8 Budget-Friendly Destinations for a Stress-Free Vacation

Popular tourists destinations are great…sometimes. Other times you may want to avoid the headache.

What’s wrong with the popular tourist traps? They’re expensive, they can be dangerous and they’re crowded.

There’s a better way.

Traveling to little-known vacation areas can be great for several reasons. They’re affordable, they’re less crowded and you can try something new and different.

Disney World is great and all, but smaller attractions can leave lasting memories for the rest of your life. It’s amazing how stress-free a vacation can be if you’re not spending hundreds of dollars everyday and you’re more focused on actually spending time together.

I’ve got a solution for you. I’ve compiled a list of 8 great places to go on vacation that won’t break your budget.

And be sure to stick around for some stress-free travel tips at the end…

1. Washington D.C.

Though the cost of living in the D.C. area may be high, being a tourist there isn’t. You can find decent lodging rates if you stay out of the city and take the subway in.

Food: There are several amazing pizza joints in D.C. and don’t forget to look for the little dinners and dives that are scattered all over.

Attractions: Free museums galore! Of course, American tax dollars are paying for them, but there is no cost to enter a plethora of museums and attractions in D.C., including The National Museum of American History, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, The Washington Monument and The Lincoln Memorial…to name a few.

2. Oklahoma City, OK

You won’t run out of things to do in this city with over 1,000,000 people in the metro area. Lodging rates aren’t too high in the city and if you look on the outer limits, you can expect some really great rates.

Food: World-famous onion burgers are one of the many choices you have for food in OKC. Eischen’s is another great place right outside of OKC. They are famous for their fried chicken and for serving it on a paper towel.

Attractions: There are all kinds of cheap/free museums and inner-city attractions. Don’t miss the Oklahoma City Zoo! With a ticket price under $10 for adults (half price for military), that makes for a cheap day exploring the giant wildlife wonderland.

3. Nashville, TN

The city of music and fun. If you’re looking for a night out, just go downtown and find any type of music you like, while eating some great food.

Food: It may not be Memphis, but the barbecue is comparable. If you’re looking for a treat, head over to Knockout Wings and be sure to try their famous butter biscuits, southern sweet tea and of course, amazing wings.

Attractions: From music museums to street performances, this is truly the city of music. If you like music, it’s easy to stay entertained for a week or longer, even on a small budget. Even if you’re not into music that much, there are several other museums and attractions around the town.

4. Branson, MO

With more shows than Las Vegas, Branson is a tourist’s goldmine. It’s a great summer getaway or a winter holiday vacation spot. Our family has been there during both seasons and both were awesome for different reasons.

Food: Look for the diners, they’re everywhere. You can find some great BBQ here and to top it all off, why not take a trip to the famous Joe’s Crab Shack?

Attractions: The shows are a given, but aren’t they expensive? Some are, but many are quite affordable. My family and I were able to see 5 shows for under $100 total for the family. You just have to find discounts and package deals. You’ll also want to spend a day or two at the new Branson Landing for shopping and dining.

5. New Orleans, LA

New Orleans is popular and for a good reason, though it’s not overcrowded, unless you go during Mardi Gras. There is a lot to do and you don’t have to spend much.

Food: New Orleans is known for all kinds of delicious Cajun food. You’ll want to try a real po’boy from Johnny Po’Boy’s or one of many other great places. There is plenty of seafood to go around. You’ll also want to make sure you try some crayfish and gator while you’re there.

Attractions: The downtown area has much to offer, even if you aren’t there to walk Bourbon Street. The Audobon Zoo is worth a visit and you won’t want to miss the National WWII Museum.

6. Hot Springs, AR

I may be a little biased, since this is my hometown, but it’s really a hidden goldmine. The entire city is a National Park, so if you want nature, this is your place. As far as lodging, you have choices from cheap, clean hotels to very affordable condos in the Hot Springs Village.

Food: Great barbecue and southern food all over. While we’re talking about barbecue, make sure you try the famous “tamale spread” from McClard’s BBQ. You’ll see the pictures on the wall of a few celebrities, like Bill Clinton and Tom Green, eating there. There is also a surprising number of great authentic Mexican restaurants and taco trucks.

Attractions: Hiking, walking trails, museums, a historic downtown area and their famous lakes will keep you busy. It’s also a great place to get an affordable massage at one of the many spas downtown. You can even learn to scuba dive in Lake Ouachita, one of the cleanest lakes in the country.

7. Gulf Shores, AL

A city on the gulf with just a few thousand people makes for affordable restaurants, lodging and entertainment.

