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Most Iconic Road Trips in Every State

Hitting the road to get away from it all and explore new places has never felt more thrilling. These trips offer an adventure for everyone from stunning coasts to epic mountains or even music and bourbon trails.Hitting the road to get away from it all and explore new places has never felt more thrilling. These trips offer an adventure for everyone from stunning coasts to epic mountains or even music and bourbon trails. If you have a weekend, a week, or a month, there’s a trip for you. Whether you’re looking for roads less traveled or a cheaper way to vacation, here’s The Most Iconic Road Trips in Every State to inspire your next holiday.

1. Alabama’s Mobile to Fort Morgan

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Mobile is less than two hours from the white sand beaches of the Gulf Coast and is perfect for a weekend road trip. Take I-10, Baldwin Beach Express to Foley Beach Express, and you’ll be on island time in no time. En route to the shore, see over 500 animals at Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Explore the 32-mile long peninsula of sugar-white sand beaches, watch for dolphins, fish, or visit the 200-year-old Fort Morgan on the coastal roads of AL-180 and AL-182.

2. Alaska’s Anchorage to Seward

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Alaska is a regular destination on people’s bucket lists. Whether you’re looking to extend a cruise or prefer road trip vacations, driving the Seward Highway is awe-inspiring. From Anchorage, the Highway passes between the shoreline and Chugach Mountains’ giant peaks. Along the route, take your pick of National Heritage areas to explore and immerse yourself in the history of the determined people who have lived in this land.

3. Arizona’s Phoenix to the Grand Canyon

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While you could drive this stretch of I-17 in about 4 hours, give yourself a week to explore all its beauty. From Phoenix, head north to the Montezuma Castle National Monument. Next, spend two or more days in Sedona to explore the 1.8 million-acre Coconino National Forest, a stunning mix of red rocks and pine forests. Enjoy Flagstaff’s college culture and star gazing at Lowell Observatory. For a grand finale, explore the South Rim of The Grand Canyon 90 minutes away.

4. Arkansas’ Eudora to Ohama County

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Travel the entire length of the state on a 300 mile Great Highway 65 Road Trip. U.S. 65 passes by some of Arkansas’ most popular attractions. Starting in the state’s southern delta, drive north to Pine Bluff, with museums, history, and numerous family-friendly attractions. Continue to Little Rock, and explore the state capital and the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. Next, hike Pinnacle Mountain to take in the views at the top of East Summit Trailhead. On your way to Clinton, stop at Woody Hollow State Park. As you finish your road trip, see the infamous Natural Bridge of Arkansas, and spend a day canoeing on the Buffalo National River.

5. California’s San Francisco to San Diego

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California’s Pacific Coast Highway is perhaps the most famous road trip in America. Enjoy all that California has to offer over a 600-mile two-week trip. Explore large cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, small towns like Cambria and Manhattan Beach. Savor Santa Barbara wine country, magnificent mountains of Big Sur, the glamour of Hollywood, and the opulent beach towns of Orange County. End your trip with the picture-perfect weather and family-friendly attractions of San Diego.

6. Colorado’s National Parks Loop

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This epic week-long road trip allows you to see stunning destinations like Red Rocks Canyon and Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs and four of our country’s beautiful National Parks. Start and end in Denver not only for the convenience of their international airport but a bustling downtown and craft beer scene.

As you leave Denver on I-25 South, stop at Colorado Springs’ sandstone rock sites on your way to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Next, take-160 West to Mesa Verde National Park, known for its well-preserved Pueblo cliff dwellings. As you make your way back north on CO-145 and US-550, enjoy the dramatic mountain views while hiking the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. As you travel north to Rocky Mountain National State Park, make a stop in Glenwood Springs for thrilling outdoor adventures.

7. Connecticut’s Lisbon to North Woodstock

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This 32-mile road trip on National Scenic Byway State Route 169 is perfect for a day trip or staycation. Leave the crowds behind and explore small, quaint New England towns and countryside. Particularly beautiful in the fall, take your time exploring The Quinebaug and Shetucket River Valley National Heritage Corridor, Mashamoquet Brook State Park, and historical museums in Canterbury, Brooklyn, and Woodstock.

8. Delaware’s New Castle to Fenwick Island

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Explore the entire length of the state on this 100-mile road trip. In New Castle, hop on the Bayshore Byway, a scenic two-lane road that hugs the Delaware river and bay. Stop in historic Dover for lunch or snacks before exploring the tranquil small towns far away from the interstate. At the end of the byway, take Highway One to beloved shore towns Rehoboth, Dewey, and Bethany Beach.

9. Florida’s Miami to Key West

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One of the most iconic road trips in America takes you from a vibrant multicultural city to the edge of the world, U.S. Route 1 Mile Zero, the southernmost point in the continental United States. The 150-mile Miami to Key West drive includes the over-water Seven Mile Bridge linking towns and islands in the Florida Keys. Take your time stopping at award-winning beaches, state parks, and fabulous restaurants before arriving in Key West.

10. Georgia’s Atlanta to Helen

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Leave the urban sprawl of Atlanta behind on a US-19 N road trip to experience Georgia’s rolling hills, valleys, and mountains. Stop at Amicalola Falls State Park with incredible vistas, hiking, fishing, waterfalls, and a chance to step foot on the Appalachian Trail. On your way to Helen, make sure to stop in history-rich Dahlonega. Helen, one of the most popular destinations in Georgia, is a mini-Bavarian alpine village and the gateway to the Chattahoochee River, perfect for tubing.

11. Hawaii’s Paia to Hana

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The Road to Hana day trip is one of the most popular activities on Maui for a reason. This 52-mile journey allows you to explore an undeveloped portion of east Maui that feels like the Hawaii of yesteryear. From a “Half Hana” to a full 12 hour day, plan your Road to Hana stops to famous sites like Keanae Peninsula, Wai’anapanapa State Park, world-famous Hamoa Beach Pipiwai Trail located in Haleakala National Park. The Road to Hana is about enjoying the journey, not reaching the final destination, so don’t forget to stop at infamous food stalls like Aunt Sandy’s Banana Bread and Coconut Glen’s.

12. Idaho’s Swan Valley to Ashton

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The Teton Scenic Byway road trip is perfect for fall foliage, the spring bloom of wildflowers, or the annual summer balloon festival. This 70-mile drive has stunning views of the Teton Mountains, skirts nearby Targhee National Forest, a geotourism excursion in Driggs, and year-round activities at Grand Targhee Resort.

13. Illinois’s Cave-in-Rock to Cairo

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Add what Teddy Roosevelt called “the world’s most beautiful drive” to your vacation bucket list. The Ohio River Scenic Byway runs next to the Ohio River and puts the best of Southern Illinois on display. Destinations include Shawnee National Forest, historic small towns, various recreation areas like Garden of the Gods, Rim Rock, Glen O’Jones Lakes, and Cave in the Rock State Park.

14. Indiana’s Northern State Parks Loop

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This road trip features six state parks offering soaring sand dunes, lakeside relaxation, and rugged hiking. Start at Indiana Dunes State Park and explore Lake Michigan before hopping on IN-4 E to Potato Creek Park. Take I-80 E/I-90 E to Pokagon State Park, then I-69 S to Chain O’Lakes. Stay for the night in nearby Fort Wayne and explore the Freimann Botanical Conservatory and Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Head to Ouabache State Park on Route N 450 E. As you loop back, check out Tippecanoe State Park as your finale. Whether you live in Chicago or nearby South Bend, it’s an excellent staycation road trip.

15. Iowa’s New Albin to Keokuk

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The Great River Road National Scenic Byway runs parallel to the Mississippi River through the length of the state. A perfect trip for outdoor enthusiasts or history buffs, this 328-mile drive features stunning vistas, quaint river towns, limestone bluffs, and the history of the people living there for thousands of years.

16. Kansas’ Canton to Ellsworth

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The Prairie Trail Scenic Byway is an 80-mile road trip full of scientific landmarks, historical sites, cultural experiences, and fun activities. Highlights include the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge and Buffalo Tour, Kanopolis Reservoir State Park, Smoky Hill Wildlife Area, Marquette Pioneer Trail, Coronado Heights Bluff, Valkommen Rail Trail, and Broadway RFD, the state’s longest-running outdoor theater.

17. Kentucky’s Louisville to Lexington

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Few things are more iconic in Kentucky than bourbon, so why not explore the state on a Bourbon Trail road trip? After enjoying Louisville, travel south on I-65 to Shepherdsville, home of Jim Beam, the most popular bourbon in the world. Continue south via KY-245 to Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto and enjoy a different tasting bourbon known for its delicate sweetness.

Travel east on US-150 to Danville, the birthplace of Kentucky. Grab a bite to eat in their historic downtown and stroll their award-winning Main Street. You’ll be rewarded at the end of your trip with the scenery of Woodford County as you travel along US-127 N to Woodford Reserve Distillery outside of Lexington. Whether you have a designed driver or join day trip tours, stay safe along the Bourbon Trail.

18. Louisiana’s New Orleans to Lake Charles

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A perfect add-on to a NOLA visit, this short road trip along I-10 West illustrates a more diverse side of Louisiana. First, stop in Baton Rouge for lunch at the famous Louie’s Cafe and explore the capital city, home to LSU. Continue to Avery Island, home of Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge and The Tabasco Factory. In Lafayette, learn about exiled French Canadian settlers, the forefathers of Louisiana Cajuns at the Acadian Cultural Center, and enjoy James Beard award-worthy chicken and waffles at The French Press. Plan to stay a night, or two, in Lake Charles.

19. Maine’s Acadia National Park Loop

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Acadia’s Park Loop Road covers 27 miles of one of America’s favorite National Parks. This mostly one-lane road was thoughtfully created over 30 years to protect and display the stunning landscape. This loop begins at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and gives easy access to the park’s sites like Sieur de Monts, Sand Beach, Otter Point, and Jordan Pond, one of Acadia’s most pristine lakes. The road steeply climbs Cadillac Mountain, the top destination in the park. It’s the highest point in the Eastern Seaboard and offers gorgeous coastal views.

20. Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Loop

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Far away from the suburban crowds of Bethesda and Baltimore, enjoy a weekend road trip on the Chesapeake Country Blue Crab Byway. Explore lower Eastern Shore historic towns and quaint villages on a scenic 210-mile stretch. Along both the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean routes, you’ll have many chances to enjoy local Maryland Blue Crab dishes. Fans of the movie Wedding Crashers might want to add Saint Michaels to their itinerary and book at night at the real Inn at Perry Cabin.

21. Massachusetts’ Boston to The Berkshires

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Whether you’re off to see the fall foliage, a summer show at Tanglewood, or skiing at Jiminy Peak, explore the countryside of Massachusetts and vibrant small towns along the Massachusetts Turnpike or its northern parallel route MA-2. From hiking trails at Mount Greylock, featuring the highest peak in the state, to the MassMOCA in North Adams, the entertainment of Great Barrington, or fine dining in Lenox, it’s perfect for a long weekend or even a week.

