How To Find Local Movers And Other Local Moving Tips – Forbes Advisor

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On paper, local moves are supposed to be faster and more affordable than cross-country moves. However, that’s only true when you make the right decisions before moving. A local move is one that generally stays within a radius of 50 miles—a move that extends beyond that distance would be considered a long-distance move, even if it’s still within the same state.

Here are some moving tips and factors to consider before hiring local movers.

1. Deciding Between Hiring Local Movers vs. Doing It Yourself

Even local moves can be stressful experiences that involve many moving parts. Hiring local movers to protect, lift and carry all of your heavy household items is a great option. Of course, this is also the most expensive option. For a local move, companies generally charge by the hour along with travel time and gas fees. Hiring local movers can cost from $300 to $1,500, depending on the size of the move. That’s about $25 to $50 per mover per hour.

However, moving locally also allows you to do it yourself. Instead of hiring local movers, you can take charge of the move yourself and save some money. But, before you choose the do-it-yourself route, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have any friends or family members who can help with the move?
  • Do you have a truck? Or have a friend who can lend you their truck for the move?
  • Will you need help to move heavy furniture and appliances?
  • Are you moving any valuables or fragile pieces?
  • Do you require any special moving services (i.e., pool table, piano, gym equipment)?

The answers to these questions will help you decide whether you need to hire a local mover or if this is something you can handle on your own.

2. How to Find Local Movers

Hiring local movers involves doing some research to ensure you work with a professional moving company. Ideally, you want to work with a trustworthy local moving company that’s well-known in the area. Here are some tips for finding reliable local movers that you can trust with your home possessions:

  • Ask friends, relatives or neighbors for recommendations. Word-of-mouth recommendations can save you plenty of time in research.
  • Read the company’s reviews and testimonials before contacting them. A reliable moving company will have an online presence with reviews on sites like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Yelp and MyMovingReviews.
  • Single out local moving companies by requesting moving cost estimates. Consider low-ball estimates as a red flag of moving fraud. Make sure they can provide you with a written quote before you agree to sign any contract with them.

3. Cost To Hire Local Movers

When hiring local movers, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the average cost so that you can recognize some red flags of moving fraud. Unlike cross-country moving companies, local movers will charge by the hour instead of shipment weight. Depending on your location, season, and distance, you can be looking at $40 per hour, per worker.

The ultimate cost of hiring local movers will depend on the size and number of items they’ll move. This is why many local moving companies will ask for the number of boxes and furniture pieces you expect to have before giving you an accurate quote. Make sure you calculate how much space you need for your move, as well. On average:

  • Studio Apartment: two movers, three hours, for $240.
  • 2-Bedroom Apartment: three movers, five hours, for $600.
  • 3-Bedroom Apartment: four movers, seven hours, for $1,120.

This gives you a good basis to compare rates and prices of moving companies. However, you still need to add in gas prices, time to and from the location, and other special charges. With the cost of moves going up, it’s important to know exactly how much to budget for.

4. How to Save Money Moving Locally

Even though local moves are cheaper than long-distance moves, you can still find ways to save money when moving locally. Remember that local move prices are based on how much time it takes movers to complete the job, rather than on weight and distance. So, to help you save money when working with local movers, try to:

  • Reduce the number of items you’re moving. Declutter as much as you can to only bring what’s necessary.
  • Pack up things by yourself, or at least try to have most boxes packaged, labeled and ready to go when the movers arrive.
  • Leave clothes, shoes, books and other small items to move by yourself. Bring these over in your car instead of having the movers carry them out.

5. How Much to Tip Local Movers

Simply put, tipping local movers isn’t something you are required or obliged to do. First, double-check your contract to verify whether or not they’re already including gratuity in the total cost for the services. If they aren’t, tipping should be the consequence of your satisfaction with the job. If you had an unprofessional or bad experience with your moving company, you might as well forgo the tip.

On the flip side, if they did a great job, you might consider tipping them.

Generally, tipping $4 to $5 per hour per worker is considered a good tip. Another option is to tip 5% to 10% of the total move cost. Depending on the size of your move, you can expect to tip between $30 and $140 divided evenly among workers.

6. Know How to Protect Yourself From Moving Scams

One of the downfalls of working with local moving companies is the risk of getting scammed. In most states, moving companies are required to register with a state department. Verifying their registration and insurance can help protect you from fraudulent moving companies.
When reaching out to local moving companies, ask some of these questions:

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • What type of protection, if any, do they offer against loss or damage?
  • How do they handle claim disputes?
  • Can they provide an estimate and contract in writing?

These questions will help you filter out potentially unreliable or fraudulent moving companies. The more research you do on a company, the fewer chances you’ll have of being scammed by local movers.

Whether you’re moving a fewblocks away or almost 50 miles away, it’s critical to hire a moving company that you can trust with your precious valuables. Spend all the time you need researching different companies and comparing quotes until you find a team of local movers that can help you with your moving needs.

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Packing Tips for Your Long-Distance Move – Forbes Advisor

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Is a move to a far-away city or state on your agenda in the coming months? If so, you are not alone. According to one recent survey, the number of individuals planning to move in 2021 is up 20 percent over last year’s numbers. This is noteworthy, considering that a lot of people moved in 2020 as well, in fact the Pew Research Center reports that 22 percent of Americans either moved or know someone who moved in 2020 specifically because of Covid-19.

Many people are simply moving across town, to dwellings with enough space to accommodate ongoing work-from-home lifestyles. Others, however, are making more significant changes, relocating to distant locales with lower costs of living, or settling down in areas closer to where their extended families live. Some are even trading the big city for a more suburban location. A study on coronavirus moving trends, for example, found that more than 110,000 people left New York City in 2020, compared to just under 19,000 in 2019. Where did all these people go? Places like Katy, Texas and Meridian, Idaho — both had an influx of new residents last year.

But deciding to move is just the beginning. Once you know where you’re going, you have to come up with a plan to get all of your belongings there in one piece. It isn’t as simple as tossing your possessions into boxes and shoving them into the moving van.

Here are 12 expert packing tips to help you have a successful long-distance move.

Lighten Your Load

Moving is the perfect opportunity to declutter so, before you start packing for your move, set things aside to donate or sell. You should also throw away items that are broken or damaged. There’s no sense in dragging a malfunctioning toaster across the country with you. By taking these steps before you pack, you’ll cut down on the time you spend boxing everything up and you will also save money on moving-related supplies–fewer boxes, less tape. You may even be able to rent a smaller moving van.

Set Aside Enough Time to Pack

A single person living alone in a one-bedroom apartment won’t need to dedicate as much time to packing as a family of five with an enormous house, of course. But either way, allowing ample time to get the job done will ensure that all your items are packed in a safe and secure manner. It will also alleviate stress because you won’t have so much rushing around to do at the last minute. How much time is enough time? Experts say it takes up to five full days to pack up the average three-bedroom house.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

The packing process involves a lot more than the actual packing, so it is best to begin as soon as you can. By starting early, you can take your time and ensure that everything is safely packed, and nothing gets accidentally left behind.

Bonus tip: Go room by room, starting with the rooms you use the least.

