As promised:

Money Saving Travel Tips from the Wolfs...

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Travel has always been something that I enjoyed, but since marrying Jay Wolf, my love of travel has grown much deeper.  Jay really loves to travel.  In one of those tests you have to take in pre-marital counseling, I was asked what his number one passion in life would be.  Travel was my immediate answer.

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We grew up in families that traveled very differently (both wonderfully, but with their own styles), so it's been very meaningful to find our balance and create a unique sense of travel for our little family.  The power of enjoying new places, ideas, people, foods, etc. is often most evident when you are experiencing those things away from home.  Travel also opens your eyes to how vast and beautiful the Earth and all her people truly are.  I love Mark Twain's quote that "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”  Travel somehow not only reveals the beautiful diversity of our world, but also the unique beauty that the Creator made for us to enjoy in it.

Yes, seeing new places combats ignorance about the world and the small role we play here.  However, some recent "stay-cations" have been fabulous adventures in our own backyard.  You don't have to go far to have your eyes opened to new places, but even if you do, with a little planning, you can make it really budget-friendly!  Our recent trip to Maui was a great example of this.

A few ideas that we used:

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*Subscribe to email deals, like Groupon, Living Social, Bloomspot, DoodleDeals, FamilyFinds, etc--I subscribe to them all.  Jay bought the deal for our hotel on one such site (ours was over 50% off a beachfront room, with lots of inclusives).  Make sure to do some research on the company, service, or product; check out sites like Yelp to get some reviews.

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* Look for the "free" add-ons and use them.  The deal we got also included breakfast for two every morning, parking, and a luau.  Whether it's just a psychological ploy or not, I love any hotel that includes a good, FREE, hot breakfast!   Make sure you actually use all the perks you get or else you might be missing out on the breakfast bread pudding with coconut syrup!  (DIVINE)

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* Maximize your rewards from credit cards and other rewards programs.  Use credit card points for the airfare/rental car costs--if you're using credit cards to make the most of your general purchases anyway, make sure you're getting something for it!  Most companies bank on the fact that you'll forget your rewards points or even let them expire.  Prove them wrong!  Make sure you've got the right card to create the best rewards possible, if your goal is airplane miles, look into a card that maximizes those.  Be an educated consumer when at all possible.

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* Try to book travel on weekdays.  We were able to leave Thursday and get back Tuesday, and literally, our flights had much less people than usual.  To that end, purchasing airfare on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning at midnight is typically when the fares will be lowest.  Don't buy plane tickets on the weekends.  Also, according to our dear friends the Viljoens, who are from South Africa, www.kayak.com is the best site for finding the cheapest international fares.

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*Hit up Happy Hour/Early Bird Specials for great dinners, often at HALF OFF!  In Maui, many of these start at 2pm -- seriously.  So, have a late lunch at the 1st place and an early dinner at the 2nd.  We ate every dinner around 5 or 5:30pm since we were on Pacific time, which was 3 hours ahead, so it worked perfectly!  We had some really fabulous food at 50% off the price it would've been an hour after we ate it.

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*Buy bulk items that you love once you arrive to your destination and bring them to your hotel.  We found a Costco near the airport in Maui and loaded up on the things that we love like San Pellegrino, nuts, greek yogurt, dark chocolate, and GOOD coffee!  There are so many times you want to grab a snack and it's tempting to grab something at the hotel, but you will definitely pay more for it, so don't be ashamed, stock the room yourself!

(This pretty picture was taken by Jay last week here at our home, but you can see we already have more Pellegrinos from our local Costco!)

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* Ask the locals.  The well-beaten tourist path is not horrible, but you may be more likely to get a watered-down, less interesting, maybe even pricier experience by taking that road most traveled.  Ask a local where they love to eat and what they love to do.  We had so much fun taking in some local spots, even a random, mom and pop grocery store became a fabulous event because it was so unique and had an extensive dark chocolate section!

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* Don't be afraid to ask.  My father-in-law always says, "it's the power of the ask".  What's the worst that could happen, someone could say "no"?  Always be gracious but don't be afraid to ask what the best deal is that someone can give you on products or services.  Maybe they could upgrade that plane seat or hotel room or add on a little something extra.  Everyone loves a deal, but people aren't usually just giving them out for no reason, so ask!

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And a non-money-related tip:  Be flexible.  Our trip was a fantastic mix of doing and not doing, seeing the sights and soaking up a few rays (though I wear 60 SPF, large hats, etc. due to my facial scars).  Even though you feel you may never again be at this certain place, pushing too hard can have the unintended effect of discoloring the whole trip because you're annoyed or over tired.  For sure, plan ahead to be able to best gauge the whole trip and get excited about some sort of schedule of events, but hold it loosely enough to be able to nix plans if needed.  Our last night in Hawaii, we had big plans to see a special part of the island, Lahaina, which we had not seen yet.  Well, the rain was coming on and off, and we were really enjoying watching the sun set from our loungers as a light rain fell, so we booted the plans and enjoyed a misty, last night in, instead.  And it was great!  Such a relaxing end to our trip, rather than pushing the plans, getting rained out, and being annoyed.

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Thank you for all your sweet feedback about the last post.  Yes, I feel good and I like sharing it!  My dad sent me this article recently and this could be a reason I feel so good: Coffee Makes Women Happy!

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Hace a cup of Joe and count your blessings --- you have plenty worth counting.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!