50 Places to Visit Before You Turn 50

Here are 50 places to visit before you hit the big milestone.

Many people put off traveling until they’re retired, thinking they’ll have more money saved up by then to afford it. But the truth is, traveling doesn’t necessarily get easier with age. Many places require physical endurance, from climbing the ancient steps of the Acropolis to hiking the rocky Inca city of Machu Picchu, in Peru.

“Our advice for any bucket-list traveler is to do the most difficult destination as early as possible,” said Matthew Ma, co-founder of the airfare deals site The Flight Deal. “We have seen older travelers have a harder time keeping up.”

None of us are getting any younger, so why put your dreams off? We’ve rounded up 50 destinations to inspire you to fill up your passport, none of which will break your budget or land you in debt. (You can check how your habits are affecting your credit by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com. Reviewing your scores won’t hurt them one bit and is a great way to manage your finances.)

Be sure to also check out our roundups for great airline miles cards and hotel rewards cards, which can help you put your spending to use. Just remember not to go overboard so you don’t lose your earnings to high interest or rack up unwanted debt. The last thing you want is to return home to an eye-popping credit card bill.

Now, read on for our top destinations to visit before you turn 50.

1. Alaska

The 49th state is the last frontier in North America. With fewer than 800,000 people living across the state’s more than 660,000 square miles, it’s one of the easiest places in the world to quite literally get away from it all. One option for visiting is by taking an Alaskan cruise, as you’ll get to see several places throughout the state. If that’s the route you take, make sure you read up on these 10 things to know before you book a cruise.

2. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires has it all, from splashy street art and graffiti to upscale white-tablecloth restaurants. If the sensual moves of the tango don’t get you, the buttery steak surely will. (Don Julio Parrilla serves some of the juiciest steaks we’ve had in our lives.)

3. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

If you make it to Australia, it’s easy to spend all your time at the country’s pristine beaches, especially around Sydney or Brisbane. But if you’ve gone to the effort of taking that lengthy flight from the U.S., you might as well spend a couple of days venturing around the country’s hot, red center, where Uluru rises more than 1,000 feet out of the desert.

4. Napa Valley, California

Grab your fellow wine geek and head to the valley in the beginning of harvest season, when the cabernet, chardonay and pinot grapes are picked. A bike tour is a great way to take advantage of the area’s rolling scenery.

5. San Francisco

Come for the photos of Queen Anne houses (as seen in the “Full House” opening credits); stay for excellent espresso at Four Barrel Coffee and some of the best Chinese street food. Bringing coffee back home? Here’s why that’s a smart decision.

6. Montreal

The laid-back home of the late Leonard Cohen has design-forward shopping, cheesy poutine and some of the best bagels outside New York City. What more could you want? (Well, besides warmer weather.)

7. Toronto 

Montreal and Vancouver may get all the love, but Toronto is becoming a premier Canadian city in its own right. Hit the Junction, a former industrial area, for hip bars, live music and coffee shops. Then marvel at the reopened Queens Quay on Lake Ontario, in the Harbourfront neighborhood.

8. Guizhou, China 

As the province slowly opens to tourism, visitors will soon have a chance to stay in high-end hotels like the Guiyang Resort while taking advantage of itineraries that bring them closer to the country’s authentic hill tribes.

9. Viñales, Cuba 

Commercial flights from the U.S. have made Cuba more accessible, which is a good thing because this luxuriant valley offers so much to see. A Unesco World Heritage site dotted with pastel-colored bed and breakfasts, Viñales offers mogote climbing, a family-run botanical garden and tobacco farms where you can learn how some of the world’s finest cigars are made.

10. Copenhagen, Denmark

There’s a reason the country is frequently recognized for being the happiest on Earth. One look at its beautiful waterfront, a taste of its delicious pastries and an evening spent watching the fireworks in Tivoli, and you’ll want to call Denmark home, too.

11. Brno, Czech Republic

The Czech Republic’s second city serves up world-class cuisine that ranges from French and American to Japanese and Italian cooking. Coffeehouses like Cafe Mitte beckon guests from neighboring Prague and Vienna to wind down after a long night of partying.

12. Giza, Egypt

For nearly 4,000 years, the wondrous shape of the pyramids of Giza have fascinated travelers. As the last remaining wonder of the ancient world, the massive tombs are utterly awe-inspiring.

13. Athens, Greece

The economy is in crisis, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time here. Avant-garde performances, hip hotels and bustling cafés are just a few of the reasons to visit the mythic Greek capital.

