Archive for December, 2010

2009 Money Saving Tips for Your Summer Vacation

December 7, 2010

April 2009:

Emily Kaufman, The Travel Mom

You can’t escape talk of a gloomy economy and it comes as no surprise that many American families are scaling back their summer travel plans.  But the truth is that savvy families can always find ways to shave pennies, dollars, and even hundreds of dollars off their travel spending so that they can still take a vacation instead of a staycation.  The recession is actually creating one of the best times to save big bucks on a  vacation that hasn’t been seen in decades.  Airlines are offering deeply discounted tickets shaving 25 percent to 50 percent off the high fares of last summer, hotels are slashing prices and including extras like free breakfasts and free nights, and The Travel Mom, Emily Kaufman, has some tried-and-true strategies to help you take full advantage of recession induced travel bargains.

Think Outside the Box to Save!

Family vacations can be expensive when you add up food, lodging and airfare and even extra baggage fees but here’s one way to “think outside the box” and save.  Instead of staying at a typical hotel where rooms can be small for families, look for an extended stay hotel that has lots of room and has lots of free “extras.”

Staybridge Suites hotels have one and two bedroom suites that can sleep up to seven people.  Suites include in-room DVD players, full kitchens and there are even outdoor grills so that you can cook your own meals saving hundreds when you travel.  They also include a free breakfast buffet everyday to save even more.  You can pack less and save on extra baggage fees by using heir free laundry rooms.  With 150 locations and growing, some are offering up to half off on weekends through the end of summer so check out the savings at Staybridge.com.

Think Off-Season and Get Great Travel Deals.

If you think “off-season” and go off the beaten summer vacation path, you can really save.  Everyone thinks of going skiing when it’s snowing or the to Caribbean in the winter or spring but don’t know that there are some of the best deals in the summer to go to popular off-season destinations.  And “deals” aren’t all about the price, but all the “extras” where you can really save with value-added promotions.

Caribbean waters off Aruba.

Now you can really save with packages to places like Aruba and their “One Cool Family Vacation” promotion where kids stay free, eat free, and get free daily activities at participating resorts.  In addition to the sun and beautiful beaches, the island has activities for everyone in the family that include Jeep Tours, ATVs, Snorkeling, Wind Surfing, Kite Surfing and even some off the beaten path things to do like visiting there unique Butterfly Farm, Ostrich Farm and even a Donkey Sanctuary.

Aruba’s average temperature is 82 degrees year round and it’s located OUTSIDE of the hurricane belt.  Thirteen U.S. cities have direct flights daily.  You can book your entire trip including the deals we’ve mentioned at Aruba.com.

Think About Protecting Your Vacation Investment.

Also, once you’ve found your perfect travel deal you don’t want things like flight delays, a medical emergency, lost luggage or even a lost job to ruin your vacation, so you need ot protect your travel investment with a flexible travel insurance plan.  TravelGuard.com offers a number of plans to meet your specific travel plans – no matter where you’re going or what you’re doing on vacation.  Travel Guard’s Gold Plan even includes some great travel services like emergency flight changes, doctor referrals, and concierge services like restaurant reservations or golf arrangements.

Think Family Values and Save.

There are all sorts of ways to save hundreds with family “values” including booking an all-suite or extended stay hotel that include extras like we mentioned, choosing family friendly destinations with lots of free activities like hanging out at the beach.  And also, almost every destination has a free website that has special local deals.  For example, Connecticut‘s CTvisit.com has great ideas of FREE things you can do when you visit, plus lots of savings tips on attractions.

2009 Everyday Ways to Save Money on Tight Budgets

December 7, 2010

March 2009

Donna Corwin

When cash is tight, you might be tempted to look for “big” ways to start saving each month, but Lifestyle Expert, Donna Corwin has money saving tips that don’t mean drastic cutbacks. Here are tips to cut back in “little” ways so you can save several hundreds to thousands of dollars this year.