Food: You can find your fair share of fresh seafood and southern cooking, but if you want a real hole-in-the-wall wonder, head over to Old World Bakery and Pizza for some amazing Italian food. It’s a hidden gem that my wife and I were lucky enough to find.

Attractions: For starters, you have the ocean. It’s hard to beat that. There are free beaches everywhere. If you get tired of the beach, you can always find something to do in the little beach-front town, or you can take the short day-trip into the Florida panhandle.

8. Lancaster, PA

Lancaster is known for being “Amish country”, but it doesn’t end there. Take the Amish tours and see the beautiful country, but there’s more.

Food: There are plenty of Amish restaurants that serve fresh, natural, home-cooked meals. Be sure to try the baked oatmeal over at Lititz Family Cupboard on the outskirts of Lancaster County.

Attractions: Amish tours and outlet shopping are pretty popular. You could take the kids to Hershey Park or just take a tour of the Hershey factory and land. There’s also a gigantic Sight & Sound Theatre that puts on a great show.

Some Final Stress-Free Travel Tips

Hopefully you’ve found your next vacation spot! Before I go, I want to make your next vacation even more enjoyable. Let me give you some tips that I use to make vacations less stressful…

1. Keep an Inventory List: Keep a list of everything you need to take with you when you go. Don’t make a new list every time, just keep a standard “inventory list” on hand. You’ll want to make a separate list for flying trips and driving trips, since you will likely bring different things.

2. Call Ahead: Whether you’re staying in lodging or with a friend, call ahead to figure out what you don’t need to bring. They may already stock the room with most of the hygiene products you’re bringing and the front desk can always supply you with more if you run out.

3. Don’t Stress, You Can Buy It: With your inventory list and calling ahead, you shouldn’t forget anything, but if you do, remember: don’t stress about bringing everything; you can always buy small items if you need to. It’s not worth stressing out over a forgotten tooth brush…just go buy one. Remembering this saves me tons of stress.

4. Use Tools: With all of the resources we have on the Internet, you should never be searching long for a place to stay or a place to eat. Use apps like “Hotels By Me” (lodging) and “Urban Spoon” (food) to find a place near you. This unlocks the opportunity to read reviews and see pictures before you arrive.—–LINKS!

5. Ask the Locals: If you’re ever not sure what to do, ask the locals. They know the best restaurants, the best attractions and sometimes, they may even know of some cheap places to stay. It always helps to ask someone who is already familiar with the area.

Now for one last bonus tip. Can you handle one more? Sure you can…

You’ll generally be spending more money on vacation than you would normally, so make sure you’re taking full advantage of credit card rewards with each and every purchase. Don’t miss an opportunity to earn money. For more on this, you should check out “11 Ways to Make Money When You Spend Money“.

Here’s to your next budget-friendly, stress-free vacation. Cheers!

Author Bio: Kalen Bruce is the founder and main writer at MoneyMiniBlog, where he writes short, sweet and simple articles about money and productivity. Kalen lives a debt-free life with his wife and four children. You can learn more about him here. Get his free eBook: Financial Freedom on a Full Schedule.

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Travel Blogger Interview – Natalie Sayin

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Natalie Sayin is the author of Turkish Travel Blog. And with her passion in history, she shows us the beauty of Turkey through her lens and writing. Follow her travels thru Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; and visit Turkey without having to leave your home.

 

 

  1. First of all, tell us a quick background of who you are...

I am 38 years old, live on the Aegean coast of Turkey and have made it my aim in life to explore as much of the country as I can, with specific aims to learning about the culture and history.

  1. What is it about Turkey that has you obsessed about?

I am really not sure. When I first came to Turkey in 2001, it just felt like home and that vibe has stayed with me ever since. A tarot card reader did tell me once, that I had a past life in Turkey but I prefer to believe that it is because I just feel comfortable and it is my destiny to live here.

  1. What is your inspiration to start your blog?

It was meant to be an online diary so I could track my travels but over time, it grew with readers who also had a passionate interest in the country. Then I discovered that many readers were also researching Turkey because they planned to visit for the first time, and they wanted advice on where to go and what to do.

  1. Of all the places you have visited, what is the most memorable one?

This is hard to answer because I have been to a lot of places which are all fantastic. I really liked the Northeast of Turkey because the area is so green and delving into the traditions and culture of the Laz and Hemsin communities was great fun.

This year, I also did a four night gulet boat trip from Fethiye to Olympos on the Mediterranean coast and that was just surreal. We slept on deck, explored ancient ruins, spotted loggerheads turtles, and docked into scenic coastal villages. I would like to do some more sailing of the Aegean and Med coasts.

