The Top 25 Destinations for Independent Travelers in 2015

From our friends at BootsNAll Travel: The ultimate destination list for travelers who want to get the most bang for their buck, especially when considering what is typically the biggest expense — flights — and/or planning longer-term travel.

Most travel websites, magazines, and television shows publish some type of Top Destinations List shortly before or after the New Year, and we’re no different.

The difference with our list, though, is that it isn’t some arbitrary, editor-created list.

The BootsNAll data-driven list is meant to help long-term travelers plan a trip. It breaks down the destinations into parts of the world, and gives Expert Travel Tips for each region.

These are the destinations that people are building their long-term trips around. We break the list down by region, offering expert tips for crafting your route and choosing flights for your big trip, as airfare is always the biggest expense of any trip.

The 23 expert flight tips work no matter what airfare option you choose (traditional RTW ticket, multi-stop, or all one-ways as you go) or what airline or company you go with.

Read the full BootsNAll article here!

Posted in Airfares, Budget Travel Tips, Round the World, Travel Resources | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Win a FREE One-Year Home Exchange Membership!

If you have read our book or are a follower of this blog or Facebook page, you likely know that one of our favorite ways to travel for free is by doing home exchanges.

Really, it’s the best of all worlds – you get FREE accommodations by swapping homes when you travel, but you also have the opportunity to stay in some really cool houses, apartments, even unusual homes like houseboats or lighthouses or Airstream trailers. With  amenities like kitchens that let you save even more money by fixing meals at home. And, you get to stay and experience the place like a local, in a neighborhood, rather than a generic hotel.

By far our favorite website for swapping places is HomeExchange.com, which we have used for almost all of our exchanges. And now, it’s your chance to WIN a FREE one year membership to HomeExchange.com!

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 8.58.11 AMTo enter, do one (or all) of the three things below. You have until midnight CST on December 23 to enter; at that time we will randomly select a winner of our gift card for a 12-Month Membership. You will be entered in the drawing 3 times if you do all 3 things. Thanks, good luck, and happy travels!

  1.  Comment on this post below, telling us if you have ever done a home exchange before, and where you would like to go if you won a HomeExchange.com membership.
  2. Like our Facebook Page and share this post – be sure to tag us in your post and share it Publicly!
  3. Follow us on twitter and tweet about us – be sure to tag @travelfreebook!

(Note: if you don’t tag us in your Facebook or Twitter shares, we won’t know you made the posts and you won’t be entered in the contest. So don’t forget!)

Posted in Accommodations, Contests, Home Exchange, Travel Contests, Travel Giveaway Contest | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Live Overseas For A Better Life For Half The Price!

book cover 400pxIf you or anyone you know (makes a great gift!) is thinking about moving to another country to have a lower cost, less stressful life while also living really well, then I highly suggest Tim Leffel’s book A Better Life For Half The Price.

Tim is a veteran travel writer who really knows his stuff. When I was dreaming up my two year’s of travel back in 2004 his book, The World’s Cheapest Destinations: 21 Countries Where Your Money Is Worth A Fortune was one of my go-to resources. And although I am not looking to move permanently overseas (yet!), after reading this new book of his I have already recommended it to several close friends who are seriously thinking about taking the living abroad plunge.

As I said, when it comes to budget travel and living abroad on less money Tim is an expert. He has circled the globe several times, and he’s actually lived and worked in several different countries as well (including the good ‘ole, but very expensive, US of A). He spent time in every country profiled in this book, and he also drew upon the real-life experiences of more than 50 other expatriates who have lived and worked in these countries.

The book is pretty much the perfect primer for anyone thinking about moving abroad to a less expensive country who also wants to have a high quality of life. Tim goes through better_life_300-textthe pros and cons of living abroad (quite frankly, it isn’t for everyone), and it likewise goes through the pros and cons of living in each of the countries he covers. The book also talks about some of the typical issues that just about any expat has to deal with – things such as family life and pets abroad, making a living, getting a visa, etc.

Of course there is no substitute for actually visiting a country that you are considering living in, and ideally you should live somewhere for a short while before going all in (covered in Chapter 5 actually). But this book can save you or someone else countless hours of research, and get you to a place of being able to easily hone in on the best countries to consider for your needs and wants. And to top it off, Tim’s writing style is fun and engaging as well, making it a great read.

Warning: If you havn’t thought of moving abroad before, reading this book just might get you addicted to the idea of doing so. Yeah, it’s that good. 🙂

Posted in Books on Travel, living overseas, Travel Resources | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Getting Bumped From Our Flights For Free Travel!

Easter Island

Easter Island, Chile

Shelley and I got back yesterday from a fabulous trip to Chile. On this trip we got to explore Easter Island and Patagonia. Both were great, and we’ll definitely be going back to see even more of that country. Given it’s enormous diversity of landscapes and natural beauty I think you could spend several months there and still not see it all.