SMALL WAYS TO SAVE BIG ON UTILIITES:

UNPLUG WHAT YOU’RE NOT USING: According to the government’s ENERGY STAR program, 40% of the electricity that home electronics use is consumed while the products are actually turned off. The impact of this on your energy bill will depend on your particular situation but a Berkeley study suggests that the savings could be six-to-26% off your total bill.  This means Tivo, cable boxes, DVD/VCR players, coffee makers with clocks, computers, computer printers and more.

LIGHTBULBS: If you replace your light bulbs with energy saving CFLs you’ll save about $30 bucks in electricity costs over its lifetime since CFLs use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer.

ELIMINATE YOUR LANDLINE TELEPHONE: Eliminate your landline and rely exclusively on my mobile phone.  For many households this will save $1200 a year.  Check out mobile phone companies for the best value on your plan.  Sprint has these “Everything Family” plans that can save between $240 to  $1000 or more a year compared to many other plans.  $240 is a car payment or a week’s worth of groceries.  Go to Sprint.com for more info.

CREATIVE WAYS TO STRETCH DOLLARS YOU’RE ALREADY SPENDING: One of things a lot of people don’t think about is how to turn the money they’re already spending on things like groceries, household bills, and clothes into a way to pay for additional items they need without spending any extra money.  Credit card reward programs allow you to leverage your budget to get things for free that you normally have to pay for and many people have points they haven’t used so now is the time to use those points.  American Express has several new options in the Membership Rewards® program that offer VERY practical rewards for these tough economic times.

REPLACE BROKEN APPLIANCES FOR FREE: For example, if something breaks like a washing machine, you don’t have to use cash, but you can use points to get a new one.  You can also get household items like coffee makers, blenders and more.

DINE OUT FOR FREE: You don’t have to forgo dining out when you can treat the family to eating out at a wide variety of popular restaurants including Red Lobster, Olive Garden, P.F. Changs, California Pizza Kitchen and many more.

FILL YOUR GAS TANK FOR FREE: The Express Rewards SM Gas Card which allows you to use points to fill up your gas tank.  You can get them in $50 denominations for as little as 6,500 points  Find out more details at AmericanExpress.com.

LOOK FOR AFFORDABLE QUALITY ITEMS TO REPLACE LUXURY ITEMS: You don’t have to stop pampering yourself even on a budget, but skip pricey perfumes, which can cost between $25 to $125. Instead, look for affordable everyday luxury products for less.  Products like Dove’s Go Fresh Body Mists can replace expensive perfumes and it’s even small enough to fit in your purse or gym bag.  They’re actually in the deodorant aisle and are only $3.89 and have a great fragrance that can save you a lot of money.  Find out more at dove.com.

DON’T LET SICK DAYS DERAIL YOUR BUDGET: One half of all U.S. workers do NOT get paid sick days so now more than ever, you need to protect your health or it could cost your budget hundreds even thousands of dollars so prevention is key.  One of the most common ways we get sick is that we touch a surface with a virus and then we touch our face.  One of the easiest and inexpensive ways to prevent sickness is to simply wash your hands, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this and it can cost you several days of lost pay.  Also, keep surfaces in your home and office clean by wiping them down with cleaners that kill the cold & flu germs on doorknobs, phones, remotes, computer keyboards and everywhere germs may be shared.

WHAT TO TELL KIDS ABOUT THE RECESSION: The most important thing to let kids know is that you’re all in this together.  Focus on quality time with the family with activities that don’t cost a lot of money but are lot of fun, like board games and outdoor activities.  You also don’t want to hold back on information with older kids and use this as an opportunity to teach them about living on a budget and within your means.

Look for Donna’s new book coming later this spring!

2009 Recession Proof Your Spring Break

December 7, 2010

February 2009:

Emily Kaufman, The Travel Mom

Just because money may be tight that doesn’t mean you have to cancel spring break this year for you or the kids.  Emily Kaufman, the Travel Mom, has timely advice for these economic hard times to keep your spring break travel plans in full motion with three great tips to recession proof your spring break:  1) Find Family Values; 2) Go Surfing; and 3) Arm Yourself with Information.

