Category Archives: travel

A Meaningful Visit to Hiroshima on a Budget

This past Fall, I had the good fortune of being able to travel to Japan once again for my friend’s wedding.

During that trip, I also took some time to explore parts of the country I had missed the last time around. One of those places was Hiroshima.

Why visit Hiroshima?

I only allotted a day for Hiroshima. It’s small for a Japanese city; arguably smaller than my hometown of Pittsburgh.

I stayed at an Airbnb in Hiroshima, and my host was super generous, sending me a guide to strategize my short visit — both for time and money. His tips are integrated with my personal experience throughout this post. I love staying with Airbnb when I travel, and love that I can get you a $55 credit off your first booking even more.

After my visit, though, I realize I could have easily spent far more time here. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do so again.

Peace & History

This was what drew me to Hiroshima; its history of being one of the two Atomic bomb sites in Japan. It felt like it would be an uncomfortable place to visit as an American, but an important one. Too important to skip on this trip. I was in the West anyways.

Any discomfort I felt was of my own imagination’s imposition. When the Japanese say they are now dedicated to spreading the message of Peace around the world, especially in context of nuclear weaponry, they appear to really mean it.

While the memorials I visited were somber reminders of what we as Americans — nay, humans — should never do again, it was not framed in that context. There appeared to legitimately be no grudges or malice. Only a desire to remind people of what happened, to ensure it never happened again. Anywhere.

Okonomimura

Okonomiyaki is a flour-, noodle-, egg-based dish with sauce and other toppings. I really can’t think of an Western equivalent at all. Depending on which part of Japan you visit, the Okonomiyaki will have a different flair, flavoring or ingredient.

Hiroshima, in particular, is known for its excellent Okonomiyaki. In fact, there’s an entire building dedicated to it. It’s called Okonomimura. In this multi-level building, you’ll find stall after stall of Okonomiyaki restaurateurs, each putting their own spin on the dish.

My friend’s dad told me I had to eat there. So I did. I had to ask some locals how to get there; Google had me wandering in circles. You ride up this elevator that’s a little difficult to find if you can’t read Japanese.

It was amazing and if you’re in Hiroshima, you should go, too. The dining is not expensive, and you’ll be fine dropping in wearing whatever you may happen to have on.

Kagura Folk Theater

Kagura is hot right now. It’s experiencing a resurgence in popularity — especially in Hiroshima and the surrounding prefectures.

Kagura is folk theater, performed as an expression of gratitude for the harvest. In the area around Hiroshima, each farming community has their own Kagura performance.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t in town on the right day of the week to catch a show. There are two shows every Wednesday, and admission is currently 1,200 yen, which is roughly $12 USD at the time of writing.

Shopping

As I walked around Hiroshima on my history tour, I was surprised by the amount of shopping there was. It was reminiscent of downtown Osaka in some places, with covered streets lined with multi-floor shop fronts.

I learned that this is the place you’ll want to buy Kumano brushes, which are some of the best in the world for painting, calligraphy and makeup. It’s also the best place to buy the Maple-leaf-shaped sweet, Momiji Manju and the best sake.

I didn’t actually buy any of those thing. Because I’m me and I hadn’t planned the spending.

But I learned that is what you’re supposed to do.

Save money with the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass

If you have the JR Rail Pass, you’ll be able to get to Hiroshima for free. You’ll even be able to ride some buses for free.

But if you’re staying for more than 24 hours like yours truly, you’re likely to find yourself paying for transportation around the city itself. In these situations the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass may save you money.

You get access to all the Hiroshima Electric Railway lines, almost all the bus lines in the area and the ferry to Miyajima — a UNESCO World Heritage site — for 3 days for 2500 yen, or roughly $25 USD. If you want to travel throughout the entire prefecture, you can pay 3500 yen — roughly $35 USD — for the same three-day time period.

Like JR Pass eligibility, you can’t get the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass unless you’re in the country on a tourist/temporary visitor visa. However, you can actually buy the pass once you’re in Japan.

