Travel Money Mistakes to Avoid

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When budgeting for a trip, we often list the big-ticket items — airfare, hotel, lodging, car rental, attraction tickets — add them altogether and call it the final price. But the trickle of funds to other costs starts almost as soon as we start moving: gas to and from the airport, tolls, airport parking, overpriced bottles of water in the airport and more.

That trickle doesn’t stop when you arrive at your destination; think cell phone charges, bank fees, hotel Wi-Fi and housekeeping tips, to name a few. To avoid spending more than you have to, check out these 10 money mistakes to avoid while traveling.

1. Don’t forget to let your bank know you will be traveling.

Forgetting to call your bank before traveling abroad is a common error that even frequent international travelers make; it slips your mind until the plane touches down, and by then it’s often too late. These days banks have almost zero lag time in noticing a debit or credit card being used abroad, so you will get shut down on pretty much your first swipe in a foreign country.

As banks have gotten more sophisticated about tracking card use locations, this can be important even important for domestic travel, and most banks recommend that you let them know about those closer-to-home trips as well. Fraud detectors can be tripped if you’re suddenly using your card across the country, making more or different purchases than you usually do or charging unexpectedly large amounts (such as a weeklong hotel stay).

Note that this applies to debit cards as well as credit cards, and you sometimes need to talk to more than one department even inside the same bank to get them all approved for travel.

2. Don’t overlook bank and ATM fees.

While traveling internationally, each time you go get cash you will likely incur a fee of some kind. These can vary a lot depending on whether the ATM is run by a large bank or not, if the bank is on your card’s network and more. Keep in mind that fees can change from year to year, so it’s worth checking before every trip.

3. Don’t fail to make a plan for getting to your hotel from the airport.

That first taxi ride from the airport may be your most financially vulnerable moment of any trip — the time when you have no idea how far it is, what a fair price is for the ride, whether you have lower-cost alternatives such as a train or bus, or even whether your hotel has a free shuttle. It is best to figure all of this out before your trip; when you arrive you are tired, often without much cash and carrying a ton of luggage. You don’t want to be fumbling around trying to figure all this out on the airport curb.

4. Don’t underestimate your cell phone bill.

How much could a few texts, a bit of mapping, a few email checks and a batch of social media updates cost per day? Plenty, it turns out. Even if you purchase an international roaming plan, these often have pretty aggressive data caps, and your data allowances can disappear quickly.

5. Don’t forget to research the local exchange rate.

Especially in the first several hours at your destination, having done a little research on the local exchange rate against your home currency can make a huge difference. Often it takes a couple of days really to have a handle on how much things cost, but this can take even longer if you are traveling in an area where prices may not be so fixed as they are at home. Knowing the exchange rate cold so you can do the math quickly in your head will help considerably.

6. Don’t bring traveler’s checks.

Barely anyone accepts them anymore, they’re not cheap, you have to invest a fair amount of time in obtaining and purchasing them, and credit cards give you a far better rate of exchange in most parts of the world. Skip ’em.

Five Foods to Avoid Before Flying

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Pre-flight anxiety — spurred by endless baggage lines, security checkpoints and screaming children — need not extend to fears of repeat trips to the airplane lavatory. But eat the wrong thing before you fly, and you may be contending with more than just an awful in-flight movie or space-invading neighbor.

Unfortunately, airport dining options — like a greasy fast food burger, oily pizza or a liquid lunch at the concourse bar — are rather limited. Still, if you’re disciplined, avoiding the gut-busting trifecta of grease, alcohol and carbonation can help contribute to a bloat-free flight. There are even a few surprisingly nutritious foods on our “don’t eat” list that are best avoided before you take to the sky. And for the long-haulers wondering if there’s anything to do to prevent jet lag as they zoom from New York to Beijing, there may just be a food-based remedy: Eat nothing at all.

Remember to drink lots of water, eat some carrot sticks and nuts, and check out our five foods banned for pre-flight consumption.

1. McDonald’s Extra Value Meal

According to the medical community, the body doesn’t do so well digesting foods laden with sodium and saturated fats in the first place — and digestion at 35,000 feet proves even more difficult. So it’s common sense to avoid these worst offenders before flying. But beyond the digestion problems, there’s also the issue of in-flight blood circulation. Sitting squished and immobile in a pressurized cabin hinders blood flow, setting off a physiological chain that can lead to swollen feet, or worse, deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT involves the formation of a blood clot deep inside the body that when breaks free can lodge in the brain, lungs or heart, causing severe damage, even death.