Buy the Proper Packing Supplies

Leftover boxes from your online shopping sprees are not going to cut it when it comes to packing up your belongings for a long-distance move. When you are moving, it is much better to use supplies that are made specifically for moving and/or packing. You can usually find these items at home improvement stores or at outlets dedicated to moving equipment and supplies.

Some of the basic supplies you’ll need for moving include:

  • Boxes in a variety of sizes
  • Packing tape
  • Strapping tape and/or duct tape
  • Bubble and shrink wrap
  • Thick permanent markers
  • Ziplock bags
  • Blank newsprint paper
  • Scissors and tape
  • Moving blankets and/or furniture pads
  • Special boxes and crates for TVs, artwork, etc.

Label Every Box

We don’t mean scrawling “kitchen” or “bedroom” across the top. Yes, you should indicate the room that the box belongs in, but you should also indicate the contents that are inside said box. This will save you the trouble of having to open multiple boxes in search of your coffee maker the morning after you arrive at your new place. Some people even like to catalog packed items with photographs or spreadsheets.

Bonus tip: We also recommend labeling things like cords, wires and hardware so you know what goes where upon arrival.

Use Suitcases, Drawers and Wardrobe Boxes to Pack Clothing

If you are already taking your suitcases and dressers with you, you can save time and space by using them to transport your clothing. You can keep your dresser packed and shrink wrap it to keep the drawers from sliding out in transport. And for your hanging items, consider buying some wardrobe boxes so the clothing can remain on the hangers during the move.

Take Tables, Bedroom Sets, Desks and Other Furniture Apart

Disassembling your furniture will not only make it easier to transport, but it will also help save space in the moving van. Take your time while transporting these items, as they can be heavy, bulky and awkward to move. Consider using blankets and pads to protect the finish.

Avoid Packing Individual Boxes too Heavy or too Light

Be strategic with your packing and make sure that all of your boxes are of relatively equal and manageable weight. Each box should contain a mix of heavier and lighter items to make it easier to carry from point A to point B. Additionally, boxes of equal weight are safer to stack, as there is less risk of a heavy box being placed on a lightweight box, and crushing it.

Rent a Portable Moving Container Instead of a Moving Van

Moving vans will get the job done , however, if you want to take your time removing everything from your house, the moving container concept is the way to go. Essentially, the container is dropped off in your driveway and you pack it with your belongings at your leisure. When you are ready, the box is picked up and transported to your new place. Then you unload it, and the company picks up the empty container when you are done.

If you decide to hire a moving company, make sure they have the proper credentials like a license and insurance. Also, follow the steps outlined by the United State Department of Transportation to help verify that the company is reputable.

Don’t Assume You Have Moving Insurance

Many homeowners are under the impression that their homeowner’s policy insures their belongings in the event that they become damaged during a move. However, this is not always the case. Check with your insurance company to verify your policy’s details, and if you don’t already have sufficient coverage, consider adding more prior to your move, especially if you have items of value, like jewelry or fine art.

Bonus tip: The protection offered by moving companies themselves is not insurance. It is called valuation, and the differences between the two are subtle yet important. Whether you need one or the other depends on the value of your possessions and several other factors.

Finally, Know What You Can and Cannot Put in a Moving Van

The United States Department of Transportation prohibits certain household items from being transported in a moving van/truck, and some moving companies have their own stipulations as well.

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What Are TIPS? – Forbes Advisor

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Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS, are bonds issued by the U.S. government that offer protection against inflation plus modest interest payments.

“Many investors save and invest so they can spend in the future,” says Wes Crill, head of investment strategists at Dimensional Fund Advisors in Austin, Texas. “For investors prioritizing preservation of purchasing power, TIPS can contribute to that goal by mitigating the impact of unexpectedly high inflation.”

How Do TIPS Work?

As fixed income securities, TIPS work a lot like the bonds you’re already familiar with. You purchase debt issued by the U.S. government, and receive regular interest payments on the face value, or the par value, of the securities. When the TIPS’s term is up, you are repaid the original amount loaned to the government.

TIPS, however, come with inflation protection baked in. Each year, the U.S. Treasury adjusts the par value of TIPS based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of inflation determined by price changes in a basket of leading consumer goods. This helps preserve the purchasing power of your TIPS investment.

The value of ordinary bonds, with a fixed par value, is eroded over time by inflation. That is, unless the bond’s interest rate exceeds the approximate 2% average U.S. inflation rate.

“Indexing the bond’s value to inflation helps protect investors from an erosion in purchasing power,” says Crill. This means regardless of how much prices change over the five, 10 or 30 years in a TIPS term, you’ll maintain the purchasing power your par value had when you first bought the TIPS—plus any interest payments you’ve earned.

What’s more, interest payments are also adjusted for inflation each year. While the interest rate remains constant over the duration of your TIPS term, the interest payment you receive every six months is based on your TIPS’ current par value, meaning they effectively increase with CPI inflation.

Note that deflation will reduce the par value of TIPS. It’s very rare, but it remains possible that the value and interest payments of your TIPS may be adjusted downward to reflect negative CPI rates. You never receive less than the original par value of the TIPS upon maturity.

TIPS and Taxes

As with most investments, TIPS earnings are subject to taxes, at least on the federal level. Earnings are generally exempt from state and local taxes. However, you have to be careful with TIPS because their earnings encompass their interest payments and any inflation adjustments that increase their par value.

“In any year when the principal value of a TIPS bond increases due to the inflation adjustment, that gain is considered reportable income for the year, even though the investor won’t receive the inflation-adjusted principal until the security matures,” says Robert Johnson, professor of finance at Heider College of Business at Creighton University. If you don’t plan for this in advance, this may create a small unexpected tax burden, as you won’t have received the updated par value back yet but are still expected to pay income taxes on it.

In the event that deflation occurs, reducing the par value of TIPS, you may be able to use it to offset other income gains. You generally will only be able to do this if the adjustment exceeds the amount of TIPS interest you earned that year. Speak with a tax professional to determine how TIPS may affect your taxes.

Advantages of TIPS

For inflation-conscious investors, TIPS have some big advantages.

Easy Inflation Insurance

TIPS can provide an easy way to engineer an inflation hedge in your portfolio. “This is particularly important for more conservative or income-focused investors,” like those in retirement often are, says Matt Dmytryszyn, director of investments at Telemus, an investment advisory firm in Southfield, Mich.

In high-inflation environments, TIPS performance may greatly exceed that of traditional government bonds, whose fixed interest payments effectively become smaller over time.

Backed by the Full Faith and Credit of Uncle Sam

While many investments may outperform inflation over time, TIPS are the only one guaranteed to do this that also have all of the benefits of standard Treasury bonds.

“They’re supported by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government and are traded in a deep and very liquid market,” says Frederick Miller, founder of Sensible Financial Planning and Management, LLC, in Waltham, Mass.

In other words, it’s highly unlikely the U.S. government will fail to pay you back—that hasn’t happened yet in U.S. history—and, should you need to sell your TIPS before their term ends, you should be able to do so relatively easily. This makes TIPS great low-risk investments.

Disadvantages of TIPS

TIPS aren’t without their disadvantages. Here are a few of the risks you might encounter if you invest in TIPS.