22. Michigan’s Standish to Mackinaw City

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This coast road trip on the historic Heritage Route US-23 puts the best of the Sunrise Coast on display. You don’t have to travel far to feel like you’re visiting another world. As you drive along Lake Huron’s coast, there are miles of beautiful beaches, lighthouses, bike trails, and remnants of mysterious shipwrecks. Plan to stop at Tawas Point State Park to experience one of Michigan’s best beaches, Au Sable, for a day of fly-fishing, kayaking, and the quiet of the oceanfront forest, Shipwreck Alley in Harrisville State Park, and bike riding, swimming, and picnicking in Ocqueoc Falls.

23. Minnesota’s Park Rapids to Winona

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Drive US-10 across the state for a 600-mile journey through cities, country, and everything in between. Stop first at Itasca, a 32,000-acre state park with more than 100 lakes. Consider staying in the Brainerd area, known for its hundreds of lakes and legendary resorts. Continue to St. Cloud for its granite Quarry Park Scientific area, The Twin Cities for epic views of meeting rivers, and end in Winona, an art lover’s mecca.

24. Mississippi’s Hernando to Woodville

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For music lovers, U.S. Highway 61 or The Blues Highway is sacred as it gave birth to the roots of modern music. Whether you want to leave your troubles behind like blues artists or just pack up and go, you can experience the history of the blues in the places where it was born. This route is marked with Mississippi Blues Trail signs across city streets, cotton fields, train depots, cemeteries, nightclubs, and churches. Make sure to stop at The Birthplace of the Blues Dockery Farms, GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi in Cleveland, and the various birthplaces of your favorite blues artists.

25. Missouri’s St. Louis to Joplin

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Experience Americana at its finest by taking a road trip on our most famous Highway – Route 66. Missouri, the show me state, has plenty to offer from National Forests, museums, retro drive-ins, and all the neon and kitsch of yesteryear. While not the famed Rosebud Motel, you can stay in some of the original route 66 hotels like the Wagon Wheel, the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven, and the 1939 Boots Court Motel. Leave time to explore the Mark Twain National Forest, The Meramec Caverns, Route 66 State Park, and the Route 66 Museum in Lebanon.

26. Montana’s Bozeman to Yellowstone

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While you could do this drive along US-191 in two hours, savor all that Big Sky country has to offer over a weeklong road trip. Start in Bozeman, the adventure capital of the Northern Rockies, for fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, or backcountry tours. Drive south to Big Sky Resort, a four-season mountain destination. Lastly, continue to West Yellowstone, a convenient base for exploring Yellowstone National Park. Give yourself at least two full days to explore all of its beloved 2 million acres.

27. Nebraska’s Odell to Scott’s Bluff

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Travel along the Oregon National Historic Trail to see the beauty of Nebraska and learn what life was like for those early settlers who traveled the same land. There are over 60 historical mile markers and museums to explore during this road trip. Consider stops at Rock Creek Station State Historic Park, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, Lincoln County Historical Museum, and Chimney Rock, one of the most noted landmarks along the Oregon Trail.

28. Nevada’s Las Vegas to Valley of Fire

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While some never leave Las Vegas during their vacation, consider a road trip along I-15 to Valley of Fire State Park. The 100-mile round trip drive and 40,000-acre state park are perfectly sized for a day trip. See for yourself why this otherworldly place is the filming location for faraway lands in movies like Star Trek and how the sun’s rays on red sandstone rocks illuminate the valley like fire.

29. New Hampshire’s White Mountain Trail Loop

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Explore the 100-mile National Scenic Byway White Mountain Trail, particularly beautiful during the fall. In the words of New Hampshire resident Robert Frost, consider taking the road less traveled. Take your time exploring waterfalls, covered bridges, and endless overlooks. Start at White Mountains Visitor Center, continue to Franconia Notch State Park, and Crawford Notch State Park with stunning views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range.

30. New Jersey’s Englewood Cliffs to The Delaware Water Gap

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While most people only know The Jersey Shore, the congestion of The New Jersey Turnpike, or towns featured in The Sopranos, the garden state actually has a wide range of destinations and natural beauty. Before traveling I-80, fill up with a big breakfast at Brownstone Pancake Factory and take in Manhattan Skyline views in Englewood Cliffs.

Stop at Paterson State Falls National Historical Park to see the 77-ft. waterfall that Alexander Hamilton used to launch the country’s first industrial city. Stop in Denville for dinner at Hunan Taste, lauded as the best Chinese food in the state, or The Pasta Shop, a local favorite. Enjoy a relaxing and quiet getaway at one of the many Bed and Breakfasts in Sussex County.

31. New Mexico’s Ohkay Owingeh to Las Cruces

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Whether you’re a foodie, a historian, or an outdoor enthusiast, this road trip has it all. The El Camino Real National Scenic Highway traverses the length of the state. Take a week to enjoy the cities (and food) of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, as well as the historical sites of 16th-century Spanish explorers. Explore White Sands National Park, Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, and the 1.6 million acres of the Santa Fe National Forest.

32. New York’s Albany to Niagara Falls

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Take a week-long road trip covering the length of the Empire State along I-90 West. Start in the state capital to experience America’s Main Street before visiting quaint towns and farms on your way to Syracuse. It’s a large city and college town in one chock full of museums, shops, amusement parks, and a zoo. Next up is family-friendly Rochester with The Strong National Museum of Play and boat rides on the Erie Canal. Continue your road trip by driving along Lake Ontario to witness where the lake meets the Niagara River. Enjoy a day exploring Niagara Falls, one of the most famous waterfalls in the world.

33. North Carolina’s Cumberland Knob to Heintooga Overlook

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Travel the Blue Ridge Parkway through the whole state right to the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Plan a week-long road trip to experience the variety of attractions North Carolina has to offer. From Cherokee life, agricultural history, Southern Appalachian culture, the largest home in American, and some of the world’s oldest mountains, there’s something for everyone. Explore the beauty of Grandfather Mountain, Pisgah National Forest, and trendy Asheville, home of The Biltmore Estate.

34. North Dakota’s Washburn to Stanton

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Travel the route of Lewis and Clark along the Sakakawea Scenic Byway and Missouri River Valley. Retrace their incredible journey while learning about the people who’ve lived in this land for centuries. Plan for stops at Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, Cross Ranch State Park, Fort Clark State Historic Site, and Fort Mandan Historic Site.

35. Ohio’s Cleveland to Cincinnati

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Give yourself time to explore the major cities of Ohio on this I-71 South road trip. Start in Cleveland to enjoy the shore of Lake Erie and visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Continue South to Columbus for their arts & food scene and beautiful botanical gardens. For airplane enthusiasts, take a side trip to The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton. End with two days in Cincinnati. It’s the largest metro area in the state with history, art, architecture, children’s museums, and a zoo.

36. Oklahoma’s Talihina to Heavener

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Take a week to explore all the destinations and historic towns along the Talimena National Scenic Byway. Plan day trips and hiking excursions in Ouachita National Forest and Queen Wilhelmina State Park. For white water enthusiasts, enjoy the Ouachita, Mountain Fork, Caddo, and the Cossatot Rivers’ adventures. Don’t miss the 1,000-year-old Viking carvings in the stunning Heavener Runestone Park.

37. Oregon’s Portland Loop

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The Columbia River Gorge Highway connects some of our county’s most stunning sites. Stop first at Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area with beautiful vistas, trails, and 90 waterfalls. At the Washington state border, the Columbia River Gorge will take your breath away. Take the windy drive up to Sandy River and stop at Crown Point Vista House for an incredible view of The Gorge. As you continue, make sure to visit Multnomah Falls, one of the most visited sites in the Pacific Northwest. As you return to Portland, explore Benson and Ainsworth State Parks, Eagle Creek hiking trail, and the town of Hood River, a favorite with kiteboarders.

38. Pennsylvania’s Jim Thorpe to Milford

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For over 100 years, the Pocono Mountains have attracted visitors to its quiet beauty and outdoor adventures. The small towns along Route 209 are known for their seasonal celebrations, historical sites, and family-friendly activities. Start in Jim Thorpe, dubbed America’s Switzerland, for its international architecture. Whether you’re an advanced hiker, train fanatic, biker, or white water rafter, it’s a great place to kick off your vacation.

Next, enjoy Stroudsburg’s downtown as you make your way to The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area. This 70,000-acre park offers endless outdoor adventures and stunning views of the Delaware River Valley. Dingman’s Falls right off US-209 is a must-do stop even if you’re short on time. End in Milford to tour their historical sites and Raymondskill Falls, the largest waterfall in the state.

39. Rhode Island’s Watch Hill to Newport

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Take a weekend road trip along historic Route 1 to see all that coastal Rhode Island has to offer. Start at Watch Hill, the southernmost point in the state, and snake your way through quintessential New England towns. Rhode Island’s coast contains beautiful historic lighthouses scattered on gorgeous peninsulas, islands, and cliff sides like Point Judith Lighthouse. In Newport, stay a night, or two in luxurious resorts, tour historic mansions and enjoy award-winning restaurants.

40. South Carolina’s Cleveland to Charleston

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While you could drive this stretch of the state in five hours, take your time traveling from the mountains to the coast. Start in Cleveland and enjoy a portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Caesars Head State Park. As you drive south on Poinsett Highway, stop in Greenville, dubbed America’s Friendliest City.

As you continue towards the coast on Veterans Highway, visit Columbia, the capital city, and take a stroll in its riverside park. Plan for a day in nearby Congaree National Park and Lake Marion. Conclude your drive where Route 26 ends in Charleston, one of America’s most popular vacation destinations. Leave time to enjoy the state’s oldest city and some of the best restaurants in South Carolina.

41. South Dakota’s Crazy Horse to Badlands National Park

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Consider taking a road trip through South Dakota’s rolling prairies, twisting mountain roads, and iconic American monuments. Start at historical Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial. Take US-16 E to enjoy a couple of days in Rapid City, a vibrant town with outdoor festivals, concerts, and a unique food scene. Travel I-90 E to Wall as a base for exploring Badlands National Park. Drive the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway to see its 16 stunning overlooks and hike among its surreal landscape.

42. Tennessee’s Nashville to the Smoky Mountains

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With a music capital, amusement parks, foodie havens, history, and the most visited national park in the country, it’s no wonder so many Americans are flocking to Tennessee. This 200-mile I-40 E road trip starts in the entertainment-rich Nashville, the country music capital of the world. Next, drive to Knoxville with stops in Old City and Mead’s Quarry. Before entering Great Smoky Mountains National park, enjoy a day in family-friendly Pigeon Forge, home to Dollywood Amusement park. Its neighbor city, Gatlinburg, is a perfect base to explore half a million acres of the Smoky Mountains.

