how to keep travel costs low

how to keep travel costs low

We are heading into holiday travel season again (quicker than any of us expected) and it always becomes the same game of keeping travel costs low. I like good food and good drink just as much as the next person (if not more), which always makes it hard for me to figure out where to cut back on costs. Since a handful of people have been asking, I wanted to report back on some ways that I’ve been keeping the cost down on my current vacation – and hopefully we can all (me included) roll of these tips into holiday season travel as well.

Use points to book

This one is probably obvious. If you have hotel points, train points, free weekend car rentals, or airline miles – consider using them when you’re booking your trip. While there are some instances that it is not worth using them – for example if the airline miles are racked up so high that you could essentially use them on an international trip if you planned it right or if the hotel points are 40,000 a night, but the price is actually only $89 and you can get a discount rate or you would have to use 4,000 Amtrak points to go across the northeast corridor, but you’re actually only going 1.5 hours away and could take a bus for $10 – it usually ends up helping in the long run.  If you book early enough with the airlines, you have to use less points (I managed a round trip ticket to California for around 25,000 points).  As for how to rack up these points, there are a few ways – your day job, credit cards, and by buying a lot of things from them at regular cost.

Stay with friends when you can

Did you know that you can search your facebook for “my friends who live in [insert city here]”?  That means any city across the world you are going to you can check to see if you have any friends currently living there. This is super useful when planning your trip because (a) they have a good idea of what to do around their own city, (b) they might be able to offer you a place to stay, and (c) if you’re traveling from far enough out of town they might buy you a meal or a drink.  While it’s not good to rely on b or c you might be surprised, just don’t forget to send a thank you note after your vacation is over.

Bring your own nourishment

BYOW – that’s right, bright your own water.  Instead of spending $2 on a new bottle of water every time you need one, this is an easy way to save a few dollars. Also, if you carry your own snacks, you don’t need to buy the ones on the airplane or in the Disney park or at the gas station. While I keep hoping that if I eat snacks I won’t want to order an appetizer, entree, and dessert for meals, that part hasn’t happened yet.

Save on transportation costs

There are a few ways you can do this one. If you want to save on gas money – you can either split the cost with somebody or get a smaller rental car (yay for better gas mileage) – I’ve even considered not taking car upgrades because of this. If you’re in a big city with a public transportation system, you can also hop on a train, subway, or bus instead of hopping in a taxi.  Not only that, but having to figure out on your own how to get from point a to point b is the best way to get familiar with a city. Also, I know I mentioned this earlier, but consider taking a bus instead of a train if you have the patience, the prices are significantly cheaper.

Use bathrooms when you can

I know this one might sound strange, but let’s say you were walking around NYC and all of a sudden needed to go to the bathroom, where would you go?  Probably your closest coffee shop, and then you might feel the need to buy something since you used their facilities – and then because you’re you you might need to buy a grande vanilla rooibos tea latte with vanilla syrup instead of classic (oh wait, that’s probably just me) – and then all of a sudden you’ve spent $4.50 to use the bathroom. Every time you need to go.

Save on data

If you are paying for data on your phone, but using your phone as a way to get around, you can take a look at the map and then put your phone into airplane mode. I’m pretty sure you can even still look at maps while you’re in airplane mode, it just can’t track where you are. When my phone was dying while I was in California I was literally just following highways signs for a while and didn’t turn on my phone until I got close enough to my destination to need it. (I knew Los Angeles was north of San Diego so I just drove north for a while until I found it.)

Pack light, but pack right

Look! It rhymes! (Easily entertained over here.) The lighter you pack the better – that might be the difference between you checking and carrying a bag on the plane (which could cost you $25) or it might be the difference between you being able to carry your bag and carrying for daily storage. I’ve definitely been on trips though where I’ve forgotten to pack some essential things (like underwear) and had to pick them up while I’m on the road and those costs definitely start to add up. So make a list (and check it twice) ahead of time.