  1. Have you ever experienced any challenges in traveling solo?

No, because it is easier to travel solo. I don’t have to take into account the needs and wants of other people. I can go where I want and do anything that interests me. The worst aspect is that unless I take selfies, I am not in many of my holiday photos!

  1. How do you fund your travel?

I am a freelance travel writer so all my trips are good for work as well as leisure. Rather than write generic articles, I can be specific and detailed with information which makes it easier to sell anything I write.

  1. Do you take advantage of airline credit cards to save on flights? If so, which card do you use?

I don’t fly that much while traveling. Most trips consist of moving onto the next town or district so I use road transport more, than domestic flights. This is something I should look into though because I have heard the concept of air miles is a great way to save money.

  1. What places are still in your bucket list?

There is too many to mention but I would like to visit Gallipoli, which was the site of the Anzac landings in 1915. Now, it is a memorial to the fallen soldiers. Close by is the UNESCO site of Troy. I would also like to visit Bursa and Safranbolu because they are prominent in Ottoman history. The Eastern district of Van is also appealing. It has a large lake and many ruins of Armenian churches.

  1. Do you have any major travel regrets?

No, I have always gained something from every trip or place I have visited. I keep an open mind when traveling and this often provides more memorable experiences, than disappointment.

  1. What has been your greatest learning in travelling Turkey?

That it is impossible to stereotype Turkish culture. From the east to the west, regional traditions are strong and for example, someone who has grown up in Western Istanbul will not think or act the same as someone who grew up in Mardin, which is in the east. The diversity is amazing. I have also learnt a lot about the history of Turkey and it is mind-baffling at times.

  1. What advice can you give to young travelers out there?

Keep an open mind and your experiences will be much more memorable, no matter where in the world you go. Don’t plan to the last detail and be prepared just to go with the flow.

 

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Travel Perks of Owning a Credit Card

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Credit cards are usually stereotyped as a bad thing. From overspending to late fees and consequent bury in debt, many have nightmares when it comes to handling their credit cards. Yes, this is true. In fact, they can be your convenient enemies.

Credit cards, however, have advantages. So long as you pay your bill timely, you will appreciate that they’re free short term loan. They enable you to track your spending easier than cash. More than that, if you are a traveler, you are entitled to enjoy impressive travel perks.

Whether you already have your credit card or planning to get one, learn more how you can take advantage of the special deals that credit card companies provide.
 

 Airline Miles

Airline miles are rewards that you can get from your credit cards. The more you spend, the more points you earn. Accordingly, the more points you make, the more airline miles you have the chance to redeem for flight tickets, booking discounts, seat upgrades, hotel and vacation packages, and other travel-related expenses.
 

Automatic Car Rental Insurance

You don’t need to waste money on insurance whenever you rent a car on your travels. Your credit card company provides secondary coverage against theft and collision. So, decline the rental car company’s waiver insurance for loss, damages and collision; charge your car rental to your card and enjoy this particular advantage.
 

Concierge Staff Assistance

To simplify your life, your credit card company provides a 24-hour concierge staff to assist your personal travel needs. This includes event ticket purchases, dinner reservations, business arrangements and coordination, and more.
 

Price and Purchase Protection

When you purchase an item using your card, you have the privilege to get a refund from an item that you see advertised for less in prints within 60 days. This excludes online purchases and certain indicated items. Also, you are protected against theft, accidental breakage and fire within 90 days from the purchase date.
 

Lost Luggage Coverage

There are credit card companies that cover your lost luggage costs whenever you charge your entire carrier fare to your card. This credit card benefit covers damaged, stolen or permanently lost baggage. Thus, you travel secured and insured.
 

Trip Interruption or Cancellation Coverage

Perhaps you get sick before your scheduled holiday trip or you get yourself into an emergency. If the trip you booked using your credit card is interrupted or cancelled, you receive a certain amount to, at least, reimburse any cancellation fee.
 

Automatic Extended Warranty

When you buy an item using your credit card, you automatically have extended warranty of up to one year from the date of purchase.
 
If you are not yet getting freebies from your credit card, know that you should be. Always remember that your credit card success lies in proper management. So, squeeze out everything that your credit card is worth and enjoy your travel.
 

