Traveling on A Budget: ITALY

If money is a bit of an issue, you don’t have to completely abandon your idea to travel to Italy! Believe it or not, it is absolutely possible to travel abroad on a budget. With a little planning ahead, some flexibility, and a desire to travel, anything is possible, even if you don’t have a plethora of cash!

When it comes to traveling, the first thing you want to have planned is your transportation. In most cases, you will likely have to fly to Italy. It is important to remain flexible with your dates and flight times. You can save hundreds of dollars if you fly at a time of day that would be less desirable to the general public. Anything to save a few bucks, right? Once in Italy, it’s extremely easy to visit all of your desired places on a budget. Italy has an extremely broad and developed train system. You can get pretty much anywhere in just a few hours time. There are bus and subway systems located in the larger cities, although these can be crowded. Walking is definitely the best option for avid sightseers!

When in Italy, accommodation can be cheap. Depending on the route you take, that is! Hostels are an inexpensive option for the young backpacker. They cost around 25 EUR a night, but are lacking when it comes to privacy. If you are looking for a little more privacy, but don’t want to spend a fortune at a local hotel, use AirBnb. AirBnB is a wonderful option for all travelers on a budget. Look for a place in the center of town, near convenience stores, tourist attractions, and yummy restaurants. If the only option you have is somewhere outside of town, look for a place with easy access to train or bus systems. It’ll definitely cut down on an stress you have when traveling through Italy!

The delicious food is what brings many travelers to Italy. But with delicious cuisine, comes higher prices. Before sitting down to eat, see if the restaurant or cafe charges a “coperta” fee. The fee is usually around  3 EUR, just for sitting down to look at the menu. Always look at the menu before sitting down to eat, and read to make sure you won’t be charged a fee. It is recommended to eat your main meal for lunchtime, and then have small snacks throughout the afternoon and evening. If you aren’t constantly eating out for every meal, you will notice a huge decrease in spending.  Of course, buying pizza by the slice is always an inexpensive (and delicious) option!

Of course, when traveling across the world, everyone wants to do some fun activities.  There are some free activities too! If you chose to stay at a hostel, see if they offer a free walking tour through the city, usually, just a tip for your guide is recommended. It’s recommended that you plan your travel time around the festival schedule. Consider going in February for the Venice Carnival, or over Christmas for the Rome Christmas market. Festivals are free to enjoy, and allow for a great insight into a culture. Do some investigating and see if the museums you are interested in seeing offer free admission for a time period or day of the week. Relax in Villa Borghese park in Rome for a free afternoon with a stunning view of the city.

Traveling on a budget is totally possible, and you may even find yourself in an area you wouldn’t have expected. Keep your mind open when it comes to accommodations, travel, and activities while traveling. You may come across something great!

