• Posts Tagged ‘travel’

    There’s Much More to Egypt Than the Negative Headlines

    by  • March 7, 2013 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    So why Egypt? Isn’t there all this bother there at the moment, you know, the protests and trouble and all of that? The newspapers are full of it. Please, please, please forget the headlines because they only tell a tiny part of the Egyptian story, a very tiny part indeed.

    Millions of tourists are visiting Egypt right now, and having a fabulous vacation to boot. So dust down your credit cards and enjoy what Egypt has to offer. You won’t be sorry. Let’s face it, there are few countries in the world that can boast 6,000 years of civilisation filled with a list of pharaohs as long as your arm. Names like Tutankhamen, Cleopatra, Nefertiti and others perhaps not so well known.

    Then there’s the Sphinx, the River Nile, the Valley of the Kings, the Temples of Karnak, Abu Simbel and more – hey you could be here reading all day. Almost forgot the pyramids, too, of which some 130 or more have been discovered so far. So there’s plenty to keep you going. Plenty to keep you coming back, too!

    To most foreign visitors, Egypt is practically all about enjoying its huge number of antiquities. And in case you didn’t know it, there are plenty banks around – HSBC, Barclays, Citibank and others –  well able to top up the cash should funds begin to run low. Or simply use your credit card in one of the many thousands of ATMs which are to be found on just about every street corner these days. Easy as pie.

    If you’re more into sand, the beach and desert variety, then you’ll find ample quantities of both in the famed Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh and in the desert. Depends what your idea of a great vacation is – lounging on a beach all day sipping your favourite tipple or sweating profusely on the back of a camel heading out into the emptiness of the Sahara. Your choice.

    While Egypt has suffered over the last year or two in terms of tourist numbers because of the January 2011 revolution, the same can’t be said for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and particularly the city of Dubai. Heard of it? Who hasn’t. Dubai, surrounded by the emirate of the same name, is simply an incredible experience, a place everyone should visit at least once before kicking the proverbial bucket.

    Marcello Baricordi, General Manager for Visa UAE, said recently that the UAE was ranked first in the Middle East for having the most advanced travel and tourism sector. It was no surprise, he said in the Visa 2012 report, Tourism Outlook: UAE, that millions of tourists selected the country as a holiday destination year after year.

    While 8.2 million overseas visitors sought out the UAE in 2011, a drop of 8.8%, it was important to note that the actual amount spent on Visa credit cards increased significantly over the previous year, indicating the quality of visitors that the UAE was attracting.

    He added, “It is also vital to remember that despite the volatility in the Middle East in the midst of the Arab Spring of 2011, which saw the number of tourists in the region as a whole drop by 7% in 2011, the UAE emerged as a safe haven in the region and continued to attract international visitors.”

    Why not read this extremely interesting report yourself? It can be found here.

    How Much is That Long-Distance Relationship Going to Cost You?

    by  • October 18, 2012 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    The following is a guest post from Pauline Paquin, a long time reader who has recently started to blog over at Reach Financial Independence. Born and raised in Paris, France, Pauline blogs about how she has been traveling the world for the past 10 years, while trying to build wealth and achieve financial independence, and how you can follow your dreams and reach your goals too. You can follow Pauline on Twitter @RFIndependence.

    airplane over ocean

    Bye bye, love.

    So here you are, at the airport, crying. He (or she, but in this case, “she” is me, so “he” is a “he”) hugs you goodbye, and you promise that the long-distance relationship will not affect you as a couple. You are stronger than this, after all — nothing can take you apart.

    Spoiler alert: long-distance relationships (LDRs) suck. Once you get your emotionally sobbing self back home and start frantically counting the days until you see each other again, you should also start counting your money. Yep, it is not only going to be hard, it is going to cost you, too.

    The obvious costs of maintaining a long-distance relationship

    Phone

    Whether He moved across the country to go to college or He was that tanned and muscular bartender you met on your last exotic holiday, your phone bill is going to go through the roof. You can look into unlimited phone plans: Some include calls overseas, but most of the time the list of countries is limited. Home phones offer the same kind of service, with unlimited calls to a bigger number of countries, but mainly to other home phones, so that is assuming He has one.

    If you both have a computer and a decent internet connection, which is not a given in many countries, even some where you would assume it is, like Italy for example, you can get a Skype account and call each other for free for hours.

    And download WhatsApp on your smartphone to chat as you please with your loved one.

