Frugal Travel Tips For Washington DC

You can not say you’ve seen the U.S. without seeing Washington D.C. Although hotels are costly and parking a challenge, the nation’s capital is full of free attractions and things to do.

The White House And The Pentagon

Entrance to President’s Park is free and gives the frugal traveler great views of the White House. The visitors center has some very nice permanent exhibits. Tours of the White House can be arranged for groups of 10 or more. However applications have to be received at least six months in advance.

Tours are also available of the Pentagon. These also have to be arranged well ahead of time.

Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument

The National Mall And Memorial Parks contain some of the U.S.’s most important monuments. These include The Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Monument within walking distances of each other. The Mall itself is a great place to picnic and people watch. Entrance is free

Smithsonian Castle

When I think of the Smithsonian, I think of the Smithsonian Castle, the first building. Entrance as with all of the 17 Smithsonian buildings and the National Zoo is free. There are also free tours available. The building itself is beautiful. The exhibits? It’s the Smithsonian.

National Museum of Natural History

Another Smithsonian Museum, the National Museum Of Natural History is a favorite with kids. They have tarantula feedings, dinosaurs, and preserved animals. As with all the Smithsonian Museums, the National Museum Of Natural History is free.

National Museum Of American History

Another free Smithsonian Museum, the National Museum Of American History showcases American culture and history. From Dorothy’s ruby red slippers to full sized locomotives, think of an American icon and you can likely find it in this museum.

Washington D.C. is full of free tourist attractions with American politics, history, and culture as the focus. The Smithsonian Museums alone, a great rainy day alternative, can take weeks to explore. The city is a must see for both American visitors and residents.

33 Travel Safety Tips

Traveling to unfamiliar destinations can bring to you the sort of troubles you do not want to experience while on the road namely: robbery, rape, or murder. Tourists often fall prey to perpetrators because they do not prepare properly before embarking on a trip. Let’s examine some things you should do to prevent your travels from becoming a tragedy:

1. Never list your home address on the luggage tag. If on business, put the company’s address on the tag; if visiting friends you can list their address. Use covered luggage tags as well.

2. Stay with your luggage until the luggage is checked. If you must put your bag down, keep one foot on the handle.

3. Carry important papers with you; NEVER check anything that you simply cannot afford to lose. Photocopy your passport, driver’s license and credit cards.

4. Bring a small flashlight. You never know when you’ll suddenly be “in the dark” and find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. At night, keep your flashlight by your bed.

5. Make sure that your prescription medicines are filled properly and labeled accurately. In some countries certain prescription medicines are forbidden.

6. Never wear anything that projects affluence. No gold chains, expensive watches and rings, luggage, or other paraphernalia should be in easy view. Better yet: leave your jewelry at home.

7. If possible travel with only one or two credit cards.

8. Women particularly should never accept a drink from a stranger. Keep an eye on your drink at all times.

9. Vary your schedule; try not to come and go at the same time everyday.

10. Only stay in a hotel that uses cards to open room doors and make sure your room has a peephole and a deadbolt lock. Secure the chain and secure the door by pushing a rubber stop under it.

11. Stay in a room near a stairwell. Never take the elevator if a fire or smoke is detected. Always stay in a hotel where the doors enter the hallway and not directly from the outside.

12. Do not wear name tags in public.

13. Do not use unmarked taxi cabs.

14. Sit behind the driver so you can see him, but he cannot see you.

15. Pay the driver upon arriving at your destination and while you are still sitting in the vehicle.

16. If you must rent a car, rent only from a reputable company. Any operating problems that occur could signal sabotage.

17. Be aware of ‘staged’ car accidents meant to catch you off card.

18. Back into your parking spaces to facilitate a quick exit.

19. Park only in well lit and well traveled areas.

20. If your cell phone does not work outside of the country, consider renting one that does for the duration of your trip.

21. If detained for whatever reason by an official, ask for identification. If in doubt, tell them that you want to see his superior. Keep your emotions in check.

22. If traveling with children, bring along an updated photograph of each child in the event that you become separated from them.

23. Write your child’s name and your hotel number on each card; include a close friend’s or relative’s contact information on the card. Give a card to each child which they will carry with them as long as you are away. Destroy once home.

24. Discuss with your family what they would do in event of an emergency while away from home, e.g. whom to call, how to contact emergency personnel, etc.

25. Do not discuss travel plans, your room number or any other personal information in public within earshot of strangers.

26. Bring along a basic first aid kit with bandages, iodine, mosquito repellant, sunscreen, alcohol packets, dramamine, pepto bismol, diarrhea medicine, etc.

27. Familiarize yourself with train and bus schedules before traveling. Have an alternate plan in place in the event your transportation plans change.

28. Do not flash your passport in public. Discreetly show important documents to officials only.

29. Consider purchasing portable alarms that emit a loud sound.

30. Watch for scams on the street. Children working with adults are notorious as pickpockets.

31. Never flash your money in public. Exchange funds with reputable and recognized exchangers only.

32. Have tips ready in advance for service personnel.

33. Consider renting an escort [security] service if traveling in areas where crime is high.

The key to safe traveling in any area is situational awareness. Distractions because of luggage, children, hotel personnel, strangers, etc. can put you at risk. Know your surroundings and stay in control of every situation.

Frugal Travel Tips For Los Angeles

Los Angeles, home of Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, is not the first city travelers may associate with free and frugal attractions. However for the thrifty traveler, the deals are plentiful.

The Getty

Hosting one of the best collections of art on the west coast, the Getty has such a huge catalogue of work that they’ve split the gallery into two separate sites.

The Getty Center in Los Angeles contains the collection of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. The building is a modern masterpiece and the views fantastic.

The Getty Villa in Malibu is my favorite of the two, dedicated to the study of arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. The building is truly a Roman inspired villa surrounded by wonderful gardens.

Admission to both J. Paul Getty Museums are free but there is an $8 charge for parking.

Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier consists of amusement parks, restaurants, vendor carts, and other street entertainment. One of the top attractions is a beautiful carousel with hand painted horses. A great place to people watch, entrance to the Santa Monica Pier is free.

Chicken Dinner At Knott’s Berry Farms

Imagine a chicken dinner so good that a theme park was built around it and you have the chicken dinner at Knott’s Berry Farms. The dinner comes with buttermilk biscuits, mashed potatoes and veggies. End the meal with a mouth watering boysenberry pie. All at very reasonable family style prices.

The Dash

Los Angeles is definitely a city with a dominant car culture but renting a car is not the only option. The local transit called the Dash is one of the least expensive of all the big cities. Full fare is $0.25 and yes, there is a senior’s discount available.

The Walk Of Fame

Walking along The Walk Of Fame between Hollywood Blvd and Vine is a must for the first time visitor. Along the walk is the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre where stars such as Marilyn Monroe left imprints of their hands and feet. It remains a favorite location for movie premieres so the lucky traveler could have a star spotting.

Borrowing a bit of that Hollywood glamour in L.A. doesn’t have to be an expensive prospect. There are plenty free or frugal attractions, transportation, and food.