Explore the Free-to-Enter National Zoo

The National Zoo is right for you

It’s not all elephants and donkeys in DC. At the National Zoo, visitors can find all sorts of animals that don’t subscribe to party lines. Lions, tigers, giraffes and the zoo’s beloved giant pandas are just some of the 2,000 animals that call the 163-acre park home. The zoo’s habitats feature animals from 400 different species and about 25 percent of the zoo’s residents are endangered. All of the animals at the National Zoo – which is also a global research center and conservation center – are cared for by world-class zoologists and veterinarians.

The National Zoo is located in DC’s residential Woodley Park neighborhood and, like all Smithsonian museums, admission is free. The main entrance (you’ll know it by the two Instagram-friendly lion statues flanking the gate) is on Connecticut Avenue. The zoo is just a short walk from both the Woodley Park and Cleveland Park Metro stops on the Red Line and the L1 and L2 buses drop off right in front of the entrance. The National Zoo is open from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (until 4 p.m. in the winter months) seven days a week. Be prepared to do lots of walking! The National Zoo, which is handicapped and stroller accessible, is a large park with 18 distinct areas to explore.

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Happy 4th of July!

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Time to Celebrate

Happy Fri-Yay

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Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare

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Think you need a vacation now? Just wait until you’re scouring dozens of booking sites, aggregators and airline websites to find cheap tickets for your next trip — then you’ll really be ready for a week off!

Unfortunately for weary travelers, there’s no real shortcut to finding cheap airfare. As with any purchase, you need to shop around to get the best deal — by trying different booking sites, altering your dates and waiting until just the right time to purchase. But if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, you could save big on your next flight.

1. Buy Early

Especially during peak travel periods, making reservations late in the game can cost you a lot of money. Airline ticket prices typically go up in the last two weeks before flying, so if you’re planning ahead, try to make the call before this deadline. And if you’re traveling internationally, you’ll want to book even earlier — from three to six months in advance — for the best deals.

2. Buy Late

Sometimes you can buy tickets at the very last minute for a great price if the airlines have failed to fill their planes. You can find such fares at specialized sites or sometimes on airline websites and online booking sites such as Expedia. If you can stand the suspense, and if you are flexible with your itinerary and dates, you can find fantastic money-savers to very attractive travel destinations. 

3. Shop Around

No matter how good it sounds, you should never book the first fare you see. Start your search by checking a few of the major online travel providers.

4. Know When to Buy

The hardest part of booking a flight is knowing when to stop tracking fares and make that final purchase. Kayak.com can help you reach that decision, offering fare predictions for most major cities. Just plug in your itinerary and the site will advise you either to book now or to wait, depending on whether the fare is expected to rise or drop. It also shows a fare history graph, allowing you to see whether your fare is headed in an upward or downward direction.

5. Be Flexible

If you live close to more than one airport, check out the fares from all of the airports near you. Many online fare searching engines will ask you if you are willing to depart from or arrive in more than one city. Yes! Also, experiment with different travel dates; shifting your itinerary by a month, a week or even a few days can make a significant difference in fares. You’ll usually find the lowest fares for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

6. Don’t Forget the Discounters

As their nickname suggests, discount airlines can save you a bundle, but they’re not always easy to find. Luckily for consumers, discounters are cropping up more frequently on aggregators and booking sites (Kayak now offers fares for JetBlue and Spirit, for example) — but there are still a few holdouts, such as Southwest and Allegiant Air, whose fares can’t be found anywhere but their own websites. If you’re traveling outside the U.S., don’t forget to check the international discount airlines as well.

 

 

 

 

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Travel Money Mistakes to Avoid

vacation money

When budgeting for a trip, we often list the big-ticket items — airfare, hotel, lodging, car rental, attraction tickets — add them altogether and call it the final price. But the trickle of funds to other costs starts almost as soon as we start moving: gas to and from the airport, tolls, airport parking, overpriced bottles of water in the airport and more.

That trickle doesn’t stop when you arrive at your destination; think cell phone charges, bank fees, hotel Wi-Fi and housekeeping tips, to name a few. To avoid spending more than you have to, check out these 10 money mistakes to avoid while traveling.

1. Don’t forget to let your bank know you will be traveling.

Forgetting to call your bank before traveling abroad is a common error that even frequent international travelers make; it slips your mind until the plane touches down, and by then it’s often too late. These days banks have almost zero lag time in noticing a debit or credit card being used abroad, so you will get shut down on pretty much your first swipe in a foreign country.

As banks have gotten more sophisticated about tracking card use locations, this can be important even important for domestic travel, and most banks recommend that you let them know about those closer-to-home trips as well. Fraud detectors can be tripped if you’re suddenly using your card across the country, making more or different purchases than you usually do or charging unexpectedly large amounts (such as a weeklong hotel stay).

