Best Travel Credit Cards

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Looking over the sheer number of travel credit cards available is enough to overwhelm anyone. With so many cards offering points, miles or cash back, what should you look for in a new travel rewards credit card?

While having options is a good thing, trying to decide on the best travel rewards credit cards available can give you a difficult decision. When considering a new card, there are four factors you should consider before you hit the “apply now” button:

  • No foreign transaction feesWhile up to 3% in foreign transaction fees may not sound like much, it can add over a quarter to every $10 you spend abroad. The best travel credit cards may not have foreign transaction fees.
  • Good rewards for spendingFor every dollar you spend, you should earn rewards you can apply directly to your next trip: either flights, hotel rooms or other experiences.
  • Sign-up bonusesMost cards offer a sign-up bonus after a required minimum spend to encourage people to apply for their card. The sign-up bonus should offer a substantial award that justifies the spending.
  • Annual feeAlthough most cards come with an annual fee, the points or cash back you could earn should outweigh the cost.

Instead of getting lost looking for the perfect travel rewards card, start with this guide. We found the best travel cards for every lifestyle, each of which offer you some of the best rewards now and over time. If you want good travel rewards for the money you spend, consider adding these credit cards to your wallet.

Best premium travel cards

Premium travel cards come with the highest annual fees but also offer the highest level of rewards. From flexible points that can be transferred to travel partners, to elite hotel and lounge offers, your annual fee can be recovered through the luxury benefits on these cards. If you travel frequently and want to get the best experiences, these are the cards you’ll want.

Chase Sapphire ReserveSM

Why we like it: Because you automatically receive up to $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year, the Chase Sapphire ReserveSM offers solid rewards for what effectively turns into a $150 annual fee ($450 annual fee minus up to $300 in statement credits for travel purchases). Cardholders also receive up to a $100 application fee credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. In addition, you will earn three Ultimate Rewards® points per dollar spent on travel and dining worldwide, and one point per dollar spent everywhere else. If you make this your primary card, you could earn rewards which value more than the annual fee every year.

Fees and terms: The Chase Sapphire ReserveSM card comes with a $450 annual fee, with an additional $75 for each authorized user per year. Your APR would range from 16.99% to 23.99% variable, based on your creditworthiness.

Rewards program: Purchases earn points in Chase Ultimate Rewards®, a flexible point program that can be used for travel rewards. One point has a value of 1 cent, but when redeeming for travel through the Chase travel portal, points have a fixed value of 1.5 cents. You can get an even greater value by transferring points to one of Ultimate Rewards® nine airline partners or four hotel partners.

Pros:

  • Flexible points that offer good valueChase Ultimate Rewards® are among the most flexible in the travel space, with nine airline and four hotel rewards transfer partners – giving you many different ways to use your points. You can also use points through the Chase travel portal at a fixed rate of 1.5 cents each towards airfare and hotels of your choice.
  • Exceptional rewards for travel and diningOf all the premium credit cards, the Chase Sapphire ReserveSM offers the most points per dollar spent for both travel and dining. If you primarily use this card when you travel, you would earn unlimited triple points on most of your big expenses.
  • Great travel insurance optionsIn addition to points earning opportunities and flexible points, this card also offers one of the best travel insurance plans available. When you use your card or Ultimate Rewards® points to pay for your trip, you are automatically covered with baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, emergency evacuation insurance and roadside assistance.

Cons:

  • $450 annual feeOne of the biggest cons of this card is the $450 annual fee, due immediately in the first year. Even though $300 can be recovered from the annual travel credit, you still pay the $450 out of pocket. If you do not travel often, this card may not be right for you.
  • Limited travel lounge accessFor the high price tag, this card only offers lounge benefits through Priority Pass, a network of lounges around the world. It does not allow entry into any carrier’s lounges and comes with some surprising rules, including limited accommodation during busy times.
  • No elite status with travel partnersUnlike its nearest competitor, the Chase Sapphire ReserveSM does not come with any elite status with partner brands. If you get accepted for this card, don’t expect to get to the front of the line at any hotels or car rental locations.

Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire ReserveSM

 Chase Sapphire Reserve<sup>SM</sup>

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

Why we like it: Considered one of the oldest and most prestigious awards cards, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers the most elite status, luxury experiences and credits for your spending. When you book trips directly with airlines or American Express Travel, you can also earn five Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent, allowing your rewards to rack up quickly. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. If you value luxury experiences and airline lounge access, this card could be a better choice.

Terms and fees
Because The Platinum Card® from American Express is a charge card, there is no APR on balances — you will be required to pay off the entire balance every month. The annual membership fee is $550, while the annual fee for additional cards is $175 for up to three additional cards. The annual fee for the fourth or more additional cards is $175 for each card.

Rewards program: Your purchases will earn Membership Rewards® points, which can be used with American Express or transferred to their travel partners. When using Membership Rewards® points at American Express Travel, your points are valued at 1 cent each, so your best use of points is through transferring to their airline or hotel partners. Points transfer to 16 airlines and three hotels, offering the most choices for award travel.

Pros:

  • Best lounge access programsThe Platinum Card® from American Express offers you the most ways to get into lounges when you travel around the world. In addition to Priority Pass, you can also enter Centurion Lounges and the International American Express lounges on arrival or departure at select airports, as well as Delta Sky Clubs when you are flying on Delta.
  • Elite status for holding the cardThe Platinum Card® from American Express also comes with elite status at three car rental and two hotel loyalty programs: Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, National Car Emerald Club, Hilton Honors Gold Elite and Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status.
  • Credits for Boingo Wi-Fi, Global Entry, Shoprunner and UberEven with the high annual fee, this premium card also comes with several credits and free services for frequent travelers. Cardholders get free Boingo Preferred Plan membership, free Shoprunner two-day delivery, along with monthly credits for Uber rides and one Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee waiver every five years.

Cons:

  • Highest annual feesWhile the card may offer the most status and immediate benefits, it also comes with the highest fee. At $550 for the annual fee, you will be pay for all your benefits in the first month, before you can get any value from them.
  • Only one bonus categoryAnother major downside of this card is that there is only one bonus category: five points per dollar spent directly with airlines or travel booked through Amex Travel. If you do not spend much on prepaid hotel reservations or airfare, you can’t maximize this bonus category effectively.
  • Limited airline fee creditFor years, The Platinum Card® from American Express was the only card to offer an airline fee credit. Today, it is one of the most limited: $200 only usable towards airline fees, available for only one airline you choose at the beginning of the year.
The Platinum Card® from American Express

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on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

Best travel cards for simple rewards

While earning points and miles can be rewarding, some of the best programs are simple and straightforward. When we looked for the best simple rewards credit cards, we looked for those that not only offered cash back, but also bonuses for spending and redeeming, along with a low annual fee. After considering all our options, these are the best travel rewards cards for simple rewards.

Best cashback travel rewards card

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Why we like it: If you don’t want to chase rotating categories or juggle which card is best for whatever spending you do, The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
offers simple travel rewards. You will earn two miles per dollar spent on all purchases, with full chip and PIN capability outside the United States. Choose the flights, hotels and rental cars that work for you and pay for the charges to your card by redeeming miles. And when you redeem, you automatically get 5% back to use toward your next redemption.

Fees and terms
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® comes with an $89 annual fee, waived in the first year. Your variable APR for purchases will be 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.

Rewards program
Instead of earning traditional airline miles, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® earns miles that can be applied as cash back to your travel expenses. Qualifying travel purchases include those made at airlines, hotels, campgrounds, car rental companies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites and more. Miles are worth one cent each.

Pros:

  • Easy to use rewardsThe Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® has one of the most easy-to-understand rewards programs available, with every point counting for one cent each. Instead of trying to figure out how many points you need for a flight, your available cash balance is always available and easy to understand.
  • 5% miles back every time you redeemThe best part about using miles on this card is that you’ll always get 5% back. For example: if you were to redeem 50,000 points for a $500 airline ticket, you would get 2,500 points back (worth $25).
  • Partial payment with miles allowedWhile some programs force you to either pay for your entire award with miles (or purchase more miles to cover your award), this card allows you to use your miles to pay off a portion of your travel expenses. How many miles you want to use is up to you.

Cons:

  • Annual fee for a cashback cardThe card is rather expensive for earning two miles per dollar toward travel. If you don’t travel abroad often, there are other cards that offer the same cash back with no annual fee.
  • High redemption thresholds and miles won’t transfer to other programsIf you would rather travel in first class using airline loyalty program miles, you will be out of luck with this card. While most rewards programs offer transfers after 1,000 points and cash-equivalent rewards at 2,500 points, you have to have at least 10,000 miles to use them for a $100 reward. Furthermore, miles can only be used to pay for travel expenses on the card, and can’t be transferred to other airline partners.
  • Poor value for everything not travel relatedWhile the earning two miles per dollar on all purchases is good when redeeming for travel, you shouldn’t use them to get gift cards or cash back. When using your miles for those options, you will lose 50% of your value in translation.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard<sup>®</sup>

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Best travel card for millennials

Uber Visa Card

Why we like it: The Uber Visa Card offers high cash back rewards at the places millennials spend the most — all restaurants (including UberEATS), travel, online shopping and streaming services — along with no foreign transaction fees and up to $600 in mobile phone protection with no annual fee. Plus, some of the bonus categories are the biggest in their category: no other credit card offers 4% cash back on all dining purchases. Conditions apply.

Fees and terms
This card has no annual fee, and your APR for purchases would be 15.99%, 21.74% or 24.74%, variable based on your creditworthiness.

Rewards program
The card offers cash back rewards for spending in four different categories:

  • 4% cash back on restaurants, takeout, and bars, including UberEATS
  • 3% cash back on airfare, hotels and vacation home rentals
  • 2% cash back on online purchases including Uber, online shopping, video and music streaming services
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Cash back can be used as statement credits, credits towards Uber rides, redeemed for gift cards or transferred to a bank account with a limit of $500 in transfers per day. Conditions apply.

Pros:

  • Big cash back categoriesOf all the cash back cards we have reviewed, the Uber Visa Card has the biggest rewards for both dining and online purchases. Using this card as your primary option for restaurants and digital shopping could help your rewards add up quickly.
  • Up to $600 in mobile phone protectionWhile many cards offer travel insurance, not many offer cellphone insurance. If you pay your cellphone bill with your Uber Visa Card, you could qualify for $600 in protection for accidental damage or theft. Conditions apply.
  • $50 online subscription service creditWho doesn’t have at least one online subscription service anymore? If you spend at least $5,000 in your cardmembership year, you automatically get a $50 credit for an online subscription you pay with your card.

Cons:

  • Limited transfer optionsWhile the cash back is good, The Uber Visa only has one transfer partner for their points right now: Uber. You can’t turn over your points into any other loyalty program, limiting their overall usage.
  • Limited definition of “online purchases”The Uber Visa Card also comes with a very narrow definition of “online purchase” that qualifies for 2% cash back. If you make an online purchase through a mobile service (like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay) or a third party (like PayPal), it won’t count for bonus rewards.
  • No travel insuranceAlthough you may get up to $600 in mobile phone protection, you won’t get any travel insurance benefits when paying for your next trip with this card. If your flight gets delayed or your luggage gets lost, your card won’t reimburse any of your expenses.

Read our review of the Uber Visa Card

Best travel card with no annual fee

Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card

Why we like it: While the Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card compares closely to other cards with no annual fee, the details make this card a real winner. At the end of your first year, Discover automatically matches all of your earned miles, giving you double the travel purchasing power. The card also comes with strong back-end features, including free Social Security number alerts and FICO score checks.

Fees and terms
If you qualify for the promotion, your introductory purchase APR would be 0% for 14 months. Afterwards, your APR would range between 11.99% to 23.99% variable, based on your creditworthiness. There is no annual fee with this card.

Rewards program
The Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card offers miles that can be used as cash back to pay for travel experiences. When you book trips using the Discover it® Miles card, you can redeem your miles towards statement credits on the trips, with no blackout dates. Your miles never expire as long as your card is active.