2. The Gas Giants

For obvious reasons, it’s smart to avoid foods that encourage intestinal expansion, as the nature of the pressurized airplane cabin promotes further bloating. Chief among such foods are fried and super-saturated dishes, but even certain “healthful” foods — onions, cauliflower, cabbage, beans, lentils — can make you feel like an over-filled balloon. The aforementioned high-sodium foods can cause you to retain water, further contributing to that bloated feeling.

3. Alcohol

For many fliers, downing a few cocktails is part of their pre-flight protocol. It helps allay the fear of flying  and serves as a liquid sleeping pill. But doctors (yes, them again) say that consuming alcohol before or during a flight should be avoided, at least in excessive amounts. Alcohol causes dehydration, which is already a concern for most fliers given the ultra-dry air and salty meals on planes. If having a drink is a must for you, counteract the effect of the booze by consuming plenty of water.

4. Carbonated Beverages

When flying, and especially on a long-haul, it helps to think of yourself as a super athlete, competing against the forces of dehydration, boredom, rude flight attendants and the smelly guy sitting next to you. As an athlete, you’d never consume a Pepsi during a triathlon, would you? You need to be at your peak, and carbonated beverages contribute to bloating and cramping, two enemies of the long-haul athlete. Again, we’re suggesting that you avoid foods that impede digestion, cause gas and potentially cause distress to you and your fellow passengers.

5. Everything

In a study published in the journal “Science,” researchers suggested that fasting for about 16 hours before a long flight may actually help to fend off jet lag.

Here’s the study in a nutshell: Normally it’s light that triggers an internal clock that controls when we eat and sleep. But according to the study, a second clock seems to override the first when the body senses that food is in short supply. So researchers believe we might be able to faster adjust to time zone changes by manipulating this second clock, based on hunger. In essence, if you make your body think it’s starving, you’ll be able to remain awake and alert until it’s dinner time in your new destination, resetting your body’s light clock in the process.

 

Travel Hygiene Tips: Staying Fresh on the Road

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If you’ve ever stepped off a plane with stained and rumpled clothes, a pore-clogged face, a jet lag-induced headache, and a mouth that still tastes like hours-old airplane food, you know how tricky it can be to stay clean and rested while traveling. And that’s just the first leg of your trip. Where do you turn when access to basic facilities — like a shower and sink — becomes a distant memory?

If you’re properly prepared, you’ll be ready for whatever travel trial comes your way: to use an apple or lemon to improve your breath, to take a shower without water, or to fall asleep in even the most cramped, cacophonous of airline seats.

Hands

Those travelers devoted to hand sanitization are religious about the act — and for good reason.You may be more than 100 times likelier to catch a cold while flying than you would on the ground, thanks mostly to low cabin humidity. One important way to protect yourself is by keeping your hands clean.

Face

A clean face can do a lot to offset dirty hands and foul breath. When considering your face on the road, there are two things to keep in mind: the climate of your destination and your skin type. Leaving for Egypt’s desert sands? Pack plenty of lip balm and moisturizer. Hiking the rain forests in Costa Rica? Nature will help you out a little. But no matter where you’re traveling, sunblock is absolutely essential if you’ll be spending any time outdoors.

Mouth

Is bad breath the greatest enemy to overall travel freshness? Your fellow airplane passengers apparently think so. So what to do to avoid that foul, sticky taste in the mouth and that look of revulsion from your neighbor on the plane or metro? Beyond the obvious mints or gum, there are a number of products that promote oral hygiene on the road. Colgate Wisps are disposable mini-toothbrushes that provide a quick and easy mouth-freshening option when you can’t brush your teeth for real. The brush head has a freshening bead that releases a mouth cleaning liquid when you scrub, and a pick on the opposite end provides a floss option. It requires no water to use, and the ingredients are safe to swallow.

Body

For the body, clothing can go a long way in at least giving the impression that you’re cool and dry. But when you’re in a water-free environment and desperate for a shower, there are a number of “soap” products that can be used without water. The aptly named No Rinse Body Wash is a popular option for adventure travelers. Known in the health care field (for use with bedridden patients) and also good for campers/trekkers who don’t have the luxury of a shower, No Rinse products utilize a water-based odor neutralizer to provide a quick wash. Of course, the benefit here is that you don’t have to rinse.