14. Santorini, Greece

Part of the Cyclades island group, Santorini has everything you could want from the setting of Mamma Mia: whitewashed buildings, towering cliffs and crowded villages made for Instagram photos. (Just be sure not to post so much you give any identity thieves ideas.)

15. Berlin

The historic old city has been compared to New York in the ’80s, for all the right reasons. From trendsetting clubs to provocative art, Berlin is the capital of cool.

16. Honolulu

The Hawaiian capital is becoming a hotbed of culture, hosting its first Biennial, which will draw artists from across the Pacific Rim and feature its own talent, and opening artsy hotels like Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, which worked with local artists to conceive custom wallpaper and murals.

17. Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland’s capital may be tiny (its population numbers 120,000), but its nature is mighty — with erupting geysers, extinct volcanoes and geothermal pools to start. Visit between June and August, when temperatures surge to highs in the mid fifties.

18. Galway, Ireland 

The sleepy medieval city may not strike you as much at first. But after walking around the bustling Eyre Square, dropping into St. Nicholas’ Church and taking a relaxing cruise along the River Corrib, you’ll find it as charming as any city in Ireland.

19. Amalfi Coast, Italy 

Glittering seaside towns, world-class cuisine and fragile cultural landscapes — Amalfi’s 13 municipalities were named UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1997 — make this region a must for any aspiring jetsetter.

20. Costa Smeralda, Italy

The crystal-clear waters off the north-eastern coast of Sardinia will make you want to stay there forever. Explore the fantastic coves along the eastern coastline and hitch a ride to the top of Monte Mora, where you can spot the islands of Tavolara and Caprera.

21. Kanazawa, Japan

Thanks to a bullet-train extension that shortens the trip from Tokyo to just 2 and 1/2 hours, the elegant city is seeing an uptick in tourism. A visit to what Travel + Leisure describes as “the old wooden teahouses of the Higashi Chayagai district” and the contemporary art museum are tops on our list, along with a stop at Omi-cho Market for some of the world’s greatest sushi.

22. Kyoto, Japan

Once Japan’s imperial capital, Kyoto is one of the few places in the country that was spared from heavy bombing during World War II. As a result, visitors can enjoy traditional architecture and historic castles and palaces that simply don’t exist anywhere else.

23. The Maasai Mara, Kenya 

Dedicated to the conservation of African wildlife, the world-renowned Mara Conservancy is a sight to behold. Get a peek of resident lion prides, black rhinos, wildebeests and elephants; you can even go on a game drive in the Mara Triangle.

24. Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia

Make friends with the local wildlife — white-breasted kingfishers and humpback dolphins call this island home — then hike through the jungle, which is relatively untouched.

25. Valletta, Malta 

To ring in its 450th birthday last year, the old Mediterranean city gave itself a new gate, a restored open-air opera house and a new parliament building, all designed by Renzo Piano, one of the world’s most sought-after architects.

26. Assateague Island, Maryland & Virginia

Camp out on the beach in the company of the wild horses that call this island home. Assateague is an affordable way to spend a few days sprawled out on the sand and is a short drive away from Ocean City, Maryland.

27. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 

There’s never a bad time to visit, and you can’t beat the currency conversion. El Arco, a natural arch rock formation that sits where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, is not to be missed.

28. Tulum, Mexico 

The stylish beach destination may have lost some of its bohemian allure, but foodies can still count on Tulum to deliver Grade-A bars, eclectic eats and cute coffee shops.

29. Marrakech, Morocco

Winding alleys teeming with handicrafts and exotic cuisine are just two of the reasons Marrakech should be on your to-do list. The majestic 14th-century Ali ben Youssef Quranic school, once the largest Islamic study center in North Africa, is worth the visit alone.

30. Kathmandu, Nepal 

Get high — really high — in the Himalayas, where the snow-shrouded treks are worth every hard moment.

31. Amsterdam

The city’s edges bristle with the creative energy of young artists, and locals and visitors alike enjoy the soothing view from Nieuw Amsterdam. Visit Amsterdam proper if you want, but we’d prefer to avoid the tourists and order oysters at Café Modern instead.

32. Waitomo Caves, New Zealand 

Carved by underground streams over thousands of years, these amazing caves are festooned with zillions of glow worms and some of the most spectacular rock formations you’ll ever see. Book a walking or boat tour to see it up close, and save up your energy for a guided horse trek above ground.

33. Pangalusian Island, Philippines

Take a sunset cruise or go for a night dive — anything you do on the water in this remote island in the Palawan archipelago is bound to be magical.

34. Lisbon, Portugal

Hipster hangouts, boutique hotels and breezy strolls along the Tejo River make the once-sleepy capital worth considering.

