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Vacation savings tools: apps to save for that vacation
While we love to celebrate the joys of the holidays, it can become expensive, especially if you plan to travel to see family or take a much-needed vacation. But even though your wallet is worn out, we still have some ideas on ways you can have your vacation without breaking the bank.
Plan ahead…like, really ahead
If you are hoping to visit the home of the Mouse or some other special theme park, it’s a good idea to plan your stay as far in advance as possible. Not only will you have more time to save, but you are also much more likely to get a good deal and stretch your budget a little further. And then you can post daily countdowns on social media—that alone makes the planning fun.
Get a travel agent
Did you know that a lot of travel agents don’t charge you for their services? Many of them get paid directly by the companies they work for when you book through them, so using a travel agent is a win-win for all parties involved. A travel agent can also help you make sure you don’t overspend and give you some tips and tricks for getting better deals for your stay—along with the hot gossip on which restaurants you shouldn’t skip and which ones are actually overrated.
Make it a family affair
If you have kids who earn money through a job or chores, this is a great opportunity to encourage them to save up their pennies to get a souvenir or to enjoy a fun outing. You can even offer to match what they make if they reach a certain goal, which means your expenses are halved for their souvenirs and they will be motivated to save some funds for your trip. Another win-win—we like those.
Create a visual reminder or goal
Have you ever noticed that companies often make a visual representation of the money they have received for a fundraiser? You might see a thermometer drawing filled in as the money is donated or a graphic that changes every time a donation is received. Companies do this because it works: having a visual reminder, especially one that shows how just a few extra dollars would meet the goal, is a powerful way to motivate people to give. This can work for your family, too—set a goal for your vacation fund and make a chart that you fill in as more and more funds are added.
Spare some change
Find a clear container (a soda bottle works well), set it on your kitchen counter, and designate it as the Official Spare Change Vacation fund. Then ask everyone in your family to drop some dollars or coins in the container when they have a little extra cash on them. A few dollars at a time may not seem like a lot, but that money can add up quickly. A four-person family could raise a few hundred dollars in a year if everyone donated about $10 to the vacation each month—and that money can go right back to your vacation, maybe for a fun experience or a couple of great dinners out. Georgia’s Own even offers savings accounts that everyone can contribute to, so you can store your hard-earned vacation savings in a secure location.
Find the right app
There are tons of great apps out there that can help you save a little extra here and there to create the right vacation budget for your family. Here are a few of our favorites:
Mint: This app gets bonus points for not only using your info to create a budget for saving, but also tracking your credit score in case you need that info, too.
Groupon: Yes, this one is still alive and kicking—and it’s got some great deals. Use this app to help you find coupons for purchases you hope to make in the future.
Ibotta: This app has gained popularity over the years, and is a great way to get some money back on the purchases you make—which is especially useful at this time of year.
If your dream vacation seems too expensive, don’t give up—instead, get busy following some of these tips to make your dream come true. You might be months or years away from taking the vacation you want, but having the funds to enjoy your vacation is definitely worth the wait.
Don’t have an account to store your vacation savings? Georgia’s Own offers vacation savings accounts, so you can watch your money grow and take your dream vacation in no time. Click here to open a savings account today.
A weekend road trip through Georgia, part two
Traveling is a remarkable way to experience new places and faces, but how often do you explore your backyard? Georgia is chock-full of alluring scenery, charming towns, and vibrant cities—and it’s possible to experience this in one weekend. Below is part two of our Georgia weekend road trip series, which you can do in three days through Southeast Georgia and the coast, starting with Albany as your home base.
Stop one: Valdosta
The first stop on our Georgia weekend road trip is a quick drive south to Valdosta. Although it’s a small town, Valdosta has plenty to offer, from a charming downtown filled with local shops and restaurants to a theme park, and everything in between. Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area is popular among both visitors and locals—there are thousands of acres filled with hiking and nature trails, fishing, canoeing, and more. A boardwalk meanders through the park, leading to a lookout tower that offers a birds-eye view of the surrounding wetlands.
Take a Civil Rights tour and visit the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, Lowndes County Historical Museum, and the Copeland African American Museum at Valdosta State University. All three sites chronicle the Civil Rights movement, important figures who impacted the movement, and African American contributions to South Georgia.
Finally, if theme parks are more your style, visit Wild Adventures—the park offers rides, a waterpark, and the ability to interact with wild animals, like giraffes and alligators. Plus, during the summer, the park hosts a concert series each Saturday that showcases award-winning artists.
