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Looking To Save Money On Books? Read And Return Them At The Airport

By Kaeli Conforti
January 27, 2022
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Courtesy <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/brairwabbit/2511930128/" target="_blank">BrairWabbit/Flickr</a>

Great news for book lovers: The Read and Return program at most U.S. airports lets you buy a book, return it at another store location, and get half your money back.

The service has been around since 2003, and is offered in any one of the 500–plus Paradies Shops, located in over 70 airports around the U.S. and in Canada. According to their website, books that are brought back in good condition will be resold at half–price, and if for some reason the returned book is not able to be resold, it will be donated to a local charity instead.

Just imagine the possibilities. You could buy a book in New York's JFK airport and return it for a half–price refund in Los Angeles. You could then pick up another for the return flight and do the same in your home airport or any other place you fly within six months. Sounds like a sweet deal to me, especially considering the price of a brand new book nowadays. (Sticker shock, anyone?)

What do you think about this program? Does it sound like a good idea to you? Have you used it before? Share your thoughts below.

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Travel Tips

7 Rules for Savvy Travel (Even if You’re on a Tight Budget)

By Douwe Osinga, CEO of travel app, Triposo It's easy to get wrapped up in doing all the touristy things and forget to seek out more interesting and off-the-beaten-path cultural experiences, like concerts, street festivals, and native dishes. Having been to more than 50 countries so far, I've developed seven rules that I think can help make traveling more enjoyable and rewarding, even if you're on a very tight budget. Sleep where you want to beOnce, I traveled to Lisbon for the weekend (something you can do when you already live in Europe, lucky me!). When I booked the flight, there was an offer for a luxury hotel for a relatively cheap price, so I booked it. Bad move. Sure, the hotel was upscale and beautiful, but it was also in the business district, which means that the area was totally dead on the weekend and miles away from the historic town. In terms of enjoying the city, any single-star hotel right downtown would have been much better. The lesson? You want to sleep comfortably, of course, but beyond that, sleeping is sleeping. It's much more important to be close to what you came for. Smile, mime, and try to say a few wordsSometimes people get very nervous about traveling to countries where they don't speak the language. Once, I traveled from Mexico to Venezuela knowing maybe 50 words of Spanish total (though I did pick up a few more by the end of the trip). Even with my low level of Spanish, it wasn't all that hard to get around. In many places we traveled to, English was scarce, but people appreciated that we tried to use the local language. Apart from that, miming and smiling usually works wonders, so don't be afraid to look a little silly. When I am confronted with somebody with whom I don't share any language, I usually talk to them in Dutch (my native language). Slowly and with lots of hand movements, I can usually get my point across. (If all else fails, check out the phrasebooks in our Triposo mobile app!) Learn when to listen—and when to ignore—local adviceI was in Namibia and wanted to cross to Zimbabwe through the Caprivi Strip. The bus was canceled, and the local travel agent said there were no more buses for the rest of the night. We asked what our chances for hitchhiking looked like, and they told us to ask the men who worked at the gas station down the street. As it turned out, they had their own (mini) bus system with continuous departures to Zimbabwe. We had an excellent trip and got to see a completely different side of Namibia. The lesson? The locals are, of course, a great source of first-hand information when traveling. However, they have their own prejudices and perspectives, so while their input is important, it's not the end of the discussion. If you don't like the answer you get from one person, go ask another! Sometimes you need to talk to a few different people before you get the whole story. Know when to trade time for moneyAnother time, I booked a trip with some friends on a boat traveling from Java to Sumatra. Once aboard, I discovered that my tickets placed us in third class. That meant an overcrowded iron compartment 10 meters below sea level. On top of that, the trip would apparently take 72 hours. My friends and I considered the situation for ten minutes, then grabbed our bags and bolted for the airport. That night, while sitting on our porch overlooking a tropical river, sipping a cold beer with orangutans howling in the background, we thought about how we would still be traveling for another 60 hours had we taken the boat... Yikes! Travel in third world countries can be very cheap, and that's great. It means you can see and do things you might not be able to do elsewhere. But sometimes you have to snap out of the cheapskate mindset and realize that you can buy a lot of time with a little more money and that is often 100 percent worth it. Readjust your appetite for riskGetting around in Kenya's matatu buses are undoubtedly much more dangerous than the subway in Berlin or New York. In fact, it's safe to say that the matatus would be outlawed as death-traps in many places around the world. So why would you take them when visiting Kenya? Well, if you use the same risk calculations when traveling as you do at home, you won't be able to go very far, and your visit probably won't be worthwhile. In my mind, since you're only taking these risks for a limited amount of time, it's fine. Higher risks for a limited amount of time in return for extraordinary experiences is a good trade-off in my opinion. Check the weather reportWhile in Morocco, I decided to take an excursion to the sand dunes of the Sahara. It hadn't rained there in ten years. Guess what? That day, it poured! While it's true that most places travelers visit have more stable weather than Europe or the U.S., nothing is ever certain. Most places are nicer with sun and if you leave your schedule open, you can always hop on a plane or a train to where the sun is shining. Use your smartphone to check the weather and don't be  afraid to be spontaneous if it will result in a better trip. Don't go cheap on food all of the time If you're traveling on a budget, meals are often a great place to save some dough. Years ago, I was traveling with my brother (and now business partner) in Syria on a tight budget. Falafel three times a day is indeed a cheap way to fill your stomach, but it gets old fast. Only much later did I discover that I had missed out on the best parts of Syrian cuisine by being too cheap to eat in a nice restaurant. So my advice is to always take one night and splurge on the best food you can find. The memories will be well worth it, and your taste buds will thank you.

