Four Reasons Traveling in October Can Save You Money and Enhance Your Trip

October is the quintessential month of autumn.

The seasons start to turn, and the scents of fall, from cinnamon brooms to pumpkin spice, welcome you.

Winter isn’t far off — nor are the dark and freezing mornings to come.

It’s the perfect in-between month, not only for weather, but for travel.

While everyone is preparing for the holidays, you could be having the time of your life for a fraction of the cost.

Why Travel in October

It seems like a strange month to travel with the kids back in school and the holidays just around the corner. Yet those are the exact reasons it’s one of the best months to travel.  

Shoulder Season

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Most people know that off-season travel has the best deals, but many don’t consider the perks of traveling during shoulder seasons.

Shoulder season is the period between the peak season and the off-season.

It generally means lower prices and fewer crowds.

October comes after the peak summer season, on the heels of Labor Day and ahead of the holiday season, making it ripe for travel.  

Zag when everybody zigs,” said Mark Murphy, travelpulse.com founder.

“Go to places that are just out of their main season, when the crowds are gone, and you’ll have a better experience at a hard-to-beat price.

Deals, Deals, Deals

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Prices turn in the traveler’s favor in October, just like the color of leaves.

Skyscanner determined that September and October will be the cheapest time to fly in 2018.

Which totally makes sense because October follows the post-summer slump for airlines and cruises. Less demand for tickets and tours means cheaper offers to drum up business.

Iceland’s low-cost airline, WOW Airlines, offers $160 or less round-trip flights to select cities in Europe during October.

The same goes for gas prices, too.

Since 1993, gas prices for all petroleum types have averaged about $2.16 a gallon in October, making it the fifth cheapest month in which to travel by car, according to a Penny Hoarder analysis of U.S. Department of Energy data.

Murphy says the end of summer marks the end of peak demand for travel.

“This leads to aggressive pricing, value-added offers and even two-for-one deals the world over,” he said.

Weather

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There’s hardly a place on Earth where the weather is bad in October.

It’s spring in the Southern Hemisphere and autumn in the Northern. There’s no drastic temperature extreme, making it the perfect Goldilocks in-between.

Autumn brings a wave of colorful foliage down the East Coast along with cooler mornings and nights.

It’s too early to ski, but the first snowfall of the season could come early and bring fresh powder from Killington Peak, Vermont, to the Arapahoe Basin, Colorado.

Wanna watch the northern lights dance across the sky? October is one of the best months to witness them from any arctic viewing point including Norway, Iceland and Alaska.

Just don’t expect to see them on an Alaskan cruise — most of those close up shop come October.

Meanwhile, Caribbean cruises and resorts entice brave travelers with discounted rates since it’s the tail end of hurricane season.

Murphy said the threat of bad weather means better deals for you, like the recent volcano eruptions in Hawaii.

Bad news means a great deal… Usually nothing close to how they are actually portraying it, leading to a great deal for you,” he said.

School Is in Session

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Since October is sandwiched between Labor Day and the holidays, most families stay grounded during the month.

More kids in school means smaller crowds at main attractions.

For folks without kids, October is a prime month to travel if you’re looking for quieter experiences or you just want to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter without thousands of middle schoolers around.

It’s also prime time for couples and solo travelers to explore the world without sharing a romantic or individual experience with herds of families on spring and summer vacation.

It’s much harder to travel in October if you have children, but if you do, lines at Disney are shorter and you might be the only family on the shoreline for miles.

Murphy suggests Iceland, Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico.

If you’re looking to stay stateside, big cities like New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas offer stellar deals, while national parks like the Grand Canyon and Shenandoah see fewer crowds but have the same great views.

The 10th month also is home to pumpkins galore, apple pickin’, wine tastin’, Halloween Horror Nights, the return of the monarch butterflies in Big Sur and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Seriously, why are you staying in again??

The Penny Hoarder data journalist Alex Mahadevan contributed to this post.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. October is her favorite month.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

You Don’t Have to Be Walt Whitman to Win This $1K Poetry Scholarship Contest

Roses are red, violets are blue, and you could win $1,000 by sharing what a mentor meant to you.

Is there someone in your life who has inspired or guided you along the way or assisted in your personal development?

Here’s a chance to pay that person homage and enter to win a $1,000 scholarship toward college.

Power Poetry is holding an “O Captain, My Captain Scholarship Slam” scholarship sweepstakes.

How to Enter the Poetry Scholarship Contest

The contest is open to all current and former high school students who are in college or will attend college within the U.S.  All entrants must be 25 years old or younger to enter.

Before you enter, you must register as a member of the Power Poetry community, which promotes the writing of poetry.

Once that’s done and you’ve composed an ode to your mentor, all you have to do is submit your original poem with a title. That’s it.

The $1,000 scholarship winner is chosen in a random drawing — which means this is more about luck than being a wordsmith. Just keep your submission original and cross your fingers.

The deadline to enter is Oct. 25, 2018.

Check out the contest rules and contact Power Poetry with any questions.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Like our College page on Facebook to discover other scholarship opportunities.