Pros:

  • Good credit security tools and customer serviceIn addition to having call centers based in the United States, this card also comes with solid credit security tools. These include free FICO credit scores, Social Security number alerts, Experian® credit report monitoring and the ability to freeze your credit card from the Discover mobile app or website.
  • Wide acceptance in China and JapanIf you travel to Asia often, the Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card may be your best bet for secure spending. Discover is accepted by China’s largest credit card network, UnionPay, and one of Japan’s largest payment processors, JCB.
  • Matched miles in the first yearCurrently, no other company offers matched points or miles for your first cardholding year, effectively doubling your rewards. If you use this as your primary spending card, you could earn a lot of cash back towards travel.

Cons:

  • No transfer partnersAlthough doubled miles in the first cardholding year and unlimited rewards are great, you may not get to fly first class with them. Miles do not transfer to any airline partners – they can only be applied as cash back for travel expenses.
  • No bonus categories for earning milesWhile other Discover cards offer rotating 5% cashback bonus categories quarterly, the Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card offers no bonus categories. This means no matter where you use your card, you will always earn 1.5 points per dollar.
  • Low miles earning after first yearWith no bonus categories, this means you may not earn very many miles after the first year. If you don’t travel to Asia often or don’t want to use your cash back for travel only, you could find more value out of other credit cards.

Best credit union travel card

First Tech FCU Odyssey™ Rewards World Elite MasterCard®

Why we like it: We searched over 50 credit unions with few membership restrictions for the best travel rewards credit cards, and found it at First Tech Federal Credit Union. The Odyssey™ Rewards World Elite MasterCard® offers competitive bonus categories (three Rewards Points for every dollar spent on travel; two Rewards Points for every dollar spent on dining; one Reward Point for every dollar spent on all other purchases), but comes with a lower annual fee and interest rate than its competitors.

Fees and terms
The card comes with a $75 annual fee, which is waived in the first year. Your APR will be between 11.99% and 18.00% variable when you open your account, based on your creditworthiness. There are no international transaction fees, cash advance fees or balance transfer fees.

To apply for the card, you must be a member of First Tech Federal Credit Union, which requires you to work for a sponsor company, live in Lane County, Ore., or become a member of the Financial Fitness Association or the Computer History Museum. A membership share in the credit union is $5 (held in a membership savings account), a membership in the Financial Fitness Association is $8, and a membership to the Computer History Museum is $15.

Rewards program
Points earned with the card go towards the Scorecard Rewards program, which fulfills rewards. Your points can be used towards travel experiences including cruises, hotels, or car rental certificates, merchandise available in their catalog, or can be redeemed for cash back. While your points value may vary for awards, cash back rewards are valued at one cent per point.

Pros:

  • Strong bonus categoriesThe bonus categories offered by the Odyssey™ Rewards World Elite MasterCard® are comparable to other major rewards cards, because it offers three points per dollar spent on travel and two points pers dollar spent on dining. This gives it strong value with better terms for the cardholder.
  • Flexible rewards optionsLike other programs, points earned on the Odyssey™ Rewards card can be used toward several different awards. Airfare, cruises, hotel certificates and car rental certificates are all available when you use your points and miles.
  • Lower annual fee and APR than other cardsCredit unions often offer better terms to cardholders than banks, and this card is no exception. The APR may be lower on balances held on the card, and the annual fee is at least $20 less than other comparable cards.

Cons:

  • Points vary in valueThe two downsides about Odyssey™ Rewards points are that points vary in value, and they can’t be transferred to other airline partners. Because of this, using them for non-travel rewards may value them under one cent per point.
  • Credit union membership requiredWhile the card is a good deal, you must be a member of the credit union to get the card. If you decide to take your money out of the credit union, your card could be canceled as well.
  • Upfront membership feesThis card is subject to membership in the credit union and an associated organization. Before you can apply for this card, you have to pay $13 in fees.

The post Best Travel Credit Cards appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Best Cash Back Sign-On Bonus Credit Cards of December 2017

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Do you normally use your credit card for making every day purchases? Can you manage your money responsibly and pay off your balance in full every month? If so, you should be using a rewards credit card to take advantage of the free cash back and bonuses that are offered.

Many credit card companies are offering cash back rewards and sign-up bonuses these days. You can earn an equivalent of $400 or more just keeping to your regular spending. It’s essentially free money, as long as you use your credit card correctly.

Let’s take a look at how you can be a responsible consumer first, and then we’ll review the credit cards with the best cash back sign-on bonuses.

How to Be Responsible With Your Credit Card

Before we recommend credit cards with the best sign-on bonus, we want to make sure you understand exactly how rewards credit cards should and shouldn’t be used.

You shouldn’t try and take advantage of a rewards credit card by charging anything and everything to it. Yes, you acquire cash back or points based on your purchases, but you’re also acquiring debt if you charge more than you can afford.

You should use a rewards credit card exactly as you would use any other credit card (or your debit card). Only swipe for what you can afford to pay at the end of your billing cycle.

While many of these cards have 0% introductory APRs, after the introductory period is over, you’ll have high APRs (in the 14% – 24% range). If you carry a balance, any cash back you receive will be negated by the interest you’ll have to pay.

Only charge your necessary expenditures and stick to your budget. Don’t look for extra opportunities to pay more just for the sake of getting points.

You want to take advantage of credit card companies – not have it the other way around.

Best Cash Back Sign-On Bonuses

Now that you know how to use rewards cards, let’s review the best options out there.

Uber Visa Card

  • You have to spend $500 on purchases in the first 90 days to receive the $100 bonus.
  • There is no annual fee.
  • Earn 4% back on restaurants, takeout and bars, including UberEATS; 3% back on hotel and airfare, including vacation home rentals; 2% back for online purchases including Uber, online shopping, video and streaming music services; and 1% back for everything else.
  • Earn up to a $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 or more on your card per year.
  • The variable APR is 15.99%, 21.74% or 24.74%.
  • There is no foreign transaction fee.

This card is not only great for its sign-up bonus requiring a low spend, but also for the great 4-3-2-1 rewards program.

Read our full review here >

Uber Visa Card

Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card

  • You have to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months to receive the 20,000 bonus points
  • There’s an annual $45 fee, which is waived for the first year
  • You earn 3x the points at U.S. gas stations, 2x the points at U.S. restaurants, and 1x the points on all other net purchases
  • You can redeem points for travel, merchandise, cash back, gift cards, and more
  • Points can be redeemed for cash by applying them to your qualifying Wells Fargo account or requesting a paper check. Cash redemption options are available by phone and online in increments of $25 only.
  • You can get an additional annual bonus of 10%, 25%, or 50% on non-bonus rewards points if you have a qualifying consumer Wells Fargo Checking or Savings Account
  • There’s an introductory APR of 0% for the first 12 months on balance transfers and purchases, and after that, the variable APR ranges from 14.99% – 22.99%
  • There are no foreign currency conversion fees
  • There’s a late and returned payment fee up to $37
  • Up to $100 off qualifying air + hotel packages at destinations worldwide

This card is a great option if you’re already a customer with Wells Fargo because of the relationship bonus offered.

Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card

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Visa® Signature Elite Card from NEFCU

  • You have to spend $2,000 in the first 3 months for 20,000 points
  • Those 20,000 points are redeemable for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and more. These points are not redeemable for a cash equivalent
  • You earn 1.25 points per $1 spent, which can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, gift cards and more
  • The points to cash option allows members to use points to make a NEFCU Visa Signaure Elite Credit Card payment or a cash deposit to their NEFCU accounts. There is a $25 minimum per conversion.
  • Rates range from 11.99% – 17.99% APR on the Visa® Signature Elite Card
  • No annual fee

This card requires a membership to NEFCU, a credit union located on Long Island, NY. If you live, work, worship, attend school, or regularly conduct business in Nassau or Suffolk County, you’re eligible for membership. If a relative is already a member, he or she can sponsor you.

Visa Signature Elite Card from NEFCU

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Wells Fargo Rewards® Card

  • You have to spend $1,000 in the first 3 months to receive 20,000 bonus points (note this is an online only offer)
  • You can earn 5% cash back for every $1 you spend on groceries, gas, and drugstore net purchases for 6 months on up to $12,500 spent, plus 1% for every $1 spend on all other purchases
  • You can redeem points for travel, merchandise, cash back, gift cards, and more
  • Points can be redeemed for cash by applying them to your qualifying Wells Fargo account or requesting a paper check. Cash redemption options are available by phone and online in increments of $25 only.
  • There’s no annual fee
  • There’s a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months on balance transfers and purchases. The variable APR then ranges from 18.15% – 26.99% based on your creditworthiness
  • There’s a late fee and returned check fee up to $37
  • The foreign exchange currency conversion fee is 3%

This is a good “every day” rewards card to carry with you. You’re automatically enrolled in the Wells Fargo Rewards Program when you get this card.

You need a Wells Fargo account to apply online, though you can also apply at a branch.

Wells Fargo Rewards Visa® card

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Use Cash Back Credit Cards With Caution

As you can see, some of these cards come with annual fees and introductory APRs that are great for the first year. However, some of the benefits might not be good enough to warrant keeping the card once that year is over.

Keep in mind that “credit card churning” – canceling your cards after the first year and applying for a new one – will have an effect on your credit score. It might not be huge, but it’s a good idea to avoid this practice if you’ll be making an important purchase in the near future (like buying a home).

Otherwise, take advantage of credit card companies and save money on travel, gift cards, and more. You should absolutely earn points on your regular purchases by spending with a rewards credit card.

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The post Best Cash Back Sign-On Bonus Credit Cards of December 2017 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

8 Smart Purchases to Make in Your 20s

Don't just put money aside for books and food.

A smart purchase is just another way of saying awesome investment. You might feel strapped for cash in your 20s, but smart buyers will make purchases that will last them into their 30s and beyond. While it’s always tempting to spend your paycheck on a new pair of heels or drinks at happy hour, your future self will thank you for putting that money toward items that’ll pay for themselves over time.

Here are eight smart purchases to make in your 20s that can contribute invaluably to your bank account.

1. A Coffee Maker

Your morning and mid-day pick-me-up cups of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts and lattes from Starbucks can quickly add up. In fact, you can make $100,000-plus by skipping your morning coffee and making it at home (Seriously. It’ll involve some strategy and take about 40 years, but, still. Go here to find out how).

Consider investing in a quality coffee maker that will withstand many uses. The machine will make your morning coffee more convenient and save you cash. (Some perspective: 72 Venti coffees from Starbucks will run you close to $200, depending on where you live, while a 72-pack of Starbucks French Roast K-Cups costs around $50.) A French press is another option.

2. A Nice Suit

It’s a good idea to invest in a nice suit or business apparel than can be worn to job interviews or important events. Ensure that it fits or get it tailored. A suit may not seem like the most exciting investment in the world, but it is a practical one. If you’ve got this item on your checklist, you can wait for a sale or at least find the perfect piece instead of rushing a week before the big event and splurging on an outfit you don’t love (or, worse, can’t really afford).

3. A Hard Drive

Again, this purchase may not seem particularly fun but it is an item your future self will thank you for. Hard drives are great for backing up important files and opening up more storage on your computer and phone.

4. A Reliable Laptop

A sturdy laptop can be an investment for your leisure time and work life. We do so much work online that it makes sense to invest in a laptop that will have enough storage, battery life and longevity to get the job done. Plus, if you’re still in college or are a very recent graduate with a student ID, there are discounts available for some tech products.

5. A Quality Mattress & Couch

Considering most people spend a large chunk of their day sleeping (or on their phone) in their bed, it makes sense to invest in a mattress.Test out options and sleep on it — literally and metaphorically. Before you invest in a mattress, be sure to read these four mattress shopping gotchas to ensure you get the best deal possible.

The same goes for a couch, another piece of furniture you’ll often spend time on. Kerri Moriarty, of Boston startup Cinch Financial, a financial planning software company, says investing in a quality couch was one of the best decisions she made in her early twenties. “Seven years later the couch has traveled with me to five different apartments, still looks trendy and modern in the space, and is in great shape,” Moriarty said. “I’m glad I invested when I did so I haven’t been uncomfortable and replacing it every couple years.”