Per our usual we did this trip as inexpensively as we could. And on our way back to Austin we got an extra ‘travel for free’ bonus! When we arrived in Miami from Santiago to catch out Delta flights to Austin (we flew LAN from Santiago) we got asked if we would be willing to take a travel voucher for taking a later flight home. Obviously they had overbooked, so they were looking for volunteers. They even asked us the minimum amount per person that we’d be willing to take, and we chose the maximum amount available – $500.

guanacos

Guanacos in Patagonia, Chile

Well, long story short, we both got bumped, and we both got a $500 travel voucher that can be used for up to a year in the future – woo hoo! On top of that, we got put on first class for our flight from Miami to Atlanta AND our flight from Atlanta to Austin – double woo hoo!! And we still got in at a decent time to Austin, only getting delayed by a total of 2 ½ hours. We’ll exchange 2 ½ hours of our time for $1000 worth of travel just about any time, especially if it also gets us bumped to first class for the last flight legs home.

Delta voucher

Our free flight vouchers AND first class seats to Austin!

Neither one of us have had the opportunity to get a flight voucher for getting bumped from a flight in a long time, so we’re glad we finally got the opportunity to do it again.

And since we booked the flights using miles to begin with (i.e. for FREE flights) – we actually MADE MONEY on them! This is just another tool in our (your!) arsenal of travel skills to get the biggest bang for our (your!) travel bucks.

And Shelley brought up a good additional point. Yesterday was Labor Day, obviously one of the biggest travel days of the year in general in the US. That certainly increased our chances of getting the opportunity to volunteer to get bumped. As Shelley pointed out, you could even PLAN to fly on a busy travel day to help increase your chances of getting the opportunity to take a travel voucher for getting bumped. Sure, that’s a little more ‘out there’, but it’s something to think about. I know a guy who was flying with his wife and 3 kids once on a busy travel day, and they intentionally got bumped twice for travel vouchers and still got home on the same day!

Travel well!

Posted in Travel Advice, Travel Resources, Travel vouchers | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

How to drive through all 48 of the contiguous United States in 113 hours

Have you ever thought about visiting all of the United States? In fact, the two of us have a goal to visit all 50 states by the time with both turn 50 – 2015 and 2016, respectively.

But what if you wanted to drive through them all (well, the lower 48) – ON THE SAME ROAD TRIP?

A guy named Stephen Von Worley figured out the best way how. Von Worley, from Data Pointed, mapped out the most efficient drive that would take a person through every state in the lower 48 and D.C. The route begins in South Berwick, Maine and ends 6,872 miles later in Taft, Montana.

Here’s the Google Maps link, if you want to try it for yourself!

Posted in News, Overland Travel, Travel Resources, USA | Tagged , | Leave a comment

United Airlines makes big changes to its frequent flier program

United Airlines is making a sweeping change to its Mileage Plus frequent-flier program, saying customers will soon earn miles based on the fare they pay, not how far they fly.

USA Today reported that United becomes the second of the big “legacy” carriers to make such a change, following the lead of Delta. It was in February that Delta said it would tie frequent-flier miles to the cost of a ticket.

Low-cost carriers — including Southwest, JetBlue and Virgin America — already employ a “revenue-based” system of earning frequent-flier points. But Delta’s change, which launches Jan. 1, has been viewed as a fundamental shift among the three big network carriers that control much of the domestic U.S. market.

You can read the entire article here. And another story by Bloomberg Business Week shares an interesting aspect of United’s change: Mileage collectors will now be able to use miles to buy access to seats with more legroom on individual flights and checked baggage subscriptions. It furthers the airline’s effort to make miles a form of currency, more widely used than they are today.

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Man ‘all by himself’ in airport makes epic music video

What would you do if you found yourself stuck in an airport overnight after your flight was canceled?

Most of us would be stressed, maybe eat or sleep or read or watch something. Some of us would likely bitch about it – I sure would!

web1_mccarran2_0But what one man, Richard Dunn, did when he found himself in that situation at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas is nothing short of brilliance. He waited until about 2 am when the place was deserted, and created his own music video — set to the Celine Dion song “All By Myself.”

“I thought, ‘well, I don’t have enough time to go to a hotel, so what do I do?’” Dunn told CBC News. “I’ve got my phone and an empty movie set, lets see what trouble I can get into.”

“I had a person behind a ticket counter give me a roll of luggage tape before she left. I then used a wheel chair that had a tall pole on the back of it and taped my iPhone to that. Then I would put it on the moving walkway for a dolly shot. I also used the extended handle on my computer bag and taped the iPhone to my handle. I would tuck different stuff under the bag to get the right angle. For the escalator shot I had to sprint up the steps after I got my shot so the computer bag didn’t hit the top and fall back down.”

And here, folks, is Dunn’s epic masterpiece. You’re welcome.

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The 50 Most Visited Tourist Attractions in the World

The Daily Mail of the U.K. just ran a story about the most popular tourist attractions across the globe, according to number of visitors. The list was compiled by LoveHomeSwap.com.

