2253126009_5d2ef41758.jpgAre you thinking about continuing your education? About halfway through my undergraduate career, I decided that yes, I did want to continue on the path to graduate school after talking with my mentors and peers. After I finish up my undergraduate work, I will begin to pursue a master's degree in higher education administration with the goal of eventually becoming a university administrator.

But finding the right graduate program isn't always an easy task. In order to ease the process, having several resources and strategies available to you can help to narrow down your options.

Here are a few tips to jump-start your search:

Do Your Research
Regardless of the degree you're seeking, it's important to research several aspects of the programs and universities you're looking into since this is where you'll be living for the next few years. Websites like gradschools.com and Peterson's link prospective students to programs based on their preferences in university size, program curriculum and professional development opportunities.

When I search for graduate programs in higher education administration, I look to the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) graduate program directory or the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) directory of graduate programs. If you're able to find a professional association within your field, utilize the resources they have available to find the right fit.

Stay Organized
When reaserching different programs, you'll quickly realize there's an abundance of information across many platforms. With so many moving parts to keep track of, it's important to stay organized. Creating a spreadsheet with all of the necessary information about your favorite schools will help you keep it all in one place. My spreadsheet includes application due dates, fees, special requirements (such as necessary Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores) and each program's website. If you're able to keep this updated throughout your search, you won't lose track of important dates and will have an easier time navigating through the process.

Create Your Own Timeline
Try not to let the many dates and deadlines associated with applying to grad school scare you. When you create your own application timeline, pick a date to narrow your search down to your top five or six institutions. Set similar goals for completing your GRE, finishing your resume and personal statements and acquiring letters of recommendation. Iit's also important to look ahead to potential interview dates, as they may overlap between schools.

Ask Questions
Grad school may only take up a few years of your life so try to make it a unique adventure. Ask specific questions about the culture of the community within the program and the university itself. Learn about the local area and see what's going on in the areas surrounding the campus. Seek out research opportunities that the university may offer, and take special notice of any available assistantships. Familiarizing yourself with the program will help not only help with your decision-making process, but can help prepare you for your interview, too.

Connect With the Right People
Find current grads, faculty and alumni to discuss their experiences. Are there unique opportunities that they've had? What tips do they have for your application process? Have phone conversations with program directors to introduce yourself and truly get to know the ins and outs of the program. I've had success using social networks like Twitter and the Future Student Affairs Grad Students Facebook group to build my network.

Getting started with your grad school search doesn't have to be hard. Stay on track while exploring all of the available opportunities by using organizational tools. If you're confident grad school is right for you, then it's time to get started on your networking and research.

Photo by Jeff Ozvold via cc.

6510934443_8bd2942b79.jpgLet's be real: One of the best perks of getting married is the copious amount of gifts you'll receive to mark the occasion. And while there's nothing like cold, hard cash in your pocket, some people prefer to shower their friends and loved ones with non-monetary gifts. It's for this reason that wedding registries have become so popular in recent years. Rather than sit back and see what creative (think: useless) gifts their friends and loved ones can come up with, most couples instead opt to register at well-known retailers like Macy's and Bed Bath & Beyond so that they can essentially choose their own gifts.

If you've never registered for wedding gifts before, it goes something like this: You and your soon-to-be spouse arrive at the store of your choice, at which point you're given a "must have" checklist that's 17 pages long and a nifty hand-held scanner that's super fun to use. You're then free to roam the aisles looking for the things you'd like other people to buy for you. When you see something you like, you point your little device in its direction and scan its barcode to your registry.

Now let's go back to that "must have" list for a second. Any store you go to will try to sell you on the fact that you do, in fact, need 472 distinct items in order to build a life together as a couple. Don't believe that for a second. Yes, you probably do need some basic cookware, and there's nothing wrong with trading in your worn, ratty bath towels for a fluffy new set. But there are certain popular registry items you almost certainly don't need, such as:

Fine China
Yes, it's elegant and lovely to look at, but at $100 or more a plate, you could practically trade in that set of dishes for a down payment on your first home. Besides, you know the rule with china: The second you use it, something will break, whereas your $3 bargain-store plates from college will last till you're old and gray.