You can pick up your Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass at the Hiroshima airport or as soon as your arrive at Hiroshima Station. At the station, you can purchase a pass at the Transportation Information Center near the South Exit or at Swallow Travel on the second floor.

Peace Memorial Park

As soon as I got off the train, I locked up my suitcase and headed to Peace Park. I only had 24 hours, and I wanted to see as much as I could before the sun went down.

Everything I did and saw at Peace Memorial Park was free, moving and unforgettable.

Take the Meipuru-pu bus line to Peace Memorial Park.

The Meipuru-pu line is designed specifically for those looking to visit Peace Memorial Park. If you have the JR Pass, you should be able to ride for free by showing your pass to the driver the same way you show it at the train station. The only localized JR Pass that would also potentially work is the JR West Pass.

Otherwise, it’s 200 yen — about $2 USD — to ride. If you’re good at planning ahead and frugal, you’ll splurge on a 400 yen all-day pass. If you plan on riding the bus there and back anyways, it can only save you money.

The walk to Peace Memorial Park is doable. I took a bus almost to the edge of the river on my way there. I wanted to walk across the bridge as I approached the sites.

On my way back to the station, I walked the entire thing. I ended up walking with my suitcase all the way to the Airbnb, too. It was a beautiful night, and I wasn’t staying too far outside of Peace Memorial Park. The trek from station to park and visa versa took about half an hour each way.

It’s about half that when you take the Meipuru-pu. You can catch this bus right outside the entrance to Hiroshima station.

Hiroshima Municipal Girls High School Memorial

As I crossed the bridge for the first time, I happened upon a memorial for Hiroshima Municipal Girls High School. On the morning of August 6, 1945, 541 preteen students and 7 teachers were helping clear fire lanes in preparation for bombings. Japan mobilized many students into child labor during the war because of the shortage of working-age men in local municipalities.

At the moment these girls were pitching in for the war effort, the Americans dropped LIttle Boy from the Enola Gay over their heads. They died instantaneously.

Some of the teachers were cognizant of the planes overhead. There were efforts to save the girls. Efforts afterwards to save the dignity of those who had lost clothing along with their lives. Exposed bodies were covered. During the blast, teachers died trying to shield the young girls in cisterns or with their own bodies.

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One of the most heart-wrenching stories of Hiroshima is the storyof a girls' school that was in the blast zone. So many innocent daughters lost. . . At the time this memorial was constructed for them, American forces were occupying Japan under its reconstruction. Using "Atomic Bomb" or variants thereof would have been too inflammatory. So instead, they used the formula for Einstein's theory of relativity. . . Full info by scrolling all the way left. Sorry it's not the easiest to read. Couldn't get around the sun's reflection. . . #pathofpeace #hiroshimajapan #hiroshimabombing #onethousandcranes #1000papercranes #peacecrane #hiroshima #abomb #abombmemorial #hiroshimagirlsschool #theoryofrelativity #einstein #eequalsmcsquared #hiroshimagram #hiroshimacity #visitjapan #visitjapanus #peaceonearth #japangram #japan🇯🇵 #fbf #flashbackfriday #restinpeace #sheisnotlost #travelgram #instapassport #girlslovetravel #nofilter #travelgirlsgo #travelphotography

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The love and righteous mourning of the mothers is on display at the memorial. Visitors can leave their chains of 1,000 cranes and pay respect.

Atomic Trees

I stayed at the girls’ memorial longer than most people would, I suppose. It felt like if I left, I would be breaking with the respect they deserved. I needed to spend time with their memory.

Eventually, though, I crossed the street. That’s where the bulk of the memorials and museums were.

Before I crossed paths with any museums or memorials, though, I ran into one of Hiroshima’s atomic trees. Miraculously enough, dozens of plants survived the blast and are still growing today. Eleven of them are inside Peace Memorial Park.

Cenotaph at Peace Memorial Park

Next I wandered over to the cenotaph. It was built so that those who bring offerings and prayers to lay in front of the sculpture’s feet will look out over the peaceful pond, over the Flame of Peace, and have their eyes drawn directly to the destroyed frame of the Atomic Dome.

