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NM+ Weekly Update 7/10/21: Crete Edition!

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Hello from Crete! I’ve been loving this island. It’s fantastic. Since my last update, I spent a week in Santorini and have now been in Crete for the past week. I have another 3 days here before it’s back to Athens.

Crete is incredible. I’ve been wanting to come here since I was a teenager. Back in those days, when I was really into history, I started to read a lot of books on the Minoan civilization. The Minoans were the oldest civilization in the region and were so advanced they had sewe…

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Greece: Ten Years Later

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The clear, vibrant waters of Naxos, Greece
Posted: 7/12/21 | July 12th, 2021

I was scared. As I packed my bags, all these worries darted through my mind: Would travel be just as fun and carefree as it was pre-COVID? Would people still be hosteling? What would that vibe be like? Would I even remember how to travel?

Sure, I was excited. I was going to Greece, a destination I hadn’t visited in ten years!

But, as the world got back into traveling — as I got back into traveling — would it be so different I wouldn’t recognize the experience?

And what about Greece itself? How different would it be after so long, not only because of the boom in influencer-driven selfies from the islands but also a year without tourism?

Before every trip, my scared inner self worries about all the things that could go wrong. It screams my lingering fears and anxieties about, well, everything. I don’t let these fears stop me from traveling, but, even after all these years on the road, the old me is still there in the back of my mind, fretting about everything.

Charming alleys in Naxos, Greece

It turns out travel is just like riding a bike. As soon as I touched down in the Athens airport, my brain went on autopilot and, before I knew it, I was reading a book on the subway into town as if I had done it a million times before.

Because I had. Subways work essentially the same everywhere in the world.

And all those worries? They were for nothing. Traveling in the age of COVID just means more paperwork and a mask now and then. Before my flight, I had to show my vaccination card and proof I had filled out Greece’s health screening form, as well as answer a barrage of additional questions. Masks were required on the plane, and there were document checks when you landed. And there are health forms to be filled out before taking any ferries.

But beyond that, everything else is (mostly) the same. Traveling through Greece right now, you don’t see many people wearing masks. It’s too hot, and most people (at least on the islands) are vaccinated. Servers, bus drivers, some hotel staff, and taxi drivers wear them about 50% of the time. If you go into a museum or public building, you are required to wear them but it’s not common to see people in public walking around with masks.

A cruise ship in the harbor of one of the Greek Islands

Greece is as magical as I remember it. It’s still the land of blazing suns, picturesque landscapes, olive groves, azure water that beckons to you, jovial locals who talk with such rapidity and vigor that you think Greeks only communicate by yelling, refreshing wines, and out-of-this-world food with a variety that never seems to end. (And, ten years later, Greece is still incredibly affordable.*)

I’m now in my third week here. I started off in Athens before quickly heading off to Naxos, Ios, and Santorini, then arriving in Crete, where I am now.

Naxos, my favorite island in the Cyclades, is still as quiet as it has always been, but there are more shops, beach bars, and boutique hotels catering to a richer clientele. Thankfully, the island is so big that it’s easy for people to spread out; there’s hardly ever a crowd.

Santorini is way more developed, with more boutique hotels, fancy eateries, and bougie wineries. And the prices and crowds are just as crazy as I remember them to be (though not as much as Mykonos). As I said on my Instagram, I’m not a huge fan of this island. There are just too many people concentrated in a space that can’t accommodate them.

A picturesque sunset on an island in Greece

But the crowds that descend on the island are still fairly muted compared to pre-COVID standards. There are fewer cruise ships each day and not as many regular travelers. If I’m finding it crowded now, I can’t even begin to imagine how crowded it must have been pre-COVID.

And the hostel scene I was so worried about? Well, all over Greece, it’s still raging. Hostels are still the bustle of energy they used to be. Sure, they aren’t as crowded as before but I can say that hostel life has not been destroyed by COVID. While some hostels are limiting the number of people in dorms, hostels have been fairly crowded with plenty of backpackers looking to meet other travelers.

Overall, I don’t feel like Greece has changed that much. Sure, credit cards are widely accepted now, prices are a bit higher, and there’s more luxury stuff for tourists, but its essence hasn’t changed. It’s still got the same character.

(And Crete? Wow. What an incredible place. I am glad I finally made it here. But more on that later in a longer post just about this island.)

The calm, clear waters of the Cylades Islands in Greece in the summer

Being back in Greece has reminded me of the joy of travel. Sitting on the water’s edge, diving into a fish with a glass of white wine, I felt just so dang happy. I was feeding my body, but more importantly, I was feeding my soul. Greece has been the antidote to the malaise I’ve felt since the pandemic began.

That year-plus of drifting denied me my passion in life: travel. What does one do when they can’t do what they love anymore? It wasn’t like I had decided to retire. I was forced to take a break.

Now, I am back at it and already have found that there is simply not enough time to do everything I want to. My month in Greece looks like it will turn into five weeks, and as I stare at a map of Europe and think, “Where to next?” my mind creates a million itineraries and possibilities.

But that is a Future Matt problem. Present Matt has noticed that it’s dinnertime here in Crete, and as the sun sets, another seaside restaurant in Chania, with its freshly caught fish and chilled glass of white wine, is calling me.

And that’s a call I simply can’t resist.

*Note: I’ll have a post on costs soon.

Book Your Trip to Greece: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want More Information on Greece?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Greece for even more planning tips!

The post Greece: Ten Years Later appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The 13 Best Things to See & Do on the Oregon Coast

Posted By : webmaster/ 9 0


A solo tarveler walking on the beach in Oregon, USA
Posted 7/8/2021 | July 8th, 2021

Foggy, seeming perpetually damp, vibrantly green, and filled with tiny fishing villages, Oregon’s coast reminds me a lot of my home region of New England. Not so much weather-wise – New England isn’t as damp – but they both have a similar spirit. Here, like there, seafood is king, the towns are tiny and tight-knit, and the people are hardy and welcoming.

Having driven this part of the Pacific coast twice now and I can confidently say that this stretch of road is one of the most scenic in the country. While the distance from Astoria in the north to Brookings in the south looks vast on a map, it’s not: you can actually drive along the region’s spine, Route 101, from end to end in a day.

But why would you want to do that?

It’s far better to hop up like a frog up or down the coast, driving for a few hours, stopping to eat and enjoy the surroundings, then hopping to another the following day (or two). While you could — like any destination — spend lots of time here, I think a week would give you enough time to see the main sights and explore the area’s abundant nature.

During my recent drive down the coast, I bounced from town to town, consuming my weight in oysters and other tasty seafood while basking in the peace and tranquility of the coastal towns.

If you find yourself on this stretch of coast, wondering what to do and where to eat, well, here are my suggestions:
 

1. Hike the Oregon Coast Trail

A sign for the Oregon Trail in Oregon, USA
This 425-mile (684km) trail stretches down the Oregon coast. It’s relatively easy, with some moderate sections, and almost 40% of it is along the beach. It takes around a month to hike the entire trail, but it’s divided into 10 sections to better facilitate shorter hikes.

You can also jump on the trail pretty much anywhere you want for day hikes, such as Arch Cape to Oswald West State Park (4.1 miles), Yachats to Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint (3.8 miles), and Sunset Bay State Park to Cape Arago State Park (2.3 miles).
 

2. Eat your weight in oysters

A platter of fresh oysters in Oregon, USA
I’ve grown to love oysters over the years. Their plump, juicy bodies, sweet taste, and creamy texture. I love that they take the taste of the water around them so no two oysters from different regions of the world are quite the same. And, thankfully, the friend I road tripped with also loves oysters. We ate about four dozen every day. The oysters here are rich, sweet, and meaty – and they’re sold everywhere so you won’t need to look far to find them.

My favorite spots were from Shucker’s Oyster Bar (Lincoln City), Oregon Oyster Farm (Newport), Mo’s Seafood & Chowder (Newport), and Clausen Oysters (North Bend). You can get a half dozen for around $15 USD, though if you go to the oyster farms, they are cheaper.
 

3. Explore Fort Stevens State Park

Located north of Thor’s Well at the very northwestern tip of Oregon, Fort Stevens was a military base that guarded the Columbia River. The fort was in service from the Civil War to World War II, eventually being converted into a massive 4,300-acre park, where you can tour the remaining gun batteries and underground tunnels, hike, rent bikes, go boating, and camp.

There is also a cool shipwreck on the beach. The Peter Iredale ran aground here in 1906, and while the ship was mostly stripped for scrap, its hull remains and makes for some great photos.

Admission to the park is $5 USD per vehicle and camping costs $22 USD per night for a basic tent plot (they also have yurts and cabins for rent).
 

4. Climb the dunes at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

The sweeping sand dunes on the coast of Oregon, USA
This sprawling sea of windswept sand dunes spanning over 7,000 acres and 40 miles (between Florence and Coos Bay) is the largest such expanse in North America. The dunes range in age from 7,000 to over 100,000 years old. They were formed as the nearby mountains eroded and washed downriver, only to be blown back ashore by coastal winds. The area even partially inspired Frank Herbert to write his sci-fi classic Dune.

You can hike the dunes or go off-roading, and there are also places to camp, fish, and kayak nearby. Dune buggy rentals start at $129 USD per hour, while kayaks cost $45 USD per day.
 

5. Check out Thor’s Well

Thor's Well on the coast of Oregon, USA
This coastal sinkhole near Cape Perpetua makes for a neat place to stop. Known as the Drainpipe of the Pacific, Thor’s Well is a large natural sinkhole embedded in the rugged rocky coast that looks especially cool during high tide or stormy weather. While it can be dangerous to get too close (it’s very easy to get swept away into the water or rocks), you’ll nevertheless see tons of tourists posing for pictures near the well. You won’t need more than ten or fifteen minutes here.
 
 

6. Drive the Three Capes Scenic Route

This 40-mile (65km) route stretches along the northern section of the coast from Tillamook to Pacific City. Named after Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda, this route offers ample opportunities to enjoy sweeping panoramas of the coast. You’ll pass through small towns and dense forests, with plenty of chances to stop for photos, beach walks, or a picnic. If you’re visiting from March through June, keep an eye out for migrating whales.

7. Relax at Cannon Beach

The iconic Cannon Beach in Oregon, USA
This iconic beach is tucked away in the northwest of the state. It’s long and sandy and is best known for the photogenic Haystack Rock, which is a giant rock jutting out of the ocean just offshore. There are plenty of tide pools and places to picnic here, and the town itself (also called Cannon Beach) is full of all kinds of cafés and artisanal shops.
 

8. See the sea lion caves

Sea lions resting in a massive cave on the coast of Oregon, USA
Just 15 minutes south of Thor’s Well on Route 101, this privately owned wildlife preserve and bird sanctuary is home to around 200 sea lions. You can walk (or take a short elevator ride) down to an observation platform, where you can see them up close as they lounge around on rocks. Be sure to go when the sea lions are in season or you won’t see many. You only need 30-60 minutes here. It’s an especially good place to stop if you’re traveling with kids. Admission is $14 USD.
 

