Information – The Barefoot Nomad Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Fri, 15 Jun 2018 22:40:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How To Relax In Comfort While Not Traveling: We Review the VIZIO M50-E1 TV and Crave Go Speaker Wed, 13 Dec 2017 20:00:00 +0000 We received a VIZIO TV and Crave Go speaker for review. All opinions are our own. 

There comes a time in many nomadic people’s lives when the open road doesn’t hold as much interest as it once did. That was around two years ago for us when we decided to set up a home base back in Canada.

Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t still love to travel, because, well, we do, but living out of a perpetual suitcase can take its toll on the spirit. Especially the consumerism spirit. You know, the one that prefers Black Friday to Thanksgiving, Boxing Day to Christmas, and well, you get my drift.

The VIZIO M series TV

While living out of a suitcase can be liberating, freeing you from the things that hold you back, it can also limit you from achieving total comfort and relaxation. While I admit nothing beats lounging in a world class spa or floating in a warm sea for relaxation while I’m out globetrotting, when it comes to comfort on a cool day, at least in my mind, nothing beats a warm comfortable bed.

That said, one of the things we recently picked up that has made our life more enjoyable while not on the road is a new VIZIO 4K TV for our bedroom. Talk about total comfort. A super comfortable bed and a TV that streams 4K Netflix whenever I want? Yeah, you’ll thank me later.



Not wanting to overdo it, we limited ourselves to a 50 incher. I mean, there’s comfort and then there’s just decadence. Especially for a bedroom TV. We did however get the second highest quality 4K LED TV that VIZIO offers, the M50-E1. The only better model that VIZIO currently offers is the P series and, to be honest, we’re more than pleased with the M series.

Check out our unboxing video below.

Unlike the previous generation models, the M series doesn’t come with a tablet, but this time it has a fully functioning, normal remote control, which I prefer. We already have phones and tablets to spare, so having another one to charge and deal with would have been more of a hassle. Of course, this VIZIO model still features Chromecast abilities included with its VIZIO SmartCast suite, so if you want you can still stream just about anything to the TV via your own phone or tablet.

VIZIO TV and remote

VIZIO TV and remote

Another nice perk this year compared to last, is that the VIZIO TV also has built in apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. This is great, since it allows us to start watching the moment we turn on the TV and doesn’t require an outside source. The fact that it still has Chromecast built in also allows us to say to our Google Home (another small luxury we recently purchased), “Hey Google, play Stranger Things on the TV in the bedroom” and when we get up the stairs our show is waiting for us.

Here’s a little peek at of some of the apps that are available to cast with Chromecast.

Chromecast apps

You can also control your VIZIO’s SmartCast 4K display using Amazon’s Alexa. There’s a tutorial on how to set it up here.

Now, luxury has its cost, but the VIZIO TVs are priced well for what you get. Plus, they’re often on or leading the best 4K TV lists. As a matter of fact, the M series are usually noted as one of the best 4K TVs on a budget or off. Check out prices here at Amazon.
Cartoon time for the kids!

Cartoon time for the kids!

Since the VIZIO M50-E1 is a 4k Ultra HD LED TV with HDR10, that means 4K content from Netflix and YouTube looks amazing. Since it comes with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR formats, you don’t need to worry about which format their HDR content is in. The display defaults to Dolby Vision, which typically offers a better picture than HDR10, when it’s available.

It also has 32 local dimming zones, which means you get great blacks compared to other LED TVs, which is great for dark scenes in shows or movies. Its V8 processor means it’s quick at navigating in the apps, and with 802.11ac WiFi it can connect well with our router without buffering issues or requiring me to run Ethernet cables to it.

I also like its small bezel, and though we hung ours up on the wall (it comes with 400×400 VESA mounts), it comes with cute little metal feet. When it comes on, the VIZIO’s colors are vibrant and the picture quality is fantastic. Because of the auto dimming zones, movies and dark shows look great on this TV.

Installing the metal foot stand on the bottom of the VIZIO TV

Installing the metal foot stand on the bottom of the VIZIO TV

Some of my not so favorite aspects of the VIZIO M50-E1 is that the viewing angle seems fairly limited. It tends to wash out the farther away you are from center, but that doesn’t matter in our room where we sit directly in front of the VIZIO TV. I also find it has a bit of a glare with its somewhat shiny screen, but we usually watch this TV at night with the lights off so it’s not a big deal for us either and, in my mind, the dark blacks more than make up for these issues.

The VIZIO TV line up don’t include a built-in tuner, so you can’t watch over the air broadcasts without a separate device. This isn’t a problem if you have cable or satellite since you’ll be using those boxes anyway, but it does force you to pick up a cheap box (check prices for OTA tuners here) if you wanted to capture free over the air signals. Our city only gets one over the air channel so it’s not a big deal for us either.


One of our favorite things about this TV is that casting videos to it is just so easy. We just start whatever app we want on our phones, like YouTube or PopcornFlix, and with a tap and swipe it shows up right away on the VIZIO. Like I previously said, the VIZIO also plays nicely with our Google Home and Google Home Mini and you can tell it to play videos directly as well as control the TV with your voice.

We truly wish our main TV had this functionality, and you can rest assured our next one will have Chromecast abilities built in as well.

VIZIO TV and remote

All in all, we love our new VIZIO bedroom TV and it makes coming back to Canada from a long jaunt out in the world that much easier. A bigger problem is that we get so comfortable it makes it harder and harder to leave…

Casting with the VIZIO Crave Go speaker

In our time off from travel, we’ve also been having a blast casting to our VIZIO Crave Go speaker using our Google Home.

The VIZIO Crave is a wireless speaker with Chromecast built-in, which means it’s compatible with Google Home, Google Home Mini, and the Google Assistant. The Crave Go is compatible with all your Chromecast-enabled audio apps, like Spotify or Pandora.

We’ve been using it to cast Google Play Music into our kitchen, from the Google Play in our living room.

VIZIO Crave Go portable speaker

Since it’s wireless, we’re really looking forward to using it to listen to tunes on our back patio when the weather warms up a bit. VIZIO says there are six hours of battery life, so that should give us plenty of time relaxing in the hammock in the back yard. Just note that it isn’t water resistant!

What’s really cool is that when we cast over WiFi from our phone, it means that our music isn’t interrupted, even if we get a text or phone call.

This is definitely one nice looking speaker. There’s a good looking metal grill that over the front and top of the speaker. Since it’s portable, there’s soft, rubberized, plastic on any sides that may bump while it’s being moved.

It has a nice, sturdy feel, and it definitely has a look of quality.

VIZIO Crave Go Speaker

VIZIO Crave Go Speaker

There’s a kick stand on the back that we use to keep the speaker upright. Underneath, you’ll find a USB port, the power button, a charging port, and an auxiliary port. The volume buttons are on the side, as is a Bluetooth and a play/pause button.

How does it sound? It’s plenty powerful, and teamed with our Google Home, it has a nice sound for around the house, though we found the bass a bit muddy.

The Crave Go or Crave Pro(see below for a little chat about the Crave Pro) can be part of a multi-room system. If you have multiple speakers, you’re able to link them together to play the same thing everywhere, while still playing different things in different places.

Crave Pro wireless speaker

If you’re looking for an at home (non portable) speaker, VIZIO also offers the Crave Pro, also with Chromecast built-in.

The Crave Pro speaker is designed for multi-room pairing, to connect with other VIZIO SmartCast™ Crave Wireless Speakers for seamless listening throughout your home.