  • Poor performance during deflation or low inflation. While TIPS have an edge over traditional bonds when inflation runs hot, they perform poorly when deflation strikes or there is low inflations. That’s because deflation or low inflation drags down their par value, shrinking interest payments. In these conditions, TIPS fail to keep up with market interest rates.
  • Unpredictable cash flow. Because their payments are dependent on inflation, it’s hard to estimate in advance what your income might be. This may not be a huge deal if payments end up being more than expected, but during periods of lower inflation or deflation, you could end up with less money coming in than you need.
  • Anticipatory taxes. Because you must pay income taxes on any increases to par value, you could end up owing “phantom taxes” on money you haven’t actually earned until your TIPS mature. You can combat this by holding your TIPS in tax-advantaged retirement accounts.
  • Liquidity. In general, it’s pretty easy to cash out or resell your U.S. Treasuries before their maturity date. TIPS don’t trade as much as other bonds in secondary markets, which may make it harder to sell yours quickly. During periods of unstable inflation, you also may end up selling your TIPS at a loss, especially if their par value has been adjusted to lower than what you paid.
  • CPI may not match your personal inflation rate. TIPS are tied to CPI, and if your spending habits don’t completely align with the averages used to measure CPI, inflation adjustments may not compensate you for your spending patterns. “The CPI is a basket of goods and the composition of each of our baskets of goods will vary in some way from the composition CPI basket,” says Dmytryszyn. TIPS may not keep up with your personal rate of inflation.

How to Buy TIPS

You can buy TIPS through your online brokerage account or directly from the U.S. Treasury at TreasuryDirect.

If you choose to buy TIPS on the secondary market, be sure to compare how much the current inflation-adjusted par value differs from the original par value. Remember: You are only guaranteed to receive payment up to the original face value of a TIPS. If its price is above the issue price, you could lose money if deflation drags the par value to less than you paid.

That means you’ll probably only want to buy TIPS on a secondary market if the current par value is less than the issued par value. Otherwise, your safest bet may be purchasing TIPS directly from the Treasury.

You can also buy shares of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that contain diversified mixes of TIPS. While buying into a TIPS fund may make certain aspects of TIPS ownership easier, such as allowing you to reinvest earnings or buy odd-dollar amounts of shares, keep in mind you’ll be paying expense ratio fees, which can negatively impact your returns.

Should You Buy TIPS?

If you’re a safety-minded investor who wants some government-backed protection against inflation, TIPS can make good sense.

“TIPS matter to Main Street investors because they can help you protect your buying power from rising inflation,” says Tom Preston, who spent 30 years as a Wall Street trader and is a market strategist for Tastytrade, a Chicago-based digital finance and investment marketplace. “When inflation increases the price of things you need to buy, the extra return from a TIPS can offset that.”

Before buying your TIPS, though, be sure to compare current bond yields to expected inflation rates. Because they adjust for inflation, TIPS interest rates tend to be much smaller than non-TIPS bonds. For instance, if bonds are yielding 3%, inflation is only 2%, and TIPS interest is 0.5%, you would only expect to earn the equivalent of 2.5% on your TIPS each year. This could make it an inferior choice to the non-TIPS Treasury. Conversely, if non-TIPS bonds were only yielding 2%, TIPS would give you an extra half a percent over traditional bonds.

According to Raymond James, the average breakeven point has been around 2.5% since the mid-1990s, meaning a non-TIPS bond must yield at least that much to hypothetically outperform a TIPS.

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How Much To Tip Movers – Forbes Advisor

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When you hire movers, you’ll be given a price estimate that includes things like man hours, gas and transportation charges and material pricing. Whether you are choosing from the best moving companies or hoping to snag a cheap moving service, it’s important to know what to tip.

What likely won’t be included in the estimate? A tip. If gratuity hasn’t been added to the bill from your moving company, you may be unclear about how much to tip movers and whether or not it’s required. We’ll clear that up for you here.

Are You Required to Tip Movers?

In short, no. There is no industry standard for tipping. “Tipping is not required, but greatly appreciated by the movers,” says Hilary Reynolds with All My Sons Moving and Storage. But of course, the fact that it’s not required doesn’t mean you should brush it off without a second thought.

The average hourly salary for movers is only about $16. That’s not a lot considering all of the hard work that they do. “Movers are required to have strength, endurance and skills for the difficult pieces and planning involved,” says Thomas Trainor, founder of Relocation Concierge, a company that provides moving assessments and professional concierge services for relocations.

How Much Should You Tip Movers?

Each move is different, and as such, there are many factors at play when deciding how much to tip movers. If you’re moving across the street using a 2-person crew that takes only a few hours, your tip amount should be less than someone moving a five-bedroom house across the country.

However, Trainor suggests following a $6 to $12 per hour per mover rule of thumb, including the driver. Below, we’ve created a table to show what this might look like for your move, in case you’re wondering how much to tip movers.

Tip Amount for Each Mover

When to Tip and When Not To

No one wants to break the bank tipping movers (moving is expensive enough already), especially when they feel a good job wasn’t done or their movers weren’t overly agreeable. After all, tipping is a way to show your gratitude for a job well done. Here are a few situations where you might want to tip a little extra, or perhaps deduct a bit of money from your planned tip amount.

When to tip more:

  • When your movers have to handle oversized or particularly fragile items
  • When your movers are personable and kind
  • When your movers work quickly
  • When movers go above and beyond to help you set up and assemble certain items

When to tip less:

  • When your movers show up late or bring the wrong sized vehicle
  • When your movers seem to work deliberately slow, like overwrapping materials or moving inefficiently
  • When you have to do the brunt of the work yourself
  • When your movers mistreat or break your items

How to Tip Movers

So you know you’d like to tip your moving crew. How do you go about doing so? You have a few choices here, and it’s really up to you how you’d like to handle it. You could tip each mover, or you could simply hand your tip to the lead mover. (This is likely the person whom you’ve communicated with the most)

Trainor recommends tipping each mover individually at the end of each day to avoid the possibility of a dishonest lead mover. And for a multi-day move, Trainor says, “tipping only at the end could be complicated to split fairly” since you may have a slightly different moving crew each day. If you tip only at the end, a mover who isn’t working on the last day might be left out of the tip.

No matter how you decide to split it up, it’s crucial to have cash on hand when it comes to tipping. Unless your moving company includes gratuity on the bill they hand you, there’s no way to split up a tip that’s put on a credit card.

Should You Provide Food to Movers?

Moving often takes several hours, and there’s a good chance you will need to eat at some point during the process. But what about your movers? When thinking about how much to tip movers to show appreciation, another way to make them very happy is by feeding them.

While most moving crews will bring enough food and water to provide for themselves, providing food for them can only make things go that much more smoothly. “Movers appreciate it when a customer takes the time to offer them refreshments or snacks,” says Reynolds.

Pizza and subs are easy options, since it’s relatively inexpensive and most people enjoy it. As an alternative, you can simply offer your crew a few local options, or even provide a small cash stipend so they can find their own food.

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6 Tips To Exchange Currency Without Paying Huge Fees – Forbes Advisor

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Americans are getting ready to travel again as part of the pent-up consumer demand from the pandemic. If your next vacation is going to take you to another country, you may want to know how to get foreign currency without paying extra fees.

