Tag Archives: AirBnB

Travel hacks for your wallet and your waistline

My husband and I recently spent a lovely fall week in Kelowna, B.C. It was a pleasure to travel domestically and not have to worry about passports, currency, customs and exorbitant surcharges to use our cell phones. But as always, there were a few things that worked out really well along with several hiccups that were a learning experience.

Getting there and back
I booked our tickets on Air Canada through Expedia.ca. My rationale was that instead of checking the websites of different airlines I could compare flights and prices all in one place. We ended up going on Toronto-Vancouver-Kelowna and returning Kelowna-Calgary-Toronto. The layovers were each about an hour and we weren’t pressed for time so it didn’t really matter. But as we were waiting to board on the way home there was a direct Kelowna-Toronto WestJet flight which I certainly would have selected if it had been offered as an option by Expedia.

Also, when booking on Expedia I still had to go to the Air Canada site to select seats which I forgot to do until several weeks before we left. I usually try to book bulkhead or wing seats and pay extra because I prefer more leg room. But I was shocked to learn that for the purpose of pre-selecting seats, our travel was considered to be 4 separate flights and we were charged accordingly.

Options were limited by then. So by the time I selected two aisle seats for each of us going out, the charge was $40 ($10 each for two flights), two front seats from Kelowna to Calgary ($20 x 2) and two bulkhead seats from Calgary to Toronto ($50 x 2).  The additional charges were over $200 including taxes! Direct flights would have cut these surcharges in half.

To add insult to injury, we had to pay $25 each to check one bag. Apparently this is common practice, but it’s been a long time since we flew within Canada and I wasn’t aware of this policy change introduced several years ago. The good news is that in both directions my second bag (a small roller board carry on) was checked in free at the gate. Of course, if you are traveling only with carry on luggage to avoid long waits for baggage on arrival you will not want to relinquish your bag, even if you are offered the opportunity to do so at no cost.

There is also no longer any “free lunch” or any other meal if you fly economy. Food is sold on the flight, but it is typically overpriced and popular items frequently run out. In addition, depending on when your flight is scheduled, food and drink may not be offered when you are actually hungry. We packed home-made sandwiches and fruit for both our trips out and back and we were glad we did.

Accommodations
We have a shared-ownership property in Muskoka which gives us 5 weeks a year. We were able to trade one week for a condo at The Royal Private Residence Club (a Delta property) in downtown Kelowna. The apartment was spacious with a full kitchen and a laundry room with a washer and dryer.

Similar properties are available for rent in many North American cities and worldwide. They are particularly cost-effective if you are traveling with a family and will have to rent more than one room. Furthermore, because kids don’t have the patience to eat three meals a day in a restaurant and constant eating out can be prohibitively expensive, a kitchen gives you the flexibility to eat what you want, when you want. And you need less luggage if you can throw in a couple of loads of laundry part-way through your trip.

AirBnB also has listings for everything from rooms to full apartments in most cities, offering similar amenities. They are generally much less costly than hotel rooms and can be more comfortable for both individuals and families than a basic room. 

Transportation
I also booked a pre-paid rental car on Expedia with Hertz. When we arrived at the Kelowna airport they said I was the named driver because I made the reservation and that it would cost $90 to add my husband as a second driver. I refused and after calling a supervisor, Hertz agreed to reverse the charge. However, because the car was booked by Expedia and not directly with Hertz, they had all kinds of problems figuring out how to change the designated driver and amend the contract. After over an hour of unsuccessfully trying to get the computer to accept the changes, they had to get a supervisor to write up a new paper contract!

I subsequently learned from various friends that other car rental companies add additional drivers at no cost. Also, there is significant variation between available deals for a one week rental and I should have done more research before pre-paying through Expedia.

What I learned
We had a great trip. Nevertheless, I have learned:

  • It is always better to compare price and features of each component of a trip on competitor websites and book directly with the preferred vendor instead of using an aggregator.
  • Given the opportunity, we will always select an efficiency unit or apartment instead of a basic hotel room when traveling for a long weekend or a week to a single location.
  • Making breakfasts and a few dinners in the condo can save a bundle and ensure there are yummy leftovers for lunch on the long flight home.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Side hustles you can take to the bank

By Sheryl Smolkin

If you are having trouble making ends meet you can spend less, get a job that pays more money or work more hours. Spending less will only take you so far in your quest for a balanced budget and better paying jobs are not always easy to find, particularly in the short-term.

However, there are lots of options available if you want to put in more time. Where overtime is readily available in your primary job, taking on a few extra shifts could be the answer. Otherwise, you may consider taking on a part-time job, or to use a newer expression in the workplace lexicon — find yourself “a side hustle.”