#1-FIND FAMILY VALUES

The first thing you need to do is book your vacation “smart,” so you can really pack a lot of extra value into your vacation dollar.  You need to look for free extras when you plan your trip as the extras can add up to big savings.  For example, look for buy three nights, get one free offers from hotels and look for hotels that offer a free breakfast that can save hundreds of dollars for families, and packages that include extras like free admission to local attractions and more.

Also, look for destinations that have a lot of extra savings and extra value.  Emily has two great picks for family getaways this spring break right here in the U.S.  They’re both affordable and easy and probably just an Amtrak train or a short road trip away which can save hundreds of dollars in airfare.  The State of Connecticut and the city of Baltimore are two destinations packed with history, fun and savings!

CONNECTICUT HAS HANDS ON HISTORY FOR KIDS & WATER PARK FUN AND SAVINGS! Check out Connecticut and Mystic Seaport‘s recreated 19th-Century village and historic vessels at the waterfront.  Kids love hands on history and there’s an amazing interactive Indian village at the Mashantucket Indian Museum where history comes alive for kids as they see how tribe’s lived.  And don’t miss the new indoor tropical-themed water park at Coco Key in Waterbury connected to the Holiday Inn with a Splash & Stay Package for as low as $189 for hotel and four water park passes.  Go to CTVisit.com for lots more info and savings.

#2-GO SURFING:  THE INTERNET IS LOADED WITH VALUE ADDED DEALS

BALTIMORE’S HARBOR PASS AT BALTIMORE.ORG SAVES YOU 20%!

If you like to walk and really get a feel for a city, you’ll love Baltimore, a walkable city ideal for families on spring break and weekend escapes.  First, you have to get a Baltimore Harbor Pass which will save you and the kids 20% on tickets to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Science Center and Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. Families on a budget will also love the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum which have FREE Admission.  To help plan your trip, use the Deals and Discounts section at Baltimore.org where you can also buy your Harbor Pass online and get many value-added packages.

#3-ARM YOURSELF WITH INFORMATION

PROTECT YOUR VACATION INVESTMENT THIS SPRING.

The recession has not only created a deal-dominated travel environment, but has also focused attention on cruise vacations, whose all-inclusive nature make them perfect for budget-conscious travelers.  The majority of cruisers now book their own air transportation – separate from the cruise line – to save even more money, but many don’t realize new Department of Homeland Security rules require cruisers to board their ships earlier than in past years.  Also, cruise lines will not work to resolve air-related problems for guests who booked their arrangements separately so if you miss your cruise departure due to airport delays, you have to fend for yourself.  This means possibly spending thousands of dollars to re-book flights, make hotel reservations, and added meals as you try to “catch” your ship at the next port.  Most people don’t know that even cruise-line insurance doesn’t cover your flights if you book hem separately.

TravelGuard.com, a travel insurance and assistance provider, can help safeguard your cruise vacation investment.  Their “My Travel Guard” policy includes coverage if you’re forced to cancel your trip, but also protects you against the far too frequent occasions that can derail your vacation plans like flight cancellations, delays, or lost luggage.  Imagine missing your flight cruise departure in sunny Miami because of snow in Chicago?  Travel insurance will help.  Vacationers covered by “My Travel Guard” also receive a variety of protections and services at no extra charge including 24/7 live assistance with emergency or last-minute travel changes (including re-booking and canceling previous reservations) or help with something as nice as locating a restaurant and making reservations.

Additional Cruise Travel Tips from Travel Guard

Use the Internet to Save Time. Check in and print your boarding passes online to bypass long airport lines.  Many cruise lines also offer online check-in, which can save valuable time once you reach the pier.

Arrive early. New Department of Homeland Security rules require guests to arrive at the pier 90 minutes or more before your ship’s scheduled departure time.  It’s also best to always assume there will be delays at the airports and arrive at least two hours before your departure time for outbound and inbound flights.

Bring your numbers. Bring the phone numbers of your travel agent and the travel assistance hotline of your travel insurance provider and program them into your cell phone as well.  This will be your lifeline to helping you through unpredictable situations such as flight delays, cancellations, airline strikes, etc.  If you’re staying at a pre-cruise hotel or you are renting a car, bring these contact numbers as well in case you need to re-adjust a booking or alert the company to a delayed arrival.