Undeniably, when traveling internationally, it’s important to watch out for currency exchange conversion fees, foreign transaction fees and other costs. Currency exchange rates are complicated and are constantly fluctuating as part of the everyday rush of global commerce. One bank, merchant or currency exchange location could give you a slightly better deal on currency exchange rates, just based on the daily ups and downs of the markets.

Of course, it can be easy to overspend in a foreign country. At least in part, this is because spending money in foreign currency may feel different. The prices at stores and restaurant menus may not feel as real as they do in U.S. dollars. It can also be exciting to see and use the colorful foreign banknotes and interesting coins that you may not experience in your everyday life. But, if you’re not careful, you could end up paying more than you bargained for.

In general, some methods of getting cash and making purchases will give you a better deal than others when you’re ready to take your next international trip. Here are a few tips and insights on how to enjoy your international travels while minimizing currency fees.

1. Get Cash at Your Bank Before Leaving the U.S.

One of the best ways to minimize currency exchange fees is to get some cash from your bank or credit union in the U.S. before you depart on your trip. Depending on which country (or countries) you’re visiting, most major U.S. banks will have foreign currency available to sell to you. For example, Wells Fargo offers 70 currencies for use in more than 100 countries, and Bank of America exchanges currencies for more than 100 countries.

You may be able to get currency in cash at your local bank branch, or order currency online or by phone to be delivered to your home. Depending on your bank, where you live and which country’s currency you need, some currencies may be available for same-day exchange. Other less frequently requested currencies could require a few days of advance notice or longer.

If you can plan ahead, there’s a good chance you can get cash at a more favorable exchange rate by dealing directly with your bank in the U.S. before you travel.

“Customers who order currency through their own bank can ensure the money they receive is authentic and that they have received the best, legal rate,” says John Sellers, rewards executive at Bank of America. “As these rates are constantly changing, Bank of America uses a variety of factors to determine its exchange rate—including market conditions and rates charged by other financial institutions,” he says.

Depending on where you do your banking and your overall relationship with them, you may qualify for special rewards or perks on foreign currency exchange.

“By ordering your currency in advance through your bank, you may also qualify for extra perks or benefits,” says Sellers. “For example, Bank of America Preferred Rewards members receive a discount of up to 2% on online and mobile foreign currency orders, plus free standard shipping,” he says.

2. Avoid Currency Exchange Kiosks at Airports

If you don’t have time to get cash at the bank before your trip, it can be tempting to get foreign currency at an airport kiosk or currency exchange counter. These places offer convenience, but their exchange rates are typically much less favorable than your bank at home.

For example, if you are traveling to the United Kingdom and your bank would have given you an exchange rate of £72 per $100, the airport kiosk may give you only £67 per $100, costing you extra money in the form of fewer pounds for your dollar. If you had made that exchange back at your home bank, you’d have an additional £5 in your pocket.

Airport kiosks may also charge higher fees, which sometimes are hidden within the poorer exchange rates they offer for converting your dollars to euros, pounds, pesos or another currency. If you are traveling on short notice and need some foreign currency in cash at the airport, then it could be worth paying the extra costs for the sake of convenience. If you can plan ahead, try to avoid airport kiosks and other exchange counters in heavily touristed areas—their business is based on charging extra for being a convenient, last-minute option.

3. Pay by Card, but Watch Out for Foreign Transaction Fees

Once you arrive at your destination country, you may choose to conserve your foreign currency cash and try to make payments with your credit or debit card as much as possible.

But this can pose another problem: foreign transaction fees. Depending on your bank and what card you have in your wallet, your credit card or debit card might charge a foreign transaction fee of up to 3% on every purchase in other countries.

This means that if you go out for dinner in London, Paris or Tokyo and spend the equivalent of $100 at the restaurant, your bank or card issuer will add an extra $3 fee to the cost of your meal. If you spend a total of $5,000 on a trip, and get charged a foreign transaction fee of 3% on every purchase, it would amount to $150 of extra charges.

How can you avoid foreign transaction fees? Do your research and read the fine print of your bank and credit card accounts before you travel. Call your bank and ask if they charge foreign transaction fees.

If you have time before your trip, you may want to open a new account with a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, especially if it’s a good travel rewards credit card.

4. Pay in the Local Currency to Avoid Currency Conversion Fees

Some merchants will let you choose whether you want to pay for your purchase in the local currency or U.S. dollars.

This doesn’t happen with every purchase. But sometimes, after swiping your card, the merchant will present you with a screen offering you an option: You can either pay the amount in the equivalent of U.S. dollars or pay in the local currency amount.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, you should always choose to pay in the local currency. If you choose to pay in dollars, you’ll be charged an extra currency conversion fee. You’ll also likely get a poor exchange rate. The merchant’s point of sale system may make it seem like it’s a convenient choice to pay in dollars instead of the local currency, but it will ultimately cost you more. Just pay in local currency when using your card.

5. Know Your ATM Fees and Limits

If you want to get cash from an ATM in another country, check to see if your bank has ATMs in your destination city—you may be able to avoid costly ATM fees. Keep in mind that your bank may charge you a fee for using an out-of-network ATM. That’s on top of any local fee being charged by the foreign ATM. The exchange rate that you get from a foreign ATM is likely to be a better deal overall than what you would get from an airport kiosk, but ATM fees can add up, so make sure you’re taking out enough cash to be worth the fee.

Check with your bank before your trip to ask about the daily ATM withdrawal limits on your account. If your daily withdrawal limit is currently set too low, consider asking your bank to raise that limit so you can withdraw what you need while traveling.

Keep in mind that some international ATMs limit you to a lower amount of cash withdrawals than your bank allows. Even if your daily withdrawal limit is $500, the foreign ATM network or bank may only permit you to withdraw $300 or $400. Plan ahead to make sure you have enough cash during your trip.

“Do a little research before you travel and see if your U.S. bank offers free or discounted international ATM withdrawals,” says Sellers. “This way, you’re minimizing your ATM fees while maximizing your cash out. This is also where ordering your foreign currency ahead of time can be beneficial, because it means cutting back on ATM visits, which could also reduce your incurred fees,” he says.

6. Use International Banking Apps

If you’re a frequent international traveler, consider using an international banking app to manage your money, such as TransferWise (now known as Wise), Revolut or others. These apps make it easier to transfer money between countries and hold accounts with multiple currencies.

For example, with a multiple currency account, you can keep some money in various currencies. It’s helpful if, for instance, you frequently travel to Canada or Mexico, or if you love to go on vacation in Spain every summer. This helps you avoid the volatility of currency exchange rates, since you’ll always have some money ready for your next trip.

Bottom Line

Before you plan your next exciting international trip, give some thought to how you’re going to get cash and how you want to pay for everyday purchases. Understanding currency exchange fees, foreign transaction fees, ATM withdrawal limits and other aspects of making payments in foreign currencies can help you save money, save time and enjoy your travels to the fullest.

