5 Cost-Conscious Tips for the LGBTQ Traveler

Headed abroad? These LGBT travel tips have you (and your finances) covered.

The queer community has close to $1 trillion in disposable income and many of us don’t have children. That’s a lot of money and not a lot of responsibility. So how are we spending our discretionary income?

It’s so common it’s cliché: Queer people love to travel! According to 2015’s 20th Annual LGBT Tourism & Hospitality Survey, “the annual economic impact of [American] LGBT travelers is over $75 billion per year in the U.S. alone.”

Now is when we’re trying to get away from the cold or plan our summer vacation. If that sounds like you, here are five cost-conscious tips for queer travelers to get your travel on right.

1. Use Travel Sites

We’re super fans of websites and apps that make our travel planning and budgeting easier.

One of our favorite apps is Rome2Rio. It maps the most efficient routes to get from one location to the next in terms of time and cost. If you’re in Brussels and want to get to get to Cape Town, for instance, Rome2Rio will get you there.

Another favorite tool is Skyscanner, which searches the sky for the cheapest flights to get from one location to the next. Skyscanner relies completely on its algorithm to find flights, and not its relationship to airlines, so its recommendations are unbiased.

Our friends Stefan and Sebastian, who blog at the The Nomadic Boys, say, “Our starting point for planning our travels is Booking.com. It not only shows the best prices for the filters entered, but after using them for a while, you’ll receive discounts.”

2. Less Is More

In 2012, we spent a month Down Under. For 30 days, we traveled to Sydney, Australia, to be tourists; Cairns to snorkel The Great Barrier Reef; Sydney again for Mardi Gras with Kylie Minogue as Grand Marshal; Melbourne to eat up its foodie scene; Auckland, New Zealand, to be tourists; Waiheke Island for wine; Kaikoura to swim with dolphins; and then Rotorua to sit in hot springs.

With all that travel, we each had one medium-size suitcase full of clothes. What at first seemed impossible was a lifesaver. When hopping from planes to trains to automobiles, elevators, steps, sidewalks and, yes, sand, we were all the better for our lighter load. This will also save you money because many cost-conscious international airlines charge for luggage over a certain size or weight.

3. Stay Off the Beaten Path

Sometimes the best way to contain travel costs is to take the road less traveled. Below are some LGBT-friendly destinations that are uncommon and cost-conscious:

Costa Rica is a Central American country with coasts in both the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans. Costa Rica is known for being very queer-friendly, with the heart and soul of its queer community in Manuel Antonio. In addition to seaside activities, Costa Rica boasts beautiful volcano parks, rivers and waterfalls that are great for hiking, playing and exploring.

Latvia’s coast is on The Baltic Sea and boarders Estonia and Lithuania. Latvia prides itself on “green tourism” and hosts many natural and manmade wonders. It started warming to the queer community in 1992, when it broke from the Soviet Union. While same-sex marriage is still illegal, the country does prohibit discrimination against queer people.

Belize is another Central American country on the Caribbean Ocean. Belize has amazing marine and coral life, especially where we traveled, in San Pedro, which makes it great for snorkeling and scuba diving. It includes hundreds of small islands called “cayes.” Though Belize is accepting of gay people, it is very much a conservative country and frowns on any public displays of affection.

4. Search Gay Travel Sites

With the popularity of travel sites, it was inevitable that the queer community would get its own.

One popular site that you’ve probably seen on your Facebook feed is Misterb&b. Misterb&b is not related to Airbnb. Misterb&b connects travelers with locals. You can rent the home of a queer peer while they’re away or sleep on their couch while they’re home. In most cases, doing so is cheaper than hoteling it.

Another travel site is Ebab.com, which stands for “Enjoy Bed & Breakfast.” Ebab was the very first queer travel site, originally founded in 1996, when queer rights weren’t what they are today. Ebab was founded on the principle that “everyone has the right to travel freely and without discrimination.”