    Transport

    If you are staying together, it means that you have plans to see each other again. Good. Hopefully, you knew He was leaving a couple of months ago, so you have already stacked on tickets back and forth for the both of you. Not at the same time, obviously. You have thought about everything and synced your calendars to make sure you don’t forget whose turn it is to come over (and to dress nice for the occasion, but we will come to that later).


    Now is the time to get a frequent flyer account, to apply for a credit card that earns you miles as rewards, to ask your family for airline coupons as birthday and Christmas gifts (unless He is not a welcome addition to the family). The sooner you book your tickets, the better, wherever the destination. Six to eight weeks in advance is usually the best time. Didn’t think about it until after He left? Check out last minute offers, and check them both ways, it may be cheaper for one of you to go than the other one.

    As you will be spending a lot of time commuting back and forth, re-organize your life around your traveling schedule. Make good use of the time spent in transit to catch up on your reading, study, or write. As an added bonus, you will have plenty to talk about when you get there.

    Costs you may not have thought about

    Grooming

    You will be in a state of permanent anguish. What is going on over there? Who is He with? There is no way you can reunite wearing your favorite sweat pants or less than perfect hair and body. So yes, while normal couples get into a comfy routine, put on 5 pounds of “love handles” and don’t worry too much about always looking their best, you will be spending your time apart in salons and the gym, eager to see again that ”wow” in His eyes like when He first saw you.

    Crazy splurges on outings and dressing up

    You will see each other less and will probably want to mark the occasion. While in a LDR, you won’t settle for a night of movies on the couch. You will want to eat somewhere special ($$ka-ching$$), maybe have a drink before ($$ka-ching$$), drive around to see His new city ($ka-ching$), and lots of other very expensive activities that cohabiting couples haven’t enjoyed in a while. Of course, you will buy a new dress for the occasion, and maybe some heels too? ($$ka-chiiiiing$$)

    Nights out with friends

    While He was the only one you had eyes for, you probably stopped seeing many friends. Now that He is away, it is time to call the girls and organize a fun night, both to reconnect and forget how lonely you are without Him. Plus tax, plus tips.

    Health costs

    Costs to your health are harder to estimate, but come on, do you really think you can stay up until 4am, which is when He wakes up and wants to talk for an hour? Can anyone go on like that for weeks, ingesting quantities of caffeine the next morning and walking around like a madly in love zombie?

    The lack of sleep can affect your mood, your relations with other people (especially your coworkers), and can cost you a job promotion or worse…your job.

    Maybe it will be time to reassess your LDR and, if it is really worth it, take the plunge and join Him over there?

    Have you ever been in a LDR? Has it worked out for you? For your budget?

    image: The-Lane-Team

    Getting Over It

    by  • May 22, 2012 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Airplane

    Why Are You So Expensive?

    Recently, my husband stumbled onto a bit of fellowship luck for part of his graduate program. As a result, our loan burden for the coming year is somewhat reduced. Obviously, this resulted in much rejoicing, in large part because we won’t have to worry about the lack of interest deferment on Stafford loans in the coming year (I had a whole post on this planned, and it was going to pulse with rage). We can do a lot with this news, including an accelerated repayment schedule for the loans we DO have for his graduate program.

    But shortly after we found out about the fellowship, my sister emailed me to let me know that she would be remaining in Israel (where she is currently living and working/studying) for an additional year. We had put off visiting her this year for a number of reasons – prohibitive cost to the Middle East, lack of vacation time, and a previously planned trip to Spain to visit my husband’s sisters on their study abroad semester. But in light of this new financial situation, we started to consider a trip to Israel a possibility.

    And then I started to look at plane ticket prices. Because this would be quite a bit of a distance to travel, and because in addition to my sister, I have family members scattered throughout the major cities in Israel, we want to spend a significant amount of time over there. After all, there’s a lot to see (in addition to family); my husband and I come from two religions that have many interesting (and different) points of interest in Jerusalem, and we’re not likely to repeat the trip anytime in the coming few decades. We would like to make it a substantial escapade. This means looking at tickets over the holiday season, when we both have a significant amount of time off. This also means that tickets are SO, SO EXPENSIVE.

    Obviously, once I saw the upwards-of-a-thousand-dollar price-tag on tickets during our travel time of choice, I started to brainstorm ways to save. It’s so much cheaper to travel over Thanksgiving! We could definitely stay in the Zurich airport for 22 hours to save on travel, whatever! It will be fine! Slowly but surely, a creeping sense of stress and panic overcame me, and I confessed to my husband that nothing about planning this sounded fun anymore. After regarding me like I was insane, he asked me what was wrong.