We didn’t get a chance to try the Crave Pro, but we thought we’d give it a mention, as it’s VIZIO’s slightly higher quality speaker, and its sound gets great reviews.

Like the portable Crave Go we tried, the Crave Pro works with Google Home, Google Home mini, and the Google Assistant. The Crave Pro is compatible with all your Chromecast-enabled audio apps, like Spotify or Pandora.

Crave Pro speaker

VIZIO Crave Pro

VIZIO Smart TV VIZIO M50-E1 Review VIZIO Smart TV VIZIO M50-E1 Review 4K HD


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Do I Need Travel Insurance? Mon, 13 Nov 2017 18:00:17 +0000 Planning on taking a trip and not sure if you need travel insurance? Well, the simple answer is yes, you need it.

It can give you medical coverage when you’re injured or sick, plus it can reimburse your if your expensive camera or smartphone is broken, if you need to return home if a family member becomes sick or injured, or if your flight is cancelled.

We always strongly advise people to get travel insurance. It only costs dollars a day. We’ve seen good insurance help us and so many other people, and we’ve also seen others regret being cheap and not getting good insurance.

Micki and Charles on Motorbike in Thailand

The two of us cruising around Thailand on a motorcycle – probably an accident waiting to happen

We’ve been grateful for  insurance when Micki had a three day hospital stay in Thailand, when our son needed stitches for his ear in Greece, and when we needed the addresses of the nearest hospitals in Quito, Ecuador.

Our favorite company is World Nomads. We’ve been recommending them since we started this blog, because they’re reputable, and endorsed by Lonely Planet and National Geographic. They also offer travel insurance to citizens of multiple countries, even if you’re already overseas.

You can use the widget below to find a plan for your trip:

Why you need travel insurance

So why do you need travel insurance? The same reason you need car insurance, home insurance and so forth. It’s insurance, something you need to insure that you don’t lose everything else you have in your life in case something bad happens. Without it you open yourself to a lot of unnecessary risk.

Now, you might be thinking, how much can it cost me if I don’t have insurance? I mean, you’ve traveled dozens of times and haven’t needed it. Why should you bother giving your hard earned money to some  insurance company?

Simple, no one plans for an accident to happen, that’s part of the definition of an accident. If you haven’t needed to use your travel insurance on previous excursions out of country then consider yourself fortunate. If you travel often, the odds are that sooner or later you’ll need it and hospital stays in foreign countries can easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

What is travel insurance

So what exactly is travel insurance? It’s a hedge bet that something will happen on your next trip that you’re not prepared for.

It might be a stolen phone or camera. It could be a sudden case of a nasty flu or it could be that a car swerves and hits a truck that unleashes a herd of geese that distracts a driver that nearly hits you and, as you back away, you fall down a flight of stairs. Now, it wasn’t the fall that hurt you, it was slipping on the ice at the bottom as you were dusting yourself off that broke your arm while you were trying to grab the handrail. The bad part is that you need to use your arm when you get home and it’s going to take 6 weeks to heal.

Some of our electronics gear

Sound too far fetched? Maybe, but that’s the nature of accidents. If they were planned, they’d be called on purposes.

Travel insurance is piece of mind

So yes, accidents happen, at home or abroad. It’s called life and it’s not simple, clean or easy. We’ve been fortunate the we only needed travel insurance a few times over the course of our travels, but it’s still something we firmly believe every traveler should carry.

Not only can a good plan give you piece of mind, the company behind it can often help guide you to a good doctor, they can help with your emergency return to your home, pay for follow up treatments in case it’s warranted, cover your lost or stolen goods, cover your cancelled flights and even pay for your hospital bills.

They can also provide money to your family should you not make it back home. Not something people like to discuss but it’s a reality whether you’re getting in the car to go to work or getting on a plane and heading to Rio. Leaving enough so your family can properly do what they need will make their lives easier in times of loss and there’s no price too high for that.

Travel insurance options

So now that you’ve decided you need travel insurance, what are your options? The good and bad side are that there are tons of options to choose from. Not only are there hundreds of companies and brokers, there are single trip plans, multi trip plans and comprehensive plans. Plans that have deductibles and plans that are deductible free. There’s cancellation insurance, liability insurance even dismemberment insurance. There are evac only plans, hostage and negotiation plans and even natural disaster only plans.

Amid all that there are different price points for each plan. So I ask again, how do you choose your travel insurance?

Snorkeling in the Marietas Islands, Mexico

Snorkeling in the Marietas Islands, Mexico

The hard truth is there is no simple way to choose insurance. You need to decide which factors are the most important to you and how much you’re willing to pay for each service because the fact is, the more comprehensive the  insurance, the more it’s going to cost you.

Doesn’t seem fair? Well, think of it from the company that’s insuring you’s side. It’s no secret they’re into this business to make money. That’s why they have actuarial tables and the risk each person faces and the likelihood that they’ll have to pay out in case an accident occurs. They can’t offer more services without charging for it.

Get what you need

On the other side of the fence we have people that often over buy insurance. They get enough insurance that if they have to make a claim they equate it to winning a lottery. That’s not right either. To us, the purpose of travel insurance is to mitigate as much risk as possible while also realizing that sometimes bad things happen.

However, just like I don’t make my kids walk around in helmets in the odd chance they fall and hit their head, so too don’t I rely on insurance to make my life better. In this way we often plan for the worst case scenario and no matter the outcome we know we’ll be at a loss when it comes to insurance, but our family on the whole will survive.

To us that often means getting a good insurance plan with a reputable company with a little less bells and whistles than we’d need. We save on fees a ton that way, like by including a deductible on our plans. We know we don’t often end up using our  insurance and having a deductible often lowers our initial cost. That said, we know that if we do have to make a claim it will cost us a few hundred dollars. This also ensures that if we really need to use our insurance it has to be worth it.

A personal travel accident story

To give you a good example, while we were in Greece a few years back, our son slipped on a merry go round and tore his ear wide open. Seeing as Greece was in economical turmoil, the hospital was closed down so we walked to the private hospital service across the street. For $180 dollars they had him sewn up and as good as new in a few hours. Now, we could have filed a claim, but however considering our deductible was $200 there was no point. That was an acceptable cost to us and didn’t really affect us monetarily in a big way, however had he severely injured his leg, we would have happily paid the deductible and considered ourselves fortunate that we had travel insurance.

Kids playing on the fallen columns at the Kos Agora Greece

Kids playing on the fallen columns at the Agora in Kos, Greece

So what’s the purpose of that story? It’s to affirm that yes, accidents happen everywhere as well as to highlight that every traveler has their own needs and what’s acceptable to them. It’s up to you to decide what’s right for you and your family.

Choosing what matters to you

If having your bags lost or stolen worries you, get baggage insurance. If you never file claims, consider increasing your deductible to save a little money. If you travel often, especially for short periods, consider getting a multi trip plan since it will save you in the long run and you won’t be having to buy travel insurance every time you leave the country.

Just like every traveler is unique, so is every plan. Make sure you compare your plan with others before deciding which one is right for you.

Need some more help?

Check out our post on how to get travel insurance if you’re already abroad, or our article on travel insurance for Canadians.

Do I need travel Insurance Travel Insurance do I need it ]]> 2
Vacasa Review: Finding Vacation Rentals Made Easy Thu, 17 Aug 2017 23:00:00 +0000 It’s no secret that we love staying local while we travel. Nothing lets you soak up a destination’s culture more than staying for an extended time. We also love home stays for longer periods because it’s usually a lot cheaper to stay somewhere for a month rather than a week.