35. San Juan, Puerto Rico

On the undeveloped island of Vieque, you’ll find a mysterious bay that glows in the dark. Need we say more?

36. Moscow, Russia

Mother Russia is undergoing a food revolution, complete with inventive takes on Soviet food, folklore-infused dishes and frosty glasses of vodka. A late dinner at White Rabbit restaurant, where star chef Vladimir Mukhin made his name, is a must.

37. Glasgow, Scotland

The largest city in Scotland (and home to ’90s chamber-pop darlings Belle and Sebastian) feels suddenly chic thanks to a group young alums from the Glasgow School of Art who’ve peppered the city with stylish shops.

38. Pamplona, Spain

The capital of the Navarre region, in the northeast corner of Spain, inspired great affection in Ernest Hemingway, who visited Pamplona on nine occasions. Many of his favorite bars remain open, thanks to his novel “The Sun Also Rises,” which captured the spirit of one Spanish summer in the 1920s.

39. Trunk Bay, St. John 

Who cares if the beach is crowded? This little corner of paradise, in the United States Virgin Islands, is lovely enough to make a postcard look like it was Photoshopped.

40. The Ice Hotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

Sleeping on reindeer pelts in a hotel designed entirely of ice isn’t for everyone, but if you’re among the adventurous, it’s an amazing experience. You might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights if the atmospheric conditions are right. (Pro tip: Skip the dog sled from the airport to the hotel and just take a car.)

41. Ticino, Switzerland

Home to medieval castles, world-class art exhibits and an array of options for hiking, the Italian-speaking canton is la dolce vita with an Alpine backdrop. Leap from the Ponte dei Salti into the glittering waters below, then make like the locals and devour a block of lasagna.

42. Istanbul

A little bit of Asia, a little bit of Europe and a rich, complicated history make Istanbul a fascinating place to visit. The imposing Haghia Sophia is an obvious stop, as are the ferries shuttling up and down the Bosphorus. Just try not to eat too much baklava.

43. Ko Phra Thong, Thailand 

One of Thailand’s many attractions off the touristy beaten path, this largely deserted island features eco-friendly resorts and bungalows nestled in verdant gardens.

44. Udon Thani, Thailand 

The northeast Thailand city is an industrial hub, but the Red Lotus Sea, a shallow lake dotted with thousands of red lotus flowers, will take your breath away with its beauty. Schedule a small boat tour to view it up close.

45. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 

One of the most iconic places of worship, perhaps in the world, can be found here: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The final resting place of the man who conceived it, the first president of the UAE, the impressive mosque is one of the few in the region that is open to non-Muslims.

46. Park City, Utah

With the merger of Park City Mountain Resort and nearby Canyons Resort, ski buffs can get a pass good at both resorts and go wild on the slopes without paying extra. According to The New York Times, last summer Vail spent a whopping $50 million to seal the deal and pay for an eight-person gondola to connect the resorts.

47. Dalat, Vietnam

White-water rafting, mountain biking and golf are just a few of the outdoor activities that set Dalat apart.

48. Seattle

Come for local beer at every bar and some of the best coffee shops around — seriously, don’t even bother with Starbucks. Seattle has tourist attractions like Pike’s Place Market and the Space Needle, but if you’re wondering where the locals disappear to each weekend, head for the mountains, where you’ll find them hiking and climbing.

49. Washington, D.C.

With the recent opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, downtown D.C. is looking a lot more dynamic these days. A sprawling development called CityCenterDC adds to the appeal with apartments, condos, shops and restaurants, including Momofuku CCDC, the first U.S. location for the brand outside of New York.

50. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

After snapping a selfie with Old Faithful, see if you can spot any wild bears or bison. Be sure to visit the most photographed thermal feature of all, Grand Prismatic Spring.

Trying to save up for the trip of a lifetime? Here are 50 things to stop wasting your money on now

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The College Grad’s Guide to Backpacking in Europe

So you've decided to backpack through Europe now that you're all done with college. But are you versed in the ways of European travel?

So you’ve decided to backpack through Europe now that you’re done with college. But are you versed in the ways of European trains? Or know how to find the best hostels? Unless you’ve done it before, you’re going to need a little guidance. It’s a lot to navigate, but never fear. We’re here for you with our ultimate guide to backpacking around Europe, particularly on a graduate’s budget.

Before You Go 

Arrange Your Cell Plan

Should you ditch your phone or bring it along? Give your provider a call to find out if they offer any affordable international plans, and if not, consider doing away with the service while you’re abroad. You can always opt for prepaid calling cards, which can be purchased at most supermarkets.