Stop two: Jekyll Island
Head two hours east, and our second stop on the Georgia road trip is Jekyll Island. Jekyll Island is one of the Golden Isles along the Georgia barrier islands and is known for its unspoiled shoreline and natural beauty. Jekyll is a haven for those who love the outdoors, and there are plenty of outdoor activities for everyone. The island boasts more than 20 miles of biking paths and trails, so renting a bike is a fantastic way to explore Jekyll. Or, you can put your boots on and explore the island on horseback. There’s plenty of fishing for the avid fisherman, plus dozens of waterways for kayaking and paddleboarding.
If you want to kick your feet back and relax, there are plenty of beaches to lay out and bask in the sun. Driftwood Beach is Jekyll’s best-known beach, with driftwood lining the waterfront. Glory Beach and St. Andrew’s Beach are other popular spots—Glory Beach is a traditional beach with sea oats and dunes, and St. Andrew’s Beach faces the marsh if you’re looking for a change of scenery.
Lastly, if you’re a wildlife fanatic, Jekyll is home to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a marine wildlife rehabilitation center. There, you can experience hands-on exhibits, view sea turtle operations, and learn about the importance of the coastal ecosystem.
Stop three: Tybee Island and Savannah
Our final stop on our Georgia road trip is a two-hour drive north to Tybee Island and Savannah. Tybee is best known for its wide beaches—but there are plenty of activities to do besides visiting the beach. A popular stop on the island is the historic lighthouse—Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse, dating back to 1736. It’s a fully functioning lighthouse, allowing visitors to climb to the top and enjoy a spectacular view of the island. If you’re a history buff, Fort Pulaski National Monument at Cockspur Island is for you. Fort Pulaski was a landmark Civil War site and was a turning point in military technology. In addition to the fort, there are various outdoor trails, wildlife viewing, and exhibits. And, for more wildlife viewing, dolphin cruises are one of the best ways to ensure you see the many bottlenose dolphins that swim just offshore of Tybee. Many dolphin cruises offer close-up views, sunset rides, and more.
Savannah is just 20 minutes away from Tybee, and it’s the perfect city for the historian and the foodie. In between the charming, historic homes and museums that line the streets, Savannah boasts phenomenal restaurants—you can’t go wrong with any of them. River Street is a popular attraction and for a good reason—there are more than 75 boutiques, restaurants, pubs, and art studios that line the street. Stroll along this historic street front and enjoy some of the best eateries Savannah has to offer, like Huey’s. If you want to explore from a different perspective, try a riverboat cruise. Besides being a historic city, Savannah is also known as one of the most haunted cities in America. Tour Savannah by candlelight and dive even deeper into its history by taking a ghost tour.
Another Savannah tradition is dinner at The Olde Pink House. This Southern landmark was home to key events—it hosted meetings that helped secure the 13 colonies’ independence and later became the Planter’s Bank, the first bank in Georgia. It also housed military generals during Sherman’s March to the Sea. Eventually, it was restored in 1992 and became the restaurant it is today. If you’re looking for classic, Southern comfort food, all while experiencing Savannah’s history, this is it.
This is a fun, effortless Georgia road trip itinerary that promises visits to bounding landscapes, lively cities, and more. Drive safe, and make unforgettable memories!
A weekend road trip through Georgia
Traveling is a remarkable way to experience new places and faces, but how often do you explore your backyard? Georgia is chock-full of alluring scenery, charming towns, and vibrant cities—and it’s possible to experience this in one weekend. Below, we have the perfect Georgia road trip that you can do in three days, starting with Atlanta as your home base.
Stop one: Augusta
To start your Georgia road trip, head two hours east, and you’ll find a city filled with history and culture: Augusta. It’s where musician James Brown started his career, and it’s the birthplace of the world’s most prestigious golf tournament. Even President Woodrow Wilson once called Augusta home. Augusta offers various attractions that are sure to entertain everyone, no matter what piques their interest.
Located in a former textile mill, the Augusta Canal Discovery Center informs visitors on the Industrial Revolution’s impact on the South and how Augusta used its waterways to its advantage. Then, take a walk along the banks of the Savannah River on the Augusta Riverwalk. You can enjoy museums, like the Augusta Museum of History, restaurants, and more—all while getting some fresh air. If you want to venture into nature, visit Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. Stroll through the wetlands and woodlands and take in some of Georgia’s most breathtaking scenery—wildlife included.