And if you’re looking for even more scholarships to apply for, be sure to check out our list of 100 scholarships that will help you pay for college.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’ll always be thankful for the wisdom and compassion of her mentors.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

A Glut of Retail Jobs Means Higher Pay and Better Benefits for Workers

Major U.S. retailers are scrambling to find workers to fill a record-high number of job openings, and that’s a good thing for current and potential employees.

As the holiday hiring season approaches, job openings in the retail industry are already at record levels. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the retail industry had an unprecedented 835,000 job openings in July — the highest number since the BLS began tracking this statistic in December 2000.

Anticipating a strong holiday season, employers are adding hundreds of thousands of additional seasonal jobs into the mix as well.

Filling these job openings is the biggest hurdle the retail industry faces, according to Evan Armstrong, Vice President of Government Affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. The RILA represents the largest retailers in the U.S. — Walmart, Target, Costco, Walgreens and many others.

The labor shortage is a big problem for retailers. But for average retail workers?

“That’s good news,” Armstrong said. “There are a lot of employers out there competing for them.”

The stiff competition for labor leads to better schedules, wages and benefits for workers. For example, Target, which plans to hire 120,000 additional seasonal workers,  is offering starting hourly wages at $12, with a $500 gift card bonus for workers hired after September.  The company also plans to increase all beginning wages to $15 an hour by 2020.

In June, Costco hiked starting wages to $14 an hour. Both full- and part-time hourly workers are eligible for health care, dental care, dependent care, 401(k) and several other benefits, according to its website.

Gap Inc. announced Monday that it is looking for 65,000 seasonal workers. The company has encouraged job seekers to show up at any Gap Inc. store or distribution center to apply for a job (including its related brands: Banana Republic, Athleta and Old Navy).

“The truth is,” Armstrong said, “there are just not enough people to work all the jobs that are open right now.”

So large companies are trying these creative and innovative methods to attract employees. Armstrong said that they aren’t only competing among themselves, but the retail industry as a whole is competing with the gig economy for labor.

Younger workers, especially, are attracted to the “work-when-you-wanna-work” aspect of the gig economy.

“The gig economy is providing so much more scheduling flexibility,” Armstrong said. “Retail is trying to catch up on that.”

Armstrong thinks that the seasonal benefits retailers are offering could be a play to attract a new wave of employees to remedy the overall labor shortage in the retail sector. Over the past year, retail wage growth has outpaced that of other industries. If the intense competition among retailers continues, employees can expect benefits to keep getting better.

“Retailers are getting folks in the door in the seasonal space,” Armstrong said. “Then they can retain them throughout the rest of next year.”

Adam Hardy is a reporter, editorial assistant at The Penny Hoarder. He writes about careers for The Penny Hoarder’s Make Money vertical. Read his full bio here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Aldi Instacart Delivery Is Almost Here — Save $10 on Your First 3 Orders

If the idea of spelunking through your car’s cup holders for a quarter or bagging your own groceries (gasp!) is too much for you, you may still be able to score some affordable groceries from Aldi.

After testing delivery via Instacart in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago, the company announced on Sept. 18 that it would roll out the service to all its stores across 35 states by Thanksgiving.

Aldi shoppers ordering groceries via Instacart can request delivery in as little as an hour or as far out as a week after placing their orders. Instacart delivery fees vary, but a release from Aldi said that new Instacart customers can take $10 off their first three Aldi orders of $35 or more by using the code ALDILOVE.

Instacart grocery delivery typically costs between $6 and $12 for orders above $35, depending on demand. You can’t use coupons when you order via Instacart, but that’s not a problem for Aldi shoppers — the store doesn’t offer coupons.

Aldi started its delivery pilot program with Instacart in August 2017. The grocery chain, which is in the midst of an ambitious expansion plan, announced last month it would offer more fresh produce options in its stores.

Lisa Rowan is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder, covering the retail and grocery industries.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

The Silver Moon Rises as the Sun Sets Over Other Drive-In Theaters

The dancing ray from the projector casts a glow over the crowd of cars — which includes a 1952 Chevrolet Deluxe hardtop, a Studebaker and a 1959 Edsel Pacer — before splashing the 1978 musical “Grease” on the 50-foot-tall screen at the drive-in theater.

It’s 2018, and folks from all over Florida are about to enjoy one of the last remaining affordable family fun nights at a community landmark just outside a mobile-home park in Lakeland, three miles from an Amazon warehouse.

Silver Moon Drive-In Movie Theatre, where a family of four can grab a pizza and a double feature of first-run flicks for less than $25, is celebrating 70 years in business.

Its new owner, Chip Sawyer, 25, hopes to carry on his grandfather Harold Spears’ legacy even as land in Florida becomes more valuable.

“Most sane people, if just looking at it with their financial glasses on, would probably just sell the land to a developer,” says Sawyer, who took over the theater and Joy-Lan Drive-In in Dade City, Florida, after his grandfather died in 2017. “But I’m not going to do that.”

Sawyer is one of dozens of drive-in owners in the U.S. offering affordable movies even as conventional theater prices get steeper. You might even have one right in your backyard.