Apply or Renew Your Passport 

Apply early for a new passport or renew your old one. According to the U.S. Department of State, your passport should be valid for at least six months after you return home and have at least two blank pages, otherwise certain countries may deny entry.

Call Your Bank & Credit Card Issuers

To prevent your debit and credit cards from being frozen while you’re abroad — something issuers do as a security measure if they suspect foul play — give them a call to let them know your plans. Be sure to store their contact information in a safe place in case your cards are lost or stolen. (Here’s what to do if you lose your credit card.)

Consider Opening a Travel Rewards Card 

Travel rewards cards can be a boon to frequent travelers, especially those overseas. You’ll save on foreign transaction fees and earn miles or points for purchases like rail passes, hostels and flights. Just remember to swipe wisely so you don’t lose your rewards to high interest or debt. Here are our picks for the best travel cards of 2017.

Do Your Homework

Always read up on the countries you’re visiting. Find out about visa requirements, local laws, customs and medical care. Likewise, stay informed of travel warnings or alerts for your destination. The website of the U.S. embassy or consulate is helpful, as are the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. The latter can help you determine if you need to get vaccinations and take other health precautions before your trip.

Leave Valuables at Home

Most European countries are safe, but it pays to use common sense. In certain big cities, pickpockets are rampant, and petty criminals won’t hesitate to take advantage of ignorant travelers. To that end, leave anything you care about at home.

Draft a Budget 

The key to backpacking through Europe is doing it cheaply, and for that, you’ll need a budget. Some travelers prefer to set daily spending limits, while others set aside a lump sum they monitor closely. Think ahead to determine what might work for you, and consider downloading an app to help with the process. Expense trackers like Trail Wallet (available on the App Store), can take the guesswork out of jotting down daily purchases.

Download a Currency Converter App

A currency converter that works offline will prove indispensable when making purchases. It’ll also help you stay on budget. XE Currency offers free versions of its Apple and Google apps with live proprietary exchange rates.

Get Insured

Wherever you’re traveling in Europe, be sure you have health insurance. If your U.S. health care plan won’t cover you overseas, you may want to buy supplemental insurance. As the U.S. Department of State notes, foreign hospitals often require cash payments, and emergency medical evacuation can cost $100,000.

Make Photocopies of Travel Documents

The U.S. Department of State recommends making two photocopies of all your travel documents in case of emergency. It’s best to leave one with a trusted friend or relative and keep the other on hand as backup.

Pack Light

Why pay for baggage fees, especially if you’ll buy souvenirs along the way? Also keep in mind you’ll be moving around a lot, so don’t add to your load.

Plan in Advance

As a veteran backpacker who made her way from “The Land of Moutarde” (Dijon) to the South of France, I can’t recommend this enough. Book tickets for things like Vatican City well in advance so you spend less time stressing and more time enjoying the trip.

Purchase a Guidebook

Yes, it’s cliché, but travel guidebooks are useful for their maps, recommendations and general know-how. For those who can’t remember whether to tip 10% or 15%, your guidebook has got you.

Share Your Itinerary

Your plan may be to have no plan at all, but friends and relatives should have some idea where you are. Give them a sense of your plans in case of emergency.

Getting Around

Avoid Tourist Scams …

Nothing ruins a trip faster than getting scammed. To avoid pickpocketers, be wary of crowds that attract lots of tourists and always keep an eye on your bag or purse. Don’t set something on the ground and forget about it — that’s a recipe for the old snatch and run. It’s also a good idea to lock your zippers and keep your wallet in your front pocket (never the back, which pickpocketers love).

… And Money Scams 

Some restaurants have two menus, one with normal prices and another that charges more. Other restaurants won’t advertise prices at all, and in both cases you should go elsewhere. This rule applies to those who offer to change money on the street or taxi drivers who make unsolicited recommendations (where they may get commission for luring a victim).

Always Pay With Cash or Credit

From ATM skimmers to illegally cloned cards, Europe is a hotbed of high-tech identity theft. Credit fraud is easier to contest (and credit provides more protections) while cash can easily be replaced. Here are some other ways to make yourself less vulnerable to fraud.

Befriend the Locals

Be selective, of course, but don’t hesitate to chat up locals. Chances are they’ll know the best sights to see and be able to provide a better sense of an attraction than any book could.

Consider a Rail Pass 

If you plan to visit a cluster of countries or stay somewhere particular, a rail pass, which offers reduced or free fares on certain transportation services like trains, can be a worthy investment. Be sure to research your options, as you don’t want to risk overpaying for a pass you don’t use.

