Summer vacation season is on its way! Is your home prepared?
Use this handy checklist to make sure you leave your home safe and sound:
1) Unplug all small appliances, such as the toaster, microwave, and coffeemaker.
2) Turn your stove and oven burners to OFF and double-check that there isn't anything in the oven itself.
5 places to travel while the dollar is still strong:
5 places to travel while the dollar is strong
7 ways to secure your home before traveling
1. South Africa ($1 USD = 15 ZAR)
Five years ago, you would have only gotten 6.73 Rand for your dollar, but now you'll feel more than twice as rich in South Africa. There has never been a better time to go on an African safari. In 2010, entrance to South Africa's biggest park (Kruger National Park) would have cost $23.77 (160 ZAR), but now, you can watch lions, zebras and elephants roam free for just $17.50 (264 ZAR)!
A four-day luxury lodge safari trip in Kruger National park is around 15,000 ZAR. In 2010, that would have been $2,225 USD, but today it's only around $965 USD!
A budget room in a guest house (known as a "backpacker" in South Africa) will cost you about 385 ZAR. In 2010, that equated to $57 a night, but today you'll pay just over $25 for the same room.
Midrange Daily Budget: 500 ZAR / Day
This daily budget based on 2010 conversion: $74 / Day
This daily budget thanks to today's dollar: $33 / Day
Savings of: 55%
Current Exchange: 1 USD = 15 ZAR
5 Year High: 16.00
5 Year Low: 6.56
2. Russia ($1 USD = 70 RUB)
The beautiful city of Moscow, the churches of St.Petersburg, and the world's greatest train journey have never been so affordable. The Russian ruble fell drastically at the end of 2014, and while this isn't great for Russians, it is excellent for those of us who have always wanted to visit this vast and beautiful country.
The average price of a midrange hotel in Moscow is around 3,500 RUB. In 2010, that would have been $116, but today that is less than $50.
One of the most legendary train journeys on the planet, the Trans-Siberian, is now a better value than it has been in the past few decades. The trip from Moscow to Ulan Bator will run you around 35,000 Rubles for a first class ticket. At Christmas time in 2010, that would have been $1,160, but with today's exchange it's just $498! You can buy two tickets today, for the same price as one ticket would have cost you at the end of 2014. Incredible.
Midrange Daily Budget: 4000 RUB / Day
This daily budget based on 2010 conversion: $133 / Day
This daily budget thanks to today's dollar: $57 / Day
Savings of: 57%
Current Exchange: 1 USD = 70 RUB
5 Year High: 71.91
5 Year Low: 27.29
3. Brazil ($1 USD = 3.95 BRL)
Although Brazil was once considered a "BRIC" economy, the collapse of oil prices, the FIFA World Cup, and preparation for the 2016 Olympics has proven pretty rough on Brazil's currency. Today the Brazilian real is suffering a real downturn and the U.S. dollar is getting about 57% more than it did around this time in 2010.
If the Brazilian real continues on this downward trend, the Olympics in 2016 might make for a great budget destination. According toolympics.org, tickets for events will go for around 70 real. That's only $17.70, and by the time the games begin, it might be even less.
A three-star hotel in Brazil averages at around R$230 per night. In 2010 that was $138, but today that same room will cost you less than $35.
Midrange Daily Budget: R$400 / Day
This daily budget based on 2010 conversion: $240 / Day
This daily budget thanks to today's dollar: $100 / Day
Savings of: 58%
Current Exchange: $1 USD = 3.95 RUB
5 Year High: 4.17
5 Year Low: 1.57
4. Japan ($1 USD = 122 JPY)
I have personally always wanted to visit Japan, but I thought it would be outrageously expensive. This was true back in 2010 when the exchange rate was around 82¥ to the dollar. At that time, Japan would have been a steep holiday, but today the dollar gets 33% more than it did back then.
The average cost of a midrange hotel room in Japan is 10,000¥. In 2010 that would have been $122 USD, today that room will run you just $82.
A guided hike to the top of Mt.Fuji costs about 47,000¥. In 2010 that was $573, but today you'd pay $385.
Midrange Daily Budget: 19,000¥ / Day
This daily budget based on 2010 conversion: $231 / Day
This daily budget thanks to today's dollar: $155 / Day
Savings of: 33%
Current Exchange: $1 USD = 121.83 JPY
5 Year High: 125.63
5 Year Low: 75.76
5. Any Country Using the Euro ($1 USD = 0.92 EUR)
Head to Europe for huge savings! Explore the whitewashed buildings of Oia, Greece, lay on the soft, sandy beaches of the Mediterranean, explore the beauty of Paris, and the history of Rome, all for a fraction of what it would have cost you just a few years ago.
At the end of 2010, the Euro was at 0.76 to the dollar, but today the dollar is 17% stronger and trades almost equally with the Euro. When I was in Greece, I found a lovely apartment just a few blocks from the sea on Santorini island. At the time (May, 2011), that apartment cost me 34 Euros, which was around $50 USD/night. Today I could get that same apartment for just over $37.
There hasn't been a cheaper time for Americans to visit Europe in over a decade. This is the perfect time to explore one of the most fascinating continents on Earth.
Midrange Daily Budget: €100 / Day
This daily budget based on 2010 conversion: $131 / Day
This daily budget thanks to today's dollar: $110 / Day
Savings of: 17%
Current Exchange: $1 USD = 0.915 EUR
5 Year High: 0.95
5 Year Low: 0.67
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3) Make sure all windows are shut and locked.
4) Close all blinds and curtains.
5) Lock all doors that lead outside, including your garage door.
6) Set your safety alarm system to 'armed.'
7) Don't forget to remove the spare key from its hiding spot under the welcome mat. Put it in an envelope to give to a neighbor you trust, along with a list of emergency contact info.
Now you can have peace of mind while you soak up the sun!