Affordable Family Nights

Cars line up at the entrance of a drive in
Cars wait to get into the Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre in Lakeland, Fla., on Friday, March 30, 2018. Admission for two movies costs $5 for adults and children over 10, $2 for children ages 4-9, and children under 4 are free. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

At the Cobb Theatres Lakeside 18 & IMAX, about 10 minutes from the Silver Moon, a night out for a family of four can get pretty pricy.

With adult movie tickets starting at $11.50 and kids’ passes at $8.03, just getting in to see the movie costs more than double what it would cost to see a flick at most drive-ins. And don’t even mention the snacks; $20 is considered a special for a popcorn and two sodas.

At Silver Moon, hundreds of local residents and visitors from Winter Park — about 65 miles away — Clermont, Haines City and other Florida cities flock to the two-screen theater every weekend, Sawyer says.

“You get two movies for five bucks a person — where can you get that?” asks Brian Bucia, 45, of Clermont, who moved to Florida 14 years ago and discovered the drive-in five years ago. “You can’t go anywhere else in Florida and get a deal like that. If we lived in Lakeland, we’d be here every weekend.”

Women participate in a costume contest based on the movie, Grease.
Ginnalee Dabrowski (left) and Alice Plumlee (right) show off their costumes for the Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre’s 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Plumlee, who attended with her granddaughter, Elli Coleman, 5, dressed as a pink lady from the classic movie “Grease.” Dabrowski wore her mom’s poodle skirt from the days her mom worked at a car hop. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

In Lakeland, the median household income is just under $41,000, which is about 74% of the median income in the U.S. More than 68% — or 125 — of the 183 American counties with a drive-in have household income below the U.S. median, according to a Penny Hoarder analysis of the latest available U.S. Census data.

Counties with these theaters have roughly 20% of their populations living below the poverty line, and 135 of the 183 counties have a greater poverty rate than the U.S. as a whole.

Clearly, these venues are important to communities in need of affordable things to do.

Bucia, sporting a Silver Moon T-shirt, recalls his family piling eight people into their station wagon when he was a boy and heading to the drive-in near Atlantic City, where he grew up. It’s more than just the bargain. It’s the nostalgia.

Ginny Dabrowski wears her mother’s original poodle skirt to the 70th anniversary event. The 50-year-old Polk County resident says she is enjoying one of her last nights out before heading to Maryland for cancer treatment.

But young people also revel in the experience, judging by at least a dozen teenagers who have shown up for the celebration. Among them is Ashlynn Skeen, 17.

She saw her first movie at Silver Moon when she was 2 years old.

Dwindling Drive-Ins

Edsel Adams' 1952 Chevy Deluxe Hard Top
Edsel Adams’ 1952 Chevy Deluxe hardtop was on display during the 70th anniversary celebration on Saturday, April 14, 2018. The drive-in opened in 1948 and is the oldest in Florida. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

The U.S. has lost a quarter of its drive-in theaters over the past decade.

As of March 2016, 206 drive-ins were left, according to the latest available data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Numbers from the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association show that 15% have disappeared since 2007. The group said there were 324 venues across the U.S. in 2016. And according to DriveInMovie.com, the industry has lost 101 drive-ins — but gained 28 — for a net loss of 73 since 2006. It counts 330 current drive-ins, down from about 4,000 in the late 1950s.

While the actual number of drive-in theaters varies depending on whom you ask and the methods of counting used, the reality is that these slices of pure Americana have struggled to adjust to the modern motion-picture landscape.

Movie distributors have stopped providing 35 mm film and send only digital copies to theaters, forcing drive-ins to adapt or die in the 2010s. It cost the Silver Moon more than $100,000 to digitize its operation about six years ago, Sawyer said.

And land, especially land in Florida, isn’t cheap.

Over the past year alone, the market value for the Silver Moon jumped by $45,600, which added an additional $683 to the property’s 2017 tax bill, according to the Polk County Property Appraiser’s Office.

Patrons buy concessions while different movies play on two separate screens on Friday, March 30, 2018. The Drive-In has two screens and typically plays two back-to-back movies on each scree.. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Recently, Sawyer agonized over the decision to raise children’s ticket prices to $2, citing an increase in the minimum wage and a jump in food prices. He said he hasn’t heard any negative feedback.

To raise more revenue, the Silver Moon hosts a swap shop, which costs vendors $5 on Saturday and $15 on Sunday. There, you can find everything from fresh produce to antiques and clothes.

“Obviously we operate at night, so with the acreage of land we had to do something with that during the day,” Sawyer said.

While community support and brand recognition bode well for Silver Moon in the long run, distributors flirting with direct-to-video strategies and deals like MoviePass make Sawyer nervous.

Still, DriveInMovie.com owner Nick Hensgen is tracking six drive-ins slated to open this year — the first time more have opened than closed in decades, he said.

A New Generation

Two children play
Kaleigh Dicks, 11, and her friend Meah Dixon, 11, relax in the grassy area under the big screen at the Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

After I drive past the Silver Moon marquee and settle into a line of more than 20 cars waiting to park for the 70th anniversary celebration, an out-of-breath, bearded millennial runs up to my window. He hands me a coozie and a pen emblazoned with the Silver Moon logo and barely gets out, “Enjoy!” before sprinting off to the next vehicle.