Keep a Journal 

This will help you keep track of all sorts of info, from addresses to directions and phone numbers.

Stay in Hostels 

Not only are they are great for meeting like-minded backpackers, they cost next to nothing and are often where you want to be. Matthew Ma, co-founder of the travel deals site, The Flight Deal, recommends checking sites like hostelworld.com — “Think of them as the Kayak for hostels,” he says — and Booking.com.

Take Lots of Photos

Stonehenge! The Louvre! The Alps! The wine! Document everything, and relish the moments. Just be careful of where you post it online; identity thieves love nothing more than knowing your whereabouts. (Think you’ve been the victim of identity theft? You can check for signs by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

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7 Ways to Save on Travel With Kids

If vacationing with your kids is something you’d like to do in the near future, here's how to trim the price tag.

Traveling with kids is stressful enough without tacking on the worry of spending a fortune for fun in the sun (or on the slopes, or wherever you’d like to take your kids). If vacationing with your kids is something you’d like to do in the near future, here are seven things you can do to cut the price tag.

1. Travel as Much as Possible Before Your Kids Turn 2

I didn’t know this before I had a kid myself, but if your child is under the age of two and you’re willing to hold them in your lap for the duration of your flight (known as a “lap child”), they’ll fly for free within the U.S., Canada, Mexico and most of the Caribbean.

If you’ll be flying internationally, be sure to check the airline’s policy, although most allow lap infants to fly for free if they’re under two (one per adult). Be sure to show proof of your child’s age at check-in — their shot record or a copy of birth certificate will do — or you may have to pay for a seat.

2. Call the Airline to Ask About Discounts

If you’ll be flying internationally or your kid is over two — or even if they’re not, but you’d prefer to not hold them in your lap — it’s worth calling the airline to ask if they offer any discounts on kids’ tickets. For example, Southwest only offers Infant fares through a Southwest Customer Representative.

3. Research Ahead of Time

A little research can go a long way when you’re traveling with kids. If you purchase tickets for museum visits, theme parks or other attractions online, you can often do a quick online search to find promo and discount codes to use at checkout.

For example, purchasing a Disney World one-day ticket online will cost you $59, as opposed to $117 at the gate. That’s a big savings. Be sure to research what attractions will be free no matter what. For example, MoMA admission is free for kids 16 and under, and the Denver Art Museum is free to kids 18 and under every day. (Is Disney World your destination? Check out these suggestions on how you can visit Disney World for free — or close to free, anyway.)

4. Skip the Car Rental

Depending on your kids’ ages and how much you plan to bring, skipping the rental car might not always be feasible or helpful. But if you can take public transportation, you’re bound to save a ton of money. Besides, riding the New York City subway or the cable car in San Francisco will be an adventurous activity in and of itself.

5. See What You Can Borrow From the Hotel

Packing is another area where you can save some cash, especially if you’ll be flying. While some of your baby goods, like strollers and car seats, can be checked for free, if you need to pack multiple bags, you’ll likely pay dearly in baggage fees. Instead, call your hotel or apartment rental and find out if there’s a Pack and Play you can use and if there’s laundry on site. If there is and it’s not a fortune, it might be worth packing less.

6. Ask About Special Discounts

It’s always a good idea to look online or call your hotel to ask about discounts. For example, military personnel, teachers, seniors and large groups often get discount options.

7. Pack a Great Rewards Card

If your rewards card isn’t giving you tons of cash back or travel points, it might be time to find a new one. (Be sure to check your credit before you apply to see if you’ll qualify. You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

My husband and I just signed up for a new travel rewards credit card that offers a sizable bonus after spending a given amount in the first few months and we know it will be easy to hit that, as we’re remodeling our basement. And the bonus is enough to pay for vacation flights, especially because our toddler flies free. California, here we come!

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8 Hotels Worth Visiting Just for the Food

We've rounded up eight hotel restaurants worth visiting just for a meal.

Most people think of hotel food as something to endure, not enjoy. At some places, it’s as bad as you’d find at a hospital. But when it comes to knockout ambience, killer cuisine and a world-class experience, some luxury hotels bring their A game. Here, we’ve rounded up eight worth visiting just for a meal, based on cursory research and recommendations.

1. Wit & Wisdom at Four Seasons Hotel, Baltimore

Michael Mina’s award-winning tavern is as American as you can get, with seafood thrown in for good measure. New Englanders will feel right at home with their lobster pot pie and grilled chicken breast, while adventurous types will spring for the beef tartare toast and uni hashbrowns with black caviar.