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8 Strategies To Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards – Forbes Advisor

Editorial Note: Forbes Advisor may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

Although large welcome bonuses can be rightfully enticing, they aren’t the only regular source of miles and points for people looking to save money on travel. Don’t make the mistake of leaving miles and points on the table from your everyday spending. In this post we’ll discuss strategies to help you maximize your credit card rewards. Small wins will add up and help you to travel more for less.

Start With an End in Mind

One of the most important things to do and something that people often forget is to set a travel goal. It cannot be emphasized enough: If you know where you want to go you can tailor a better plan for your points. The miles and points you need to earn to take a cross country trip aren’t necessarily the same currencies as what you would want to use to get to Europe.

After you set a travel goal, make sure you research what miles and points can help you to reach that goal. Flexible currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards can help give you flexible options to help you meet your goals. There are many different ways to reach your travel goal—the important thing is to figure out which miles and points you’ll need to make it to your goal. The last thing you want is a large stash of miles and points that you struggle to make work with your plans.

Learn the Loyalty Programs Relevant to Your Goal

Once you’ve figured out what loyalty programs will help you achieve your goal, it’s important to familiarize yourself with those programs. Each and every program is different and will have quirks that might be beneficial or detrimental to your trip.

Figuring out the answers to these questions will help you understand how many miles and points you will need to make it to your travel goal. It’s not easy work, but the rewards are worth it. Once you know how many miles and points you need, you can get to earning as efficiently as possible.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some questions you can research to get to know the loyalty programs you need better.

Questions for Airline Loyalty Programs

  • How much will the flight I want to take cost in miles?
  • Does the flight cost fluctuate depending on the time of year I’m flying?
  • Which airlines partner with this loyalty program?
  • Does the program offer earning boosts via spending or flights taken?

Questions for Hotel Loyalty Programs

  • Does the hotel chain have peak/off peak pricing?
  • Can I use any free night certificates towards my trip or will variable pricing mean they aren’t valid?
  • Does the program offer any free nights on bookings of a specific length?
  • Does the program waive resort fees on award bookings?
  • Are points and cash bookings an option?
  • Does a credit card I hold give me status with the program? Does that status confer benefits such as breakfast, upgrades or late checkout?

Questions for Transferable Points Programs

  • What value can I get for my points if I use them to pay for flights?
  • What transfer partners can I use to help get me to my destination?
  • What bonus categories does my card offer to help boost my earnings?

Use Credit Cards to Help You Reach Your Travel Goal

Once you’ve identified the loyalty programs that will help you reach your travel goal, you can apply for credit cards to help you meet those goals. Whether it’s the New United Quest℠ Card card, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card card or a flexible card like Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, knowing what miles and points you need should inform the cards that will help you get there. The welcome bonuses for these new credit cards should give you a solid head start.

Most importantly, knowing the points you need to reach your goal should help inform which credit cards you apply for. Don’t fall into the trap of wasting money and time on miles and points you don’t need, instead focus on your travel goal and earn the welcome bonuses that will get you there.

Tip: Make a spreadsheet tracking how much you need to spend on a credit card to earn the welcome bonus and the deadline for making that spend so you don’t miss out on a bonus.

Maximize Credit Card Category Bonuses in Your Everyday Spending

Outside of welcome bonuses, one of the easiest ways to earn miles and points is to maximize your credit card category bonuses. Most credit cards offer double, triple or even quintuple points in certain spend categories. For example, the American Express® Gold Card card offers 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1 point per dollar), 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express travel. All other eligible purchases earn 1 point per dollar. (Terms apply. See rates and fees). If you hold the card, make sure you maximize the category bonus by using the card for all your dining and supermarket purchases.

Some credit cards, like the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card card, allow you to choose a bonus category. That card lets you earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases. Cards with that kind of flexibility allow you to choose your own bonus categories which can make your points earning even more efficient.

Make sure you know what bonus categories each of your credit cards offer and try to earn bonus points whenever you can to get you to your travel goal even faster. You could even use stickers to help you remember which card to use at which venue.

Remember to Activate and Maximize Quarterly Bonus Categories

Certain credit cards, like the Chase Freedom Flex℠, offer rotating bonus categories. This requires some bookkeeping for you. You need to remember to activate these bonus categories every quarter. After you activate the bonus category, you also need to make sure you maximize the category for the quarter—without going over any limits. The Freedom Flex allows you to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the bonus category each quarter. Make sure you stay organized so you don’t leave any miles and points on the table.

Tip: Set calendar reminders for yourself to remember to activate quarterly bonus categories.

Strategically Time Your Large Purchases

A corollary to maximizing bonus categories is strategically timing your large purchases. If you know you have some big ticket items coming up due to moving to situations like moving to a new house or the holidays you can time your purchases to help maximize your points. If you know you’re going to be spending thousands of dollars on new furniture in a few months, you might want to wait until then to apply for a new credit card. That way those dollars can be spent towards earning a welcome bonus (or two).

You can also strategically time your purchases to coincide with quarterly bonus categories. Let’s take the Chase Freedom Flex℠ as an example. In Q2 2021, home improvement stores were included in the 5% bonus category. If you were in the market for a new washer and dryer, it would have been good to wait until that quarter to purchase that item from Lowe’s or Home Depot. Once again, staying organized and knowing what bonus categories apply to which credit cards at what times can really help you to maximize your miles and points earnings.

Shop Through Portals to Earn Extra Miles

Another way to earn bonus miles and points is to utilize shopping portals when making purchases online. Most airline and bank rewards programs feature shopping portals. You create an account and then click through to the website where you want to make an online purchase. The shopping portal keeps a record of your purchase via a cookie and you earn bonus miles or points from the purchase. The trick is finding a shopping portal that offers you the most bonus points for the miles and points you’re looking for. Every bonus point counts so don’t leave points on the table by going directly to a retailer website—go through a shopping portal whenever you can.

Tip: Use Cashback Monitor to find the best shopping portal bonus.

Use a Dining Portal to Earn Bonus Miles When Dining

Many airline programs also have dining portals that allow you to earn bonus miles when dining at certain restaurants. You generally can only sign up for one of these dining portals at a time, but since you’re focused on a travel goal you should be able to sign up for a dining portal that will best help you reach that goal.

After linking a credit card to the dining portal, whenever you dine at a participating restaurant you will earn bonus points. You can either look up restaurants on the portal every time you want to go out to eat or just use the card linked to the portal every time you dine out. That way, if a restaurant is on the portal you’ll get the bonus points without even having to think about it. While you won’t earn a ton of miles and points this way, it’s still a nice way to top off your account.

Tip: Using a dining portal is an easy way to make sure your miles don’t expire—remember some programs require you to have activity every so often to avoid expiration.

Bottom Line

Having a clear travel goal for your miles and points will help you to maximize your miles and points earning. With efficiency and organization, you should be able to earn welcome bonuses and bonus points in the loyalty programs that will help you to meet your travel goal. Stay focused on your goal and you will be putting your hard earned miles and points to work in no time.

To view rates and fees for American Express® Gold Card please visit this page.

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How To Buy Mexican Auto Insurance When Going South Of The Border – Forbes Advisor

Editorial Note: Forbes Advisor may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

Ancient ruins, stunning beaches and heavenly cuisine are just some of the countless reasons to visit Mexico. Many Americans choose to drive to Mexico. But even if you have an adventurous spirit and a thirst for spontaneity, driving into Mexico without a little bit of planning is no bueño.