Travel Tips

4 Scams To Watch Out For In Paris

I just got back from an amazing trip to London and Paris with Contiki, a tour company that specializes in tour packages for 18-to-35-year-olds, where I spent nine days touring the sights and attractions both cities are known for—my London &amp; Paris, plus Paris Extension tour included guided day-trips to Stonehenge, Bath, and Versailles, as well as group visits to the Eiffel Tower at night, a show in London's West End (ours was to Mamma Mia!), and an optional trip to see the Moulin Rouge dinner show that I couldn't resist. Needless to say, I was able to get a great sense of both places before the two-day extension portion of my trip started in Paris—Contiki's plan allowed for a great mix of time spent with the group, time in smaller groups, and plenty of solo travel time during the last two days, which I used to explore the city on foot, armed with my camera and a few French phrases, soaking up every moment  and appreciating the beauty around me. For a look at my journey through London and Paris, please follow our brand new Instagram page, mybudgettravel. A special thank you to everyone who shared their favorite places to visit (and eat!) in London and Paris in the comments section of this story. I loved reading through these and testing them out, and if you're in the process of planning a trip to either city, I suggest you do the same! Paris, like any other city, is no stranger to petty theft and we've covered this before in this story about how to visit Paris without getting your pocket picked. On our first night in Paris, our knowledgeable Tour Manager took us aside and told all of us to watch out for these three popular scams practiced throughout the City of Light (the last is a variation of one of the big three) in case we should encounter them during our trip. Armed with this knowledge, I was able to meet each of them head-on as a level-headed traveler, rather than ill-informed tourist, and escape each of them without a fuss. Please don't let this affect your doey-eyed, romantic view of Paris (I didn't!), just think of it as something to be aware of, you know, just in case. Please Sign My Petition for a Super-Worthwhile Cause!This scam is really banking on you being a nice person who wants to help change the world...and a silly tourist who can't understand French writing. I was standing on the "Love Bridge" at Pont de l'Archeveche, looking for a spot to attach my lock when a young girl approached me with big, sad eyes, said nothing, and shoved a clipboard in my face that said, "Won't you help the blind and the deaf?" There were a few signatures to indicate that this was a petition, but the rest was all in French, and as our Tour Manager informed us, most likely said something along the lines of, "If you sign this, you have to give me 500 euros or else." Recognizing the scam for what it was, I simply said, "No, sorry, no," until she took the hint and moved onto the next person. Watch out for this one around any major city sight, and never sign anything while you're away from home just to be on the safe side. The String TrickThis particular scam is most commonly practiced throughout the Montmartre area and our group ran into it on our way from the Metro to the giant staircase (described below) that leads to the Sacre Coeur, a popular stomping ground for tourists. Honestly, this is the one I really want you to watch out for—the other scams are all based on distractions and tourists not knowing any better, but this one could actually get ugly if you're not paying attention. What happens is someone will approach you on the street with a piece of string, yarn, or other crafty-looking item and ask if you want them to make you a "Friendship bracelet" or "Friendship Ring." Whatever you do, just say no and keep walking. Trust me. Our Tour Manager explained how if you agree, the person will slide the string over your finger (or wrist) and tie it so tight that it's impossible to escape from. This person (and possibly a few of his or her larger friends) will then lead you over to the nearest ATM, only setting you free from the trap after you've emptied the contents of your bank account. A group of hopefuls approached us as we walked, but we knew it was coming, so were able to say, "No" and keep walking away, no harm done. We did, however, spot a woman on the other side of the street having a bracelet made, so it was a rude awakening that this actually does happen. Just say no thanks, and keep going. The Ring TrickDeeply based in distraction and the hope that the victim will fall for just about anything, there are several versions of the Ring Trick that usually involve a gold ring or otherwise valuable looking object being left in plain sight. When the unsuspecting tourist picks it up and tries to see who it belongs to, someone either steps forward and demands money for your newly-found "gift," or tricks you into believing it's worth paying crazy amounts of money for. Our Tour Manager said he's heard of people paying 50 euros for a gold ring they were promised would bring them luck. Please, oh please, don't be that tourist. If it's not yours, just leave it alone. Did You Drop Something? (A variation of the Ring Trick)I encountered this one on the steps of the magnificent Sacre Coeur in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris, just moments after ascending what has to be the world's longest, steepest, tallest staircase—at least it feels like that. (Lesson learned, next time, just suck it up and take the nifty little funicular stationed right next to it!) Anyway, it's a distraction technique guaranteed to draw your eyes—and your attention—off your wallet. Basically, if you're standing somewhere and hear something drop to the ground, but you know you haven't dropped anything, just walk away. The idea is to make you think you did actually drop something of value, and bend over to look for it, thus giving the person who really dropped it enough time to snatch your wallet. Sneaky, huh?