The problem with renting someones home or vacation rental is that you never know exactly what you’re going to get. This is especially true if you’re staying long term. You can put up with things for a weekend but if you’re staying someplace for a week or longer, the place needs to be exactly what you’re expecting.

That means we’re always excited to check out an alternative to the standard peer-to-peer vacation rental sites. So, when Vacasa reached out to us to check out their website, we were curious to try it. While we had only heard of Vacasa in passing, we quickly realized Vacasa is a fairly big company, with 1,600 employees and a headquarters fully accredited by the Better Business Bureau.

Vacasa reviews

Vacasa Reviews

What I found interesting about them is that unlike most other peer-to-peer vacation rental companies, Vacasa manages all of their  6,000 properties properties themselves in multiple countries and nearly every state in the USA. Plus, they’re their own property managers, housekeepers, photographers, reservation agents, and support. What that means to vacation renters like us is that the level of communication, the quality of the stay and the cleanliness of the property should be at a consistently good level.

Vacasa home

To start, we wanted to check out how well the Vacasa website is in helping us plan a vacation rental along the Portland and Oregon Coast. That means asking a lot of questions for this Vacasa vacation rentals review, like how easy it it to find a rental? Do they have plenty of listings to choose from? Are the listings good quality and a good fit for us? Is the website easy to use? Does the website feel safe and secure?

Vacasa Portland

First up, we checked out rentals in Portland in September. There were plenty to choose from, all with bright, attractive photos. For us, lots of good quality photos are absolutely essential when we choose a place to rent. We like to see exactly what we’re renting.

Vacasa Portland Oregon

The first thing I noticed is that Vacasa has a Calendar availability view that lets you compare availability for all of the listings in your search.

I probably can’t overstate how fantastic this is, especially since I know that a few of the other booking sites we generally use don’t let you compare availability for different properties at the same time.

With no jumping back and forth between ads, this saves me so much time! One quick look and I can tell what places are free for the dates I need and what their nightly rates are. It’s especially nice during very busy periods when I need to book more than one rental someplace due to lack of availability.

Vacasa Availability view

I pretty quickly fell in love with a Northwest Portland townhouse, with two bedrooms, building amenities that includes a game room and a fitness center, and an location close to restaurants and breweries. At $160 a night, with that kind of great location, it’s a pretty good deal.

Vacasa Heart of Rose City Portland Oregon Rental 559649

Vacasa Oregon Coast

Next up, we wanted to check out the inventory along the Oregon Coast. During our search of Portland we found plenty of great vacation rentals, but we wanted to make sure that wasn’t a fluke based on the location in a big city. Turns out that definitely wasn’t the case. We found a whopping 880 rentals along the Oregon Coast.

Vacasa Oregon Coast

Once we narrowed it down a bit, we decided to take the Vacasa map search for a spin. It worked like a charm, as we zoomed in and out to find a vacation rental near Canon Beach. The beach, if you haven’t seen it, is absolutely stunning. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve visited, so staying localy was essential.

Canon Beach Oregon Coast DP

Canon Beach Oregon Coast . Beautiful, right?

It didn’t take me long to zoom in to this beauty – Haystack Views Vacation Rental right on Canon Beach. It overlooks Haystack Rock from nearly every vantage point, has a hot tub and fireplace, and can sleep up to 12 in its four bedrooms plus loft. I think that our Oregon vacation is just calling for a few friends to join in!

Haystack Views Vacation Rental Vacasa Oregon Coast

To book, just select your dates, and enter your name, email and phone number in the contact form. A rental agreement will pop up, and they you can pay by credit card.

What we liked

The Vacasa website (try it for yourself here!) was fast, easy to use, and I was really impressed by the quality of the places for rent. There are some beautiful vacation rentals on this website!

I especially loved the calendar availability comparison, which let me compare availability for all the properties in my search in one location. Such a time saver!

For all reservations, you can cancel within the first 24 hours of booking the reservation with a full refund.

What we didn’t like

I would love to see more reviews on some of the vacation rentals. However, most of the rentals had plenty (the house we are interested in on Canon Beach had 121 reviews!).

I’d also love to see a Vacasa app, but I’m guessing that’s probably in the works.

Want to learn more about Vacasa?

Visit the Vacasa website now to see some listings for yourself, or see them on Facebook.

If you want to learn more about the company culture check out the video below, which takes you inside the Vacasa headquarters.

Spoiler! There are puppies, ping pong tables and a lot of people who seem pretty darn happy.

Have you tried Vacasa? What did you think of your experience?

Vacasa Review! Are you interested in an airbnb alternative with quality properties and an easy to use website? Vacasa may be your answer. Vacasa Review: Finding Vacation Rentals Made Easy

 Vacasa Review: Finding Vacation Rentals Made Easy | Vacasa rentals

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Why Families Need Travel Insurance Tue, 08 Nov 2016 18:00:34 +0000 Thinking about going somewhere fun with your family? Sure, why wouldn’t you?

We travel with our kids all the time and it’s one of the most rewarding ways to travel. Not only do you get to share lifelong memories with those you love, but you also get a chance to bond over the not-so-perfect moments as well.

What, you don’t think that your once-in-a-lifetime getaway is going to get by without a hitch, do you?

Why families need travel insurance

I’m going to be 100% real with you here. There is a solid chance that something will break, something will be lost, a reservation will be bungled, a flight missed or one of a thousand other problems that come up whenever a group of people go on a trip together.

You know what, it’s not a big deal, but the earlier you plan for contingencies, the quicker you can get past them and enjoy your holidays.

kids in the airport Vancouver Canada

Life happens

You see, no matter where you are, whether it’s at home or on the road, life happens. Throw in a few kids, small suitcases that can only hold so many essentials and a bit of unknown and – bam, the possibilities for trouble are already racking up.

As much as you read up on other cultures, people and places there’s no telling who or what you’ll run into once you leave home and the truth is, there’s a reason people call travel an adventure. It’s the unknown that truly makes travel worthwhile and frankly, the oddities and one offs make the best stories when you get back and are what you remember most about your trip years later.

Like the time back in 2003 when Micki had a kidney infection and we were staying on a remote beach in Thailand. We had to charter both a private boat and a taxi to get to the local hospital. Luckily, Travelcuts helped with the language barrier and she was quickly checked in for a few days and I was allowed to sleep on the couch beside her while she got better. Room service was lacking (for me anyway) but it was by far the cleanest place we stayed that year and Micki was treated like royalty.

Don’t fight the inevitable, embrace it.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should just throw caution to the wind and just let whatever happen, happen. There is a time for that to be sure however, when you have kids with you and a set timeline, a little planning does go a long way.

One of the ways we plan ahead is ensuring we have good travel insurance. You can even say that over the years travel insurance has become a passion for us. Don’t believe me? You can check out our post on Canadian Travel Insurance here, which we update every year.

Considering we first talked about travel insurance back in 2010, you can bet things have changed since then. We’ve learned a lot about different plans and what makes one plan better than another. That said, the fact remains, if you plan to travel as a family, these are some of the things that matter the most and why all families need travel insurance.

Kids on the bus in Spain

Traveling by bus in Spain

Medical Travel Insurance

This one is simple. Whether you’re traveling alone, or with a family, no one should be without medical insurance. Sure, no one plans to get E. coli or have their foot stepped on by an elephant, but it happens regardless.