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A Weekend In Cambridge: Day OneEverchanging Scenery

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20 Ideas For Your Winter Bucket List Bucket List Journey

Go Local: A Weekend in Washington, D.C. - Let’s Roam Wild

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Caribbean Crisis: How Eating Lionfish Can Help Save The Planet - Epicure Culture

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Rome Under WrapsBesudesu Abroad

 

 

 

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Travel Blogger Interview – Annette White

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In search of experiences noteworthy in her bucket list, Annette White takes us into her adventures around the globe. Follow her on Twitter, visit her on Facebook and connect with her on Google+. Meanwhile, let us know more about Annette and how her travel passion came to be. 

 

 1.     First, tell us a little bit of yourself…

I’m Annette, the owner of a Michelin recommended restaurant in Northern California, freelance travel writer and creator of the award winning blog Bucket List Journey. As an obsessed new experience collector, my writing centers around exploring the world in search of once-in-a-lifetime adventures.
 

2.     What gave you the inspiration to start your blog?
Initially, I was simply looking for a place to record my ever-growing bucket list and its progress. The pieces of scrap paper and random internet files were getting out of control, so I decided to condense my dozens of notes into a blog.

 

As time went on, the blog changed from being just a practical list-keeping spot to being a place for readers to get inspiration for their own bucket lists. My endless curiosity motivates me to travel the world in search of the best bucket list worthy experiences to share, and it is my hope that these stories will inspire readers to dream and do.

 

3.     How does being a restaurateur influence you as a traveler?
I can’t imagine traveling anywhere where food is not a huge factor, for me travel and food go hand in hand. When planning for a trip, I spend just as much time researching traditional dishes, cooking techniques and restaurants in the area as I do researching major attractions. It’s a running joke amongst my friends that more than 50% of my travel photos are food related.

 

Even though my restaurant specializes in Italian cuisine, you’d be surprised by how much I learn from other parts of the world. With a little ingenuity you can turn a Greek moussaka into a version of an Italian eggplant lasagna.

 

Plus, you will always catch me looking at the bottom of a restaurants dishware to see who the manufacturer is, snapping photos of unique ways guest checks are being presented and collecting paper menus. My passion for food and restaurants is a close second to my passion for new experiences.

 

4.     Have you experienced some challenges to becoming both a restaurateur and traveler?
Of course there has been challenges to becoming each one of these things individually, but owning a restaurant and being able to travel at the same time has been a continuous work in progress.

 

I spent over four years systemizing my restaurant to run without me and my husband. Things like an online payroll system, time clock and security cameras that could be accessed from anywhere in the world with internet were helpful in the process.

 

In the beginning our goal was to leave for an hour just to have dinner, this very slowly grew into an entire day and is now at ten days if both of us are gone and three weeks for just me. I also spend lot of time after returning from a trip analyzing what problems arose while I was away and coming up with solutions to the issues so they will not occur the next time I am gone. It has taken a lot of effort, but I am now seeing the benefits.

 

5.     I noticed you mentioned that there was a time in your life when fear makes your decision, how did you overcome it?
 When it comes to anxiety and fear, there really is no guarantee, so I not so much have overcome as much as I have learned to manage it. After much research, I realized that my fear was created by my negative thoughts regarding a situation. I have worked hard over the years to understand, challenge and change my thoughts. I now know that I have the tools to keep it under control, I just have to put them to use. Some days are harder than others, but at this point even the bad days are pretty good in relation to ten years ago.

 

At the same time, I realize that it is unrealistic to thing that all fear will completely disappear or can be controlled. So, I also made a promise to myself that I would not allow fear to make my decisions for me. If I am presented with an opportunity and want to say “no”, I ask myself if that negative response is driven by fear. If it is, I make myself turn that “no” into a “yes”. This promise has led to some of my most memorable experiences.

 

6.     What has been your bucket list experiences and what was your favorite among them?
I have had some AMAZING bucket list experiences: swimming with whale sharks in Mexico, bathing elephants at a rescue in Thailand, taking a helicopter ride into the Grand Canyon, watching wrestler’s practice at a sumo stable in Japan, nibbling on chicken feet at the cheapest Michelin restaurant in the world, etc…

 

I am thrilled any time I have an incredible new experience, but amongst my favorites was going on a four day African safari in Tanzania and swimming with thousands of jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake in Palau.

 

7.     How do you fund your travel?

There are two things that help support my travels. The first is my blog, Bucket List Journey. I make a teeny weenie amount of money by selling advertisements and earning commissions through affiliate programs. But, what has been most helpful in regards to blogging is that many tourism boards and other companies will sponsor my travels in hopes that I will find their activities bucket list worthy enough for me to write about. These “media trips” have been an important part to me being able to accomplish many of the goals on my list.
 