Before it was destroyed, the Atomic Dome was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The bomb went off almost directly above it, pushing down into the building and igniting it and everything — and everyone — inside. Because the impact came from almost directly above, the walls and large parts of the structure largely survived the ensuing fire.

The Japanese decided to preserve the destroyed structure as a stark reminder of the destruction caused by atomic warfare.

It’s an impressive reminder, inspiring reverence every time it pops into your field of vision.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

I walked through the lobby of the Peace Memorial Museum. Grabbed a couple stamps for the passport.

It was getting closer to close, though, and there was a line for headsets. My Japanese is remedial; I wasn’t going to get as much out of the tour as I wanted to, and I was going to feel rushed.

I took note of the hours, fully intending to return the next morning.

Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims

I wandered over to the National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims. It was a quiet, somber place, and everything was printed in a myriad of languages, including English.

You walk in and go down this ramp lined with cement walls on either side. You feel like you’re walking down a nautilus’s shell as you read the story of everything that happened not just on August 6, 1945, but also beyond.

a room with circular walls depicting ruined buildings, rubble and dead trees after the bombing in hiroshima

When you finally arrive at the center, you find yourself in the middle of a circular room, with 360 degrees of Hiroshima surrounding you. Hiroshima as it looked immediately following the atomic bombing. It’s a place that calls you to sit and show respect for the sanctity of human life.

In the next hall, known victims are listed along with their photographs when available. The number now exceeds 290,000, but the list grows longer every year.

At the end, you’ll be able to tour the library where manifestos of mourning mothers and other family members tell the stories of those who lost their lives. You’ll be able to view some of the possessions that survived the blast, and listen to video testimony from survivors.

This testimony doesn’t just tell you what happens. It tells you how Japan’s spirit transformed and survived. Hiroshima’s mothers chose to ascribe meaning to the loss, allowing them to push forward. Allowing them to push for peace at a global scale. It was through this meaning that any semblance of healing was born.

Because of my short timeline, I wasn’t able to take advantage of it, but you can listen to live readings from parents, survivors, etc at the Hall for free. Some times slots are even read in English.

Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students

The girls memorialized just over the river’s edge weren’t the only mobilized students to lose their lives. In fact, a ton of students were out working on the fire lanes that day.

As you cross the river once again via the northern bridge, you’ll run into another memorial for mobilized students. This memorial honors not only the 6,907 that died in Hiroshima’s Atomic Bombing alone, but all those who died helping the war effort both in mainland Japan and across the Pacific Theater.

Folding Origami at the Atomic Dome

I was standing there contemplating the twisted metal and lives lost in the Atomic Dome alone when I caught someone out of the corner of my eye.

He was an older man. He tried a couple languages before he got to my native English, inviting me over next to his “FREE” sign, motioning for me to sit on this tiny little portable stool so we could fold origami together.

My American backside spilled over both sides of that stool, but it did not break. My origami teacher pulled out his papers to show me he was 8 months in utero when the bomb went off. He was born during the black rains that followed the bombings. His medical records showed that he had survived many lung diseases as an infant.

I was given the portrayal of a long, vibrant life, not letting anything slow him down or defeat him. He married a Portuguese woman, and now spends a portion of the year giving Hiroshima tours in Portuguese, largely to European and South American tourists.

Later, I realized that he had shown his papers to me to tell his story. But the real reason he had them was to show to the cop that stopped over about halfway through our visit.

I love that the Japanese cop was watching out for me as an obvious gaijin, and it made me even happier to see he probably wasn’t going to try to scam me in the next ten minutes as the paperwork more than assured the police officer of the origami teacher’s legitimacy and apparent right to be in the park spreading the message of peace.

1,000 Paper Cranes for Hope and Healing

Because ultimately, that’s what he was doing. He was teaching people how to fold origami cranes — specifically the red-headed kind that migrate to Japan from mainland Asia. He was impressed that my friend’s mother had taught me the art before, and took the opportunity to teach me a more advanced method.

I’m always getting rewarded by my Japanese teachers like a little kid. And I love it. This time, my origami teacher rewarded me with the tiniest paper crane I’ve ever seen. He must have used tools to make it; there’s no way any human fingers are that nimble.