9. Dive in to all the seafood

Oregon is known for its delicious (and abundant) seafood. From wild salmon to oysters to clams to halibut to albacore and shrimp, you can find some of the freshest seafood in the country here. Most of what you’ll eat was caught that day by a local fisherman. There’s an endless supply of restaurants to choose from, from hole-in-the-wall dives to fancy, high-end establishments. I mean eating fresh seafood is one of the main reasons people come to this part of the country!

My favorites are Local Ocean Seafoods and Mo’s Seafood & Chowder (both in Newport), Waterfront Depot Restaurant (Florence), Tony’s Crab Shack (Bandon), and Barnacle Bistro (Gold Beach).
 

10. Hit the beach

A lone woman on Seaside beach in Oregon, USA
There are plenty of picturesque beaches in Oregon other than the famous Cannon Beach. The coast is pretty windy and the water rough so “beach season” has a pretty short window. But, if you are looking for some beaches, other ones I liked include:

  • Seaside Beach (Seaside) – One of the best beaches in northern Oregon. Great for swimming and surfing.
  • Nye Beach (Newport) – A wide, sandy beach that’s great for swimming.
  • Secret Beach (Brookings) – A “secret” beach surrounded by tall cliffs. Best visited at low tide.
  • Lone Ranch Beach (Brookings) – A beach and picnic area with lots of family-friendly tide pools.

 

11. Wander Ecola State Park

A sweeping view of the Oregon coast in Ecola State Park in Oregon, USA
This park is just a few miles north of Cannon Beach and stretches 9 miles (14km) down the coast. The area was explored by William Clark (of Lewis and Clark) in 1806, who discovered numerous indigenous burial sites and archeological remains here.

There are hiking trails, tide pools, picnic areas, caves, and more. The park is so picturesque that many movies have also been filmed here, including scenes from The Goonies, Point Break, and Twilight. Admission is $5 USD per vehicle.
 

12. Stroll around Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

Home to Oregon’s tallest lighthouse (which stands 93 feet tall and was built in 1868 in France), this headland was formed over 14 million years ago by ancient lava flows that carved a path out into the sea. Today, it’s a protected park with multiple tide pools, a handful of short trails (each around 0.5 miles), and picnic areas. You can tour the lighthouse (for $1 USD), go bird watching (and whale watching at the right time of year), spot seals, and visit the small interpretive center, which has information on all the local wildlife. Admission is $7 USD per vehicle.
 

13. Go whale watching

A solo whale swimming in the waters near the coast of Oregon, USA
Some 200-400 gray whales live off the coast of Oregon and an additional 18,000 migrate every spring between Baja California and Alaska! Orcas can also be spotted on occasion too. Ninety-minute boat tours (around $50 USD) can get you up close and personal with these gentle giants. Whale’s Tail Charter runs regular tours on small boats with just 2-6 people, so you can have a more intimate experience as you admire these amazing creatures (from afar).

***

While Oregon’s quirky foodie hub Portland tends to get the lion’s share of the state’s tourists, the coast is not to be missed. With its stunning scenic vistas, numerous parks and trails, incredible dunes and beaches, and a never-ending supply of fresh seafood, I think the region is one of America’s best road trip destinations. And, thanks to its size, it can be done in a short period of time too! Win-win all around!

Book Your Trip to the United States: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Need an Affordable RV for Your Road Trip?
RVshare lets you rent RVs from private individuals all around the country, saving you tons of money in the process. It’s like Airbnb for RVs.

Want More Information on the United States?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on the USA for even more planning tips!

The post The 13 Best Things to See & Do on the Oregon Coast appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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How I Earn 1 Million Frequent Flier Miles Each Year

Posted By : webmaster/ 11 0


A fancy lounge at Toronto Pearson airport in Canada
Last Updated: 6/11/21 | June 11th, 2021

The best way to travel when you don’t have any money is to take money out of the equation. OK, not completely. While you can travel really, really cheaply, some money is required (unless you want to go hobo-style like this guy, in which case, this article isn’t for you).

But, assuming you don’t want to do that, you are going to need some money for travel. But you don’t need as much as you think you do, especially if you work to make your two biggest expenses — accommodation and flights — virtually free.

How?

By travel hacking.

I’ve written about it before, but I’ve never really broken down how I earn all those points and miles and redeem them for the business-class flights you always see me enjoying on Instagram. In this post, I’ll go into detail and provide the step-by-step breakdown of exactly what I do to earn around one million points a year — all without traveling! (And, when you add in the miles and points I get from traveling, it’s well over a million per year!)

This is going to be a long post, so get your coffee or tea ready.

First, a refresher: travel hacking is the art of collecting frequent flier, hotel, and credit card points and airline miles and redeeming them for free travel. But it’s not about spending lots of money — the idea is to “hack the system” and use rewards programs against themselves to get lots of points and miles without spending a lot of money or traveling a lot. You leverage these systems to your benefit.

And it’s not just for Americans — Canadians, UK residents, Australians, Kiwis, and Spaniards can work these systems in their favor. (In reality, anyone can, but it’s just easier if you’re in these countries. So, while I will use the American market as an example, as that is the one I have access to, the principles and strategies I use can apply to you. Just substitute your local cards and programs for mine!)

One quick note before we begin (especially to the travel hackers reading this): in the travel hacking world, my mileage earning is pretty small. I know people who earn multiple millions of miles a year but I value my time so why spend time earning miles I don’t need? I don’t waste time getting miles I don’t need.

Miles also lose value over time as airlines change their earning and burning rules so I would rather not waste time getting something with a decreasing value. Miles aren’t money.

Some people do this for the love of the game; I do this because I’m cheap and want to pay for as few flights and hotels as possible.

So here’s how I get those points and miles:
 

Step 1 – Sign up for credit cards

Credit cards are the tool through which you run your money in order to accumulate your points and miles. Think of them as the points-and-miles printing press. You can earn points and miles without them, but the process takes a lot longer and is a lot harder. To make this work, you will need a credit card.

When used properly, credit cards are smart financial instruments. You can earn hundreds of thousands of miles per year that enable you to travel for free (and they offer better purchasing protection than your debit card). Simply having them won’t send you into debt or cost you high interest rates. Just make sure not to spend more than you have and to pay off your bill each month.

So, the first thing I do is apply for a bunch of these credit cards.

But I don’t do it willy-nilly.

As a crazy travel hacker, I have more cards than the average person needs, but I only apply for new cards to reach a specific goal. This is the important point to know before you begin: have a goal in mind. Think about the trip you want to take, where you want to stay, and how you want to get there, and then get the cards that help you get there.

What have I signed up for this year? In the last six months, I applied for the following cards:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – I re-applied for this card after a few years of not having it because the 80,000 point bonus was hard to pass up.
  • Hilton Surpass and Hilton Honors Business – I’m trying to stay at more Hiltons so I picked up both these amazing cards for a total of 260,000 combined.
  • United Airlines personal card – 40,000 miles.

Total points earned: 380,000

One thing to note about credit cards is that you can’t just sign up, cancel, and sign up again. Many card companies make you wait 18–24 months before you become eligible for a sign-up bonus again. I cycle through cards on a multi-year basis.

Therefore, I try to space out my sign-ups. I do two or three big credit card sign-up frenzies per year. This allows me to meet any minimum spending requirements (see below), allows the temporary dip the application causes in my credit score to go away, and gets me around any red flags the credit card companies have.

(Note: Chase has something called the 5/24 rule, which states people who’ve applied for more than five cards from any issuer within a 24-month period can’t get a new card from them so you want to get your Chase cards first. American Express also only lets you earn the bonus once per card per lifetime.)

Moreover, despite popular belief, having a lot of credit cards won’t hurt you. In fact, it can help you. Outside of your payment history, your utilization is the next most important factor in your credit score.

Don’t worry about anything else. If you have $100,000 in available credit but only are using $5,000, that’s better than only having $5,000 in credit and using it all every month. Having more cards can actually help your credit score because of the better utilization ratio they create.

If you want to know the current best deals, here’s a list of my favorite credit card offers that offer the biggest rewards
 

Step 2 – Meet the minimum spending requirements

Each of these cards comes with a minimum spending requirement before you can earn that bonus. You just don’t get it for nothing.

Here’s how the cards broke down:

  • Chase: $4,000 minimum spend
  • Hilton business card: $3,000 minimum spend
  • Hilton personal card: $2,000 minimum spend
  • United: $2,000 minimum spend

That meant I had to spend over $11,000 in three months in order to meet the requirements and earn my bonuses!

But my everyday spending isn’t anywhere close to that.

Since the purpose of travel hacking is to not spend extra money (you should absolutely not go into debt for this), I had to figure out ways to meet those spending requirements without incurring extra debt. Here’s how I did it:

  • In the US, you can pay your federal tax bill on a credit card for a fee of 1.87%. I don’t pay all my taxes during the year so that at the end of the year, I have to pay them in one large chunk. I then time that tax payment with a credit card sign-up so I can get the bonus. Yes, there is a fee, but if you work out the math, it’s worth it. That took care of a big chunk of this.
  • I time my purchases and sign-ups. If I have to move, buy furniture, need a computer, or join a gym, I sign up for a card and then charge my big purchases to the card.
  • I go out to dinner with my friends, pay, and ask them to reimburse me. This is especially easy with apps like Venmo nowadays, where they can reimburse you easily at the exact moment of payment.
  • I ask friends and family if they have a big purchase they wouldn’t mind letting me put on my card. This doesn’t always work but often friends and family will let me put it on my card as a favor and then they’ll pay me instead of the store.
  • I manufacture spending for the remainder. This is when you move money around so that you artificially create spending through gift cards and money orders. You can buy pre-paid debit cards, turn them into money orders, put those money orders in your bank account, and then pay off your credit card. You have to pay a fee for the cards and money orders, but when doing this for sign-up bonuses, it’s worth the cost. I purchase pre-paid debit cards in $500 increments.

Note: As I incur a lot of business expenses, it’s easy for me to meet the minimum spending requirements for business cards. The steps outlined above were used for the personal cards.

Total spend points earned: 25,000 (21,000 in spending, plus category bonuses [see below] on food and office supplies; my tax bill represented half my spending)
 

Step 3 – Be smart with spending

1. Use category bonuses
In the movie Up in the Air, George Clooney’s character never wastes an opportunity to earn points. I’m the same way. I never, ever, ever just earn one point per dollar spent if I can get 2, 3, or 6 points per dollar spent.

Certain cards have what are known as category bonuses, where you receive 2–5 points per dollar spent. It varies by card, but generally, you get 2 points on restaurants, 2–3 on airfare, and 5 on office supplies.

For example, if I am buying an airline ticket, I’ll use my American Express Platinum and get 5 miles for every dollar I spend. When I’m eating out, I’ll use my Chase Sapphire Reserve for 3 points on dining. If I’m booking a Delta flight, I’ll use that card for 5 points per dollar spent. Gas? American Express Gold for 4 points per dollar spent.

In short, I’m always trying to get more than one point for every dollar I spend.

2. Use airline shopping portals
All airlines, hotels, and travel brands have preferred merchants. These companies — ranging from clothing retailers to sporting good stores to office supply businesses and everything in between — partner with airlines’ (hotels’, etc.) special shopping malls. By ordering online through these malls, you can earn additional points.

