Tips for Vacationing with Elderly Parents

ElderlyParentsTravel_mainOne of the rewards of a long, productive life is being able to do what you love during your golden years.  Many retirees like to spend their free time traveling — creating new memories, visiting places they’ve never seen, even making new friends.  Of course, the one thing that retired parents prefer to do above all else is spend time with their children and grandchildren — and if they can combine that with a bit of travel, so much the better.  However, vacationing with elderly parents, whether over the holidays or year-round, can be challenging, so if you’re planning to do so, consider the following tips.

Travel_TravelListHelp Them Prepare

While people of all ages tend to forget things while packing, it’s more common among the elderly.  At their age, though, many of them can’t do without medications and other daily necessities.  Well before your departure date, work with them to create a comprehensive list of must-have, preferred, and desired travel items.  Consult with their doctor(s) to flesh out the list, stock up on required prescriptions — and create action plans for any medical issues or emergencies that might arise.  (If your parents don’t appreciate all the fuss, simply remind them of what they always told you:  “Better safe than sorry.”)

Before leaving, give your parents additional peace of mind by helping them lock down their home and secure their possessions.  If they have pets, speak with the petsitters to ensure that they’ll be properly tended to, and get their contact information in case your parents want to check in from time to time.

Help Them Relax

Travel_EarlyAirportAs you make your plans, keep your parents’ abilities and health conditions top of mind.  If you’re traveling by air, make sure to request any special services or meals in advance, and get to the airport early to ensure that they won’t have to rush to make the flight.  If they’re likely to get up frequently while on board, give them the aisle seats; if they’re more likely to doze, give them the window seats.  Ensure that the hotels you’re considering all have working elevators, or book rooms on the first or second floor.

If you’re planning day trips in your destination city, look into senior packages, arrange a bus tour, or rent a car to minimize physical strain.  Identify available restrooms, restaurants that serve senior-friendly foods, and other stops along the way to allow your parents to recharge their batteries as needed.  Don’t overdo the activities, particularly early on; give them time to recuperate from the travel and to acclimate themselves to their new surroundings.

Join Travel Plus

With Travel Plus, you can earn 5% cash back on your airline, hotel, and rental-car reservations.  You’ll also enjoy cash-back rebates on a variety of flight, hotel, and rental-car perks that can help make your parents’ trips more comfortable, and you can save 10% on gift cards to popular restaurants (and other travel-related merchants).  When you join Travel Plus, you really can save on all your travel needs.

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How to (Diplomatically) Ask Travel Guests to Leave

travelguests_coverWe tend to connect travel costs with our own trips out of town.  Sometimes, though, such costs show up unexpectedly on our doorsteps, in the form of people who violate Ben Franklin’s maxim about houseguests, overstay their welcomes in our homes, and lower their own expenses by transferring them to their hosts’ budgets.  As a public service, we therefore offer a few tips on how to (diplomatically) ask unwanted travel guests to leave.  (Please note:  These suggestions aren’t guaranteed to work.  In fact, you really should review your specific state’s laws on houseguests before letting them into your home.)

Stop treating them like guests.  travelguests_dishesThe longer someone stays in your home, the more that person becomes a part of the family (or an unofficial tenant).  Just as you expect your children to do household chores to earn their allowance, ask unwelcome visitors to work (and/or pay) for their accommodations.  One potential drawback (beyond the possibility of creating an implicit pay-to-stay agreement):  Once your guests start chipping in for privileges, they may expect better service.  You might avoid this by assigning them particularly unenviable, unenjoyable chores.

Stop acting like a host(ess).  Most of us behave differently when guests are around.  Our ingrained living habits — casual clothes around the house, dinner in front of the TV, milk gulped straight out of the container — often vanish, at least temporarily.  Go back to your preferred lifestyle:  Play your favorite music whenever you want, catch up on TV shows according to your own desires and schedule, fix single-serving (or strictly family-size) meals, and tell your guests they’re on their own.

travelguests_walkingMake yourself unavailable.  Even the rudest guests might find it difficult to justify staying in your home if you suddenly got sick or had to go away.  (Don’t accept their offer to look after you or your house.  If necessary, tell them you have a long-time nursing/house-sitting arrangement with someone who owns a Doberman pinscher that doesn’t like strangers.)  If your guests don’t take the hint, start packing your bags or exhibiting uncomfortable signs of illness, and shoo them out as you go along.