Make copies. Make photocopies of your passport and other identification to keep separately from the actual documents to protect you against their loss while traveling.  It’s also a good idea to leave a copy of your passport with a family member that could fax it to you should you need it.

FINAL TRAVEL & MONEY SAVING TIPS FOR SPRING BREAK:

What you need to know about what’s going on in the travel industry right now is that this is a great time for travel deals.  The internet is loaded with deals as the travel industry is looking to fill cruise line cabins, hotel rooms, airline seats, rental cars, and more.  So whether you’re looking for a getaway close to home or a popular destination, big savings are almost everywhere right now.  Finally, Emily highly recommends that teenagers under 19 never on Spring Break un-chaperoned.  Have a great spring break and enjoy the deals!

2008 Last Minute Holiday Travel Tips & New Year Getaways

December 7, 2010

December 2008:

Emily Kaufman, The Travel Mom

The holiday travel season is in high gear but there’s a lot you need to know before you travel, especially if it involves taking a plane.  The Travel Mom, Emily Kaufman, has invaluable advice for everyone traveling this season to keep your spirits holly jolly. Now more than ever, travelers are seeking more value for their money, but if you think people are shying away from travel for the holidays because of the current economy, think again.  Recent surveys revealed that people still want to travel and one trend is an increase in leisure travel spending. (TripAdvisor® 10-01-08)  In fact, 61 percent of travelers plan to visit a beach destination in 2009 and 60 percent plan to go city sightseeing so traveler’s are ready to pack their bags and getaway.

Legoland’s Holiday Block Party – December 20-31, 2008. You know the holidays are all about family fun and one of Emily’s favorite holiday places for her family is just 30 minutes north of San Diego at Legoland California and now it’s home of the world’s largest LEGO tree.  It’s 30-feet tall and made of more than a quarter of a million LEGO bricks. Make sure you don’t miss the life-sized Santa and reindeer also made of Legos. It’s just part of their annual Holiday Block Party from Dec. 20 through Dec. 31 where you can have a blast with rides, shows and even nightly fireworks.  Of course, Legoland is a fun place year round as well.  For the latest information on everything happening at Legoland California, go to http://www.legoland.com/california.htm.

Make Technology Your Friend when You Travel. The key to last minute travel is to make technology your friend.   Use the Internet to save time and check in and print your boarding passes to bypass long airport lines.  Program important phone numbers into your cell phone including your travel agent, airline, hotel, and car rental company.  Also, don’t forget the travel assistance hotline of your travel insurance provider that is your lifeline to help you in unpredictable situations like flight delays or cancellations. Now more than ever, it makes sense to protect your trip with travel insurance and you should check around for the best plan.Emily recommends http://travelguard.com/ that offers a plan called My Travel Guard and it’s ideal for deal-seeking or last-minute travelers because the closer you are to your departure date, the lower your travel plan will cost you.  Travel insurance protects your investment if you have to cancel for something like an illness, injury, or even a death in the family. It also includes emergency medical evacuation if you have a medical issue while on vacation or traveling.  And if you’re worried about the problems that occur over the holidays when capacity is jammed, TravelGuard safeguards you for things like flight delays, cancellations or lost luggage and holiday gifts.

Escape Winter with a Getaway to the Cayman Islands. One of the best things about going to the Caribbean at this time of year is that you get to escape winter.  Imagine starting the New Year on a beach? The Cayman Islands is the perfect place to do that!   Emily loves the Cayman Islands because not only is it just an hour from Miami, but it is a perfect place for families, they have beautiful beaches, turquoise waters and it’s the only place she knows where you can swim with stingrays.  Now if you like sea turtles, they have over 16,000 of them at Boatswain’s Beach and  some that weigh six hundred pounds!   There’s something for everyone in the Cayman Islands as they host jazz festivals, kid’s camps, even world-class cooking events; and its easy to get to with non-stop service from New York, Chicago, DC, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Newark, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Boston, among other cities.  You can find out more at http://www.caymanislands.ky/

2008 Making the Holidays Special on a Budget

December 7, 2010

December 2008:

Tara Aronson

The holidays are a special time of year and now more than ever it can also be a frustrating time financially with the economy weighing heavy on everyone’s mind. But there’s no need to cancel Christmas or your holiday spirit because you can still make the holiday season special — even on a shoestring.  Lifestyle Expert, Tara Aronson, has some secrets to making the holidays memorable even when money is tight.

