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Travel Tricks

20 May

When I was growing up, we never really traveled.  Sure, I remember a few family vacations, but for the most part, we stayed put in our house.

As I’ve gotten older, I have started realizing the awesomeness of traveling.  The BF is a major part of this revelation– he’s all about exploring new places, and I love it!  Together we’ve taken quite a few road trips, and learned a few tricks along the way.

Neither of these tricks are revolutionary, and I’m sure quite a few of you already use these without even thinking about it.  But for the rest of you (like me!) who don’t think about these things… this is for you :)

1.  Food

I have a love-hate relationship with car travel.  I enjoy getting to our destination, but often get bored after… oh, about hour 2.  On our most recent trip, I got smart and packed the one thing that entertains me.  FOOD.  I packed up 4 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a couple apples, and some water.  We each ate a PB&J around lunch time and then shared an apple a couple hours later.  When we reached our destination, we had another sandwich and that held us over until dinner time!  (and we saved the 2nd apple for the next day).


This was the perfect idea!  It saved us a ton of money (it probably would have been around $10 for lunch for both of us if we had stopped, plus another $5-10 for a snack once we reached our destination) and saved us from having to make a pitstop.  Win-win.

2.  Parking

I always assumed when visiting a new place that we would have to park somewhere pricey.  I would always write it off, figuring that we were traveling to a brand new to us place and there’s no way we would be able to find a cheap/free/safe parking area.  Boy, was I wrong.

Before we set off on trips now, we will google “free parking in (city name)” or we will just drive around to the slightly farther out areas (usually the industrial looking areas) of the city until we find a stretch of road with no ‘No Parking’ signs.  Most cities know that people won’t walk over .25-.5 mi to get into the city, so they never put meters too far out from the city center.  We’ve found maps like the one below that point you to the exact areas that have free parking.


The important thing to remember here is to make sure you feel comfortable leaving your car in these free areas.  As I just alluded to, many of these free spots will be fairly far away from the “downtown” area in a more industrial or less populated area, and it might be hard to swing by and check on your vehicle while you’re out sightseeing.  The location we parked in Montreal looked like this…


Not exactly a “pretty” area but it worked!  In this case, we scoped out a few spots before we found one that we were comfortable with.  Just make sure:

  • it’s on a well-traveled road
  • triple (or quadruple) check that there are absolutely no signs restricting your parking
  • triple/quadruple check that you’re not in a driveway of any sort (or near a fire hydrant!)
  • take a brief scan around you– check for any possibly shady characters who you wouldn’t want to leave your car near :)

It hasn’t happened to us (knock on wood!) but I’m sure there’s nothin’ worse than coming back from a long day of exploring to find out your car has been towed.  Just make sure you check everything!  We have successfully used this method to get free parking in Lake Placid, Montreal, and Philadelphia, and $3/day parking in Baltimore.  No towing in any place!

What are your favorite packable travel foods?  How do you normally find parking in new cities?

Cheap Travel: Megabus

6 Apr

There are quite a few ways to travel around the country. I am here today to tell you about one of the cheapest ways I have found— Megabus!

(from Megabus’ Wikipedia page)

I first heard about Megabus through an advertisement on the DC Metro.  It advertised travel between DC and NYC for $1.  When I saw that ad, I was a sophomore in college and had friends in the NYC area, so I was all over that service.  I logged on to their website soon after and discovered Megabus’ secret– not all tickets are $1.  Bummer.  Probably should have known it was too good to be true!  A little research told me that there are a few tickets on each trip that go for $1 and the rest go for an increasing price as the bus fills up.

At that point, my trip was only a few weeks away so the tickets ended up being about $15-20 each way.  I probably still saved money (and headache) over driving, but it was no $1 trip!

Flash forward to this year.  My BF and I found out in January that his brother would be having an event in NYC in May.  We immediately ruled out car as a form of travel (because seriously, do you know how expensive tolls are between DC and NYC? Add in gas, and parking… the costs get out of control quickly) and thought of Megabus.

So we logged on to the website in January only to discover that the schedule for May was not posted yet.  So what did we do?  Monitored that website 3-4 times per week from mid-January to mid-March.  That’s dedication, folks.

I’ll let you in on a secret here.  I can be OCD about planning.  I hated the fact that we still couldn’t book our travel by March.  I admit to logging on to other cheap bus lines (BoltBus and Vamoose Bus) and longingly staring at their May schedules.  Why not shell out $20 each way ($80 round trip for the two of us) and have the peace of mind that comes from having our transportation paid off?

But you know what?  I stuck it out and it paid off.  We checked in one morning and couldn’t believe our eyes when not only did the Megabus May schedule populate, but it showed each ticket as $1!! WE HAD FOUND THE ELUSIVE $1 TICKETS!

I scooped those tickets up as fast as I could pull out my credit card to order.  The total was $4.50* round trip for the two of us and I couldn’t be happier.

Moral of the story:  sometimes you’ll get lazy and want to take the easy way out.  But persistence will pay off and you’ll get what you were looking for.

Happy travels!

*note: there is a $0.50 service fee on each order… yes, on each order, not each ticket.. so it is smart to purchase in bulk!