An Oversized Stand Mixer
Who wouldn't want a powerful, colorful stand mixer? They're handy and fun to look at. But unless you're truly an avid baker, you probably don't need one. At $350 or more a pop, you can buy a dozen or so kitchen gadgets that you're far more likely to use.

A Fancy Coffee or Espresso Machine
There's nothing like waking up to the smell of brewed coffee, but you can easily find a quality coffee maker for $100 or less. There's no need to make someone spend upward of $250 on a fancier model.

An Expensive Duvet Cover
Here's the deal: Fancy duvet covers are a scam. They almost always need to be dry-cleaned, and for $300 or more, you'd think they'd at least come with a blanket. Register for a cozy comforter instead.

That Beautiful but Ridiculously Pricey Crystal Vase
Rest assured: The beautiful flowers your spouse buys you twice a year will look just as pretty in a regular vase. And this way you won't want to cry if you accidentally knock that vase over and break it.

Remember, the more non-essential items you put on your registry, the more you'll distract your would-be gift givers from the things you really do need. When building your registry, pretend that it's your own money you're spending, and from there, see which items are really worth asking for. You may be surprised at how little you need to make your new home complete.

Photo by asenat29 via cc


As I was purchasing my $5 Starbucks coffee at the end of my junior year of college, it hit me: After graduation, I'd be in $10,000 worth of debt. I still didn't know what kind of job I'd have, or how long it would take me to find one. More importantly, I needed to find a way to pay off my debt before the interest started accruing.

I managed to land a great job after college. But in order to save some money, I decided to take on the ultimate challenge of moving in with my parents for the summer.

While it wasn't always easy to live at home, I was determined to pay off my student loans before the grace period ended. I had six months to make it happen, and here's how I did it:

Save Half Your Paycheck
In 2014, the median income of a college grad with a bachelor's degree was $45,370, according to the National Associate of Colleges and Employers. I fell within the 25th percentile, earning just under the average. Even though I made a little less than my peers, I was still able to save my goal amount by stashing at least half of my paychecks (made possible by my parents' hospitality). If my paycheck was $1,300, I would save $1,000 and the $300 would go toward my bills. My goal each month was to save $2,000. After five months, I'd saved $10,000 and was able to pay off my loans before my first bill was due.

Find Free Hobbies
You might think this made for a pretty mundane summer, but I found fun by trying hobbies that were free. I started yoga and practiced Pilates from the comfort of my home. And a library card gave me the freedom to read all summer long without costing a dime.

As for nights out with friends, try to limit yourself to specials and deals. This will save you from spending unnecessary cash on over-priced entrees.

Start Saving in College
I didn't have a decent college job until my last semester of college, but I knew plenty of people who worked through college to pay off their loans. A friend of mine made $12,000 in one summer by waitressing at an upscale steakhouse. She sacrificed a social life, but my friend and others like her are proof that it can be done while in school.

Get a Second Job
This sounds crazy, but maybe you landed an internship after college, or your loans are more than $10,000 (the average student loan debt is upwards of $30,000), and you need easy money. Try freelance writing, graphic design work or tutor kids on your favorite subjects after school. For a job that allows more flexibility, try creating a Care.com account. You'll be surprised at the amount of people located near you who are looking for a dog-sitter or someone to help tidy up their house.

Existing Options for Recent and Future Graduates
Most grace periods last between six to 12 months after graduation, and according to StudentLoanBorrowerAssistance.org, payments can be postponed if a borrower qualifies. Options like the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan determines your student loan payment by looking at what you actually earn and can afford to pay, which can be beneficial if you find yourself living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Whatever your situation may be, it's possible to climb out of debt, but the best advice I can give is to be proactive and think ahead. Chances are you won't need to defer your loan payments and you might even be able to make one big payment before the first bill is due.