I’ve been proud of myself – trying to save a little cash here and there along my current adventure, we’ll see how the bill turns out at the end of the month. I really do need a budgeting gameplan for 2015. I finally got a account, and I’m going to have to sit down and really create a budget.

Are there any other holiday travel budgeting tips you can share? I’d absolutely love to know.

PS. Don’t forget to fill out the Chrystina Noel 2014 Reader Survey if you haven’t yet. You could win a set of free post cards :)

search engine optimization tips

Search Enginer Optimization Tips For Bloggers

November’s PHLBlogger event was a Search Engine Optimization workshop hosted by Emma & Christina of SEER Interactive. The PHLBloggers filled a conference room with pen, paper, and laptop ready to learn. I couldn’t believe how much they were able to cover in 90 minutes. Not only that, but they actually have a website devoted entirely to bloggers called AmpliFound, which is absolutely worth checking out. Here are 5 tips I am going to add to my routine to kick you off.

Do Keyword Research Before You Write The Post

If you’re not familiar with keyword research and wondering why should I have to do that?, take a second to think about how many different ways you can google the exact same search term. Here are three examples of things to consider.

  • If you knew you wanted to host a party about search engine optimization and wanted to know what was the most popular phrase searched about search engine optimization on the main search engines, you could type in the words search engine optimization on Soovle resulting in a list of top searches on Google, Wikipedia, Answers, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, and YouTube. That was how I found out to call this post search engine optimization tips and not 5 tips about search engine optimization.
  • If you knew you wanted to write a post about bridal showers, but did not have a clear specific topic you could type in the phrase bridal shower on Ubersuggest to get a list of phrases that start with the words “bridal shower” sorted alphabetically by the next word. It also sorts by top overall searches, which shows me that bridal shower invitations and bridal shower games are the two most searched phrases.
  • If you wanted to have a sale to get rid of things around your house, would you call it a yard sale, a garage sale, or a tag sale? Here’s the thing, it doesn’t really matter what you would call it, the question is what everyone else calls it. The best tool to use for this is the Google Keyword Planner, which you can find in Google AdWords. Google AdWords can quickly tell me that garage sale has 33,100 searches per month, yard sales has 22,200, and tag sales has only 1,900. When I originally tried to make a Google AdWords account it wanted me to start a campaign, but one day it let me bypass the screen and gain access to all the tools. I wish I could tell you how I made that happen, but hopefully it just happens right for you the first time.

These keywords can be used in titles, descriptions, body text, image alt text, and more. If you’re a self-hosted wordpress user, download the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, it’s a must. Otherwise, you can go into the html code and put in the meta data there. (You’ll have to google that separately for more information.)

Use Header 2 Format

Up until this workshop I didn’t use any other type of text in my blog posts except paragraph text. I knew search engines searched for meta titles and meta descriptions (among other things), but I had no idea that text labeled as header 2 was factored in. Therefore, if you want to really emphasize something or divide your post into sections you should use header 2 text and not just bold your text like I had been doing.

Set Up A Google Alert

This was an interesting concept to me. Set up a Google Alert on yourself to see if anything comes up with your name on it. This will give you a good idea of what’s going on around the internet with your name on it. I have it easy because there aren’t too many Chrystina Noels out there (there are a few though), but if you have a more frequently used name, you might want to set up an alert for the name of your blog, your name, and a specific topic that you talk about. I was shocked how many places on the internet I was found that I didn’t know I was listed, for example here about greeting cards for men and here about Christmas centerpieces.

Write More Guest Posts

One thing I didn’t understand about search engine optimization was that you need to build authority around your brand, which now that I think about it makes a lot of sense. The more links you have distributed across the internet, the more authority you have. The more other people with authority mention you, the more authority you have. Now, this can absolutely be done in a sleezy way, or it can be done in a more organic “I really love your blog and I think I have some great content that I could add to it, I would love to write this guest post for you” kind of way. (Not exactly like that.) This authority also comes with just generating good content. If you create good content these are things that people are going to want to share, hence, building authority.