Hiroshima Epicenter

My final stop for the day was actually outside Peace Park. The epicenter — the site where the Enola Gay dropped Little Boy all the way back in 1945 — sits about a block into the city, down a smaller street.

The plaque lies in front of what appears to be an apartment building. As ordinary as could be.

But 600m in the air above this building, the Atomic Bomb went off and changed the course of history.

Like the Japanese, I hope we remember the lessons of history, allowing the massive shift that happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be for the better. For denuclearization. And beneath it all, a current of genuine and healing peace.

Making Accommodations Affordable in Japan

At the beginning of this year, I had no concrete plans to travel except to DC for FinCon.

As I look back, I pause for a moment of gratitude. I was a little ping pong ball this year, bouncing all over the place. Getting work done and catching up with some of those people who have meant so much to me over the years.

In 2019, I visited:

I promise I’ll cover all of these trips, as they were all made pretty frugally. But today I want to spend some time on the accommodation situation in Japan.

Affordable Accommodations in Japan

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you’re probably worried about the cost of accommodations–especially if you’re staying in one of the big cities.

While it’s true that Japan can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. While I did stay with my friend for three nights (I was there for her wedding!) most of the time I was away I was able to score low-cost accommodations without even feeling like they were low-cost to begin with.

Tokyo Hotel

Sliding door with woman's lips on it, between her teeth insider her mouth it says "Play on Moxy Tokyo moxy"

I booked my flight through miles, and apparently getting from Pittsburgh to the Western side of Japan is darn near impossible via rewards. So both times I have gone, I ended up flying into Tokyo.

This time, I decided to take a little time in Tokyo before the wedding to catch up on sleep and adjust to all the shifts that come with traveling to the other side of the planet.

I managed to get out a little, too, between naps. Those adventures are currently being logged on Instagram, but I’ll write about them here, too, in the near future.

I had points built up through the Marriott Bonvoy program. The Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho was affordable, available and in a great location, so I booked. I had enough points that I was able to get half of my nights in Tokyo for free.

If you don’t do the rewards points thing through specific hotel chains, another method I use to get free nights is booking through Hotels.com. Your tenth night is free, regardless of the hotel chain you use. You can book the Moxy here. I’d also recommend this method because they have killer discount prices.

Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho

My stay here was great. The room I booked was small; while I had two twins, there was only about a foot between the end of the bed and the wall.

This is Tokyo, though, and the layout of the room was so smart that the size wasn’t even noticeable. There are collapsible tables, chairs, luggage racks and more hung along the wall in the entrance way. The shower room in the bathroom is a good size, allows for American- or Japanese-style showers, and even has a stool if you need to sit down.

The decor was adorable and trendy. This place markets itself as a party hotel, though I largely stayed during the week so everything was pretty quiet. I met a lot of other gaijin guests in town for different world events; there was no shortage of socialization opportunities. It just might be louder on the weekends.

The location is perfect, too. Walkable from the Kinshicho station–even with luggage in tow–you can easily get to everything in the Sumida City neighborhood. Probably the biggest attraction is the Skytree, which is the second tallest structure in the world. But that really is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you’re travelling using the JR Rail Pass, the proximity of the station makes it easy to get everywhere else, too. I used it as a jumping off point for Odaiba, Roppongi Hills, Nakano and Shibuya, but also spent time exploring the neighborhood itself.

Airbnb in Hiroshima & Kyoto

Airbnb is one of my favorite ways to travel on a budget. Not only is it often more affordable than a hotel, but you also usually get a better travel experience, too.

Affordable Private Apartment in Hiroshima

After the wedding, I headed to Hiroshima for one night. It is something I highly recommend everyone do if they have the opportunity to visit Japan. I’ll write about the transformational experience soon, but right now I’ll just cover accommodations.

While I was in Hiroshima, I booked a private apartment. It was the best experience. I had access to laundry so I could prep my clothes for the next leg of the trip. The bed was like sleeping on a cloud — a true rarity in the land of the rising sun. I had privacy and space and slipped into sleep easier than I have in years.