Throw a Party for Under $25:
Sound too good to be true?  Not if you get back to old-fashioned ideas, you can definitely pull together a party for around $25 if you get creative.  Just work as a team with your family and friends and have a pitch-in or potluck themed party where everyone brings a dish.  Your guests supply great hors d’oeuvres, casseroles or holiday cookies. You provide the party space and drinks.  Since a lot of friends may be in the in the same space financially, everyone will love getting into the holiday spirit and saving money at the same time.  Make sure you keep it simple and just stick with traditional crowd pleasers like a Merlot and Chardonnay that pair well with holiday appetizers and cheeses.  Carlo Rossi offers these varietals at price points to fit most any budget In their large 1.5 liter format, there is plenty of wine for all your guests to enjoy and you can easily keep any leftover wine for future occasions. Carlo Rossi also makes a ready-to-drink Sangria that, when added to a few other ingredients and heated, makes a festive treat to sip and makes the house smell great.  Here’s their famous Hot Mulled Wine recipe for the holidays:

Hot Mulled Wine Recipe: 4 cups Carlo Rossi Sangria, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup pomegranate juice (or apple juice, if desired), 3-4 dashes ground cinnamon, 1 orange, sliced into wheels.

Directions
:
Heat over low heat until sugar has dissolved.  (Can keep warm over LOW heat in a crock pot, if desired).  When ready to serve, ladle into coffee mugs and garnish with cinnamon stick and additional orange wheel.  Makes 4 + servings. NOTE: For large parties, keep adding more Carlo Rossi Sangria and sugar & water (to taste) to last the entire night.  For a complete wine list of Carlo Rossi varietals go to http://carlorossi.com.

Old Fashioned Decorating Tips:
Keep decorations simple and don’t go overboard. If you have decorations from last year, don’t feel like you need new ones.  The Old-Fashioned Christmas with popcorn and paper chain garlands involving the kids keeps it special and inexpensive.  Your guests will love being taken back to their childhood when they see these cool decorations.

Quick Tips for Holiday Cleaning Before the Party:
When it comes to cleaning for guests, I have some quick tips.  If you have kids, get them involved with easy tasks. Since there are really only two rooms that need to be guest-ready – the bathroom and the living room – have one child clean any clutter in the living the other can wipe down the sink, basin and mirror with disposable wipes in the bathroom to help make both rooms ready for company.

Also, If you have pets, here’s a new tip that I just discovered that really helps reduce pet hair everywhere.  You know, brushing your pet’s coat regularly is a good start to keeping shedding under control but it is more effective to have the right tool like Bamboo’s FurBuster Professional De-Shedding Tool.  It grabs and removes the loose hair and undercoat which means less hair on the carpet, couches and your clothes.  It’s also a great gift idea for friends and families with shedding pets of all sizes available nationwide for about $25.  For more great gift ideas for your pets, go to http://bamboopet.com/

Ways to Save on Gifts:
Here are some great gift ideas that don’t cost a dime and that will really make Christmas Special. I like it because you can also involve the kids in giving when they don’t have money to spend.  At Tara’s house, they give gift “Coupons” that are all about giving our time to one another.  Family photos are also great gifts for friends and family.  Place them in a nice frame and you can pick them up for $5 to $25. Finally, parents shouldn’t stress about the gifts for kids this holiday season.  Less really is more so focus on getting one really nice gift for each child (and set a budget limit).  And just so your kids don’t feel like they’re getting less, wrap lots of little inexpensive gift items (and include things they many need) so that way there’s lots of presents to open during the holidays.