Simone's Blog: Money Magnet

As the Director of Affiliate Relations at HomeFree-USA, I’ve always been fascinated with how people handle their money. Like everyone else, I’ve had my financial ups and downs. In fact, it took me 32 months to pay off $32,000 in credit card bills and build up a six-month emergency fund. While that was a very difficult period, I am grateful – and wiser -- for the experience.

Through my personal experiences and working at HomeFree-USA, I’ve gained a ton of insight that I feel compelled to share. You’ll find those lessons here. Feel free to take the thoughts and ideas that resonate with you most and put aside the rest for later. I look forward to sharing my journey.

Travel the world for a fraction of the normal cost

What I love most about modern times is how accessible the rest of the world is. My brother lives in China and we talk as regularly as when he was in the States. I feel as much a part of the lives of friends who live in different states and countries as I do those who are around the corner. Distance is no longer prohibitive.

In spite of the limitless options to connect to the rest of the world, it can still be expensive to travel. My good friend Tekeya Priester is a world traveler who recently founded notjustagetaway.com, which focuses on creating memorable experiences through individual and group trips. Here, she offers a few ways you can travel (especially overseas) at a fraction of the cost:


1) Travel during shoulder and off peak seasons. Peak season is the most popular, and thus most expensive, time to travel to a given city. Choose travel dates that are less expensive but where you can still enjoy all the area has to offer. Tekeya visited London, Paris and Italy for $1,900 around the New Year. She prepared herself for the cold and saved almost $4,000 in the process. Well worth it.
If you're traveling to a country that celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah, you can find some excellent deals between New Year’s Day and January 15th. Because we're coming off the holiday season, most people have no money and are thus not traveling, and cities need the business (plus, it's cold in much of the U.S.)


2) Go with a group. Tekeya has planned an amazing trip to Dubai for January 2016, a heavily sought after and very expensive destination. But she was able to negotiate flight, hotel, and breakfast for 16 people because of the volume. Her agency also allows you to pay for the trip in pre-determined chunks. AND they give special promotions to anyone who pays for the entire trip when the first tranche is due.


3) Rewards points. If you're using credit cards already, look into using rewards points towards the cost of your trip. Certain American Express, Visa and Master cards have this and other perks. My USAA credit card gives me cash back for my charges (love USAA!)


4) Subscribe to travel sites and be flexible! My family and I are going to Iceland next month after we found an airfare deal for $450! Wow Air is trying to boost its business in the U.S., and Iceland is increasing its tourism marketing. We booked back in May, which gave us time to come up with the money for the rest of the trip. We learned about that via Orbitz but many other sites are out there.


5) Schedule a long layover. When my sister visited Istanbul she scheduled a 12 hour layover in Amsterdam. It was all the time she needed to explore and know that she would be returning very soon. Likewise, I'll be stopping in Toronto on my way to see my brother in China later this year.


6) Volunteer. Many groups need assistance supporting their mission work in certain countries. Some will pay for your accommodations in exchange for your time and expertise. There's no richer experience than giving of yourself while exploring a new world.


7) Stay off the beaten path. Hotels are no longer your only option: sites like airbnb.com and vrbo.com have created the option of staying in a private home while traveling. Hostels are also available, many of which are fantastic. Do your research before booking rooms in any of these. Most of their accommodations are great, but there have been some horror stories. Always check the reviews.


To learn more about Not Just a Getaway, check out their website and Facebook page.


Bon Voyage!


And so it is