43. Texas’s Austin to San Antonio

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While 30 million people visit The Live Music Capital of the World annually, many don’t leave Austin. Consider expanding your vacation with an I-35 S road trip to San Antonio and experience the Texas Hill Country. Stop first in San Marcos and enjoy the hundreds of river springs perfect year-round at 72 degrees.

Next, explore New Braunfels, a beloved vacation destination for Texans. This small town boasts a historic downtown, an infamous water park, and Comal River, a beloved tubing spot. Next, visit San Antonio, a vacation destination in its own right, with a beautiful miles-long River Walk, unique culture, and historical sites like The Alamo. On your way back to Austin, consider a side trip to Lockhart, with some of the best barbeque in the state.

44. Utah’s Torrey to Bryce Canyon

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If there’s a Million Dollar Highway, it must be on your bucket list. U.S. Route 550 features two national parks, one national monument, a national forest, and a stunning state park, all with million-dollar views. While the Highway is under 150 miles long, leave at least a week to explore all the incredible sites in this portion of the state.

Start on Capitol Reef Scenic Drive to reach the first of many, National Parks in Utah. Explore Larb Hollow Overlook, Burr Trail in Long Canyon, and Lower Calf Creek Falls. Continue to the town of Escalante, home of Grand Staircase with 1 million acres of mind-boggling geological formations. Don’t skip over Kodachrome Basin State Park. It’s so vibrant it was named after the popular color photography film. End this epic road trip in Bryce Canyon National Park’s Mossy Cave Trail, often overlooked by the crowds.

45. Vermont’s Brandon to Goshen

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Witness the beauty of Vermont on the West-Central Mountains & the Appalachian Gap Loop, particularly beautiful in the fall. This 100-mile route passes through Green Mountain National Forest, Lake Dunmore, and ten quaint, welcoming towns. If you’re looking to stay for the weekend or longer, make lodging reservations well in advance for this popular road trip destination.

46. Virginia’s Arlington to Shenandoah Valley

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If you’re planning a vacation to Washington, D.C., add a Shenandoah Valley road trip to your itinerary. As you head west on I-66, stop at the historic Manassas National Battlefield Park and Skyline Caverns. Stay at family-friendly four-season resorts, inns, or romantic bed & breakfasts to explore nearby Shenandoah National Park. During your stay or on your drive back, check out the Shenandoah Spirits Trail featuring more than 45 vineyards, craft breweries, distilleries.

47. Washington’s Seattle to Portland

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Whether you live in the Seattle area or are visiting the area on vacation, this awe-inspiring road trip to some of the Pacific Northwest’s most awe-inspiring sites is bucket-list worthy. From Seattle, travel along I-5 N on the coast to Bellingham, your base for exploring nearby Mount Baker. Continue to North Cascade National Park, Stevens Pass, and Cascade Valley. Next, explore all that the White Pass Scenic Byway offers, like Mount Rainier National Park and Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, before ending in Portland. This walkable city is known for its food and distinct culture that turns visitors into residents.

48. West Virginia’s Charleston to White Sulphur Springs

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Travel 180 miles of The Midland Trail National Scenic Byway to see stunning vistas, experience thrilling outdoor adventures, and learn the history of the people who lived in these hills for centuries. Jump on U.S. Route 60 in the capital city of Charleston and snake your way through the mountains to Hawks Nest State Park, with panoramic views and white water rafting. Fayette County offers fishing, horseback riding, and world-class rock-climbing. Continue to Greenbrier Valley’s limestone landscapes, farms, historic sites, and quaint towns. End your journey with a stay at The Greenbrier, a National Historic Landmark and world-class resort that has hosted half our country’s presidents, royalty, celebrities, and guests from around the world since 1778.

49. Wisconsin’s Madison to Prairie du Chien

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Explore 100 miles of the Lower Wisconsin River countryside on the Wisconsin Scenic Byway. One hour west of Madison is Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s sprawling estate with a national historic landmark designation to honor our country’s most famous architect. Follow the Wisconsin River to the town of Boscobel with one of the best River Outing tour companies in the region. You can book an excursion for a couple of hours or even days. End your road trip in Prairie du Chien, a town established in the 1800s. Make sure to visit Wyalusing State Park 500 feet above the river for stunning views.

50. Wyoming’s Beartooth Pass to Yellowstone

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Did we save the best road trip for last? The Beartooth Highway, a National Scenic Byway, is thought to be the most scenic drive in the United States. While less than 100 miles across Northeast Wyoming, this 80-year-old road draws global visitors to its diverse environment, family-friendly wild west cities, and breathtaking scenery. Set next to epic mountain ranges are endless glacial lakes, national forests, waterfalls, and fantastic wildlife. You can experience the highest and most rugged mountain areas in the continental United States from your car. Leave time to explore Custer, Gallatin & Shoshone National Forests, and the Crown Jewel of America’s National Park System – Yellowstone.

This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been republished with permission.

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How To Avoid PayPal Fees With These 7 Expert Tricks

avoid-paypal-feesPayPal revolutionized the online payments world for both sending and receiving payments. However, a downside to using PayPal is having to pay fees. Even though some fees are small if you pay a lot of them, they can add up to a large amount! So, let’s explore how to avoid PayPal fees in this quick guide.

What Is PayPal?

First, here is a quick recap to explain exactly what PayPal is. PayPal is an online payment system that allows online money transfers and works as an electronic alternative to other methods like checks or money orders.

Millions of people and businesses use PayPal to process their payments. It’s a much easier and more streamlined online payment method as opposed to using credit cards. However, PayPal is not always free to use.

In the United States businesses accepting payment via PayPal are charged a percentage of the sale plus a fixed fee. The fixed fee is 30 cents, and the percentage rate is currently 2.9%.

For example, you invoice a client for $100. The client chooses to pay via PayPal. You will receive $96.80. The fixed fee of 30 cents is deducted plus the 2.9% PayPal fee which works out at $2.90.

How To Avoid PayPal Fees

Avoiding PayPal fees means you can keep more of your hard-earned money for yourself. This section will explain several methods of avoiding or reducing PayPal fees.

1. Ask For Payments Less Often

Getting paid every week is great as it means you have money every week! The downside is that every time you get paid, PayPal is charging you a fee.  Remember it’s a 30-cent fee + 2.9% for every amount received from a U.S client. If your client is outside of the U.S, the fixed fee varies, and the percentage charged goes up to 4.4%!

That means for every 100 U.S based clients you are charged $30! If you have clients outside the US, you could be paying even more!

A way to reduce these fees is to ask for payment once a month. Doing this means you only pay the fees once instead of multiple times. What’s better $30 a month or $30 a week? Easy right. Provided you can manage being paid monthly, then it’s a no-brainer!

For example, you are earning $1000 a month. Getting paid weekly could mean you only receive $880 a month after fees are deducted. Switching payments to monthly means you get $970! That’s a huge difference!

These figures are to help you visualize the benefit of being paid less often. What you would actually receive will vary based on the number of clients and where the money is coming from (either U.S or outside). However, the concept doesn’t change. You will keep more of your money by receiving it less often.

2. Be Careful How You Withdraw Money From PayPal

When you withdraw your money from PayPal you could be charged a fee depending on how you withdraw it. The good news is that you can withdraw your money fast and for free by one of two methods.

First, withdraw it directly to your bank account. Bank transfers are fast as they are usually in your account by the next business day at the latest. Getting your money this way means you pay no fees for withdrawal.

The other way to get your money is by getting a PayPal cash card.  This works like a debit card at all retailers accepting Mastercard. There is no fee to use the card and you can withdraw cash from an ATM. A PayPal cash card is a free way to get your money quickly and easily.

3. Ask To Be Paid As A Friend Or Family

As you now know any money you are paid from a client will incur a fixed fee plus a percentage of the amount. These charges only apply to money received for goods or services.

If a client chooses to pay you using the friends and family option, then no fees are charged to either party. The client will also avoid PayPal fees, provided payment is made from their PayPal balance, bank account, or a combination.

Personally, this method has worked well for me in the past. When I’ve arranged small design jobs via a member of my blogging Facebook group, we’ve agreed the payment to be handled via the friends or family option to save paying any fees.

To make a payment using the friends or family option you simply need to invoice your client directly using an accounting program or manual spreadsheet. The client can then pay you directly via PayPal. Alternatively, send the invoice via PayPal and ask the client not to pay from the invoice. Instead, they can pay using the friends or family option in their PayPal account.

Please note that there are a couple of potential risks to using the friends and family option. First, there is no payment protection for the person paying the money. If you know each other well this should be fine. 

The other risk is that PayPal may close your account if they believe you are exploiting the system. When I’ve used friends and family in the past for design jobs, I’ve only used it with smaller jobs and people I know well. Doing this may be recommended to save paying fees but there is a risk involved.

4. Add PayPal Fees Into Your Quote

Adding PayPal fees into your quote doesn’t reduce the fees, but it does mean you aren’t paying them. For example, you are charging a client $100 for a blog post. You would normally receive $96.80 if they are a U.S based client. However, you could tell them the blog post will cost $105.00 which means you still get $100 after PayPal fees are deducted. 

Alternatively, ask your client upfront if they are happy to pay the fees. Make sure this is part of the contract when you are agreeing to the job. When creating the invoice simply add a 3-4% fee to cover any PayPal fees. Remember, make sure the client agrees with this first!

5. Offer Alternative Payment Methods

The simplest way to avoid PayPal fees is by not using PayPal!

Direct deposit is an option offered by lots of companies. The money is usually paid just as fast and there are no fees to pay!

If you don’t want to use direct deposit, then you could use the traditional method of asking for a paper check. This will take longer to get your money but there are no PayPal fees to pay.

A final option to consider is using an invoicing software with inbuilt bank transfers. This means the client can receive the invoice and follow the link to easily make payment. The best thing about this is that you don’t incur any fees!

6. Try PayPal Alternatives

PayPal is not the only online payment system. You could try out one of the many alternatives to receive payments to avoid PayPal fees. This means you won’t pay any PayPal fees! Other fees may apply though so make sure you thoroughly check this out before using other systems.

7. List PayPal Fees As A Tax Deduction

In case you don’t know, PayPal fees can be deducted from your tax return. Doing this means you still have to pay the fees during the year, but your tax bill will be lower! You are simply keeping more of your money another way.

All you need to do is add up all the PayPal fees you have paid through the year. Once you have the total simply include the amount on your Schedule C.

How Much Are The PayPal Fees?

To make money PayPal charges a fee of 2.9% from the total amount of every payment received from the U.S. On top of that, there is also a $0.30 fixed fee for every transaction.

If the funds that are received are from outside the US, the transaction fee goes up to 4.4% of the total amount and the fixed fee varies. The amount of the fixed fee will depend on what country the money is from.