Stop two: Savannah
Our next destination on the Georgia weekend road trip is a short drive south to Savannah—Georgia’s oldest city. Savannah is the perfect city for the history buff and the foodie. In between the charming, historic homes and museums that line the streets, Savannah boasts phenomenal restaurants—you can’t go wrong with any of them.
River Street is a popular attraction and for a good reason—there are more than 75 boutiques, restaurants, pubs, and art studios that line the street. Stroll along this historic street front and enjoy some of the best eateries Savannah has to offer, like Huey’s. If you want to explore from a different perspective, try a riverboat cruise. Besides being a historic city, Savannah is also known as one of the most haunted cities in America. Tour Savannah by candlelight and dive even deeper into its history by taking a ghost tour.
Another Savannah tradition is dinner at The Olde Pink House. This Southern landmark was home to key historical events—it hosted meetings that helped secure the 13 colonies’ independence and later became the Planter’s Bank, the first bank in Georgia. It also housed military generals during Sherman’s March to the Sea. Eventually, it was restored in 1992 and became the restaurant it is today. If you’re looking for classic, Southern comfort food, all while experiencing Savannah’s history, this is it.
Stop three: Macon
The final stop on our Georgia weekend road trip is Macon—known as the hometown of the Allman Brothers Band, Little Richard, Otis Redding, and other noteworthy musicians. It’s only appropriate that your first excursion in Macon is a visit to the Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House. The Big House is where the band, their families, roadies, and friends lived until 1973 and transformed Macon into the city it is today. The museum is home to the largest collection of Allman Brothers Band memorabilia. After visiting the Big House, venture to the Rose Hill Cemetery, where you can view the final resting place of Gregg and Duane Allman, plus other notable Georgia figures.
The Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park is also a hallowed ground where the American Indians who first occupied present-day Macon built burial mounds for elite tribal members. The park has eight miles of trails, a museum with artifacts dating back to 10,000 B.C., and more. Finally, step back in time and visit the Hay House, an Italian Renaissance Revival-style home. This stately, 18,000 square foot manor was completed in 1859, with construction beginning in 1855, and was occupied by three prominent families before becoming a museum.
This is a fun, effortless Georgia road trip itinerary that promises visits to bounding landscapes, lively cities, and more. Drive safe, and make unforgettable memories!
Heading home for the holidays: travel tips to to make the season brighter
For many, this is the most wonderful time of the year. For others, well, they’d rather fast-forward to 2020. Whether you’re thinking about the holidays with anxiety or anticipation, we have some tips that can, hopefully, make your holiday season a little happier.
If you’re packing for an extended stay, a little planning now can keep you from hauling a mountain of luggage through the middle of a crowded airport. Instead of folding your clothes, roll them up. Also, stuff your socks inside your shoes. You’ll be surprised how much more you can fit inside your suitcase just by taking these two steps. If you’re carrying a backpack, place the heavier items lower in the pack for better balance and less strain on your back. Most important, before packing anything, make sure you’re really going to need it. Overpacking is the most common mistake. Plus, the airlines will hit you with a fee or make you repack your bag if it’s over a set weight limit.
Don’t break the bank
If you’re a college student or young professional, your budget may already be tight. The closer you get to the holidays, the higher airfares climb. Before you assume the amount you see on the airline’s website is final, explore some of the online search engines that are designed specifically to find lower fares. Some airlines even offer student discounts. Another idea is to bring your own snacks and an empty water bottle to the airport. The cost of food and drinks at airports is crazy expensive because they know they have a captive audience. Although traveling by train or bus will take longer, they can be much more affordable. Both Amtrak and Greyhound offer student discounts. Think of it this way: a leisurely train or bus ride may be just what you need to get in the holiday spirit.
The holiday season doesn’t have to be all napping and eating. If avoiding the holiday bulge is important to you, use part of your downtime to get some exercise. Ask a family member or old friend to take a walk with you—this a great way to burn calories and catch up with what’s been going on in your lives. You’ll both have more energy and won’t feel quite as guilty about enjoying a glass of eggnog or a delicious slice of pecan pie. After all, that’s part of the holiday experience—enjoy it! Also, we know that the holidays can be stressful at times. Just 20 minutes a day of physical activity can bring those stress levels down, which is good for your physical and mental health. In fact, according to Forbes Magazine, three or four half-hour sessions per week can lessen stress significantly.