I find out 15 minutes later it was Chip Sawyer.

“I just go wherever I’m needed, really, keeping an eye on the books, managers and maintenance, trying to keep it running as smoothly as possible,” he says, noting that he works 10 to 25 hours a week on the property. “But I’m also in the trenches doing what’s necessary.”

That sounds very similar to how Sawyer, articles in the Ledger and patrons at the 70th anniversary celebration describe Harold Spears, Sawyer’s grandfather. He worked on-site until three months before he died at 87 from multiple myeloma, even as the cancer in his bones made standing difficult.

“He was out here as long as he possibly could be,” Sawyer says.

When he was 15, Sawyer started working the box office at Silver Moon. That meant losing his weekends to shoveling popcorn until after 1 a.m. He started working at Publix in 2012 — he currently is in the corporate finance department — but still found time to work at the drive-in, too.

Sawyer has a master’s degree in business, but he has always been infatuated with history. (His favorite movie is “Casablanca.”)

“Drive-ins had a big part in American history, so having the opportunity to keep that going is very rewarding,” he said.

It’s clear the hard work of Sawyer and his managers keeps the Silver Moon profitable, although he prefers not to share financial figures.

In Lakeland, the theater is its own kind of community center, nearly a dozen natives say at the anniversary event.

“I think the Silver Moon is everything to Lakeland,” says John Kunkel, 24, Sawyer’s best friend, who has known the budding business owner since he was in kindergarten.

As for the future, Sawyer doesn’t have many big changes slated for the property — yet.

A gorilla is displayed on a movie screen.
A preview of “Rampage” is shown on one of two screens at the Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre in Lakeland, Fla., on Friday, March 30, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

The $100,000 cost of a new, third screen and the difficulty of the county permit approval process, along with being landlocked between a railroad and a highway, create limited expansion options for Silver Moon. But the theater is looking into adding more concession options, and it does have a mobile screen it’s taken to events in downtown Lakeland

“As long as people keep coming out, we’ll be here,” Sawyer says.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. His favorite movie is “Kicking and Screaming.” No, not the Will Ferrell one.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Your Best Fortune Cookie Fortune Could Win You a Scholarship From Pei Wei

The fortune you seek is inside of you.

Pei Wei, in partnership with Dr Pepper, is holding a “Creators of Fortune” contest where your sayings can end up as a fortune-cookie fortune.

That’s right. All those witty comments and comebacks you come up with on social media could literally pay off.

Who knew that so much could depend on a 2 ¼ inch by ⅙ inch piece of paper?

Who Can Write Fortunes and Win?

Anyone 18 and older and a legal resident of the U.S. can enter.

However, only students actively enrolled at an accredited university in the U.S and taking at least six credit hours will be eligible for the grand prize and first prize scholarships.

All entrants must have a Facebook or Twitter account to enter the contest.

What Does Your Fortune Hold?

Emotions are sweet and sour, and so are the prizes in this contest.

There’s only one grand prize winner, and that person will receive a tuition check for $1,000.

Four first-place prizes will receive a tuition check for $500.

The 125 second-place prize winners will receive a $5 Pei Wei gift card, and 220 third-place prizes will receive a digital coupon for a free beverage at participating Pei Wei locations.

How to Enter the Pei Wei “Creators of Fortune” Contest

Fortunes can be inspirational or humorous, but they must be original.

You can submit one fortune per day.

Enter by posting your fortunes on Facebook or sending out a tweet on Twitter.

To enter via Facebook, post your fortune as a comment on the Pei Wei Creators of Fortune Facebook post.

You must include @PeiWei, @DrPepper and #CreateAFortuneContest in your comment. Don’t forget to add #student if you meet the eligibility requirements for the scholarships.

To enter on Twitter, tweet your fortune and tag @PeiWei or @PeiWei_Tiger; tag @DrPepper, and the hashtags #CreateAFortuneContest. Include #student if you meet the eligibility requirements for the scholarships.

The deadline to enter is Oct. 10, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Check out the Create a Fortune contest official rules.

Like our College page on Facebook to discover other scholarship opportunities.

And if you’re looking for even more scholarships to apply for, be sure to check out our list of 100 scholarships that will help you pay for college.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She always eats the fortune cookie before reading the fortune.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Make the Most Out of Your Scottish Vacation with These Budget-Friendly Stops

Scotland is home to dramatic landscapes, ancient castles and delicious whisky.

I had dreamt of going there since I was 8 years old. And after 20 years of yearning, I recently made that dream come true. My best friend Megan and I packed our bags and flew to Europe, where we spent three weeks exploring Ireland, Northern Ireland and, most importantly, Scotland.

And we did it all on a pretty conservative budget.

For years, we put away money for this trip of a lifetime. But even with long-term budgeting and careful planning, much of our savings went to airfare, car rentals and lodging – leaving less for entertainment, food and drink. Even so, we were able to see much of Scotland by prioritizing these budget-friendly activities.

