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Like any good Latina, I traveled to visit family in the Dominican Republic often as a child and because my travel schedule was dependent on school
breaks and holidays, my family and I always traveled during the busiest time to
Oh, the long lines of travelers waiting to check their numerous
bags, often so heavily packed with goodies to bring back to the familia, that
they required plastic wrap and industrial tape to hold them together. My
cousins and I would often joke about seeing chickens and other livestock
pocking out at the seams. What wasn't a joke was the amount of money our family
spent to travel back home, unaware of the many ways in which to not only save
money, but also improve the way in which they travel. Here are some tips to
make those trips less expensive and much more enjoyable.
You know how abuela would only travel that one airline
because it was the one she first came to this country on, and it's the one that
always gets her back home alive? Well, little did she know that her loyalty
could have delivered some pretty great rewards. By signing up to an
airline's frequent flier program, you stand to collect points that can save you money
in baggage fees, as well as hotel and car rentals—for those moments when you'd rather not stay with your cousins while visiting. I am huge fan of the Star Alliance Program,
which covers a lot of airlines both national and international, allowing you
more choices as well as more opportunities to save. And loyalty programs are offered at many hotels and car rental companies as well. Members can
save in many ways, from free Wi-Fi at hotels to free or discounted upgrades
with car rentals.
I prefer to pay with a credit card when I travel anywhere,
including overseas, especially if my card is tied to a rewards program like
those mentioned above. But a lot of cards add an exchange rate fee when
you use them, increasing your spending costs. I know my abuela didn't feel
comfortable using credit cards and maybe didn't meet the minimum requirements to apply for such a card. In her case, a prepaid credit card would have been great. But if
you need to get cash while traveling, then you want to make sure that you have
a bank that won't charge you crazy fees every time
you have to take out cash. Nomadic Matt,
as well as Ryan from Pause The Moment travel blog,
has recommendations for the best banks for your money when traveling
internationally, and they both speak very highly of Charles Schwab as an option
due to their "no fee" checking.
Two important tips to remember about money and travel: Always keep cash to a minimum, as it can't be replaced when lost and never
exchange money at the airport, as these have the worst exchange rates
available. The best place to exchange money is in a bank at the destination.
Hotels often have this service as well, but they charge a fee for the
convenience. If you are traveling to remote areas, chances are you'll need
cash, thus some calculation on estimates on cash needed might be required.
Familiarize yourself with exchange rates before leaving home; never blindly
trust that others will get it right and never exchange before asking up front
about the rate being offered.
Break The Mold,
Search For Deals
Unlike my abuelita before me, I'm breaking the mold and
traveling even if it means taking the kids out of school for a day or two, or taking a vacation when no one else is even thinking of it. I do this
because it saves me money and allows me to experience the destination without
all the crowds. This is also when I get the best rates in hotels, as they're often looking to fill those rooms. They are also most flexible during "low
season." I have often gotten luxury rooms for the price of a standard during off-peak periods. The same applies for car rentals, though for airlines, you might just get an empty seat next
to you in coach.
I miss the insane traveling days with all my cousins,
grandparents, parents, tios, and tias. Those were the most insane and the most
fun, but also the most expensive. With these tips, you can continue the
tradition of the locura in travel with your little ones without breaking the