    “Tickets are SO EXPENSIVE over Christmas. But if we go over Thanksgiving, we won’t have any time and it will be rushed and miserable and we’ll be jet-lagged and it will just be a stressful misery.”

    “Then let’s go over Christmas.”

    “But THE MONEY! THE MONEY!”

    “Abby . . . we have the money. It will be fine.”

    And he’s right. As he correctly pointed out, this is the best time in our lives to take this trip. We’re financially sound (knock on wood), we have the time, we’re young and childless, and enough people are over there and happy/willing to host us and see us that if we don’t do this trip now, we’ll regret it. My sister will not be there for much longer; and sometimes, you need to value your life experiences over an unnecessarily accelerated loan-repayment plan. Sometimes, the extra few-hundred dollars to ensure that you get the most out of an experience, and aren’t rushing through it with an underlying sense of panic are worth it. Therefore, I am going to push the guilt-monster associated with spending more cash than I should, and taking two international trips in a year, deep down inside me (where I hide the rest of my feelings), and look forward to planning the (or at least, a) trip of a lifetime.

    How do you prioritize spending when a great opportunity arises?

    image: oatsy40

    The Cost of Higher Standards

    by  • March 19, 2012 • Tagged: , , , ,  • Comments

    Churros y Chocolate

    In my belly.

    Image: Oscar

    In college, I had the good fortune to spend a semester in London. Because I was on a boatload of financial aid, and determined not to run up any credit card debt, I spent my summer budgeting and saving and preparing to spend as little money as possible living and traveling abroad. Four months and many bean dinners and hostels later, I emerged slightly more cultured and no more in-debt than I had been before my travels.

    Back then, I was more than willing to do (and endure) whatever it took to see as much as I could on the money I had. Reviews for that Paris hostel say that it has bedbugs? Whatever, it’s cheap! Dublin hostel only has availability in a room of 20? Sure, I’ll be there with a friend, it’ll be fine. Yes, I’ll leave at 5 am to take the cheaper train to France, and sleep in the Dublin airport to cut down on one short night of hostel expenses. I was young, and excited, and happy to endure slight inconveniences for travel.

    Years later, I’ve noticed that my standards have changed. Thanks to some careful planning, and $800 in vouchers for sitting in an airport a few months ago (thanks, US Airways!), my husband and I will soon be off to Spain for a vacation. Where once I would be heading to hostel websites, I instead found myself looking up hotels and apartments with high ratings and nice amenities. I’m older, and I’m a little bit more spoiled, and I now value a certain degree of comfort and privacy over the frugality of the international hostel options. I do not want to be in a room with 20 strangers. I do not want to wake up any earlier than I have to. I want to take the train, and not the overcrowded bus, to the cities we’ll be visiting. I want to sit down at restaurants, and order what I like, and not skimp on ordering drinks to save a dollar.

    My husband and I share similarly frugal ideals, although there are moments when we disagree on what is and is not worth it (I want to take a cab from the airport; he insists on public transportation). Luckily, we both agree on the unmitigated importance of stuffing our faces with as much jamon as we can find, and consuming all of the wine we come across. He’s had his fair share of frugal traveling, and we’re both at a place where we’re willing to spend a little more to get a little more. It’s a nice feeling, to know that my financial world won’t collapse if I’m not counting every penny that’s going towards sangria and churros.

    Have you noticed that your standards have changed as you get older? Or are there still areas where you’re willing to rough it?

    Spending the Savings

    by  • March 12, 2012 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Money Jar

    Breaking into my stash for a good cause.

    Image: Tom Small

    There are moments when I look at my savings accounts as abstract items not to be used – pristine, shining examples of my frugality that are there for looking, but not for touching. And then there are the moments when my apprehension disappears, and I understand why I continually add to them in the first place.

    Recently, a situation arose in which a friend of mine left her home for some time, and would need (or like, or want – however you want to put it) visitors. This was a medical situation, and one in which I knew I would, without question, figure out a plan to accommodate that desire. Old friends aren’t something you should play around with – they’re rare (I realize this as more of my local friends express astonishment at my old friendships) and important, and worth some inconveniences – even of the financial kind. And so I set to planning a somewhat last minute trip, and one that certainly wasn’t budgeted for.