You can use Evreward or Cash Back Monitor to discover the current best deals across various programs. Simply type in the merchant or product you want, and it will compile a list of bonuses the various point programs are offering at that moment so can you maximize the programs to purchase from.

Say, for example, you want new clothes from the Gap. Going into the Gap store gets you one point per dollar spent. By using Evreward, you see that by going the United shopping portal, signing in, clicking the link to Gap, and purchasing online you can earn three points per dollar spent. Suddenly, you get 300 points instead of 100 for your $100 shopping spree!

That’s basically what you do for everything. Always look to see where you can get extra points.

3. Use Dining rewards programs
Just like shopping portals, airlines also have dining rewards programs. You sign up with your frequent flier number, register your credit card, and get extra points when you dine at participating restaurants in the airline’s network (which rotate throughout the year). It’s important to note that while you can sign up for every program, you cannot register a credit card with more than one. That means that if your Chase Sapphire Preferred card is tied to your American Airlines account, you can’t earn miles on your United Airlines account with that same card.

Join one of the programs in the Rewards Network (they run all the dining programs) so you can get five miles per dollar spent once you became a “VIP member,” which happens after 12 dines. So if you get those 12 under your belt (so to speak) early in the year, for the rest of the year you’ll be racking up five points per dollar spent!

A note on keeping track of all this: As I was writing this post, I went to dinner with a few friends. My buddy Noah was like “This is too much to keep track of.” That’s a common feeling among people looking to start travel hacking. However, it appears more complicated than it really is. Once you know what cards give you what bonuses, the next step is to simply use the cards that get those bonuses and meet your goals.

You never want to spread yourself too thin though. having points all over the place will lead you to having low point balances in multiple accounts. I tend to stick to just a few accounts with my everyday spending on Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards since they are transferrable points. (Note: Since I solely fly Delta, I don’t worry about building miles in that account as I get plenty through flying and non-bonus business spending on the card.)

Total points earned per year: roughly 100,000 (spending and bonus category dependent)
 

 

Step 4 – Rinse and repeat on the manufactured spending

Can’t meet minimum spending requirements or want to generate oodles of miles on a very low budget? No problem. You can “manufacture” spending to meet the credit card spending requirements and earn additional miles through the use of closed-loop, money-moving techniques using prepaid gift cards and other financial instruments.

Using Amex Offers or discounted card websites (see the list below), you purchase a stack of gift cards. Never buy cards at full price. Never ever ever!

Where to buy gift cards and find deals:

Next, you sell your cards for money. (If they are physical cards, you have to mail them in.) The websites above are good websites for this too.

Then, use the money to pay off your credit card.

Let’s say there is a deal on Starbucks gift cards for 15% off. Using your credit card, you buy Starbucks gift cards in bulk and then resell them to one of the above merchants, who buys the card at 14% off. You take the money and pay off your credit card. In the process, you eke out a small profit and gain a bunch of points.

How do you find these deals? Doctor of Credit can alert you when there is a deal. People who do this a lot have their own way of tracking but, for the casual travel hacker, these websites take the work out of it.

While this may seem easy, it’s not. Many people have flooded this market and so the profit margins are really thin. Unless you’re doing this in bulk, it’s not going to be super profitable and you might even lose money or barely break even. You don’t do this for a hundred dollars—you do this for tens of thousands of dollars. You also have to be OK with waiting to get paid back as you can wait weeks before you get paid back—meaning you may have to front the money to pay your credit card first.

You also need to be able to keep track of thousands of cards, where they are going, which cards were used, when payments are due, percentages, and everything in between. Spreadsheets are needed here. If you’re going to be a gift card reseller, do this with extreme caution. This is not something to do willy nilly.

diagram showing how manufactured spending for travel hacking works

I don’t do this every month (you can’t do it while traveling) but this helps me offset minimum spending requirements on cards and earn a few extra miles each year.

Total points earned per year: 50,000-100,000

(Note: I use my Chase Ink business card a lot at Staples. I buy Amazon, iTunes, and restaurant gift cards to be sure I maximize the 5 points per dollar spent bonus.)
 

Step 5 – Sign up for every contest, survey, and deal in the world

Airlines and hotels often offer points and bonuses for signing up for a deal, taking a survey, filling out a form on Facebook, etc. The points here are small (100-1,000 at a time) but, over the course of a year, they can add up.

Moreover, the two companies below will give you cash gift cards for filling out consumer surveys:

Total points earned per year: 10,000-20,000
 

Step 6 – Buy points/miles….sometimes

Airlines and hotels sometimes offer really good deals for points/miles and, if I know I am going to use them soon, I’ll buy them at a discount. This basically lets you buy flights for cheaper than booking them.

For example, Lifemiles (Avianca’s membership program) often does a promotion where you can get a 135% bonus on bought miles. If you max the promotion out, you usually get 352,000 miles for around $4,900, but at that rate, you’re buying miles for 1.4 cents per mile, which is an amazing deal. (The closer you get to 1 cent per mile, the better the deal! Follow websites like View from the Wing or One Mile at a Time and they alert you to all these point offers, break it down, and basically tell you if this is a good deal or not.)

It may sound crazy to spend that much money on miles (and you certainly don’t need to do it at all), but let’s put it in perspective. For 90,000 miles, you can book a one-way first-class flight from the US to Asia. Since you spent 1.4 cents per mile, that ticket works out to be $1,260. Not too bad for a first-class ticket, huh?

Buying points and miles is a way to pad your balance and buy tickets at a steep discount. I do this sometimes if I’m traveling soon and know I’m going to paying for the ticket anyway (I don’t always use miles when I travel). It’s not free, but I would rather buy a first-class ticket for $1,260 than an economy ticket for the same price.

Sometimes travel hacking is about finding value and doing a bit of arbitrage to get more for less!

Points earned: 100,000 points
 

Step 7 – Cancel cards I don’t use

Airline cards have fees so, when the yearly fee comes due, I’ll cancel the cards I don’t use or that don’t have a benefit to me. For example, the British Airways card: I used it for the sign-up miles and was done with it. It was canceled.

The Hyatt card? It has a $75 yearly fee but comes with two nights free each year. That’s two nights in a hotel for $75. I keep that one.

Canceling cards doesn’t hurt your credit score. Old credit lines help, which is why I keep my Discover, Capital One, and a few other cards around. They have no fees and high limits so they anchor my credit score.

As I said before, what is important is your overall debt-to-credit ratio. So canceling a few cards lowers that ratio, but if I have no debt it doesn’t matter.

Moreover, I also transfer the credit lines to other cards with that card company so that I don’t lose the credit so be sure to ask your credit card company if you can do the same.


 

Step 8 — Get a second round of credit cards

As I said in the beginning, I get cards twice a year. So, when it is time to get cards again, I get a bunch of new cards then repeat step 2 to meet any minimum spending requirements.

Total points earned: 200,000-300,000

Total points earned: roughly 930,000-1,030,000 per year

(The above tricks don’t count all the miles I earn via business expenses, which add up to an additional couple hundred thousand miles a year, putting me well over one million miles earned.)

***

A lot of travel hacking depends on how much time and effort you put into this. If I got more credit cards, I could earn more points. If I devoted more time to this, I could work the system more and get even more miles. I just don’t care enough. I have more miles than I need.

By using the eight steps outlined in this article, the sky is the limit on how many miles you can earn. It just depends on how much you want to ramp up each step. As I said before, my million miles per year is a small number compared to some of the other travel hackers out there.

However, no matter your effort level, you should do this. Even if you travel only once a year. Travel hacking isn’t complicated. It’s simple and accessible to everyone.

After all, free travel is the best travel.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

The post How I Earn 1 Million Frequent Flier Miles Each Year appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Salt Lake City Is Cooler Than You Think

Posted By : webmaster/ 11 0


A colorful sunset over Salt Lake City, Utah with mountains in the background
Posted: 6/22/21 | June 22nd, 2021

Salt Lake City never appealed to me.

Founded on unceded Shoshone land in 1847, Great Salt Lake City, as it was originally known, was a refuge for Mormons facing persecution back east. At the time, it (and the state we now call Utah) were located beyond the official US border so Mormons could do whatever they liked.

The city’s location was chosen by church founder, Brigham Young, who is said to have seen the valley in a vision. While there were already indigenous people living in the area, an outbreak of measles brought by the Mormons essentially wiped them out within the first year. However, the surviving natives nevertheless helped the settlers survive and adjust to life in the area.

During the 1800s, the city saw an influx of new LDS converts, as well as those chasing the gold rush. Within a few decades, Salt Lake City was one of the most populous places in the American West. Nowadays, the city is a major airport hub, still the center for the LDS church, and does less mining and more health care technology!

Having grown up in New England, my view of Utah was: “Pretty state, but why would I want to hang out with boring Mormons?”

However, the older I’ve gotten, the less snotty I’ve become. Part of travel is challenging your preconceived notions of places and people. You can’t do that with a “why would I bother with that place attitude?” I love finding out I am wrong about them. The more wrong you are, the more you grow.

My view on places is “why wouldn’t I want to go there?!”

Over the years, I’ve heard whispers that Salt Lake City is actually pretty cool and not the stodgy place we imagine it to be.

So, on my last road trip, I decided to spend a lot of time there. I wanted to know if it was as cool as people say. Was it really “the next Austin”?

The city’s proximity to the mountains and a plethora of national parks really appealed to me. And I’d heard about how, having loosened continually alcohol restrictions since the mid-2000s, microbreweries have been popping up left and right. Plus, thanks to its cheap cost of living and a major airport, a lot of young people have been moving there in recent years.

Over the last decade, Utah’s population grew by over 18%. Many of those people settled in SLC, where 72% of its population is under 44.

So, dear readers, I can confirm that, yes, Salt Lake City is indeed cool. I found so much to love about it.

And I am fully aware that’s very clichéd for a travel writer to say, “I went to X destination and it was cool and hip and different!” as if I’m the first person to discover it. Or that a place, because it’s different than what I like, can’t be cool in its own right.

I know I’m late to writing about how Salt Lake has changed.

What I’m saying is that I never gave the city much thought and I now kick myself for not having done so. Don’t make my mistake. The pretentiousness of youth, huh?

What did I love about the place?

It also has a surprisingly robust art scene. Downtown, you’ll find lots of art galleries, collectives, design studies, and museums, including the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. I didn’t expect a city so steeped in art.

And the brewery scene, while not as robust as in Austin or Portland, was much bigger than I thought. There are almost twenty in SLC, not counting the taprooms that also dot the downtown area. I was really curious about the evolution of the beer scene here, as there are still lots of restrictions — breweries can’t serve alcohol over 5% on tap, and cocktails are measured (there’s no free pour here) — and a variety of licenses are needed. Restaurants serving alcohol require patrons to also order food (only 30% of their sales can be from alcohol, so ordering food when you drink is required). Bars also must serve food at all times too — though one got around this by charging $100 for nachos, simply to comply with the law; the bartender said only one person ever bought it.

But Salt Lake City’s proximity to the outdoors was what really turned me onto the place — and a big reason why so many people are moving here. Whether for a few hours or an entire day, it’s easy to just walk out of your house and into nature, since you’re close to a number of mountains, ski areas, and national parks. Moreover, from town, you can hike or bike numerous trails into the surrounding hills; I spent some hours hiking the trails near the statehouse.