Note that this applies to debit cards as well as credit cards, and you sometimes need to talk to more than one department even inside the same bank to get them all approved for travel.

2. Don’t overlook bank and ATM fees.

While traveling internationally, each time you go get cash you will likely incur a fee of some kind. These can vary a lot depending on whether the ATM is run by a large bank or not, if the bank is on your card’s network and more. Keep in mind that fees can change from year to year, so it’s worth checking before every trip.

3. Don’t fail to make a plan for getting to your hotel from the airport.

That first taxi ride from the airport may be your most financially vulnerable moment of any trip — the time when you have no idea how far it is, what a fair price is for the ride, whether you have lower-cost alternatives such as a train or bus, or even whether your hotel has a free shuttle. It is best to figure all of this out before your trip; when you arrive you are tired, often without much cash and carrying a ton of luggage. You don’t want to be fumbling around trying to figure all this out on the airport curb.

4. Don’t underestimate your cell phone bill.

How much could a few texts, a bit of mapping, a few email checks and a batch of social media updates cost per day? Plenty, it turns out. Even if you purchase an international roaming plan, these often have pretty aggressive data caps, and your data allowances can disappear quickly.

5. Don’t forget to research the local exchange rate.

Especially in the first several hours at your destination, having done a little research on the local exchange rate against your home currency can make a huge difference. Often it takes a couple of days really to have a handle on how much things cost, but this can take even longer if you are traveling in an area where prices may not be so fixed as they are at home. Knowing the exchange rate cold so you can do the math quickly in your head will help considerably.

6. Don’t bring traveler’s checks.

Barely anyone accepts them anymore, they’re not cheap, you have to invest a fair amount of time in obtaining and purchasing them, and credit cards give you a far better rate of exchange in most parts of the world. Skip ’em.

 

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Travel Money Mistakes to Avoid

travel_hotel_103

When budgeting for a trip, we often list the big-ticket items — airfare, hotel, lodging, car rental, attraction tickets — add them altogether and call it the final price. But the trickle of funds to other costs starts almost as soon as we start moving: gas to and from the airport, tolls, airport parking, overpriced bottles of water in the airport and more.

That trickle doesn’t stop when you arrive at your destination; think cell phone charges, bank fees, hotel Wi-Fi and housekeeping tips, to name a few. To avoid spending more than you have to, check out these 10 money mistakes to avoid while traveling.

1. Don’t forget to let your bank know you will be traveling.

Forgetting to call your bank before traveling abroad is a common error that even frequent international travelers make; it slips your mind until the plane touches down, and by then it’s often too late. These days banks have almost zero lag time in noticing a debit or credit card being used abroad, so you will get shut down on pretty much your first swipe in a foreign country.

As banks have gotten more sophisticated about tracking card use locations, this can be important even important for domestic travel, and most banks recommend that you let them know about those closer-to-home trips as well. Fraud detectors can be tripped if you’re suddenly using your card across the country, making more or different purchases than you usually do or charging unexpectedly large amounts (such as a weeklong hotel stay).

Note that this applies to debit cards as well as credit cards, and you sometimes need to talk to more than one department even inside the same bank to get them all approved for travel.

2. Don’t overlook bank and ATM fees.

While traveling internationally, each time you go get cash you will likely incur a fee of some kind. These can vary a lot depending on whether the ATM is run by a large bank or not, if the bank is on your card’s network and more. Keep in mind that fees can change from year to year, so it’s worth checking before every trip.

3. Don’t fail to make a plan for getting to your hotel from the airport.

That first taxi ride from the airport may be your most financially vulnerable moment of any trip — the time when you have no idea how far it is, what a fair price is for the ride, whether you have lower-cost alternatives such as a train or bus, or even whether your hotel has a free shuttle. It is best to figure all of this out before your trip; when you arrive you are tired, often without much cash and carrying a ton of luggage. You don’t want to be fumbling around trying to figure all this out on the airport curb.

4. Don’t underestimate your cell phone bill.

How much could a few texts, a bit of mapping, a few email checks and a batch of social media updates cost per day? Plenty, it turns out. Even if you purchase an international roaming plan, these often have pretty aggressive data caps, and your data allowances can disappear quickly.

5. Don’t forget to research the local exchange rate.

Especially in the first several hours at your destination, having done a little research on the local exchange rate against your home currency can make a huge difference. Often it takes a couple of days really to have a handle on how much things cost, but this can take even longer if you are traveling in an area where prices may not be so fixed as they are at home. Knowing the exchange rate cold so you can do the math quickly in your head will help considerably.

6. Don’t bring traveler’s checks.

Barely anyone accepts them anymore, they’re not cheap, you have to invest a fair amount of time in obtaining and purchasing them, and credit cards give you a far better rate of exchange in most parts of the world. Skip ’em.

 

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