The person that is receiving the money is the one that has to pay any fees. This works in a similar way to paying with a card when you go to the store. The store pays the card issuer a fee for the option of accepting payments by card. 

Final Thoughts

PayPal fees can be frustrating as no one likes to see their money go to someone else! However, without fees, PayPal might have to make their money by charging you to have an account.

The good news is that you can reduce the amount of PayPal fees you are paying. Ask to be paid less frequently, build fees into your quote, or ask for payment using the friends and family option. Using these methods can vastly reduce how much you pay in fees every year.

Don’t forget you can avoid fees completely by using alternatives. Direct deposit, paper check, or accepting payment using another online payment system could all be cheaper!

the-best-time-to-buy-a-tv-in-2021

When is the Best Time to Buy a TV?

When it comes to buying a new TV, the best TV sales happen during Super Bowl season, the spring, and of course - Black Friday!Looking for deals is what makes shopping fun. The bigger the sale, the better, similar to the thought – the bigger the TV, the better!

Similar to how you buy coats after the winter season, stock up on golf supplies in the fall, and you always hit up appliance deals around Mother’s Day – there are best times to buy TVs! If you’re considering buying a new TV for your home, the best time to buy a TV matters if you’re looking to save tons of money!

Considering the ideal times to purchase a television, today, we will unveil the three best time periods each year to do so. Additionally, you will learn how to save money in the TV buying process while also getting the most bang for your buck!

The Best Times to Buy a TV

When it comes to buying a new TV, the best TV sales happen during Super Bowl season, the spring, and of course – Black Friday!

Why these times, you might be asking?

Similar to how it seems like Apple’s new iPhone’s always come out around September/October, new TV models are typically released around March/April each year. Knowing this will help you capitalize and save… starting with the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Season

When: January & February

Super Bowl season, TV, it only makes sense, right? Surprisingly enough, at first thought, you would assume it would be the most expensive time to buy a TV since almost every adult watches the Superbowl! However, it is one of the best times to buy a TV – especially the bigger ones!

Whether you watch the big game for commercials, football, or the halftime show, it doesn’t matter; Super Bowl season is a great time to purchase a brand new television. There are several reasons for this.

New models come out in early spring, and with the holidays now long gone, TV retailers use the Super Bowl as a marketing opportunity to offload old stock and sell as many TVs as possible. Traditionally, the slowest quarter for retail stores is the first quarter. TVs are marketed heavily around the Super Bowl, meaning you can save money in the process!

Spring Time

When: March & April

Remember what we said about new TV models being released in the spring? This means retailers and TV manufacturers want you to buy; thus, they incentivize consumers to buy these new models with special offers and promotions and the old models.

Like how you can scoop up a brand new car – just last year’s model – the same is true for TVs. Looking to unload their overstock from the year before, many big-box retailers offer specials for last year’s models. Unless you’re some TV connoisseur, the model doesn’t matter… how much you save does!

Knowing the TV release cycle is key to saving big when you go to purchase your next flatscreen!

Black Friday

When: The Friday & Monday after Thanksgiving

Black Friday is almost synonymous with TV deals! Seriously though, go to a Walmart or hit up Cyber Monday, and you will be bombarded with amazing TV deals the day after Thanksgiving!

Knowing consumers are looking for deals and willing to spend, TV’s are priced quite nicely to incentivize consumers to purchase brand new TVs! Creating a ripple effect, TV models and brands compete with one another to offer the best deals around Black Friday, making it one of the best times to buy a TV!

Not to mention, with the winter bringing more cool weather and with people stuck inside, TV watching goes up in the winter, therefore more are looking to up their TV game.

Other Ways to Save Buying a TV

So now you know the best time to buy a TV, but what if it’s July and you need a TV in a pinch? Here are some additional ways to save money when you’re buying a new TV.

Compare Online

You don’t need a college degree to compare the prices of TVs online; you need a smartphone, so always use the internet to your advantage. Simply start searching, comparing, and pricing TVs online. You can search for a TV by size, like “Best 65” TV deals,” or you can start with brands.

Write down the prices of the TV’s and begin to compare models, sizes, and brands. Keep in mind, though, it might be a good idea to try it with cookies on and cookies off! Companies can use internet browsing data can be used against you in the purchasing process. For example, when it comes to fights, browsing data is often used against you! For TV’s, start with exploring with cookies on, but see if turning them off can get you a better deal later!

Visit the store

After you have done your research online, visit a store. Sometimes when you visit the store, you can find much better deals. A $600 TV online might be $500 in the store, especially if they’re trying to make space in the store.

Another positive to going in the store is you can get price matches! Be sure to look at price matches before going to the store, but also, going to the store means you can explore open box deals!

Don’t be afraid of open-box deals.

Open-box deals will save you a ton of money when you’re buying a TV, making going to the store and asking about open box specials one of the best times to buy a TV! Here is how open-box works:

  1. Someone buys a TV in-store or online.
  2. They return said TV for whatever reason in working condition OR they realize there is a minor scuff, ding, or dent.
  3. Because of the minor damage or the return, TVs can b heavily discounted.
  4. You buy the item and save tons of money!

Just make sure you know the terms such as “As Is” and the return policies before buying an open-box TV.

Budget

One of the best ways to buy anything over $200 is always to have a budget and save for it!

If you can’t budget for something, it might be a warning side you don’t need it. So before you buy a TV, set a small goal to budget for it. Perhaps you put $50 an account for a year or $100 in savings account for six months before getting your new TV!

By doing this, you are also rewarding your positive behavior [SAVING] with positive reinforcement [NEW TV].

Quality matters

Sometimes when buying a TV, there is a natural inclination to purchase the cheapest TV. However, price isn’t the only factor you should consider when you buy a new TV. Quality and brand names do matter in some cases, and while you don’t have to get the top of a line TV, you shouldn’t always resort to the lowest price.

Name brand TVs are known to last longer while simultaneously perform better!

Make Money to Buy a TV

Wait, make money to buy a TV; what does that even mean?

Something available for all of us is the opportunity to make money online and outside of our careers. Many people have side hustles to stick to their financial goals while also buying new things (like a new TV) or travel more.

Figuring out a way to make money on the side of your career is always a great idea. You can use the extra income to put towards your television purchase. Remember, the best time to buy a TV is when you have the cash in hand to do so!

Final Word

Now that you know all the information one could ever need as it pertains to buying a TV at the right time of the year, keep in mind a few things before purchasing a new television.

In most cases, a new television is a want, not a need. It’s best to practice the art of budgeting, planning, and saving before merely buying a new TV. One of the reasons many people feel like they’re broke or living paycheck to paycheck is because they make impulse purchases. TVs, cell phones, and other purchases are the difference in hundreds of dollars over the year that could be saved.

Keeping this in mind, ever now and then we need to upgrade our home’s TV, so be sure to purchase yours during these times:

  1. Early spring when new models come out
  2. Black Friday or Cyber Monday
  3. Around the Super Bowl
  4. Or, explore open-box deals year-round!

This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been republished with permission.

Cheap Caribbean Vacations – The Ultimate Guide

cheap-caribbean-vacations Consistently recognized as having some of the world’s finest beaches, the Caribbean is considered to be a bucket-list destination for many travelers around the globe.

Whether you prefer to be wholly tethered to white-sand beaches or experience an entirely different culture rich in history and tradition, the Caribbean islands have something glorious in store for you.

If you relish water sports in crystal clear seas, there are a plethora of options available almost year-round – from spectacular snorkeling to world-class diving, the Caribbean is always prepared to deliver.

Even though the beaches are the island’s main draw, there is an abundance of lush rainforests and picturesque peaks replete with various bird species and countless hiking trails. Plus, the islands’ colorful heritage and unique cuisine are both enigmatic and unforgettable.

But for the frugal tourist like myself, the expense associated with planning a trip to such a widely-popular destination like the Caribbean can be quite prohibitive. Above all, I do not advocate getting into debt just to make a dream vacation into reality. At the end of the day, you want your holiday to be filled with phenomenal memories instead of a sour “broke feeling” aftertaste.

In this post, I’ll explore several strategies to assist you in mapping out your future Caribbean odyssey so you will not inflict a significant dent in your savings accounts.

Finding Cheap Caribbean Vacations

COVID19 Considerations

Effective January 26, 2021, travelers returning from overseas will need to present proof of a negative test result taken within 72 hours or documentation that they had recently recovered from COVID19 before being allowed to board a US-bound flight.

Reaching out to your destination’s tourism department or hotel to inquire if testing sites are available is highly recommended. More importantly, it is critical to choose a test site that can generate results before your departure.

Case in point, since I am traveling to Aruba in the summer, I did my due diligence by emailing their tourism department, which responded promptly. Their response included a comprehensive list of test sites, respective fees, and the expected release of test results.

Though this article is travel-related, this is by no means a recommendation to travel at this very moment. Should you decide to proceed with your trip, please be mindful of the current health guidelines being enforced by foreign countries. Even though the risk of contracting COVID19 could not be completely eliminated unless you totally isolate yourself, traveling does substantially increase the likelihood of infection, so travel only when you are able to tolerate this risk. Moreover, quarantine requirements and travel restrictions are constantly changing, so make sure that your destination does permit you to enter without requiring you to stay indoors for longer than your entire vacation.

The Caribbean Islands and Their Highlights

Photo Credit: Nationsonline.org

Anguilla – Beaches

Antigua – Beaches, Cuisine

Aruba – Beaches, Nightlife

Bahamas – Beaches, Nightlife

Barbados – Cuisine, Golf

Bonaire – Diving, Hiking

British Virgin Islands – Beaches, Diving

Cayman Islands – Beaches, Shopping

Curacao – Beaches, Hiking, Diving

Dominica – Diving, Outdoor

Dominican Republic – Beaches, Golf

Grenada – Beaches, Outdoor

Guadeloupe – Beaches, Diving, Outdoor

Jamaica – Golf, Outdoor, Cuisine

Martinique – Beaches

Montserrat – Diving, Outdoor

Puerto Rico – Nightlife, Outdoor, Culture

Saba – Diving

St. Barthelemy – Beaches

St. Eustatius – Diving

St. Kitts & Nevis – History, Golf, Outdoor

St. Lucia – Outdoor, Beaches

St. Maarten – Beaches, Plane-Spotting

St. Vincent and the Grenadines – Beaches, Diving, Golf

Trinidad & Tobago – Beaches, Diving, Golf, Outdoors

Turks & Caicos – Beaches, Diving

US Virgin Islands – Beaches, Diving

(Source: Fodor’s Travel)

Where to Go?

Comprising over 20 island-nations and territories, figuring out where to go in the Caribbean can be incredibly daunting. Unless you have the luxury of time and money to island-hop every few days, I do not suggest visiting them all in one trip.

Selecting which paradise island to explore will primarily depend on the purpose of your holiday.

Would you like to intersperse lounging at the beach with hiking?

