(Updated 12:20 p.m.) Reston is home for Charles and Julie McCool, but more often than not you’ll find them on the road.
The Reston couple runs the travel blogs McCool Travel and Fun in Fairfax VA. Charles’ blog is dedicated to maximum travel with minimum expenses. Charles currently has 21,594 followers on Twitter, while Julie has 12,057 followers.
Emailing from a chair once occupied by Jimmy Buffet in Pascagoula, Charles shared some travel tips for Restonians hoping to see the world on a shoestring budget.
Charles said he worked in a cubicle office space in downtown Washington D.C. until 2.5 years ago. Since then, Charles says he’s been traveling full-time and working remotely.
“My personal budget was tight so I heavily researched ways to stretch my dollar but optimize my travel opportunities,” said Charles. “This year my wife and I have flown to Copenhagen and Ecuador for free (using credit card points).”
Charles also notes on the blog that links in the articles may be affiliate links which pay a commission, and that the site is an affiliate of Amazon’s advertising program, meaning the site earns advertising fees for links to Amazon.
Recent features on the McCool Travel blog include dining recommendations around Gettysburg and website recommendations to help prepare for trips. Julie McCool’s blog features more local free outings, like Ten Free and Fun things in Washington D.C.
One of Charles’ top recommendations is for travelers to be flexible.
“Being flexible is my number one rule of travel,” said Charles. “When someone locks in the idea of taking a certain trip at a certain time, that inflexibility often leads to higher prices. For instance, going to Disney World in mid-June (after school is out) or the Caribbean for Spring Break; those are peak travel experiences. Being flexible means, in these cases, maybe doing a road trip to US National Parks.”
On some of the more bare-bones trips, Charles says little touches like getting food from grocery stores instead of fine restaurants can help make a difference in the travel budget.
On a post about lodging, Charles recommends looking for house-sitting opportunities, volunteering, or working at a place that offers residence. Charles noted that farms, lighthouses, and resorts can all offer lodging for work in off-seasons.
If you have to pay for lodging, Charles says identifying which locations offer breakfast can help reduce meal costs, and inquiring about a refrigerator to store groceries can reduce that further.
Charles said his next big trip planned won’t be until a June cruise, but he’s looking into bicycling from Houston to Key West in March or April.
“You do not have to invent, or re-invent, the wheel,” said Charles. “No matter where you want to go, and how you want to do it, there is undoubtedly someone who has already done so (and most likely has a travel blog to talk about it). General suggestions include reading various travel blogs and websites (like mine), be involved in Facebook and Twitter discussions, find people doing what you want to do and ask them for advice.”
Photo via Twitter
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