Travel Tips

Will Cell Phones Ruin Air Travel?

Ok, so commercial air travel isn't exactly the most cushy, can't-wait-till-next-time experience. Literally flying in the face of centuries of philosophers, where baggage fees, shrinking leg room, missed connections, and canceled or delayed flights are concerned, it's the destination, not the journey that counts. But federal regulators seem to be itching to make your airplane seat feel just a wee bit smaller, having announced that they will weigh the possibility of allowing cell phone calls on planes. Labeling the existing rules against calls during flights "outdated," the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, drew the scorn of travelers, airline professionals, and, yeah, me, almost immediately. There's so much not to like about the proposal, including the fact that Wheeler is a former lobbyist for the cell phone industry who joined the FCC less than three weeks ago. It's too soon to tell where this will lead (the next step is a mid-December hearing), and two of Budget Travel's favorite U.S. carriers—JetBlue and Southwest—have already indicated that regardless of whether the regulations are changed they may stick with a no-cell-phone-use policy during flights. Before we hear from our favorite travel experts—the Budget Travel audience—I'd like to make a modest proposal: On the commuter train that takes me down the Hudson River from my little suburban village to Manhattan, cell phone use is allowed, but a firm announcement is made before and during each train ride noting that cell phone use should be kept to a minimum and kept quiet. Mind you, even this considerate, flexible policy has occasionally led to situations in which otherwise mild-mannered passengers (some of whom I know personally) descend into Goodfellas-style dialogue as they clash over the precise meaning of words like minimum and quiet. But it seems that some version of "use your phone only if you need to and don't annoy the people around you" might be appropriate if regulations are changed to allow in-flight cell phone use. What do YOU think? We want to hear from you in the comments below—and we'd love to use your thoughts and suggestions to formulate a Budget Travel policy on airline cell phone use in a future story!