The thing that probably won me over the most was, of course, people. More than that, it was an experience with them that will be my most lasting memory from my visit. While at a brewery, my friends and I were giving up our table to a group of people when one of them said “Are you Nomadic Matt?”

Responding in the affirmative, she invited us to a house party later on. My friends didn’t feel like it but I told them I would go.

So, after dinner, I went to a good old fashioned house party. There I met some new Salt Lakers: young folks who moved from various parts of the country for work and were drawn to the city’s cheap cost of living and proximity to the mountains. I was at a house party with 25-year-olds and it was super fun. All of them lived in the Sugar House neighborhood, which is full of twentysomething, trendy bars, and hipster restaurants. That’s the new “hot” area of town.

There was still a lot I didn’t get to experience in Salt Lake City, of course. Many locations were still closed due to COVID (surprisingly, the Mormons had the strictest regulations and seemed to take masking and social distancing more seriously than the rest of the city’s citizens). Many of the art galleries were on limited hours, I left with a long list of breweries and restaurants still to visit, and I definitely didn’t do as much hiking as I wanted (I never do).

But SLC is in fact very wonderful. Here you’ll find a city full of good beer, wonderful restaurants, lots of hiking and outdoor sports opportunities, and warm, welcoming people. It’s definitely an “up and coming city” but probably a decade away from really being “the next Austin.”

If, like me, you hadn’t thought about going there, now is the time to change your mind.

Book Your Trip to the United State: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Need an Affordable RV for Your Road Trip?
RVshare lets you rent RVs from private individuals all around the country, saving you tons of money in the process. It’s like Airbnb for RVs.

Want More Information on the United States?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on the USA for even more planning tips!

The post Salt Lake City Is Cooler Than You Think appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Road Tripping New England: My Suggested Itinerary

Posted By : webmaster/ 17 0


An old lighthouse on the coast of Maine, USA
Posted: 6/17/2021 | June 17th, 2021

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The United States is made for road trips. With bustling cities, rugged national parks, and delicious eats, the sheer size and diversity of this country never cease to amaze me.

I’ve road-tripped the USA five times, spending a cumulative year exploring its cities, towns, and parks. To me, a road trip is the best way to explore the U.S. because, by driving the back roads and getting out of the cities, you really get to see the diversity and natural beauty of the country.

One region in particular that I love to drive around is New England.

Having grown up in Boston and gone to college in Western Massachusetts, I’ve spent a lot of my life in this part of the country. Last summer, I spent even more time there, exploring parts of Maine, Cape Cod, and upstate New York that I had never seen before.

And yeah, I’m biased because I grew up here, but I really do think New England is one of the most special areas of the country. It offers delicious seafood, friendly and welcoming people, incredible natural beauty, charm, and plenty of history.

And, given the fact the region is relatively small, it’s easy to get around so you can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

If you’re thinking of visiting, here’s a suggested road trip around New England to help you get a feel for the region:
 

Days 1-3: Boston, MA

The summer skyline of Boston, Massachusetts
Kick things off in Boston, whose old colonial buildings testify to its historic roots. I grew up in this city and, even with all my world travels, it remains one of my favorites. Though one of the biggest cities in America, it has more of a “large-town” feel to it than that of bustling metropolis. Here, you’ll find friendly locals, die-hard sports fans, lively bars, world-class restaurants, and a ton of American history to keep you busy.

These are some of my favorite things to do in Boston:

  • Walk the Freedom Trail – This 2.5-mile (4km) route takes you through colonial Boston. Starting in the Boston Common and winding past Faneuil Hall, the Old State House, and Bunker Hill, this historical walk teaches you about life in colonial and revolutionary times. The tourism board also offers guided tours (though they are suspended right now due to COVID).
  • See the Museum of Fine Arts – This museum has over 450,000 pieces of fine art, from the pre-Columbian era to Italian Impressionism. It’s one of the best collections in the country.
  • Visit Bunker Hill Monument – The Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775 was one of the first major clashes of the Revolutionary War. While the British won, the Americans wore British forces down more than was expected. The monument stands 221 feet tall; you can climb to the top to enjoy the view (it’s the best view of Boston).
  • Lounge in Boston Common – This is the oldest city park in the U.S., dating to 1634. It was once used as communal pastureland by Puritan settlers (they also executed some “witches” here as well). Today, it’s a great place to relax, people-watch, and picnic.
  • Visit Harvard – Harvard University is the first and oldest university in the country (founded in 1636, predating even the United States). The campus offers free one-hour tours through the grounds and buildings. Afterward, grab a coffee and people-watch in the alternative and artsy Harvard Square.
  • Catch a game at Fenway Park – This is one of the oldest baseball parks in the country (it opened in 1912). Bostonians are die-hard Sox fans so even if you don’t like baseball, go for the cultural experience. Tickets start around $20 USD for standing room or bleacher seats, and $31 USD for the grandstand. Guided tours of the stadium are offered year-round as well; they last one hour and cost $21 USD per person.

For more suggestions on what to do in the city (and there’s plenty), check out my free guide to Boston.

Where to Stay

  • HI Boston – This is my favorite hostel in the city. It’s clean, spacious, and social, and the staff are super friendly and helpful.

For more suggestions, here is my list of the best places to stay in Boston.
 

Days 4-5: Portland, ME

An iconic lighthouse in Portland, Maine, USA
Located two hours from Boston, Portland, Maine is your next stop. Due to its robust brewery scene, a historic downtown, lots of great seafood, and nearby coastal parks and lighthouses, I’m a huge fan of the city. I really got to explore it last summer for the first time since college and it’s just a great place to spend a couple of days. Some must-see things to do:

  • Visit Peaks Island – This small island is home to around a thousand people. Located just 20 minutes off the coast, it’s a laid-back place to eat, lounge, and check out the quaint shops. There’s also a small World War II museum here, as well as a neat umbrella cover museum (it’s more interesting than it sounds!).
  • Try a Holy Donut – Holy Donuts are made from Maine potatoes (which sounds weird, but they are incredibly tasty), so they are at least somewhat healthier than your standard donut. There’s always a line, so try to get there early!
  • See the lighthouses – There are several historic lighthouses worth seeing nearby, including the Portland Breakwater (which was designed to look like a Greek monument), Spring Point Ledge (which was built in 1897 and is open for tours), and Portland Head Light (which was built in 1791).
  • Wander Victoria Mansion – This ornate mansion-turned-museum, built in 1860 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971, boasts a brownstone exterior and elaborate interior furnishings. It’s incredibly lavish, shedding light on what life was like for the well-to-do in the late 19th century. Admission is $15 USD.

While you’re in Portland, be sure to check out some of the city’s best restaurants, including Duckfat (get the fries), Eventide (best oysters in the city), and Bite into Maine (best lobster roll in the city). For drinks, head to Rising Tide Brewery.

Where to Stay

  • Black Elephant Hostel – This hostel has a cool, colorful interior and social atmosphere, and is perfectly located near lots of restaurants and shopping.

 

Days 6-8: Bar Harbor, ME

Bright blue skies in Acadia National Park in Maine
Just three hours north of Portland, Bar Harbor is the largest town near Acadia National Park, whose pristine stretch of 50,000 acres is home to Cadillac Mountain, the largest mountain on the Atlantic coast. With just over 5,000 people, Bar Harbor sees a massive influx of people every summer, so be sure to plan ahead and hit the park early while you’re here.

Moreover, on the way up from Portland, take Route 1 and stop for food along the way in any one of numerous historic fishing towns. If you like oysters, stop at Glidden Point Oyster Farm.

Here are some things to see and do in and near Bar Harbor:

  • Explore Acadia National Park – This gorgeous national park covers forests, lakes, mountains, and a large swath of the Atlantic coastline. It’s incredibly popular in the summer for hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, and more. You could easily spend a couple of days just exploring the park. Camping starts at $22 USD per night.
  • Visit Abbe Museum – This museum showcases the area’s indigenous history and culture. It’s very informative and sheds important light on a history often overlooked. It’s part of the Smithsonian, so you know it’s going to be good!

Like the rest of Maine, Bar Harbor has some wonderful places to eat. My favorites were the Traveling Lobster (best lobster roll in the area), Havana (upscale dining), and Rosalie’s (delicious food all around).

Where to Stay

  • Bar Harbor Manor – This is a cozy hotel right outside Acadia National Park with lots of outdoor space to relax in, free Wi-Fi, and an indoor parlor with a fireplace.

 

Days 9: Bangor, ME

The exterior of Stephen King's house in Maine
Bangor is just one hour away from Bar Harbor. It’s a small city (just 32,000 people call Bangor home) but it’s a cute little town worth a night. There are a bunch of parks and breweries in town and you can see Stephen King’s house (he lives in Bangor).

My favorite places to eat are the Fiddlehead (delicious food all around) and Judy’s (best diner breakfast). For a drink, head to Mason’s Brewing.

Where to Stay
Bangor is a small town, so you’ll want to compare prices on Booking.com and Airbnb to see what best suits your budget.
 

Days 10-12: Moosehead Lake, ME

The calm waters of Moosehead Lake in Maine, USA
Moosehead Lake is just 2.5 hours north of Bangor. It’s the second-largest lake in New England and the largest in the state. Spanning over 75,000 acres, it’s perfect for fishing, boating, hiking, and relaxing. You can rent a boat or jet-ski, camp, or stay at one of the lodges.

Spend a couple days here relaxing away from the crowds, hiking the plethora of trails, spotting moose, or taking part in all the lake activities on offer.

For dinner or drinks, head to the Stress Free Moose Pub in Greenville.

Where to Stay

  • Leisure Life – This accommodation is basic, but it’s in a great location (in Greenville), and the staff are super helpful.

 

Days 13-14: Mount Washington, NH

Mount Washington, New Hampshire as seen from the distance at sunset
Mount Washington is just over 4 hours southwest of Greenville. It’s in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains and is the highest peak in the Northeast. While you can hike to the top if you’re experienced (it’s known as the most dangerous small mountain in the world), you can also take a train to the summit, where there is an observation building.

Some of the best day hikes up the mountain are Tuckerman Ravine Trail (4.2 miles, strenuous), Lion’s Head Trail (4.2 miles, strenuous), and Jewell Trail (5.2 miles, moderate).

Where to Stay
You can stay in nearby Gorham or Littleton.
 

Days 15-17: Burlington, VT

The skyline of Burlington, Vermont as seen from over the lake
Located in northwest Vermont, around 4 hours from Mount Washington, Burlington is the largest city in the state. With just 42,000 people, it feels like a small town than major city. And, sitting on the shores of Lake Champlain, Burlington has a lot for outdoor enthusiasts so try to come when the weather is nice!