Mexican law requires all vehicles to have car insurance. Your U.S. car insurance typically won’t cover you unless you buy extra insurance, sometimes called Mexico tourist auto insurance or Mexican car insurance.

And if you don’t comply with Mexican law? You could end up in jail, where the views are much less stunning and cuisine is decidedly worse.

Do I Need Mexican Auto Insurance?

Mexican Federal Liability Law requires insurance for all vehicles. Once you cross the border, your U.S. car insurance will have limited or no coverage. If you are involved in a car accident without insurance, you could be arrested.

You can buy a separate Mexican auto insurance policy from an insurance company that specializes in it. You can typically find a policy that fits your length of stay. For example, Allstate, and Geico both sell policies from one-day trips and up to one year.

You will pay a premium that is separate from your U.S. car insurance policy. Your coverage will begin and end on the dates you select. If you drive outside of your policy effective dates, you will not have coverage, and you will be subject to the fines and penalties of Mexican law.

To buy a Mexican car insurance policy, you will need:

  • Dates you will be traveling in Mexico
  • Where you will be traveling in Mexico
  • Your U.S. car insurance policy number (you can find it on your proof of insurance or policy)
  • Driver’s license (if you are under 21, you may have to pay an additional fee)
  • Year, make and model of your car
  • Vehicle identification number
  • License plate number

Limited Mexico Coverage

Some insurance companies include limited Mexico coverage as part of a policy. For example, USAA has policies that extend coverage for trips to Mexico within 75 miles of the U.S. border.

And some auto insurance companies offer a “limited Mexico coverage” endorsement. This endorsement extends your existing U.S. auto policy coverage to trips to Mexico within a certain distance of the border.

For example, The Hartford has an endorsement that limits coverage to within 25 miles of the U.S. border.

Check with your insurance agent to determine what, if any, coverage your current policy has once you cross the border.

What Does Mexican Car Insurance Cover?

Liability car insurance in Mexico

You are required by Mexican law to have liability insurance. If you cause a car accident, this covers bodily injuries and property damage to others. You can typically choose a policy limit (up to a certain amount). For example, Allstate and Geico sell up to $500,000 in liability coverage for trips into Mexico, while The General sells up to $300,000.

It’s a good idea to buy the maximum amount of liability coverage available. That’s because Mexican liability car insurance works differently than the U.S. If you cause an accident that results in a death, Mexico Federal Liability Law says your insurance must pay the Mexican state’s minimum wage multiplied by 5,000, plus funeral expenses, per person. The Mexican state can then multiply this amount by up to five times (in some states a judge will determine the limit to be paid).

For example, the minimum wage in Tijuana is $213.39 Mexican pesos:

5,000 x $213.39 = $1,066,950, which amounts to $53,744 in U.S. dollars, based on a $19.85 exchange rate. The state can multiply this figure by five, which amounts to $268,720 per person.

Other coverage types for Mexico driving

Liability insurance won’t cover damage to your car or injuries that you and your passenger suffer. You can fill these coverage gaps by purchasing additional coverage types, such as:

  • Physical damage coverage. This pays out if your car is stolen or damaged by problems such as a car accident, vandalism, fire, flood, hail and falling objects.
  • Medical payments. This covers medical expenses for you and your passengers if you are hurt in a car accident.
    Legal assistance. If you get into a car accident in Mexico, this pays for legal expenses such as an attorney, court costs and bail bonds.
  • Roadside assistance. If your car breaks down in Mexico, this pays for services such as a tow truck, jump-starting a battery, a locksmith or changing a flat tire.
  • Medical evacuation. If you are hurt in a car accident, this pays for emergency transportation to a hospital or treatment facility.

Where Can I Buy Mexican Auto Insurance?

You can typically buy Mexican auto insurance in one of two ways:

  • From your own insurance company with a Limited Mexico Coverage Endorsement. This extends your U.S. policy within a certain distance of the U.S. border.
  • A separate Mexico tourist car insurance policy. This policy is separate from your U.S. insurer and will be effective on the dates that you choose.

If you are buying a separate Mexican car insurance policy, it’s a good idea to compare car insurance quotes from several different companies to find the best price and coverage options.

Here are some insurance companies that sell Mexican car insurance:

Tips for Driving in Mexico

Here are some tips if you’re taking a road trip to Mexico:

  • Keep your insurance documentation handy. It’s a good idea to have at least two copies of your Mexican car insurance documents, including your policy, claims instructions and roadside assistance instructions. Keep one copy in your car and another copy in a secure place, such as a hotel safe.
  • Get a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TIP). The Mexico Free or Border Zone is an area along Mexico’s northern and southern borders, including a large portion of Sonora, the entire Baja peninsula, and areas between 12 to 16 miles from the border in all other Mexican border states. Any travel beyond the Border Zone requires a TIP. If you travel outside the Border Zone without a TIP, your car could be confiscated and you could go to jail.
  • Get Mexican car rental insurance. Mexican Federal Liability Law also applies to rental cars. If you rent a car in Mexico, you can buy auto insurance at the rental counter agency. If you plan to rent a car in the U.S. and drive into Mexico, check with your rental agency first. Not all rental agencies will allow you to drive to Mexico or may restrict travel to certain areas. Certain types of vehicles such as exotic, cargo vans and large passenger vehicles may not be allowed to travel across the border, depending on your U.S. rental agency.
  • Check travel advisories before your trip. The U.S. Department of State provides up-to-date travel advisories that include certain risks, such as Covid-19 and security alerts. It also provides information on U.S. Embassy locations, local laws, vaccination requirements, currency entry/exit restrictions and visa requirements.
  • Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service for U.S. citizens and nationals provided by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs. STEP sends you safety alerts, helps the U.S. Embassy contact you for emergencies like civil unrest and natural disasters, and helps friends and family contact you in case of an emergency.

Best Car Insurance Companies 2021

With so many choices for car insurance companies, it can be hard to know where to start to find the right car insurance. We’ve evaluated insurers to find the best car insurance companies, so you don’t have to.

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9 US National Parks That Are Better in Fall – Forbes Advisor

Editorial Note: Forbes Advisor may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

Americans continued to flock to national parks this year and that’s no surprise. Roadtripping provides an extra bubble of personal space and the great outdoors offer a natural opportunity for social distancing. With fall just around the corner and no end in sight for international travel restrictions, seeing more of our nation’s natural wonders remains a strong travel contender.

Although national parks are appealing destinations year-round, a few stand out from the pack in autumn. Fall colors are an obvious draw at some parks, but there are also other benefits to traveling in September through November. These nine parks are prime fall destinations but lack the crowds you might find at more stereotypical leaf-peeping parks.

As with all travel in the Covid-19 era, you’ll need to be flexible with your plans. The delta variant may cause health and safety risks—and business operations—to change on a dime. Be ready to pivot your plans if things change between making reservations and traveling. If you’re feeling sick or you’re traveling from a high-risk area, stay home.