Photo 401(k) 2012 by cc.

20977991858_bb429acfc4.jpgYou'd think it would be the other way around, but these days, some millennials are learning the hard way that it's up to them to school their parents on the importance of saving for retirement. While those who are new to the working world are used to the idea of putting money into a 401(k), that's not necessarily the case for our parents.

Back when most of our folks entered the workforce, many companies offered pensions (though plenty didn't) provided that you stayed on board for a certain number of years. But when the economy tanked in 2008, many long-term employees our parents' age lost their jobs and a portion of their retirement benefits.

The promise of Social Security benefits has also been a factor in folks approaching retirement neglecting to save on their own. While it's true that Social Security probably won't run out in the near future, even the maximum benefit is not enough for most people to live on -- hence the need for a separate source of income during retirement.

Unfortunately, those approaching the end of their working years don't seem to be up to speed on the importance of putting money aside for retirement. According to a recent Bankrate poll, a whopping 36 percent of Americans are neglecting to save for retirement, and of those surveyed, over 25 percent of those aged 50 to 64 have yet to start putting money into retirement accounts. Furthermore, the average American aged 55 to 64 has just $103,000 saved up for retirement -- which may seem like a lot, but it's not.

If you're worried about your parents' financial health in retirement, it's time to sit them down for a talk. Here's how to do it:

Ease into the conversation. Money can be an awkward thing for parents to discuss with their children. Rather than catch them off guard, give them a heads-up about the pending conversation.

Ask questions, but don't press for specifics. Your parents may not want to reveal how much they do or don't have saved for retirement. You don't need to talk numbers, but you can -- and should -- try to get a sense of whether they're actually saving enough.

Bring data to make your case. If you want your parents to take retirement savings seriously, you'll need to present them with some numbers to convey the importance of ramping up their 401(k) or IRA contributions. For example, a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2014 will need $220,000 on average to cover medical expenses throughout retirement. Do some research to help your parents see the light.

Offer to help. If your parents aren't financially savvy and you know a thing or two about investing, it never hurts to give them some guidance. Perhaps their portfolio isn't properly balanced; or maybe they're missing out on key tax savings. Don't be afraid to show off your knowledge if it can work to their benefit.

Be respectful. Just as you didn't like it when your parents tried setting curfews or enforcing house rules, so too will your parents not enjoy being told what to do. When you have the talk, be courteous -- but also be realistic.

When all else fails, play the guilt card. If your parents really aren't taking their retirement savings seriously, play up the extent to which you're worried about them. Tell them it keeps you up at night. That'll get them.

No matter what approach you take, if you're concerned about your parents' lack of retirement savings, don't put off that conversation. The sooner you get involved, the more time they'll have to get back on track.

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890670192_a700b694f0.jpgFor busy on-the-go workers, students and parents, fresh and affordable produce can be difficult to come by. However, you can now get a box full of delicious goodies delivered straight to your door by utilizing what's known as a "farm-box subscription." Farm-box subscriptions offer consumers another way to get their fruits and veggies that doesn't involve going to the grocery store. Unlike Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), which (usually) require an upfront fee of a couple hundred dollars for 20 weeks of food, farm boxes are a pay-as-you-go weekly subscription that doesn't have to be from one particular farm, though sometimes they are, and subscriptions can be stopped at any time.

When I lived in Phoenix, I subscribed to the Sunizona Family Farms box (though there are several in the area). The prices for different-sized boxes were $15 for a petite box (for up to two people), $22 for a small box (up to four people) and $30 for a large box (up to six people). The standard box's contents varied based on availability and season, but custom boxes were offered as well if there was something someone was specifically craving.

What's In the Box?

Currently, the farm box I subscribe to is through Door-to-Door Organics in the Chicago area. Like the Sunizona farm box, Door-to-Door offers a variety of boxes in order to meet your families' specific needs. The bitty box starts at $26.99, the small box at $35.99 and so on. Deliveries are either weekly or every two weeks, they can be put on hold if you go out of town and you can chose your delivery days. In addition to produce, Door-to-Door has other products such as baked goods, meat and fish. You can also find non-GMO and local foods through their website, too.