My host was amazing, too. He knew I was staying for just one night, and sent over this guide prior to my stay to help me maximize my time and money while I was in town. It was incredible.

The room itself cost about $70, which was cheaper than a cheap hotel. On top of that, I had enough Airbnb credits to get more than 50% off.

If you want to use the same method, you can sign up for Airbnb as a new member and get $55 in credit towards your first stay. Then, when you refer your friends you’ll get more credit when they complete their first stay.

Hostel Kyoto Gion

As a solo traveler, I have booked hostels in the past. I’ve found that the fears I had in the past are overblown, and that being a safe traveler in a hostel is easier than you’d think. In fact, it can be good to have other people there to notice your presence or absence when you’re in a big city by yourself.

When I went to Kyoto, I also booked on Airbnb. The last time I was in Kyoto I missed one of the key attractions: Gion. The older-feeling part of the city (so much relativity here) known for its geisha.

Much to my delight, I found the Hostel Kyoto Gion. It would have been under $100 to book for 3 nights had I not had had enough Airbnb credit to cover the stay 100% free.

I was a little nervous about it being a co-ed hostel, but I figured if there was anywhere to give it a shot, it was the ultra-safe Japan. I felt 100% safe the entire time. Most of the co-ed people staying there were couples in two separate beds, mixed in with one pair of male friends and a few other female solo travelers.

There were cameras. I never felt unsafe, but it’s always nice to have that little extra layer of assurance there — to know that there is accountability even in an ultra-safe environment. Each bed was spacious and had curtains and outlets and a light and earplugs so you could have complete privacy.

Perhaps the best part of this stay, though, was the hosts. My Japanese is not great, though I have studied it through my local library sporadically in preparation for my trips. While my hosts’ English was limited, it was way better than my Japanese and they were so adept at using interpretive technology that communication was not only never a problem, but so warm and sincere that at times you forgot you were in a hostel rather than doing a home stay.

I mean, on top of free coffee, printed travel guides and local tips from the hosts themselves, I was offered a meal in the spur of the moment one day. We talked about my kids and the host ended up buying them their favorite souvenir from Japan: Japanese candy. I know one of them ended up taking another guest to some type of festival when she asked about things to do.

Oh, and for the first time ever? I got the bottom bunk.

It was my best hostel experience yet, and it was 100% free thanks to those Airbnb credits. Here’s where you can get started with yours.

Affordable Narita Hotel

I did end up staying at a hotel in Narita my last night. It was near the airport and there was a free bus and because of a combination of the booking platform and points, it was crazy cheap.

But they tried to nickle and dime you for everything once you’re there. No free breakfast. No water bottles waiting for you in your room. Literally the only dirty carpets and hotel bathrooms I’ve ever seen in Japan. The shower room was in with the toilet without any separation between the two.

So I wouldn’t highly recommend this particular place.

But I would recommend finding a place near the airport for your last night if you’re flying out of Narita. It’s not close to Tokyo — depending on where you’re staying it can be an hour or two ride by train. By staying near the airport that last night, you have a way easier commute when your flight does take off. Plus, if you do a hotel, most of them have free shuttles.

Have you ever been to Japan? How did you manage the costs of accommodations?

7 Pocket-Friendly Ways to Explore Australia

by Britt Sharman

Australia has a lot to offer during the summer between beaches, deserts and mountain ranges (come back for the snow in winter, we’re not joking it’s amazing!) However, you might have heard it is super expensive.

Well, after plenty of years as broke students we know all the best budget things to do in Australia! Here are some favourites!

Some Sweet Treats

You don’t have to shell out restaurants to try Australia’s best food! Just head to the bakery. Bakeries are pocket-friendly and full of treats you will have never seen before!

The next two are best to get from a bakery. First is the lamington. It is basically a fist-sized piece of sponge cake filled with jam, rolled in chocolate and then coconut, sounds like a mess, and it is, so grab a napkin! 

Next, grab yourself a vanilla slice. The name might seem unassuming; however, the Vanilla Slice is an iconic treat. The slice has a crispy pastry bottom and top of thick, vanilla custard filling. Simple yet life-changing, again thank us later!