6. A Filtered Water Bottle

While plastic water bottles often come in handy, they’re not great for the environment — or your wallet. A reusable filtered water bottle will allow you to stay hydrated on the go without having to constantly repurchase bottles of water. Water bottles generally aren’t expensive, but there will be costs associated with replacing the filter, which is done on a monthly to bi-monthly basis depending on how often the bottle is used. The process is simple: Fill up your bottle with tap water and the built-in filtration system will do the work.

7. An Online Course

If you’ve got a hunger for learning, seeking to pursue a passion project or trying to pick up new skills for a side hustle, an online course can be a great investment. There are endless courses to take that will enrich your life whether you’re learning social media marketing, a new language or even basic coding. Plus, if the course is something that can benefit your job and workplace, you may be able to get your company to pay for it. It doesn’t hurt to make a proposal full of the potential benefits that a particular course could have on you and, by default, your company.

8. Plane Tickets

Yes, sometimes a “smart purchase” involves rewarding yourself — and, really, there’s no better time to spend on experiences than your 20s. Plus, your trip doesn’t have to break the bank. A good travel rewards credit card or airline loyalty program can help you rack up miles to pay for the flight. (Remember, credit cards that offer rewards for your travels tend to require excellent credit. You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.) Other ways to save on travel include signing up for fare alerts, traveling on off-peak days and looking into hostels or vacation rentals.

When traveling, don’t forget to invest in some great luggage. Marc Roche, co-founder of Annuities HQ, a retirement advisory network, emphasizes the importance of traveling while you’re young and getting the bang for your buck.”By choosing a well-crafted piece, you’ll be able to pass it — and your stories of adventure — on to the next generation,” Roche said. If you purchase quality travel gear, you’ll be able to use it long-term and have more extra cash for travel.

Image: elenaleonova

The post 8 Smart Purchases to Make in Your 20s appeared first on Credit.com.

50 Things You Must Eat Before You Die

If you love to eat, you'll want to check out our top picks for some of the best foods the world has to offer.

There’s no truer adage than “everybody eats,” and most of what we eat from day to day is pretty pedestrian; just fuel to nourish our bodies so we can get on to the next task. But every now and then there’s a food that makes us pause and appreciate more than the flavors. It becomes a moment that makes a lasting impression.

For many, the food that creates this sensation doesn’t have to be that amazing. Like scent memory, a particular food experience gets ingrained and the thought of it, even years later, hearkens us back to that moment in time and the feelings we had, even if it was just a simple ice cream cone on a beach, or fried clams and a beer on a ferry.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled some of our favorite food experiences and where to find them. Some of them are created by world-class chefs. Others are just a delicious combination of the humblest of ingredients. Most of them require a bit of travel, so you’ll want to plan your trip, look for good flight deals, and maybe even get a travel rewards credit card, before packing your bags. (Do yourself a favor and check your credit scores before applying for a rewards credit card so you can be sure you qualify.)

Here are our picks, in no particular order, of the 50 foods you need to try before you die.

1. Sunday Roast
Blacklock Soho, London

Tucked in the basement of a former brothel, this smart spot just around the corner from Picadilly Square is the place to be for a serious Sunday roast. There’s the requisite Yorkshire pudding, crispy potatoes roasted in duck fat, veggies and gravy to accompany your choice of beef, lamb, pork or a combination of all three. Arrive hungry because Blacklock doesn’t skimp.

2. Balmain Bugs
Fine seafood restaurants, Australia

We’re not suggesting you eat bugs — not yet, anyway — but if you ever find yourself in Australia, be sure to get your hands on some of these crustaceans. A species of slipper lobster, Balmain Bugs are like a cross between lobster and prawns, with a tender, buttery texture that is downright addictive.

3. Wellshire Farms Beef Franks
Sold at Whole Foods Markets

These dogs are everything you want in a wiener. They’re juicy, flavorful, have a nice snap and can stand up to whatever condiments you throw their way. Wellshire’s dogs even won a recent taste test conducted by The New York Times. These uncured dogs are a perfect addition to your backyard grilling this and every summer.

4. Grits
Husk, Charleston, South Carolina  

Chef Sean Brock is a locavore through and through, serving heritage vegetables, grains, protein and even coffee all from the South (“If it ain’t Southern, it ain’t coming in the door,” he says). Though his menu is ever-changing, the side of savory baked grits with cheddar are not to be missed.

5. Rainbow Seven-Layer Cookie Doughnut
Heartland Bagels, New York

This oversized, delicious dessert is nearly as big a small dog and is absolutely heavenly. The light and airy green, yellow and pink layers separated by thin layers of apricot jam melt in your mouth. Plus, the entire thing is covered in chocolate and topped with sprinkles and a smaller seven-layer rainbow cookie. It’s essentially a giant doughnut version of those seven-layer rainbow cookies that every Italian family enjoys during the holidays.

6. Garlic Oyster Po’ Boy
Liuzza’s by the Track, New Orleans

There’s a lot of amazing food in New Orleans. So amazing, in fact, it would be easy to put together a list of 50 things you need to eat in New Orleans before you die. But this no-frills diner in a quiet neighborhood in the Bayou St. John neighborhood is where you want to be for the city’s best po’ boy. Mix it up by ordering the half po’ boy and a cup of gumbo or turtle soup. Grab a bloody Mary while you’re there. You won’t be disappointed.

7. Chorizo Stuffed Squid
John Dory Oyster Bar, New York

Chef April Bloomfield’s deconstructed and utterly delicious nod to paella is still one of the best things we’ve ever put in our mouths. The tender squid, stuffed with a flavorful rice-and-chorizo mixture, sits atop a blend of white beans and créme fraiche, is drizzled with a smoked tomato vinaigrette and finished with fresh cilantro. It’s almost impossible to eat this dish slowly.

8. Stone Crab
Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami Beach, Florida

This place is simply a classic. It’s fancy in that take-your-grandparents-to-dinner kind of way, so you’ll want to look nice so your requisite bib can cover something you’ll potentially have to dry clean. While most places that sell stone crabs offer small, medium and large sizes, Joe’s does not mess around. There are only large and jumbo to be had here. Both are always market price. We recommend going for the large. They’re less expensive, easier to handle and tend to have a more delicate flavor. Oh, and don’t leave without having some key lime pie.

9. Franklin Barbecue
Austin, Texas

If you know barbecue, you know Franklin. And if you know Franklin, you know you’re going to have to stand in line. Early. Reeeaaaally early, even on a weekday in January. Folks start lining up for Aaron Franklin’s brisket, sausage, pulled pork, turkey and ribs around 7 a.m., and hang around playing cards, drinking mimosas and reading books until the restaurant opens at 11. The restaurant stays open until they sell out, which is typically within just a few hours. But that’s the way it is when you’re the No. 1 barbecue joint in the U.S. of A.

10. Red Chile Enchiladas
The Shed, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Oh, smoky, spicy, tangy, cheesy deliciousness that is the New Mexico red chile enchilada. There’s nowhere else in the world that does a red chile sauce the way they do in New Mexico, and The Shed does it as well if not better than everyone else. Their margaritas aren’t too shabby, either.

11. Chapulines
La Cocina de San Juan, Mexico City, Mexico

We said earlier we weren’t recommending that you eat bugs, but here we go: Eat some roasted or fried grasshoppers. They’re delicious, especially when prepared with a dusting of chile powder. And if you don’t want to trek all the way to Mexico for a taste test, you may be able to find a nearby restaurant that serves them. Or you can always head to Seattle where Safeco field has been selling them as a concession treat at Mariners home games and they keep selling out.

12. Smoked Shrimp
Vendel Kåseberga Hamn, Sweden

Just outside Ystad in the south of Sweden is a 1,400-year-old stone monument atop a windswept hill that was built by some very strong Vikings. At the bottom of that hill today sits a charming restaurant with expansive outdoor seating. It’s here that you’ll find whole, unpeeled shrimp smoked to tender perfection with their roe tangled within their swimmerets and walking legs. You just can’t beat them on a sunny, summer afternoon paired with a cold Swedish beer.

13. Macaroni & Cheese
Sylvia’s, Harlem, New York 

Yes, you’ve had macaroni and cheese, but if you haven’t had this macaroni and cheese, you’re missing out. Similarly, while you may think you know soul food, you’re just pretending until you’ve tried Sylvia’s. Founder and owner Sylvia Woods, the Queen of Soul Food, threw down in the kitchen, and her restaurant keeps her tradition, serving the gooiest macaroni and cheese you’ll have in your life. Warning: You may need a cart to wheel you out when you’re finished.

14. A New York Slice
Pretty much anywhere, New York

If there’s one thing on this list that will get people up in arms if we choose a particular location as the place to go, it’s the simple New York slice of pizza. So we’re going to chicken out and just say go somewhere, anywhere, that isn’t a chain. And by all means, do not use a knife and fork and do not blot any grease away. Sprinkle that slice with a little garlic powder, a little oregano, a little parmesan, heck, even a little salt if you think you need it. Then you gotta fold that slice like you mean it and stand there on the sidewalk in front of the store where you bought it and eat it like a New Yorker.

15. Marmite
Available online or at specialty groceries

Most Americans basically gag when they first try Marmite or its Australian cousin Vegemite. That’s because they tend to treat it like peanut butter and plop a giant gob of it onto some toast or straight into their mouths. If done right, Marmite adds a savory, salty quality to toast that is wonderful. Plus it’s full of B vitamins. Here’s your Marmite playbook: Spread a super thin layer of Marmite across hot, buttered toast, take a bite and see what you think.

16. Lobster Roll
Red’s Eats, Wiscasset, Maine

If you like sand dunes and salty air, quaint little villages here and there, you’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod. But if you want lobster rolls — the absolute best of the best lobster rolls — you gotta go to Maine. And if you’re in Maine, you gotta go to Red’s Eats. It’s just a simple shack on the side of the road, but you can’t miss it because there’s a line. There’s always a line. That’s because these rolls come packed with huge chunks of lobster and nothing else. That’s right. Nothing else. You can get drawn butter or mayo on the side, but the lobster is totally and completely naked, and possibly the freshest you’ve ever had.

17. Escargot
Allard, Paris

Honestly, there are a lot of really great places in Paris to eat escargot, but you simply can’t go wrong at master chef Alain Ducasse’s St. Germain bistro, which serves them in the traditional manner in their shells with herb butter. You’ll want to linger over more than just snails at this charming restaurant, though, so be sure your credit card has plenty of room.

18. Poutine
Casse-Croute Pierrot, Quebec, Canada

Poutine is to Canada what chili cheese fries are to the Southwest United States: drunk food elevated to a point that it’s acceptable to eat them in polite company as long as you keep your manners in check. French fries? Yes. Cheese curds? You bet? Hot beef gravy? Oh, yeah. We chose Pierrot as the place to get your poutine on for a couple of reasons: It’s open 24 hours, they deliver if you can’t crawl out of bed, and their ratio of fries to cheese to gravy is on point. Plus, their cheese curds are squeaky fresh and delicious. Time to go to Canada, eh?

19. Taylor Pork Roll
Available online and in grocery stores

There’s a lot of great food in New Jersey, but the one thing that is ubiquitous with the state is the Taylor Pork Roll. This processed meat, also known as Taylor Ham (some people insist this is the only thing to call it), was created in 1856 by John Taylor in Trenton and is widely available in New Jersey, New York, Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland. It’s served most commonly for breakfast on a roll with a fried egg and cheese, but there are plenty of other ways to get your roll on (chocolate covered pork roll, anyone?), which is on display in grand fashion each year at the Trenton Pork Roll Festival.

20. Grilled Sardines
Pretty much anywhere in Greece

When most Americans think of sardines, they think of tins of tiny, pungent fish in oil that their grandfather used to eat on crackers with mustard. While some of us actually like that stuff, tinned sardines can be off-putting for those who don’t like “fishy” fish. If that’s you, and you haven’t had fresh, grilled sardines, we encourage you to give them a try. They’re the stuff of legend when prepared properly, and there’s no better place in the world to have that happen than some little café in Greece. They’ve been preparing and eating sardines for thousands of years and really know what they’re doing. Opa!