Do you plan to either do professional diving or recreational snorkeling?

Are you a foodie and love chronicling various international cuisines?

If you are a history buff, would you be interested in visiting Alexander Hamilton’s birthplace in Nevis?

Are you scouting the perfect romantic getaway for your honeymoon?

Other considerations that can influence your choices revolve around budget and time. Some islands, such as Anguilla, Barbados, St. Barthelemy, and the British Virgin Islands, strictly cater to the well-to-do crowd which makes bargain hunting practically impossible. I will skip those if you are on a shoestring budget.

Once you have narrowed down your potential options based on the factors above, start searching for cheap airfare and wallet-friendly accommodations. You might also want to consider embarking on a discounted cruise once it is safe to do so. The sections that follow will walk you through this process.

When to Go?

A few years back, I would strongly recommend avoiding hurricane season. But with climate change in full effect, it has become much more challenging to accurately predict when hurricanes are likely to form.

By and large, the Atlantic hurricane season starts at the beginning of June and lasts until November. Historically, powerful hurricanes have occurred between August and October. To minimize the risk of inclement weather impacting your vacation, I would avoid traveling during these months.

In the event that a hurricane has disrupted your travel plans, hotels and airlines normally offer refunds or rebooking without a fee. For added protection, I advise purchasing travel insurance.

If you would like to leverage flight deals during hurricane season, the southern islands of Trinidad & Tobago, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao have traditionally escaped the wrath of powerful hurricanes in the past.

How to Find Cheap Flights?

ONLINE TRAVEL AGENCIES (OTAs) VERSUS AIRLINES

If COVID19 has taught us a lesson, it is to book flights directly with airlines. Tickets booked with online travel agencies (OTA) such as Kayak and CheapOAir were difficult to modify or cancel without a fee during the pandemic.

However, the reality is that there are so many airlines that fly to the Caribbean that running individual searches in order to arrive at the cheapest airfare will surely take an enormous amount of time. Hence, I suggest taking the OTA route as they generally scan all airlines, including budget carriers, for the cheapest airfare.

First, run your searches through these three OTAs as they consistently yield the cheapest airfare possible: Momondo, Skyscanner, and Google Flights.

Next, take note of the exact details of the flights you found and initiate a similar search directly on the airline’s website. Compare both fares and pick the cheaper flight.

If it is a difference of a few dollars, I’d rather book with the airlines as their terms mainly offer more flexibility. In fact, almost all major U.S. carriers have started waiving their change fees for flights to the Caribbean, albeit temporarily. At any rate, it is good practice to always verify the terms and conditions of the ticket you are planning to purchase before hitting the buy button.

EXPLORE OPTION

Another fantastic feature of my recommended OTAs is their ability to perform an extensive search for the cheapest flight available in any region. This feature is commonly called the “Explore” option and is available on Momondo and Google Flights.

When searching, write down “Caribbean” in the destination search box. Enter your preferred dates, then jumpstart the search. Select the particular flight that aligns with your preferred travel time (i.e., number of stops, length of layovers) and budget.

This strategy works best if you do not have a specific island in mind and are willing to fly anywhere as long as the price is right.

MISTAKE FARES

Subscribing to travel websites that comb through the web for bargain flights and mistake fares is another avenue to find airfare deals to the Caribbean.

These websites have devoted employees who meticulously monitor various travel search engines for insanely cheap plane tickets. Subscribers immediately receive a newsletter once these deals get unearthed, so they don’t miss out on these valuable promotions.

If you are curious about error fares, they are usually the outcome of computer glitches that happen quite often. Since these flights are dirt cheap, you need to pounce the moment the deal enters your inbox as they tend to quickly vanish within a few hours.

Some of these platforms require paid subscriptions, but most offer free basic memberships, so I would recommend the latter. The most popular mistake fare websites are Airfare Watchdog, Secret Flying, The Flight Deal, Travel Pirates, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and The Thrifty Traveller.

TRAVEL HACKING

Anyone remotely interested in travel should be familiar with how travel hacking works as it has the potential of saving anyone a considerable amount of money.

Every major airline has its loyalty program, and loyalists naturally get rewarded with free flights. Free travel is attained after reaching a certain number of points, usually dependent on the cost of the redemption.

Previously, the only way to accumulate these “loyalty” or “frequent flier” points is by repeatedly flying with the same airline. But that is just now a thing of the past. Currently, anyone can earn these frequent flier points by travel hacking.

Simply put, travel hacking is the art of applying for specific travel credit cards in order to earn generous sign-up bonuses that can be ultimately redeemed for free flights. It is by far the best strategy to save money on airfare.

However, this approach is sadly not for everyone. If you currently hold a lot of consumer debt or have difficulties paying off your monthly credit card balance in full, then this strategy may not be suitable for you at this time. Nevertheless, once you are debt-free, you can undoubtedly take travel hacking for a test drive to find out if it can work for you, too.

Whether you are a novice or an expert traveler, I highly recommend dabbling in travel hacking. It has brought me to countless places I would never have imagined visiting in this lifetime for a fraction of the price.

OTHER STRATEGIES

Aside from the above tactics, there are also additional methods that you can utilize to ensure that you are getting the best bang for your buck.

In short, flexibility is the name of the game. The more fluid your plans are, the higher your likelihood of grabbing deeply discounted tickets. Besides flexibility, other recommended strategies when hunting for cheap airfare include using incognito mode while searching, booking one-way, multi-city, or round-trip and comparing costs, booking one person at a time, and paying with local currency, among others.

Where to Stay?

ONLINE HOTEL SEARCH ENGINES

The strategies in finding reasonably-priced lodging will mirror the techniques for airfare. Performing a search using various online hotel search engines is recommended.

Although frugal tourists tend to naturally gravitate towards inexpensive accommodations, I firmly advise reading customer reviews before finalizing your reservations.

You would want to ensure that the property is compatible with what you are looking for, taking into account the lodging’s safety and security as well as how comfortable and clean the accommodations are. Also, you would want to know whether the hotel offers refundable rates in case your plans get derailed.

  1. Hotels.com – One of my favorites as it gives a free stay after every 10 nights.
  2. Booking.com – Consistently features deeply discounted properties.
  3. Agoda.com – Terrific promotions year-round.
  4. Hostelworld.com – If you want to save and do not mind roughing it out, staying in a hostel might be an option.
  5. AirBNB.com – If you want a property with additional amenities such as a kitchen, parking, etc, then consider staying in an Airbnb.
  6. VRBO.com – Another wonderful option for long-term stays.

Mix and Match

Some search engines such as Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, etc. allow travelers to lump airfare and hotels together in the same reservation resulting in hefty savings. Before booking, though, make sure you compare these rates with the fares you get when booking them separately.

Hotel Hacking

Identical to airfare hacking, it is possible to rack up a significant amount of hotel points when you sign up for hotel credit cards. These points can then be exchanged for free nights in virtually every major hotel chain possible.

Some of these credit cards also give out a free night certificate when you pay the annual fee. Whenever you book a night that is more expensive than the cost of the annual fee then you have come out ahead.

It bears repeating that in order to maximize these travel hacking offers, you need to have a stellar credit score and be inherently averse to debt. Despite how lucrative these credit card deals are, if you tend to encounter difficulties paying off your credit card balances when they are due, then banks might deny your application.

Once you are debt-free and have a substantial travel fund, you can consider the current offers available from these popular hotel chains: Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, and Intercontinental Hotels. Even though all of these hotel brands have a vast footprint in the Caribbean, they are not present in all of the territories. Verify that the hotel credit card you’re applying for actually has a property on the island you are planning to visit before signing up.

Package Tours for Island Hopping

Our final strategy is taking advantage of package tours, which are predominantly cruises that visit multiple ports. Despite their unsavory reputation as being virus Petri dishes, I will be remiss if I do not mention Caribbean cruises as a viable option to save a decent amount of cash.

Essentially, once we have successfully developed herd immunity and a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, joining cruises is a terrific way to visit several islands without breaking the bank.

Costco.com – routinely offers a wide range of low-cost Caribbean cruises.

Cheap Caribbean Cruises – scours the web for the cheapest available cruises.

Cruise Cheap – year-round discounts for cruises around the globe.

Travel Zoo – periodically releases deeply discounted tours.

Saving For Travel

FRONT LOADING

I save for my travels by mindfully setting aside a specific amount of money per month, so I could have almost all the funds available to withdraw while overseas or to pay my credit card bills upon my return. Since I love travel immensely, I typically save on virtually everything to guarantee that my travel fund is continually blossoming.

With rigorous discipline, it is not only possible to fund your future Caribbean vacation, but any remaining savings you have can be funneled towards other future bucket-list vacations on your drawing board. Just make sure that you keep your saved money in a high-interest savings account, so your travel fund continues to grow even in your sleep.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, navigating the countless options involved in booking your future Caribbean voyage can be extremely overwhelming. I hope that the frugal strategies I’ve outlined in this post can help you plan your trip confidently while staying within your budget.

The more money we save, the more money we can direct to our travel funds so we do not go broke when we return from our vacations. After all, traveling should never create a financial burden on anyone.

I hope that this post has also encouraged you to learn more about travel hacking so you can eventually accumulate travel reward points and redeem them for free flights and hotel stays on your forthcoming Caribbean adventure.

Lastly, I hope that this post has made you move closer to the vacation of your dreams. I can’t wait for you to embark on that journey!

This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been republished with permission.

The 12 Best Places to Buy Shoes

If you have a love-hate relationship with shoe shopping, you’re in luck. It’s easier than ever to buy shoes online and save money.

No one should sacrifice comfort and the health of their feet to save money. Instead, shop for shoes online and get the lowest prices and the highest quality all-in-one.

We’ve found the top 12 places to buy designer brands and the latest styles for you below.

Best Places to Buy Shoes Online

1. Amazon

If you haven’t discovered the shoe section on Amazon yet, it’s time. You’ll find top name brands as well as brands you haven’t heard of but will want to know about soon. Just head over and read the reviews on most of their shoes, and you’ll see that you’ve been missing out.

Amazon offers some of the lowest prices, and many orders qualify for free shipping, especially if you have Amazon Prime. Even if you don’t, though, most orders over $25 qualify for free shipping.

If you’re looking for the largest selection of styles, colors, and types of shoes, Amazon should be your go-to store.

2. Zappos

Zappos is the shoe-version of Amazon. In other words, if there’s a shoe you’re looking for, you’ll find it on Zappos. You may not see the lowest prices on Zappos, but you will find the highest quality and honest reviews.

Here’s a word of caution on their pricing. Don’t assume all colors and/or sizes are the same price. Zappos has unique ways of pricing their shoes. You may find some colors or styles significantly discounted, while others are higher priced. It depends on supply and demand, so pay close attention when you’re placing orders.