Last but not least (and not from a bakery) is a classic Tim Tam. Now, this is something that will most likely be life-changing. Grab your Tim Tam and bite off two opposite corners. Grab a cold glass of milk, please don’t use anything hot! Dip in one corner, then use the other corner like a straw and suck. What you have is a delicious chocolate milk drink, then the biscuit turns into a fudgy chocolate bar.

Hang Out in Byron Bay

Byron Bay. You might have heard of this idyllic town that is now home to many famous people. But its reputation is well-deserved; it is bloody beautiful! Azure blue water, the softest sand you’ve ever touched and a a beautiful beach-side village. While it can normally be pricey in these types of spots, lucky there are many house sitting opportunities!. It can be competitive so find out the best tips to getting started.

How About Some Shopping? 

Melbourne is famous for its shopping. If you’re after cheap boutique finds head to Smith St in Collingwood or Greville St in Prahran. Both streets are full of treasure troves of designers.

If you come at Christmas time, you have to head to Myer. They are famous for their beautiful window displays as well as stocking all the best brands!

If you’re looking for some bargains, head to DFO. You wouldn’t believe the location. It’s set on the side of the Yarra River, with lovely restaurants overlooking it. The perfect place for an afternoon espresso martini. You can pick one up at happy hour for around $4. 

Master the Art of Surfing

Surfing is more than a sport in Australia. It is a lifestyle. Take a surf lesson during your travels. It may not be budget, but once you master it, it’s free for life! Trying to stand, fall, and trying again… the attributes of perseverance and persistence create grit which is a necessary personality trait for any Australian. Nothing beats the sense of achievement when you succeed. 

Swimming Under a Waterfall 

The Blue Mountains in rural NSW has some beautiful waterfalls. There are many tracks, so enjoy the bushwalk to a beautiful waterfall then strip down to your togs and jump in. The walking tracks are endless here so make sure you grab a national park map! 

Get Lost on a Road Trip

Australia is best seen from the road. If you fly you miss out on all the best beaches and parks. Head off on a road trip, you can find looks of cheap/ free cars and campers by searching for relocation cars. 

 Eat Fish ‘n’ Chips 

Having a ‘feed’ of fish ‘n’ chips is about as Aussie as you can get. However, these fish ‘n’ chips are not the kind that comes served in an ironic serving basket for $35.99 at your local fine dining restaurant. We’re talking about the real fish ‘n’ chips!

This is going to your local fish shop, ordering a $20 family pack and heading down the beach to eat it with your hands while watching the sun go down. Every fish ‘n’ chip shop has a $20 family pack. However, what is in the family pack can differ from place to place. You will usually find they contain something along the lines of 4 pieces of crumbed fish, 2 scoops of chips, a couple of hot dogs & a small army of potato cakes.

This delicious pack of deep-fried goodness will always come wrapped in last week’s newspaper, which is used as your table at the beach! Always remember your can of tomato sauce and lemon to get the full experience.

There you have it, all the best things to do in Australia just like a local. Not only that, they won’t cost you an arm and a leg. So what are you waiting for? 

Brittnay is one half of the Travelling House Sitters. They are professional house sitters, who have looked after homes in over 10 countries including Italy, France, Greece, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia & The UK. If you want to become a house sitter, they have just released a brand new course.

5 Ways to Save on Travel This Spring

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I’ve got a special treat for you–a post from my long-time fellow personal finance blogger Greg of Club Thrifty! Greg and his wife Holly are always impressing me with the amazing trips they take with the whole family, and I’m excited he’ll be sharing some of their travel tips with us today!

Green airplane icon. Beneath that it reads "5 ways to save on Spring Travel femmefrugality.com" Beneath is a picture of a dark-haired girl walking towards a cherry blossom tree. Her coat is the same shade of pink as the flowers.

Spring is officially here! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and people are itching to get away after the drudgery of winter.

Most people would travel more if they could afford it, but alas, globe-trotting (or even interstate travel) isn’t always easy on the wallet. Even so, I believe that seeing the world is something worth building into your budget, if at all possible.