We’re speaking from experience here; we’ve had a few hospital visits on our travels (one for badly cut ear, one for a kidney infection, and another for a bout of E. coli). They’re never fun, but it definitely eased our stress to know that we had reliable medical travel insurance.

When you factor in that you’re all likely to do more activities, some of them probably in the adventurous category than you generally would at home, you’re not just putting yourself more out there, you’re putting your whole family as well.

Though it’s not likely something bad will happen, it does raise the odds that something unplanned might occur.

I understand this isn’t something any parent wants to think about, regardless of whether they’re traveling or at home, however, the truth is that sometimes you have to plan for unexpected illnesses or accidents.

When something goes wrong, you want the best care you can get. The easiest way to ensure that is to have good medical travel insurance. Most companies have people you can call any time, day or night, that can guide you on where to go and how to get medical help. Don’t know the local number to call the doctor? Chances are your provider does.

Once you’ve been taken care of, you then have the peace of mind knowing that the rest of your trip won’t be in jeopardy because you’re worried about your bank account being empty or if that bone got set correctly.

hanging out at the departures board

Cancellation Insurance

The numbers don’t lie. The more people who travel together, the bigger chance that something will go wrong. This is true even before you leave home.

Accidents, work, family emergencies and unforeseen incidents can happen any time and none of us own a crystal ball that can predict the future. As Micki always reminds me, the future is unknown. The only thing you can do is plan your best using the information already in front of you.

Now, it’s no surprise that family vacations cost more than when you travel solo or as a couple. When you realize you have to book flights and accommodations for four or five people rather than just one or two of you, the majority of your costs are due before you even get on the plane.

It might be easy to swallow the cost of just a single flight if you have to cancel, but times that by all of your family members and it gets harder to digest. Spending a few extra dollars for cancellation insurance gives you the peace of mind if something comes up that forces you to cancel or postpone your family trip.

Sure, if you’re traveling as a couple, you could always have one of you stay at home with the sick kid or to deal with whatever crisis comes up but then you have to decide which person stays back while the other gets to enjoy margaritas by the pool and swimming with sea turtles. Have fun with that.

Getting cancellation insurance can ensure that you all can go on your dream trip together later.

Akumal Mexico Turtle Diving

Flight Delays

Did you ever get stuck somewhere you weren’t planning to be for long? We have, on numerous occasions, and having to figure out last minute details like where your family will sleep for the night isn’t enjoyable after hours of flying or sitting around in an airport.

The reality is that unexpected delays happen all the time when you travel.

Short delays can often create larger ones. Sometimes it only takes one plane being late on the East Coast to completely sabotage your flight on the West Coast.

How could that ever happen, you ask? Well, imagine that the flight crew assigned to your plane were stuck either in the air, or on land, for a couple hours longer at their previous location than expected due to a delayed flight. Even if your plane is fine and ready to go, you might not have a crew to pilot it, since they worked longer than allowed on their shifts.

We’re speaking from experience here: We were stuck in Chicago O’Hare airport overnight this summer with our two kids and their grandma when a summer storm delayed our flight crew.

Or, let’s just get wild and imagine that a volcano two countries over decided to erupt and blanket all the nearby airports with ash clouds for a few days. Heck, it already happened.

Much more likely, a storm could sweep in and close down the airport. Now, not only are you struggling to find a place that night but the thousands of people sitting in the airport are as well.

Yes, a flight delay usually isn’t life threatening in any way, however, when you travel with a family, sometimes it’s better to be on the cautious side and make sure your family travel insurance covers flight delays as well. The bonus is this one is usually included in many plans for free.

Airplane Landing on 75 Mile Beach

Baggage Insurance

Know what? The more of you there are means more bags for you to be responsible for. Sure, your son might seem like he’s big enough to take his own bag, but he’s going to be so busy checking out every new thing that his bags will be the last thing on his mind. And your daughter? After the second hour of standing in line at the airport, chances are you’ll be carrying her and her bags by the time you get going. At least that’s how it goes for our family.

Imagine this scenario: You’re a little frazzled by the time you land, and you forget a carry-on on the plane. Remembering it at the last minute, you leave your other bags and run back to get it. By the time you’re back, one bag has mysteriously disappeared and the language barrier isn’t making finding it any easier. Not a big deal in itself, but the bag you just lost contained your new underwater camera that you were hoping to use while snorkeling with your kids for the first time  or perhaps the sea sickness pills your wife needs whenever she gets on a bigger boat.

Here’s where baggage insurance comes in. It generally protects you from anything lost or stolen and can help getting those lifelong memories you’re about to make replaced as quickly as possible. You might never get the pictures you already took on the plane back, but it can help you create new ones.

Tip! Never treat insurance like a potential lottery ticket. Buy only as much as you’ll need to replace what you’re taking with you and the savings you make from keeping your premiums lower can help pay your next trip.

Family Luggage

What luggage for our family of four often looks like…

Final Thoughts

There’s nothing more important to us than the health and well-being of our family. Sure, we’ve gotten a little adventurous now and then, however we always take our safety and that of our children seriously.

When you step a foot out of your comfort zone, you shouldn’t feel intimidated by the possibilities. Just make sure that you have a solid cushion to fall back on if things don’t work out the way you hoped. Family travel insurance isn’t just a safety net, it’s a necessity these days.

Safe travels!

This post is brought to you in part by travelcuts Travel Insurance. We first used travelcuts together back in 2003 and, after Micki spent a few days in a Thai hospital, we realized how great they were to deal with. Great for students and backpackers, with some of the most competitive Canadian online plans starting from $1.36 a day and offering 24/7 assistance, there’s no reason not to check them out for yourself or your family.

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How to Stay Internet Safe and Protect Your Travel Gear Fri, 04 Nov 2016 17:30:32 +0000 Today’s guest post is by fellow digital nomad Cassie from Secure Thoughts, where she and others write about Internet security.

In this post Cassie explains some of the dos and don’ts of working remotely and how to keep both your online life and your tech safe while on the road. Enjoy!

How to Stay Internet Safe and Protect Your Travel Gear

When I was going to college, digital nomad wasn’t a career. No one I knew worked from laptops wherever they traveled or operated outside the confines of a cubicle. The things my friends and I dreamed of were how to make the most out of our one week of vacation every year, and that was the most we could do to assuage our wanderlust.

So when I gave up my corporate job after only one year out of college, it was with trepidation, and also a lot of hope, that I could make travel writing work. Now I’m two years in, and I couldn’t be happier.

The thing they don’t teach you in school is how to begin a one-person business, and for digital nomads, that’s the number one most important detail. Between learning how to use cyber security to being prepared for bad internet connections, these are the steps I wish I had learned when I was starting my business, and I share them now to help out everyone, from a casual traveler to a hard-core adventurer who spends every day in the great unknown.

Between gadgets and great tips, these are the things that will keep your tech and belongings secure while you’re enjoying the great wide world.

Theft-proof your belongings

From wallets with RFID protection to smart luggage that has an internal location tracker, traveling as your livelihood means using any means necessary to keep your belongings in your hands. My first tip is to travel with a carry-on only if possible and to spare no expense getting a tricked-out version that comes with a remote lock and app to keep your things safe. Also consider a travel safe for keeping your credit cards and money and the Lookout app, a free app that helps you keep track of your lost iPhone.

Be prepared with cyber security reinforcement

My best rule of thumb for working on the internet while abroad is to download cyber security software such as a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Built to create a secure connection no matter where you’re connecting from, a VPN will keep out hackers and provide a safe space for you to work.