    Enter the “Travel Fund.” My husband and I set aside money into this fund for a few reasons: to have money to travel when the opportunity arises (see: Spain), and to have money that we won’t feel miserable about spending when the need arises (see: out of town weddings, unexpected situations like the one I now encounter). There’s something slightly less depressing about spending money that you’ve already earmarked for the purpose, particularly when it’s a surprise expense. I was able to pull some cash from that to pay for train tickets, hotel rooms, and anything else that arises (meals, taxis, etc.).

    After spending years and years constantly worried about where money was coming from, and if I was saving enough for any future problems, it’s an incredible relief to be able to do this – to pick up and help in a stressful situation without the added stress of wondering how I’m going to pay for it. That’s not to say that I’m not still careful about this kind of spending, and apprehensive – only that I know I can do it, and try to use that knowledge to set aside any concern I have over cost. I may agonize for hours over whether or not I really need that dress or pair of shoes, but this was a no-brainer. The money would be spent, the cause was important, and that’s the end of that.

    Are there moments when you’ve viewed your savings accounts in a different light, or been happy to have the money to spend when you needed it?

    Does Our Baby Need an Airplane Ticket?

    by  • October 25, 2011 • Tagged:   • Comments

    Please remain seated when the seat belt sign is on.

    Please remain seated when the seat belt sign is on.

    image: sbamueller 

    In a few weeks, Her, the little one, and I will be traveling to see relatives over the Thanksgiving holiday. Of course that means getting on an airplane with a baby. Back in the days of DINK I remember giving dirty looks and being annoyed at the parents of a screaming child. Now I’m on the receiving end of the collective passengers’ ire. Fun.

    One of the decisions we had to make when booking this flight is whether we would purchase a plane ticket for our baby. According to the FAA, infants (less than 2 years old) do not need a plane ticket and may ride in an adult’s lap for the duration of the flight. So is it worth is to save a few hundred bucks and have our child sit in our lap?

    For us, NO WAY. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the safest way for an infant to travel is to be strapped in to a rear-facing, FAA-approved car seat for the flight. There are some inconveniences to purchasing a ticket and placing your baby in a car seat during a flight: price of the ticket, lugging around a 20 pound car seat around the airport, getting the seat to and from the airport, setting up the seat in the plane, etc. But for us, we think that the peace of mind of having our kid traveling in the safest way possible outweighs any downside. It sure beats having to hold a squirmy kid for a few hours; the seat also helps the baby sleep throughout the flight, much to the appreciation of our fellow passengers. I’ve heard some anecdotes of kids who are thrown about the cabin due to some rough turbulence, and also of children who survived plane crashes because they were in a car seat. I’d rather be prepared.

    Have you had to fly with an infant? Did you purchase a plane ticket for your baby or not? How was your experience?

    Australia is on Sale!

    by  • June 19, 2009 • Tagged:   • Comments

    When we were considering honeymoon destinations several years ago, Australia was a top contender…until we saw the price tag. Package deals for a 2-week vacation were around $20,000 (yes, twenty thousand!). Spending that much on a honeymoon was out of the question. We put the idea aside and chose a $6,000 Greece package instead. Last year, we went on our Greek honeymoon and had SUCH a great time! The trip really inspired Him to love travel as much as I do. So this year we started talking about a one-year anniversary trip. We were having trouble deciding where to go.

    A few months ago, I started getting promotions for travel to Australia. The prices had dropped – a LOT. Airfare is about half the price due to the economy, and the Australian currency exchange rate is favorable right now too. So we made a decision to travel to Australia this fall! We’ll spend about $8,000 on two weeks, including airfare and some fun tours and nice hotels. It means we will have to delay the purchase of a home for a few more months, but we feel that it’s worth it. These prices might not happen again for a long time, and we’ve been talking about visiting Australia for three years already. We’re finally going, and we’re really excited.

    Have you ever chosen a travel destination based on an airfare sale?

    Here Boston, Take My Money

    by  • December 1, 2008 • Tagged:   • Comments

    After we visited some family this past holiday weekend, we went to Boston for a few days to visit some friends and do some sightseeing. We just purchased a new GPS prior to the trip and scored a great deal on a rental car.

    Just like in any other city, the GPS didn’t work so well under the canopy of skyscrapers. On three different occasions, we found ourselves on the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90W) because we took the wrong ramp (stupid Boston streets). In order to get back to downtown Boston, we had to drive about 3 miles to the first exit.

    Did I mention that the Massachusetts Turnpike is a toll road? Each time we exited to our turnaround point we had to pay a toll of $1.25.

    Here’s $3.75, Boston, to pay for our idiot tax.