Some of my favorite things to do here are:

  • Wander Church Street – This pedestrian-only thoroughfare is the heart of the city. Café-hop, browse the bookstores and other shops, and take in the slow pace of life.
  • Get out on the water – Spend some time out on the water and soak up the sun. Boat rentals, cruises, paddle boarding, kayaking — you can do it all here. There are also several beaches you can lounge on, with North Beach being the most popular.
  • Visit Ben & Jerry’s – This is where the global ice cream brand originated. If you have more time, you can visit the nearby factory in Waterbury and see the “ice cream graveyard,” where Ben & Jerry’s commemorates its obsolete flavors.
  • Indulge in craft beer – Burlington is a craft beer mecca, home to over a dozen breweries. Go bar- or brewery-hopping to taste the best the city has to offer. Local favorites include Foam Brewers, Zero Gravity, Fiddlehead Brewing Company, and the Burlington Beer Company.

Where to Stay
There are no hostels here, so compare prices on Booking.com and Airbnb to see what best suits your budget.
 

Days 18-19: Green Mountain National Forest, VT

A solo traveler hiking in the Green Mountain National Forest
Spanning almost 400,000 acres, the Green Mountain National Forest is a gorgeous landscape home to all kinds of wildlife, including bears, moose, coyotes, beavers, deer, and more. Established in 1932, it’s a beautiful place for a day hike or multiday trip (parts of the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trial can also be found here).

Highlights include Thundering Falls (a 140-foot waterfall), the Long Trail (a 272-mile hike and the oldest long-distance trail in the country), and the panoramic view from the 4,000-foot Camel Hump summit.

Since it’s a national forest, camping here is free (unless signs advise otherwise).
 

Days 20-22: The Berkshires, MA

An old hiking sign in the forest near Mount Greylock in The Berkshires
Two hours south of the Green Mountain National Forest are the Berkshires. This mountain range in western Massachusetts is dotted with small villages and charming towns. It’s a popular vacation destination for hiking, skiing, and autumn drives to see the changing foliage. The region has something for everyone and is a perfect spot for anyone looking for outdoor activities or a romantic getaway. There are lots of summer and fall markets here too.

Here are some things to see and do:

  • Hike Mount Greylock – Standing 3,491 feet tall and located in a state park encompassing over 12,000 acres, Mount Greylock is the highest peak in Massachusetts. There are several trails that lead to the summit (including a portion of the Appalachian Trail). The hike takes around 90 minutes, and the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking — you can see for miles!
  • Visit the Norman Rockwell Museum – Norman Rockwell, the prolific American painter and illustrator, spent much of his life in Stockbridge. A museum was established there to showcase his life and works, highlighting the evolution and impact of his art. Admission is $20 USD.
  • Explore Natural Bridge State Park – Located in North Adams, this park is home to a natural bridge of white marble (which is over 550 million years old) as well as an old marble quarry. There’s an easy trail around the bridge and quarry, and plenty of relaxing fields and meadows to picnic in. Parking is $20 USD for out-of-state residents.

Where to Stay
There are no hostels here, so compare prices on Booking.com and Airbnb to see what best suits your budget.
 

Day 23: Amherst, MA

An aerial view of the UMass campus in Amherst, Massachusetts
Amherst is a vibrant college town and the hub of the Five College Consortium. In fact, I went to school at the nearby UMass campus. Spend a night here and enjoy the town’s cafés, bookstores, and restaurants.

Be sure to tour the Emily Dickinson Museum, which commemorates the poet (she was born in Amherst in 1830). The house where she was born and grew up, now converted into a museum, includes artwork, artifacts, clothing, and poetry from Dickinson’s life. There are often events and poetry readings here, so check the website to see what’s on during your visit. Guided tours last 60 minutes and cost $15 USD.

As for food, Antonio’s Pizza is a must (they have some really inventive toppings). I ate a lot of it during college! I’m also a big fan of Black Sheep for sandwiches and House of Teriyaki for Japanese food.

Where to Stay
There are no hostels here, so compare prices on Booking.com and Airbnb to see what best suits your budget.
 

Day 24: Back to Boston

It’s just a short two-hour drive back to Boston, so feel free to stop along the way to stretch your legs. There’s plenty of places to stop along the way or just do more things in Boston!
 

Bonus Destination: Cape Cod, MA

A purple sunset on the beaches of Cape Cod, USA
If you have more time, head to Cape Cod. You’ll find pretty villages, picturesque lighthouses, tasty seafood shacks, and endless shoreline here. It’s where everyone in the region goes for the summer. You could spend weeks here if you wanted!

Here are some things to see and do during your stay:

  • Go whale watching – From April to October, you can see finback, minke, and humpback whales, as well as dolphins and seals. Tours cost around $65 USD.
  • Hike or bike the National Seashore – Created in 1961 by JFK, this park spans over 43,000 acres. There are 11 hiking trails, as well as half a dozen cycling trials. All of them are well marked so it’s an easy way to stretch your legs and take in the beautiful landscape.
  • Visit some lighthouses – There are dozens of picturesque lighthouses around Cape Cod, some of which are open to the public. Don’t miss Nauset, Nobska, and Highland lighthouses.

***

New England is one of the most beautiful parts of the United States. Its size makes it perfect for road trips, offering a nice mix of cities, small towns, and stunning natural beauty. It also has some of the best seafood in the country, lots of hiking and biking opportunities, and some of the friendliest people in the country. I’m proud to have grown up in this region and encourage you to explore my backyard!

Book Your Trip to the United State: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Need an Affordable RV for Your Road Trip?
RVshare lets you rent RVs from private individuals all around the country, saving you tons of money in the process. It’s like Airbnb for RVs.

Want More Information on the United States?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on the USA for even more planning tips!

The post Road Tripping New England: My Suggested Itinerary appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The Best Travel Insurance Companies for Seniors

Posted By : webmaster/ 18 0


A senior group enjoying a beach overseas
Posted: 5/26/21 | May 26th, 2021

When it comes to planning a trip, there is one expense far too many travelers overlook: travel insurance.

It’s a boring topic to research and read about — and it is an added expense many budget travelers aren’t excited about paying. Chances are nothing is going to go wrong, right? Why not just save the money and spend it on more travel?

Unfortunately, as many people have learned the hard way — myself included — things can go wrong at the drop of a hat. I’ve had my luggage lost, had brand new gear broken, and needed emergency medical help while traveling (on multiple occasions).

And these are just the “serious” incidents. I’ve also experienced countless flight delays and cancelations — events that are also covered by travel insurance.

In short, things can (and will) go wrong on the road. Why not make sure you’re prepared?

This is especially important for older travelers. While most generally have a bit more sense than younger backpackers (when was the last time you saw a 65-year-old jumping a burning skipping rope at the Full Moon Party in Thailand or bombing down Death Road in Peru?), there are often health and medical issues that need to be considered.

Even if you’re a healthy 55+ traveler, buying travel insurance is a necessary step in your planning. It will cover you for delays and cancelations, injuries, and worse. It’s a safety net for you and your loved ones that will not only help you avoid massive medical expenses but also provide you with peace of mind so you can enjoy your trip without worry.

I never leave home without it. You shouldn’t either.

Here’s everything you need to know about buying travel insurance as an older or senior traveler.
 

What to Look for in a Comprehensive Insurance Policy

Insurance is a billion-dollar business, and everyone wants their hand in the cookie jar. Consequently, you face a mind-numbing number of companies and policies, some with terminology that can be confusing and overwhelming.

So, what should you do?

First, make sure your travel insurance offers a high coverage limit on your medical expenses. Most travelers can get by with $100,000 USD in coverage. However, if you’re older or have a medical condition, then you may want more ($250,000-500,000 USD would be my suggestion).

High coverage limits are important because if you get sick, injured, or need serious attention and have to seek professional care, you’ll want to make sure your high hospital bills are covered. The worst thing you can do is go cheap and get a policy with a $20,000 USD coverage limit, then break a leg and reach that limit before they are done taking care of you.

Second, you want to make sure your travel insurance policy covers emergency evacuation and care that is separate from your medical coverage. For example, if you are hiking in the woods and you break your leg, your policy should cover your evacuation to the nearest acceptable medical facility.

If a natural disaster occurs and you need to be evacuated to somewhere else, your plan should cover that as well, ideally up to $300,000 USD.

Additionally, make sure you understand if your evacuation coverage will pay for you to get home or if it will just send you to the nearest acceptable facility. For example, if you break your leg abroad, most insurance policies will pay for your hospital bills. However, they won’t pay for you to get home since it’s not a life-threatening injury requiring advanced care.

Standard emergency evacuation coverage frequently only pays for a flight home if your current facility is inadequate or if it’s “medically necessary.”

In short, double-check if your company will cover the cost of your flight back home if you need it.

If you’d prefer not to stay in a foreign hospital for treatment and recovery, you should look into a medical transport membership program like Medjet, which ensures that, should you be hospitalized abroad, you’ll be able to be repatriated — something many travel insurance policies can’t guarantee.

Third, great travel insurance plans always include the following provisions:

  • Coverage for most countries (including the places you plan on visiting)
  • Coverage for injury and sudden illnesses
  • Coverage for lost, damaged, or stolen possessions, like jewelry, baggage, documents, etc.
  • Some coverage for your electronics (and the option for a higher coverage limit)
  • Coverage for cancelations for hotels, flights, and other transportation bookings if you have a sudden illness, death in the family, or some other emergency
  • Coverage for political emergencies, natural disasters, or strife in the country that may cause you to head home early
  • Financial protection if any company you are using goes bankrupt and you are stuck in another country
  • 24/7 assistance (you don’t want to call to be told to call back later)

A quick note on electronics: Most companies only have a small limit (usually up to $500 USD per item), as part of their basic coverage. You can often buy supplemental insurance for more coverage. If you’re traveling with lots of expensive gear, make sure you buy supplemental coverage.

Additionally, as an older traveler, you may also want:

  • Policies that cover preconditions (if you have them). Since most policies exclude these, you’ll need to shop around for a plan that will cover them.
  • Insurance plans that include a “cancel for any reason” clause. If you think you may need to cancel your trip before you depart and don’t want to risk losing your money, find a policy that offers this. It’s less common (and more expensive), but it might be useful if you have a medical condition that might impact your trip.

 

The Best Travel Issuance Companies for Senior Travelers

World Nomads

World Nomads insurance logo
This is my go-to company. I’ve used it for every trip since 2003. Its plans are comprehensive and cover everything you’ll need. It isn’t the cheapest company out there, but I don’t want to skimp out on my coverage. I like to know that, should something happen, I won’t have to spend my life savings paying for it.

Here’s a quick overview of World Nomads:

  • Emergency medical and dental coverage
  • Coverage for trip cancelations, delays, and interruptions
  • Baggage protection
  • Emergency evacuation (for medical and nonmedical emergencies, such as natural disasters)
  • Medical transportation
  • Coverage for some COVID-19 medical costs

World Nomads offers coverage for travelers up to age 69 in the US and 66 in Canada.

Click here to get a quote for your next trip!
 

SafetyWing


This is a new insurance company catering to long-term budget travelers. Its plans are not as comprehensive as World Nomads, but they are much cheaper. There’s a $250 USD deductible for most medical claims, but the monthly plans are a third the cost of those from World Nomads. If you’re on a super tight budget and healthy, with no pre-existing conditions, this is the company for you.

Here’s a quick overview of SafetyWing:

  • Affordable monthly plans with a deductible
  • Coverage up to age 69
  • Coverage for COVID-19
  • Plans can be purchased before you go abroad or after you’ve departed
  • Claims can be filed online
  • Best for digital nomads and frugal travelers

Click here to get a quote for your next trip!
 

