Posts filed under 'summer'

Summer Break: 7 Quirky Spots to Roadtrip

I’m all for fun in the sun, but when I read College Candy’s spring break article suggesting that you skip the beach this year, it got me thinking. Summer break sur la plage may let you work on your tan, but there’s nothing like taking a crazy, kitschy road trip to liven up your “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” storyline. Here are some funky alternatives to the typical beach-bum break.

Graceland ( is a sight whether or not you’re an avid Elvis fan. Visit his personal home, learn some rock and roll history, and hey, pick up a T-shirt to prove you were really there. šŸ˜‰

Dollywood ( is another hot spot for music lovers (well, Dolly lovers, anyway), but it isn’t just about the music–Dollywood also has it’s own roller coasters, festivals, and even a water park.

Madonna Inn ( is famous for it’s waterfall urinal and 109 uniquely vintage-kitschy themed rooms, like the cave room, which looks to be made entirely of rock. (And if you need the kinks worked out after sleeping in a cave, they have an on-site spa, too.)

Solvang ( is a little slice of Europe in southern California. A Danish-style “village,” it has quirky old-European style hotels, lots of pastries, and a unique shopping experience. Definitely a cute and giggle-worthy vacation spot.

Hearst Castle (, pictured above, is an extraordinary “castle” built as a seaside getaway by media baron William Randolph Hearst in the early 1900’s. Take one of four tours of the insanely gaudy-but-fascinating house, but try to resist jumping into the indoor pool. šŸ˜‰

The Wigwam Motel ( in CA or Teepee Motel in TX ( give you what is probably your first chance to stay in a hotel shaped like a teepee–that should make for some good photo-ops.

The Biltmore ( touts itself as “America’s largest home,” this castle style house in Asheville, NC has amazing gardens, an incredible house tour, a farm, and more. You can even stay on the estate if you’re willing to pony up and pay the price.

This last one may not be quirky, but it is an excellent spot for a week-long trip. I went for a few days before my Junior year of college, and I will never forget it!

New York City ( is the perfect collision of culture and history. Take in a Broadway show, explore the ins and outs of Chinatown, and shop (or daydream) at Tiffany’s. Then take in the historical side of the Big Apple by visiting historical icons like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the NY library. The list, obviously, goes on and on. My best tip for NY travel? Grab some friends and look on travel sites like Priceline–you could split a really nice suite for a pretty good price. Why not live in style for a few days–especially if you can do it on a budget?


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Add comment July 18th, 2011

Summerwise: Financial Fitness Roundup

Financial fitness may not sound very sexy, but in reality it is your big ticket in to adulthood. More and more college grads are returning home to live with Mom and Pop, and while that might help pay off debt or save up some cash, it’s not exactly prime info to share on a first date–better to plan ahead and skip the boomerang trip back home!

This financial fitness roundup will help you get started on a regimen that will (hopefully!) help you keep your debt low and your budget healthy so you feel a little more prepared for a life of independence post-grad.

Build a Budget

Budgets are not always fun–trust me, I’m with you on this one–but whatĀ is fun is that they help you avoid debt and live within your means, so that down the road you have more financial freedom and less crippling debt. Here are a few articles to get you started with your budgeting practices:

Save Where You Can
Your internet bill and cell phone costs may be at a set price, but there are lots of ways to save while you’re in college–and saving in one category means more to spend in another (or, even better, some cash to put away for later).

Looking for more saving tips? There are hundreds of frugality-focused blogs out there, with everything from budgeting ideas to coupon codes and inside info on upcoming sales. Google “frugal blog,” “money saving blog,” or other similar keywords and search out your new favs.

Prepare for the Future

Living in the present is great, but preparing for the future now can save you from big headaches later. Using and building your credit wisely will make it easier for you to get a car loan, apartment, and one day a loan to buy a home of your own–and what you do now matters:

So take a little time this school year to get financially fit!
(Like the Summerwise series? Share your topic ideasĀ here!)

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1 comment August 26th, 2010

Summerwise: 5 Tricks to a Scoring a Cheaper Flight

Since we moved to the East coast I’ve been shocked by how much it can cost to fly home for a visit, and lucky for you that means I’ve been figuring out how to work the system. Here’s what I do–and please feel free to share if you have tips or helpful input, I’d LOVE to hear it!

