How to Financially Prepare for Your Next Big Trip

Traveling can be very expensive, especially if it’s a really big trip. But that doesn’t need to stop you from taking your next adventure! There are ways that you can help to prepare financially so that you’re able to take that trip you’ve been dying to go on!

Create a consistent savings plan for traveling.

If you open a short-term recurring deposit account set aside specifically for your travels, you can save for trips a bit easier! If you have that money in a separate account, you won’t be tempted to spend it on other things, and you can use the money you accumulate in that account for your next expensive trip that you didn’t think you’d be able to afford. If long-term saving is not an option consider a low-interest personal loan. This way you can take the trip right away and start savings plan to pay off the loan without the crazy added interest of a credit card.

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Image: Flickr

Stay away from online shopping.

When you’re spending too much money on your online shopping addiction, it might also be hard to balance with your travel bug. Online shopping is such an easy way to drain your money quickly, mostly because it’s so easy to just click “buy” on your phone or computer.

To get rid of the urge to shop online, delete all the shopping apps from your phone, and unsubscribe from any promotional emails that may cause you to impulsively shop online. You can also clear your browser cache and cookies regularly to get rid of targeted advertising by e-commerce sites! No more late night shopping!

Control your expenditure by living a simpler life.

If traveling is your priority, try to understand the difference between “want” and “need”. You’re going to need to restrict your expenses if you really want to be able to afford the next trip you’re planning! Avoid eating at more expensive restaurants, and refrain from buying clothes you don’t need. Every time you go to buy something, ask yourself if you really need it, or if it’s just another impulse buy. Remind yourself that whatever money you would be spending on your wants could be going toward your next trip! Try to pick up a hobby that can help you get some extra cash, like freelance writing online!

With these tips, any trip is possible! Don’t let finances get in your way of your dream to travel! Now get saving, and happy traveling friends!

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A Guest Post by Jamie Wharton

Jamie is a Social Media Strategist for Earnest. She has a passion for finance and enjoys educating others. Her main goal is to help build a brighter financial future while making finance friendly for everyone. When not working you can find Jamie surfing the web while sipping on her latte.

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Packing Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know

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This post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on April 8, 2016 by TheHipmunk.

Gallivanting around Madrid or conducting business in San Francisco? Wherever you’re going—and whatever you’re planning to do there—you’ll need to pack a bag before you leave for the trip.

But even though packing is universal to travelers, packing well isn’t necessarily a skill that we all share. That’s where these packing hacks come in. Each of these smart tips comes recommended by master travelers and promises you an easier trip from start to finish.

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Pack bubble wrap.

It might seem counterintuitive to fill up space in your suitcase with something you don’t actually need, but hear us out: Packing a few sheets of bubble wrap on the way to your destination means you can remove it and have extra space for carrying souvenirs on the way home. And if those souvenirs are breakable, then even better: Simply keep the bubble wrap and use it as protection.

Hide valuables in old toiletry bottles.

What respectable thief would ever reach for an old tube of Chapstick or a bottle of sunscreen? Before leaving for a trip, empty out a few old toiletry bottles and use them as storage containers for valuables such as keys, cash, and credit cards.

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Prevent liquid spills.

Fly often enough, and eventually you’ll experience the misery that is a burst shampoo bottle in a suitcase full of clothes. Avoid the suffering by cutting out a square of plastic wrap and placing it underneath the lid on your liquid toiletry bottles. (Just screw the lids back on on top of the plastic wrap.) That way, even if the lid comes open, liquids won’t seep out. It’s also a good idea to further secure toiletries in a plastic bag.

Pack shoes wisely.

Shoes can be one of the most cumbersome items to pack, but a few hacks can make a big difference. Start by packing small items (think socks, underwear, bracelets, watches, etc.) into the shoes themselves in order to save valuable space and prevent these items from sliding around inside the suitcase. Then stick the soles into a shower cap so they don’t soil any of your clothes. Finally, be sure to pack shoes foot-to-toe at the bottom of your bag in order to save additional space and keep the suitcase balanced.

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Bring smaller bags.

Packing light is a valuable goal, but sometimes bringing along a few extra items is worth it for the convenience they’ll offer during your trip. Case in point: If you envision needing to carry around any large-ish items (e.g. a laptop) while you’re away, then remember to bring along a bag in which to carry them. That way you won’t be stuck lugging your suitcase around a foreign city when all you really need is a messenger bag.

Avoid tangled jewelry.

Save yourself a massive headache upon arriving at the hotel by packing jewelry so it doesn’t get tangled en route. Lay flat a piece of plastic cling wrap, carefully arrange your necklace(s) or earrings on top, and then cover it all up with another layer of cling wrap. Then slide the whole shebang in between clothes for extra protection.

Wrangle ear buds and power cords.