While you’re abroad, you should also keep your computer from automatically connecting to available networks. Think before you click or connect. Disable any wireless or Bluetooth networks from automatically seeking available networks, and do not conduct sensitive activities, such as online shopping or paying your bills, while using a public network.

How to Stay Internet Safe and Protect Your Travel Gear

Don’t skimp on insurance

Depending on whether you’re traveling with a visa or not, you may be required to have travel insurance. Even if you aren’t required, really consider it. Between helping with lost luggage to ensuring you’re going to be airlifted out of the country in the event of an emergency, insurance is one thing you should always have when traveling.

An extra tip: Insure your technology as well by bringing backup hard drives and purchasing extra technology insurance. When you’re traveling, you never know what will happen, but it’s always the best idea to be prepared for the worst when your livelihood depends on it.

Prep your tech

Before you head out, it’s always good to update your mobile software, backup your information, and keep everything locked. When you’re on the go, your travel devices, from iPhones to laptops, are your home or work computer, and you should treat them that way. Install a great cloud service, get in the habit of locking your device whenever you’re not directly in front of it, and change your passwords and PINs so they’re strong.

Editor’s note from Micki: We’ve recently moved to the Amazon Drive cloud service, and we’re loving it so far.

Whether you’re writing, building code or even taking an extended vacation and updating your blog regularly, these travel tips are great ways to keep everything up and running while you’re on the road. Don’t skimp on security and do what you can to be safe—the best defense is the perfect offense!

About the Author

Cassie is a digital nomad and tech writer for Secure Thoughts who loves to combine these two obsessions whenever possible. Set on traveling the world one blog post at a time, she hopes these tips help you on your next adventure, whether it be for a weekend or a year. Find Secure Thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Stay Internet Safe and Protect Your Travel Gear

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Things We’ve Learned From Moving Often Tue, 26 Apr 2016 17:00:00 +0000 This post brought to you by CORT. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The Barefoot Nomad.

Things we've learned from Moving Often

To say we’ve moved around a lot is a bit of an understatement.

In fact, the longest we’ve ever stayed in one house since 2000 was just over two years. At last count, we’ve moved 12 times over the past 16 years, and that only includes places we’ve lived for six months or longer.

We’ve moved for almost every reason under the sun: for work, for family, for new adventures, to buy a house of our own, to save money, to store our things while we travel, and because the house we were renting was sold (happened twice now). Since 2000, we’ve officially lived in four different cities, plus a cabin by a lake.

On top of all that, we’re also frequent long stay travelers, so if you include all of our one or two month stays it would easily be triple that. As a result, we’ve become pretty good at packing and unpacking. Especially since for nine of those moves, our stuff went into, and then out of, long term storage.

So without further ado, here are some things we’ve learned about moving often.

Sometimes it’s worth it to spend a few $$$

Besides for memorizing the mantra always lift with your legs, we’ve also learnt that sometimes spending a few dollars here and there can pay for itself in peace of mind. For instance, whenever we’ve put our stuff into a storage locker we’ve always looked for temperature controlled, camera monitored indoor lockers for better security. This has cost us a few dollars more than exterior lockers, however the peace of mind that our things are taken care of gave us one less stress while we were on the road. To be honest, the price difference was minimal anyway.

Moving Tip #1: To save money, pack your own things and rent your own moving truck. Hit up the grocery stores for free cardboard boxes. Apple and banana boxes are our favorites.

A few other things we’ve also learnt are what to do with our pets while we travel (our cat goes to Grandma’s house) and what to do with our vehicle (RV storage yard). As we quickly found out, leaving the country for extended travel is almost never as simple as locking the door and walking away.

Moving Tip #2: If you move often, consider keeping your boxes. We used to flatten our boxes down whenever we could and put them out of the way so that when we moved next, we didn’t need to find new ones. Plastic totes are also a good idea since they stack well when empty and keep everything nice and dry when in storage.

Things weve learned from Moving Often - photos in a wooden box

Storage locker location is everything

Unfortunately, the last storage locker we rented was a few hundred feet from the entrance and we spent a couple extra hours loading and then unloading. Walking our stuff back and forth between the rental truck and the locker was brutal. That mistake ended up costing us extra money for the movers and tired us out quickly. It was such an inconvenience that we swore the next time we moved we would make sure our locker was closer to an entrance.

Moving Tip #3: Hiring a few extra hands to help load and unload your things is pretty cheap, saves friendships from being ruined, and lets you set up and dissemble quicker. Check Kijiji or your local paper for movers that charge by the hour.

Is it worth the move?

During a few of our shorter stays, we had to decide whether we should bring everything out of storage or leave some things in there that we knew we wouldn’t need. It might be tempting to just get rid of anything you weren’t using, however we stayed for a few summers and didn’t need our winter clothes or gear for those stays.

Moving Tip #4: A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t use something in a 12 month cycle, get rid of it. Same goes for clothes, toys and most definitely, electronics.

In the end, we decided that it would cost us more to store our extra stuff than transport it so we kept it with us. It also helped us keep our stuff together, since leaving things here and there could leave our things scattered around the country. Things weve learned from Moving Often - cat in a moving box

When moving, look at your timelines

It helps when you move around a lot to understand your motives.

Are you moving due to work, a change of scenery, family, friends or are you just a bit of a nomad like ourselves? Knowing you’re likely going to be moving again in six months or a year lets you figure out your best course of action.

For instance, we’ve had to completely furnish a house and then sell everything in a short while, simply because we couldn’t find a furnished home to rent for a short term stay in a certain city. It took us days to find and buy affordable furniture, then move it by ourselves, and then sell it all when we took our next extended trip to Europe.

That’s the year we perfected the art of buying and selling furniture on Kijiji and Craigslist. We were only planning on being there for four months, however, in the end, Micki’s work contract was extended.

There’s no way the stress and inconvenience would have been worth it if we were only there the four months we first expected.

Why buy when you can rent?

If we’d thought about furniture rental at the time, that year we definitely would have gone that route instead.

Renting furniture has become popular in the last few years, and it’s a great fit for people like us who move a lot. CORT Furniture Rental is a huge company with offices right across the US as well as globally. Looking at their online price lists, you can completely furnish a place for a fraction of what it costs to buy and when you don’t need it, off it goes. To be honest, it would have been handy during a few of our moves, simply because sleeping on an air mattress for a couple of months is never fun, and sitting on the floor eating supper loses its appeal after a few days.

Hayden with Godiva Living Room from CORT furniture rental

Hayden with Godiva Living Room from CORT

The cool part about deciding to rent furniture is that you can rent by the piece, by the room or for the whole house.

When you compare how much people charge for fully furnished places compared to empty ones, you could rent from CORT and still be ahead while also getting to choose your own furniture. You also don’t need to worry about renting a moving van, or lugging around heavy pieces of furniture, since they do that for you.

CORT also has extra discounts for students and the military, so if you’re going to school someplace new next term or are being moved stateside for a short while with the military then you should definitely check them out.

Final Thoughts

As much as we like to travel light (hard truth, we always pack too much) and try to remain free of worldly possessions (sometimes it feels like our stuff owns us and not the other way around), the reality is that sometimes letting go of things isn’t all that easy. Sometimes, it’s just better not to own in it in the first place.