Before you commit to a regular part-time gig it’s probably a good idea to think about any potential conflicts with your primary position. First of all, if you have the kind of job that doesn’t end promptly at 5 PM, you can’t plan to start work somewhere else across town an hour later. Also, if your day job is at Apple, it’s a safe bet that part-time work at Microsoft will be viewed as an untenable conflict of interest.

Potentially lucrative side hustles are more available than you think, and many can be done from the comfort of your own home. For example:

  1. Seasonal work: Retail establishments frequently hire extra staff for the Christmas holiday season. A party store in my neighborhood is looking for staff for their busiest time of the year, which is Halloween. You can bet that after the first big snowfall lots of people would be thrilled if you offer to shovel their driveways.
  2. Blogging: I’ll be the first to admit that making money via personal blogging about a subject of interest is not a slam dunk. The major advantage for me has been the exposure which has led to regular well-paid writing jobs. But there are lots of bloggers out there who have thousands of readers and generate revenue from goggle ads and industry players.
  3. Complete surveys online: Big brands need consumer opinions on their products, advertisements and identity. Your feedback will help them to improve and grow. To show their appreciation they will reward you for your time on reputable market research panels. Companies typically pay through PayPal or in the form of gift cards. You won’t make a fortune but every little bit helps.
  4. Sell your photos online: Do you take amazing photos? You can actually sell your photos online at places like iStockPhoto, Shutterstock, Fotolia, and Bigstockphoto. Photos can be sold over and over again, allowing you to earn a residual income.
  5. Transcriptionist: If you have excellent keyboard skills you can get piecework transcribing everything from audio interviews to meetings to legal proceedings. This can be done on your own time, but make sure you understand the minimum weekly quotas and how much you can reasonably expect to earn.
  6. Customer Service Agent: One position I saw advertised online is for fundraising agents who make outbound calls to existing and past supporters of some of the largest charities across Canada. Each day, representatives speak with donors to help raise funds, respond to emergencies, renew support, sponsor children, and provide other worthwhile opportunities for charitable giving.
  7. Airbnb: Are you an empty nester with one or more empty bedrooms in your home or a currently unused basement apartment? Consider sprucing them up and renting them on Airbnb. However, before you start, check the zoning in your area to ensure short-term rentals are permitted.
  8. Driving: The future of Uber in many parts of Canada including Saskatchewan is up in the air. But if you are available evenings and weekends you may be able to make money using your own car to transport other people around as Lyft or Uber drivers. If this option appeals to you, make sure to check with your insurer to see if you have the proper coverage.
  9. Baking: Does everyone love your banana bread? Is your cheesecake to die for? How many free wedding or shower cakes have you baked for friends? If you love baking, why not start a home-based business? You can set up a Facebook page with lots of pictures of your work and before you know it you will have more business than you can handle.
  10. Caregiving: Most daycares close by six PM, but not all jobs are 9-5. People who work shifts are always looking for experienced caregivers to cover evenings and weekends. Similarly, many elderly people have regular caregivers but their families need occasional respite care.

These are only a few of the dozens of possible side hustles that can earn you extra money to pay the bills. Any hobby has the potential to be turned into a business. However, it is important to realistically assess how much time and energy you have and the possible impact working more will have on your family and your performance in your day job, before you take on extra work.

Here are some additional articles with lots of other ideas you may be interested in:

99 Side Hustle Business Ideas You Can Start Today
50+ Ways To Make Money Fast By Side Hustling
The Top 68 Side Hustles: Add Some More Money to Your Life
29 Smart Ways to Make Money on the Side in 2016

Jul 22: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

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In this week’s Best from the Blogosphere, we highlight blogs and blog posts that can help you plan frugal vacations.

On Boomer & Echo, read money saving tips from a budget savvy traveler. For example, take a look at Skyscanner.ca when searching for cheap flights between cities.  They list all carriers including budget airlines which normally don’t show up on sites such as Expedia and Kayak.

In an archived blog on Frugal Wanderer, Krystal Yee reviews AirBnB, a peer-to-peer website for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodation around the world at any price point. From a spare room in someone’s house to a oceanside villa, she says there is something for everyone and there are listings in more than 19,000 cities and 192 different countries.

Perhaps you have been contemplating buying a summer cottage. Retire happy blogger Jim Yee says buying vacation property is something that should be well thought out because of the financial impact it can have on your retirement planning. Do the math and consider how much time you will actually spend there.

Spending money you don’t have on even a frugal vacation can blow your annual budget. That’s why Gail Vaz Oxlade says if you’re worried about how much your summer trip is going to cost, you probably shouldn’t take it. Instead, consider a staycation.

Finally, if you think following your travel dreams is impossible, then Myscha Theriault  says you haven’t checked out these eleven Canadian bloggers. They’ve travelled the country, and the world. What’s more, they’ve chronicled all of it for your inspiration.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere. Share the information with on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.