Best Travel Credit Cards For 2021

Find the best travel credit card for your travel needs.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia is a winner on our list of getaways year round, but leaf peepers take note: Acadia takes fall foliage to a whole new level. Here, not only will you enjoy the reds, golds and yellows of hardwoods, but it will be juxtaposed against dark green pines and a deep blue sea. This is nature’s paintbrush at its finest.

Like last year, Acadia is requiring pre-reserved permits to drive the park’s scenic Cadillac Road during the busy season of May 26 through October 19, overlapping with expected peak colors. Because of this, traffic jams should stay in check and crowds will be forced to spread out more than normal. Even without a permit, there are several sections of the park accessible to visitors.

To visit, stay in the town of Bar Harbor, which should be delightfully quiet this fall without the normal cruise ship daytrippers.There are numerous independent hotels in town, but you can save money by redeeming hotel points at a few hotels. The waterfront Holiday Inn Bar Harbor, though pricey at 80,000 points per night on peak dates, sure beats paying cash. Hilton loyalists should choose the Hampton Inn Bar Harbor (starting at 57,000 points this fall) in walking distance to Main Street and the Shore Path.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are best known for their shimmering yellow aspens in the fall, but that’s not the main reason to visit the state’s best known national park. Instead, time your visit for the elk rut in mid-September through mid-October (it sometimes lingers into November).

Seeing dozens of elk with a spectacular mountain backdrop is special on its own. The chance to see a hundred or more while listening to their bugles resonate through the woods is unforgettable. If you pack binoculars, you may also witness bighorn sheep head-butting on the mountainside, especially in October and November.

Rocky Mountain National Park also has a permit system in place to drive into the park between 9am-3pm daily. However, anyone can enter at dawn or dusk when elk are most likely to bugle. Though the park has several entry points, you’ll need to stay in Estes Park to redeem points without a long commute. The Ridgeline is part of the Ascend Hotel Collection, requiring 30,000 Choice points per night. Choice is an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner.

Channel Islands National Park, California

Off the coast of southern California, Channel Islands National Park offers an experience that birders won’t want to miss. Fall is a prime opportunity for pelagic (ocean) birding, as species migrate up and down the coast.

Operators such as Island Packers run specialty cruises in pursuit of sightings which may include the Red-billed Tropicbird, Leach’s Storm-Petrel or Carveri’s Murrelet. If the limited dates don’t line up with your schedule, you can take any of Island Packer’s regularly-scheduled ferries to the island to search for Scripp’s murrelets en route or landbirds like the island scrub-jay.

You won’t find hotels on the island, but there are several chain hotels near Ventura Harbor, making it convenient for a day trip. Of these, the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach stands out for its resort amenities. Standard room rewards require 70,000 Hilton points per night with the option to upgrade to ocean view suites.

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia

Yes, the nation’s newest national park has sublimely colorful scenes every fall and yes, it’s a reasonable driving distance to everywhere from Detroit to Atlanta. However, the photo opportunities are only one reason to visit. Whitewater rafting is another.

Unlike many rivers which are at their fiercest in spring due to snow runoff, the Gauley River is a thrill in September and October. Whitewater swirls through spectacular scenery on this dam-controlled river for just a few weeks per year, creating class IV and V rapids to challenge your inner adventurer. Newcomers to the sport can start with a milder trip, at “only” class III rapids on the park’s namesake New River itself.

The town of Beckley, conveniently located near the confluence of Interstates 64 and 77, has hotels with most major hotel chains. You’ll need to book in advance to use points on weekends, though: rafting is such a draw that some properties may sell out. Try the Holiday Inn and Suites for 34,000 IHG points per night or the Quality Inn for only 10,000 Choice Hotel points per night.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

For traditional fall colors in an untraditional setting, head to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The park blazes in fiery colors, primarily from maples. Although the park can be busy on weekends, the park is less visited than most of the country’s parks and is manageable most weekdays.

To plan your day, check the park’s fall color report because different sections of the park peak at different times depending on elevation. McKittrick Canyon is a particularly popular spot for hiking between mid-October and mid-November to enjoy the views.

The nearest hotels to the park are in Carlsbad, NM, 45 minutes away, with options like the TownePlace Suites Carlsbad where you’ll get a studio with kitchen for 25,000 Bonvoy points per night. Instead of looking at the commute as a hardship, consider it an opportunity. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is also a remarkable destination in fall. Hundreds of thousands of bats emerge from the caves every night around sunset throughout summer and continuing until October.

Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio

Cuyahoga doesn’t have the same prestige as other national parks. In fact, you may not have heard of it if you don’t live within driving distance. Regardless, this park is home to brilliant fall colors and ample recreational opportunities, just 30 minutes from downtown Cleveland.

A normal highlight of a fall visit is a ride on the two-hour round-trip Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. While it hasn’t been determined if the train will run this October, there’s still plenty to keep you occupied if it doesn’t. Visitors can hike on trails to Brandywine Falls or past covered bridges. You can also bike, canoe, kayak or fish.

The closest points hotels to the park are the Country Inn and Suites (30,000 Radisson points per night) and a LaQuinta Inn & Suites (15,000 Wyndham points per night), both in the town of Macedonia, OH. For hotels in other loyalty programs, you can easily commute in from Cleveland or Akron.

Arches National Park, Utah

Utah is home to five national parks, four of which are certified dark sky parks. All of them are well suited for stargazing, but Arches offers something that the others don’t. Here, not only can you enjoy majestic views of an expansive sky, but you can also see the silhouette of natural rock arches against the sky at dusk, dawn or under a full moon.

Stargazing is a year-round activity, but fall is a good bet to see meteor showers. The season kicks off with the Draconid meteors (peaking October 8), then the Orionids (October 21), South Taurids (November 4 to 5), North Taurids (November 11 to 12) and finally the Leonids (November 17). The Orionids, in particular, can produce up to 20 meteors per hour. Despite peaking on October 21, they can be seen all month long.

Arches National Park is easily accessible from the town of Moab, which is also the gateway to Canyonlands National Park. You’ll find hotels at all service levels and brands here. The Hoodoo Moab is a Hilton Curio Collection property, known for blending independent design with brand consistency and loyalty perks. Rooms here typically require 70,000 Hilton points per night.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Back on the west coast, Lassen Volcanic National Park is another park where you might not expect fall colors. This quiet northern California park has a few pockets of cottonwood, oaks and sagebrush which together create a vivid palette. Crystal clear Manzanita Lake is one area of the park with bright colors in addition to the ubiquitous evergreens. Even if you don’t time it right for the fall colors, you’ll still enjoy an iconic view of Lassen Peak.

Because the park has several high elevation areas, autumn arrives early. Your best chance of seeing brilliant foliage is in September and October. As the season progresses, be prepared for temporary road or trail closures due to snow at higher altitudes. Don’t be disappointed if you see snow instead of fall colors, though. The geothermal areas of Sulphur Works and Bumpass Hell Trail are beautiful in a different way.