Secondly, my husband and I own a successful Italian restaurant in Northern California that gives me a degree of financial freedom. With that said, we have worked diligently for the past several years in order to set it up to fit around my traveling lifestyle.
 
Let me also say that I believe that some of the reason I can afford traveling is because it is what I choose to be able to afford, it is what I am truly passionate about. I would forgo designer clothes, fancy coffee or a manicure any day of the week if it were in exchange for a memorable experience.
 

8.     Do you take advantage of airline credit cards to save on flights? If so, which card do you use?
I am a member of almost all the airline mileage programs, but my main airline credit card is the United MileagePlus Explorer. By belonging to their program and actively using their credit card my points accumulate more rapidly. I charge everything on it, even if its only a dollar.

 

What’s most important about using reward cards is understanding all the benefits to your card and knowing how to accumulate the most points possible.

 

9.     What experiences are still on your bucket list?
Even though I have checked off hundreds of items from my bucket list, there are still hundreds more. With so many incredible experiences in the world, it’s hard to limit myself! What’s coming up in the near future is visiting the Christmas Markets in Germany, seeing a Water Puppet show in Vietnam and eating scorpions in Singapore.

 

10.  Do you have any major travel regrets?
The only regret I have is that I did not start traveling earlier in life. But, I am certainly making up for lost time, last year alone I was in 5 continents, 13 countries and countless cities.

 

11.  What is your advice to young travelers who are still controlled by their fear against making their travel dream come true?
Besides challenging your fearful thoughts and living in the present moment, the best advice I can give is to take your goal and break it down into a bunch of tiny little goals. Some times when you are looking at the big picture of a dream it can seem completely impossible. But, by concentrating on taking baby steps you can celebrate each little victory and feel like you are making progress.

 
It doesn’t matter how slowly you are moving towards your dream, it just matters that you are taking steps towards it every day.

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5 Reasons to Take the Family on Outdoor Excursions

The great outdoors can offer a view of the world that many city-folk may be missing. Although electronics and computers help make the world more efficient, experiencing nature firsthand could create memories that will last a life time. Be honest, how much of the amusement park vacation can you remember as opposed to various vacations in the outdoors? This isn’t saying that the family can’t enjoy city life, but there is more to the world than that of the tall buildings and merchandised family entertainment of various theme parks. Why should you pack up the family and look towards the landscapes instead of the glamour of theme parks?

Creating a Bond Within the Family

Unlike amusement parks that are filled with people, staff and security, the outdoors offers the element of the unknown. It’s through this experience that prompts family members to be more reliant on each other for basic survival – even on a subconscious level. This reliance may assist in deepening the bond within the family as everyone contributes to making the most of the vacation. Without various diversions, more interaction between family members can be done helping each understand the other in ways that were never thought of before.

Unique Opportunities

Unlike visiting the same theme park and riding the same rides, outdoor vacations offer a unique aspect with each visit. As nature changes rapidly, each visit to the same location could be incredibly different than the time before. Fishing patterns, wildlife migrations, trails and even scenery can change from year to year offering a unique experience. After you’ve been on an amusement park ride once, you already know the outcome of each subsequent ride. However, nature has a way of changing things up on you in the outdoors. Visiting companies such as Outdoor Traveler, you can find a vacation perfect for the family to offer a sense of that uniqueness.

Exploring Unknown Territory

Humans are inherently curious and many enjoy a good adventure of discovering places they’ve never visited before. The outdoors offers the allure of exploration allowing you to see and experiencing situations that you may be unable to duplicate anywhere else. If you take the family to a locale you’ve never been to, then it becomes a vacation that nobody can predict.

Personal Experience

If a picture is worth 1000 words, then experiencing something first hand would be the equivalent of a novel. Although technology allows people to take stunning photographs in amazing clarity, the personal experience adds more to the story such as scents and sounds. A picture can remind you of the vacation, but the experience is what creates the nostalgia from within. Pictures on the Internet simply cannot add the benefit of four other senses used when standing in the presence of nature’s magnificence.

Stress Relief

The great outdoors offers something that inner-city vacation tourist traps cannot – enhanced stress relief. The air quality of various areas allows for the body to absorb a higher quality of oxygen. The physical aspect of the outdoors provides exercise which in turn creates endorphin in the brain for a more natural euphoric experience. All of this and more can create a less stressful experience especially when taking into account the lack of people hustling about the area.

The outdoors promote a great deal of interaction with those around you. Without the diversions of everyday city life, the family is more likely to engage on an intellectual and personal level. Explore nature with your family and create an experience that will be talked about for years to come.

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