Anyone with a smartphone or an MP3 player knows what a hassle it can be to manage all the cords that keep our devices humming. Even more frustrating is having to tear through a bag searching for said cords (which inevitably seem to make their way to the bottom). Keep everything in one place—and tangle-free—by stashing small cords in a sunglass case. Wrap them up neatly, tuck them in the case, and assign the case to a spot near the top of your bag for maximum ease of use.

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Take pictures.

Once you’ve packed everything into your suitcase, take a picture of both the inside and the outside of your bag. If (heaven forbid) your bag gets lost or stolen, this way you’ll be able to easily describe it to the appropriate authorities.

Whether you’re still finding your packing stride or you travel often enough that you could pack a carry-on in your sleep, these tips will help you maximize space and eliminate stress wherever you find yourself traveling next.

The Best Apps for Productivity Across Time Zones

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This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on February 18th.

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For many folks, travel is a way to escape from the daily grind, relax, and gain some much-needed rejuvenation. But for the world’s more than 480 million business travelers, travel too often involves worrying about missed emails, dropped expense reports, or scheduling meetings or keeping a project on track from across different time zones.

It can be tough to get work done far away from the office, but that’s where each of these apps comes in. Every entry on this list meets a specific need of the modern business traveler. Taken together, they offer business travelers a maximum-productivity package that will help ensure you’re able to get work done pretty much anywhere.

Asana

Asana is perfect for anyone who needs to tackle collaborative projects with a remote team. It’s developed by one of the co-founders of Facebook, and it’s just as on-trend as the behemoth social media platform. The app lets you lay out the steps necessary to complete a project, assign each task to a collaborator, track the project’s progress, and communicate with other team members—all without being in the same room or worrying about scheduling a phone call across time zones.

CamCard

Perfect for trips on which you anticipate doing lots of networking, CamCard allows you to digitally store business cards and contact information for new prospects or collaborators. So there’ll be no more panicking when you get home and realize you lost that potential new client’s contact info en route.

Docusign

For the executive on the go: Docusign makes it easy to digitally execute contracts, manage transactions, and issue legally binding electronic signatures across mobile devices. The service prides itself on being usable from virtually anywhere in the world (it’s already in use in 43 languages and 188 countries), and it’s secure as it is functional.

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Dropbox

No matter where you are in the world, you can access all of your files from Dropbox. If you know you’ll need access to certain documents while traveling, simply upload them to the service ahead of your trip. Then you’ll be able to access them from any device, at any time. (It sure beats having to wait several hours until a coworker wakes up and can email you the documents you need.) You can also easily share files with simple links.

Expensify

Never worry about processing expense reports on the go again. Expensify allows users to quickly import card transactions, add cash expenses, record billable expenses, auto-categorize expenses, create custom invoices, ditch paper receipts, issue reimbursements, and more—and it will do it all while supporting more than 160 currencies and international taxes.

HipChat

For those times when you need to communicate with your team in real-time (but you’re in, say, Bangkok while the rest of your team is in NYC), turn to HipChat. The app offers a group chat service that’s available on desktops, tablets, or smartphones. The app will also deliver messages to your phone even when you’re signed off, so that you and your teammates will be able to reach each other at any time should a pressing issue arise.

Hipmunk

Sure, we’re shamelessly self-promoting. But it’s only because we think we’ve made the best travel app on the market. Hipmunk’s app eliminates wasted time in the planning stages of a trip by finding the best hotel and flight deals, providing free flight fare alerts, and offering instant booking. Business travelers can also use the app to coordinate group travel. Leave the trip planning to us so you can get back to work.

World Time Buddy

World Time Buddy is a world clock, time zone converter, and online meeting scheduler all in one convenient app. Need to plan a conference call with someone in San Francisco while you’re in Dublin? Skip the math and simply plug in what time zone you’re in, what time zone they’re in, and bada boom: The app will provide you with a selection of compatible meeting times. The app also tracks market hours.  

XE Currency

If your business travels take you to multiple countries in one go and you need to calculate currencies in a hurry, then XE Currency has you covered. The app allows users to view historical charts and current exchange rates and calculate prices from a mobile device. You can also create customized comparison charts for prices anywhere in the world.

The only downside to these apps? They’ll limit your excuses for not getting work done during your travels. Welcome to the great big mobile world!

Voluntourism: Helpful or Hurtful?

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This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s  Tailwind blog on August 28th.

Volunteer tourism

Jet to an exotic country. Get immersed in local customs. Help build a house or dig a well. Make buddies with fascinating people you’d never meet otherwise. A “voluntourism” trip seems like a great way to give back or improve the world in a small way. It can be, but you should ask a lot of questions before signing up and plunking down cash.

Over the last several years, this well-meaning market has grown quickly, with studies estimating 1.6 million volunteer tourists per year and growing. About 33 percent of volunteer travelers are between the ages of 20 and 40. Another 34 percent are slightly older, between 41 and 60. Overall, the travelers are more likely to be female. However, the impact of these trips is hard to quantify. A large majority of the tourists take them because they want to help alleviate poverty and find joy in the camaraderie.