The first sentence of the Daily Mail article says:

“It’s a bucket list every keen traveller should be ticking off.”

But is it? Are the most popular, biggest or most visited tourist attractions always the best? Should they always be on the bucket list?

article-0-1CE729FC00000578-984_634x6017Our personal experience is, not always. Some tourist attractions are extremely popular for a very good reason – others, not so much so. Of course much of it is just personal opinion; what might be a great time for one person would be last on another person’s must-do list. It might say something that many of the attractions on the Top 50 list are Disney spots.

Out of the top 20 of the 50 on the list, Keith and I have been to 13 of them. In our personal opinion, the top tourist attractions aren’t always the most interesting. Not only that, but by their very nature they are often exceedingly crowded, and many times made or adapted just for tourists. In other words, inauthentic.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the 3rd most visited place in the world, New York’s Central Park. But #1 and #2, the Las Vegas Strip and Times Square, are two of my least favorite places in the country.

What are your thoughts? Again, it’s all personal taste and opinion. We’re all different, which is one of the greatest things about travel.

Check out the 50 most popular tourist attractions in the world for yourself. How many have you been to – or WANT to go to?

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Friday Travel Dreaming – 2/21/14

Well Shelley and I are gearing up for a quick trip to see some family and then we’re off to GRENADA to catch some cool Caribbean rays! So just to let you know we will not be posting a Friday Travel Dreaming piece while we’re on the road the next few weeks, but we’ll definitely share some pix of our adventures along the way. For now though, here’s this week’s Friday Travel Dreaming!

How To Travel Around The World For $40 Per Day

Jordan“The mistake most make when dismissing the possibility of being able to go on a RTW trip is that it is simply too expensive.   That is just not true.  While you may not be able to travel to Western Europe or around the United States on a small budget, plenty of amazing regions around the world offer the chance to travel in relative comfort for rock bottom prices.”

Upgrade Secrets From The Experts!

Upgrade“C’mon. You know you want one. You’ve seen other folks ushered into first class, given the key to a hotel suite that’s a lot bigger than the one they paid for, or peel out of the rental lot in a way hotter car than the one they can afford. What’s their secret? Read on to learn how our top travel experts get upgraded.”

The Exceptional Traveler: Travel On $1200 A Month!

Merida“In a recent post, I described my experience of housesitting in Mérida, Mexico this summer, as being in paradise. Meals featured colossal mangoes, vine-ripened tomatoes, artisanal string cheese, shrimp ceviche; evening activities included concerts, art openings and meeting friends for mojitos at some of the coolest spots in town. What I didn’t write about was the cost.”

Travel Contests and Great Travel Deals!

travelEnter for a chance to win a trip for 2 to San Antonio, Texas!

Enter for the chance to win an inspiring Italian vacation!

Win a trip to the Land of Fire & Ice – Icelandic Glacial

Great Travel Deal! Ireland 6-night vacation with air and car from $1255!

Create your own London story for a chance to win your dream trip to London for 2

Travel well!

Posted in Budget Travel Tips, Friday Travel Dreaming, Travel Resources | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Travel Dreaming – 2/14/14

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

We ourselves aren’t real celebrators of the day (we prefer having our own special day). BUT, we can hardly think of anything more fun to do with any loved one — romantic, platonic or family — than plan travel! Looking forward to our upcoming trip to Grenada. Go There!

154436_643924082331253_1621853512_n10 Best Budget Destinations for 2014

With amazing food, glorious public spaces, and unparalleled museums, theme parks, and beaches, the only thing “budget” about these world-class vacation spots is the price tag! There are some definite surprises on this list – Venice, Italy???

The World’s Most Overpriced Travel Destinations

On the flip side of the above story, is this one that outlines the most expensive places in the world to travel. Zurich Switzerland? Yeah, I can vouch for that, having just been there recently and marveling at the sky-high prices. But there are still ways to travel on a budget in expensive places – New York City is on the list, for example, but Keith and I once spent nearly a month there for no more money than we would have spent at home. Read our blog piece about it here.

Photo: Thinkstock/iStock

Photo: Thinkstock/iStock

Browsing for bargain spring-break airfares and deals with The Frugal Traveler

If you’re a student or teacher — or are in any way connected to the school schedule — you’ve are likely to have spring break coming up in March or April. For those traveling, that generally means beach-heavy destinations. But if you’re a bargain-hunter and haven’t booked your trip, is it too late? Full article here.

This week’s contests and giveaways:

Win a Trip for two to Monterey, Santa Barbara or Georgia

Enter for a chance to win an 11-night cruise and land tour, or 7-day adventure through Kenai Fjords Nantional Park in Alaska, including up to $3,000 airfare

Enter for the chance to win a 4-night luxury trip to the Academy Awards

Win a trip to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Win a Culinary Tour of Mexico

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