3. 6 PM

If you love the thrill of a good hunt, check out 6 PM. They are the outlet store of Zappos. In other words, if you find something you love at Zappos but don’t want to spend the money on, check again at 6 PM and see if you can snatch them for an even better deal.

Just be careful with the return policy. 6 PM has a short window of opportunity. On a good note, though, they not only have some of the lowest prices, but you can score free shipping on orders over $50, plus they offer coupons often too.

4. Zulily

If you’re looking for the most fantastic selection of discount shoes, look no further than Zulily. As their tagline says, Zulily is a ‘new store every day.’ That’s because they buy the excess stock when stores have the shoes on sale. Zulily runs a ‘flash sale’ for 24 – 72 hours to create a sense of urgency because once it’s over, it’s over.

There’s one downsize – don’t buy something from Zulily and expect it to ship fast. They run their sales approximately one week before they have the products in hand, which means it could be two weeks or longer before receiving your purchase.

5. Shoes.com

If you’ve ever wished for a shoe store with a great selection and low prices like Walmart, you’re in luck. Shoes.com is a subsidiary of Walmart, and they don’t disappoint. First, everything ships free; there’s no minimum purchase required.

As far as selection, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the great brands and options they have and at prices you’ll love. If you’re looking for even better deals, browse their sale section, and don’t forget to look at the top of the website, where they always advertise coupons and other savings. You could score an additional 25% off or more on already discounted prices.

6. DSW

With a name like Designer Shoe Warehouse, you know you’re in for a special treat at DSW. Whether you’re in the market for high heels, athletic shoes, or something in between, you’ll find it in the wide selection at DSW.

DSW has an incredible return policy (60 days), and you can always count on them to have the latest trendy shoes at prices you can afford. They only offer free shipping to VIP members, but it’s free to join, so join and don’t forget to check out their clearance section. That’s where you’ll find some of the most amazing deals on designer shoes.

7. Famous Footwear

Everyone knows Famous Footwear for their brick-and-mortar locations, but don’t forget they are a great option to buy ‘standard’ shoes online. You won’t find many designer shoe options, but if you’re looking for top-notch sneakers, boots, or sandals, they’ve got you covered.

Don’t forget to join the Famously You Rewards program (it’s free). You’ll not only enjoy free shipping, but you’ll earn a $5 cash reward for every $100 you spend, and you’ll get free shipping on any size order. Famous Footwear is known for its coupons and ‘buy one, get one half off’ deals that you can stack with coupons, leaving you with some fantastic deals on quality shoes.

8. Shoe Carnival

Shoe Carnival is just as fun as the carnivals you know and love if you’re a shoe fanatic. Shoe Carnival has some of the hottest deals on name brand shoes, and they almost always have extra coupons or special deals to take advantage of, including ‘buy one, get one half off’ deals throughout the year.

If you sign up for their Shoe Perks Rewards program, you earn $10 off a purchase of $59.98 right away, plus a $10 certificate for every $200 you spend. Shoe Carnival runs free shipping deals for members only throughout the year and plenty of member-only sales to save you even more money.

9. Nordstrom Rack

If you have Nordstrom taste, but don’t have a Nordstrom budget, check the Nordstrom Rack site. You’ll find the overstock and ‘older’ styles at Nordstrom Rack, the offshoot of its department store. By older styles, we’re talking maybe last month’s style.

You never know what you’ll find here, and it’s always in limited quantity, so don’t delay if you see something you like. These will surely help you dress for success.

10. Poshmark

If you don’t mind ‘second hand’ shoes, Poshmark is a great site to get designer shoes at a fraction of the price. Individual sellers open their ‘closets’ to buyers, often including high-end brand shoes, sometimes still with their tags.

You can view pictures, read reviews, and even counter-offer the price they’re asking if you want to pay a little less. You’ll find plenty of options on Poshmark, especially if you’re looking for a specific shoe or style that’s no longer sold in retail stores.

11. thredUP

thredUP is one of the largest online thrift stores where you can get designer shoes at a fraction of the retail price. With more than 50,000 shoes to choose from, you’re bound to find some fantastic deals on shoes you might otherwise not be able to afford (or want to pay for).

There’s something here for all types of income – and a ridiculous amount of options to choose from.

12. Overstock

You probably know Overstock for its low-cost home goods, but they have quite a selection of shoes too. Shop their regular inventory, look at the sales, and don’t forget to check back often for their flash deals, which usually offer the largest discount on the site. Like most stores that sell what didn’t sell elsewhere, quantities are limited, so if you see something you want, buy it right away.

Ways to Save When You Buy Shoes Online

Now that you know the best places to buy shoes online, it’s time to learn how to save even more money. While many sites have extra coupon codes or deals right on their home page, there are other ways to save on shoes too.

Regardless of whether or not you have a budget category defined for your shoe budget or not, you’re sure to save money by following our tips!

Search for a Promo Code

Search online for a coupon code for the store you’re shopping at to save the most money. You never know when there’re extra savings available. All it takes is finding the code and entering it at checkout.

Look for Shipping Deals

Many online shoe stores offer free shipping when you spend a certain amount. Always check the minimum. Sometimes all it takes is adding a pair of socks or other small accessories to your order to put you over the threshold to get free shipping.

Join Loyalty Programs

Many discount shoe stores offer loyalty programs, and they’re free to join. When you join, you often earn points for every purchase and have access to member-exclusive deals. You may receive birthday coupons, exclusive sales, or have access to exclusive promo codes.

Earn Cash Back When You Shop Online

If you do any shopping online, download a shopping rebate app to earn cash back on your order. Apps like Rakuten pay you cash back if you shop through the app at your favorite shoe stores. Any money you earn back is also the savings you earn when you buy discount shoes online.

Check out this comprehensive Rakuten review to learn more about how it can save you money.

Shop Around

The beauty of buying shoes online is you can shop around in your PJ’s while lying in bed. It takes just minutes to look at a handful of stores, especially when you’re after a specific shoe or brand. Take advantage of the ability to comparison shop and see who has the best deals before you buy those designer shoes.

Alternative Ways to Pay for Shoes

Sometimes, even when shopping at a discount, shoes can get really expensive. Find ways to earn free money to help offset the costs. You could always earn some extra money from your couch by watching ads for money or by getting paid to watch movies too.

Buy Shoes Online and Save Money

You could save hundreds of dollars a year if you buy shoes online. Even if you’re the type that likes to try shoes on in person, many of these stores have brick-and-mortar locations. You can purchase the shoes online, try them on and exchange or return the shoes in person if necessary.

Don’t forget there are plenty of odd jobs app opportunities to earn a few extra bucks if you want to help cover the bill for your new shoes.

When you shop for shoes online, you have a better chance of scoring amazing deals on designer shoes that might otherwise be outside your budget. Don’t be afraid to try stores with flash sales, overstock, or even secondhand (thrift) stores. Have some fun shopping for shoes and let your closet grow while staying within your budget.

This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been republished with permission.

How to Find Cheap Vets Near Me

The last thing you ever want to be worrying about is, “where do I find cheap vets near me.”

Whether it’s for routine preventative care like wellness checks, vaccinations, spay-neuter, or emergencies and surgeries, everyone wants access to the best low-cost veterinary care they can get for their companion-animal.

When you are in the midst of an animal emergency, two things could happen. Either you’re not going to care about money and could find yourself with a whopping emergency veterinary care bill later, or you might delay care for your favorite furry, feathered, or scaly friend if worrying about the costs.

Planning for the health of your pet should be part of your overall preparedness considerations. So, let’s discuss some of the ways to keep your animal medical care bills low.

Many of these options are more appropriate for routine and preventative care.

It’s probably a good idea to have a monthly budget item for your pet’s health care. If you find affordable vet care for things you can control, you can have more money to add to a sinking fund when animal emergencies come up!

When You Get Your Pet

Whether you get your pet from a shelter, adopt from a friend, or purchase from a breeder, there are likely some initial medical expenses that you will need to take care of. You will also want to consider getting established with a veterinarian, much like you should have a primary care doctor for yourself!

how-to-find-cheap-vets-near-me

Free Vet Care With Adoption and Services for Pets From Shelters

We all know that adopting a pet is cheaper than purchasing one. But something you may not realize is that for cats and dogs, you may get some cheap veterinary care too.

First, a vet has likely already checked out your animal, so major health problems will probably have already been identified and perhaps treated. Shelter animals will likely be receiving canine and feline flea medication while in the shelter. Dogs and cats will almost always have been sterilized, treated for parasites, and received any of their needed vaccinations, such as a rabies shot, as part of standard shelter animal care. Chances are, you will not need to pay for animal vaccines for almost a year after adopting an animal.

Many shelters have relationships with local veterinarians so that your pet can receive some free or cheap vet care for 2-4 weeks after adoption. They may supply a voucher for one or more vet clinics near the shelter that they partner with. Some shelters are even offering free pet insurance for a short period after the adoption.

Don’t forget to ask your local shelter for recommendations for cheap vets near you, even if you didn’t adopt there. They will surely have some ideas of where to point you.

Spay and Neuter

Local animal welfare groups often work to set up free spaying or neutering for puppies and kittens. There are even more programs to help with female cats’ sterilization to reduce the populations of feral kitties running around. You can usually find a charity or animal welfare organization that will help with stray or feral cats’ spays to prevent overpopulation. The ASPCA often runs spaying and neutering clinics or may be able to point you towards one if you contact the closest local office.

If you’re not immediately aware of a free or cheap option to save on spay-neuter costs, which can run up to $200, try using a tool like PetSmart’s database of free and low-cost clinics around the country. Love That Cat also offers a list around the country specifically for cats and low or free spay-neuter programs.

These services may only be available on specific days or times, so plan ahead!

Vaccines

There are several vaccines that your pet will need; what vaccines depend on both local regulations and local safety risks. It would be best if you discussed this with your veterinarian to determine exactly what your pet needs.

Once you know what vaccines your animal needs, you can administer many vaccines to your cat or dog at home. There are resources online that show you how to safely do all of this, which may also offer the vaccines for sale. A local pet supply shop or animal feed store may also provide vaccines for purchase and home administration.

If you are not comfortable with the DIY approach, do not worry. As with spay and neuter, there are often various cheap vets providing low-cost or free vaccination care. Google “free pet vaccines” and your state to see options closest to you.

One-Stop Shops for Cheap Vets Near Me

For more comprehensive care in one place, you might be looking for a go-to location. Yes, your pets will need initial routine care, but they will also require ongoing check-ups, and you may have a health emergency involving your pet.

Veterinary Hospitals at Veterinary Colleges

Have you ever been to a beauty school for a cheap haircut? Seeking care for your pet at a local veterinary school provides much of the same benefit. But, with much more oversight from licensed, experienced vets who supervise these veterinarians in training. Since these places are training the next generation, they also have some of the most state-of-the-art medical care.