What if you can’t get away for the holidays? Despite these helpful tips for holiday travels, we realize that it’s just not realistic for some people. But don’t fret—we have a few suggestions for you as well.
Host a “Friendsmas” party
You’d be surprised how many college students will be spending the holidays around campus. Why not get together and celebrate? You can even enjoy many of the same traditional holiday activities together, such as cooking meals and exchanging gifts. Look at it as an opportunity to begin your own holiday traditions. Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to get closer to your friends or even make some new ones. And, if you start missing your family members, technology has made it easy to connect via video chat (Skype, FaceTime, etc.).
Nothing will take your mind off of being away from home during the holidays like a nice paycheck. Many employers are in desperate need of seasonal, part-time help. You’ll earn money, make new friends, and possibly gain valuable experience, depending on what career path you’ve chosen. And when everyone comes back from the holiday break complaining about how broke they are, you can smile and enjoy your stack of cash.
So whether you’re heading home or staying put, we hope these tips will help you enjoy the season. Happy Holidays from your friends at Georgia’s Own Credit Union!
Take a hike: four North Georgia gems to try this weekend
It’s Fall, ya’ll—time to trade in the sweltering heat and humidity for the fresh, crisp air and the great outdoors. Our Georgia mountains are full of winding trails that lead to adventure, and they’re practically in your back yard. So, drop the TV remote, grab your hiking gear, and let’s GO!
Whether you’re living life in Atlanta or settling down in suburbia, you could be hiking up a mountain in no time. Here are four of our favorite five-star trails, all within an hour or two of the city:
1. Blood Mountain summit is the highest point of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and one of the most popular hiking destinations in North Georgia. At 4459 feet, it towers above the peaks of the surrounding southern Appalachians and delivers far and wide views that are simply spectacular.
Blood Mountain is a 4.3-mile view-packed hike that follows the Appalachian Trail to the summit. It begins on the scenic Byron Reece Trail at Neels Gap, leads southwest, and meets the Appalachian Trail at Flatrock Gap. At the trail intersection, the hike heads west and gradually intensifies. Overall, the relatively steep climb is a heart-pounding workout to the summit.
The route’s business season is Fall, mostly because the North Georgia hardwoods explode in color, making the views even more beautiful. Our advice is to grab a cup of coffee and hit the trail early on weekends and during peak season.
2. Ravens Cliff Falls Trail is one of the most beautiful hiking trails in North Georgia. Located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, it boasts the Raven Cliff Falls, 400 feet of cascading water that slices a massive, towering cliff in half.
The 4.9-mile hike through the waterfall-filled valley begins at a gravel trailhead near Helen, Georgia. It gradually gains elevation along a short incline, levels at about .25 mile, and then descends toward Dodd Creek. The moss and wildflower-lined trail leads over the creek via a wooden bridge, through the hemlock forest, and over several small tributaries.
At the two-mile mark, the hike climbs as you quickly approach a blocky cliff. At the base, you’ll see the creek cascading through the walls of the fractured granite slab, creating the beautiful Ravens Cliff waterfall.
Generally, this hike is appropriate for all skill levels, although it gets slightly steeper at the end. There are lots of areas along the trail to rest, relax, and enjoy the scenery. It’s a popular destination too, so get an early start.
3. Sawnee Mountain Indian Seats Trail leads to the summit of Sawnee Mountain, one of the best views in North Georiga. It hikes over and around the sheer face of Sawnee Mountain, offering breathtaking long-range views of the distant Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail is part of the 5+ mile network of running, walking, and hiking trails at the Sawnee Mountain Preserve.
The hike begins at the park’s visitor center on Spot Road in Cumming. You’ll start on a short trail that quickly meets the Indian Seats Loop. Turn left, and the counterclockwise, gradually elevating trail will take you through 1.9 miles of evergreen and deciduous forest, swinging south of the mountain’s summit. It follows a well-marked and well-maintained side trail as it takes you past a gated gold mine entrance that’s carved into the rock outcrop at just over the 1-mile mark. At the summit, there are several natural depressions in the rock, which are said to have been used by local tribes as seats for meditation and lookout centuries ago.
The expansive views of the valley below are incredible, and the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the distant horizon is breathtaking. You can linger as long as you like and will often see people reading, writing, or enjoy the view.
Indian Seats is an easy, fun hike and just 40 miles north of Atlanta. It’s great for the entire family.
