Posts filed under 'travel & transportation'

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 (http://www.elvis.com/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 (http://www.dollywood.com/) 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 (http://www.madonnainn.com/) 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 (http://www.solvangusa.com/) 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 (http://www.hearstcastle.org/), 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 (http://www.wigwammotel.com/) in CA or Teepee Motel in TX (http://www.teepeemotel.net/about.html) 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 (http://www.biltmore.com/) 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 (http://www.nycgo.com/) 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?

photo

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Add comment July 18th, 2011

Spring Break: 7 Quirky Spots to Roadtrip

I’m all for fun in the sun, but when I recently read College Candy’s spring break article suggesting that you skip the beach this year, it got me thinking. Spring 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 Spring Break” storyline. Here are some funky alternatives to the typical beach-bum break.

Graceland (http://www.elvis.com/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 (http://www.dollywood.com/) 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 (http://www.madonnainn.com/) 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 (http://www.solvangusa.com/) 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 (http://www.hearstcastle.org/), 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 (http://www.wigwammotel.com/) in CA or Teepee Motel in TX (http://www.teepeemotel.net/about.html) 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 (http://www.biltmore.com/) 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 (or even just a weekend) trip. I went for a few days before my Junior year of college, and I will never forget it!

New York City (http://www.nycgo.com/) 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?

photo

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Add comment April 19th, 2011

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

10 Secrets to Getting the Best Deal on a New Car

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It has been a little over two years since I wrote a check for my first car payment–I bought it the summer before my junior year of college, and because of some hard work (and the help of a trade-in) I was able to keep the payment low enough that I could afford it even on a college student’s miniscule budget.

To celebrate my 50th post here at Surviving College Life, I’m going to let you in on the ten car-shopping tips that helped me really drop the price of my car!

  1. Know What You Want. If you’re on a budget, you probably aren’t buying your dream car, but it is still important to know what you want. Know the exact specs of your future car–not just the make and model, but the details, too–how many airbags and cup holders, power steering, manual or automatic transmission, manual or power windows, alarm or not, everything. Choosing exactly what you want beforehand will give you the confidence to tell a dealer NO when they try to sell you something “bigger and better.” (And they WILL try to do that!)
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  2. Know What It’s Worth. Too many people walk on to a car lot with only a vague idea of what the car they want is worth, making impossible for them to spot a good (or bad!) deal. Whether you’re buying new or used, you should find out the current value of the car you want to purchase. The Kelley Blue Book‘s list of car values is a great place to start.
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  3. Pre-Set Your Monthly Payments. Before you even set foot in a dealership, you need to figure out your ideal numbers, especially if you will be financing your purchase. Pencil out how much you can afford to put down, and how much you can afford to pay each month. Find your “upper limit” number for a monthly payment, but don’t tell the dealer a number that high! Don’t forget to figure it tax, license, and registration. When you’re sitting down with your sales rep, make him figure out your total monthly payments and give it to you in writing.
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  4. Shop Around (and Don’t Be Shy About It). I’d recommend going to at least 3 dealerships when you’re looking for a good deal. Make sure you get the exact same car so you can compare prices accurately, and if you can, get the number in writing before you move on to the next. Also, don’t be shy about letting salesmen know that you’re shopping around–it can sometimes get them to give you a better deal if they feel a little insecure.
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  5. Ask for a LOW, LOW Price. For some reason, a lot of people don’t do this. In fact, a lot of people walk in to a dealership ready to pay the retail price. But to get the best price, you need to start low. Lower than you think they’re willing to go. Then you work up from there, negotiating until you get a price you like. Salesmen will NOT offer you a price unless it works out well for them, so you just need to worry about getting a price that works out for you.
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  6. Be Ready to Walk Away. Nothing makes the point that you are serious about your price requests more than your readiness to walk away. I continually repeated to my sales rep that if we couldn’t get the price I was looking for, I didn’t want to spend any more time there–and I meant it. I could just have easily bought a car somewhere else, some other day. No rush. He responded by getting the price down to where I wanted it, and even figured out how to include a car alarm without raising my price by more than a couple dollars a month.
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  7. Bring in Backup. Bring someone along when you go shopping–or at least during final negotiations. (Preferably someone who knows about cars!) Having someone to back you up will give you a confidence boost, and give you someone to talk to if you’re tempted to make an impulse buy. Salesmen can be intimidating, so it can really help to have someone on your side.
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  8. Get a Co-Signer With Great Credit. You’ve probably seen car commercials offering something like “a 4.5% APR on approved credit.” That means if you have a high enough credit score, you can get a really low interest rate if you finance your car. If you’re in college or even your early twenties, you probably don’t have a perfectly stellar credit score yet. Instead of forfeiting those savings, try to get a parent or grandparent with a good score to co-sign for you so you can get their low interest rate.
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  9. Shop Summer for the “Clearance” Advantage. The new year model cars usually appear on the lot around the end of summer, and that means that dealerships want to get rid of their current year’s stock ASAP! Shopping towards the middle of June through the middle of July can garner you great deals on current year stock, because they basically go “on clearance.” Plus, it’s still a brand new car!
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  10. Shop Sunsets. Timing is everything when it comes to car shopping–not just the time of year, either, but also the time of day. If you want to up your odds of getting a good deal, go in to make your final purchase towards the end of the day. Salesmen work on commission, and they’ll want to get their last sales of the day wrapped up–that means they’ll be more likely to work through a deal quickly and maybe even negotiate down more. (Shopping on the last day of the month can also result in a lower price out the door since dealerships want to meet quotas for dealer discounts given to them by car manufacturers if they sell a certain volume of cars for the month!)

Happy car shopping!

photo: Keys 1 by tap78

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1 comment March 27th, 2008


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