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Thinking about Long Term Travel as a Family? A Letter to get you Motivated Tue, 01 Mar 2016 18:00:49 +0000 Would you like to travel long term as a family? A letter to get you motivated
It’s no secret. Between this website and our social media channels, Micki and I get a lot of questions from people all around world. My favorites though, are the ones from aspiring nomads.

These are questions from readers who have seen a bit of the world or have never even left their home country. The ones who sit in front of their computer screens for hours each day poring over travel sites and travel blogs and wondering why they’re still doing the 9 to 5 thing. The ones who deep down know there’s more to life than what they’ve experienced, and are just trying to find a way out of the box that they call everyday life.

These messages get me stoked because deep down they further my belief that there are others who share our passion to explore the world. To live outside the norm of society. Who question the validity of what it means to follow their dream.

First off, I want to say that living a nomadic lifestyle isn’t for everyone. It’s not even always for us. However it’s always an option for those willing to make it a priority.

Yup, I said it. Nomadic lifestyles aren’t for everyone.

This brings me to the point of this post. You see, a few months back, I got an email from a fellow asking for a few tips on beginning a nomadic lifestyle with his wife and daughter. They had already gotten a glimpse of what’s behind the nomadic curtain and had decided that their current life wasn’t cutting it anymore.

They had come to a crossroad. They were about to sell their house and leave everything they knew behind to see what the world could offer them. The problem was they were starting to get a little nervous about their decision. You see, it still wasn’t too late to call off their nomadic dreams.

I think they just wanted confirmation that they weren’t about to make the biggest mistake of their lives.

Months later, after re-reading my reply to them, I feel that there are probably a few others that need that same encouragement.

That inspired me to share this letter with any other would be nomadic travelers who wonder if it’s the right choice to forgo a traditional 9 to 5 for a life on the road. In truth, this letter is geared more towards older nomads with kids, but most of it can apply to anyone tired of the daily 9 to 5 grind.

A message and a few tips to those dreaming of becoming a nomad.

Congrats on taking a big step towards changing how you view life. Bet you’re starting to get a little nervous right about now. Maybe even doubting your choice occasionally…

I only have one thing to say, don’t worry about it!

Being a nomad is awesome and rewarding and I’ll let you know a little known secret. Just don’t tell anyone else…. You can always settle down someplace new or go back to your old life any time you want. 😉

I can’t guarantee that  everything will always be sunshine and roses for you, but I can guarantee you 100% that you will never view life the same way again.

You’ll realize that you have options. That there are other ways to live your life contrary to what most of your friends and family think. That you don’t have to get on the pathway of bigger house, nicer car, more expensive toys and work, work, work until you’ve climbed that golden corporate ladder.

100% Guaranteed you will never view life the same way again.

You’ll realize that there are other paths. Other more rewarding pursuits. It will help broaden your mind and your soul to all the possibilities the world has to offer.

That’s not to say there won’t be pitfalls and hard times but at least you’re seeing the world while you’re doing it. 🙂

The best advice I can give you, especially when you have a child with you, is go slow.

A nomadic lifestyle is as much about the journey as it is the destination and not the speed in which you go about it.

Long stays

If you’re traveling as a family, then living out of a tiny backpack in an even tinier backbacker dorm probably won’t cut it for long as well. Things like couchsurfing also gets really hard when there’s a group of you.

You’ll want to look at Airbnb and long stays more. Housesitting is another cheap option if you can get into it. For shorter stays, there are even hostels that accommodate families.

If you can cook for yourselves most of the time you’ll save heaps. Stay away from expensive anything unless it’s something you’ve always dreamed of doing and you feel like splurging.

Saving money

Chances are you’ll have more time than money so seek out free museum or discount travel days. Check out the local papers for any deals or discounts and remember that parades and most outdoor festivals are free entertainment.

Walk and take the metro whenever you can! Search out discount airlines and get a train pass only if it totals less than airfare or includes an overnight stay to save money. It sounds simple but accommodation, getting from point a to b and food will be your biggest expenses.

If you can, always have your first night after a long travel day pre-booked. You can check out other places the next day once you have the energy and patience.

Read next: How to save money for travel.

Micki and kids as nomads on a white beach

Taking your time

The best advice I can give is to go slow and don’t push you or your family to their breaking point. With children, you’ll always need to have a little extra energy in reserve in case they need to lean on you. If you manage your time right, travel with kids can be amazing.

Remember if your family isn’t happy, you won’t be either so spend a little extra time in the pool or the park and a little less checking out another once-in-a-lifetime, can’t believe I’m actually seeing it with my own eyes, monument/temple/church/waterfall/peak/sunrise/sunset/view, etc.

Remember if your family isn’t happy, you won’t be either.

Also remember that you have nothing to prove. How long, how far you go and what you see is up to you. You can stop any time, whether it’s a few months or a few decades. By leaving it all behind you’ve already proven that you can pack up your life and make your dreams of a better one a reality.

Don’t trash your friends’ lifestyle

At first, it’s hard to break away from traditional living, and your family and friends might even resent you a little for it, but don’t trash their way of living unless you want to alienate them. Make sure they know that your choices are what you feel are right for you, not necessarily what’s good for them.

Chances are that they’ll eventually realize that they have more options as well and you might be surprised who you see on your doorstep in the middle of wherever one day.

Lastly, being a nomad isn’t about just packing up your things and constantly moving. New destinations are exciting and thrilling but the most important aspect is just enjoying where you are and what you’re doing while you’re doing it.

Hope this message finds you well. Good luck on your new life and take it one day at a time.

Like most nomads, one day you might wake up in the city you want to call home for a while and when that happens, don’t fight it, just realize that you can always move on again if the mood strikes.

To me, being a nomad is about choices, not necessarily destinations and becoming one is the first step to choosing how and where you want to live your life.

Congrats on making that choice and enjoy the freedoms that come with it!

Safe travels,


Read next: 31 Tips for Better Family Travel.

Thinking about becoming a nomad and seeing the world? Here's a letter to a reader that just might help you get motivated.
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Exploring the Mountains of Nikko Japan Wed, 10 Feb 2016 17:00:00 +0000 Jacob’s one of the young travelers you’ll meet here; we love that he’s out on the road at just 21! We wanted to share his video of hiking in the Nikko mountains of Japan with you in the hope that it inspires you to get out there and travel. Japan’s at the absolute top of our list!

I’m Jacob Laukaitis, a 21-year-old digital nomad who’s already been to more than 35 countries in the last almost 3 years. I enjoy making travel videos and sharing them with the world. Here’s my newest one from my hike in Nikko, Japan.

Nikko is located a few hundred kilometers north of Tokyo. It’s a town next to a national park that’s also called Nikko National Park. The national park is settled on a range of mountains, some of which reach higher than 2,000 m above sea level. The entrance to the national park is free, but some of the most famous temples and shrines do require you to pay entrance fee. There are many visitor centers where they will assist you on any questions you might have. As everywhere in Japan, they’re incredibly hospitable and helpful.

As most really nice places in Japan, the park is quite crowded especially during the season. The logistics of the park are really nice – there are walkways for people to enjoy the wonderful Nikko trekking trails and they’re extremely beautiful and clean.

The cultural significance of the historic buildings is major. Apparently Nikko has the most lavishly decorated shrine in all of Japan and the mausoleum of the Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Hiking in the Mountains of Nikko Japan

When I visit sacred places I try to learn about the rituals and practices involved there. I remember when I started traveling around Asia 3 years ago, I would go to dozens of temples and sacred places and I’d learn everything I could about them. However, now I feel like I’ve seen so many temples that it doesn’t look so interesting to learn more about each one’s history or sacred rituals involved.

