In the City – Tam-Tams

Tam-Tams

What: A weekly gathering of drummers, dancers and curious onlookers jamming away in a park
Where: By the George-Étienne Cartier Monument in Mount Royal Park, Montreal
When: Every Sunday from noon to sunset, May 5 to September 29
Good Stuff to Know: It’s free! Also fairly accessible by transit – from Mont-Royal Metro hop on the 11  bus west until Parc and Rachel. Then, follow your ears – you can’t miss the drumming.

The Scene: Pack your Birks and check your worries at the door – the vibe here is relaaaaxed, yo. Started in 1978 and now one of the most popular activities in the city, the Tam-Tams are not to be missed. On a warm August afternoon I watched hundreds of sweaty and happy people – some young, some old, some friends and some strangers – all groove away to the rhythmic beats of bongos and various percussion instruments. Families sprawl out on blankets with picnics, friends socialize over cold beers and wine, vendors display various crafts – there’s a little something for everyone. Pack some sunscreen and water and whatever else floats your boat, and enjoy.

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In the City – Luminato

Luminato wrapped up on Sunday in Toronto after a week(ish) of celebrations surrounding creativity. On my way home from work on Friday I popped into Brookfield Place to check out Stockpile. Nine visual artists working together on one installation and a hilariously awesome one at that – a life-sized arcade-style claw machine filled with prizes! Not just any prizes, however, for these were all donated from the community.

Brookfield Place

The artists themselves were the claw, and for $2 you could have a go and try your darndest to win a prize. Unlike the smaller versions of the game, most went home very happy. Someone won a globe, people! Pretty sweet.

Human claw game

Did you check out any installations at Luminato this year?

Sunday Seven – Seven Ways to Save Money While Traveling

Yes, travel can be expensive, but there are lots of ways you can ease the pain! Here’s seven of my favourite ways to keep costs down while traveling.

 7. Travel Like a Local
Public transit is highly underrated, most of the time. It’s a cheap and affordable way of exploring a destination, and also an opportunity to interact with locals and experience a slice of their way of life. I say most of the time, because there are always situations where you might feel safer taking a different mode of transportation, and it’s important to keep some money aside to do so. No point in putting yourself at risk just to save a few bucks!

 6. Eat Like a Local
Skip the tourist-clogged restaurants and head for a local favourite. This is where chatting up some (friendly) strangers comes in handy, as you can find some great recommendations that will almost always be cheaper than the “westernized” places in town. You’ll find authentic food that’s easier on the wallet and also likely make some local friends in the process.

Another great option is a picnic – weather permitting, of course. I found Amsterdam to be pretty pricey, and I really didn’t want to pay 20 euros for breakfast. Instead, I picked up a small Greek yogurt, croissant and banana each morning and parked myself in a square to people watch. With the money I saved on breakfast I was able to check out the Van Gogh Museum AND have two Heinekens with dinner. Score!

 5. Shop ‘Til You Drop (For Groceries)
Also similar to eating like a local – shop like one. If you can, seek out accommodations (whether hostel or hotel, or my personal favourite, renting an apartment) that have kitchen options so you can cook your own meals. Not only will it help to keep your waistline from growing, it will also keep your wallet a bit fatter, as eating out all the time gets real expensive, real fast. Check out a local market for fresh options that you can’t get at home!

 4. Hunt Out Freebies
Many museums and galleries offer half-price or free nights – do some research in advance and figure out when these are. There are also numerous smaller museums that are free ALL the time (seriously!), and when you’re free to wander without worrying about how you will pay for dinner now, you might actually learn something.

Perhaps museums aren’t your thing, but you’d like a good introduction to the city you’re visiting? Seek out a free tour! I went on a few of these in various cities in Europe (Sandeman is particularly good) and they work on a tips-only basis. At the end of a few hours you’ve received a solid overview of the city and you choose how much you want to pay.

An easy way to search out cheaper options is to go where there are students. Students are cheap and thrifty folks by nature, so they will flock to options that suit this lifestyle. I found out about discounted show tickets and cheap bar nights thanks to hanging around in cafes near campuses.

3. Skype
Skype saved me (and continues to save me) buckets of money when travelling as I didn’t both with bringing a cell phone or purchasing pricey long distance cards. You can pay per minute or monthly and pick the countries that you’d like to call. Or, convince friends and family to download Skype if they haven’t already and chat for free online!

2. Max Out Your Reward Points
I have one of those fancy reward points cards. And I use it for 99% of my purchases to rack up points. Although I sometimes grumble about the annual fee, I have saved boatloads of money cashing in my points for flights and hotel rooms when I want a comfier, quieter stay. If you don’t have any rewards cards, investigate what works best for your needs and consider whether you can afford an annual fee to help speed up the collection.

1.  Get a Debit Card That Works Internationally
Pay a visit to your bank and check that your card is connected to the Plus network. This saved me a ton of money while travelling as I was able to use local ATMs to withdraw money, versus paying enormous service charge and exchange rates at currency booths. Of course, it’s always important to carry emergency cash just in case you can’t find the ATM, but having a Plus card ensures that you don’t have to carry around wads of cash (dangerous) and you’re able to keep better track of what you’re spending money on.

How do you scrimp and save while traveling? Share some tips below!