Fun and cheap (even free!) destinations


For most of us, the holiday season is a time of year when money is tight. Like 100 drunk frat boys crammed in a phone booth tight. But that doesn't mean you have to stay home and stare at the same four walls every day.


Here are our favorite cheap—and oftentimes free!—fun destinations:

Rub elbows with celebrities

If you bought a ticket to a swanky awards show like the SAG awards, it’d probably cost you a bundle—that is if you could manage to wrangle a ticket. What few people realize is that you can be a part of the crowd of A-listers like George Clooney and Cate Blanchett at the most prestigious awards shows—including the SAG awards, People’s Choice Awards, American Music Awards, MTV Awards and others—all for free!

How can you do it? By volunteering to be a “seat filler”! Every televised awards show needs seat fillers to make the room look fuller on camera and to take the place of stars while they’re out of their seats—for instance, while they’re accepting their award.

Anyone can apply, which can be done at Seatfiller.com or AudiencesUnlimited.com. When you’re chosen, you provide your own transportation (not to worry—awards shows occur all over the country, not just L.A.), show up dressed to the nines and be ready to sit among the stars!

Go to the movies for less

When you think of the Automobile Club of American (AAA), the image of a mechanic coming to your rescue probably comes to mind. Movie tickets probably don’t. But they should! That’s because one of the perks of membership to this car club is that you can save up to a whopping 40% on tickets to your next flick!

How’s it work? You simply purchase the tickets in bulk from AAA (for instance, in books of 10) for specific theater chains. It’s as easy as that!

You can order the tickets online and have them shipped right to your door or stop by one of their branch offices and pick them up in person. Surcharges and restrictions may apply and vary according to location. Visit your local AAA chapter online by heading to AAA.com to learn more.

PLUS: Another fun perk of AAA membership? It qualifies you for discounts for tickets to theme parks all around the country!

See your favorite shows in person

See all your favorite TV shows in person at no cost! Head to TVTickets.com for free tickets to shows like Good Morning America, The War at Home and America’s Funniest Home Videos. Check their show schedule regularly—new ones are added all the time and are filmed all over the country.

Visit a home decorating expert—and get a free consultation!

Sure, you can sit and watch a TV show about how to redo your bathroom. But it’s way more fun when you can talk directly with a home improvement expert who’ll show you exactly what’s best for your home and how to do it in the easiest way. But who can afford their own personal home improvement consultant? You can—because they’re free at The Home Depot, where every week you can attend a clinic with an expert who’ll show you how to do home improvements and décor projects of all kinds. Topics include designing the perfect bathroom, matching paint colors and updating cabinets and fixtures. To learn more, visit your neighborhood Home Depot store or log on to HomeDepotClinics.com

PLUS: Have kids? Then sign them up for The Home Depot’s workshops for kids. They’ll learn how to build birdhouses, benches, napkin holders and more!

Enjoy a day of free wine-tasting!

It doesn’t cost a penny to visit wineries and sample their wines—and you might even get a free tour of the winery and meet the winemaker, too! Not near Napa Napa Valley or Sonoma County? No problem. According to The National Association of Wineries, there are wineries in all 50 states—even Alaska! To find those in your area, look up the number for your state’s wine association (every state has one) and they’ll point you in the right direction.

Enjoy a day of free ice cream!

Just like wineries, your local dairies usually offer free tours, too. A delicious bonus? You’ll be able to sample scoops of dairy-fresh ice cream for super-cheap or even free!

Be entertained for less!

How? By using coupons that will get you up to  50% on all kinds of entertainment—movies, restaurants, museums, spas, sports games, hotel reservations and more. Purchase a book of coupons from Entertainment Book at Entertainment.com for $25 to $45. Or print coupons for free from ValPak.com.

Love to see shows when in NYC? Then head to the TKTS booth in Times Square, which sells Broadway, Off Broadway, dance and music events from an impressive 25 to 50% off!


Want to get paid to shop?

No doubt you'll be spending lots of cash this holiday season. Want to turn the tables and make some money while you shop instead of spending it? You can! How? By becoming a “secret shopper”. Companies pay you to buy stuff from their store to check the quality of the merchandise and service. They'll ask you to buy everything from clothes and shoes to movies and meals. You even get to keep the items you buy! Log on to SecretShopperCompany.com SecretShopper.com and ShadowShopper.com to sign up today.

Note: Never pay a company to get you a secret shopping job. Legit companies sign you up for free. And if anyone asks you to be a secret shopper for a money gram or wire transfer, forget about it. It’s a scam that you should avoid.



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