A recent box I received contained two avocados ($3 each), lettuce ($3), kale ($3), a zucchini squash ($3), a green bell pepper ($3), a yellow squash ($3), a red bell pepper ($3) and three bananas ($3). Note: Prices aren't listed individually, so I divided $27.60 by each type of item. Each avocado was listed separately in the order.

Curious, I went to my local Whole Foods to compare prices. Avocados were four for $5 (on sale), lettuce was $2.99, kale was $2.99, zucchini and squash were each $1.99 per pound, green bell peppers were $1.79 per pound, red bell peppers were $1.49 per pound and bananas were .77 cents per pound. Although the grocery-store produce was less expensive, the items weren't necessarily local like five of my farm-box items were. Plus, farm boxes don't charge for delivery, so you're saving on gas and time.

Other Things to Consider:

  • You should be prepared to cook at home more in order to use all your veggies. Start with a box that is smaller than you think you'll need to test whether you actually can finish the produce before the next box arrives.
  • Consider whether you want a standard box or customizable one. A standard box might bring you veggies you aren't familiar with and might not know what to do with -- for the adventurous home chef!
  • You'll likely still have to go to the grocery store to get things not available in a farm box, or you might select a company that offers more than produce.
  • There are often incentives to signing up, like receiving $10 off your first box, or even getting one free.

If you'd like to add more fresh produce to your meals, search for farm-box subscriptions in your area, or at sites like Serious Eats, which provides a run-down of the various services provided by state.

Photo by thebittenword.com via cc

13903364409_6de5ec67a2.jpgI graduated college broke and in debt, so when I first started my job search, my primary goal was to work somewhere that would pay me enough money to make a serious dent in my student loans and perhaps have enough left over to pad my sad little savings account. See, I studied both creative writing and finance in college knowing full well that while writing was my passion, it probably wouldn't pay the bills the same way a finance job would. And while I found the world of finance to be grossly uninspiring (not to mention cold and ruthless), I was smart enough to know that if I put in my time for a year or two, I'd have the opportunity to write on the side and pursue a more creative path later in life, when I wasn't staring down a $12,000 outstanding loan balance.

Time to Shine

I snagged my first job interview through a headhunter who came recommended by a friend. She'd apparently submitted my resume to a hedge fund with an opening for a trading assistant. When I asked her what type of trading I'd hypothetically be assisting, she admitted that she didn't have a clue. Worse yet, the hedge fund in question was relatively small -- so small, in fact, that the only information to be found on its website was its logo, mailing address and PR contact. So much for pre-interview research.

I showed up at the interview in classic business attire, feeling somewhat like a kid playing dress-up in her mom's grown-up clothing. I was told to simply ask for Betsy, no last name, upon arrival, and sure enough, moments later I was sitting in a conference room face-to-face with a frazzled, discernibly stressed-out woman who appeared to be about my age. A somewhat recent graduate herself, she explained that she was the firm's operations manager, which meant that she basically did whatever it took to keep the place running in exchange for relatively little pay. She asked me some questions, gave me a rundown of the fund's investment strategy and left to fetch the firm's owner and hiring manager, David.

Or Not

David was an interesting guy. I'd barely gotten a chance to tell him my name when he started off on a diatribe about how someone in my position had to be prepared to pay her dues and work her way up. He then went on to explain that if hired, much of my day would involve him barking orders at me and me running around like a crazy person trying to get everything done in time. I was expected to show up early, work late and skip meals on a consistent basis. "I never eat during the day," he stated proudly. "Eating doesn't help you make money."

"Can you multitask?" he asked me at one point, to which I replied in the affirmative.

"No," he answered. "I mean, can you multitask? Can your brain handle two different thoughts at the same time?"