Lassen Park is in a remote area without many hotels in the immediate area, so most visitors drive in for the day. You’ll find plenty of hotels in Redding, including the Sheraton at the Sundial Bridge for 35,000 Marriott points per night. To stay closer to the park, use flexible points like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou points as a cash equivalent to book an independent hotel.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Fall is a magical time at Grand Teton National Park, with each month offering a different excuse to visit depending on your interests. Go in September for hiking amongst sparkling gold aspens. In October, local rivers become saturated with fish, leading to prime conditions for anglers. And in November, if you’re willing to brave potential snow, wildlife watchers will have remarkable odds of spotting moose out in the open as they seek food in the flats.

One thing that holds true in this part of the country, though, is that the weather can be unpredictable. Snow can fly as early as September, especially at higher elevations, though heavy snowfall is unlikely until November. Potentially cold days and rain, though, are also possibilities. The good news is that you’ll likely have good days mixed in and enough upsides to make it worth the risk.

The Cloudveil Hotel, a Marriott Autograph Collection property, provides an awesome respite for travelers just steps from Jackson Towne Square. Cash rates soar high here, so even peak award pricing at 70,000 points per night can still be a deal. If you find off-peak dates (pro tip: try November), you can book luxury for just 50,000 points instead.

Bottom Line

The national parks above offer the opportunity to enjoy fall’s splendors without jostling the crowds at other autumn hotspots. You may even discover a new favorite sight. No matter what, traveling to any of these national parks in fall is a captivating way to explore some of America’s most special places.

Best Travel Credit Cards For 2021

Find the best travel credit card for your travel needs.

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Drive Medical Scout 4 Mobility Scooter Review – Forbes Health

The Scout 4 is a simple, portable mobility scooter. Most people who use this scooter have health or mobility issues but still want to get out and remain active, according to Torres. “Some can still walk and just need to use a scooter part-time,” he says.

To operate the Scout 4, set the speed knob on the console to the speed range you want and push a small throttle to start moving. This scooter doesn’t go fast—its speed maxes out at 4.25 miles per hour. The electromagnetic brake system senses when you engage the throttle and automatically releases the rear wheels. When you let go of the throttle, the brakes automatically activate and the unit slows to a stop.

Comfort Features

The height and angle of the padded seat are adjustable to fit your body. The armrest width and angle can also be adjusted, and the angle of the tiller can be tilted to fit the length of your arms so you can drive without leaning forward.

Safety Features

As a four-wheel scooter with two small anti-tip wheels at the rear, the Scout 4 offers a stable ride. There’s no danger in speeding since its speed tops out at 4.25 miles per hour. But it doesn’t have headlights or rear lights, so it’s not safe to drive outside at night.


The Scout 4 is designed to be a travel scooter, so it’s easy to take apart and reassemble. “It disassembles to four pieces,” says Torres. “I can take it apart in less than a minute. For older people, it might take a few minutes,” he says. And “everything has a handle. So when you disassemble the rear section, that has a handle. The front section has a handle and the battery box has a handle,” adding that the seat is easy to carry.


It’s a versatile mobility scooter for indoor and outdoor use—within limits. The ground clearance is only 2.5 inches, so it’s best driven on smooth, compact terrain, says Torres. “If you drive over loose gravel or sand, you’ll sink,” he says. “You can take it on light grass if it’s not too thick.” If you’re unsure about driving this scooter over a particular surface, avoid it, the owner’s manual advises.

The Customer Service Experience

Several calls to the Drive Medical customer service line were answered immediately by courteous and well-informed representatives. They took time to answer many detailed questions and offered information to help understand the uses and limitations of the scooter. Representatives were well-versed in all kinds of scooters, as they were able to compare the Scout 4 to others in terms of stability, comfort and usability.

Warranties and Discounts

Drive Medical offers a lifetime warranty for the mainframe, seat post, platform and frame welds; a 24-month warranty on the motor, throttle, brakes and other items; and a 12-month warranty on batteries. Battery manufacturers provide a 6-month warranty, so if something goes wrong after six months, the batteries are covered for the next six months by the Drive Medical warranty.

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Pride Mobility Raptor 3-Wheel Mobility Scooter Review – Forbes Health

Unlike some mobility scooters, the Pride Mobility Raptor Mobility Scooter is strictly for outdoor recreational use. “It’s not medically beneficial,” says Eric Johnson, an assistive technology professional with Alpine Medical in Salt Lake City. Since it can’t be driven indoors, the Raptor isn’t useful for people who require a scooter to cook in the kitchen, do laundry and complete other daily activities in the home.

For outdoor use, the Raptor is a stable, sturdy and safe vehicle. And because it has three wheels, there’s more room for your feet than on a four-wheel scooter, says Johnson. Its top speed—14 miles per hour—also sets it apart from other scooters. “Most scooters go an average of 4 to 6 miles per hour,” says Johnson.

Meanwhile, the Raptor can travel about 31 miles on a single battery charge with drivers who weigh no more than 220 pounds. It can travel about 19 miles with drivers who weigh about 400 pounds, which is the maximum weight this vehicle will carry safely.

“It’s good for golfers who can’t stand up,” says Johnson. “They can turn in the seat and take a swing.” However, Pride Mobility’s customer service team notes each golf course has rules about which vehicles are allowed on the course.

Comfort Features

The Raptor has front and back suspension and pneumatic tires, all of which contribute to a smooth riding experience. The seat is big—20 inches wide and 18 inches deep—providing plenty of room for most riders. The armrests flip up, which makes it easy to get on and off the scooter, and the angle of the back of the seat is adjustable. The height of the tiller, or steering column, can be adjusted, too.

Since the scooter is great for long rides, the roomy, lockable storage compartment behind the seat is another nice feature. There’s even a convenient space in the front of the tiller that can hold a cell phone, wallet and other small items you want to keep within easy reach.

Safety Features

This vehicle is meant for outdoor driving, but that doesn’t include street driving, says Johnson. “It’s not considered street legal—it’s not fast enough,” he says. “Typically, consumers take it on the sidewalk or in a bike lane. And some people attach a flag to the back to give it more visibility.”

Safety features are critical. The Raptor has a bright LED headlight (with both high- and low-beam options), two lights on either side of the shroud, turn signals and brake lights. The horn is loud and is accompanied by a flash of the lights. Two small anti-tip wheels at the rear of the scooter give it additional stability as well.


The Raptor is large and cannot be taken apart, so you need a trailer or lift to transport it from one location to another. The Pride Mobility customer care team suggests checking out Harmar, a company that makes lifts, to find one strong enough to accommodate the Raptor.


The Raptor comes with two batteries that must be charged for eight to 14 hours before using the scooter for the first time. An icon on the console of the tiller indicates the level of charge in the battery.

The tiller has handles on either side—acceleration is controlled by your thumb on a lever on the right side, and braking is controlled with a hand brake on the left. The turning radius (the diameter of its tightest full turn) is about 60 inches. Because the Raptor can go up to 14 miles per hour, making a sharp turn at that speed could cause the vehicle to tip.

The Customer Service Experience

The Pride Mobility customer service team is courteous and well-informed. Each time I called, the reps took the time to talk through their answers to my questions with no “hard sell” at the end of our conversation.

Warranties and Discounts

According to the customer service team, there is a two-year limited warranty on the electronics and drive train (motors) and a six-month warranty on the batteries. Should the scooter need maintenance, some online companies provide labor contracts through their websites, the customer service rep added.

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