4. Panther Creek Falls is one of North Georgia’s favorite waterfall hikes. The 7-mile campsite-studded trail leads through the Chattahoochee National Forest, past several smaller cascading falls, to arrive at the famed Panther Creek Falls. This group of broad, multi-tiered waterfalls cascades into a deep pool on a sandy flat below, creating a view that can only be described as hypnotic.
The trail begins at Chattahoochee National Forest near Tallulah Gorge on the opposite side of Historic 441. It follows the waterway downstream and ventures deep into the forest. Once the trail crosses a small tributary creek at .5 mile, it begins to climb before it reaches a massive rock overhang. The hike crosses over a large wooden bridge at 1.5 miles. At the second bridge, the hike continues to climb along extremely narrow paths and includes some sudden, unexpected drops. You’ll scramble over some chiseled rock outcrops and a few more tributary crossings before you reach the Panther Creek Falls at 3.4 miles. At the base, large boulders line the sandy shoreline, which is an ideal spot for soaking up the beauty of the rushing water…and, of course, resting.
The trail is very popular with day hikers, backpackers, and campers, especially in the summer months when they can spend time relaxing on the warm, sandy beach. It will still be busy in the fall, especially when the leaves are changing, so plan ahead.
Six ways to save on holiday travel
We try to fit a lot into our holiday budgets, and travel can account for a pretty big slice of the pie. But even if you’re just beginning to think about the costs of visiting loved ones this holiday season, it’s not too late to save.
About half (49%) of American adults plan to spend money on flights and/or hotels this holiday season — that’s 123.5 million travelers, according to a new NerdWallet study.
And though 36% of these travelers say they’d skip buying gifts for friends and family if they were spending a lot to visit them this year, that level of sacrifice may not be entirely necessary.
If you’re scrambling for last-minute ways to save on holiday travel, here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Start watching rates, like, yesterday
Those who travel over the holidays book their flights 7.7 weeks before their departure date, on average, the NerdWallet survey found. You may be able to beat other travelers to the punch by buying before that peak booking time.
Also, set up alerts through popular booking sites like Kayak or Google Flights to keep an eye on rates. If they start creeping up as your travel dates near, you’re better off buying earlier than holding out for a last-minute deal and getting caught with astronomical fares.
2. Get serious about freeing up more money
More than 7 in 10 (71%) people who travel for the holidays start saving in advance, the NerdWallet study found. But even if your budget is tight and your travel dates are coming up soon, you can still look for easy ways to free up money.
Limit all optional expenses, such as meals out and entertainment, for several weeks. After all, holiday travel is one big optional expense; sacrificing drinks after work with friends for a few weeks could cover the price of your checked bag and a rideshare or two.
3. Make your credit card work for you
Three-fourths (75%) of holiday travelers will put some or all of their travel expenses on a credit card, according to the survey. Depending on their card and how long it takes to pay off those expenses, they could be earning as they spend — be it cash on a cash-back card or points toward future travel on a travel rewards card. Also, they could be using already-earned points and rewards to help pay for this year’s travel.
Use the card that stands to benefit you the most — one with decent rewards rates or other travel benefits like trip protection or no foreign transaction fees.
4. Don’t pay interest
Credit card interest can quickly negate any benefits from using a rewards card and can make your travel even more expensive. Still, 5% of people who put last year’s holiday travel on a credit card are still paying for it today, according to the survey.
If you know it’s going to take a few months to pay off your holiday travel, make a plan to minimize the impact of your credit card transactions. Opening a card with an interest-free introductory term is one option. But if time or your credit doesn’t allow for a new card, budget for higher-than-mandatory-minimum payments until you can pay it off.
5. Keep shopping after you book
After you’ve booked your flight, your deal-hunting doesn’t have to end. Most airlines will issue a full refund within 24 hours of purchase, even on nonrefundable tickets. The specifics vary by airline — so read up on your airline’s 24-hour cancellation policies — but you may be able to cancel and rebook if you find a lower rate within that first day.
A similar strategy can be used on hotels: If you make a cancellable reservation, keep checking rates. If they go down, you can cancel and rebook at the same hotel (or a different one, if the opportunity arises). Again, know the specifics of your reservation — if you try to cancel too close to arrival you could lose money.
6. Let your presence be their present
If travel is your top priority and you’ve done what you can but are still coming up short, don’t be afraid to skip traditional gift-giving. You wouldn’t be alone — 36% of travelers said they’d consider doing the same thing if they were spending a lot to visit friends and family. You’ve worked hard to get there; maybe they can come to you next holiday season.