"Sure," I replied, thinking in my head, "Well I'm smiling and nodding now while thinking, 'I'm out of here.' How's that?"

I sat through the rest of the interview out of sheer obligation and even asked a few semi-intelligent questions just to gauge David's response. The next day, the headhunter informed me that David had chosen to pass. It seemed I wasn't enthusiastic enough for his liking. I was unquestionably relieved. After all, it's one thing to work hard, put in long hours and pay your dues, but it's another to accept a position that's not going to be a good fit -- regardless of the paycheck.

Photo by Flazingo Photos via cc

8621154016_614c53ba27.jpgAfter going to my first baseball game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Mich., I was hooked. I told my father that I wanted to visit other stadiums to really get a feel for the game, and he provided me with the challenge of a lifetime: Visit all 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) stadiums in the United States and Canada.

This was something I wanted to do before starting my final year of college while I still had the finances and the free time. So, two of my close friends and I began planning our journey. And as the school semester came to a close, we rushed through our final exams, packed our bags and headed east to start crossing stadiums off our list. In order to keep hospitality costs low, we simply stayed in campgrounds instead of forking over the dough for a hotel.

If you're thinking about tackling a similar agenda, here's how to do it:

Do Your Research
Sure, a good portion of our adventure was based on spur-of-the-moment ideas, but we were sure to do our research ahead of time, too. Sites like Ballparks of Baseball provide in-depth information about each MLB field and the surrounding area, including everything from parking to local landmarks and tourist attractions. Have a plan in place detailing where to head once you roll into town.

In order to make the trip affordable, we created a budget for all our expenses including the costs of parking, camping, food, tickets and gas. If you're traveling with friends, split costs wherever you can; it'll be cheaper for everyone involved. Find cheaper game tickets online at StubHub or fan sale sites, but don't worry about where you are sitting; just enjoy the baseball atmosphere.

Pack Your Lunches
When preparing for the trip, Fuelzee reminded us to avoid unnecessary meal costs. Eating lunch on the road seems cheap at first, but we quickly learned that filling up the cooler with packed sandwiches was more affordable than a five dollar hot dog (don't get us wrong, we still enjoyed some affordable local dining along the way).

Find Affordable Fun
While our time in each city was limited, we still wanted to get the most out of the journey. Whether it's visiting monuments in Washington D.C. or walking through Central Park in the Big Apple, find sites unique to the area that won't burn a hole in your wallet.

After nine days of driving, the three of us had visited eight Major League Baseball parks starting in Cleveland, Ohio, and ending over our northern border in Toronto, Ontario. The trip totaled more than 3,100 miles with 45 hours spent on the road between stadiums (including our return to Detroit, Michigan).

Here’s the final roundup of the stadiums we were able to visit:

Game Location Stadium
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians Progressive Field Cleveland, Ohio.
New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox Fenway Park Boston, Mass.
Miami Marlins vs. Washington Nationals Nationals Park Washington D.C.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Pittsburg Pirates PNC Park Pittsburg, Pa.
Baltimore Orioles vs. New York Mets Citi Field New York, N.Y.
Baltimore Orioles vs. New York Yankees Yankee Stadium New York, N.Y.
New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies Citizens Bank Park Philadelphia, Pa.
Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays Rodgers Centre Toronto, ON.


Looking back, I wish I would have documented our experience throughout the trip because it's a story I continue -- and will continue -- to tell. Don't let your finances hold you back -- use available resources and start planning the road trip of your dreams. 

Photo by Gary Graves via cc

3930074171_b3f46bb06a-2.jpgAre you dreaming of sandy beaches and blue waters, but your bank account balance is holding you back? You shouldn't need to save for centuries to have the time of your life. Here are 10 tips for traveling on a tight budget.

Book a Hostel over a Hotel
Hostels are a great money-saving option for school groups, friends and solo travelers. Check out sites like Hostel World or Booking.com and compare rates. Bring a padlock for your valuables and a few bucks to rent sheets/towels.

