BT Reader Tip: Stress Less When You Travel With Kids!
"Nothing quiets children faster than a new plaything! So before taking a trip with the kids, I spend $20 for 20 toys at the dollar store. I take out one at a time, and when the thrill is gone I take out another. The plane ride is over before they know it! The toys also come in handy for other children on the plane. A dollar is worth it to stop a crying child three rows up!"
—Budget Travel reader Cheryl Dela, Buffalo, NY
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12 Shameless Ways to Save for Travel in your Twenties
This article was written by Stephanie Be, TravelBreak.net Blogger and Travel Journalist. "I don't need an article telling me that I should travel, I need the funds to travel." Listen darling, before you start complaining about not having the money to travel, but have a new car, flat screen, or are going on the same six weekenders you went to in college, re-evaluate your lifestyle. They say "travel is the only thing you buy that actually makes you richer," so here are some tips on how to re-direct your investment. After all, traveling is just that—an investment in bettering yourself. Set a financial goal and timeline. Write it down, add it to your calendar, and check progress weekly or monthly. Discuss it with family and friends for support. Treat it like a weight loss/gain goal or an academic/career goal. Take 15% (or x - amount) from your paycheck that goes straight into a new travel savings account. Mint.com lets you combine your bank accounts and manage your budget by category on one platform. Pick something that you purchase daily and could live without... and live without it. Spending $4 for Starbucks 365 days per year comes out to $1,460. That's a round-trip flight to Europe! Over-achiever? Pick two things. Take a break from purchasing brands. Do you really need another Tory Burch purse? Another pair of Raybans? Another cologne? Every time you are tempted to buy something, take the exact cost and put it into your travel savings account. For several months: no big weekends. A weekend trip to San Francisco plus a weekend trip to Las Vegas plus a weekend at Coachella plus 12 weekends of bar hopping in Santa Monica can also equal two months in Southeast Asia. Seriously, when you get invited to go out, guess how much you would have spent on drinks and add it to you travel savings account. Wine and Netflix doesn't sound that bad anyways. Ask for gift cards related to travel for your birthday, graduation, and Christmas. Heck, the Easter Bunny might throw in a few bucks towards your trip or Grandma may have some air mileage she's not going to use. Do a "job on the side" which strictly funds your travel goal. Something like baby-sitting, photography, freelance work, tutoring, or yard-work, for instance. Save your pennies. Put commissions, tips, and bonuses straight into your travel savings account. Make real sacrifices. Move in with your parents or get a roommate to cut your rent in half. It's just for a few months and will be totally worth it. Move walking distance from where you work. Do you know how much money you could save on gas if you just rode your bike? Try a crowdfunding website. Once you've saved up a little and showed some effort, try crowdfunding your travels with a website like Trevolta so family and friends can pitch in to help you finance the rest of your voyage. In a perfect world, we would have everything in our 20's. (But then again, look at what happened to Miley, Lohan, and Bynes). If we have to choose one luxury over another, the benefits of traveling definitely outweigh the costs. To dream of seeing the world and to be able to finance it yourself in your 20s is an absolutely phenomenal feeling. With a little discipline and organization, you too can make your "dreams" into "goals." Psss... you might also like my posts 14 Ways to Finance your Travels While Abroad and 12 Travel Tips to Ballin' on a Budget. Visit TravelBreak.net for more info and ideas.
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.
Surprising Kidnapping Hotspots and How to Stay Safe
In our commitment to making travel accessible to everyone, Budget Travel does not enjoy sounding the alarm bells. But a strong piece of reporting by Vocativ's Gordon Bottomley points up some popular 2014 travel destinations that have an unusually high rate of kidnapping. Vocativ is a new global social news network that is establishing a great reputation for mining internet data that most other news sources don't. For "The Places You're Most Likely to Get Kidnapped," Vocativ focused on popular travel destinations where the risk of kidnapping is surprisingly high. (You don't need a reporter to tell you, for instance, that Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are unsafe at the moment, right?) How do you stay safe? If you're in one of the hotspots listed below, consider sticking to the popular tourist sites or resorts, traveling with a guide, not wandering alone, not showing off your money, and learning the specific risks that your vacation spot may hold. In some cases these days, the risk is of an "express" kidnapping, where a hostage is held only until his bank account is empty and credit cards maxed out. Here, some of Vocativ's kidnapping hotspots and the risks you may face if you travel there. Mexico. Unfortunately, one of the world's most popular vacation destinations also has the most kidnappings, topping 1,500 last year. Mexico's crackdown on drug traffickers has caused kidnappings to rise. "Express" kidnappings are a risk here, as are "virtual" kidnappings—in which criminals fraudulently claim to have kidnapped someone in hopes of collecting a ransom. The paradox is, if you stick to secure resorts, you will be completely safe. Brazil. Though the site of the 2014 World Cup has a modest "official" annual kidnapping total of around 300, its government does not count "express" kidnappings in that number. Vocativ's research suggests that the real annual number may be more like 6,000. Kidnapping in Brazil is often the work of organized criminals or gangs of poor young men looking for easy money. With the 2016 Summer Olympics not far off, the country is stepping up efforts to halt this and other crimes. India. Another paradox for travelers: Popular Indian sites like the Taj Mahal are sometimes located in poorer regions where the risk of kidnapping by either organized criminals, rebel groups, or less-organized thugs is on the rise. Sticking to the well-traveled path and booking a package tour with a guide are good ways of avoiding the risk of kidnapping, violence against women, and other crimes. Kenya. No, you shouldn't cancel your safari plans—or take them off your bucket list—but you might consider sticking only to the wildlife park with a package tour and experienced guides. Serious economic and social inequality, terrorist groups, and criminals from neighboring Somalia are bringing kidnapping to the resorts on Kenya's north coast.
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!