The Elephant House and Victoria Street (Edinburgh)

Elephant House exterior
The Elephant House, where author J.K. Rowling worked on the Harry Potter series. Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore

Any true “Harry Potter” fan should visit The Elephant House if staying in Edinburgh. Author J.K. Rowling sat in this coffee shop, looking out the window at Edinburgh Castle, as she dreamed up the world of Harry Potter. Megan and I visited the shop first thing in the morning and enjoyed Americanos while gazing out the same window that Rowling would have looked out of — and all for just the price of a cup of coffee.

After you’ve been warmed up by your coffee, head up the road and turn down Victoria Street, a beautiful roadway of bright buildings that was the inspiration for Rowling’s Diagon Alley.

What you’ll pay: £3 (or the price of your food/drink)

How long you should spend there: 1 hour

Edinburgh Castle

At the end of the Royal Mile sits the legendary Edinburgh Castle. With your admission, you can explore much of what’s behind the castle walls, including military museums, medieval jails, the great hall, the crown jewels and more. I highly recommend waiting around for the free guided tour — and I say that as someone who typically prefers to guide himself through museums. The tour guides are knowledgeable, passionate and energetic. Just stay close so you can understand their accents.

What you’ll pay: £17 per adult (if buying in advance online)

How long you should spend there: 2 to 3 hours

Arthur’s Seat (Edinburgh)

My Fitbit registered more than 35,000 steps the day I climbed Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh (though I’d also done a lot of walking in the city center, to be fair). Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park was the first taste of hiking I got in Scotland, and it did not disappoint. From atop the 823-foot mountain, you get an excellent 360-degree view of the entire city and surrounding landscape. Just remember your hiking shoes and a bottle of water.

What you’ll pay: Nothing

How long you should spend there: 2 to 3 hours

Castle Tour of Fife

For me, one of the big draws of Scotland was the abundance of ancient, crumbling castles. Rather than pay for a pricy tour that would take us to the heavy hitters, Megan and I researched and planned our own self-guided tour through Fife before we made our way into the Highlands. The stops included:

 

  • Ravenscraig Castle, where we parked at the beach for some stunning views of the castle and sea.
  • Balgonie Castle, which we could have toured, but instead we just took in the exterior walls.
  • Newark Castle and Lady’s Tower, which started by parking at St. Monans Church (Auld Kirk) and continued with a coastal walk to the castle ruins, which we were free to explore. Further down the coast was Lady’s Tower, with breathtaking views of the sea.
  • Kellie Castle, which was the only castle we paid to tour that day; the castle was owned by a family of painters, meaning it was full of ornate artwork.

 

What you’ll pay: £10.50 per adult (Kellie Castle) and the cost of petrol and your car rental

How long you should spend there: All day

St. Andrews Castle

Megan and I never tired of castles while touring Scotland, but we did evolve into “castle snobs,” developing criticisms for what made a good or bad castle. One of our favorites was St. Andrews Castle (or what’s left of it). Tourists who are brave enough can even crawl through the mines beneath the castle, though admittedly, my claustrophobia prevented me from making it all the way down.

What you’ll pay: £6 per adult

How long you should spend there: 1 to 2 hours

Loch Ness Tour (Inverness)

photo of lale
Unfortunately, that is not Nessie’s head poking out of the waters of Loch Ness. Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore

One of the highlights of the trip was the tour we booked through Loch Ness by Jacobite, a boat tour of the legendary loch. The company offers a number of tour options, but I highly recommend the Freedom Tour, which gives you an hour-long tour of the black waters of Loch Ness and an hour-long tour of the loch’s famous Urquhart Castle.

Megan and I didn’t spot Nessie in the water, but I will take this tour every time I return for another chance.

What you’ll pay: £22 per adult (Freedom Tour); tours start at £14 per adult

How long you should spend there: 2 hours (Freedom Tour); tours range from 1 to 7 hours

Isle of Skye

photo of the fairy ools
Hiking on the Isle of Skye offers free breathtaking views. Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore

The most rewarding experience for me in Scotland was the time we spent on the Isle of Skye. Fair warning: You’ve got to love hiking to have a good time here. There is so much to do within the beautiful landscapes of Skye, and it’s all free — just remember to fuel up in Portree.

During our stay on the Isle of Skye, we hiked out to the Neist Point lighthouse, which looks eerily abandoned, though it’s just now remotely operated. The yellow lighthouse is a stunning change of color along the green cliffside and shockingly blue water. If you get there early enough, you can explore it without other tourists, though you may be joined by free-roaming sheep.

We also hiked up to the Old Man of Storr, a miraculous rock formation that formed millions of years ago. The ascent to the top is draining, but it provides stunning views of the lochs below and the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Perhaps the most breathtaking area on the Isle of Skye is the Fairy Pools at the foot of the Black Cuillins, tiny pools of water waiting to take their plunge down impending waterfalls. The water glistens a blue-turquoise that seems like it was poured straight from a fairy tale.

What you’ll pay: Nothing

How long you should spend there: All day

Eilean Donan Castle

This 13th-century castle sits on an island between three converging lochs. Shrouded in mist, it offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The cost of admission allows you to explore the exterior and the interior.