My trip to Nikko lasted 3 days. I chose to stay at a hostel. It is actually a funny story, since I could only get a bed at my hostel for 2 days and the last day there were literally no hotel rooms available in the town and in the surrounding area (because it was a national holiday in Japan). So I ended up taking the train for 50 kilometers to a bigger city, slept there and woke up 5 am the next morning to continue my daily treks.

I visited Nikko in November. The weather was getting colder day by day as the winter was approaching, but it was still decent during the day time and especially after trekking. At times it was rather hot!

If you’d like to see more of my travels, I post 2 videos a month. I am really thankful for for their contribution to this trip. You can follow me on my personal website or on my Instagram where I post the best moments from my trips.

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10 Quick Tips for the Best Hotel Stay Tue, 12 Jan 2016 18:00:00 +0000 10 quick tips for the best hotel stay

Everyone has a hotel stay horror story. Whether it’s a story about the hotel you chose specifically for it’s awesome pool only to find it closed when you get there, a hotel that double charged you or the hotel whose website said it was minutes to everything and turned out it was actually located a long 45-minute walk from anywhere.

When it comes to hotel stays, we’ve done our share in 14+ years of travel together. As such, we’ve come up with a quick list of some of our most surefire quick tips for the best hotel stay.

Make sure you know what you’re getting

I wish it wasn’t the case, but many hotels have misleading information in the hotel description and amenities. I can’t count how many times we’ve checked further into a hotel that says it’s walking distance to downtown to find that the hotel’s definition of walking distance is over an hour.

In most cases, it’s easy to double-check the hotel’s listing. Google Maps is great for quickly verifying a hotel’s location. Recent hotel reviews are also a helpful source of information.

We’ve also learned to call the hotel directly to ask if specific amenities are available during our stay. We’ve been disappointed before to find that the lovely outdoor hotel pool we’d been looking forward to was closed for renovations, or even more puzzling, closed for winter even though it’s still summer.

Let the hotel know about a special occasion in advance

If your hotel stay marks a special occasion like a honeymoon or anniversary, you have a chance of getting an upgrade or special treatment if you tell the hotel before you check in. If you let the hotel know when you arrive, it may be too late to give you special treatment if all the upgrades have already been used.

A better strategy is to call the front desk ahead of time and let them know about your special occasion, which gives staff time to prepare.

Quick tips for the best Hotel Stay MF

Get the best rate

I’m often surprised by how many people think that a hotel’s rack rate is a hotel’s average rate for a hotel room. In fact, a rack rate is actually the maximum price that a hotel normally charges for a room.

Even if you’re not a big fan of hunting for discounts, it’s usually worth a 10 second search for a discount code to make sure you’re paying less than rack rate. For example, a quick search for a discount code like these Priceline discount codes can easily save you money during your stay.

There might be some rooms even if the sign say “No Vacancy.”

If you’re like us and often travel spontaneously, you might sometimes face a sad hotel sign saying No Vacancy. If this is the case, don’t despair, as the hotel may have a room or two available.

In some cases, a room is marked as booked because of a maintenance issue. Chat nicely to the hotel agent, and you may  find yourself with a good discount for a room with a minor issue.

No Vacancy MF

Don’t be a jerk

Anyone who’s ever worked in customer service knows damn well that a rude customer gets worse service. Why? Would you be motivated to help out someone who was rude, condescending or outright abusive toward you? No? Well, you can bet that the front desk agent won’t be either. It’s worth remembering that front desk agents wield a lot of power in a hotel.

Not only can they give you free things, they can also make sure you get the room with the noisy air conditioner, or the room with curtains that don’t shut fully if you’re not so nice.

Always be kind. It costs nothing.

On the other hand, a little kindness and respect toward the front desk can work wonders. A front desk agent who’s on your side can help you get an upgraded room, get a late checkout, or help with a thousand other little things. Even if they can’t help you out, at least you made someone’s day a little better. And that’s worth a lot. If you’re really looking for great service, try a $20 tip.

Tip, even just a little

It’s no surprise, people working in the hotel industry, and especially in room service, have one of the lowest salaries, so every tip they get makes a difference. Tipping your cleaning person a little every night (don’t just save it for the last day), can help you get an impeccable room service for the whole stay and a squeaky clean room.

Ask to see a few different rooms

If you you aren’t happy with the first room you receive, ask if you can look at the other rooms available. Often, managers try to fill the least desirable rooms first, so you may be surprised to find that other available rooms have a much better view, or even more room.

Join the hotel’s loyalty club

Even if you’re only planning a one-time stay, joining the loyalty club can have some perks. It usually takes less than five minutes to fill out an online application form for a hotel’s loyalty program, and it can pay off in perks that are only offered to loyalty members. Most often, loyalty clubs are free to join and, since you’re staying there anyway, you might as well earn some points for it.

Avoid cancellation fees

If you find that you have to cancel a hotel room past the cancellation date, call and politely ask to move your reservation to the next week. Then, call back in a few hours or the next day and cancel your new reservation. This little trick may just be able to save you a cancellation fee. If it doesn’t work, you can always use Roomer to try to sell your non-refundable hotel room.

Looking for some more tips for the best hotel stay?

I had a lot of fun researching this post, and even found a few great books about hotels, and the hospitality industry. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality 

“Jacob Tomsky never intended to go into the hotel business. As a new college graduate, armed only with a philosophy degree and a singular lack of career direction, he became a valet parker for a large luxury hotel in New Orleans. Yet, rising fast through the ranks, he ended up working in “hospitality” for more than a decade, doing everything from supervising the housekeeping department to manning the front desk at an upscale Manhattan hotel.”

Heads in Beds A Reckless Memoir of Hotels Hustles and So-Called Hospitality

Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip–Confessions of a Cynical Waiter

“Eye-opening, outrageous, and unabashed—replete with tales of customer stupidity, arrogant misbehavior, and unseen tidbits of human grace in the most unlikely places—Waiter Rant presents the server’s unique point of view, revealing surefire secrets to getting good service, proper tipping etiquette, and ways to ensure that your waiter won’t spit on your food.”

Waiter Rant

Concierge Confidential: The Secrets of Serving Champagne Bitches and Caviar Queens

“Michael Fazio is the ultimate behind-the-scenes support man. Want two orchestra tickets to the Broadway musical that just won the Tony? Call Fazio. How about an upgrade to first class on an overbooked overnight flight to Tokyo? Call Fazio. Or a roomful of fresh hydrangeas―in winter? That’s right. Call Fazio.”

Concierge Confidential The Secrets of Serving Champagne Bitches and Caviar Queens


Quick tips for the best Hotel Stay

Fairmont Chateau Frontenac Hotel photo by Prayitno. Modified for our use.

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How Much Money Do You Need To Travel? Our Guide To Figuring It Out Tue, 06 May 2014 19:44:00 +0000 How much money do I need to travel? Here's our back of the envelope, quick calculation guide to get you started.]]> How Much Money Do You Need To Travel Our Guide

Whether you’re backpacking on a round the world trip, spending your summer in a villa in Europe (lucky you!), or planning to spend a few weeks driving around the USA, one of the hardest questions you’ll have to answer is: How much money do I need to travel?

Charles and I have had to answer this question for every trip we’ve taken since we started traveling together in 2002. Along the way, we’ve found some helpful tips and resources for figuring out a budget for even the most complex of trips.