21. Kelly Oysters
Galway Bay, Ireland

These oysters have a big ocean flavor and are considered by many leading chefs to be the best in the world. The Kelly family still harvests these oysters from natural beds with little need for intensive farming. In fact, these oysters can be traced back more than 1,000 years to the first kings of Connacht. They’re available around the globe in some of the finest dining establishments, but you’ll get them freshest if you head to Galway Bay.

22. Spam Musubi
Pukalani Superette, Maui

Why do Hawaiians love Spam so much? We don’t know, but they eat more of it per capita than anywhere else in the world. So it’s probably not surprising that Hawaii makes one of the most delicious dishes around using the canned pork product. Musubi is not fancy. It’s a food of the people, easily eaten on the go by office workers and surfers alike. It’s essentially fried Spam sushi that’s brushed with a sweet and savory ginger sauce. If your travel budget doesn’t allow for a personal trip to local favorite Pukalani Superette, try making it at home. The ingredients are readily available in the lower 48.

23. New England Clam Chowder
Chatham Pier Market, Chatham, Massachusetts

There are as many versions of clam chowder in New England as there are versions of barbecue in the south, but if you want seriously old school clam chowder, Chatham Pier Market in Chatham on Cape Cod, makes one of the best around. The simple ingredients of bacon, potatoes, onions cream and chopped clams makes for a deeply satisfying lunch or dinner treat. And if it’s nice weather, grab one of the nearby picnic tables with a view of the water (and follow these tips for an even better, frugal picnic).

24. Softshell Crabs
L.P. Steamers, Baltimore, Maryland

For those who don’t know, softshell crabs are those that have been caught within 12 hours of molting their shells. Since their exoskeleton is still “soft,” they can be prepared whole and eaten shell and all without all the arduous picking that comes with eating hardshell crabs. We chose this decidedly unstylish storefront as a great destination because they simply have some of the best, freshest crabs around. Plus, if you’re visiting Baltimore, it’s just a short stroll from Fort McHenry. Try the stuffed softshell crabs for a real treat.

25. Pastéis de Belém
Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal

This bakery near the banks of the Tagus River in Lisbon has been making its namesake pastries for nearly 200 years. The Pastéis de Belém appears to be a simple egg custard, but it contains multitudes: creamy, sweet, savory and crispy all at once. They are best consumed fresh and warm, so book your flight.

26. The Bahn Mi Taco
Tacodeli, Austin, Texas

You literally can’t throw a stone in Austin without hitting a taco place. Whether it’s a food truck, a roadside shack or a full-fledged restaurant, tacos are basically a sixth food group in this capitol city. Tacodeli’s bahn mi taco though, currently available only on Tuesdays (hello, taco Tuesday!), stands a pork shoulder above the rest. The cooks here marinate their pork shoulder in a green chili and tomatillo sweet-and-sour sauce, then grill it and serve it in a fluffy, homemade tortilla with carrot-and-daikon escabeche, cilantro and basil. You’ll never want a bahn mi on French bread again.

27. Paczki
New Martha Washington Bakery, Hamtramck, Michigan

If you aren’t of Polish descent, Catholic, or both, you may have never heard of the Lenten treats called paczkis (pronounced poonch-key). If that’s you, we feel bad for you. How have you lived without these sugary, fatty treats? Originally made to use up all the ingredients in the pantry that were verboten during Lent (sugar, flour, lard) paczkis are basically extra rich doughnuts filled with jelly, pastry cream or other yummy, gooey deliciousness.

Most bakeries only sell paczki around Fat Tuesday, but New Martha Washington has them available year-round in a wide variety of flavors, and they’re some of the best around.

28. Pastrami Salmon
Barney Greengrass, New York, New York

Among New York’s myriad Jewish delis, Barney Greengrass, “The Sturgeon King,” has to be at or near the top, and part of the reason is for its amazing selection of fish. If you go for breakfast or brunch, get there early because this place gets packed, and order the eggs with pastrami salmon. It comes with a bagel or a bialy served with your choice of butter or cream cheese. If crowds aren’t your thing, order a take-out pastrami salmon sandwich. A shady Central Park bench is just a couple of avenues over.

29. Gelato
Ciampini, Rome, Italy

When in Rome…eat everything, but especially the gelato. This place has been around for decades and still does everything the old-fashioned way. You won’t find trendy flavors at Ciampini, just tried-and-true gelato favorites like pistachio, coffee and chocolate. It’s a great stop to make before heading over to view the Pantheon.

30. Falafel
L’as Du Fallafel, Paris

There’s falafel and then there’s falafel. And while the best are probably found somewhere in Israel, there are more than a few shops in Paris that can stand their ground. In fact, there’s a lot of competition when it comes to really good falafel in the Marais, but the sandwiches at this tiny shop with the walk-up window is worth your time. Fluffy, warm pita is filled with perfectly crisp, tender balls of falafel and heaped with salad, pickled turnips, tahini and more.

31. Currywurst
Dönninghaus, Bochum, Germany

For the uninitiated American, currywurst is probably best described as a sausage that has been fried, cut into chunks and topped with something akin to a curry-flavored barbecue sauce or ketchup. It’s typically served with a side of fries and mayonnaise. While it may sound awful, it can actually be quite tasty, particularly if you buy it at a well-known shop like Dönninghaus. And particularly after several large, German beers.

32. Oysters & Pearls
The French Laundry, Yountville, California & Per Se, New York

Maybe these two restaurants run by super chef Thomas Keller aren’t at the pinnacle of fine dining any longer, but they’re still among the best in the world. And one of the most notable dishes on the menu is Oysters and Pearls, a simple but lush combination of oyster liquor sabayon, tapioca pearls and fresh oysters. Yuck, you say? No, you’re wrong, just accept that, and the opportunity to taste this extravagance is going to cost you. Neither restaurant offers an ala carte menu, and the tasting menu runs $325 per person at Per Se and starts at $310 per person at French Laundry, so apply for your rewards credit card now and book your trip when you’ve saved up enough for a truly memorable dining experience. Ease the cost of this luxury meal by earning rewards with some of the best credit cards for dining out.

33. Wot With Injera
Dukem, Washington, D.C.

If you haven’t eaten Ethiopian food you’re basically missing out on the historic basis for much of Southern American cookery. The hearty, flavorful stews known as wot served with the spongy bread called injera are the backbone of a wide variety of meat and vegetable dishes that will leave you craving more. While there are plenty of seriously good Ethiopian restaurants around the country, Washington, D.C., has the largest Ethiopian population outside of Addis Ababa, so we’re sticking with our choice of Dukem as one of the best places to get your first taste of wot.

34. Bulgogi
Madangsui, New York

You can compare bulgogi to beef fajita meat, but that’s really doing a disservice to this delicious Korean dish. Thinly sliced sirloin is marinated for hours in a soy sauce-based concoction that is simultaneously salty, sweet and spicy, then it’s seared in a skillet or on a grill until there’s a nice char on the outside. We recommend checking out Madangsui for your first taste of this delicious treat.

35. Ramen
Ramen Tatsu-Ya, Austin, Texas

Sure, you practically lived on ramen noodle packets while in college, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Not at all. Ramen has become wildly popular in many cities around the country in recent years, and for a good reason. Hearty broths, noodles and a wide variety of meats and vegetables make ramen a great meal option for big and little eaters alike. It’s also pretty inexpensive as restaurant foods go, so it’s a great choice for folks on a budget. We really like the ramen at Ramen Tatsu-Ya in Austin, considered by many aficionados as the best in the country.

36. Pho
Pho Binh, Houston

Like ramen, pho is really just a humble soup elevated to sublime deliciousness when done right. That means a clean, flavorful broth, the freshest herbs, slippery noodles and expertly cut meats. You’ll find all that in yet another Texas city – Houston – at one of Pho Binh’s popular locations. Houston has a very large Vietnamese population and this is where pretty much everyone comes when they have a craving for Pho. You can’t go wrong with any of their options.

37. Menudo
Los Tres Cochinitos, Los Angeles

This family-owned, cash-only restaurant in LA’s Montecito Heights neighborhood is nothing fancy, but it’s the place to go for huge helpings of the spicy tripe soup known as menudo. Yes, it’s intestines, but the flavors are amazing and the B vitamins are a sure-fire way to get rid of a lingering cold or hangover from the night before. Expect a line unless you get there early.

38. Pecan Pie
Magnolias, Charleston, South Carolina

Chances are you’ve probably had pecan pie, especially if you grew up anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line. But if you want one of the best around, head to Magnolias. This downtown restaurant is billed as upscale southern cuisine, and rightly so, given its classy decor and genteel crowd. One taste of their southern pecan pie, drizzled lightly with caramel, and you’ll be whisked back to childhood days of helping grandma in the kitchen. (Yes, it’s that good.)

39. Iberico Ham
Sampler, Dean & Deluca, Online

Considered the absolute best pork in the world, Iberico ham and other cuts come only from pigs that are at least 50% black Iberian. These pigs are “finished” by grazing in pasture and oak groves to feed naturally on grass, herbs, acorns and roots, which gives the meat its distinctive flavor. We’re not saying it’s the best Iberico you can buy, but if no one near you sells Iberico products and getting to Spain or Portugal right away doesn’t fit into your plans (or budget), check out Dean & Deluca’s sampler, available online for $55. You’ll get 2 ounces each of Fermin’s best-Ibérico Jamòn, Chorizo Iberico, Salchichon Iberico, and Lomo Serrano.

40. Full English Breakfast
Most Pubs in England

If you love a hearty breakfast and haven’t had a full English breakfast, also known as an English fry-up or the full Monty, well, simply put, you’re doing it wrong. This breakfast to end all breakfasts comes with a few essentials including bacon, sausages, fried eggs, fried bread (not to be confused with toast), grilled tomato and baked beans. Variations on these basics can include the addition of sautéed mushrooms, blood sausages, roasted potatoes and even kidneys. Served up with a “cuppa” hot tea and some HP sauce, it’s a great way to start your day.

41. Oyster Pan Roast
Grand Central Oyster Bar, Grand Central Station, New York

This dish is where velvet and brine meet. A deceptively simple combination of cream, butter, clam juice, toast and oysters combine to create one of the most deeply satisfying and soothing dishes The Big Apple has to offer. Plus the ambiance is pretty amazing. Grab some to go if you have a train to catch.

42. Cuban Sandwich
La Carreta, Miami International Airport

It’s pretty rare to find airport restaurants on a list of foods you need to try, but that’s how good this place is. Miami’s venerable La Carreta restaurant chain is a favorite among locals and tourists alike for classic and authentic Cuban cuisine. The reason we’re mentioning the airport instead of one of the restaurant’s other locations is simple: It offers the same delicious food, and you can grab a sandwich if you’re just connecting through Miami, arriving or departing. We recommend eating one there and taking one (or maybe a few for your loved ones) home with you if you’re flying out. These sandwiches are the real deal, made with fresh Cuban bread, thinly sliced ham, perfectly roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles (get extra, trust us) and a light dressing of mustard. Plus, use the right credit card for that airport and you can even earn rewards for eating a delicious sandwich.

43. Gado-Gado
Jakarta, Indonesia

We realize we haven’t chosen many vegetables on this list so far, so we’re going to dedicate the rest of it to some of our favorite vegetables and vegetable dishes. At the top of that list is gado-gado, an Indonesian salad of blanched vegetables, boiled eggs and potatoes, fried tofu or tempeh or both, rice and a rich peanut sauce. You may be able to get a good facsimile of gado-gado in the United States, but to truly appreciate how all these ingredients come together, a trip to Indonesia is really the way to go (See? We just gave you an excuse to travel.).

44. Fava Beans
Seasonally available in select markets and groceries

These beans have been celebrated for centuries, and rightly so. The beans used to grow Jack’s stalk to the sky? Likely fava beans. There’s evidence they’ve been a part of the human diet since as far back as 6,000 B.C., so if you haven’t tried them, you’re waaaaay behind the curve. Favas are only available in early spring, and they’re a pain in the butt to prepare, so you may want to seek them out at a restaurant for a first try before you spend hours hulling, skinning and cooking these beauties.