A highlight for Megan and me was a walk through the kitchen, where we learned about how they prepared food year-round without the modern conveniences we are used to. I read online that you can see otters around the castle, but I didn’t spot any myself.

What you’ll pay: £7.50 per adult

How long you should spend there: 2 hours

Steall Falls (Fort William)

photo of steall falls
Steall Falls is a beautiful but potentially hazardous hike. Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore

“Harry Potter” fans might recognize this waterfall — the second highest in Scotland — as the backdrop of the dragon scene in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” And while the falls themselves are gorgeous, the hike to get to them was even more stunning.

Just be careful: The walk is treacherous and starts with a sign warning of potential death should you fall off the side. The truly adventurous can even cross a rope bridge over the river.

What you’ll pay: Nothing

How long you should spend there: 2 hours

Signal Rock and Hagrid’s Hut (Glencoe)

Hiking is a favorite activity of mine, so as we left the Highlands, I made sure to fit in one last adventure to Signal Rock in the woods surrounding Glencoe. The walk is incredibly short and easy, but the views of the surrounding mountains and forests are indescribable.

An added bonus: The trail is close to where Hagrid’s hut was filmed for the third “Harry Potter” film and beyond, so you can fit in a quick drive past.

What you’ll pay: Nothing

How long you should spend there: 2 hours

Oban Distillery Tour

The small coastal town of Oban has stunning ocean views and offers up some of the best fish and chips you’ll ever eat — not to mention delicious chocolate, coffee and waffles at Oban Chocolate Company.

While there, make sure to hike up to McCaig’s Tower for incredible views of the town below. However, the best experience in Oban is a tour of its distillery, complete with two tastings of the world-famous Scotch whisky.

What you’ll pay: £10 per adult

How long you should spend there: 1 hour

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle was our last castle in Scotland, and it was a phenomenal note to end on. The castle grounds were expansive, meaning there were lots of ramparts and towers to explore and several halls and chambers to walk through. The views of the surrounding city of Stirling were also quite nice from atop the hill it sits on.

What you’ll pay: £15 per adult

How long you should spend there: 2 to 3 hours

Glasgow Central Station Tour

Glasgow Central Station
The Central Station tour in Glasgow offers a peek inside the past. Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore

I have never had a tour guide who was more passionate about his subject matter than Paul, who designed the tour beneath Glasgow’s train station all by himself. But it wasn’t just a tour of the train station — it was an in-depth history of the train station and Scotland’s war heroes.

Paul continues to add to the tour and, by the end of this year, intends to recreate the Victorian-era station underground. Every pound you pay for this tour goes right back into ways to improve it and keep its history alive.

What you’ll pay: £13

How long you should spend there: 1 hour

Glasgow Science Centre

Megan and I felt like kids again, exploring one of the world’s best science museums. We learned a lot through hands-on activities that were fun for children and adults alike. The museum is a short walk along the river from the city center and is an easy way to spend an afternoon in Glasgow.

What you’ll pay: £10.45 per adult

How long you should spend there: 2 to 3 hours

Timothy Moore is an editor and freelance writer living in Germantown, Ohio, with his partner and their two dogs. He has traveled to lots of cool places, including Mexico, Scotland, Ireland and all over the US, but his favorite vacation is, and will always be, to Cedar Point in his home state.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

How This Woman Bought Her Dream Home While Making Less Than $60K

When Kristine Dowhan got a new job opportunity in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her company, she didn’t hesitate.

It didn’t take her long to sell her home in Detroit. She quickly found a foreclosure selling for $30 less per square foot than the rest of the neighborhood in St. Petersburg. It was in one of the safest and best school zones in the county, and it had everything she wanted in the long term: four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and it sat on an easily accessible street and needed little fixing up.

But her list of wants didn’t include a price tag of $455,000. But that’s what her dream house was listed for. She knew this house was too good to pass up, so she decided to go for it.

Why Moving Up Made Sense

In 2016, Dowhan, a business finance manager, was making less than $60,000. She was 25 and single, so she had no second income to fall back on.

But she viewed real estate as an investment.

When she bought her first home in Detroit in 2011, the local real estate market was crazy-cheap.

Dowhan moved back in with her parents after college. She’d used scholarships to pay for most of her degree, so she graduated with no student debt. She saved $30,000 in seven months, and instead of putting a solid down payment on a house in an up-and-coming neighborhood, she paid cash for a fixer-upper.

Dowhan spent two and a half years fixing up her 1,100-square-foot home while also living in it. She washed her dishes in the laundry room, found dust everywhere and lived within half-finished walls.

Much to the chagrin of her family and ex-boyfriends, Dowhan patiently saved up and paid cash for every improvement.

“[I lived] with no countertops for a year and a half because I wanted granite, and I was saving,” she said.

A woman reads while laying on a hammock.
Kristine Dowhan relaxes by her pool. She rented the home’s three spare rooms on Airbnb for 18 months, until she got married. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

When she became interested in moving to Florida, she looked at real estate for around nine months.

She knew she wanted a house she could grow in; she didn’t want to move again in a few years.