Voluntourism: Helpful or Hurtful?

In a piece for the Guardian called “Beware the ‘Voluntourists’ Doing Good,” Ossob Mohamud writes that there are more effective ways to help the needy than take a trip. His concern is that very often the helpers come off as patronizing and condescending, with little understanding of the local culture and the people’s actual needs.

Other critics complain that high-paying volunteers take jobs away from local laborers. The engagement between volunteers and Cambodian orphans may seem endearing — until you discover some of these children have families, and are just being hired out to entertain big-hearted tourists with sob stories. In other reported cases, an orphanage may keep the conditions of an institution squalid to ply more money from tourists primed to donate. Even if the orphans do connect with the volunteers, they’re once again faced with feelings of abandonment when the tour is over.

Not all NGOs think voluntourism is bad. Chris Johnson, director of communications for the Fuller Center of Housing, is less concerned about a volunteer’s impetus for choosing to build homes for families in the mountains of Peru or Nepal “as long as the work gets done.” In a New York Times article, he explained that the families who benefit from the new residence probably don’t care if the builders are doing it for selfish reasons.

How Do You Know If Your Program Is Effective?

So, how do you know if the program you’re paying for is actually helping people? There are several important details to consider that will help uncover the impact of the tour, outlined by the editors of the site Ethical Volunteering.

1. Bigger Isn’t Always Better

While you might think the more you pay for a tour, the more impact it will have, a more expensive tour may have less impact because it has fewer connections to local organizations.

2. Watch out for Grand Promises

As much as you want to think you’re “changing the world,” the reality is you’re giving a small boost to an organization that needs a hand. Be mindful of marketing that promises more.

3. Don’t be swayed by pictures of children

It’s great to help children, but if you’re looking at a brochure that tugs at your heartstrings rather than demonstrates what impact you’re making, be wary.

4. Check if the organization screens volunteers

Is this organization of change hoping to capitalize on your skills, or does it just need your money? Take heed if it doesn’t care about what capabilities you have.

According to a study by the Adventure Travel Trade Organization, the most popular volunteer programs offer the opportunity to work with children, support education, protect the environment, create local jobs, and assist clean water projects.

While the popular voluntourism destinations are in Asia, Africa and Latin America, it’s also possible to assist NGOs in cities such as New Orleans and Orlando. Some hotels in Denver, like the Four Seasons Hotel Denver, have been known to offer a discount to guests willing to spend half a day working with charity.

Find a project that makes for a great experience while also positively impacting the world.

11 Travel Accessories Every Adventurer Needs

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This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s  Tailwind blog on August 27th.

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The number of travel accessories designed to make life easier on the road just keeps growing. From electronic luggage scales to portable Bluetooth speakers, there are so many things that can come in handy while traveling. Take a look at these 11 travel accessories that help you no matter where you go.

Neck Pillow

You can’t rest at five-star hotels in Miami every time you’re tired. A neck pillow can make sleeping in random places, like a train stop, much more comfortable.

Travel Packing Aid

A travel packing aid can help you neatly organize toiletries, travel documents and currency, ensuring important items are easily accessible and secure.

USB Utility Charge Tool

Even if you’re looking to be unplugged for your next trip, you’re still going to need to charge your smartphone, laptop, camera and so on. A USB utility charge tool means you only have to bring one product to charge all your devices.

Smart Luggage

Smart Luggage has arrived, and the features are amazing. Fingerprint locking mechanisms, built-in GPS systems, digital scale sensors, anti-theft systems, shape-changing abilities and more are available right now to make traveling safer and more convenient.

Shoe Bag

Why stink up the rest of your bag? Shoe bags are a great way to keep your luggage clean, and are a necessity for most vacations as you may need sandals for some activities and gym shoes or boots for others.

Self-Sealing Dry Bags

Clothing or other belongings occasionally get wet. That’s just part of traveling. A dry bag ensures that those wet items don’t soak the rest of your stuff.

Wine Bag

This can serve two purposes: one is to actually store wine and bottles of liquor; the other is to store glass items and other fragile things.

Waterproof Travel Backpack

Rolling around luggage can get annoying, especially if you’re on the move a lot and not just chilling in hotels in Paris or wherever else. Go with a sturdy, waterproof backpack that protects your belongings and is easy to carry.

Waterproof Phone Case

A phone is a necessity for most travelers, so using a waterproof phone case to protect it from water damage and accidental drops just makes sense.

Umbrella

It rains almost everywhere in the world at some time or another. Bring an umbrella.

First Aid Kit

Whether you’re backpacking your way through southeast Asia or sleeping in one of those luxurious hotels in Dubai, you never know when an accident could happen. So be prepared.

More travel accessories are being created all the time. Use the ones on this list, but also keep an eye out for new travel items to make your trip perfect.