5. Stay Out of Trouble

Even though the queer community has made much progress in the last 20 years, especially in the U.S., homophobia still exists. Even the U.S. State Department publishes a useful page with LGBT travel information. As you’re planning your next vacation alone, with your partner or family, consider these cost-conscious tools, tricks and destinations to help you save money — and stay safe.

Looking for more money-saving reads? Check out Credit.com’s personal finance learning center.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

 

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3 Things LGBT Job Seekers Should Do to Vet an Employer

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We think it’s important to build a financially strong LGBTQ community. That’s because the stronger we are financially, the more capable we are of funding the causes and initiatives most important to us. Yes, we’ve made lots of progress over the years, but we’ve been reminded recently that the fight isn’t over.

This is why it’s important for the queer community to be at least as proud of our financial situation as we are about our individuality and sexual orientation. Your money is an important tool for your success, but it also helps ensure the success of our collective community. And how you make that money is just as important as what you do with your paycheck after it hits your account.

As a prospective employee, how can you find an employer that’s in line with your values? Here are three ways.

1. Research Your Prospective Employer

There are some organizations that offer lists of LGBTQ-friendly companies, but your best bet is to do your own research. Contact local advocacy groups to find out the local and national companies that support your causes, both financially and with boots on the ground, at the state and federal levels. The companies that put their money and people behind the causes you support (especially when it doesn’t mean the cover of a magazine) are likely in line with your values.

Another way to determine the right employer is to see who’s proud of you. Pride offers companies a great chance to connect with our community. While Pride usually consists of parades and parties, companies can also market to our lucrative community. Some companies prefer to avoid parades and parties, so Pride attendance shouldn’t be a litmus test for choosing an employer. It’s just another means to notice our allies.

2. Interview Your Interviewer

When interviewing for a job, play the role of both interviewee and interviewer. You want to know that the company fits with your culture just as much as they want to know if you fit with theirs.

Consider asking about their stance on LGBTQ employees and if they have protections in their policies. You may also want to ask to see their policies. If possible, look around to see if they are a truly diverse company. It’s all well and good to support LGBTQ causes and have protections in place, but if there’s a rainbow ceiling you may not be given the opportunities you want.

You can also ask about the causes the company supports or how they give back to the local community in general. Smaller companies may only be able to support one or two causes and an LGBTQ cause may not be one of them. This, too, should also not be a litmus test for choosing an employer, but it’s good to know what causes the company does support.

3. Follow the Money

You can research what, if any, legislation the company has supported. When local, state and federal government are debating new regulations and laws, companies often voice their opinions publicly. This is a great way to get an official record of a company’s opinion. Contributions to political campaigns that are large enough and made by the company or leaders within the company must be publicly disclosed.

You may want to start by asking representatives at your local LGBTQ advocacy organization if they’ve received support, both financially and through actions on issues that are important to you, such as marriage or birth certificate modernization for transgendered individuals, from a company you’re considering. Even if a prospective employer hasn’t donated time or money, it’s not a bad sign. What you may want to do is look for any donations to groups that oppose your causes or beliefs.

These are just some ways to determine, beyond a national index, how supportive prospective employers are to queer LGBTQ causes. It’s in both yours and your community’s best interest to do as well financially as possible. For most of us, that starts with decent earned income.

(Editor’s note: Before you apply for a job, it’s a smart move to request your credit reports for two reasons: If there are errors on the reports, you can get them fixed (here’s a guide to disputing credit report errors) before there’s a chance they’ll harm your chances at a job. You want to regularly check your credit anyway, because inaccurate information can cause serious financial damage. You can get free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com and you can check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com. Second, if your reports have negative information that’s accurate, you’ll want to see if you can get it fixed before an employer sees it. If you can’t, address it upfront with the potential employer.)

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

More Money-Saving Reads:

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4 Things That Are More Expensive for the LGBT Community

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The road of progress is never straight. The queer community has made great progress over the last several years, both in public relations and with rights and protections. But over the past few weeks, there have been stinging losses in North Carolina, Mississippi and Puerto Rico that have set the queer community back.