4 Good Reasons You SHOULD Be Using Credit Cards

I am going to play devil’s advocate here.  WHAT IF… credit cards were good?  So often we hear all the bad and dangers about credit cards.  Today, lets focus on the GOOD associated with credit cards and the reasons you should be using them, responsibly. 1. Credit Cards Establish Credit History There are many ways you can create credit history, but the easiest is definitely by using credit cards.  For ten years, our goal in marriage was to get completely out of debt and we accomplished this at the 10 year mark- yay us! We were debt free (minus the mortgate) and we were so excited!  We didn’t have any other debt.  In fact, I didn’t even own a credit card.  I am so responsible!  Long story short, after applying for a store credit card for an enormous discount on school clothes, I was given a $200 dollar limit, which was just insulting.  I was shocked and a little confused.  I should have stellar credit!  The truth, is that I had NO credit.  My name wasn’t on most of our previous loans, to make financing simpler.  So we applied for a skymiles credit card and started using it in our everyday life.  All the bills were automatically charged on the card and I pay it off monthly.  My credit score has dramatically increased and I am establishing a credit history, which will make other financing or other things a little easier. In order to qualify for a home loan, or other financing, you will need a credit history to get approved. Credit history is different from your credit score because it shows how long you have had credit, and whether or not you are using it. So, the best way to create a credit history is by using your credit cards and then paying them off each month before you acquire interest. 2. Simplicity If you don’t have a credit card, it can make life a little tougher.  You can’t even reserve a rental car without a valid credit card (yes, some will take debit cards.) If you have a credit card, you can use it to pay all of your bills, set up automatic payments, etc.  I am weary of having automatic payments charge my debit cards.  I have had companies maker errors and take out more money than expected, and it can really mess you up if the money comes out of your checking account when you aren’t expecting it.  I like to be able to review my charges and be sure everything looks right and then pay my statement. Using a credit card for all of your purchases makes paying bills so easy and great!  Each month, you check your statement, review your purchases and pay your statement, and you are all done!  This is a method you should only use if you are very disciplined and do not spend more than you have budgeted each month.  If you aren’t careful, you can find yourself with a balance.  Only do this if you spend less than you make and are good at keeping your expenses less than your income.  It can get away from you pretty quickly, if you don’t pay attention and spend like a sailor, only to find that you are short at the end of the month. And if you can do this, congratulations.  This shows great self-control and responsibility. 3. Improves Your Credit Score When you have and use a credit card, it will help you raise your credit score.  As long as you are careful and pay your bill each month on time and are careful not to be late,  your credit score will improve.  Also, if you keep your balance below 50% of your credit limit, and pay regularly, you will have a higher credit score than if you didn’t have or use a credit card at all.  As I mentioned above, it is important to have some sort of credit history.  Don’t let your cards sit dormant.  Use them, pay them off and keep them active.  Be careful not to apply for a million cards, hoping to improve things “quicker.” Each time you apply for a credit card or loan, your credit takes a small hit.  So be thoughtful in which cards or loans you apply for. 4. Credit Card Rewards  Yes, yes and yes!!  I can’t believe I missed out on credit card rewards for most of my life. About a year ago, I got a Capital One rewards card.  I put absolutely every expense we have on my new rewards card, and we will be able to take my family of 6 on a pretty great vacation next summer, using only our rewards.  If you are spending money anyway, you might as well get paid for it.  I have all of my monthly bills, excluding my mortgage automatically charged to my Capital One rewards card and I get 2 points for every dollar that I spend.  School shopping, Christmas gifts, and oh so many medical bills the past year.  My only regret is not having done it sooner.  If you are wondering what the best credit card rewards program is, you can see my summary of the different offers here. Be sure to read all terms and conditions and use the card the way it is intended.  If you rack up a balance and pay lots of $ each month in interest, it isn’t really worth it.  I only use my card for the purchases I make each month anyway, and then I pay it off on payday each month.  That way, I pay no interest but I get the rewards.  It is perfect for someone that is disciplined enough to spend that way and budget to be sure the money is there to pay off when the statement arrives. Remember I am not discrediting the warnings against using credit cards. They are a common pitfall for acquiring unnecessary debt. If you can be financially responsible and use credit cards in a positive way, they can benefit you in many ways. Read more about credit cards, budgeting and more in my Getting Out of Debt Series below:

15 Legit Ways to Make an Extra $1500 a Month

8 Reasons to Get Out of Debt Right Now!

20 Things You Are Forgetting to Budget

12 Expenses You Should Never Put on a Credit Card

10 Useful Tips for Using Credit Cards

12 Ways to Reduce Your Utility Bill

54 Side Hustles to Make Extra Money

10 Personal Finance Tips That Could Will Your Life

4 Tips to Improve Your Credit Score

Top 5 Airline and Travel Credit Cards Out There

A lot of the times, signing up for a credit card can be a grueling and confusing process. Rewards, due dates, balances, fees, etc. all get jumbled together and sometimes make credit cards just not seem worth all the hassle. However, if you’re patient and willing to learn a little bit, there are actually lots of great perks you can get from using a credit card the right way. One of those great perks is rewards for airline passage and other travel expenses. Here is a list of some of the best credit cards out there that give you the most back for all your vacation and travel needs.
  1. Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard. This card gives you bonus miles when you make a certain dollar amount in purchases within the first three months of opening the account. For a limited time, the offer is 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000. When you use this card to make American Airline purchases, you will earn double miles every time. For all other purchases, you get one mile per dollar. You also get a free checked back every time you fly with this card, which can save you quite a bit of money if you fly frequently. Along with a free checked bag, this card also allows you access to group 1 boarding priority, so you don’t have to wait in long and obnoxious lines. Also, for those of you who love to have things to snack on when flying, you can get discounted prices on in-flight food and beverages. Depending on how much you use this card, you can qualify for up to 10,000 miles that can be redeemed back to your account. Not too shabby! Plus, with no foreign transaction fee, this is a card that you can take anywhere around the world and reap in the benefits. However, it does have a $95 annual fee, but that is waived for the first year. So, if you have excellent credit, love to travel, and want to earn miles, then this is a great card.
  2. United MileagePlus Explorer Card. While a lot of features on this card are the same as the previous, there are a few differences in numbers that are important enough to note. With this card, you earn double miles on all United ticket purchases and one mile per dollar for all other purchases. After spending $3,000 in the first month, you get 30,000 bonus miles, which isn’t as much s the Platinum Select MasterCard, but still a large amount. This card also gives you your first checked bag for free (saving up to $100 roundtrip) and priority boarding. Okay, so those are the similarities, now here are some great differences! You get a bonus when you add an additional user to this card, so if you’re married then that’s pretty much just free money. The amount depends if they’re running any promotions at the time, but it’s still a great benefit. You also get a 10,000-mile bonus if you spend more than $25,000 on this card annually. That’s pretty much getting paid to spend money! Another great benefit with this card are the two one-time passes you get to the United Club—that’s an airport lounge where you can spend your time waiting for your plane with complementary beverages and food, outlets, good seating, etc. Like the other card, this has a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived for your first year.
  3. British Airways Visa Signature Card. As you can tell by the title of this card, this is best for international travelers. If you’re looking for domestic travel perks, then the first two cards mentioned are probably a better fit. Also, this card has a point system called Avios, which some people haven’t liked very much. However, that doesn’t mean you need to forget this card; it has some really great features that can benefit a frequent traveler. Like the others, you get points for the money you spend. If you spend $2,000 in the first three months, you get 50,000 Avios. You also get 3 Avios for each dollar you spend on British Airway purchases. These rewards are higher than the other cards we’ve talked about so far. One of the best things about this card is its Travel Together ticket option. Pretty much, if you spend more than $30,000 a year on this card, you have the option of purchasing a Travel Together ticket. When you book a flight using Avios, you can also book another seat by using your Travel Together ticket— and the only things you have to pay are the applicable taxes and fees! Now that’s a great deal!
  4. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. For travelers with a budget (which is probably most of us), then this is a pretty good card to have around. Beyond the points, you get for every dollar spent on normal purchases, you get double the points for purchases made to Southwest Airlines as well as Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental programs.  For this card, you only have to spend $1,000 in the first three months before getting the reward of 25,000 bonus points. You also get 6,000 bonus points after your card member anniversary every year; so pretty much you make money just by having this card. The points on this card never expire, too, which is nice if you have limited vacation days. One of the best features about this card is that, if you complete 100 qualifying flights or earning 110,000 points in a calendar year, you earn Companion Status, which lets you bring a guest on every Southwest flight for free! Not only is that a terrific reward, it also lots the rest of that calendar year and the next year, so you can really enjoy that benefit.
  5. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card (from American Express). We’ve talked so much about airlines, but what if you aren’t traveling by plane? Have no fear, this is a great card if you’re driving but will still stay in a hotel. Like the other cards, you get 1 point for every dollar spent on normal purchases, but you get up to 5 points per dollar spent at a Starwood hotel or resort. You also get 25,000 bonus Starpoints (their branded type of point system) once you’ve spent $3,000 in the first three months. Another great feature of this card is that you can transfer the points to numerous other frequent flier programs, so they don’t have to just go to hotels if you don’t want them too. The annual fee is waived for the first year and then it’s $95 a year.
Top 5 Airline and Travel Credit Cards Out There