“I [didn’t] want to have to move and give up 6% equity every time, plus the effort of moving and all the things that go into it,” she said.

She sold her Detroit home in three days for her asking price of $90,000. The sale left her with a sizable down payment. Still, she didn’t make enough to qualify for her home loan.

So she paid off every bit of debt she had. She negotiated the price down to $425,000, and she added cash to the down payment beyond what she made from the sale of her Detroit house.

But her debt-to-income ratio was still over the 50% limit set by the bank. Still, she believed she could make it work.

When mortgage interest rates dropped by 0.12%, she finally achieved a 49.9% debt-to-income ratio. She was approved, and on Feb. 22, 2016, Dowhan closed on her home.

Hello Mortgage… and Airbnb Guests

Dowhan knew that first you sign the papers, then comes the mortgage bill. She had more than enough room for roommates. Plus, she had tenure in her company, and if all else failed, she would fall back on her retirement savings.

“The answer at first was roommates,” she said. “The answer was not roommates after I got them.”

Two months after she closed on the house, a young couple moved into one of the rooms. But the roommates weren’t a good fit. She gave them their 30 days’ notice after one month.

Not wanting to take a chance on roommates again, she decided to list her house on Airbnb. But there was one small issue: Airbnb guests don’t bring their own beds with them.

She couldn’t afford to furnish three extra bedrooms and two bathrooms so soon after closing.

“With $100 left in my checking account, I made a game for myself,” she said. “Every single piece of furniture I brought in had to be free on Craigslist.”

She got to work and found a free queen-size bed and two twin beds on Craigslist, and that’s what she started her listing with.

The week Dowhan posted the first bedroom on Airbnb, she was continuously booked. Her first guests actually arrived before her roommates were finished moving out.

“They came and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s just my friends. [They’re] just some friends,’” she joked. “They were so confused.”

In addition to scoring furniture on Craigslist, she found that people in her neighborhood were frequently giving away nice stuff. Within six months, she’d switched the queen out for a king. She got another king-size bed and a crib for the second room, plus two day beds and a bunk bed for the third.

In the first year of being fully operational, she made over $35,000 from Airbnb, netting her $1,200 after expenses.

Dowhan also continued to apply for higher positions at work. When she got them, she kept negotiating her salary. She rented the three spare rooms on Airbnb for 18 months until she got married and finally got that second income to help with the mortgage.

Now she and her husband, Michael, continue to live in and enjoy the house, which is currently valued at over $580,000. They even throw pool parties on the weekend.

Asked if she’d do it again, she said: “The time to take these risks is when you’re young. I would never take this risk if [I was] married. And if we had kids, I definitely wouldn’t have taken the risk.”  

 

Jen Smith is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She gives money saving and debt payoff tips on Instagram at @savingwithspunk.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Win $1,500 for College By Sharing Your Plastic-Free Journey on Instagram

Did you know there’s a Texas-sized patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean and that it’s mostly made up of plastic?

If this isn’t news to you and you’ve already made changes to reduce your plastic consumption, then you should probably enter to win the Pelican Water Sustainability Scholarship.

Three students who share the challenges and successes of their plastic-reduction endeavors will win money to put toward their college tuition.

The first place winner will receive $1,500, the second place winner will receive $1,000 and the third place winner will get $500.

How to Enter the Pelican Water Sustainability Scholarship

Any undergraduate or graduate with a cumulative 3.5 GPA or higher currently enrolled full time — or accepted for enrollment — at an accredited university in the U.S. can apply for the scholarship. (Please note that you must be a legal U.S. resident to apply.)

All you need to do is share your plastic-free journey in a 30- to 60-second video on Instagram.

Include how you’ve done your part and what challenges you’ve encountered along the way.

You must include the hashtag #pelicanwatersmart and tag @pelicanwatersystems in the video caption.

Submissions will be judged 30% on originality, creativity and quality; 40% on emotional impact; and 30% on relevance to the topic.

Keep spelling and grammatical errors out of your caption, as they will work against you.

There’s only one entry per person and no take-backsies once you submit, so get it right!

Once you’ve done this, send your contact information, transcripts (they can be unofficial), video link and Instagram handle to submissions@pelicanwater.com.

The deadline to enter is Oct. 15, 2018.

Check out Pelican Water Sustainability Scholarship page and the official rules for the fine print.

If you’re not passionate about reducing plastic, don’t worry. Just like our College page on Facebook to discover other scholarship opportunities.

And if you’re looking for even more scholarships to apply for, be sure to check out our list of 100 scholarships that will help you pay for college.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She prefers glass to plastic.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Sick Kids Can Be Costly. Here’s How to Decide What Care They Actually Need

When my daughter started preschool for the first time last month, I was aware it’d be an adjustment and that I’d incur new child care expenses.

What I wasn’t quite prepared for was how my kid’s body would need to adjust to the onslaught of germs she’d come into contact with — and the costs I’d encounter with her being sick on and off for weeks.

I’m lucky in many ways. My daughter hasn’t contracted anything serious. I have a job that provides me with great medical insurance, unlimited sick days and the ability to work from home when needed. My daughter’s grandmothers are usually able to watch her on days I can’t.