Travel Tips

14 Confessions of a Hotel Maid

The following article was originally written as a collaboration between trivago and News.com.au. A hotel maid has decided to spill the dirtiest secrets behind housekeeping. This exclusive interview was shared with trivago.com by an employee of a five-star hotel in Orlando, Florida, who wishes to remain anonymous. 1. HOW DO YOU USUALLY BEGIN A TYPICAL DAY? My day begins with a staff meeting at 7 a.m. where we discuss the day's plans, find out how many guests are there that day, how many new guests are coming, how many rooms are free, and how many are empty. The actual cleaning begins at 3 p.m. with a half hour lunch break. 2. HOW MANY ROOMS IN TOTAL DO YOU CLEAN IN A DAY? It can range between 10-15 checked-out rooms and about another 10 basic cleans when a guest is still staying in the room. For a room where a guest has checked out, it usually takes 45 minutes for a standard room—a suite or VIP room always takes longer. For guests that are still staying in the room, it takes about 10-15 minutes. 3. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU DON'T CLEAN IN THE ROOMS? When I have time I will clean everything, but sometimes it's so busy and management still expects everything to be cleaned just as fast as on a day that isn't as busy. If this is the case, I usually won't vacuum and will just do a fast clean, like rinse the bath instead of scrubbing, or dusting over surfaces quickly. The remote control is something I would say doesn't get a proper clean; I just go over it with the same cloth I use for the bedside table. 4. ARE THE GLASSES, CUPS, AND CUTLERY ALWAYS CLEANED AFTER EVERY GUEST? AND CLEANED WELL? Upon check-out, all glasses, cups, and cutlery are cleaned and replaced with new ones. I wouldn't say they are cleaned well, though; they are put through a big industrial dishwasher that sometimes doesn't do a great job. During a guest's stay, we will only change the glasses if they request it. 5. HOW OFTEN ARE PILLOWS REPLACED? WHAT ABOUT THE BEDDINGS? Where I work now, bedding and pillows are replaced at every check-out. However, before when I used to work at a budget hotel, we rarely changed them, even when there were sweat stains or marks on the pillow, we would just cover it with a new case—some differences between staying in a budget hotel and a luxury hotel. 6. WHAT ARE YOUR COLLEAGUES LIKE? The more senior staff can sometimes make it stressful. They fight for the more expensive rooms or suites because better items are left behind for the taking if nobody claims them. They also fight to take the better trolleys, leaving myself and others with old ones that don't have the right products or supplies, meaning a lot more running around. 7. WHAT IS THE PAY LIKE? DO YOU STRUGGLE TO GET BY ON YOUR INCOME? Especially in the U.S., it is a huge struggle and more so if you have a family. It is almost impossible, similar to what you would earn at a fast-food restaurant. That's why tipping is important for us. 8. WHAT DO YOU REALLY THINK ABOUT HOW GUESTS BEHAVE? I find a huge variety of guests—from extremely clean where you sometimes question if the room is actually being used, to others, where you don't even feel comfortable going in the room because it is just such a mess. There are some that leave pizza boxes and garbage around, underwear on the floor, and it's impossible to clean the room. Some guests really expect you to clean up after them like you are their mother. 9. DO YOU FIND GUESTS TO BE ANNOYING AT ALL? WHAT IS IT THAT YOU FOUND ANNOYING? I find it annoying when a guest has made too much mess to fix in the given time. To be honest though, management is more annoying. Sometimes they have high expectations, but they don't give you enough time. Some of management can also be demeaning... Once a manager ripped apart all of the beds I had made that morning and told me to redo them all because they weren't made to their standards. 10. DO YOU EVER BARGE IN ON GUESTS OR GET ANNOYED IF THEY DON'T ANSWER THE DOOR QUICKLY/AT ALL? Yes, I do get annoyed when it happens, but I can never show it because if guests complain about it, you could lose your VIP roster or even some working hours. Besides, the nicer you are despite how annoying, the higher the chance of receiving a tip, especially if they are in the room and they get the chance to meet you. 11. DO YOU EVER HAVE A NAP IN ONE OF THE ROOMS? Yes, we do actually—if we are really tired and have the time. For example, if we are doing a large suite and are given longer to clean it, we will have a nap in the beds. Something else we do sometimes is that we use the toilets in the guest's bathroom, but only if we are super busy and don't have enough time to go to the staff toilets. It is something we are not supposed to do, but many do it anyway. 12. DO YOU EVER TOUCH GUESTS' BELONGINGS? We are told that we are not allowed to touch anything that belongs to a guest, but we are also told that we must make the bed and that we must change the towels. So if a guest has belongings on the bed or on top of the dirty towels, sometimes you have to move it. 13. WHAT IS THE STRANGEST THING YOU EVER FOUND IN A HOTEL ROOM? Once I found T-Bone steaks left in the fridge that I took home for dinner, but the strangest thing I found was what originally I thought to be an abandoned baby lying on the bed. I carried it and took it to management. It turned out to be a robot or fake baby that would make noises just like a real one. It was left by guests attending a medical or science convention or something. It scared me so much though because it seemed so real. 14. IF SOMEONE'S RUDE TO YOU, DO YOU SEEK REVENGE AND HOW? I personally have never done anything, but I've heard of someone who was so angry about a rude comment made to them that they cleaned the bathroom floor with a towel and left it for the guest as their new towel. Hotel search site trivago compares the prices of over 700,000 hotels on more than 150 booking sites (including Expedia, Priceline.com, Travelocity, and Hotels.com), saving millions of users an average of 35% per booking—and lots of time. From beaches to business, Trivago has your next trip covered.

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