Watch Prices Like a Hawk. I scan several sites likeĀ Expedia,Ā Travelocity, andĀ Priceline to find out which days are cheapest to fly–always search a few days before and after your ideal date, because a little flexibility can save you hundreds of dollars. I also usually try to fly during the week, when flights tend to be cheaper, and if I have time I start watching prices months in advance to so I know when a good drop comes along.

Check the Student Sites. They’re not always the best bet, but websites likeĀ Student Universe andĀ STA Travel sometimes have students-only discounts that can get you to your dream destination without breaking the bank.

Know Your Airline. Travel sites are great, but some airlines offer even lower prices if you buy directly from their website (and you get to skip the convenience fee that some of the all-inclusive sites charge you). I usually end up searching for the cheapest days on travel sites, and then booking through the airline’s website to get the lowest price.

While you’re there, sign up for frequent flyer miles! It will take a while to accrue enough for a flight, but the programs are free so you may as well get more for what you’ve paid for!

One, Two, Three, Four? If you’ve got several airports within a reasonable driving distance of either your departure or destination points (we have three within a 30 to 90 minute drive of our house and two close to where both sets of parents live), be sure to check on the difference! I always search all our airport options on both ends of the flight before I make a choice–sometimes 20 minutes of extra driving to a different airport saves us a few hundred bucks per ticket.

Pack Light. The tough economy has really made airlines get choosy with their freebies, and checking a bag now typically costs you $25 a pop–and that’s just one way! Instead, take advantage of the carry-on rules: pack a roll-on bag (be sure to check on the max size so they don’t force you to check) and use a backpack as your “personal item” to give you a little extra space. If you’re going on a long trip, it costs much less to do one or two loads of laundry half way through than it does to check a big fat bag full of all the clothes you could possibly need.

One last note: flexibility is KEY. Flights are more expensive during high travel seasons (summer, winter holidays, etc.) so a little wiggle room, like being willing to fly within a span of time or on a red-eye, can make a big difference when you’re trying to save!

Happy flying,


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2 comments August 23rd, 2010

5 Ways to Get in Good with Your Parents This Summer

Worried about easing the transition between the freedom of living on your own and the three loooong months of summer with the parents? If you’re looking to keep on Mom and Dad’s good sides (so you can skip the weekly family trip to Aunt Ethel’s, maybe?), a little proactive behavior can go a long way. Here are 5 easy ways to remind your parents just how adult and responsible you are (so you can borrow the car for that date on Friday night).

Take Out the Trash. Seriously. Part of living at home (read: FREE RENT, FREE FOOD, FREE LAUNDRY!) is pitching in, and your parents will be pretty thrilled if you get down to work–especially if they don’t have to threaten you first! So take out the trash, keep the clutter to a minimum (at least in shared family spaces), and banish half-empty juice glasses before they mold. šŸ˜‰

Be Family Friendly. Whether or not they know how to express it, your parents are probably pretty excited to have you home–after all, they know they’ve only got a few summers left before you fly the coop for good. If you want to ditch the guilt trips about going out on the weekends, try setting up a time for quality family bonding. Initiating will not only make you look good (Wow! A college student who SUGGESTS family time?!), but also allows you to choose the time that works best for you. Sweet.

Cook Dinner. All year long you’ve been picking upĀ cheap & easy recipes even a kitchen newbie can handle (and I should know–I am no pro chef). Whip up an easy family meal (be sure you increase the recipe to feed more people!) and show Mom and Pop just how responsible you’ve become. Bonus points if you do the dishes afterward.

Siblings, Too. Show your parents you’re really making an effort (and give your sibs some love–after all, you left them home alone with the ‘rents!) by making a date for some sibling time, too. Older sibs can hit the beach or grab lunch, but if you’ve got little kids in the family, why not take them to a freebie kids movie (theaters likeĀ Regal offer them once a week all summer long). They get all the fun of the big screen, and you don’t have to spend a dime (or come up with ways to entertain them).