Even with as much progress as the queer community has made, there are still 28 states in which sexual orientation and gender identity can be used as a means to fire someone from their job. The threat of possibly losing our jobs is stressful. Consider when your employer was going through downsizing or layoffs. Whether you survived or not, it was stressful.

Now add that some states are making it legal to deny certain citizens basic services based on religious principles. While the argument has been dumbed down, we all know the debate is about more than cakes and pizza.

The queer community has faced headwinds in many facets of life. Finance is no exception. Here are four things that are more expensive for the queer community.

1. Having a Family

Queer couples that want to create a family of their own have their work cut out for them. According to the Human Rights Campaign, private agency adoptions can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $40,000. And many same-sex couples have to pay for second adoptions, which cost between $2,000 and $3,000.

For couples who want a biological child, the costs are higher, especially for gay and lesbians couples that aren’t able to bear the child. Surrogacy can cost the couple between $70,000 to over $150,000 per child.

Starting a family as a queer couple is one of the highest expenses the couple can undertake. This doesn’t include the $245,000 it costs to raise a child to the age of 18 in the U.S., according to estimates released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2014.

2. Long-Term Care

In our later years, we all want to live our lives the way we choose. For most, they have the support of their family. For the majority of older queers today, a family wasn’t a part of the plan. Thus they must rely on themselves and their money to live out their later years. Moving away from your home may be necessary. The average annual cost for a basic nursing home comes in at around $80,000, according to Genworth’s 2015 Cost of Care Survey. This cost can eat up a lifetime of savings quickly.

Since queers don’t want to go back into the closet when transitioning to a care facility, we have a limited number of facilities from which to choose. While the Equality Act is still making its way through Congress, many long-term care facilities don’t currently offer sexual orientation and identity protections. This limits the number of facilities to which queer people can go for the care they want and need.

3. Career Advancement

Many industries are surrounded by white, patriarchal walls. Minorities are tearing down those walls, making the working world a more diverse and efficient place. Much progress has been made, even for the queer community.

However, while open discrimination wanes, soft discrimination remains. Someone who’s not part of the “boys’ club” doesn’t get the same time and attention of their boss as someone who is.

While many marginalized groups aren’t consciously shut out, they simply don’t get the same face time.

With all else being equal, queers are often overlooked for raises and promotions that cost a lot in the long run. A recent study showed that gay white men in the U.K. must spend about $54,000 getting extra degrees and work experience to have the equivalent opportunities and career advancement as their straight white male counterparts.

Just remember — coming out at work could still cost you your job in 28 states. For this reason alone, many queers avoid career choices that may suit their skills or passions, simply because they cannot afford to lose their job.

4. Housing

Housing is not necessarily more expensive for the queer community. However, in states such as North Carolina and Mississippi where someone can be refused housing because of their sexual orientation, this limits their supply of housing. With the risk of being evicted at any moment, queers in these states should consider a larger emergency savings than they otherwise would. This is money that might have been spent on a higher standard of living or investments, both of which better serve the broader community.

An additional cost is associated with physical security. Precautions, such as alarm systems and living in more accepting, but more expensive areas of town, may provide some in the queer community with a higher sense of physical security. This comes at a cost. For some this also means moving away from friends and family to live in those more accepting, usually more expensive, cities and states.

To know better is to do better. Therefore, it’s incumbent for queer people to assess their situation and plan accordingly. Wanting to start a family, choosing a career, planning for retirement and deciding where to live affects everyone. For queer people, such costs are higher and may be prohibitive to their wants and desires.

We encourage creating a financial plan to address unique needs, which may include the nuances of their sexual orientation. Whether we’re in the heart of Mississippi or San Francisco, it’s up to us to build the life we want.

[Editor’s Note: You can monitor your financial goals, like building a good credit score, each month on Credit.com.]

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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