45. Mezze
Make at home, or order at a restaurant

If you like Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods you’ve probably had at least one of the items found on a mezze plate, but pairing all of these things together is like bringing all your favorite people together for a party. It’s literally the more, the merrier (or mezzier in this case). Put together your favorite hummus, baba ghanoush, beet dip, feta cheese cubes or mozzarella balls, a little prosciutto di Parma, some olives, marinated artichoke hearts, figs, tzatziki sauce, warm pita bread, sliced cucumbers and bell peppers — heck, even some taramasalata, and you’ve got the makings of a party on a plate.

46. Kimchi
Korean restaurants or groceries

If you like pickles or sauerkraut, you’re probably going to like kimchi. If you don’t, you probably won’t. This Korean staple is served as a side dish along with most meals. It’s made of salted, fermented cabbage and Korean radishes and has a nice, spicy kick from chili, garlic, ginger and a small amount of jeotgal, or fermented seafood. Try it the next time you’re grilling meat (or making bulgogi!).

47. Salmorejo
Córdoba, Spain

This soup from the Andalusia region of southern Spain is a close cousin to the better-known gazpacho, but is pureed to a smooth consistency. Served chilled in warm weather and warm in cooler weather, it’s traditionally made of tomatoes, bread, garlic and olive oil, but there are many variations with additional vegetables. You’ll find the best in Córdoba, where it originated.

48. Seaweed
Japanese restaurants or specialty groceries

If you pay attention to such things, you probably know that seaweed has a lot of health benefits and is heralded as a super food. But it also tastes good, especially as a salad the way the Japanese prepare it. Check it out next time you’re in a sushi restaurant, or, if you don’t like sushi, go in just for seaweed. C’mon, it’s good for you and it’s very affordable!

49. Okra
Restaurants and groceries nationwide

Okay, we know a lot of people don’t like okra. It’s slimy, they say. But we love okra. If you’ve never tried it, you can buy it affordably by using money saving grocery hacks. It’s found in traditional foods all across the world, and especially in Indian and Persian cooking, where it’s often stewed with onions, tomatoes and spices. Some of our favorite preparations include okra pickles, fried okra and the Afghan preparation called Bamia.

50. Vegetable Thai Curry
Thai restaurants nationwide

If you’ve had a red, green or jungle Thai curry, it’s probably come with shrimp, chicken or some other protein. But that delicious, coconut-milk-based sauciness is equally as good on vegetables, so if you’re not a big veggie eater, it’s a great way to ensure you get your “five a day.” Thai curry is exceptionally easy to make and the ingredients are readily available online if you can’t find them in your local market, so give it a try.

Image: mactrunk

The post 50 Things You Must Eat Before You Die appeared first on Credit.com.

11 Amazing Destination Restaurants You Need to Try

They aren't easy to get to, and most aren't cheap, but you'll want to add these restaurants to your culinary bucket list.

If you’re an adventurous traveler and eater, this list is for you. We’ve rounded up a list of restaurants that are among the remotest, have the best views, are among the most unusual and have some of the best food the world over, and put them into one tidy list.

Some are expensive and offer world-class standards while others are just a good example of local cuisine. Still others have food fit only for those looking for an extreme dining adventure. All, however, are going to require some travel. So plan your travel budget, grab your passport and your travel rewards credit card (go ahead and check your credit scores while you’re at it), and get ready for some culinary adventures that will last you a lifetime.

Here are 11 of our favorite destination restaurants that you really should try now.

1. Faviken Magasinet, Järpen, Sweden

It takes more than a long drive or boat ride to get to this two-Michelin-starred restaurant tucked deep within Sweden’s ski country near Järpen. Open from July 1 through Dec. 21, the restaurant is an hour’s drive from the nearest airport, a seven-hour drive from Stockholm and an eight-hour drive from Oslo. Plus, with just 16 seats for dinner, you’ll need reservations months in advance (at the time of this writing, the restaurant is fully booked until November 2017), and you’re going to want to find a place to sleep after reveling in your multi-course $350-per-person meal (without wine pairing), which changes daily. So why do you want to go? Chef Magnus Nilsson’s farm-to-table concept is about as real as it gets.

“During the summer and autumn, we harvest what grows on our land as it reaches the peak of ripeness, and prepare it using methods we have rediscovered from rich traditions, or that we have created through our own research to maintain the highest quality of the end product,” the restaurant’s website says. “We build up our stores ahead of the dark winter months. We dry, salt, jelly, pickle and bottle. The hunting season starts after the harvest and is an important time, when we take advantage of the exceptional bounty with which the mountains provide us. By the time spring and summer return to Jämtland, the cupboard is bare and the cycle begins again.”

Budget option: The restaurant’s new pop-up concept in Åre, Hoon’s Chinese, is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday and offers a family-style menu of Singaporean-style Chinese food, run by Faviken’s sous chef, Ethel Hoon.

2. The Willows Inn, Lummi Island, Washington

Situated on a small island in Puget Sound about a two-and-a-half hour drive north of Seattle, The Willows Inn is celebrated for its natural setting, use of vegetables from nearby farms, foraged herbs and wild game. Chef Blaine Wetzel won the James Beard Award for best chef in the Northwest in 2015. The inn also provides rooms for those dining at the restaurant. If you plan to stay, expect to make reservations at least a couple of months in advance for both dinner and lodging. And be sure to budget about $195 per person for the dinner menu ($90 per person for wine pairing; $40 per person for juice pairing), which changes regularly. Rooms can run around $400 per night.

Budget option: Make it a day trip. Explore the island, and then have a light lunch of salad, soup, charcuterie, cheeses and freshly baked bread on the restaurant’s front deck, available until 4 p.m.

3. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives

More than 600 miles off the coast of Sri Lanka, Maldives is a destination that takes more than a little effort to get to. So once you’ve traveled all that way, the last thing you need is a huge trek to get to dinner, right? Good thing Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is simple once you’ve arrived. It’s just a quick stroll from the Conrad Hotel.

Ithaa (meaning ‘mother of pearl’ in the Maldivian language of Dhivehi) is the world’s first all-glass undersea restaurant. Dining 16 feet below sea level, you’ll be surrounded by aquatic life swimming all around you. It costs $325 per person (all prices USD) for the opportunity to have dinner in this elegant bubble; $195 for lunch and both meals come with a complimentary glass of champagne.

Budget option: If you stay at the Conrad Hotel, you can receive a $50 voucher per person for dinner when you book your restaurant reservation upon in advance or upon arrival.

4. Beano’s Cabin, Beaver Creek, Colorado

Open seasonally (June 14 through Sept. 23 for 2017), Beano’s Cabin is an outdoor adventurer’s dream restaurant. That’s because, as the Beano’s website says, “Getting to Beano’s Cabin is half the fun!”

Diners have the option of getting to the restaurant by taking a 10-minute shuttle van ride, a one-hour horseback ride ($40), or a 20-minute wagon ride pulled by a John Deer diesel tractor ($27.50). In winter, the restaurant is accessible by open-air sleigh pulled by a snowcat.

Once you’ve arrived, you’ll be greeted by a wide variety of menu choices that make up Executive Chef Kevin Erving’s five-course dinner menu. It runs $107 per person (not including beverages). There’s also a three-course menu available for children 12 or younger that costs $59.

Budget option: Take the free shuttle.

5. Sounds of Silence at Ayers Rock, Australia

If you’ve made it all the way to Australia, you might as well go to Ayers Rock. And if you’ve made it all the way to Ayers Rock, why not dine in the desert with the outback stars sparkling above you?

For roughly $150 US per person, you’ll start your four-hour dining experience with canapés and chilled sparkling wine served on a viewing platform overlooking the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. “As the sun sets and darkness falls, listen to the sound of a didgeridoo” as you enjoy a “bush tucker” inspired buffet and guided tour of the night sky.

6. At.mosphere, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

If achieving new heights is your thing, At.mosphere is the restaurant for you. Sitting on the 122nd floor of the world’s tallest building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, At.mosphere is officially the world’s highest restaurant. As you might expect, it also has some seriously high prices, but its seafood-heavy menu features some of the best products available from around the world. There are three prix-fixe dinner options: seven courses for $240, $417 with wine pairing or $539 with signature wine pairing.

Budget option: Make a reservation for lunch or an early dinner and dine on some of the restaurant’s luxurious ala carte options.

7. Grub Kitchen, Pembrokeshire, Wales

If the idea of eating bugs nauseates you, stop reading now. There are plenty of other options available for you. If not, you’re in for a treat!

Grub Kitchen, situated on an award-winning Pembrokeshire farm, promotes sustainable local produce and entomophagy, or the eating of bugs. The farm itself has been operating for more than 300 years and has a number of different areas, including an invertebrate “zoo” a gallery and shop, wildlife walks and guided bug safaris. It’s also a first-class academic research center. In other words, this is more than just a dining destination. Ultimately, though, you’re going to want to try the food.

Chef Andy Holcroft offers tasty options like sweetcorn chowder with basil oil and a grasshopper crumb; zesty black ant and olive crusted goat cheese with a chicory, fennel and fig salad and warm honey mustard dressing; and caramelized apple crumble with a toasted bug and shortbread topping and vanilla ice cream.

If you’re all alone in your dreams of eating bugs, never fear. The restaurant also serves plenty of non-entomophagic options like lamb shoulder, filet of hake and chocolate mousse. And unlike most of the other restaurants on this list, prices are comparable to a typical high-end restaurant, with dinner mains running around $20 to $25.

8. 229 Parks Restaurant & Tavern, Denali National Park, Alaska

Located in the shadow of North America’s highest peak, 229 Parks is the place to go if you’ve just finished your outdoor adventure and are hankering for some finer dining.

Chef Laura Cole has been nominated twice for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest, and she and her team have a strong commitment to locally grown, freshly harvested ingredients and sustainable cuisine. Here you’ll find menu items like pappardelle pasta with reindeer sausage and leeks, or pan seared Alaskan king salmon with sweet mustard glaze with warm German-style potato salad, crisped prosciutto and haricots vert. The restaurant doesn’t list prices on its website, but dinner mains run in the $25 range. Call ahead for reservations and pricing as the menu changes regularly.

9. The Rock, Zanzibar

Perched on a rock outcropping in the shallow waters of the Indian Ocean just a few meters off Zanzibar’s Michanwi Pingwe beach is a restaurant that seems to have leapt from the pages of an Ernest Hemingway novel.

Originally a fishing cottage, The Rock is an open-air dining destination that can be reached by foot at low tide or by boat service offered by the restaurant. There’s a large outdoor patio to enjoy a cocktail or even have dinner, but there are amazing ocean views even from inside. The Rock specializes in seafood, and while the fare is simple and fresh, it’s the experience and the view that you’re really coming for. Also note that while The Rock is very informal, don’t expect an inexpensive meal. Mains can run you up to $25. That said, the dress code is super casual, so it’s a great way to end the day after relaxing on the beach.

Budget option: Have a drink or two and a snack instead of a full meal. There’s a great wine list.

10. The Three Chimneys, Island of Skye, Scotland

This world-renowned Scottish restaurant is located on the sea shore on the Isle of Skye, just off the coast of Scotland. Opened in 1985, it has made many best-of lists over the years. Chef Scott Davies keeps the kitchen humming with a focus on seasonal dishes using local ingredients such as seaweed cured salmon, Soay lamb and ewe and local oysters. Prix-fixe dinner runs about $90 per person without beverages. And if you’re feeling like you might be drowsy after dinner, you may want to consider booking one of the inn’s charming bedrooms with en suites.

11. Icehotel Restaurant, Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

One of the nicest things about staying at the Ice Hotel in Sweden’s Arctic Circle is that the dining room and cocktail bar are warm spots to escape the sub-zero temperatures. With a nod to some of the local cuisines of the Lapland region, you’ll find menu items like reindeer carpaccio served on blocks of ice; elk with almond potato puree, chanterelles and lingonberries; Arctic char and other delicacies expertly prepared by chef Alexander Meier and his team. There’s an ala carte menu, or you can pre-book a special dining experience such as the chef’s table, ice dining or the wilderness dinner. Pricing is, of course, not cheap. A simple burger runs about $20, while the four-course ice menu runs about $105 per person.