Medjet

Medjet insurance logo
Medjet isn’t an insurance company per se. Rather, it’s a membership program that offers comprehensive medical transportation services all around the globe. Members have 24/7 access to hundreds of air ambulances and expert medical transport escorts and staff, located all over the world. While most insurance companies make sure you get to the “nearest acceptable facility” after an injury, Medjet ensures you get home.

Here’s a quick overview of Medjet:

  • Extensive medical transport coverage
  • Coverage up to age 75
  • Coverage for COVID-19
  • Limited time spent in foreign medical facilities
  • Both short-term and annual plans
  • Available to residents of the US, Canada, and Mexico

Click here to get a quote for your next trip!
 

Insure My Trip

IMT insurance logo
Insure My Trip is an insurance aggregator that compiles policies from over twenty different companies to help you find the best policy for your needs and budget.

As an older traveler, this is the best place for you to shop around and get a quote. You’ll be able to find policies for travelers over 70 as well as plans that have a “cancel for any reason” clause. It also offers policies that include coverage for certain pre-existing conditions.

Here’s a quick overview of IMT:

  • Comparisons of plans from 23 different companies to ensure you get the best one
  • Guaranteed low prices
  • Coverage for travelers over 65
  • “Anytime advocates” ask the insurer to give your claim a second look if you think it was unfairly denied

Click here to get a quote for your next trip!
 

A Note on COVID-19 (and Other Pandemics)

As many travelers learned the hard way, most travel insurance policies do not cover pandemics. Until now, that really hasn’t been a concern for most travelers. Heck, prior to this year I never really gave the “pandemic clause” much thought when reading my insurance policies.

However, these days pandemic coverage is at the forefront of every traveler’s mind — and rightly so!

Fortunately, as insurance companies have adapted to our new reality, and some now provide limited coverage for COVID-19 (or other pandemics). This usually includes trip cancelation or delay (as is the case with World Nomads, though it also offers some medical coverage for COVID) or transportation home (as is the case with Medjet). SafetyWing also provides coverage for COVID-19.

Before you buy a plan anywhere, be sure to read the fine print regarding pandemics and COVID-19. Make sure you fully understand what is and is not included, so you can take appropriate action should a situation arise. When in doubt, call and speak to a representative. Don’t risk your health on assumptions!

***

Everyone should buy travel insurance before they leave home — regardless of their age. While most travelers only experience minor hiccups, such as delayed flights or lost baggage, it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry should a health emergency arise.

However, older travelers in particular should make sure they have the coverage they need in case something goes awry. While their options are usually less robust (and more expensive), there are still plenty of affordable ones to ensure you are protected as you enjoy your well-earned travels.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

The post The Best Travel Insurance Companies for Seniors appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The 7 Best Hostels in Rome

Posted By : webmaster/ 19 0


The ancient Roman Coliseum set against a blue sky in summer in Rome, Italy
Posted: 6/12/2021 | June 12th, 2021

A city filled with life, beauty, and charm, Rome has something for everyone. It is a hotspot on the backpacking trail (I mean, who wants to miss out on Rome?) and has a lot of hostels to choose from. Searching Hostelworld yields pages of results that can be overwhelming. I mean how do you really know which ones are the best?

Having stayed in numerous hostels over the years, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite Roman budget-friendly accommodations with everything you need to have fun, save money, and enjoy your time in the Eternal City!

First, there are a lot of things to consider when selecting a hostel. The top four are:

  1. Location – Rome is big, and it can take some time to get around. Pick a place that is central to the sites you want to see and/or the nightlife you want to experience. All the hostels listed here are in central locations.
  2. Price – In Rome, you really get what you pay for, so if you go with a really cheap hostel, you’re probably going to get one that is cramped and doesn’t offer great service.
  3. Amenities – Every hostel in town offers free Wi-Fi, and some even include free breakfast, but if you want more than that, do your research in order to find one that best meets your needs!
  4. Staff – All the hostels listed here have amazing staff! They are super friendly and knowledgeable. Even if you don’t stay at one of the places listed below, look up reviews to ensure you end up somewhere where the staff is helpful and friendly! They can make or break a hostel!

To help you plan your trip, below is my list of the hostels in Rome that I like the most. If you don’t want to read the whole list, the following are the best in each category:

Best Hostel for Budget Travelers: Alessandro Downtown Hostel & Bar
Best Hostel for Digital Nomads: YellowSquare or Hostel Trastevere
Best Hostel for Families: RomeHello
Best Hostel for Solo Female Travelers: The Beehive
Best Hostel for Partying: Alessandro Downtown Hostel & Bar
Best Overall Hostel: YellowSquare or The Beehive

Want more specifics? Here’s my comprehensive list of the best hostels in Rome:

Price (per night)

  • $ = Under 20 EUR
  • $$ = 20-30 EUR
  • $$$ = Over 30 EUR

 

1. YellowSquare

The interior of the YwllowSquare hostel in Rome, Italy
YellowSquare is a fun hostel. There’s no common area, so everyone hangs out in the bar downstairs, which means people come here to socialize and party. It’s loud in that respect, but since the bar is separate from the main accommodations, you don’t really hear a lot of noise in the rooms. Moreover, they have great security, high water pressure in the showers, comfy beds, and decent enough Wi-Fi. The dorms are spacious, and some of the rooms have privacy curtains so you can get a decent night’s sleep. They also run walking tours throughout Rome. It’s one of my favorite hostels in Europe!

YellowSquare at a glance:

  • $$
  • Bar on-site makes it easy to meet people
  • Party vibe
  • Organizes lots of activities

Beds from 25 EUR, privates from 86 EUR.

—> Book your stay at YellowSquare!
 

2. The Beehive

The bunk beds in the Beehive hostel in Rome, Italy
This is one of those hostels that feel like home. It’s super chill and laid back, and the owners go out of their way to make you feel welcome. There’s a café on-site that serves an amazing vegan/vegetarian organic breakfast (not included), with homemade sourdough bread, homemade croissants, and fresh bagels. They also organize weekly events (like cooking classes) and communal dinners using seasonal produce (dinners are by donation) to make it easy to socialize. There’s both an indoor lounge and an outdoor courtyard, so it’s always easy to meet people and chat. While the beds aren’t the most comfortable (they are basic metal bunks), the dorms are clean and spacious.

The Beehive at a glance:

  • $$$
  • Café on-site
  • Very friendly staff
  • Organizes weekly events

Beds from 35 EUR, privates from 61 EUR.

—> Book Your Stay at The Beehive!
 

3. Roma Scout Center

The red bunks in a dorm room in the Roma Scout Center hostel in Rome, Italy
This eco-friendly hostel is focused on sustainability. It has a bar and restaurant on-site and is close to the metro so you can easily explore the city. The dorms are basic, but they have lockers, and the beds are comfy enough (some of them are cozy pod beds). The hostel (including the dorms) is quite clean and well maintained. The staff is very helpful too and always willing to help you plan your trip. It’s not very social, though, since you get a wide range of people here (backpackers, families, kids, etc.), but it’s cheap!

Roma Scout Center at a glance:

  • $
  • Eco-friendly focus on sustainability
  • Restaurant and bar on-site
  • Knowledgeable staff can help you plan your visit

Beds from 19 EUR, privates from 58 EUR.

—> Book your stay at Roma Scout Center!
 

4. Alessandro Palace Hostel & Bar

Bunk beds in the Alessandro Palace hostel in Rome, Italty
This party hostel is one of the cheapest places in town. Naturally, the beds are basic and not very comfy, but there are lockers in every room. Plus, there’s a bar with cheap drinks. And it’s just 5 minutes from the Termini station too, so you’re in a great location for exploring. Overall, it’s a fun, party backpacker place. So don’t come looking for a good sleep!

The owners also run another very affordable party hostel downtown (Alessandro Downtown Hostel & Bar). It has a rooftop bar as well as a fully equipped kitchen and a fitness room. Like the other Alessandro hostel, the beds here are pretty basic and not especially comfy. But the dorms are spacious, and it’s super easy to meet people. They also have free coffee and tea all day.

Alessandro Palace Hostel & Bar at a glance:

  • $
  • Bar on-site
  • Very affordable
  • Social vibe makes it easy to meet other travelers

Beds from 16 EUR, privates from 35 EUR.

—> Book your stay at Alessandro Palace Hostel & Bar!

Alessandro Downtown Hostel and Bar at a glance:

  • $
  • Rooftop terrace
  • Social atmosphere
  • Cheap dorms

Beds from 18 EUR, privates from 48 EUR.

—> Book your stay at Alessandro Downtown Hostel & Bar!
 

5. The RomeHello Hostel

The outdoor courtyard and common area at RomeHello hostel
This is a fun, social hostel where it’s easy to meet people. Each bed has an individual lamp, USB charger, plug, and shelf. The bunks are comfortable and sturdy (so they don’t creak), with thick mattresses and individual lockers built-in. It’s just a 10-15-minute walk from many of the city’s best sites, including the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Colosseum. There’s also a kitchen for cooking your own meals, as well as a pub and a beer garden, so it’s easy to hang out and meet people (there’s a ton of common area space).

The RomeHello Hostel at a glance:

  • $$$
  • Pub and beer garden make it easy to meet people
  • Great location
  • Family-sized private rooms

Beds from 42 EUR, privates from 150 EUR.

—> Book your stay at RomeHello!
 

6. Hostel Trastevere

The cozy bunk beds in Hostel Trastevere in Rome, Italy
This hostel has a great outdoor terrace common area with shade sails to keep you cooler in summer. There are actually three common areas, so there’s a place for people who want to party, relax, or work. They offer a cheap buffet breakfast, as well as fast Wi-Fi and AC for when it gets hot. The bunks are basic, and some of the top bunks don’t have railings; however, they’re comfy enough, and the dorms don’t feel crowded. There’s a bar on-site too, and the hostel is close to grocery stores and public transit.

Hostel Trastevere at a glance:

  • $$
  • Bar on-site
  • Lots of common space makes it easy to meet people
  • for digital nomads to work

Beds from 25 EUR, privates from 82 EUR.

—> Book your stay at Hostel Trastevere!
 

7. Palladini Hostel Rome


This might be a hostel, but it hasn’t skimped on the décor, with stylish black-, red-, and white-themed communal areas and artwork and chandeliers in the private rooms. The dorms are basic but roomy, and the beds aren’t amazing, but it’s just 200m from the Termini station, so it’s really easy to access public transport. There’s a café on-site too, as well as a large kitchen for cooking your own meals. It’s one of the cheapest places in the city as well. Plus, they also give you a free glass of champagne on arrival!

Palladini Hostel Rome at a glance:

  • $
  • Convenient location near Termini station
  • Affordable dorms
  • Free champagne on arrival

Beds from 17 EUR, privates from 55 EUR.

—> Book your stay at Palladini Hostel!

***

Mixing the ancient with the modern, Rome is an incredible destination full of world-class historical attractions and amazing culinary delights. There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re a history buff, foodie, partier, or on a romantic getaway. No matter what your travel style, there’s plenty of budget-friendly accommodation, so you can enjoy all the city has to offer without breaking the bank!