We’re going to be doing this a bit old school today, but it’s easy and it works. Before you start, grab a pen and paper, a napkin, or just get ready to jot down some quick notes on your computer.

Where do I start?

Figuring out a realistic ballpark figure for your trip shouldn’t be a long, painful process. To give you a good idea of how much you’ll need should take less than a half hour.

I’m a huge fan of the back of a napkin approach for getting a general idea of costs. Once you get a good estimate and decide to go ahead with your plans, you can play with the numbers to get a more precise figure. I find that a quick estimate is almost always bang on.

How much your trip costs will depend on a few things that you’ll need to figure out before you can crunch numbers. To begin, sort this information out before you start:

  • Where you’re going
  • How long you’ll be in each destination
  • How many people are traveling together
  • Your style of traveling, be it hostel bunks and street food, cooking while staying in homes or apartments rental, or higher end hotels and nice restaurants
  • When you’ll be at your destination (prices are higher during peak season)

What you’ll need to spend before you leave

These include immunizations, travel insurance and gear like a new backpack or new camera.

Immunizations and Vaccines

To figure out what vaccinations you need, check out the incredibly helpful tool on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website. Then, do a Google search for travel vaccination clinics for your specific city, and pull the costs for the vaccines from there. Don’t forget to add in the cost of an initial consultation and any subsequent visits.

Tip: You may be able to save money by having the vaccinations done directly at the pharmacy or your family doctor’s office if these services are offered where you live. Depending on the vaccination and who administered it, it might also be eligible as a personal tax write-off.

Travel Insurance

A good place to get a baseline quote for travel insurance is World Nomads, who offer travel insurance to residents of over 150 countries. We’ve found their prices to be among the lowest.

Travel insurance can be pretty confusing and full of jargon. If you’re from Canada, check out Canadian Travel Insurance Review, while New Zealanders can check out New Zealand Travel Insurance Review for tips and overviews of travel insurance. Australians can take a look at Australia Travel Insurance Review, a website for independent, in depth reviews on Australian travel insurance companies.


To get a baseline price for airfare, you should look at about a month’s worth of prices. We use Google Flights (which will show a month’s worth of fares), or Skyscanner, which will let you look at up to an entire year’s worth of prices in one search.

Click here to search Skyscanner.

Want to get a great deal on your flight? Check out our post Six Quick Steps to Nailing the Cheapest Flight. If you still have some flexibility in where you’re going, check out our tips on how to find the cheapest flights from your destination.

Tip: Don’t forget to add in extra charges, including charges for extra carry-on and checked baggage. You can find baggage costs for almost every airline out there at


Where you stay is one of the biggest variables in travel. You can spend anywhere from thousands a night on luxury suites to staying for free with a friend or Couchsurfing.

Click here to join Couchsurfing for free.

Are you a luxury traveler who only stays in five star hotels, a family that does best with a house or condo rental, an ultra-budget backpacker who stays in hostel dorms, or even someone who’s willing to test out free Couchsurfing accommodations?

Long Term Travelers

If you’re planning to stay in one place for a month or more and live like a local you can get some great information on monthly rents from Numbeo, a seriously addictive crowd-sourced cost-of-living comparison site. Check out listings on Airbnb as well, as this will give you a good baseline for long term accommodation aimed more at tourists (with more modern conveniences).

If you’re traveling long term, don’t forget to factor in discounts for weekly or monthly stays. As a general rule of thumb, we’ve found that most home rentals charge the same for a month long stay as a two week stay. Hotels and hostels also often offer good weekly and monthly discounts.


We like to use to get baseline prices for dorm rooms and budget hotels. They have a huge selection of rooms all over the world.


We love for budgeting for shorter stays, as they have a huge selection of hotel rooms and have a lightning fast search engine. Numbeo also has a hotel prices, but we find that their numbers are a bit harder to navigate than simply looking at a hotel search engine.


Where and what you eat is a huge factor in your travel budget.

In general, eating out costs a lot more than making all (or some) of your own meals, with the exception of countries like Thailand where cheap, delicious meals often cost less than hassling with cooking for yourself.

Eating in

Use the awesome Numbeo, a crowd-sourced cost-of-living comparison site, to get ballpark prices on standard groceries like milk and bread.

Tip: To get an idea of your own personal costs, check out the prices for your home country as well so you have a proper baseline to compare it to. It generally helps if you already have a good idea of what your current eating in costs are as well.

Eating out

Again, Numbeo is a fantastic resource for getting the average cost of restaurant meals, whether you prefer inexpensive local fare, fast food, or a sit down restaurant.

Tip: The more meals you eat out the quicker your costs will skyrocket. Try saving some cash by eating in for breakfasts and bagging the occasional lunch.


It’s pretty easy to spend more on alcohol than food, especially if you’re in the habit of spending evenings out drinking. You can find the cost of a bottle of beer or wine in the Market and Restaurant sections of Numbeo.

Total Food Budget

Once you pull all these numbers, you’ll need to roughly figure out how often you eat in vs out, and then figure out an average of how much you’ll spend per day.

Quick tips for saving on food: Always carry a snack, like a bag of pretzels or nuts, to stave off expensive trips to vending machines or convenience stores. Try to get breakfast included in your room rate, but if this isn’t possible try to get a kitchen (or at least a small fridge or microwave) in your room for snacks, breakfast and quick, light meals.


We’ve included airfare in a separate category, so these tips just reflect local transport at your destination.

Again, Numbeo comes to the rescue with estimates for local taxi, bus and gasoline costs.

If you’re traveling in the USA or Canada, we love GasBuddy, which gives generally reliable crowd-sourced prices for local gas. You can also get the free iOS app for GasBuddy, or on Google PlayBlackberry App World or on Windows phone.

If you’re renting a car, we like to get a baseline price from Expedia or, as it saves us having to search through multiple car rental sites. Most of the time (not always!), Expedia’s price is pretty hard to beat for car rentals when you factor in the included extras. Don’t forget to add the cost of insurance.

Tip: Make sure that you factor in the cost for transportation from your arrival airport. Many budget airlines arrive in smaller airports a good hike from your destination city.


You can find some great baseline costs for tours from Viator or G Adventures. Traditionally aimed more at young backpackers, G Adventures is moving more into the family and couples markets as well.

If there are any must see locations or must do activities (like ziplining in Costa Rica or bungee jumping in New Zealand) that aren’t officially tours you can still add them here.


Any personal items you use get included here, from prescription medicines to birth control to shampoo and deodorant. Since these usually apply wherever you happen to be, you can choose to add them or not.


We’ve included alcohol in the food category, so this is the place to best estimate cover charges for bars, concerts, movies and the like that you might do while on your trip.

Debt and Financial

Unfortunately, creditors really don’t care that you’re on vacation. They just care about getting their payments on time. Estimate the amount you’ll need to budget for loan and credit card payments while you are gone. Though they’re not officially part of your trip, you still need to ensure that your bank account can cover the costs while you’re gone.

Don’t forget to include checking and savings account monthly fees and ATM fees. You’ll need to check with your bank for specific fees, but it might be worthwhile looking for a card with zero foreign fees if you plan on using that card while you travel.

The Bottom Line

There you have it – factor all of these things in, and you should have a pretty good idea what your trip will cost.

Don’t forget to add an extra 10-20% to your estimates to cover unexpected expenses. Life has a way of handing out the unexpected 😉

Wondering how you’re going to afford it now? Check out these posts for some help:

Do you have any tips for figuring out a travel budget? Share them below – we’d love to hear what you think!

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