Show them the (hotel) door.  If you can afford it, pay for a night at a local hotel, tell your guests it’s non-refundable, and present the offer in a way that makes it hard to decline (e.g., “I really can’t recommend this hotel highly enough” or “you’d be doing me a huge favor”).

Be honest.  If worse comes to worst, the truth can set you free.  Tell your guests you need to get back to your previous life — the one you enjoyed before they arrived.

Houseguests who refuse to leave can take an unexpected bite out of your household finances.  To stretch your travel budget as far as possible, try Travel Plus, where you’ll earn 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations, as well as rebates on a wide range of travel perks.  Happy trails (and please remember to go home at a reasonable time)!

Great U.S. Destinations for Solo Travelers This Winter

solo_vacaWanderlust tugs at everyone, and as appealing as it often is to travel with your family or close friends, sometimes the urge to hit the road by yourself — to truly get away from it all — is too strong to resist.  The benefits of an independent adventure can be boiled down into a simple statement:  You’re in charge — of everything.  You choose the itinerary, the food, the resting points, the places to stay, the things to do, and the people to see (or avoid).  Far be it from us to intrude on such a personal decision, but if you’re looking for some ideas, we’re happy to offer you a few great places for solo travel across the U.S. this winter.

Tricia Daniel / Shutterstock.com

Tricia Daniel / Shutterstock.com

Austin, Texas.  The capital of the Lone Star State, Austin also bills itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” with a vibrant music scene that includes over 250 live venues.  One annual highlight is the SXSW (South by Southwest) conference and festival.  Taking place this year from March 7-16, SXSW features top stars and the hottest up-and-comers in the music, film, and interactive industries.  You’ll want to check out the movie premieres and concerts, but be sure to catch the various keynote speakers.

ArizonaArizona.  With average highs of 70 to 76 degrees in February and March, Arizona can provide a much-needed break from cold, inclement weather.  The Grand Canyon is the favored spot for most travelers, but the Cactus League (15 Major League Baseball teams that head to Arizona in late February for “spring” training) is a popular destination for fans who like to get a jump on the coming season.  Preseason ticket prices remain less expensive than regular-season tickets, and the ballparks are cozy enough to offer up-close views of all the players.

Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com

Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com

New York City.  “The city that never sleeps” has a slew of attractions and activities that appeal to tens of millions of travelers year-round.  From Broadway shows and museums to sporting events, 4,200+ restaurants, 1,700+ parks (including Central Park, of course), and a sprawling transportation system that can ferry you around town while protecting you from winter’s elements, you’ll likely find more ways to spend your time than you’ll find time to spend in New York City.

Kirkwood, California.  Adventurous solo ski buffs can test their skills with a trip to Kirkwood Mountain Resort, which has averaged well over 400 inches of annual snowfall since 2008.  Just 47 minutes south of Lake Tahoe, and within reach of 14 other resorts in the area, Kirkwood is nevertheless uniquely isolated from the outside world, offering “Rare Earth” views and challenging trails that will leave you breathless.

Whether you just want to escape or are trying to find yourself, getting away on your own is a worthy pursuit.  Whatever your reason for solo travel in the United States this winter, Travel Plus can help you save on your journey, with 5% cash back on plane, hotel, and rental-car reservations, rebates on travel perks, and much more.

How to Save on Valentine’s Weekend Getaways

valentines_mainAs virtually every woman knows (and as anyone in a committed relationship with such a woman would do well to remember), Valentine’s Day arrives annually on February 14.  This year, it falls on a Friday, which offers an enticing possibility (or a daunting challenge, depending on your viewpoint):  Wooing your partner with a perfectly-timed romantic weekend excursion.  Assuming you want to celebrate on the road, here are a few tips on how to save on Valentine’s weekend getaways.

Make sure your partner is good to go.  This is the first tip for good reason:  If you splurge on all of the frills and extras of an amorous vacation without checking your partner’s availability beforehand, you may very well lose your entire investment.  Appealing travel deals are frequently non-refundable, so be sure your partner’s schedule is clear (and your relationship is solid) before taking any financial plunge.

valentines_savingSet — and stick to — a budget.  Love may know no boundaries, but credit cards and bank accounts have well-defined limits.  Determine how much you can afford to spend — on everything: travel, accommodations, dining, activities, and whatever else you might want to offer —  and don’t exceed that limit.  (If it helps, Americans earmarked $239, on average, for 2013 Valentine’s Day signs of affection.)  If your partner really loves you, the amount you spend on your Valentine’s Day trip won’t be nearly as important as the thought, effort, and tender, loving care you put into planning the outing.