Image: Constance Brinkley-Badgett

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37 National Parks to Visit Before You Die

If natural beauty is your thing, the national park system offers some great and inexpensive ways to experience it. Here are some of our very favorites.

One of the greatest things about our country is its diversity, both in terms of its people and the land itself. That’s why we’re such big fans of the country’s national parks, which offer a dynamic and budget-friendly way to see the country up close.

Comprised of 417 areas covering more than 84 million acres, the National Park System includes the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. That’s a lot of land to explore, and all of those options can be overwhelming. So before you hit the road or catch a flight to your park destination, make sure you have a plan for your travels. (And if you have kids, you’ll want to read our handy road-trip survival guide.)

Drafting a budget is a good place to start, as is packing a travel rewards card, which can help you earn perks just for spending as you normally would. (For those on the road, a gas rewards card may be a better option.) Be sure to check your credit before you apply, as many of these cards require good credit to qualify. You can view two of your credit scores for free right here on Credit.com.

To help you decide where to venture this summer, we selected 37 of our favorites from across the country. Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

1. Denali National Park, Alaska

Who wouldn’t want to see a rainbow stretching across a pink sky as late as midnight? Or the sun rising around 3:30 in the morning to light up the snow-capped mountains? The views in Denali are breathtaking, and part of the thrill is seeing how its scenery changes in sunlight.

2. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska 

You’ll feel super-accomplished after spending a day hiking the Harding Icefield Trail, but that’s not the only way to explore this remote park. See the fjords on a boat tour in summer, go kayaking or drive along Exit Glacier, which offers pit stops for hiking and Instagram-ready viewpoints.

3. Lake Clark National Park & Preserve, Alaska

With glaciers, lakes, volcanoes, dense forests and roving bears, Lake Clark is what you think of when you think of Alaska. And though getting there requires a plane or travel by boat, you won’t regret going in summer, when the wildflowers are in bloom and the hiking is top-notch.

4. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona 

Accessible year-round, the Grand Canyon is a true American treasure, with spectacular views, life-changing hikes and a colorful, if sometimes fraught, history. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the Canyon reliably draws millions of visitors each year.

5. Saguaro National Park, Arizona

No Southwest trip would not be complete without a stop in majestic Saguaro, named for the cowboy-shaped cactuses that are abundant throughout the desert. Forbidding rattlesnakes, javelinas and gila monsters call Saguaro their home, but those shouldn’t deter you from seeing the Costa’s hummingbirds and floral blooms.

6. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

For more than two centuries, people have used the hot spring water in Downtown Hot Springs to treat various ailments; today “Bathhouse Row” is a National Historic Landmark District with the largest collection of bathhouses of its kind in North America.

7. Channel Islands National Park, California 

Calling all snorkelers, divers and kayakers: Channel Island and its isolated coves and sea caves are beckoning you. Explore heaps of kept forests alongside sea lions or surf the waters off the north or south shores of Santa Rosa. At the end of the day, you can camp on any of the five park islands and indulge in some of the best stargazing in SoCal.

8. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Situated just east of Palm Springs, Joshua Tree is a mecca for rock climbers, campers and driving sightseers alike. The park’s namesake Joshua trees are abundant throughout the park, as are other desert flora and fauna. Keys View looks out over the Coachella Valley, where the San Andreas Fault is clearly visible.

9. Redwood National Park, California

There’s nothing more humbling than standing next to a 300-foot-tall redwood. In this coastal national park, you can explore numerous beautiful trails or take a meandering drive through old-growth redwoods. We recommend the Coastal Drive Loop for stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

10. Sequoia National Park, California

One of the world’s tallest trees — and largest living organisms, in fact — can be found here in this national park. The General Sherman is massive, and more than 2,300 years old, so make sure to take a picture with this beautiful, old giant.

11. Yosemite National Park, California

If you want ancient sequoia trees, stunning waterfalls and beautiful mountains, Yosemite has it all. From El Capital and Half Dome to Bridalveil Falls, the natural beauty comes in epic proportions. The high season gets very crowded, so prepare to spend some time looking for parking.

12. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado 

You don’t have to dig John Denver to get into the laid-back mindset of this park. Just bask in the wildlife viewing, scenic drives (Trail Ridge Road climbs to a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet) and family-friendly activities. Coyote Valley, where thousands of wildflowers bloom in the summer, should be tops on your list.

13. Everglades National Park, Florida 

Here you can literally slow time … and sink into the swamp. Just a one-hour drive south from Miami, the park includes a striking 1.5 million acres of tropical and subtropical habitat that’s been designated as an International Biosphere, a Wetland of Importance and a World Heritage Site. Just watch out for the alligators.

14. Dry Tortugas, Florida 

Comprised of seven small islands, Dry Tortugas is one of the country’s great natural wonders, with something for everyone. For history buffs, Fort Jefferson, a prison during the Civil War, can’t be missed, while those in desperate need of some R&R will enjoy the calm beaches. The shallow waters are perfect for snorkeling.

15. Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii

The feeling you get watching the sunrise at Haleakalā on Maui is hard to describe, but suffice it so say there’s nothing else like it. Standing on the windy summit around 6 a.m. would be unpleasant if it weren’t for the spectacular view. Just be forewarned, the drive to the summit is not for those who fear winding roads.

16. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

You can explore the beautiful volcanoes on the big island of Hawai’i, some of which are still active, in this park. Drive around the the summit of Kīlauea or hike one of the park’s lovely trails. The Nāhuku Lava Tube is especially great for kids, as they’ll be able to imagine the lava rushing through the tube hundreds of years ago.

17. Acadia National Park, Maine 

Acadia is Maine’s only national park and also one of the country’s most beautiful, with forests, ponds, marshlands, mammals and even whales on display. Be sure to explore the park’s historic carriage paths, commissioned by John D. Rockefeller in 1915.

18. Adams National Park, Massachusetts

Take a trip back in time to the early days of our country’s history, where you’ll find the “summer White House,” Stone Library, Adams Carriage House and the birthplace of not one, but two of our presidents. See the lovely yellowwood tree John Quincy Adams and his wife Louisa Catherine must have planted in memory of their son, George, and tour the home where John Adams drafted the Massachusetts Constitution.

19. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Deep turquoise water and tall forest trees make Isle Royale ideal for outdoorsy types. Just $7 gets you in for a day of backpacking, hiking, boating, kayaking or scuba diving. If none of those are your thing, go anyway for the island’s isolation — it’s a great place for reflection.

20. Glacier National Park, Montana

Glaciers, mountains, mountain goats, verdant mountain fields and hiking trails galore are what you’ll find in this 1,500-plus-square-mile wilderness area. There are also some rustic inns to check out if backpacking isn’t your idea of relaxing.

21. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota 

Fittingly named for the outdoorsy president who created five national parks, signed the landmark Antiquities Act and used its provisions to create 18 national monuments, this scenic park demands your attention.

22. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon 

Crater Lake was created by the explosion of Mt. Mazama 7,700 years ago and wasn’t discovered by white explorers until 1853. The Klamath Tribes who lived there considered it a sacred place, and given its unearthly quiet (and the emerald waters of Fumarole Bay), we have to agree.

23. Congaree National Park, South Carolina 

One of the newer national parks — Congaree received its official designation in 2003 following a grassroots campaign — is a tree-lover’s paradise, with one of the highest canopies in the world. The park’s website calls it the “largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern U.S.”

24. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands doesn’t just have an awesome name, it has some of the most awe-inspiring sights you’ll ever see. If hiking and climbing don’t appeal, hit the hour-long Badlands Loop Scenic Byway — the closest airport, Rapid City, is 80 miles northwest — and keep your eyes peeled for black-footed ferrets, mule deer and buffalo. The trip itself feels like circling the moon.

25. Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

Supposedly the first cave to be designated a national park, Wind Cave is so tranquil you’ll wonder why you never visited before. Look out for part-time residents like burrowing owls and grazing bull bisons.

26. Big Bend National Park, Texas

It’s a trek just to get to this park situated on the Texas-Mexico border — the nearest airport is 160 miles away — but the mountainous desert terrain is spectacular once you arrive. If you’re into backpacking, it’s a fantastic destination, just keep in mind you’ll have to pack-in your own water. There’s also gorgeous, seasonal river rafting.

27. Big Thicket National Preserve, Texas

When most people think of Texas, they don’t think of dense pine forests, swamps and one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, but that’s exactly what Big Thicket National Preserve is. Situated in Southeast Texas just a short drive north from Houston, the Big Thicket is also home to the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation.

28. Arches National Park, Utah 

Just five miles north of Moab lies the entrance to Arches, which is thankfully open year-round. Yes, the entrance fee will cost you ($25), but after viewing what’s said to be the world’s largest natural sandstone arches, you’ll be convinced the price of admission was worth it. Be sure to get out of your car to see the arches up close.

29. Gateway National Recreational Area, New Jersey 

Gateway covers 27,000 acres, including Sandy Hook, New Jersey and parts of Staten Island and Jamaica Bay, New York City. The sprawling national park allows for activities like kayaking in Jamaica Bay, swimming off Sandy Hook and camping at historic Fort Wadsworth.

30. Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park, New Jersey

The Great Falls of the Passaic River is the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River, behind only Niagara. Alexander Hamilton, the founder of Paterson, harnessed the 77-foot falls to power the city, one of the earliest industrial hubs in the U.S. The park, established in 2011, allows visitors to see the falls up close and learn about Hamilton and early American industry.

31. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio 

The only national park in Ohio is also one of the country’s most popular, with thousands of plants, abundant wildflowers and a landscape of hills, sandstone ledges and waterfalls (Brandywine Falls is a favorite). Just a 30-minute drive south from Cleveland, it’s easy to get to as well.

32. North Cascades National Park, Washington 

The name “Stehekin” comes from a Salishan word meaning “the way through,” which may explain The Stehekin Valley’s allure as a passageway for travelers. Less than three hours outside Seattle, Stehkin is only accessible by foot, boat or plane, making it an ideal place to unplug.

33. Olympic National Park, Washington

This is where people come to see the rugged beauty of Washington state up close. Boating and fishing are popular activities, though keep in mind there are risks, so be sure to map your route and plan for emergencies. A day hike on the Peabody Creek Trail is a fantastic introduction to the park.

34. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming 

Named for the tallest mountain in the Teton range, the park includes multiple lakes and enough species of flora and fauna to send a biologist into a tizzy. Snapping a shot of the lakes that mirror the mountains on a calm day is a must.

35. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The world’s first national park is a feast for the eyes, with no shortage of things to see and do. The Upper Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is about 20 miles long, offering dramatic views of Yellowstone River, while Hayden Valley features all sorts of wildlife, from bison to grizzly bears.

36. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

There are plenty of trails through the Blue Ridge Mountain forests to keep the backpacking enthusiast happy in this park, but Shenandoah isn’t just for the outdoorsy. The park’s Skyline Drive is a popular weekend driving getaway for folks around the Washington, D.C.-Richmond area, especially in fall when the leaves turn. There are also plenty of historic inns nearby to check out for a good night’s sleep and a lovely meal.

37. Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands 

St. John may be the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin islands, located in the Caribbean Sea, but it is surely the prettiest. You won’t find strip malls or all-inclusive resorts here; instead St. John is the kind of place that encourages slowing down.

Image: Solovyova

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7 Luxury Travel Perks You Can Actually Afford

Get the most out of your airline travel with these tips.

[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Modern-day travel may be fast, but unless you’re doing it in a premium class, it’s typically less than enjoyable, especially when flying. There’s security, long lines, cramped seating, delays, crying babies, abusive passengers (and sometimes crew), lousy food (if there’s any at all) and of course, jet lag if you’re going anywhere long distance.

While you may not be able to afford to fly first class, or even business class, there are things you can do to make your time on the ground and in the air more enjoyable. Heck, you might even feel pampered with these seven travel perks you can definitely afford.

1. Buy a Good Carry-On

Unless you plan to stay at home most of your life, a sturdy carry-on that’s built to last will pay for itself after a few years. It’s actually possible to buy luggage that could last you a lifetime. A stylish bag that can carry your essentials for before, during and after your flight can make a bad trip better (you may want to consider a good luggage set in general if you plan to travel a lot). Compare manufacturers that offer lifetime warranties, like Briggs & Riley, for example. Their warranty covers repair of all functional aspects of your bag. Did the airline damage it? Not a problem. Your dog chewed it up? It’s covered.