2. The J. Parker at Hotel Lincoln, Chicago

You’d have to visit the Willis Tower for a view that beats the J. Parker’s. Located on the 13th floor of the Hotel Lincoln, the restaurant serves up the usual suspects: crab cakes, grilled cheese sandwiches and spinach garlic dip. We advise ordering cocktails, preferably the one called Dangerous When Rested.

3. Huang Ting Restaurant at the Peninsula, Beijing

Luckily for travelers, the food at Huang Ting is as good as its ambience — and judging by the photos, the ambience is stunning. Designed to recreate a Beijing nobleman’s courtyard home, the restaurant serves Cantonese food with a contemporary twist. The equally elegant tea lounge is adorned with Ming Dynasty-era tables and parasols.

4. Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara, Dubai 

The waterfront patio isn’t the only attraction at Nathan Outlaw — the seafood restaurant features a floor-to-ceiling aquarium. Also attractive: the lobster risotto, lightly pickled oysters and Dover sole terrine.

5. The Restaurant at Meadowood, Napa Valley

The $500 tasting menu may be outrageously pricey, but few would turn down the chance to sample one of star chef Christopher Kostow’s warm strawberries infused with anchovy or buttery oysters layered with sturgeon caviar. The drinking selection, which features mostly locally grown vino, is worth writing home about.

6. Borgne at the Hyatt Regency, New Orleans

Chefs John Besh and Brian Landry have made Borgne into a destination for lovers of classic New Orleans cuisine, which may explain why it was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in 2013. Thursday’s special, fried chicken with homemade pepper jelly, may be worth skipping lunch for.

7. NoMad Restaurant, NoMad Hotel, New York

If imbibing an absinthe martini in the library doesn’t entice you, perhaps entrees like the signature roasted chicken will. Not convinced a trip to NoMad is worth it? The wine list is almost as tempting as The Restaurant at Meadowood’s, and the extensive selection of cocktails features something called the Drunk Monk.

8. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris

Jaw-dropping decor? Check. Wines as old as 55 years? Check. The subject of a film (“Naturalité”) because the shojin cuisine is so memorable? Check and check. Basically, the restaurant is everything one could hope for from the godfather of French cuisine.

Save on Your Next Trip 

Whether you’re planning to try the Drunk Monk or splurge on the tasting menu at The Restaurant at Meadowood, it never hurts to make a plan to save on your travels. Rewards cards can help you do that and rack up some freebies while you’re at it. Be sure to check out our roundups of the best airline miles cards and cards with no foreign transaction fees.

And remember, before you apply for any credit card, we recommend checking your credit to see if you’re likely to qualify. You can do that here on Credit.com, where you’ll get two of your free credit scores with updates every two weeks.

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Here’s Why Flights to Europe Are Looking Cheaper These Days

cheap-europe-flights-from-usa

It’s not every day you spot a $439 fare from Newark to Amsterdam on United Airlines. Then again, it’s not every day that flights to Helsinki, Finland, from Seattle are priced at $523 on American Airlines, either. Are these hidden gems or are European airfares looking cheaper these days?

Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare, an online search engine for flights and hotels, says it’s not our imagination. In fact, a number of factors are driving down airfare, and the trend will likely continue. Here’s why.

Oil Prices Are Dropping 

With the price of barrels of oil taking a nosedive, Seaney said, gasoline prices have dropped and so, too, have airfares. For a long time, he said, carriers baked fuel surcharges into the price of airfare, along with taxes, before they started charging for the fare itself. But now that oil producers have lowered their prices due to a range of factors including instability in oil-producing countries like Venezuela and the U.S. nearly doubling its domestic production, the base airfare price has gotten much cheaper.

The Dollar Is Strong 

The U.S. dollar is quite strong, Matthew Ma, co-founder of the airfare deals site The Flight Deal, said, and as a result, that’s made it costlier for Europeans to come to the U.S. Carriers need to fill those seats somehow, so we’re seeing more affordable prices as a result, he said. “Fares to Europe are even cheaper than to the U.S.”

Travelers Have Terrorism Jitters 

Unfortunately, this year’s deadly terror attacks in Europe put Americans on high alert, making many of them wary of visiting cities like Belgium, Paris and Tunisia. This has led to a remarkable shift in travel patterns, with Paris losing as many as half a million to a million visitors this year, Ma said. Speaking of Paris, Seaney said airfares from the U.S. to the City of Lights have noticeably dropped over the past three months.

New Carriers Are Serving the U.S. 

