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Asking me to tip the maids at high-end hotels is a lousy plan to fight poverty among women


When you stay at a Marriott hotel this fall you’ll be asked to pay for more than just your room.

The giant hotel chain wants you to start tipping its maids.

Tip envelopes have been placed in 160,000 of its 700,000 guest rooms at Marriott, JW Marriott, Courtyard, Renaissance, Fairfield, TownePlace Suites and Springhill Suites hotels.

It wasn’t actually the company’s idea. Marriott was asked to do this by Maria Shriver of all people as a way to fight poverty among women.

Wow. What a breathtakingly dumb idea.
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With ticket prices taking off, here’s how to save on your holiday and winter air travel


Feel like you’re paying ungodly amounts of dough for each plane ride you take lately?

You’re not imagining (or exaggerating) the state of air travel.

The price of the average round-trip airfare, with taxes, rose to $509 in the first six months of 2014, according to recent data from the Airlines Reporting Corporation.

The cost of flying is outpacing overall inflation, a 2.7% increase in airfare compared to a 2.1% gain in the Consumer Price Index.

It’s not just that airlines have shrunk the number of flights, and reduced the number of available seats on virtually every route. They’ve done so just as the economy has improved enough to get Americans traveling again.

While higher ticket prices aren’t a reason to call off holiday visits with family and friends, or winter escapes to tropical beaches, they’re definitely our cue to shop harder, and smarter, for the best deals.

Here are the best ways to make your hard-earned dollars fly farther.
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Stop guessing about how much you’ll spend on gas


If you’re planning a summer road trip here’s a quick and easy way to see how much the gas will cost.

FuelEconomy.gov, the official government source for fuel economy information, recently released My Trip Calculator.

It’s a nifty tool that provides the best route and estimates your fuel costs based on whatever you’ll be driving, all in one spot.

The precision of this calculator is a real revelation for me because my typical trip planning goes something like this:

“Let’s see, I’m driving about about 300 miles, I’ll get about 30 miles per gallon and gas costs about $3 a gallon, so this trip will cost (pause for the mental math) about $30.”

Then I’m shocked when I spend twice that much.
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 Billshit, Travel 
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Traveling abroad requires planning at home to avoid unexpected fees on credit card and cell phone bills


My big trip this year is a 10-day Italian vacation. I’m excited, but I’m also doing a lot of planning beyond where to get the best pizza and what shoes to bring.

I’m making sure that I spend as little as possible on foreign transaction fees, current exchanges, and smartphone use so I’m not hit with any surprise charges once I’m back in the U.S.

Here’s what I’m doing before I go to make sure there are no nasty surprises when I get home.

Credit Cards

You want to bring a card that has no foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, you’ll be paying an extra 3% on everything you charge.

Fortunately, there’s lot of these cards are available.

If you already have a Capitol One card, you’re set — they’re foreign transaction fee free across the board. Most hotel and airline rewards cards are the same way.

If you’re signing up for a card just because it doesn’t charge those fees, make sure it also doesn’t also have an annual membership fee, or that you cancel it before the fee kicks in (most waive the fee for the first year), or that the fee is worth it.

I’m bringing my Chase Sapphire Preferred card with me as my main credit card (with a Bank of America card as a backup).
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Can flying first class be frugal?

Finding cheap first class flights just takes a little legworkWhile checking in to a flight recently, sheer curiosity led me to see how much it would cost to upgrade. I was surprised to find out that moving up to first class would only be fifty bucks. Granted, it was a two-hour flight, but first class for only $50 more than coach? That’s a decent deal, especially when you factor in the free drinks, lots of extra leg room and priority boarding and disembarking that typically come with a first class ticket.

Obviously, it’s cheaper not to upgrade at all. But if you’re looking for a little splurge or just want to try first class out, here are some ways to score cheap first class flights.
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Do You Need Travel Insurance?

AirplaneThe point of any insurance policy is to protect your assets in the event of an unexpected event. This is true of travel insurance as well.

If you are going on a major trip — particularly if you plan to travel overseas — it can make sense to purchase travel insurance as protection. Travel can get expensive, and if something goes wrong, your travel insurance policy can keep you from getting stuck holding a bill that’s bigger than you can afford.


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How to Avoid Travel Scams this Summer

travel scamsOne of the things I love about summer (or any time of the year) is all the travel. I love going new places and seeing new things. However, whenever you travel, whether it’s for a summer vacation, or for some other purpose, you have to be on the alert.

Scammers can be found almost anywhere. They prey on the unsuspecting, hoping to get some of your hard-earned cash. Watch out for the following travel scams — especially when you go abroad:

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Will You Be Surprised By Hidden Hotel Fees?

Hotel FeesIt seems straightforward. You book your hotel, and you see the cost per-night. You might even see that you will pay taxes, including state and local taxes, and possibly a room tax. What you might not see, though, are “resort fees” or other sneaky charges that some hotels are starting to add to their bills after you arrive. So you book, and when you arrive you see fees added to the bill. Most travelers are too tired to be bothered with looking elsewhere for accommodations once they get to this point, so they accept the charges.

Even though the FTC recently sent letters to some hotels, insisting that they begin revealing the total cost at booking, you still might not get the whole story when you reserve your hotel online. And, even though hotels might disclose their resort fees on their web sites, you might not see these fees if you are looking for a deal by using a third-party booking site like Orbitz or Travelocity.

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