MONEY groceries

Why the All-American July 4 Barbecue Is Cheaper This Summer

hot dog on paper plate at July 4 bbq
Lauri Patterson—Getty Images

Costs decrease for a holiday weekend feast.

Feel free to fire up the grill for the Fourth of July weekend. You can afford it.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the cost of a typical summer cookout that feeds 10 people is 3% cheaper than it was a year ago. The total cost of a barbecue feast, including eight burgers, eight hot dogs, pork spare ribs, potato salad, baked beans, corn chips, watermelon, plus drinks, condiments, and buns, comes to $55.84, or a little over $5.50 per person. The estimate is based on price checks at supermarkets in 30 states, and the total cost is lower than it was in 2014, when the same barbecue cost an average of $57.57.

This year’s lower cost comes as a result of decreased prices for many items on the shopping list. The price of ribs, hot dogs, baked beans, watermelon, hot dog and hamburger buns, and American cheese all inched lower this year, collectively shaving a couple bucks off the total.

Rising production of pork and dairy products is the main reason that hot dogs, spare ribs, milk, and cheese prices are all on the decline. Bloomberg News noted that wholesale pork prices have dropped 28% over the past year, while milk production in the U.S. hit a record high in May 2015—causing the retail price of American cheese to fall by over 8%.

The same group that does the July 4 cookout estimate also puts together an annual price roundup on the cost of a standard Thanksgiving dinner that’ll feed 10. Interestingly enough, Thanksgiving is cheaper than the barbecue—about $50 versus $55.

While pork and dairy products have gotten cheaper this summer, not all items on the cookout shopping list are less expensive. Ground beef prices are up 2% compared to last year.

Still, thanks to falling pork prices, you might be more willing to splurge with some bacon on your burger. As of May 2015, bacon prices were down 18% year over year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The average price of a pound of bacon was over $6 last summer. It dropped to about $5.50 at the start of 2015, and now it’s down under $5.

MONEY Travel

5 Things American Travelers Should Know If They’re Visiting Greece

Supporters of the NO vote in the upcoming referendum, gather during a rally at Syntagma square in Athens on Monday, June 29, 2015. Anxious Greek pensioners swarmed closed bank branches and long lines snaked outside ATMs as Greeks endured the first day of serious controls on their daily economic lives ahead of a July 5 referendum that could determine whether the country has to ditch the euro currency and return to the drachma.
Petros Karadjias—AP Supporters of the NO vote in the upcoming referendum, gather during a rally at Syntagma square in Athens on Monday, June 29, 2015.

Greece-bound tourists could be in for some hassles—or worse.

The crisis in Greece has caused the closure of local banks and brought about the worst day of the year in the U.S. stock market. Concerns are also being raised that the situation could ruin the vacations of tourists dreaming of exploring the culture, history, and warmth of Greece during the height of the summer season.

Here’s what travelers should keep in mind if they’re heading for Greece anytime soon.

Arrive with ample cash. Starting on Monday, banks in Greece were closed, and ATM withdrawals were being limited to €60 (around $67) for cards issued by Greek banks. Withdrawal restrictions don’t apply to foreign cards, but many ATMs have reportedly already been emptied and have no cash to dispense.

“Automated-teller machines are running dry and many businesses are no longer accepting credit cards,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

The bottom line is that the situation is fairly chaotic and very much in flux. Greece-bound tourists from Germany, the UK, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere have officially been given some variation of the warning to arrive with “sufficient euros in cash to cover the duration of your stay, emergencies, unforeseen circumstances, and any unexpected delays.” Ideally, bring cash in lots of smaller denominations, as it may be difficult for taxi drivers, restaurants, and other local businesses to provide change for big bills.

The advice of the U.S. Embassy in Greece is that Americans should have plenty of cash, and should certainly not rely on any single form of payment: “U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry more than one means of payment (cash, debit cards, credit cards), and make sure to have enough cash on hand to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays.”

Be extra vigilant. “The State Department recommends you maintain a high level of security awareness and avoid political rallies and demonstrations as instances of unrest can occur,” the U.S. Embassy states. “Exercise caution and common sense: Avoid the areas of demonstrations, and if you find yourself too close to a demonstration, move in the opposite direction and seek shelter.”

What’s more, pickpockets and thieves will surely be aware that tourists have been advised of the necessity of having plentiful cash on hand. So there will be extra reason for tourists to be targeted for theft. It goes without saying you shouldn’t stroll around casually with all of your cash in your purse or back pocket. Stash the bulk of it in the hotel safe, and divide walking-around cash among your party—ideally, safely kept in a money belt or neck wallet—perhaps with some emergency bills in the sole of your shoe. Don’t make it easy for pickpockets to rip you off.

Expect long lines and possible delays. There have already been huge lines at ATMs and supermarkets, with worried shoppers stocking up on essentials in the same way that Americans hoard milk and bread when a big snowstorm is in the forecast. There has also been plenty of speculation that strikes, demonstrations, and a squeeze on fuel could cause travel disruptions within Greece. So far, this has only amounted to speculation, and ferries, gas stations, and such have not been affected.