Check around the corner.  You don’t have to travel far to find a lovers’ locale.  A simple change of scenery may be all you need to set the proper romantic mood.  Especially if you already live in or near a popular vacation destination, search for affordable B&Bs or other places to stay in the area that can lend an air of “escape” to your weekend plans.

Find seclusion (and savings) in off-season sites.  It’s wintertime, so most of the popular summer destinations in the north are fairly deserted.  This can be great news for the romantically inclined:  Room rates are usually as low as they ever get; even the best restaurants aren’t fully booked; and any cold, inclement weather that might roll in will provide a fabulous reason (should you need another one) to hunker down and cuddle up in the warm confines of a cozy bed.

Delay gratification.  Anticipation can be sexy.  If you want to treat your loved one to a romantic trip but can’t afford it quite yet, try the next-best thing:  A promise to take that trip down the road.  Wrap it up in a pretty bow (figuratively or literally), then spend your Valentine evening exploring the possibilities.

valentines_envelopeIf you want to save on a Valentine’s getaway this year, you can earn 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and car reservations while enjoying rebates on all sorts of enjoyable travel perks as a Travel Plus member.  Tell us in the Comments section where you plan to go this Valentine’s weekend.

Tropical Winter Vacation Destinations

miami_flEvery now and then — say, when your part of the country is recovering from a polar vortex or coping with the effects of deadly avalanches — the idea of escaping winter and heading to a warm-weather paradise can be a comforting thought.  However, many of us are paying down our generosity over the holidays, which tends to put a crimp in the travel budget, so a trip to a tropical clime may be more fantasy than reality at the moment.  Still, voyages of the imagination are free, and, as Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  With that in mind, let’s ponder a few ideal (and reachable) tropical vacation destinations this winter.

Miami, Florida.  Miami is a common winter favorite for U.S. travelers — for good reason:  Average temperatures in January range from a high of 74 degrees to a low of 61 degrees.  Whether you want to relax on a beach or explore the vibrant nightlife, Miami offers a variety of events for virtually every vacationer.  Plus, if you’re up for a short road trip, Key West is a scant, scenic 161 miles away by car.

hawaii_2Hawai‘i.  There’s never a bad time to visit Hawai‘i, but it’s a particularly attractive destination in wintertime.  The higher holiday rates tend to drop in mid-January, and there’s a lot to do once you get there:  the Cherry Blossom Festival; the Maui Chinese New Year celebration; the Hawai‘i Chocolate Festival; and much more.  (Of course, you’re more likely to head to Hawai‘i for its beaches, and who could blame you?)

plamspringsPalm Springs, California.  Long known as “Hollywood’s playground,” visitors to Palm Springs can enjoy free activities ranging from the “Walk of Stars” to a wildlife sanctuary, tennis-court time, dog parks, and more.  If you’re willing to pay for your Palm Springs fun, you can test your golf game on four courses, test your luck at several casinos, or simply indulge in the nightlife.  (Unfortunately, it’s too late to catch the celebrities at the 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival, but maybe next year ….)

Turks and Caicos Islands.  Located 230 miles north of the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands comprise eight inhabited islands and an additional 32 islands and cays.  U.S. visitors will be pleased to discover that the official currency is U.S. dollars (you’ll still need a passport, though).  Better yet, the average temperature in the “colder” months is 80 to 84 degrees, with a water temperature of 70 to 74 degrees.  Tourists have a wide range of pastimes to pursue, from whale and bird watching and limestone caves to golf, kayaking, beach fun, and more.

TurksandCaicos

When cold, snowy weather brings you down, a winter vacation to a tropical destination can help warm your spirits.  Travel Plus members can also warm their travel budgets with 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations and rebates on all sorts of travel perks and comforts.  Let us know your ideal winter vacation destination in the Comments section.

Money-Saving Travel Tips: How to Save on Rental Cars

winter_trafficAs the holiday season ramps up, so do highway traffic numbers.  Most of these drivers are heading somewhere for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or New Year’s Eve, and quite a few of them are renting cars to reach those destinations.  (The holidays are typically one of the busiest rental-car periods of the year.)  If your holiday plans this year include car reservations, here are a few tips on how to save on rental cars:

Book early.  The law of supply and demand states that prices rise in response to high demand.  As the holidays near, the rental-car supply will dwindle.  Not only will you have fewer models to choose from, you’ll also pay more for the privilege.