Make Your Own Breakfast
If the room says, "breakfast included," you're paying too much. Compare the cost of a room with breakfast to a room without. Sometimes, that difference is $20/night. That extra cash could buy a lot of granola bars. Plus, you'll truly appreciate your mom's pancake breakfast when you return home.

Find Flights During the Week
According to a study by Expedia and ARC, the "magic moment" for cheap tickets is Tuesday around 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Check numerous sites and check them often. Once you see the best price you've seen all week, jump on it. If you see a better price two hours later, don't panic. Most airlines and booking sites allow you 24 hours to cancel your purchase.

Use Alternative Transportation
If you have time to spare, try a slower (but cheaper) option. Compare the cost of a cross-country train fare with a plane ticket. Try renting a bicycle as opposed to a car. Take a ferry ride if you're hopping between islands. Depending on where you're headed, the slower transportation options are usually cheaper.

Choose Free Activities
Mother Nature provides endless "free" options. Traveling during the summer? Check out this article on activities for the budget conscious. Are you traveling to a large city? Find out what days the local museums offer free admission or discounts. Research and make a list of different free options before you arrive.

Pack Lightly
We know it's hard. But, do you really need one more pair of shoes? Is it really hard to do a quick load of laundry? Lay out everything you want to pack, then cut that in half. Then, cut it in half again. If everything fits into a backpack, you'll save on airfare, at your hostel and you'll save effort by not lugging around an over-stuffed bag.

Share Your Meals
Traveling with a friend? Order one meal big enough to split between two people. If you get hungry later on, there are always those granola bars.

Choose a Low-Cost Destination
You may have dreamt of spring break in Paris or winter break in Cancun, but chances are you'll have a great time anywhere. Check out lower-cost destinations like South America for adventures, Eastern Europe for cheap food or southern regions of the U.S. for sandy beaches.

Sleep in the Airport
It may sound uncomfortable, but sleeping in the airport can save you a bundle. You don't need to be Tom Hanks in "The Terminal," but one night on an uncomfortable bench between destinations is worth the savings. Review the "Guide to Sleeping in Airports" before you spend the night.

Set a Travel Budget
Setting a budget is the best way to save on vacation. If you're new to budgets, get some advice for your first vacation budget. Decide how much you can spend and what is most important. If you spend less than projected, you'll have more money to spend on fun and souvenirs.

Traveling should be fun, educational and affordable. Whether you're hitting the road or backpacking through Europe, use these tips to save some cash for your travel stash.

Photo by fortherock via cc



4076939458_b68a89afb2.jpgLast month when I reached into the back of my pantry in search of something that might qualify as dinner, I found several cans of food with expiration dates somewhere in the mid-2013 range. I had an epiphany: I was throwing money away -- month after month -- by letting food go bad in my own kitchen.

Apparently I'm not the only one. According to a report by the National Resources Defense Council, the average American ends up tossing out 25 percent of the food he or she purchases each year. Considering that most people spend about $150 a week, or $600 a month, on food, that's a whopping $1,800 a year gone to waste, just like that.

If you're tired of throwing money away on groceries, it's time to change your ways.

Pay Attention to Expiration Dates
It seems like a no-brainer, right? But how many times have we all rushed into the supermarket on the way home from work and grabbed the first milk container off the shelves only to then get home and realize it expires within 48 hours? And it's not just perishables. Even pantry items have expiration dates, and if you let them go too long, you'll wind up with a host of stale products on your hands. Take the time to see when things expire before you buy them, and you'll save yourself some good money.

Avoid the Lure of the Sale
We all love a good deal, but sale items only count as a good deal if they're things you already use or need. If your favorite cereal brand is on sale for half-price and it's something you eat every other day, by all means, stock up. But don't buy sale items just for the sake of feeling like you're getting a bargain.