With foreign carriers like Norwegian Air and WOW Air increasing their U.S. presence, travelers have even more options for flying to Europe cheaply, both sources said. Last month, Norwegian Air announced new routes to Barcelona and Copenhagen while the Iceland-based airline WOW said it will begin operating flights from Miami International Airport to several destinations in April next year. “That has a tremendous affect on pricing,” said Seaney. “If you looked at before Norwegian came to the U.S., fares to Scandinavia were pretty expensive. Now it’s not that hard to find nonstop deals.”

It’s Off-Season 

Simply put, fall and winter aren’t traditionally popular times to take trips to Europe, due to the weather, Ma said. “June, July and a little bit [of] early August” are typically the times when families decide to make the trek across the pond. So it’s no surprise we’re seeing cheaper airfares right now.

More Ways to Save on Flights 

Scoring a cheap flight is a great way to save money, especially when you’re on a budget. But there are others ways to cut down the cost of airfare, especially with travel rewards credit cards. These helpful pieces of plastic can grant you free baggage and upgrades and more, not to mention airline miles that can then be redeemed for airfare. Just remember, your credit needs to be solid before you apply, as lenders like to see applicants who can manage their credit responsibly. If you’re not sure where you stand and want to find out, you can do so by viewing a free summary of your credit report on Credit.com.

Image: adisa

The post Here’s Why Flights to Europe Are Looking Cheaper These Days appeared first on Credit.com.

13 Travel Essentials That Could Save Your Vacation

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Getting ready for a big vacation this summer? Before you go, read through this cheat sheet to create a list of travel essentials you absolutely don’t want to leave home without.

1. A Travel Credit Card

Even if you’re not habitually a credit card spender, it can be a good idea to take one with you on your travels. They’re a great backup in an emergency situation — although it’s probably more ideal to have an emergency fund to tap into instead so that you avoid going into debt. As long as you have some form of money with you, you don’t have to worry about losing everything else in your bags. Plus, using a travel rewards card to book your flight can net you better rewards for next year’s vacation and often some form of travel insurance or protection. (You can check out a roundup of the best credit cards for travel here.)

2. Essential Personal Documents (& Copies!)

Before you leave, be sure you have your passport (if you’re traveling internationally), driver’s license, itinerary, printed hotel reservations, airline reservations, contact numbers, and copies of any prescriptions for medications you might need. It’s best to carry original documents on your person. (If you’re worried about someone getting ahold of those papers, you can read these tips for preventing identity theft here.)

3. A Small Outlet Strip

Trying to charge your cell phone or iPad at an airport can be a challenge, especially if you need to charge more than one. Pack a small travel power strip, and you’ll be able to use a single airport outlet to charge multiple devices.

4. Basic Toiletries

Travel “essentials” in this area vary from person to person. But try to pack a travel-sized version of everything you use on a regular basis, from shampoo to lotion to makeup, in a well-organized bag in your checked baggage. It’s also a good idea to pack tiny versions of absolute essentials like contact solution, toothpaste and deodorant in your carry-on, just in case your checked bag is delayed for any reason.

5. Medications

If you’re on any medications daily or intermittently, be sure to take them with you. Just be sure they’re packed in their original prescription bottles in your carry-on. And be sure you’ve got more than you’ll need, especially for medications you absolutely need on a daily basis. If you’ll be within a day or two of running out of your supply by the end of your trip, contact your doctor or pharmacist to see if you can obtain an early or partial refill so that you have more than you need in case of delays.

6. Entertainment for the Flight

Don’t bust your budget by spending $25 on a paperback novel at the airport’s news stand. Instead, pack your own in-flight entertainment. Flights are a great time to catch up on books and magazines you’ve been meaning to read. Or you can pre-download your favorite movie onto your tablet.

7. Headphones

Even if you don’t think you’ll watch a movie on your flight, pack a pair of headphones anyway. They come in handy if you have a snoring seatmate, or if you just need some white noise to take a nap yourself on an international flight.

8. Extra Glasses or Contact Lenses

If you must have glasses or contacts to see properly, don’t just bring a single pair. That’s a recipe for disaster.! You risk missing the sights on vacation if your glasses break or you lose a contact.

9. Batteries & Chargers

These days, you’ll mostly travel with chargers for your electronics. But don’t forget extra batteries if you have a camera that takes regular AA or AAA batteries. If you’re traveling internationally, invest in a charger that will work in your destination country, or purchase one when you get to that country.

10. A First-Aid Kit

Hotels are great for providing a lot of things, but they don’t always offer bandages and other first-aid items. Pack a small first-aid kit in your bag, and you’ll be prepared for the occasional bump or bruise. In your checked bag, you can even carry some non-prescription medications like painkillers or Benadryl. It’s cheaper to bring your own than to buy them in a tiny two-pack from the hotel gift shop.