Since these future veterinarians are still training, you can often access affordable care for your animal here. However, these may only be intended for low-income individuals. It’s also possible; it may not be any cheaper than your local vet. So check prices!

You can look at the list of accredited veterinary colleges at the American Veterinary Medical Association website.

Keep in mind; this is only potentially cheaper if it works out geographically. If you are having to travel long distances or even overnight, the cost savings may not be there in the end!

Veterinary Healthcare Chains

The VCA Hospital network, over 1000 animal hospitals in most US states and even some in Canada, has some unique offerings. Though their name says veterinary hospital, they offer full-service care. For new clients, they also offer a free first exam. They also offer a membership option.

Starting at $25 a month, they offer unlimited regular exams during regular business hours (so, not after hours, not an emergency, and not specialty clinics). You can access free 24-hour chat with a vet on their app and bundled discounts on services like vaccine and lab work. They even have a program to earn money back on products you purchase for your pet.

If this works out to be a savings depends on your pet, needs, and level of care. But it’s worth checking out.

Knowing that you can take your pet in whenever you need it during regular office hours could prevent an expensive after-hours emergency care visit for your animal.

Your Local Vet may be the Cheapest Vet Near You.

Don’t write off your local veterinary clinics!

Veterinarians are, by large, pretty compassionate people. If you are an established client with your vet, feel free to ask them if there is any way to negotiate the cost of your animals’ care. You can also ask your vet if they know of someone else who may be able to do a procedure for cheaper. Additionally, your local vet knows you are more likely to be willing to offer payment plans to help you pay.

Some vets offer specials, so ask your vet if they have any deals. I checked out a vet office in my state and saw this list of weekly specials:

  • Monday: “Pet Microchips: $20.00 each.”
  • Tuesday: “Dog and Cat Nail Trims, $10 each.”
  • Wednesday: “10% off all X-Rays, Out-House Blood Work, and Most In-House Blood Work.”
  • Thursday: “Vaccine Value Day” with savings of $9-$19
  • Friday: “Savings on FELV/FIV Testing and Anal Gland Expression” (what a way to end the week, anal gland expression day!).
  • Saturday: “Want to take advantage of our daily specials, but you can only come on Saturdays? Ask us about our Gold Paw Membership! (This membership grants everyday special prices any day of the week).

Another office offered a one-time fee per pet for free vaccines for life (standard pet vaccines).

You never know what you might find by simply asking vets in your area! There is also something to be said about the level of service you are likely to get from your local private veterinarian. Are they going to pick up the phone after hours? Might they make a special trip into the office on the weekend for you? Though you can’t put a dollar value to these things, when you consider the whole package your local vet may offer, they may very well be the cheapest vet near you.

If You Cannot Afford Veterinary Care

There are some options available when it comes to ways to help afford veterinary care. As hard as it can be to admit when we need help, don’t let that stop you from getting your animals the care they need with available services. Sometimes you need to accept the help of charities for your family – animals are family too!

The American Humane Society offers this resource, which links to organizations that provide veterinary care assistance. Many of these are local organizations, such as FACE, which provides financial assistance to San Diego County, California.

FACE was started to avoid “economic euthanasia,” where animals are euthanized due to their owners’ inability to pay for lifesaving medical care. National organizations include The Shakespeare Fund, designed for the elderly, disabled, and those under the poverty line with emergency vet bills.

Another option is to look for local shelters and animal rescue groups. Some may provide low-income assistance with animal medical bills or care. A great way to find local shelters and rescues is via The Shelter Pet Project.

Pet Meds

Don’t forget how expensive pet medications can get. Given that pets can take both “people medicine” and animal use only medicine, you have many options to explore.

For most medications, you are likely to be paying a significant markup buying it directly from your veterinarian. Depending on the circumstances, this may be perfectly acceptable. If it’s a short-term med or one you need to start your animal on right away, this is probably the best bet.

However, if you can wait to get your animal’s prescription filled elsewhere and perhaps delivered, ask for a prescription and shop around. You can also ask your vet if they will price match from a vet pharmacy.

You can use a website such as GoodRx.com to get an idea of what (human) drugs cost without insurance (and using the GoodRx discount card). They even provide costs for some common pet meds via online veterinary pharmacies (but it’s not a comprehensive list).

Costco carries a wide variety of pet meds for a traditional pharmacy and allows the Costco Member Prescription Program for its available pet meds, which should provide additional cost savings.

You may not need to look far, though – many brick and mortar pharmacies do have ways of ordering some of the more common veterinary meds; make sure to price check with another couple of options.

You can do a web search for pet pharmacies or look for lists such as these. Just make sure you compare 3-4 options unless it’s cheap, to begin with!

Also, don’t forget to give your pet their meds according to schedule! Missed doses can add up and lead to longer-term health outcomes. If you need some help remembering what meds to give or coordinating with another caregiver, consider using a medication tracker like the one here, there’s even one for Fido!

General Pet Health, Your Ticket to Avoiding Vet Bills

Keep in mind, the best way to avoid costly medical bills is to make sure you’re keeping your pet happy and healthy. A good diet, exercise, and plenty of love and attention is the cheapest way to keep your pet in tip-top shape. Hopefully, you will never have to scramble to find the most affordable vet near you!

This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been republished with permission.

The PBJ Theory, Please Quit Complaining About Food Budgets

Looking to save money on monthly budget? Here is the Peanut Butter & Jelly Theory that is a quick thought on how you can save money on quick recipes for your family. #budget #savemoney #personalfinance

I’m about to save you thousands of dollars.

All the money you spend in your life, or even an average month. Chances are one of your largest expenses is food. It happens literally to everyone.

Eating Out Is The Worst For Your Wallet

So when people start to track their budgets, they always come to the same conclusion. “I need to quit eating out more”. The average person eats out 4.5 times per week costing them $12.14 per meal on a national average according to a 2016 survey conducted by Zagat. That doesn’t even include the additional cost of tipping.

That means the average person spends $54.63 eating out a week or $218.52 a month on just eating out. Unless you have a side-hustle that makes you lots of money. The obvious answer is to eat in!

What About Eating In?

Most people think they can easily quit dining out, and start cooking delicious meals. Here’s the thing with cooking for yourself, the movies get it wrong.

It’s not always a romantic and soothing experience.

Often times it’s a “Crap, I need to eat. What should I cook?” experience that you pray to the food gods you have the right ingredients in your fridge and clean dishes.

Let’s face it, we are busy in our lives and don’t have the time to visit the store every day buying fresh ingredients for a new recipe we found on the internet.

In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, researcher Eddie Yoon over two decades collected data as consultants for consumer packaged goods companies. He found that:

  • 15% of people say they LOVE to cook
  • 50% of people say they HATE to cook
  • 35% of people say they are ambivalent about cooking (mixed feelings)

If you’re one of the people that hate cooking, you should create a meal plan to make it as easy as possible.

Plan a week in advance what you’re going to eat for each meal and know how to cook it. This way you’ll have the ingredients and can plan accordingly for time.

However, not all plans work out.

Introduce The Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

When meal plans fail, let me introduce Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, otherwise known as a PBJ.

Let me first admit that I have an addiction to commenting on Finance forums, Facebook Groups, and Blogs. The mechanics of building wealth are simple and I’m always happy to remind people that things are often more simple than they appear. Like how I responded to this comment and created “The Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory”.

I get it, you want to start saving money on food and you’re looking for suggestions from the personal finance community to help.

Answers ranged from getting a crockpot to make meals simple, cooking large meals on Sunday and eating leftovers throughout the week, to buying frozen meals that may not be great for you, but easy to prepare.

All of the responses skirted around the idea that a solid weekly meal plan is the best option to help you save money on food. However, sometimes these meals don’t work out for a number of reasons, and once you fall off the wagon, you can end up at the local McDonalds.

So I introduced the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory. The cost-effective, quickest meal ever to keep your budget on track.

This is easily the most actionable thing you can do to start immediately saving on your food budget. In many cases when people eat out, it’s due to convenience because they don’t have anything at home to sound appealing. That’s when the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory comes in handy.

“Stash emergency PBJ&J supplies in your kitchen. When hungry, but have nothing else. You can have a PBJ. If you’re not hungry for a PB&J, wait 2 hours until you’re hungry enough to eat a PB&J.”

Sometimes a PBJ isn’t exactly what you’re craving and your favorite restaurant sounds better, or your family would not be happy about that. Well suck it up, you’ll soon be out of debt and you can buy your family a jet ski. Everyone loves a jet ski.

Try the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

If you want to save THOUSANDS on food budgets, you should try the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory! Meals cost less than $1 to make, you’ll save time and money. Most importantly, you’ll have a secret stash of PBJs to make and everyone is a stack of cash saved from eating out!

You’re welcome.

Disclaimer: Wallet Squirrel did not invent the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, just an advocate of saving money. Wallet Squirrel was not sponsored by big PBJ corporations to promote their superior and delicious product.

Oh My Goodness I Hate Tipping, It Ruins My Budget and Anxiety

Let me preface that I used to be a waiter so I understand the value of tipping, but as a customer, tipping is the worst! It's psychological warfare at the end of every meal that results in either anxiety that you haven't paid enough or havoc on your wallet for paying too much. #opinion #personalfinance Let me preface that I used to be a waiter so I understand the value of tipping, but as a customer, tipping is the worst! It’s psychological warfare at the end of every meal that results in either anxiety that you haven’t paid enough or havoc on your wallet for paying too much.

Then exactly how much too much and too little for a tip? Common restaurant adequate says a tip should be 15%-20% pretax, but then why does every restaurant leave the anxiety for the customer to decide how much to tip?

Let’s face it, an extra 20% of a $60 check is still a lot on your budget. That’s $12 the menu doesn’t mention.

This History of Tipping is Murky

From what I found in the Business Insider and Washington Post (and it’s a murky origin story) tipping originated around 17th century England where the word T.I.P. meant “To Insure Promptitude”. The upper class provided extra “allowance” to servers (lower class) to be given faster service.

This practice made its way to America after the Civil War when wealthy Americans started traveling back and forth to Europe. So we can blame them, and I do.

Tipping Today Just Allows Restaurants to Pay it’s Servers Poorly

Because servers receive tips, the federal tipped minimum wage for tipped workers is as little as $2.13 an hour because they receive tips to supplement the difference (source).

That’s kind of ridiculous, right! Restaurants are allowed to only pay their servers $2.13 an hour and expect servers to get the rest of their income from tips. So when you pay your bill, you’re essentially paying for the food/environment with your bill and your tip pays the waiter’s salary.

If you’re a waiter, the customer is actually your boss since they’re the ones that pay you. So every day, every hour, you have a different boss. Yikes.

How Much Do You Pay Your Server Then?

According to Google, yes I googled “How Much Should I Tip”. You should be paying your server 15%-20% of your pre-tax bill.

This Is Where The Anxiety Starts

Which one is it? Do I tip 15% or 20%?