But less than a month into the school year, my kid has already been to the doctor twice and missed 2 1/2 days of preschool I still had to pay for. We’re running low on over-the-counter fever reducer, and the $10 bottle of honey-based throat soother I recently purchased is likely going to get thrown out since my child and I both concluded it tastes completely gross.

Having a sick child is tough enough without all the financial considerations. But the reality is many parents have no options but to miss work and forgo pay if their child is sick. Other parents shell out money for a baby sitter or a sick-child care facility.

And that’s on top of copays at the doctor’s office and pharmacy. Parents without medical insurance may have even greater financial expenses.

All that being said, not all illnesses are created equal. Everything doesn’t have to shut down due to a case of the sniffles. So before you pull your kid out from school to see a doctor, here is what the American Academy of Pediatrics wants you to know about children, school and sickness.

When Your Child Should Miss School

Sometimes it’ll be obvious when you need to keep your sick kid home from school. Other times, it may not be so simple, like when your kid complains of a stomachache the morning of a big test.

You should certainly check the sick-child policy at your kid’s school or child care center when deciding whether to keep a child home. The American Academy of Pediatrics also offers advice on the matter.

The organization states children should stay home from a school or child care facility if their condition:

  • Prevents them from comfortably taking part in activities.
  • Puts others at risk of contracting harmful diseases.
  • Requires care greater than teachers or staff can provide without compromising the health or safety of other children in the class.

The pediatricians’ group outlines which symptoms indicate a child should be excluded from school, such as a fever over 101°F, vomiting more than once in the past 24 hours or a quickly spreading rash. It also describes which symptoms are acceptable in group settings, like runny noses, coughs, eye discharge and common colds.

“In general, a child with a little bit of a runny nose who doesn’t have a fever can play, can concentrate, can eat, can drink — that child is fine to be at school,” said Dr. Jaime Friedman, a San Diego pediatrician, mother of two and American Academy of Pediatrics spokeswoman. “I think a missed day of work and a missed day of school isn’t necessary for a child who’s otherwise very well. Obviously, with a fever, they’re going to stay home.”

She said most schools advise parents to keep ill children home from school until they’ve been fever-free for 24 hours.

The academy has specific guidelines on how long children with conditions such as strep throat, lice, scabies, ringworm and chicken pox should remain home from school.

Check with your child’s pediatrician or read the academy’s recommendations for guidance on how long your kid may need to be out.

If your kid is in the first year of school, don’t be alarmed if it seems he or she catches one virus after another. Friedman said pediatricians typically see young children, especially those who are new to school, encounter six to eight colds on average during the fall and winter. Symptoms from a cold may last up to two weeks before the child feels entirely better, she said.

When An Illness Warrants a Trip to the Pediatrician

No parent wants to see their child sick and suffering, so scheduling a doctor’s appointment is a natural response when your kid gets sick. But before you fork over a copay, you should know that a pediatrician won’t be able to prescribe medication for all illnesses.

The upper respiratory infection folks call “the common cold” is caused by a virus. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. “Colds don’t require antibiotics,” Friedman said.

She also said parents don’t need to bring their children to the doctor at the first sign of a fever.

“Fever is very normal with colds,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean — if the child is otherwise healthy [with] no underlying conditions — that they need to run in to the doctor.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents that children with a cold don’t need to see a doctor unless they’re 3 months old or younger, or they have one of the following symptoms:

  • Nasal mucus lasting longer than two weeks
  • A cough lasting longer than one week
  • Ear pain
  • Fever above 102°F
  • Excessive sleepiness or crankiness
  • Trouble breathing, fast breathing or breathing where the nostrils get larger with each breath or the skin above or below the ribs retracts with each breath
  • Lips or nails turning blue

Friedman said parents should simply call their pediatrician’s office if they’re questioning whether they need to schedule an appointment.

The best course of treatment for a cold is to keep your children comfortable, have them get plenty of rest and encourage them to drink lots of fluids, according to the pediatricians’ academy.

Friedman doesn’t recommend parents buy over-the-counter cold or cough medicine to help their little ones.

Saline spray or drops, a room humidifier and tea and honey for children over 1 year old are  preferred aids for children suffering from a cold, she said.

What Parents Should Know About Prevention

The ideal situation, obviously, is to avoid getting sick in the first place. Though sometimes it seems as though kids are germ magnets, the academy says practicing the following measures can help reduce your kid’s risk of contracting colds.

  • Wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Have your kid cover his or her mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing and then dispose of the tissue immediately.
  • Try to avoid contact with people who are infected with a virus.

“Nothing will replace good hand washing,” Friedman said. “There’s no amount of echinacea [an herbal remedy] or whatever the parents want to spend all their money on that’s going to replace good hand washing.”

She also recommends parents remind their kids not to share things like juice boxes or water bottles.

Friedman said children 6 months and older to should get an annual flu shot before the end of October.

While the immunization may not protect against all strains of the flu virus, she said some protection is better than nothing.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She feels so bad when her daughter is sick.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.