2. Pay for More Legroom

Some airlines offer seating with more room for a small charge (usually $50 to $65) that will put you closer to the front of the plane, but more importantly, especially for the long-legged among us, give you more legroom. That extra charge also ensures you’ll have an earlier boarding, plenty of room for your carry-on, quicker access to the forward restroom and a quicker time getting off the plane.

3. Invest in a Travel Kit

People who fly first and business class, especially on international flights, usually get a handy kit including a toothbrush and toothpaste, eye mask, ear plugs, lotion and other niceties. You can assemble your own to help you sleep better and feel fresher upon arrival.

4. Get Free Flights & Upgrades

If you have a favorite airline, it pays to sign up for the mileage program. You can earn a free ticket or upgrade on most airlines starting at around 20,000 miles (keep in mind you’ll still have to pay taxes and some other fees), which means you can typically begin reaping rewards after a few flights.

5. Get More Miles for More Perks

If you’re serious about getting free travel and upgrades, you’ll want to earn miles faster. You should consider a travel rewards credit card. You can sign up for a card associated with your airline to maximize your earning potential. For example, if you regularly fly Delta, you may want to sign up for the Gold Delta Skymiles card from American Express, which comes with a signup bonus of 60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within your first four months of qualifying. Plus you’ll earn a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase within your first four months (offer expires July 5, 2017, see the card agreement for details). After that, you’ll earn two miles on every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta, and one mile for every dollar spent on all other eligible purchases. This card comes with a $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year.

6. Earn Miles on Every Purchase

If you’re not loyal to any particular airline, a general travel rewards card may be a better option for you. One of our favorites is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. It comes with serious kickback — 2% miles back on all purchases, plus a 5% rebate when those miles are redeemed that you can use toward your next redemption. While it also comes with an $89 annual fee, that’s waived for the first year. All of this adds up to making free upgrades or free flights a real possibility.

7. Get a Luxury Travel Rewards Card

If you’re looking for luxury when it comes to travel perks, signing up for a card like the American Express Platinum Card can pay off. Yes, it comes with a steep annual fee of $550 and you’re going to need seriously good credit to qualify, but the cost is offset by a $200 annual airline credit, up to $200 in Uber credits, an $85 or $100 credit every four years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (reimbursement amount depends on which program you apply for), access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide and no foreign transaction fees (see the card agreement for full details).

Remember, before applying for any credit card, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores to see where your credit stands. You can get your two credit scores, absolutely free, right here on Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Gold Delta Skymiles card, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and American Express Platinum Card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: BraunS

 

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The 10 Best Roadside Attractions in America

What better way to celebrate our country than by visiting its run-down, kitschy roadside attractions? 

It’s summertime, which means if you aren’t planning your next road trip, you should be. With Fourth of July on our radar, now is the time. Given that there’s no better way to celebrate our country’s pioneer spirit than by paying homage to some of its quirkiest and kitschiest roadside attractions, we’ve rounded up 10 of our favorites, based on cursory research. Read on for 10 roadside attractions you won’t want to pass by.

1. Bamahenge, Elberta, Alabama

Bamahenge may not be Stonehenge, but for us Americans, it’s close enough. You’ll find this incredible replication of the prehistoric monument, built in late 2012 by a man named Mark Cline, in the woods off the marina entrance road in Elberta, Alabama. There are only four different stone shapes, but Cline repositioned them all to look different. They’re also storm-proof, thanks to interior concrete and telephone poles. Admission is free.

2. General Sherman Tree

They don’t call this giant sequoia the General for nothing. Standing 52,500 cubic feet tall and weighing 4.2 million pounds, the General Sherman Tree in California’s Sequoia National Park is something you have to see to believe. Located at the north end of Giant Forest, one of Kings Canyon National Park’s five sub-regions, the tree can be reached by trail or via the free Sequoia Shuttle, which runs daily from May through September. Theoretically, the General could be turned into almost 120 miles of standard sized lumber planks, but what heartless soul would want to cut down a nearly 3,000-year-old tree?

3. Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue

OK, so maybe it isn’t the finest testament to a living former president, but does it matter? The Jimmy Carter Peanut statue in Plains, Georgia, still makes us smile, and at 13 feet tall, it’s easily one of the world’s largest nuts. Crafted from plaster and mesh, the peanut pays homage to Carter’s past life as a peanut farmer and features a similar wide-mouthed grin. Today, you can find it near Route 45 outside Carter’s hometown.

4. Leaning Tower

If a trip to Pisa, Italy is not in the cards, check out the Leaning Tower of Niles in Niles, Illinois. True, the Midwestern version is half as tall (94 feet versus the Italian’s 177 feet), but your friends will still like it on Instagram. Built in 1934, it was anchored in concrete so its lean stayed consistent. It was originally a utility tower, though a plaque at its base says it was built in honor of the Italian polymath Galileo, who conducted scientific experiments at the original Pisan monument.

5. The Spud Drive-In

Not every drive-in theater went the way of the dodo. Since the summer of 1953, the Spud in Driggs, Indiana, has been showing flicks — almost as long as Old Murphy, the 1946 Chevy truck with a two-ton potato on the back, has been parked in front of the screen. Though the potato is nothing more than a hunk of painted concrete, you probably won’t be able to resist snapping a photo of it.

6. World’s Largest Light Bulb

Keep your eyes peeled for this 134-foot tower in Edison, New Jersey, home to Thomas Alva Edison’s greatest invention. The man perfected the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb right here, so it’s no wonder a 13-foot version sits on top of the tower. (Rumor has it it’s lit by LED, not Edison’s technology.) Built in 1939, the art deco building houses a museum that traces each step of the inventor’s fascinating journey, particularly his invention of sound recording.

7. Shoe Tree

Even if seeing a tree of shoes isn’t on your bucket list, you’ll still want to check out this oddity off U.S. 50 in Middlegate, Nevada. Tourists and locals come to drape their old footwear on the cottonwood tree’s branches, to the point where the tree looks like it sprouted the footwear itself.

8. Porter Sculpture Park

Twenty-five minutes west of Sioux Falls, in the small town of Montrose, South Dakota, you’ll find Porter Sculpture Park, a smattering of recycled metal structures made by Wayne Porter. A self-taught artist who says he’s lousy at math and drawing, Porter ditched law school to return to the town of St. Lawrence, where he was raised, to work on sculptures in his father’s blacksmith shop. Today more than 50 of his works can be seen in the pet-friendly park. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for teens 13 to 17 and free for children 12 and under.

9. The Lost Sea

After taking a guided tour of giant caves more than 100 feet below ground in Sweetwater, Tennessee, you and the rest of your 12-person group will board a glass bottom boat to explore “The Lost Sea.” It’s cool down here — the temperature is a constant 58 degrees Fahrenheit — and filled with strange rock formations, some of which were passed by an ancient jaguar. Don’t forget to bring a good flashlight with extra batteries. Admission for adults is $19.95; children ages 5 to 12 are $10.95 and children 4 and under are free.

10. Cadillac Ranch

Standing up like a series of headstones along Route 66, just west of Amarillo, Texas, the Cadillac Ranch has been luring visitors since 1974, when a group called The Ant Farm created a piece of public art to baffle the locals. The Caddies face west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville. Though they’ve been in the ground longer than they were on the road, the ranch is a must for anyone traveling The Mother Road. Tourists are always welcome, so bring a can of spray paint. Admission is free.

How to Save on Your Road Trip 

Before you pull out of the driveway, make sure you’ve got a plan for your travels. Budgeting is useful, as is swiping with gas rewards credit cards when you fill up your tank. These handy pieces of plastic can earn you kickbacks for spending as you normally would, which can cut down the cost of your road trip. Just remember to track your purchases so you don’t lose your rewards to high interest or rack up unwanted debt. (You can see how your behaviors are impacting your credit by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

Image: StevenStarr73

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Travel Often? Make Sure Your Credit Card Has These 6 Features

While they aren’t as flashy as signup bonuses or travel credits, these features can drive down travel costs and offer protection in case of emergency.

Travel credit cards come in many forms and offer a variety of benefits. Some cards earn miles and points that can be redeemed for travel expenses, while others might be tied to specific hotel chains or airlines. The benefits and costs vary. Frequent travelers should choose a card that rewards the way they spend and the way they travel.

No matter what miles programs or travel perks you want, certain travel features can come in handy on any trip. While they aren’t as flashy as signup bonuses or travel credits, these features can drive down travel costs and offer protection in case of emergency. (You’ll need a solid credit score to qualify for a card with the best features. Check two of your scores on Credit.com.)

Here are six features to look for when evaluating a travel credit card.

1. Free Foreign Transactions

If you tend to travel abroad, you could be paying more than necessary every time you swipe your credit card. Many credit cards issue a foreign transaction fee every time you pay, usually around 3% of the transaction amount. If you use a credit card for most purchases when you travel, this can add significantly to the cost of your trip.

When evaluating travel cards, make sure they offer free foreign transactions.

2. Trip Cancellation Insurance

No travel plans can be set in stone. Emergencies or last-minute complications can wreck your itinerary. In many cases, changing or canceling a trip could cause you to forfeit some of your expenses. With trip cancellation or delay insurance, credit card providers will reimburse you any nonrefundable costs you paid for with your credit card.

3. Car Rental Collision Coverage

If you frequently rent cars during your travels, you’re likely used to car rental agencies trying to sell additional collision insurance. But many travel credit cards extend collision insurance to any car rentals you charge to your card, giving you the freedom to decline additional coverage and save on those costs.

4. Lost Luggage Reimbursement

Not all travel cards offer lost luggage reimbursement, and policies may differ between credit card companies. The total amount of coverage can vary and each policy may have different requirements. In any case, lost luggage is a risk any time you entrust your bags to an airline, cruise ship or other transportation provider. With this feature, credit card providers reimburse you for any lost luggage (up to a certain monetary amount).

5. Baggage Delay Insurance

If your baggage is misplaced, lost or otherwise delayed, baggage delay insurance covers the cost of any urgent needs created by the delay. Necessities covered may include clothes, toiletries and other essential items.

6. Emergency Travel Assistance

Travel assistance and emergency services can help you make last minute travel arrangements or respond to an emergency during your trip. This could include travel reservations, quick access to medical or legal professionals and roadside assistance. Some credit card companies offer 24/7 emergency service for these urgent requests.

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The 50 Best Beaches in America

Here are some of our favorite beaches in America.

If you’re planning a beach getaway this year, you may still be wondering where you want to go and what destination will offer the most bang for your buck. Or sand for your dollars. Or just sand dollars.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 50 of our favorite destinations from all over the country. (Beaches in Arizona? You bet!) There are party beaches and remote beaches, white-sand and pebble beaches, great beaches for snorkeling and great beaches for ogling. Whatever your preference, chances are there’s a beach here for you.

Just remember, before planning any vacation, it’s a good idea to make sure it fits into your budget. There’s little worse than stressing over money the entire time you’re trying to relax and unwind. We have plenty of tips for budgeting for your next vacation, and also some comparisons of travel rewards credit cards that can help pay for your next holiday. (Pro tip: Rewards cards often require really solid credit, so check your credit scores for free on Credit.com before applying.)

Now, without further ado, here are 50 of our favorite beach destinations in America and U.S. territories, broken down by East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast, freshwater and island beaches.

East Coast

With a plethora of urban and rural beaches, picking our favorite East Coast beaches was tough, but we narrowed it down to these eight.

1. Montauk, Long Island, New York

On the far end of Long Island’s South Fork sits the town of Montauk. Its numerous beaches, crystal-clear-albeit-cold waters and plenty of nearby restaurants and accommodations make it a favorite destination for New Yorkers, especially surfers. In fact, Montauk has made numerous lists as one of the best places to surf in America.

2. Fort Lauderdale Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 

This beautiful city beach is not only easy to get to (it’s right on the road), it’s relaxed and beautiful. It can get a bit crowded, but the people watching can be part of the enjoyment.