Book Your Trip to Italy: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!

Book Your Train
ItaliaRail is a great resource to use when planning your trip via train around Italy. You can compare prices, routes, and schedules and save up to 60% on your tickets.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want More Information on Italy?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Italy for even more planning tips!

Photo credit: 2 – The Yellow, 3 – The Beehive, 4 – Roma Scout Center, 5 – Alessandro Hostel, 6 – RomeHello, 7 – Hostel Trastevere, 8 – Palladini Hostel

The post The 7 Best Hostels in Rome appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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Highlights from My 5th U.S. Road Trip

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Nomadic Matt posing at the Grand Canyon
Posted: 6/14/21 | June 14th, 2021

This post was originally published on Nomadic Matt Plus, our exclusive members-only community. Click here to learn more about how you can get early-access content, free books and guides, live Q&As, and more!

Back in mid-April, I packed my bags, filled my car with books, said goodbye to my apartment, and headed west for a six-week road trip through seven states.

Last week, four thousand miles, ten books, and 67 hours of driving later, after a route that took me west to the Grand Canyon, north to Boise, west to Portland, and down the coast to Los Angeles, my fifth US road trip came to an end.

Road trips give me a chance to not only see the country but recharge my batteries. As I drive, I listen to audiobooks and music and call friends. In destinations where I’m not visiting friends, I sightsee, eat, read, write, and go to bed early.

On these road trips, I drink less, sleep more, reflect more, and chill out more. They’re my “me time.”

Especially because I visit as many national parks as possible. And lots of time alone in nature is good for the soul.

This road trip was no different (though at six weeks, it was one of the shorter ones I’ve done). I revisited the Grand Canyon, saw Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yosemite, and some other parks for the first time.

The sprawling views of the Grand Canyon in the USA

The Grand Canyon was just as grand as I remembered it. During my first visit, I hiked to the bottom, but, due to COVID, that wasn’t possible now. I just did an out-and-back to Skeleton Point and took in the view from the rim.

(Tip: Take Rt. 64 to enter and exit the park. This takes you to the eastern part of the canyon, where there are tons of lookouts, and over a super scenic road. It’s way better than driving from Flagstaff via 180. It takes longer but the drive is way more majestic. Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument are also along the way.)

Then there was Utah, which was the highlight of my entire trip. I never realized that the state had so many national parks in it — nor that it was so beautiful.

I only visited Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks this trip. Zion was everything I dreamed it to be. The rocks and peaks all are so massive — it truly makes you feel small.

The famous view of Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, USA

However, I liked Bryce a lot more. I found the trails less crowded and the landscape, with its pastel reds and oranges, prettier. There was just something about those hoodoos (tall, thin spires of rock), wide canyons, and colors that did it for me more. There seemed to be more trails there too, especially further down the canyon.

And then there was Salt Lake City. I’ll write more about why I loved it as much as I did later on, but for now, I’ll just say that there was way more stuff to do there than I thought. Lots of art, hikes you can access right from downtown, and grade A beer gardens.

But the real fun was when I ran into a reader at one of those beer gardens and they took me to a house party filled with twentysomethings employed at ski resorts nearby or transplants working for one of the new tech companies in town (SLC has a growing tech scene as people leave California). It was kind of cool to be at a party with strangers again, and even though I’m way past my twenties, everyone was pretty welcoming (though they did kick my butt at beer pong!).

Some other highlights:

  • Mt. Hood, Oregon
  • Sonoma (If you visit, get Three Fat Guys wines. They are delicious.)
  • The entire Oregon coast (an article on it is coming)
  • The Redwoods
  • Los Angeles (always)
  • Flagstaff, Arizona (a fun college town with a good brewery scene)
  • Yosemite National Park

And the lowlight? Roswell, New Mexico. There just wasn’t much to do there and the alien stuff is just terribly done! It’s not even fun kitschy. There is one really awesome contemporary art museum there though.

A stunning narrow canyon surrounded by tall cliffs in the USA

No matter how many road trips I make, I’m still blown away by how big this country is. Despite spending the past year just road-tripping around the country (and not counting all the shorter trips here and there or vacations to places like Hawaii over my lifetime, which probably add up to a couple of years as well), I’ve only seen a fraction of the land I grew up in.

It boggles my mind that I have seen so much yet still so little.

On the whole, this trip was a bit more sedate than my previous ones. Though COVID cases were declining, more people were getting vaccinated and getting outside, and there was more of a lively atmosphere than last summer, a lot of things were still closed, restrictions were still in place, and some people were still weird about meeting strangers.

The longer my road trip went on, though, the more positive energy there was in the air. It’s made me super excited for this summer and all my Europe travels!

Travel is a battery that needs to be recharged, and, with many COVID restrictions loosening up, my battery is at 110% right now. This trip gave me a taste, but I’m ready for hostels, Greek beaches, fellow travelers, and seeing where the road takes me.

Book Your Trip to the United State: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Need an Affordable RV for Your Road Trip?
RVshare lets you rent RVs from private individuals all around the country, saving you tons of money in the process. It’s like Airbnb for RVs.

Want More Information on the United States?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on the USA for even more planning tips!

The post Highlights from My 5th U.S. Road Trip appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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The Ultimate Guide to Traveling When You Have No Money

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How to Travel When You Have no Money
Updated: 5/28/21 | May 28th, 2021

Whenever I ask readers what the number one thing holding them back from traveling is I almost always get the same answer: Money.

This is something I hear from everyone I talk to: “Matt, I simply don’t have enough money to travel.”

This problem — and how to overcome it — is my most asked question. Over the past 12 years, I have answered this question in a plethora of posts, emails, tweets, and Facebook posts. Long-term readers might even be getting sick of me discussing this subject because it is one I talk about so much. 

But I know no matter how often I address this question, it will come up again.

Since this question comes up so often, I like to constantly remind people of this fact: You do not need to be rich to travel.

Let’s repeat that: You do not need to be rich to travel.

There are plenty of ways to travel on a budget (and for free) — you just need to be willing to get creative.

Traveling the world with no money sounds like an impossible dream. But it is possible, and you can do it responsibly without breaking the bank. It should be said that there are some expenses you shouldn’t compromise on (like travel insurance) but there are tons of ways you can travel the world on a budget — including plenty of ways you can actually travel for free.

In this post, I’m going to show you two things:

  1. How to travel cheap
  2. How to travel for free

Traveling cheap is all about taking advantage of helpful apps and websites that save you money, finding ways to lower your expenses, and even making money as you travel. It’s about finding value and lowering your expenses while still being able to afford to do what you want.

Traveling for free entails taking advantage of free accommodation, transportation, and activities that are already out there, thereby reducing your cost to zero. Here, you sacrifice comfort and convenience to extend your travels as long as possible.

With the right budget and the right mindset, you can make your travel dreams a reality. Even if you don’t earn a lot or you have debt, there are still plenty of ways to go overseas (I still had debt when I went on my first trip around the world). They may not be fancy or luxurious, but if travel is your priority then you can definitely make it happen!

Ready to kick-start your budget travels and save money? Just click on either of the links below to jump directly to that section!

1. Get a Job Overseas

Not making enough money at your job? Or, even worse, are you working a job you hate? Why not get a job overseas? There are plenty of opportunities in the world as long as you aren’t picky. After all, this isn’t a career you are starting — it’s just a way to earn money for travel.

Here are some popular (and easy to find) jobs you can get when you travel:

  1. Au pair – An au pair is a live-in caregiver who helps a host family by looking after their children and doing some basic housekeeping. In exchange, you get free room and board and a small salary. This is a great route if you’re looking to learn a new language or immerse yourself in a new culture. You can read this post for more info on being an au pair.
  2. Bartender – It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, so if you have the skills then this is an easy job to move overseas. It’s also an easy job to get under the table if you decide to go that route. If you don’t have the skills to tend bar, consider being a dishwasher or busser.
  3. Hostel worker – Hostel workers rarely stick around for long, which means there is always a demand for new help. It’s a great way to meet other travelers while adjusting to a new location. You can usually also start off as a volunteer (in exchange for a free room) to avoid visa complications. Three websites that can help you find hostels to volunteer at are Worldpackers, Workaway, and HelpX.
  4. Waitress/waiter – There are tons of seasonal restaurants around the world that need extra help during the busy tourist months. If you have experience, this is an easy job to find abroad.
  5. Farm worker – While hardly glamorous, if you don’t mind the hard work this is a great way to make a lot of money in a short period of time (as you won’t have time to spend your money because you’ll be farming out in the middle of nowhere!). This job is very popular in Australia and New Zealand.
  6. Dive instructor – If you have your certification, this is an easy job to travel with as dive instructors are needed everywhwere. Best of all, these jobs are usually in picturesque tropical locations!
  7. Tour guide – If you’ve got a knack for history and don’t mind speaking in front of groups, this is the perfect job for you. It’s also usually a cash job, which means you get your tips directly.
  8. Cruise ship worker – This is a much more formal position than the ones above, but it’s a great way to travel. The hours are long, but there’s something to be said about living at sea!
  9. Casino worker – While this might require some training, if you’re a night owl and don’t mind the casino scene this is a fun job to work abroad.
  10. Seasonal worker at ski resorts – Instructors, restaurant staff, hotel staff, lifeguards — ski resorts need all sorts of staff to keep things moving, making this a goldmine for the overseas traveler (as long as you don’t mind the snow!).
  11. Yacht worker – While the hours can be long, you can make great money working for the rich and famous on their yachts. Best of all, you’re usually in some pretty amazing destinations!
  12. Yoga instructor – If you have the skills (and certification), teaching yoga abroad is an easy way to make some spending money. While you might need to know the language, there are yoga studios in pretty much every city in the world.

Working overseas often gets discounted as an option because it seems hard to do. It’s not. Just be open. These jobs don’t require advanced degrees or a lot of work experience either.

Are you going to get a high-paying office job? No.

Will you get a shitty, low-wage job that will pay all your travel bills? Yep!

I’ve met people from all walks of life, both from Western and non-Western countries, funding their travels this way. It’s an easy, fun way to lengthen your travels, deepen your experience, and make a little money.

READ MORE ABOUT WORKING OVERSEAS: 15 Ways to Find a Job and Work Overseas
 

2. Teach English Overseas

One of the best ways to make money for travel is to teach English overseas. You can make a lot of money teaching — I replenished my travel funds while working in Thailand, and I have had friends leave South Korea with tens of thousands of dollars in the bank.

All you need is the ability to speak English fluently and a TEFL degree, depending on the country you work in. The world is yearning for teachers, and this is a job in high demand; many companies in Asia will even pay for your flight over.

If you have a college or university degree you’ll be able to make more money and apply for better positions though it’s not necessary for many countries.

Additionally, there are many websites and services out there that allow you to teach virtually. As long as you have a great Wi-Fi connection, you can help people learn English from anywhere in the world!

Some places you can teach online are:

READ MORE ABOUT TEACHING OVERSEAS:

 

3. Do WWOOFing and Work on a Farm

WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It’s a platform that allows you to work on a farm in exchange for free room and board. It’s a great way to see a destination in-depth while allowing you to commune with the great outdoors. You have to pay to get to the farm, but once you are there, everything else is covered! It definitely will help you travel cheap as well as have a unique experience and meet lots of cool people.