 

Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare

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Think you need a vacation now? Just wait until you’re scouring dozens of booking sites, aggregators and airline websites to find cheap tickets for your next trip — then you’ll really be ready for a week off!

Unfortunately for weary travelers, there’s no real shortcut to finding cheap airfare. As with any purchase, you need to shop around to get the best deal — by trying different booking sites, altering your dates and waiting until just the right time to purchase. But if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, you could save big on your next flight.

1. Buy Early

Especially during peak travel periods, making reservations late in the game can cost you a lot of money. Airline ticket prices typically go up in the last two weeks before flying, so if you’re planning ahead, try to make the call before this deadline. And if you’re traveling internationally, you’ll want to book even earlier — from three to six months in advance — for the best deals.

2. Buy Late

Sometimes you can buy tickets at the very last minute for a great price if the airlines have failed to fill their planes. You can find such fares at specialized sites or sometimes on airline websites and online booking sites such as Expedia. If you can stand the suspense, and if you are flexible with your itinerary and dates, you can find fantastic money-savers to very attractive travel destinations. 

3. Shop Around

No matter how good it sounds, you should never book the first fare you see. Start your search by checking a few of the major online travel providers.

4. Know When to Buy

The hardest part of booking a flight is knowing when to stop tracking fares and make that final purchase. Kayak.com can help you reach that decision, offering fare predictions for most major cities. Just plug in your itinerary and the site will advise you either to book now or to wait, depending on whether the fare is expected to rise or drop. It also shows a fare history graph, allowing you to see whether your fare is headed in an upward or downward direction.

5. Be Flexible

If you live close to more than one airport, check out the fares from all of the airports near you. Many online fare searching engines will ask you if you are willing to depart from or arrive in more than one city. Yes! Also, experiment with different travel dates; shifting your itinerary by a month, a week or even a few days can make a significant difference in fares. You’ll usually find the lowest fares for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

6. Don’t Forget the Discounters

As their nickname suggests, discount airlines can save you a bundle, but they’re not always easy to find. Luckily for consumers, discounters are cropping up more frequently on aggregators and booking sites (Kayak now offers fares for JetBlue and Spirit, for example) — but there are still a few holdouts, such as Southwest and Allegiant Air, whose fares can’t be found anywhere but their own websites. If you’re traveling outside the U.S., don’t forget to check the international discount airlines as well.

 

Packing Tip: Your Beauty Routine

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If you use eight different products to tame your wild curls or have an elaborate face-washing regimen down to a science, let loose a bit when you travel instead of carrying an army of beauty products with you across the globe. Trust us — you won’t look like a cave woman in your vacation pictures if you use a shampoo/conditioner combo for a few nights. If you’re adventurous enough to leave home and explore an exotic destination, we bet you can also handle leaving behind a few hair products.
If you are staying at a major chain hotel that will offer complimentary toiletries — use them! Don’t bring your own 24-ounce shampoo and conditioner bottles to the hotel and then stuff the hotel ones in your suitcase to take home. If you don’t use them on the road, you’ll probably never use them at home. There are lots of products that have multiple uses. Opt for a shampoo/conditioner combo. Bring a tinted moisturizer with SPF. Let your moisturizing body wash double as a shaving cream. Share your shampoo, soap or toothpaste with your traveling partner. Buy a makeup compact that contains more than one color, such as an eyeshadow quad. Lose the bulky containers. Instead, try zip-top bags. We stuff and pour everything we can into them, including hair products, lotions, cotton balls and even sunscreen. To prevent spills, put all of your liquid-filled baggies in a larger plastic grocery bag — and be sure not to pack it next to any fishing rods or freshly sharpened pencils.

FUN AND FREE IN MUSIC CITY

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Nashville is offering more free fun than ever before. Visit Music City and do (way) more for less. Of course, there is FREE live music 365 days of the year. Enjoy Nashville’s wonderful parks that offer some of the best views of the city. Check out our many art galleries that are FREE to public, and host regular events. See which attractions offer FREE admission, and those who offer admission to children for FREE.

Check out a complete guide to Nashville’s FREE music scene. The best places and best music for under a penny in Music City can be found right here: visitmusiccity.com/freemusic.