If you’re like a lot of people, that might be easier said than done. Even if you’re in a great place financially, it can be hard to find extra money to indulge your travel whims. Just thinking about the cost of airfare and accommodations can make that trip you’ve been daydreaming about feel out of reach.

The good news is, travel doesn’t always have to be as expensive as you think. I’ve been traveling the world since before anyone would think I could afford to, and let me tell you, there’s always a trick to save a few bucks. And if you know what you’re doing, “a few bucks” can translate into hundreds of dollars.

These five tips will help you cut your spring and summer travel expenses down to size.

Use Credit Card Rewards

I find people tend to be quite divided on the topic of credit card rewards. Either they’re obsessed with them or they couldn’t be bothered. Can you guess which one I am?

If you have the discipline to use credit responsibly, you should be using a rewards credit card for 95% of your purchases. Preauthorized bills like phone, power, and gym membership? Credit card! Expenses like gas, groceries, eating out, and clothing? Credit card! A $1 soft drink at the corner store? Yup, that goes on the credit card, too.

Essentially, you should be using a rewards card for absolutely everything you can. Why? Because you earn points or cash back (I prefer points) on every single dollar you spend, and that really adds up. After a year of using a credit card for all your purchases, you’ll probably have enough points to cover the cost of a domestic flight.

If you don’t currently have a credit card that offers travel rewards, you need to do something about that! The best cards come with generous signup bonuses you can unlock when you meet a minimum spending requirement. True, some have annual fees, but if you use your card for all your purchases, the value of the rewards will outweigh the cost.

Don’t believe me? My family and I have literally saved thousands on travel using credit card rewards like Chase Ultimate Rewards points. There’s no reason you can’t, too.

Look for a Sightseeing Pass

Just like some people don’t bother with credit card rewards, even savvy travelers overlook the value of sightseeing passes.

When you’re planning on hitting a lot of the major tourist attractions in a big city, two things are usually true: It’s probably going to be expensive, and there’s a way to do it for less. If used appropriately, some sightseeing passes can cut your expenses in half.

All-inclusive sightseeing passes charge a fixed fee for unlimited single entry to a bunch of attractions for a certain number of (usually consecutive) days. So basically, the more you do, the more you save. You can also get passes that grant you access to a set number of attractions for a discounted price.

No matter the type, many passes also offer fast track entry to certain attractions, saving you time on top of money. Who wouldn’t be into that?

If you want to save money on your sightseeing costs this spring and summer, I highly recommend checking out the sightseeing passes available for your destination. Again, I’ve got real-world experience to back up my claims: We’ve used several different passes over the years, including this attractions pass in London that helped us save well over $100 USD during our first visit.

Book Last Minute

It isn’t generally the case with flights, but you can score some sweet deals on hotels by booking at the last minute.

Obviously, if you’ve booked a flight and are heading to your destination regardless, you probably don’t want to risk not having a place to stay. So, here’s what you do: Book a hotel with free cancellation but keep your eyes open for cheaper last-minute deals. If luck is on your side, you can cancel your booking with no penalty and head to the cheaper digs.

Expedia, Booking.com, and hotel websites usually allow you to reserve a hotel with free cancellation, and Priceline and Hotel Tonight are good sites for scoping out last-minute bargains.

Be Flexible

You can save a significant amount on travel if you’re a bit flexible with your dates and destination.

Maybe you know you want to visit Germany but would be equally excited to see Poland or Hungary. Perhaps you’re craving a beach getaway but aren’t picky where it’s located as long as there’s sunshine and sand. If you’re not married to a particular week, even better.

When you have flexibility, you can let price be the deciding factor. Use tools like Google Flights to search for the cheapest dates and destinations within a given time frame; then, choose the one that checks the most boxes for you. If you know you want to get away for a week in June, just plug that in and see where and when the deals are.

You’ll also want to make sure you subscribe to airline newsletters so you know when one of your many bucket list destinations goes on sale.

Consider Driving or Taking the Train

If you’re traveling relatively nearby, you might want to look into driving or taking the train instead of flying.