Become Familiar with Twitrland

I had never heard of Twitrland before this workshop, but I had a heck of a lot of fun searching it after the fact. You can search anybody’s Twitter handle and find out what they’re talking about, who they’re talking to, what tweets get the most engagement, and if they’re a power player. There are a few ways this could be useful:

  • You can search yourself to find out what the most engaging topics you tweet about are.
  • You can search yourself to find out who follows you with the most followers.
  • You can search someone else to find out who they’re talking to online so maybe you can connect with them too.

And that’s just the beginning.  The things you can do with this tool seem to be endless – and that’s just the free version of it.


Thank you again to SEER Interactive, Emma, and Christina for letting us crash your space and giving us more insight into the ways of the blogging world. We had an absolute blast.

PS. December’s meet-up will be on December 4 and we will be talking about Small Business Finances and Taxes with Creative Business Accounting. If you’re in Philadelphia and want more details, shoot me an email at chrystinanoeldesigns[at]gmail[dot]com. You can find out more about PHLBloggers here.

one down, one up 17

One Down, One Up 17

one down
I’m going to Boston this weekend! Which I’m super excited about; however, I’ve been really stressed out about coordinating this trip. I have a list of about 10 people that I want to see while I’m up there that all live in different parts of the city and when you say you live in Boston you don’t actually have to live in Boston, which I’m not judging anybody for – it’s just a Boston thing I don’t understand. The reason I was really worried about it was because I thought I was going to have a huge suitcase full of stuff for Thanksgiving, but I was able to throw a bunch of it in Kristine’s car when she came to visit, so now I’m feeling better about being a wandering nomad for a while. Anyway, if you’re in Boston and want to hang out, let me know. My guess is I’ll be in a coffee shop reading blog posts.

one up
It’s been quite the week of ups – California, Disneyland, seeing my best friends from middle school – but you knew about all of those already if you’ve been reading along this week, so I’m going to pick something that you probably didn’t know. I went to see Lake Street Dive in concert again on Wednesday night with a few friends and they were wonderful. So, so wonderful. The dynamic between them all is awesome and who’s not going to love a group that has a super sexy jazzified lead singer, a chick rocking out on the upright bass, a guy who switches between the guitar and trumpet constantly, and a philly-originated spirited drummer. If you’ve never heard of them start here.

black friday
There’s two things that I want to tell y’all about. First of all, Photography Concentrate is having a Black Friday giveaway AND they’re offering 40-60% off of all their tutorials. It’s kind of ridiculous and wonderful. Second – be on the look out for a Chrystina Noel black Friday sale as well, I’m pretty stoked about it.

if you’re in philadelphia
Paper on Pine is hosting a gift wrapping class on Friday, December 5 from 5-7pm that’s free. You bring 3 wrapped boxes and they will help you make the occasion more festive. DiBruno Brothers is hosting a cheese crawl around the city on Saturday, December 6 from 12pm-4pm. I unfortunately won’t be able to make it to that one, but I really, really wish I could.

play along
1: Write a post ; 2: Link to this post; 3: Add your link below; 4: Check out somebody else’s link.  Feel free to grab the new button below.

one down, one up link-up buttoncode: <a href=”” target=”_blank”><img class=”size-full wp-image-7488 aligncenter” src=”” alt=”one down, one up link-up button” width=”300″ height=”300″ /></a>

PS. Don’t forget to take the 2014 Chrystina Noel reader survey, it only takes 3.5 minutes and would be super appreciated.

2014 reader survey

Hi friends,

Whether you’ve been reading Chrystina Noel for one day (thank you!) or 3.5 years (THANK YOU!), I’d love for you to take a second to fill out this year’s reader survey.  I’m in the process of creating and thinking about new content for 2015 and I’d love some tips and suggestions from people who read along.  One lucky filler-outer will win a set of 5 postcards.  Just click “start” below to begin.

xo Chrystina

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