Search for deals.  From online coupons to discount codes, from credit-card arrangements to corporate rates, you can find rental-car savings if you know where to look.  Be sure to compare and contrast rates and offers from every rental-car agency in your given area.

fineprintRead the fine print.  Just because a rental-car ad says “$20 per day” doesn’t mean you’ll only pay $20 a day.  Extra charges and hidden fees can turn what looked like the best available deal into one of the most expensive ones.

Book only what you need.  Larger vehicles may offer more space, but they cost more, too, not just in per-day rates but in fuel charges.  Smaller cars generally get better gas mileage, and they also have smaller tanks, which makes fill-ups more affordable.  Plus, compacts are one of the most popular choices, so they might all be taken by pick-up time, which could lead to a free upgrade.

Pay for your own gas.  Rental-car agencies are happy to fill the gas tank for you, a courtesy that doesn’t come cheaply:  Their per-gallon charges are typically much higher than the price you’d pay at the pump yourself.  Make sure that, when you return the rental car, the gas-gauge needle is in the exact same spot it was when you drove the car off the lot.

car_rental_signAvoid airport pick-ups.  Rates are usually less expensive if you pick up your rental car in town or at other locations that don’t ask you to pay “airport fees” or other convenience charges.

Skip the rental insurance if you can.  If you already own a car, your auto insurance policy probably covers rental cars, too; call your insurance company to confirm.  If you don’t have auto insurance, your credit card issuer may very well offer rental insurance when you use your card to pay for your rental car; again, call to confirm.  Only if you’re not covered elsewhere should you consider purchasing insurance from the rental-car company.

One final way to save on rental cars is to book yours through Travel Plus.  You’ll earn 5% cash back on your reservation, along with rebates on rental-car services, including equipment rentals, additional drivers, late returns, and more.  Wherever you’re going over the holidays, travel safely!

Top U.S. Vacation Destinations in November

november_carThe vast majority of travel in November revolves around Thanksgiving trips and reunions of families and friends, so U.S. vacation destinations in November tend to cater to holiday celebrants.  If you’re looking for places to go and/or things to do that can energize your travel plans — including one destination that has nothing to do with Turkey Day but provides fun for the whole family — read on.

New York City.  november_nycMacy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, perhaps the most famous display of floats in the world, attracts 3 million people along the route and another 50 million who tune in to catch some of the broadcast.  If parades aren’t your idea of fun, New York in November also stages the ING New York City Marathon, the New York Comedy Festival, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, among other events.

NFL games on Thanksgiving Day.  This season’s slate of traditional Thanksgiving fare offers three exciting contests, whether you attend in person or watch on TV:

  • Green Bay at Detroit.  Save for the 1939-44 seasons, Detroit has held a holiday game every year since 1934.  This year, the Lions take on their NFC North foes, the Green Bay Packers, at Ford Field at 12:30 (Fox), in what could be a pivotal step in the division title race.
  • Oakland at Dallas.  Dallas, which has hosted a Thanksgiving game in all but two seasons since 1966, welcomes the Oakland Raiders to AT&T Stadium in the 4:30 game (CBS).  The Raiders may be playing for an AFC wild-card berth at best, but the Cowboys have a shot at winning the weak NFC East this season.
  • Pittsburgh at Baltimore.  The Steelers travel to Charm City to face the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in an AFC North matchup at 8:30 (NBC).  The Steelers have been struggling this season, and the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens aren’t overpowering many teams, but this has been the fiercest rivalry in the NFL over the last decade.

The Colorado Rockies.  Savvy skiers are eager to take advantage of the relatively sparse number of mountain-goers over Thanksgiving weekend.  From Aspen to Vail, from Breckenridge to Steamboat, and everywhere in between, skiers and snowboarders can shred the steep vertical drops at Colorado ski resorts in November while navigating smaller-than-usual crowds.

november_rockies

Union City, Tennessee.  Discovery Park of America, located three hours west of Nashville, is scheduled to open on November 1 and will likely become a popular attraction year-round.  It will feature simulations of the area’s 1811-12 earthquakes; an “interactive starship theatre”; a 20,000-gallon aquarium; a 48-foot model of the human body (including a slide in its leg); and a wide range of natural and historical artifacts across the 50-acre complex.

Regardless of your November vacation destination, you can earn 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations, along with rebates on travel perks, through Travel Plus.  Click here for additional tips on how to save on Thanksgiving travel, and let us know in Comments where you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this year.