11. An Address Book

You should either bring a physical address book or set one up on your phone’s cloud storage before you leave. Sending old-fashioned postcards home is fun while you’re on vacation. But you won’t be able to do it if you don’t have your friends’ and family members’ addresses.

12. An Old-Fashioned Map

At home, you likely rely on your phone’s GPS to get you around to new areas of town. But you never know what reception will be like in an unfamiliar area. Play it safe, and pick up a local map of the area where you’re traveling. If you’re planning to use public transportation, be sure those options are covered, too.

13. Carry-On Clothes

Finally, even if you’re leaving on a multi-week European vacation with two huge checked bags, always pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on. You just never know when you’ll be delayed at the airport, or if your luggage won’t arrive until the day after you get to your destination. It’s much better to be safe than sorry by having an extra set of clean clothes with you all the time.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: seb_ra

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How We’re Hacking Our Summer Travel

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We climbed out of $51,000 in credit card debt. We credit this achievement to one thing — discovering our why. (We learned from incomparable motivational speaker John Rohn that anything is achievable as long as we first know “why” we want to achieve it. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get this memo until well after we paid off our credit card debt, but it’s still a great quote to fall back on.)

One of Our ‘Whys’ – Travel

We can’t travel enough. Travel expands our world and gives us with new experiences. We’ve traveled at length both nationally and internationally. Two years ago, to focus on growing the Debt Free Guys, we made the decision to limit ourselves to domestic travel only, mostly to visit family and for work. We can’t not visit mom for three years!

Our three-year international travel hiatus is almost up. That said, we’ve planned, documented and are financially preparing for our 2016 contiguous-48 travel. This year’s travel theme is “family milestones” — a 50th wedding anniversary and a 100th birthday.

First, we’re taking a much-needed vacation in May. This go-round, we’re visiting both Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Calif. As much as we’ve traveled California, John’s never been to LA and neither of us have been to Palm Springs. We both love the mid-century modern architecture and are excited about the latter leg of this trip.

Making Our Travel Cheaper

In June, we’re flying to Dickinson, N.D., to celebrate David’s grandmother’s 100th birthday! We visit Dickinson annually and it’s a nice change of pace from our normal and David’s grandmother has a lot to teach us about life and even money. She’s wise and sharp as a tack.

John hopes to someday beat David’s grandmother in pinochle, which he has yet to do. Despite being 100 years old, she can still count cards. For her 101st birthday, we may take her to Vegas.

When we visit David’s grandmother, our strategy for keeping costs down typically is staying with her. This visit will be different. David’s grandmother has nine children and countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Hers will be a full house (no pun intended — that’s a different game).

DFG Summar TravelTo avoid stress, contain costs and maximize our rewards, we’re using our hotel points in Dickinson rather than in bigger cities where hotel points won’t go as far. We can stay at a hotel in Dickinson for half the number of hotel points it costs to stay in Philadelphia. Such is the economics of supply and demand.

When we stay at hotels, we’re prone to use room service to satiate midnight hunger. Several years ago we learned to avoid the excessive room service costs with delivery from nearby restaurants. The same food costs half as much, even with a hefty tip. We search online for restaurants within one mile of our hotel.

In July, we’re flying to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to first visit John’s friends in the City of Brotherly Love, after which we’ll drive to Hershey, Penn., otherwise known as Chocolate Town USA, to visit John’s family. This trip is to celebrate John’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.

The round-trip flight will be sponsored by airline miles acquired from travel hacking. We’ve mastered the art of using our credit cards and paying them off each month, so we don’t pay credit card interest. (High credit card balances can also hurt your credit score. You can see how your credit card balances are impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) Paying our balances off in full has helped us accrue points and travel cheaply on our numerous trips. (You can see what some of the best travel credit cards in America offer here.)

Finally, in September, we’re flying to San Diego, Calif., for a personal finance conference. Since the trip is part of our work as the Debt Free Guys, we’ll be sure to deduct our flight as a travel expense when it comes time to do our taxes next year. And we’ll be sure to enjoy the city during our stay.

So, to recap, here are our Debt Free Guys’ travel saving tips.

  1. Use hotel points in smaller cities to stretch hotel points further.
  2. Use restaurant delivery rather than room service.
  3. Use credit cards to acquire airline miles, not credit card debt.
  4. Get a tax deduction on business travel expenses each year.

Try using some of our strategies for planning your summer travel. Every bit of savings helps and, for us, goes towards our investments for maximum return.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: BeylaBalla; Inset Image Courtesy of David Auten and John Schneider

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