WWOOF has opportunities available in 130 countries around the world, with over 12,000 hosts available. Some of the most popular destinations for WWOOFers are France, Italy, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii.

READ MORE ABOUT VOLUNTEERING:

 

4. Use the Sharing Economy

Use the sharing economy to find cheaper accommodation, quirky tour guides, rideshare options, and home-cooked meals with local chefs. You can bypass the traditional travel industry with sharing economy websites and gain access to locals using their own assets and skills to become small tourism companies with cheaper prices. Moreover, locals know where to find deals. They know which supermarket is cheapest, which stores offer the best sales, and where to find the hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars with the tastiest food at the lowest prices. Talking directly to them gives you access to that knowledge.

These websites have changed the travel game and made travel more accessible for everyone.

Here are some of my favorite websites:

  • Airbnb – The go-to platform for finding budget accommodation.
  • BlaBlaCar – A ride-sharing app that connects you with drivers who have extra seats in their car (primarily for medium and long distances).
  • EatWith – Platform that connects you with local cooks serving private meals.
  • RVShare – Lets you rent RVs and camper vans directly from locals.
  • Turo – A car sharing marketplace that lets you rent vehicles from locals.
  • Campspace – This platform lets you camp on private property. Properties range from basic tent plots to luxurious glamping and RV stays.

READ MORE ABOUT THE SHARING ECONOMY:

 

5. Cook Your Own Meals

The best way to save money on the road is to cook all your own meals. While in Stockholm, I spent $60 USD for a week’s worth of groceries instead of an average of $15 USD per meal eating out! That’s a saving of $150 USD!

I’ve done the same thing in dozens of countries all around the world — especially in expensive destinations like Iceland where eating out can really destroy your budget.

If you are staying in hostels, book accommodation that has a kitchen so you have space to cook. If you’re Couchsurfing or using Airbnb,your host will probably have a kitchen.

No kitchen? Pack your own container and cutlery and make some sandwiches and salads on the go. Not every meal requires a stove, right?

Just because you are traveling doesn’t mean you need to eat out every meal. You won’t ruin your trip to Paris if you decide not to eat out one day! There’s simply no reason to be spending lots of money on food on your trip!

READ MORE ABOUT SAVING MONEY ON FOOD WHEN YOU TRAVEL:

 

6. Get Rail Passes

Rail passes (like the Eurail Pass in Europe or the JR Pass in Japan) are a great way to save money when it comes to train travel. If you’re traveling around the region for a while, rail passes will likely be much cheaper than just booking individual trips.

If you are booking individual trips, booking ahead of time can usually save you about 50% of the cost of a train ticket. However, that fixes you to a set timeline. If you don’t want to be tied into a fixed schedule, rail passes can save you a lot of money while giving you the flexibility you need. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars in Europe doing this!
 

7. Sleep in Large Dorms

Large hostel dorm rooms are the cheapest paid accommodation out there. If Couchsurfing isn’t your thing, this is your next best way to save money on a place to sleep. The bigger the dorm, the cheaper it will be. While a 4-6 bed dorm might give you more privacy, a 12-18 bed dorm is going to be a bit cheaper. In the long run, this will add up. As long as you’ve got earplugs and a sleeping mask, opt for the bigger door to keep your budget intact!

If you’re a light sleeper, make sure you read the reviews before you book to ensure you don’t choose a party hostel. In larger cities, you can usually find a hostel that is quieter than the others. It might not be as social, but you’ll at least be able to get a good sleep.

In a large dorm, you’re almost guaranteed to have some snorers. If earplugs don’t quite do the trick, download an app like Rain Rain, which plays rain sounds on a loop. You can set a timer so they stop playing after an hour or two, helping you ignore the noises of the dorm while you try to fall asleep.
 

8. Use Student and Other Discount Cards

Are you a student, teacher, or under 26? Welcome to the world of 50%-off attractions and a plethora of discounts! Get a student/teacher/youth card and save big while you’re abroad. Even if you’ve recently graduated, chances are you can still get by with your expired ID card (as long as it doesn’t have an expiry date). Always ask if there are discounts available for students or youth as this is an easy way to save tons of cash as you travel around!

Museums, galleries, and other major tourist attractions usually have discounts (especially in Europe). It never hurts to ask!
 

9. Get City Tourist Cards

If you plan on seeing a lot of sights in a city, you should get a city tourism card. These will offer you discounted and/or free access to the major attractions and museums, as well as free public transportation. I saved over $100 USD with the London pass, $80 USD with the Paris Museum card, $50 USD with a Helsinki card, and tons more with other city tourism cards.

They are an amazing way to save money on attractions that not enough people use. Just head to the local tourism office to find out what cards are available. They can help answer all your questions and make sure you save as much money as possible. Not every city has them, but most major destinations do and you’ll save a lot of money if you plan on seeing the major sights.
 

10. Capitalize on Your Skills

Need some cash? Use Craigslist, TaskRabbit, , or Gumtree to find people who need a few things done around the house and get paid to help them. It’s a way to make money when you travel without committing to a long-term job.

Additionally, if you have a skill, sell it. Offer haircuts to other travelers, busk for money, provide online services like editing, graphic design, or consulting. It’s never been easier to work online. As long as you have Wi-Fi you can make money. The sky is the limit here — get creative!
 

11. Travel Hack and Get Free Flights!

Travel hacking is the #1 way I’ve been able to afford so many flights and hotels over the years. Simply by using a travel credit card for regular spending on groceries, restaurants, and shopping I’ve been able to earn free flights and hotel stays — all by spending money I was going to spend anyway!

These days, there are tons of ways to earn free flights. Simpley sign up for a few travel credit cards, collect miles, and then fly for free.

Most cards offer sign-up bonuses of 50,000 points (or more) — which is often enough for a free round-trip flight right there. And if you sign up for both an airline card (e.g., a United Airlines credit card) and a general rewards card like the Chase Sapphire, you can combine the two point balances and get a cheap flight faster.

By collecting points and miles through credit card bonuses, smart everyday spending, online surveys, bonuses, and other methods, you’ll accrue a ton of miles even before you’ve left for your trip. You can go a lot further in the world when you take away the cost of flights and some accommodation.

It’s not just for Americans either (though US residents have the best options). Canadians can travel hack too, as can folks from Australia and New Zealand and the UK.

Europeans also have several options as well, including all kinds of airline cards such as Norweigan Air, SAS, Aer Lingus, Lufthansa, and more.

READ MORE ABOUT TRAVEL HACKING:

 

12. Stay for Free

There are many services that connect travelers with locals who are willing to let them stay with them for free. Using these sites, you will never have to pay for accommodation. Years ago I read about a guy who traveled for years while only Couchsurfing.

I’ve used this service dozens of times over the years times and always meet amazing people. Sometimes you get a room, sometimes a couch, sometimes an air mattress, but it’s always free.

Ideally, you’ll want to repay your host’s kindness by cooking them a meal, bringing them a souvenir from home, or taking them out for a drink. But that will still be much cheaper than paying for accommodation!

There are also local Couchsurfing group meet-ups that can help you make friends in your new city.

Moreover, because of the rise of the sharing economy in the last few years, there are now websites that let you not only stay with locals but share rides, meals, train tickets, gear, and much more! These websites not only save you a TON of money but they also get you off the tourist track and into the local life. Win-win! Here is a list of websites to use for free accommodation:

READ MORE ABOUT FINDING CHEAP OR FREE ACCCOMMODATION:

 

13. Hitchhike

Hitchhiking is a free way to get around that is relatively safe and quite common in many parts of the world, including Central America, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

I’ve hitchhiked in more than a handful of countries (and I know solo female travelers who have done the same!). Sure, it has a bad reputation in North America, but with some common sense and a bit of patience, you can hitchhike almost anywhere — saving you tons of money in the process!

Here are a few basic tips to help you get started:

  • Use a sign – Make a clear sign that lets people know where you’re heading. That will help drivers decide if they can help.
  • Look presentable – Wear clean clothing, smile, and don’t obscure your face with something like sunglasses. People want to see who they are picking up.
  • Check the laws – Hitchhiking is illegal in some places. Always check the laws to make sure it’s ok to do where you are.
  • Take precautions – Note the license plate of anyone who picks you up and text it to a friend. Chances are you won’t need it but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
  • Keep your valuables on you – Don’t leave any valuables in your bag if it goes in the trunk in case it gets left in the car (or stolen).
  • Consult Hitchwiki – Hitchwiki is the #1 hitchiking resource there is. Always consult it before you hitchhike to pick up tips and ensure you’re hitchhiking in a safe place.

READ MORE ABOUT HITCHHIKING:

 

14. Take Free Walking Tours

Want to learn about the city, get your bearings, and see the major sights? Take a free walking tour. You can find them in most major cities — just ask the local tourist office, your hostel staff, or Google “free walking tour (city name).”

You’ll get a solid introduction to the city while also getting access to a local guide you can ask questions to. I always start my visits to a new city with one. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end (that’s how they get paid).

READ MORE ABOUT TAKING FREE WALKING TOURS:

 

15. House Sitting & Pet Sitting

If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford a vacation, consider watching someone’s house while they go on theirs! You can sign up for one of the sites below and watch people’s homes (and their pets) for free, allowing you to stay in one destination for a while without having to pay for accommodation. Everyone’s account is verified and has reviews so you know you won’t get cheated.

This is a great platform for long-term travel with an important added bonus: you get a kitchen to cook your food (which saves you even more money!).

You will also often get access to a vehicle and sometimes will be left a tip or free groceries. It’s usually people who are well off that can afford multi-month vacations so you’re usually in pretty nice homes and apartments too!

Here are the best house-sitting websites to check out:

READ MORE ABOUT HOUSE SITTING:

 

16. Use Your Social Network

Does your colleague have a relative in Spain? Or maybe you have a distant cousin who lives in New Zealand. Or maybe a childhood friend of yours is working down in Brazil.

These days, we have a vast social network of friends and family that stretches across the globe. Don’t hesitate to use that! Ask your co-workers and friends if they know anyone where you’re going. Get your mom to ask her co-workers and friends, too.

Using your social network can be hugely helpful in traveling the world. You never know who knows who!

***

By implementing a variety of these tips, you’ll be able to travel for relatively little money. Gone are the days of overpriced hotels and expensive flights. With a little planning and some creativity, you can travel the world for cheap.

Because if I can do it, you can do it too!

Whether it’s two months, two years, or just a two-week vacation, travel doesn’t need to cost a ton. The key is to get out of the mindset that you must travel using a flight/hotel combination. Using out-of-the-box, nontraditional ways to travel can lead to big savings.

It all starts with a change in mindset. From there, with some patience and practice, you’ll be able to make your travel dreams a reality — without breaking the bank!

 

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

Nomadic Matt's How to Travel the World on $50 a DayMy New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A to Z planning guide that the BBC called the “bible for budget travelers.”

Click here to learn more and start reading it today!
 
 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

 

The post The Ultimate Guide to Traveling When You Have No Money appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.





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