Plan Your Meals in Advance
If you're the type who believes food should be an experience and an adventure, the idea of planning out your meals for the week might seem a little stifling. By locking yourself into a menu, you're committing to eating specific meals at predetermined times. Not only that, but you may even have to eat some -- gasp -- leftovers during the week. But if you do plan out your meals ahead of time, there's a good chance you’ll wind up saving money on your grocery bills while accomplishing the very important goal of not wasting the food you bring home.

Stick to the List
It happens to all of us. You walk into the store with a list of seven items to purchase and get sidetracked by the big display of snacks and condiments. Suddenly you're buying up one of each type, because who wouldn't want to try the new chipotle-honey-mango dip with orange-mesquite potato chips? The people who set up those supermarket displays are good at what they do, but don't fall into the trap of buying extra products you simply don't need. Make a list before heading to the store and commit to sticking to it.

Take Inventory
One of the best ways to throw out your money is to buy things -- especially perishables -- that you already have. Instead, keep a running inventory of what's in your fridge and pantry, and update it weekly before buying groceries.

We all work hard to bring home the bucks, so it's time to put an end to the madness that is food waste. With a few simple steps, you could be well on your way to slashing your food bills and reducing your own personal surplus -- and that's something to feel good about.

Photo by Eddie Welker via cc

500pxl.jpgWhen it comes to planning a vacation, figuring out your airfare and hotel costs usually comes first. In fact, travelers often base their travel schedules around the best deals available. But, if you're a pet owner, there's a travel cost you don't want to overlook: pet care. Our furry friends need accommodations, too.

Perhaps you're lucky enough to have friends or family pet-sit for free, but often pet owners must look (and pay) for professional help when they go out of town. Depending on how comfortable you are with strangers in your home, you can either have a dog walker stop by to walk your pet a few times a day, or you can pay someone to stay and keep your pet entertained overnight. Some pet sitters prefer that you drop your pet off at their home instead, and of course pet hotels and boarding facilities are a popular option for travelers with pets.

At Home

According to care.com, the average cost of boarding a pet can cost you $20-25 per day. Pet hotels cost more but offer more luxuries and can range from $35-90 a day for each pet. The average cost of a dog walker is $10-25 for each dog, and Pet Sitters International's 2014 State of the Industry Survey indicates that the average for a 31-minute dog-walking visit is $18.23. Overnight visits average $62.18 per night.

Last year I planned an 11-day vacation and needed reliable pet care. I used Thumbtack to look for dog sitters in my area, and since it was a longer trip, I wanted my two dogs to stay at home instead of at a boarding facility. On Thumbtack, you submit your request (days needed, amount to be paid) and professionals respond with their bids. You can read your potential sitters' bios and reviews (if any), and choose the best one for you. Care.com and Yelp are also great resources to utilize that feature reviews for pet-sitters, too. I finally decided on a Thumbtack sitter who bid $20 a day for two dogs to be walked for 30 minutes (you can also get your plants watered and mail checked). By contrast, dog boarding for two dogs would have cost $40 a day in a shared indoor/outdoor facility, not including added playtime and other optional services.

Up in the Air

If you want your pet to travel with you and you're flying, you'll have to research airlines that accommodate pets to find out their policies. For example, United, American and Delta allow an in-cabin pet as an extra carry-on subject to a $125 service charge each way in the U.S., except Hawaii, and the kennel must fit into the seat in front of you. Spirit also allows in-cabin pets for $110, and you can fly with your pet for $100 each way on JetBlue and Alaska Airlines.  According to their websites, American Airlines, Spirit and Southwest do not accept checked pets. Southwest charges $95 per pet one way on domestic flights only. Another cost to consider is acquiring an airline-approved pet carrier for the flight. Most airlines only accept smaller pets in the cabin. Also, these fees do not apply to service animals.

Road trips are easier to plan, but you'll still need to find pet-friendly lodging. Websites like bringfido.com and officialpethotels.com are both great resources that make it easy to find a place to stay with your furry companion.

With a bit of planning, pet owners can enjoy a vacation without worrying about their pet's well-being.

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