Plan a Winter Getaway

With 100-plus days of winter looming on the horizon, it’s not too late to start planning a warm weather getaway. And, with a wealth of bargain travel websites at your fingertips and these useful tips, you can escape to Florida, Mexico, or the Caribbean without blowing your budget.

Timing Is Everything

Lucky for us Midwesterners, the months of January and February, when sub-Arctic temperatures are regular occurrences at home, are usually gorgeous in Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Unless you have your heart set on a seven-day cruise or a week-long resort package, consider a quick, cost-effective mid-week getaway, as many hotels, resorts, restaurants, beaches, and attractions are less pricey (and less crowded) than they are on weekends.

Location, Location, Location

With flocks of Midwestern snowbirds descending on Naples, Sanibel, and other popular destinations on the western side of Florida, winter prices can be high. To save money, head for smaller beach towns on the Atlantic coast such as colorful Jensen Beach on Hutchinson Island, once known as the “Pineapple Capital of the World,” or New Smyrna Beach, named one of the 15 “World’s Coolest Surf Towns” by Travel + Leisure magazine. And if Mexico is your thing, Cancún is always a good bet, and with hundreds of hotels and resorts to choose from, prices are competitive. If you’re craving a cost-effective Caribbean vacation, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic offer more bargains than pricier St. Thomas, St. John, and the Bahamas.

Explore Your Options

For great deals on hotels, restaurants, car rentals, spas, shows, and other attractions, visit lowfares.com, travelzoo.com, and hipmunk.com. Not quite ready to buy? Check out yapta.com, a website that tracks airfares, hotel rates, and availability and lets you know the best time to buy.

If you have a flexible schedule, check out cruisecritic.com and vacationstogo.com for bargain prices on last-minute bookings on Carnival, Norwegian, and other cruise lines. For fast, easy flights with friendly, hometown-style service from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean, as well as convenient, cost-effective vacation packages, visit Sun Country Airlines® at suncountry.com.

Be Adventurous

If you have an adventurous spirit, think outside the suitcase. If you’re headed to Florida, check out floridastateparks.org and reserveamerica.com, where you’ll find an array of colorful and unusual accommodations. At Jonathan Dickinson State Park, just west of pricey Jupiter Island, you can rent a cabin near the Loxahatchee River that sleeps four to six people and features a kitchen and a bathroom for $95 a night. If you enjoy meeting new people and discovering new experiences, check out airbnb.com and vrbo.com, where you can find apartments, condos, studios, and houses in Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean to rent by the day, week, or longer. Unless you don’t mind sharing space with other people, be sure to filter your search by entire home/apartment.

Do Your Due Diligence

With countless airlines, hotels, resorts, and car rental companies to choose from, taking the time to compare prices can really pay off. Visit kayak.com to compare the cost of bundled air/hotel packages versus purchasing each item separately. Look for hotels that offer free airport transfers, free parking, complimentary breakfasts and social hours, as well as free accommodations and meals for kids. If you’re on a tight budget, look for all-inclusive resorts, where meals, snacks, most drinks, and other services are included in the total price. All-inclusive resorts are fun, especially if you’re traveling with kids, because they can visit the poolside snack bar as often as they like. Once you find a hotel or resort that appeals to you, visit tripadvisor.com to read reviews and get tips and insights from other travelers. When you’re booking a rental car, pull out all your membership cards, as most companies give discounts to members of AAA, Costco, and other clubs.

Britt Peltola

Britt Peltola

Marketing Director

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A Financial Planner’s Insight on a Changing Market

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Why Refi? What it Means to Refinance and Why You Should Look into it

Interest rates, interest rates, interest rates. That seems to be the only thing in the headlines regarding mortgages these days. The TV, radio and internet ads are all telling you NOW IS THE TIME TO REFINANCE! But why? What does it mean to refinance and what do you have to gain? Read on for the many reasons to refinance to see if it really is time for you to take a closer look.

Reasons to Refinance

The term refinance encompasses so much in terms of home loans. There are many different types of refinances and many…

Seasonal Migration; Not Just for The Birds

As the weather takes a turn for the worse, the thought of getting away to a warmer climate becomes more appealing. The term “snowbird” is often used to describe those who migrate from colder climates to sunny locations for extended periods each year. Becoming a snowbird and owning a home in another state can provide more than just a respite from the cold. Read on for more about the benefits of being a snowbird.

2018 Mortgage Forecast

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End of the Year Financial Organization

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Reverse Mortgage: Why Acting Now Will Help You Get the Most Out Of Your Home

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Rates are Rising: Why Not to Worry

The recent headlines allude to a rising rate environment, but that may not tell the whole picture. While rates have increased slightly in the past few months, they are still near historical lows and should not be seen as a deterrent for buying a home or securing a lower rate with a refinance.

2017 Mortgage Forecast

As 2016 draws to a close, we’re grateful for the strong housing market, which has enabled us to help hundreds of individuals and families invest in real estate, purchase new homes and vacation homes, and reduce their interest rates. As we look ahead to 2017, we anticipate the local housing market will remain strong.

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Vacation Homes: How to Buy a Piece of Paradise

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Blue Skies for Homeowners: What to Expect in 2016

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Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for You?

Jeff Flanery, Reverse Sales Manager with Cambria Mortgage, has been helping people transition to reverse mortgages for nearly 14 years. “I work exclusively with reverse mortgages, which is extremely gratifying, as I love helping people extend their nest egg and live better in retirement,” Flanery says. Here, he offers a brief overview of reverse mortgages and their benefits.

Gift Giving Made Easy: Fun and Ingenious Ways to Streamline Your Holiday Shopping and Manage Your Budget

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Ask the Expert: Finding the Right Financial Advisor

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Ask the Expert: Smart Savings Strategies for Every Age

When it comes to financial advice and guidance, it makes sense to talk to an expert. We asked Bruce Helmer, financial advisor and founder of Wealth Enhancement Group, headquartered in Plymouth, Minnesota, to share his proven strategies for success. He’s a regarded financial advisor, author, speaker, and radio host and says no matter where you are in life, you can use these tips to make the most of your savings dollars.

Why Refinancing Makes Sense Right Now

By replacing your original mortgage with a new, more cost-effective loan, you can lower—and lock in—your interest rate, improve your term, reduce your monthly mortgage payments, and save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Why Using a Realtor Will Pay Dividends

Buying or selling a home is among the biggest decisions you make in life. With so much on the line, it makes sense to work with professionals who have a wealth of information about the process from beginning to end. Not only do realtors have vast knowledge about the market trends driving prices and sales in your area, but they also have access to an immense network of other professionals and potential buyers. When it comes to marketing your home and working through the details of an offer, realtors can be trusted to present your home in the best possible light and negotiate a deal that’s right for you and your family.

Want to Save Money in the New Year?

After the Christmas bills pile up, many homeowners find themselves in a financial crunch and in need of some long-term financial savings strategies. There is good news for 2015, though. Interest rates are still near historic lows, which means this could be a great time to boost your monthly budget by refinancing your home mortgage.