Talk the Talk. I’ve mentioned this before, butĀ talking (like an adult) with your parents is key if you want to be treated like an adult. Discuss what you’re hoping to get out of your summer, listen to what they want, and try to find a healthy, happy middle ground. I know this doesn’t sound fun, but the sooner you have this little chat the better–you’ll all want to know what to expect so you can get your head in the right place for an enjoyable (or at least bearable!) summer.

And just FYI, at least in my experience, a good hug now and then never hurts your case. šŸ˜‰


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5 comments May 28th, 2010

Summerwise: Get in Gear Early

Hey! It’s Spring! Do you know what that means? It means there are only weeks–and, okay, some really gnarly tests–between you and summer break. And do you know whatĀ that means? It means it’s time to get your summer plans going so you can optimize those three months and make them fully productive (and fun!).


I know that right now a summer of pools, sleeping in, and TV marathons sounds amazing, but too many pajamas-only days and your sense of accomplishment (and, uh, your social life) will start to wear thin. You may have forgotten in the heat of midterm exams and all-night cramming sessions, but summer can actually be pretty boring if you don’t get your buns in gear.

While you should definitely indulge in some relaxation time (you’ve earned it, right?), try to build a healthy balance of work and play into your summer schedule.

Work It, Baby

So, what qualifies as “work”? Aside from the typical part-time or full-time job, which is a wonderful way to earn the cash you need toĀ enjoy summertime and stay afloat during school, there are tons of other productive things you can do:

  • Volunteer. Choose something you’re interested in, and offer to lend a hand free of charge. Whether you’re dog-walking at your local vet or learning the ins and outs of construction with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering is a great way to meet new people, have unique experiences, and build your resume.
  • Scholarships. If you quit applying for scholarships after you graduated high school, you are really missing out–there are tons of local and nationwide scholarships available for students in both undergrad and graduate programs. Up your odds of winning by searching out and applying for scholarships with a limited applicant pool–search for those targeted to your major, personal interests, or other unique characteristics.
  • Tutor or Teach. If you’re not looking for a full time job but still want to bank a little something, tutoring might be a great option for you. Sylvan and Kaplan routinely hire college students to teach and tutor high school or younger aged students.
    If you’ve got a different kind of skill to share, check with your local community college or community center. They often allow people to provide one-day seminars on things like computer literacy or other useful skills. A heads up, though–you’ll want to be prepared with a syllabus and behave professionally.

(Looking for more ways to do a little more this summer, or more info and resources about the items above? Check out theseĀ 5 ways to stay productive this summer.)

Play Days

Okay, you’ve scheduled your work hours, lined up some volunteer time, and even planned a day to placate your mom by cleaning out your closet. Now the good stuff!

Since your play days aren’t as easy to nail down (your parents might let you ditch Aunt Ethyl’s dinner party for work, but probably not for a trip to the beach) I suggest you make yourself a Summer To-Do List. Write down everything you want to do–from big road trips to little things like stopping at your favorite local pizza place–and squeeze them in whenever you can!

(Planning a trip? Here are someĀ cheap ideas for summer vacations.)

Why Now?

Yes, summer is coming, but there are tons of things standing in your way–the calendar and your professors, for example. So why am I telling you to start getting ready now?

Well, I hate to say it, but the early bird gets the worm. The majority of colleges get out within a few weeks of each other, so if you want to snag a summer job, you’ll be in competition with a flood of other college students going home. That means early planning could be the difference between a you who has money for a movie ticket and the you who has to settle for watching a DVD with your date while Mom and Dad are in the next room.

Fun stuff deserves planning, too. It not only gives you something to look forward to (which you’ll need during finals week!), but also allows you to do some money-saving research so you don’t go back to school sans-cash. If you’re traveling, start checking out sites likeĀ STA Travel,Ā Priceline,Ā Student Universe, and other travel sites to compare hotel and flight costs. If you’re staying home, find out which nights are free-popcorn night at the theater, or if your student ID can get you a discount at the burrito place downtown.
Get the dirty work done now, and you can really make the most of those three luxurious months to come.

Happy planning,

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1 comment April 5th, 2010


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