What If The Server Was Bad?

If my bill is $100, does the server get an extra $20 just because they took my order and walked food back from the kitchen?

What if they were awful? We’ve all had bad servers who ignored us. They took a long time or brought us the wrong items with a rude attitude. Is that when you tip them 15% instead of 20%?

What about if the food was awesome but the service was terrible? ugh

Should I feel both angry at my server for bad service but feel guilty since they’re paid so poorly? How should I feel?

I recall a study conducted found that bad servers still received 15%-20% regardless of how good the service was because people felt it was the socially acceptable thing to do. No one wants to be a bad tipper, but should I tip poorly to save a bit of money and prove a point to the server? Would a bad tip even make a difference?

What if the server was awesome?

You plan to spend a certain amount of money eating out and even account for a 20% tip. Do you exceed your budget further if your server was fantastic? Should your server’s awesomeness impact your planned budget? Should they be worthy of more than a 20% tip of that you’re still paying off student loans?

Damn it Janet, you were so great that now my tip for you exceeds my monthly food budget.

Are you a bad person if you don’t acknowledge their above and beyond service or will they quit trying harder if people don’t tip more for the great service?

What About Tipping During Group Meals?

Now imagine eating out with a group of friends, each pays their own bills and it always ends with everyone deciding the tip for themselves. All while each of you judges each other’s tips. If you only tipped 15%, does that make you a jerk if everyone else tipped 20% – 25%?

On the other hand, are you a jerk for tipping more than everyone? Are you considered flaunting your money because you can spend more money than everyone else or does it make you more generous or charitable?

This Is Why I Hate Tipping!

Why does a nice meal out with friends have to end with awkward silences while everyone calculates percentages in their heads while they secretly judge the performance of the server? Ending in silent comparison of who tipped more, who was more generous, and who felt more charitable than the rest of the group.

I Now Tip 20% Regardless of Service

Tipping makes me so anxious that I’m just starting to tip 20% regardless of service (paying with my credit card). The server can refill my drink at the perfect time or pour hot soup on my head. Creating a baseline 20% tip in every situation saves me from unnecessary anxiety at the cost of a few extra dollars from my budget. Sorry budget.

Except Subway “Sandwich Artists”, I still don’t understand why they now have a tip jar. They literally walk along with me placing ingredients I select onto bread. Is tipping at fast food restaurants now becoming a thing?

If you also tip 20% regularly, here is a chart to help you decide what 20% would be when you’re looking over a menu because they don’t list the extra tipping cost on the menu.

20% Tip Per Cost of your meal 

Check 20% Tip
$20 $4
$40 $8
$50 $10
$60 $12
$70 $14
$80 $16
$90 $18
$100 $20

If this seems like a lot of money to tip, you can always stay in and eat a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. Save eating out when you know you can spend extra money on a 20% tip.

What do you tip your servers? There is obviously no right answer otherwise they wouldn’t leave the tip field on every check blank. I REALLY want to know. Do you judge your waiter every service or, like me, give them a flat fee regardless?

7 Good Reasons I Still Carry Cash, Please Don’t Rob Me

7 Good Reasons I Still Carry Cash - Please Don't Rob Me. #Wallet #Cash #Money #Prepared #Rob How much cash do you keep in your wallet?

We are regularly becoming a cashless society with credit cards and digital transactions becoming the primary forms of money transfer. Even mega-company Starbucks continues to play with the idea of a completely cashless store, only accepting credit cards and mobile apps.

More and more people don’t carry cash anymore. When going out, we take our phone, ID, and credit card. With those, you can pretty much pay for anything. Even then, credit cards are becoming obsolete as phones nowadays can handle most payments.

As people continue their unknowing war on cash. The biggest winners are the four major financial institutions MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and Square. I find myself regularly reminding friends to continue to at least keep some cash on them for the following reasons.

FYI – I keep about $100 in my wallet at all times for these reasons. Again, please don’t rob me. I usually have (3) Twenty Dollar Bills, (2) Ten Dollar Bills, (1) Five Dollar Bill and the rest One Dollar Bills. Always stacked in order so I can quickly grab what I need.

In a cashless society, here’s why you still need cash

1. A Minimum Purchase on Cards – This is probably one of the biggest reasons why everyone should keep some extra cash on them. Most stores require a “minimum credit card amount” usually set at $5 to $10. This is because stores are forced to pay a 1.6% + $0.10 fee to process your credit card. The lower the price, the more it cuts into their profit.

If your store doesn’t have a “minimum credit card amount” it likely means they’re afraid to scare you away and prefer to absorb those extra costs for the extra convenience of their customers. If you don’t have cash, you’ll be required to buy extra things to surpass their minimum $5 or $10 credit card amount, and that’s not frugal.

2. Parking – If you’re frugal, you’re likely willing to park miles away to avoid paying for a parking spot. However, there are times that’s not an option. You’ll need to pay for a spot or worse a valet. If you’re stuck in a situation where a valet is your best option, it’s always easier to have the cash to hand over quickly.

3. When in a rush – There have been a couple of times I’m at a restaurant with coworkers and the server is swamped. The server is trying their best, but everyone is attempting to fit lunch in a 1-hour period. Rather than waiting for the server to process your credit card and return. It’s easier to lay down the cash and return to the office.

4. Soda Machines – It’s impressive to see the number of soda machines that now accept credit cards. However, it’s not yet universal implemented and many machines still only accept cash. In these moments when you absolutely need caffeine, carrying cash is handy!

5. TippingI’ve shared my thoughts on tipping before, and I now tip 20% for everything I do. Yet there are many situations, other than restaurants, that tipping is standard and credit card payments may not be an option.

One example was a Bike Bar I recently celebrated with friends (photo below of our Bike Bar). We paid the $234 through their online portal weeks in advance but that didn’t include the tip for our host. After a great trip, we tipped our tour guide with $40 because he went above and beyond. No one had a credit card processing machine on hand, and we didn’t want the extra hassle of finding our host on Venmo or PayPal. So we handed over cash, it’s still the easiest way to transfer money in person.

6. Special Discounts – This relates to #1 with the “minimum credit card purchase”. Many stores offer special discounts to people who pay with cash. This saves the store from paying a credit card processing fee and eating into their profits. Plus you save a few dollars when those savings are passed onto you.

7. When Your Credit Card Breaks – This is a thing. I’ve been at the grocery store many times with my credit card, and the “Chip” unexpectantly fails. Sometimes the card is dirty, sometimes the processing machine doesn’t like the angle of the card. Either way, it’s an embarrassing feeling to hold up a line while a tiny machine angrily honks at you. At times like these, having cash is a quick lifesaver and contingency plan to failing technology. It’s bound to happen, so being prepared helps!

Can you think of any other examples of when you might use cash over a credit card?

4 Reasons You Don’t Really Own Digital Movies You Buy on Amazon

Let’s face it, we are in the age of digital media. Companies like Amazon and iTunes have made it so convenient for us to buy movies off their digital marketplace. We no longer need to go to the store to buy a physical DVD or Blu-Ray anymore. We can just buy a movie online and stream it instantly. However, do you actually own the digital movies you buy?

Let’s look at the most popular movie this year. Avengers Endgame is now available to purchase. You have the choice to buy the “digital movie” or a physical DVD/Blu-Ray. In both cases you’re actually buying a personal “license” to watch the movie, the difference is the format.

Yet, as you’ll learn, there’s a big difference between digital movies and the physical movies you’re used to buying.

4 Reasons you don’t really own digital movies you buy on Amazon

1. You can’t access your movie whenever you want

Whenever you want to watch a digital movie, you have two barriers to overcome. First, you need to have internet access on the device you want to watch, or thought ahead and have the movie downloaded to that particular device.

Then you also need to have Amazon’s proprietary software on that device to play the movie. Think app. Once you have those, you just need to pray your movie won’t be interrupted by constant buffering or their servers fail.

2. You can’t sell your movies or let friends borrow them

Ever been to a yard sale? You can usually find some awesome movie titles for sale. For the seller, it’s one of the easy ways to make money and you get an awesome movie to take home. Later, you can make a few dollars back when decided to sell it in the future.

However digital movies are now stopping this practice.

Your digital movie is directly tied to your account. You are not allowed to let friends borrow them or sell your movies once you’re done. Your movie is directly tied to your account. If a friend wants to watch a movie, they have to watch it on your account or buy the movie themselves.

3. Amazon can lose the movie rights or cancel your account at any time, and lose all your movies

If you read the long, lengthy Amazon agreement when you buy movies. They state that you can watch your digital movies as much as you want (subject to the limitations described in the Amazon Instant Video Terms of Use)

Those limitations stated in their agreement include “Amazon will not be liable to you if Purchased Digital Content becomes unavailable for further download or streaming.”. Meaning that Amazon isn’t responsible if the movies you bought suddenly and unexpectantly disappear. Doesn’t it feel like buying a digital movie is more like renting it for a long time until an unknown deadline when Amazon loses the rights? Something that doesn’t happen with an old DVD.

This has actually already happened to people. Consumer Reports found one such individual who purchased the animated film “Puss In Boots” from Amazon for $14.99 later to be told that due to “licensing restrictions, videos can become temporarily unavailable”. A situation where the typical movie lover can feel powerless.

Amazon can also cancel your account at any time with no warning, they’ve done it before. In April 2018 Fortune Magazine found hundreds of Amazon Prime account users had their accounts deactivated by Amazon for no reason.

All of those people’s movies and music which they “bought” were gone. They no longer had access to anything and with no warning. Amazon later said they removed people’s accounts for violating their return policy (returning items is a negative thing now?) and if people were accidentally removed, they were “encouraged” to contact Amazon to clear the matter.

So Amazon removed a bunch of people from their accounts and movies then informed them it was their responsibility to fix it. Ouch.

4. If Amazon goes out of business, you’re screwed

Remember when Myspace was a big deal? Tech companies like Amazon seem so large that they’ll be here forever but the fact is, they won’t. At least not as the same company they are now.

If Amazon does go out of business, everything you ever bought digitally is lost. Movies, Kindle books, the works.

The fact is, everything digital you buy from Amazon, technically remains theirs. When they’re gone, so is everything digital you bought.

Conclusion

Amazon and iTunes make purchasing digital movies incredibly easy, and at times even cheaper than actual Blu-Rays and DVDs. However, by giving up the physicality of a movie you can hold, you lose a certain amount of control of when and how you can watch digital movies.

You can’t sell them, lend them to friends, watch them without internet access (unless pre-downloaded) and you’re constantly at the mercy of Amazon and iTunes hoping they won’t deactivate your account, lose their movie licenses, crash their servers or go out of business.

That may be fine for most people, but it’s important to know digital movies work and how much control you have.

Personally, I always buy physical copies of movies becasue they typically come with a free digital code anyways. It’s the best of both worlds.