travel

If you have your heart set on adding a stamp or two to your passport, don’t fear – there are currently more than 50 countries where Americans can travel. 

However, you should know that a lot of the countries that are currently open without restriction also have extremely high rates of infection and are generally considered risky for travel by the CDC. Even if you’re not worried about getting sick yourself, to travel responsibly, you must consider the very real possibility that you could get someone sick upon your return to the United States. Additionally, you should keep in mind that many of these countries are underdeveloped and you have privileges that many of their citizens do not have. Ask yourself whether it is fair to locals for you to potentially further strain their country’s health infrastructure so that you can take a vacation.Instead, we recommend you choose your country responsibly by picking a destination that’s ranked less risky by the CDC.  You can use this CDC webpage to find destinations that are ranked either Level 2: Moderate or Level 1: Low and then cross-examine those destinations with this handy, searchable guide to entry requirements. Hint: You’ll have the best luck finding low-risk countries that allow American tourists in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

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One Day Getaways from Houston for #TravelTuesday

Have a work trip to Houston coming up and you’re looking for an awesome way to spend your day off? Or maybe you live in Houston, had to cancel your vacation away this year due to COVID, and are looking for someplace closer to home to go to scratch that travel itch. Either way, if you want some great getaways near Houston, read on for ideas!

Space Center and Boardwalk

Houston, we have a problem! But not if you visit these family-friendly destinations for a perfect Travel Tuesday with kids. Start your day just half an hour from the city center at Space Center Houston, where kids can learn a ton about space and space exploration or marvel at the largest collection of space suits and moon rocks on public display! You can also take a peek at the NASA Johnson Space Center next door where mission control is located.

From there, drive 20 minutes east to the water and you’ll find yourself at Kemah Boardwalk. Grab lunch the kids will love from options like chicken and fries to pizza to burgers and follow it up with a funnel cake or ice cream. Then let the kids have fun with activities like rides and midway games.

Galveston Island

Perhaps the Houston area’s most famous vacation spot, there’s so much to do on Galveston Island that this getaway is perfect if you have a full weekend to fill. But at only an hour’s drive south of the city, it still works quite well as a day trip!

This barrier island of the Gulf of Mexico has a robust tourism industry, which means you’ll find something to do no matter what you like. You can visit an eclectic variety of restaurants and nightlife, gorgeous beaches and fun boardwalks, and cute shopping districts. If you like history, you’ll be able to enjoy Victorian architecture and an assortment of unique museums. And for the outdoorsy folks, there are boat rides, fishing, birdwatching, kayaking, surfing, and more!

National Wildlife Refuge

A day trip to the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, located just an hour west of the city, is perfect for outdoor lovers. Birders will have fun trying to spot unique grassland birds like Attwater’s prairie-chickens, sandhill cranes, Sprague’s pipits, dickcissels, scissor-tailed flycatchers, and black-bellied whistling ducks that all make their home on this federally protected land! Even if you’re not a birder, you’ll find plenty to do here at one of the largest remaining stretches of coastal prairie habitat in the United States. There is an assortment of hiking and nature trails where you can learn more about the native flora and fauna and you’re sure to see wildflowers and butterflies on your walk.

After the wildlife refuge, make a pit-stop on your way back to Houston at Blessington Farms. They have pick-your-own berries and animal encounters, including feeding Quaker Parrots in their aviary and hands-on encounters with chickens, lambs, and goats. Plus, there are a ton of other exciting activities for kids in case you’re bringing the family.

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#TravelPhotography Tips in the Age of COVID-19

We all know travel is much trickier in the middle of a pandemic. But one aspect of your trip that you may not think about being a challenge is taking awesome pictures! Here are a few ways that travel photography is looking a bit different at the moment, and our tips for getting the best photos you can.

To Mask or Not to Mask

Generally, of course, the answer is to wear your mask! Masks are incredibly effective at stopping the spread of germs, and any time you’re in public and might come within six feet of other people, you need to be wearing one. This especially goes for group pictures, since while you’re posing with your friends, you’ll be very close to each other.

Of course, no one wants to look back at their vacation photos and see their beautiful smile blocked by a mask, but remember that we’re currently living through a major historical moment and you might actually like to look back on the pictures someday and be reminded of this very unique time. That being said, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Have fun with your mask and find one with an image of a fun pair of red lips, a catchy quote, or anything that will make you happy.

There is one exception to this rule -if you’re somewhere outdoors and not encountering many other people, such as on a large beach or a hiking trail, it’s absolutely ok to take your mask off for a picture. Some tips to combat what it does to your face? Bring oil-absorbing wipes to get rid of that mask sweat and a little bit of make-up so you can touch up after your mask messes it all up.

Getting the Perfect Shot

Before COVID, we were all very familiar with the situation of being at a crowded tourist location and having to get very close to other people to snap the iconic photo that everyone there is trying to get. You’re going to need to recognize that this isn’t wise at the moment, so leave yourself some extra time at photogenic destinations so that you’ll be able to wait for any crowds to clear to get the pictures you want.

Another challenge that some people are having while taking photos with their mask on is that it fogs up their camera’s viewfinder! This can be very frustrating because it makes it impossible to see if you have the image framed the way that you want it. A few tips to combat this phenomenon are:

·        Make sure your mask is tightly fitted around the bridge of your nose. Camera viewfinders and glasses lenses fog up when a gap between your mask and your face sends your warm breath straight up to the glass.

·        Bring a microfiber cloth that you can use to wipe the water vapor off your viewfinder. This can do double duty if you ever need to clean off your camera lens, too!

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