Las Vegas is the top U.S. travel destination this year, with more people searching for travel packages and tips about Las Vegas than any other destination. Travelers like Lindsey Stone can easily see this is because there are a lot of free activities in the city and the nearby countryside that make this a great destination even if you don’t gamble.
The Big Casino Hotels
The biggest casino hotels offer free events that attract viewers all day long.
The Venetian offers the Carnevale di Venezia, which is a 15-minute performance of opera by elaborately costumed artists. You can also see living statues, gondoliers and jugglers on stilts.
The Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is an airy atrium with hundreds of exotic plants and flowers in elaborate arrangements. It’s open 24 hours a day, has live music from 5pm – 6pm, and there is Mr. and Mrs. Green Thumb to answer all your botanical questions.
Caesars Palace has a Fall of Atlantis water show that is out of this world. It starts at 11am and repeats every hour. There is also a 50,000-gallon saltwater aquarium with more than 300 fish. There’s an even bigger one at Silverton’s with more than 4,000 tropical fish, mermaids and feeding times.
Every night you can see a 54-foot volcano erupt at the Mirage with all the requisite smoke, fire and lava.
Children, and adults, can watch a free circus show at Circus Circus that has trapeze acts, acrobats, jugglers and other acts above the casino floor as well as acts in the child-friendly midway.
The MGM Grand Lion Habitat is 12 miles out of the city, but the lions are brought into a special glass habitat at the hotel where you can view the lions from all angles.
In the City
Ethel’s Chocolates Factory Tour is free and fun. You get to watch how candy is made and get a free sample at the end. It’s an activity that is not associated with gambling and is a great alternative for a little quiet time. There is also the largest Botanical Cactus Garden in Nevada nearby with four acres of more than 300 species succulents and cacti.
In downtown Las Vegas, the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian promenade is worth the trip to Vegas itself. There are free nightly shows that have more than 12.5 million lights and 550,000watts of sound. It includes free concerts and special events. It has the world’s largest video screen and is a great place to people-watch. You should get there early to grab a table in an outdoor café and enjoy.
The Neon Museum is also on the street that includes a veritable history of neon in Las Vegas as well as many other historical signs. There are guides that give tours to explain the background of each sign.
There are two zip lines down Freemont Street. They’re not free, but definitely worth the price.
If you like some outdoor activity included in your vacation, the Valley of Fire State Park is just one hour from the city. It has bizarre rock formations and Native American petroglyphs. The Grand Canyon in Arizona is about a five hour drive away, but definitely worth the trip. You can camp there and return the next day.
Las Vegas may have a wild reputation, but it is an extremely family and budget friendly place for a really memorable vacation.Read More
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.Read More
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Amazing Reads of the Week!
Getting the Heart of Fijian Island Culture on a Village Visit – The World on My Necklace
Cheap Travel: Granada, Spain, For Less Than $25 A Day – Jessie on a Journey
A Weekend In Cambridge: Day One – Everchanging Scenery
Photos of Venice, Italy – D Travels ‘Round
20 Ideas For Your Winter Bucket List – Bucket List Journey
Go Local: A Weekend in Washington, D.C. – Let’s Roam Wild
The Changi Airport Ritual – Glamourous Traveller
Travel Tips For India That You Won’t find in Guidebooks! – Backpack Me
Ludwigsburg: Fairytale Palace and Gardens – Passing Thru
Absolute-must-do Things to Do in Croatia – Chasing the Donkey
The Southeast Asia Highlights – That Backpacker
This Place Surprised us the Most on our Trip to Canadian Rockies – Traveling Canucks
Caribbean Crisis: How Eating Lionfish Can Help Save The Planet – Epicure Culture
Which Country Do You Want to Read About? You Pick, I’ll Go – Be My Travel Muse
Rome Under Wraps – Besudesu Abroad
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?
3. How does being a restaurateur influence you as a traveler?
4. Have you experienced some challenges to becoming both a restaurateur and traveler?
5. I noticed you mentioned that there was a time in your life when fear makes your decision, how did you overcome it?
6. What has been your bucket list experiences and what was your favorite among them?
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?
9. What experiences are still on your bucket list?
10. Do you have any major travel regrets?
11. What is your advice to young travelers who are still controlled by their fear against making their travel dream come true?
It doesn’t matter how slowly you are moving towards your dream, it just matters that you are taking steps towards it every day.