It might not work if time is limited, but if you can spare some extra travel time, a road trip can bring a whole new element of adventure to your plans. If you’re traveling with friends or family, it’s almost certainly cheaper to pile into one vehicle and make the drive than it is to buy multiple airline tickets.

Alternatively, taking a train can be more comfortable and less expensive than flying (but faster than driving). Plus, you get to take in the scenery along the way.

Final Thoughts

Travel is worth the money, but why spend more than you have to? I hope these tips gave you some ideas on how to do more for less this spring and summer.

Do you have any trips on the horizon? Let’s hear about your thrifty travel plans!

Greg Johnson is a personal finance and frugal travel expert who leveraged his online business to quit his 9-5 job, spend more time with his family, and travel the world. He is the co-owner of the popular blog Club Thrifty, where he teaches others how to spend less and travel more.

4 European Destinations for Your Summer Vacation

Today’s post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

Prepping for summer holidays but feeling a little uninspired? Well, there’s no better time to start thinking about it. This little guide should inspire you to visit some of the most beautiful places on Earth. Each has its own unique charm that you have to experience yourself to understand properly.

Enjoy reading more about these wonderful places!

Cote d’Azur, FranceLighthouse sitting on the end of an ithmus in the middle of a huge expanse of blue water.

The Cote d’Azur or the French Riviera as it is known in other parts of the world is the perfect place for a Summer getaway — that’s why it is first on our list. It has endless coastline on the Mediterranean Sea that runs all the way from Italy through France and then onto Spain. It has some of the best beaches that you could imagine with clean and refreshing waters.

Some of the beaches are incredibly famous, such as Antibes and Cannes, but the beauty of the beaches also extends to the more secluded ones that dot the coastline. You quite literally have  choices from crowded to totally secluded and everything in between

As well as beaches you have some pretty incredible cities and towns, too, like Nice, Marseilles and Saint-Tropez.

Lake Como, ItalyItalian village nestled into a hillside on the banks of Lake Cuomo

If you have ever been to Italy before you have probably heard of the majestic Lake Como. It is one of the most magical, romantic and beautiful lakes on the entire planet. It is actually the third largest in Italy and it has many corners to explore.

The lake has long been the home of aristocrats and the wealthy for many hundreds of years. This trend continues today, however the lake has become so famous for its beauty that many people of all socioeconomic classes visit each year.

The best way to experience it is to head out on the boat and explore each corner. There are beautiful houses, villas, mountains, castles and museums to explore. The museums are particularly interesting as they are housed in some of the most beautiful buildings you’ve ever seen. Villa Carlotta is a great example of this with its stunning art collection from the likes of Canova, Thorvaldsen, Migliara and Hayez.

Berlin, GermanyLarge, pillared stone gate with sun shining through from the back. Located in Germany.

Those who visit Berlin always find themselves wanting to come back and explore some more. Berlin is huge and it is one of those places that you could compare to London or New York in terms of things to do and see. Even the locals are always discovering something new.

Berlin has so much history and has some of the best museums around. The Pergamon Museum is particularly interesting with a complete reconstruction of an altar from the ancient Greek city of Pergamon. It is truly something you have to see! Other museums that are great to visit are the Jewish Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Many of the tourist attractions in the city focus on the Second World War and provide a well-documented perspective of what happened in Berlin during the conflict. It’s amazing to look at some of the buildings to still see holes from bullets!

Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona with a bright blue sky and a few wisps of clouds.

Barcelona has it all when it comes to a holiday destination. It has beaches, beautiful weather, great food and drink, history and beauty.

The city is one of the most loved destinations in Europe because the Catalan people know how to live well and enjoy life. You can roam the city streets and see some of the most incredible architecture from the likes of Antoni Gaudi, such as the dream-like Parc Guell or the unique spires of the Sagrada Familia.

The food is amazing too, especially the tapas that the locals love to eat. Tapas are small dishes that are the equivalent of Spanish street food. They are often eaten in a small tapas “bar” and are usually accompanied by a glass of wine or sangria. My favourites are Patatas bravas, Aioli with bread or Gambas (sauteed prawns with sauce).