3. South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida

If laid-back isn’t quite your thing, South Beach is an endless party with endless Atlantic views. And once you’ve had your fill of sun and sand, there are trendy restaurants, shops and unique hotels to enjoy just across the street.

4. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina 

Hilton Head is a great family destination that can be very budget friendly. And don’t even get us started on the delicious low-country cuisine you’ll find here.

5. Coney Island, New York

More spectacle than beach experience, the boardwalk, pier and amusement park make for a uniquely interesting day trip if you’re visiting the New York area. The beach is typically very crowded with local New Yorkers wanting a break from the heat of the city, and the water isn’t particularly nice. In fact, it’s kind of gross. Still, if you want a memorable New York City beach experience, this is the place to do it.

6. Asbury Park, New Jersey

If you like a good boardwalk, look no farther than Asbury Park. A wide expanse of beach, plenty of people watching, shopping and eating options make this a favorite among locals and tourists.

7. The Cove, Cape May, New Jersey

Farther south on the Jersey Shore, Cape May is more quaint than Asbury Park and offers an abundance of outdoor activities like birdwatching, surfing, kayaking and more. It’s a great family-friendly option.

8. Ocean City Beach, Ocean City, Maryland

Another great spot if you love a good boardwalk, Ocean City has 10 miles of sand and plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained.

9. Race Point Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

As Patti Page once sang, “If you like sand dunes and salty air, quaint little villages here and there, you’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod.” Situated at the very tip of the cape near Provincetown sits this lovely stretch of beach. It’s accessible by car and even bicycle, and don’t be surprised if you spot some seals or even whales in the chilly waters.

10. Ogunquit Beach, Ogunquit, Maine

Farther north, the waters get even colder, but this sandy beach is a beautiful place by the sea. In fact, that’s exactly what its name means in Algonquin, “beautiful place by the sea.” You’ll find charming villages, plenty of delicious fresh lobster and gentle rolling waves.

11. Hollywood Beach, Hollywood, Florida

Between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, you’ll find this lovely beach with a charming seawalk. It’s great for a romantic getaway and still offers plenty of nearby activities without all the hustle and bustle of, say, South Beach.

12. Virginia Beach, Virginia

A three-mile oceanfront boardwalk is one of this famed coastline’s signature draws, ideal for strolling, jogging, rollerblading and more and rife with people watching. South of the resort area, nature lovers will find Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park, while those simply looking for more seaside solace might give peaceful Sandbridge a look.

13. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, North Carolina

Most of the beaches on the OBX are just awesome, but Cape Hatteras is special. Its famous lighthouse makes for a nice break from the sun and sand, but one of our favorite things about this stretch of beach is that beach fires are still allowed, meaning you can have that clambake if you so desire, or you can just relax with friends and family while enjoying the warm glow.

14. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Home to Apache Pier, the East Coast’s longest wooden pier, and the SkyWheel, there’s a ton of fun to be had along this 60-mile stretch of oceanfront, not to mention plenty of world-class golf.

15. Folly Beach, South Carolina

This six-mile stretch of sand offers visitors a laid-back beach experience, which is probably why it’s a favorite among local surfers.

16. Ocracoke Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina

If you want to get away from it all, Ocracoke is a great place to do it. There’s been minimal development along this part of the OBX, so the remaining wetlands are home to plenty of wildlife, including birds and turtles. Of course, that doesn’t mean the beaches are empty, though they’re certainly less crowded than more urban East Coast beaches.

Freshwater Beaches

If you live in a landlocked part of the country and don’t want to spend a fortune to get some time at the beach, these picks are for you. Hello, day trip!

17. Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Michigan National Lakeshore, Michigan

One of our favorite freshwater beaches is at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. After all, it was named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America back in 2011. Lake Michigan’s beautiful clear water makes a stroll on these pristine beaches really enjoyable. And when you’re finished sunning and splashing, there are dozens of other nearby activities to enjoy.

18. Bradford Beach, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

On the other side of Lake Michigan is Bradford Beach, a lovely local favorite considered the city’s most popular spot for swimming. There are also sand volleyball courts and plenty of food and beverage vendors to make sure you don’t go hungry.

19. Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona

In the Four Corners region, where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet at a single point, there are a lot of outdoor activities to enjoy. And just a two-hour drive from the spot where you can stand in all four states at the same time are some seriously beautiful beaches along Lake Powell’s shores. There’s even overnight camping allowed in some areas.

20. Huntington Beach, Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland rocks, and so does Huntington Beach, where locals have been enjoying the water and views for decades. This was also the first Ohio beach to receive the Blue Wave designation from the Clean Beaches Coalition.

21. Oak Street Beach, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago beaches can be crowded, especially on a gorgeous summer day, and Oak Street Beach is no exception. There are often volleyball tournaments taking place — both amateur and professional — but the people watching, cool breezes coming off of Lake Michigan and the striking Chicago skyline make it a favorite destination among locals and visitors alike.

22. North Beach, Racine, Wisconsin

Another Blue Wave-certified beach on the Great Lakes, this beach also gets a big thumbs up from Dr. Beach, a renowned beach expert whose picks are certainly noteworthy. North Beach’s 2,500 feet of shoreline offers plenty of room for summertime crowds to enjoy themselves without feeling cramped.

23. Park Point Beach, Duluth, Minnesota

Yes, we’re picking a beach in Minnesota. Why? Beautiful views, soft sand and bracing dips for those hot, humid days. There’s a park and a playground, which makes it a great destination for families.

24. Grand Haven State Park, Grand Haven, Michigan

Another beauty on the shore of Lake Michigan, Grand Haven offers camping, picnic areas, playgrounds and plenty of recreational activities.

25. Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pennsylvania

There are plenty of beaches to choose from here and each has its own attraction. Some are more sheltered and quiet, while others have concessions and volleyball courts. The choices alone make it a great family getaway.

Island Beaches

You’re going to have to fly or take a boat to get to these beaches, but you won’t need your passport.

26. Hulopoe Beach, Manele Bay, Lanai, Hawaii

Considered one of the most perfect beaches in the world, Hulopoe Beach, on Lanai, offers a designated marine preserve where the snorkeling and diving are considered among the finest in the Hawaiian Islands. There are also tidal pools filled with colorful marine life.

27. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii

This somewhat isolated beach is described by beach expert Dr. Beach as a “beautiful, crescent-shaped, white-sand beach bounded by rocky anchors where good restaurants can be found.” Yes, please.

28. Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Powdery sand, gentle breezes, palm trees and turquoise water make this beach the stuff of dreams. Plus it’s in a quiet residential area, so the crowds aren’t typically too bad.

29. Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands 

The island’s most photographed beach is also one of its prettiest, with over a quarter mile of powdery sand, clear water and short hiking trails.

30. Lindquist Beach, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Clear, shallow water, coconut groves and sea grape trees make Lindquist Beach feel dramatic despite its relative calm on the weekdays.

31. Boquerón Beach, Puerto Rico

Frommer’s says this beautiful stretch of sand brings to mind a “tropical Cape Cod.” Its white sand, palm trees and calm waters make it a wonderful destination for families looking to snorkel, swim or even fish. Boquerón Beach also is a state-run, public beach, which means there are picnic tables, barbecue pits, lifeguards, bathrooms with showers and lockers, plus a cafeteria and a shop for necessities like sunscreen.

32. Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

This two-mile-long beach in the shadow of Diamondhead is one of the most famous beaches in the world, with more than four million visitors each year. While it can get quite crowded, its breathtaking beauty is worth sharing with others.

33. Poipu Beach Park, Hawaii

Golden sands, clear blue waters and spottings of sea turtles and whales make this a favorite beach among Hawaii’s multitude of beautiful spots. In fact, TripAdvisor named it a top 25 beach in its annual Travelers’ Choice Awards for 2017.

West Coast Beaches

34. Zuma Beach, Malibu, California 

The water may be freezing — thanks northwesterly winds — but the juxtaposition of mountains and ocean are something you rarely see here in the States. Bring a jacket and headphones so you can vibe out to one of the prettiest beaches along the Pacific Coast Highway.

35. La Jolla Cove & Shores, La Jolla, California

There’s kayaking, snorkeling, diving, swimming and communing with La Jolla’s famous sea lions and seals. What’s not to love?

36. Venice Beach, Venice, California

Like Coney Island on the East Coast, Venice Beach is more about spectacle than it is actually taking in the sand and surf. Still, it’s a great experience if you’re in the greater Los Angeles area and want to get a little salty air.

37. Coronado Municipal Beach, Coronado, California

Situated in front of the famous Hotel Del Coronado, the beach is wide and the gentle waves are perfect for swimming. It’s also a beachcomber’s paradise, with plenty of shells and sand dollars to be found.

38. Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

If you’re seeking a beach with amazing sunsets, look no further. The natural beauty of the rugged coastline makes a wonderful setting for a romantic picnic or stroll, but the rip tides and chilly water make swimming less than enjoyable.

39. Rialto Beach, Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Best known for its rocky beaches and driftwood, Rialto Beach is a part of Olympic National Park, so you’re likely to spot plenty of wildlife as you walk the shore. There are whales, otters, and even bald eagles.

40. Cannon Beach, Cannon Beach, Oregon

If you want to hang out with puffins at the beach, Cannon Beach is the place to go. There’s a plethora of wildlife along this four-mile stretch of sand, but there’s still plenty of room for swimming, picnicking and just lazing about.

41. Huntington Beach, Huntington Beach, California

If you’re a fan of surfing, you probably already know this beach is nicknamed Surf City, U.S.A. Known for amazing breaks, it also has good swimming and boogie boarding. You’ll also find lifeguards, food and sundry vendors, restrooms and even volleyball courts.

Gulf Coast Beaches

Last, but certainly not least, are the Gulf Coast beaches. Now, if you live on the East or West Coast, you’re probably thinking, “Eww, a Gulf Coast beach? No way.” If that’s you, you might be interested to know that the No. 1 beach in America as chosen in TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards 2017 is …

42. Siesta Beach, Siesta Key, Florida

That’s right. This Gulf Coast beach was chosen as the No. 1 beach in the country. Siesta’s 99% quartz sand means your tootsies won’t burn even on the hottest days. Pair that with crystal-clear waters and warm, sunny days almost year-round, and you’ve got full-on beach bliss.

43. Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, Florida

The sand here just speaks to people. Literally. The sand is so powdery it often squeaks when you walk across it. Its beautiful waters and warm temperatures almost year-round make it a perennial favorite and a contender for most best-beaches lists.

44. Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel, Florida

If you love collecting shells and other treasures from the ocean, this could be the beach for you. It has some of the best shelling in the world. On top of that, there are no high-rise hotels and the sunsets are outstanding.

45. Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, Florida

White sand, gentle waves and turquoise waters with a lovely beach town make this a favorite for beachgoers. It’s darn near perfect.

46. Gulf State Park, Alabama

Not far from the Florida state line, this stretch of sugary white sand offers plenty of family-friendly activities to keep everyone entertained. The park offers air-conditioned restrooms, showers, a snack bar and and tables for eating.

47. South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre can get a little crazy during Spring Break, when droves of high school and college students descend on the pretty beaches here. In fact, it can be pretty crowded for most of the high season, and while you won’t get turquoise waters, there’s an abundance of birdlife, dolphins and sea turtles. There’s also plenty of fishing to be found if that’s your thing.

48. Matagorda Bay Nature Park, Matagorda Island, Texas

The water on Matagorda Island definitely seems bluer than a lot of water along the Texas coast, plus it’s not as crowded as a lot of the beaches. If you like a natural setting with plenty of birdlife, this is a relaxing spot to just chill with family and friends.

49. Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, Florida

As the name implies, the water here is crystal clear. The sand is also powdery soft and white, making this a very popular beach. If you don’t like crowds, there’s another alternative nearby …

50. St. Pete Beach, Clearwater, Florida

There are five miles of delicate sand and crystal-clear warm waters to enjoy on this beach situated on Florida’s Gulf Coast shore, so there’s a chance you won’t feel overly crowded even on busy days. You’ll find plenty of nearby activities as well, not to mention beautiful sunsets from the beach.

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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