Tour operators are reporting (mostly) business as usual. “We were in touch with our hotel and our tour director earlier today, and both report that daily life is going on normally,” Tim Armstrong, a spokesman for the Tauck tour company, which had a group on a cruise just finishing up a three-night stay in Athens, said on Monday, according to the (Canada) Globe and Mail.

Likewise, Greek tourism officials maintain that the current events will have no impact on foreign visitors. “The tourists who are already here and those who are planning to come, will not be affected in any way by the events and will continue to enjoy their holiday in Greece with absolutely no problem,” said Elena Kountoura, Greece’s minister for tourism, according to the Independent. “It should be also noted that there is ample availability of both fuel and all products and services that ensure a smooth and fun stay for the visitors in every city, region and the islands.”

At least some of this seems like overstatement, considering that tourists and locals alike have already been affected by long lines. Credit and debit cards are still being accepted by most hotels and other businesses, but the fact that some are only accepting cash as payment is obviously another way that travelers are being affected.

Travel insurance probably won’t cover you if you cancel. If you’ve booked a vacation to Greece and purchased travel insurance for the trip, it may be time to look at the fine print. Most policies will reimburse a cancelled trip if there’s been a death in the immediate family, or if there’s been a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or large-scale civil unrest. But nothing that’s happening in Greece right now qualifies as a standard reimbursable situation.

“If you do cancel your trip it will be subject to the terms of the deal, and you stand to lose money,” one UK travel agent explained to the Guardian. Unless you’ve paid extra for a “cancel for any reason” upgrade to the insurance policy, in all likelihood your travel insurance would not cover you if you decide to cancel a trip to Greece right now.

Read next: What the Turmoil in Greece Means for Your Money

MONEY Autos

The Case for Buying an Electric Car Is About to Get a Whole Lot Better

2015 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Luke Ray—Fuel Press Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept all electric vehicle with more than 200 miles of range and a price tag around $30,000.

Drive 200+ miles on a single charge, without paying Tesla prices.

Electric car sales have stagnated through the first half of 2015. Sales have slumped for several reasons, including cheap gas prices and increased fuel efficiency among gas-powered automobiles.

In May, dramatic price cuts helped boost sales of models such as the Chevy Volt, and the month saw the most EV sales of 2015, according to InsideEVs. Still, the May 2015 EV sales total of 11,540 was 7% lower than May 2014. The Nissan Leaf, the overall electric-car category leader, has been struggling in particular. After failing to cross 2,000 unit sales in any month in 2015, the Leaf finally hit the mark in May. But through the first five months of the year, only 7,742 Nissan Leafs have been purchased, a decrease of more than 25% off last year’s pace.

Over the next few years, however, advances in electric car technology could very well turn skeptics into plug-in adopters.

While purchase prices have decreased, EVs remain impractical for many households for the time being. Presumably, a large portion of drivers is reluctant to go electric because of limited driving range. Unless you’re willing to pay $70,000 or more for the likes of a Tesla, you’ll be limited to driving 70 or 80 miles per charge with the Leaf and nearly every other reasonably priced purely battery-powered vehicle. That’s just not enough for drivers who want a car that’ll be worry-free on road trips, longer commutes, and long days full of running errands.

Soon, though, the so-called “range anxiety” factor could be reduced significantly. Earlier this year, GM introduced a concept called the Chevy Bolt, an all-electric vehicle that should appeal to the masses seeing as it’s expected to be both affordable (around $30,000) and practical (200 miles per charge).

Chevy hasn’t said when, exactly, the Bolt will be available for purchase, but it’s been widely reported that the likely date is sometime in 2017—probably late 2017. According to industry analysts cited by Automotive News, buyers could be behind the wheel of Bolts sooner than that. Production of the Bolt is expected to begin in October 2016, and sales would commence shortly thereafter.

By then, there could be even more compelling reasons to wait a little longer for what Nissan has in the works for the Leaf. Another Automotive News post notes that Nissan is working on a next-generation battery that would allow the Leaf a driving range of roughly 310 miles per charge. Such an impressive range won’t be available in the forthcoming 2017 Nissan Leaf, which should hit the market next year with an expected range of 105 to 120 miles.

What’s more, next year Tesla, which thus far has focused on the high-end market, is expected to introduce the Model 3, a mass-market vehicle rumored to have an impressive driving range and starting price ($35,000) that could come to dominate the field.

Overall, one or more of these new vehicles could be real game changers, with affordable prices and vastly improved driving ranges that’ll make the best arguments yet for switching to an EV.

Read next: Cheap Gas Helps Pull the Plug on Electric Cars

MONEY freebies

Oregon Is Celebrating Marijuana Legalization With Free Weed

crowd of people smoking marijuana
Jim West—Alamy

Not only are people free to smoke weed—the weed is free.

As of July 1, new Oregon laws go into effect making it legal for adults ages 21 and up to possess and use recreational marijuana. It’s legal to grow marijuana in the state—up to four plants per residence, out of public view—and share it with other of-age adults too.

Applications for large-scale growers and retailers aren’t being accepted until early 2016, and no Oregon stores are expected to have marijuana for sale until the fall of 2016. For the time being, then, while recreational marijuana use is legal, people aren’t allowed to buy or sell it.

The odd situation—weed is legal, but there’s nowhere to buy it—has caused marijuana proponents and entrepreneurs to take the very welcomed step of simply giving samples away. The Oregonian reports that the Portland chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) will celebrate the momentous event by gathering on the west side of the Burnside Bridge at 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30. At midnight (therefore July 1), all 21+ adults with ID will be given free marijuana and cannabis seeds, courtesy of medical marijuana providers and activists.

“While it becomes legal to possess and cultivate cannabis, there is no legal place in Oregon to buy marijuana itself or cannabis seeds and starts,” a statement from the group explains. “Portland NORML will educate the public and our partners will give away thousands of seeds and hundreds of pounds of marijuana this year so Washington State and the black market do not benefit from our new marijuana legality.”

Later in the week, on Friday, July 3, an event called Weed the People is being held at the MCF Craft Brewing Systems facility in North Portland. Admission to the event isn’t free—advance tickets cost $40—but once visitors are inside, marijuana is indeed free to use on the premises or bring home for later enjoyment. Each attendee is welcomed to take as much as 7 grams, cultivated by a range of Oregon growers that have been producing the state’s supply of medicinal marijuana.

“This is more than free weed,” organizers say on the event site. “This is more than vendors, food and vapes. This is history in the making!”

Read next: What This 20-Year Study on Marijuana Use Means for the Pot Market

MONEY Food & Drink

Chicken Fight! Fast Food Competitors Cook Up a Golden Age for Chicken

Winner winner chicken dinner.

In the competition for fast food customer dollars, an epic game of chicken is being played, and no one dares chickening out. The steaks—er, stakes—are just too high. (Sorry, had to get those bad puns out of the way pronto.)

The battles are being waged with high-profile marketing campaigns—see the big health push by Boston Market to promote its classic rotisserie chicken, and the return of Colonel Sanders for KFC. And the chicken wars are being waged with a dizzying number of new chicken items hitting restaurant menus. Chicken isn’t being limited to lunch and dinner, but it’s been added to breakfast menus as well, what with Taco Bell’s chicken-biscuit taco and nearly half of what’s featured at Chick-fil-A during the morning hours.

So many new chicken sandwiches have flooded the market that we decided to have an office taste-a-thon, featuring low-cost options from two stalwart fast-food players (Wendy’s crispy dill chicken sandwich, White Castle Sriracha chicken slider) alongside a casual dining chain’s tweak on a favorite item (Olive Garden’s chicken parm breadsticks sandwich), plus a celebrity chef’s much-hyped quick-serve fried chicken offering (David Chang’s Fuku in Manhattan). We would have loved to have also included the forthcoming chicken offshoot from Shake Shack, the fast-casual favorite created by Danny Meyer, but nothing’s available for tasting yet. In any event, watch the video above to check out the rather surprising results of the tastings for yourself.

Why has chicken become such a hot menu item? Part of the explanation is that chicken is so pliable. It takes on almost any flavor, from orange to lemon, garlic chile to tangy barbecue. It resonates with different demographics based not only on taste, but on how it can be sliced, chopped, and molded into shapes—nuggets, popcorn, dinosaurs, strips, fingers, fries, and beyond.

While the bird flu outbreak of 2015 has caused egg prices to soar, the impact on the chicken supply for restaurants has been mild. The result is that chicken prices today are cheap compared with beef, as they have been for years.

Chicken is a household staple because it’s affordable—exhibit A is the immensely popular $5 rotisserie chicken from Costco—and also because it’s perceived to be healthier than most other meats. That often goes even for chicken when it’s fried.

“Fried chicken is really a great base to work with,” Elizabeth Friend, senior analyst with the market research firm Euromonitor International, told QSR Magazine. “It’s salty, crunchy, indulgent, but still a protein that, while not exactly healthful, people feel is a better way to go than beef.”

All of the above explains why restaurants are so hot on chicken, and why chicken could one day push the burger aside for fast food supremacy. It sure looks like that’s where things are headed. Data cited by CNBC shows that America’s top 500 restaurant chains added 55 chicken items in January and February 2015, compared with just 33 new burgers, and that chicken purchases at fast food restaurants were up 3% for the 12-month period ending in March, compared with a rise of 1% for burger sales.

The shift to chicken over beef is even more pronounced when we incorporate cooking and dining at home, and when the numbers are viewed over the course of decades. According to the National Chicken Council, Americans are projected to eat 90 pounds of chicken per capita in 2015, up from 35 to 40 pounds in the late 1960s and 50 pounds in the mid-’80s. Beef has been on the opposite course, meanwhile, with per capita consumption projected at 54 pounds this year, down from 70 to 80 pounds through most of the ’70s and ’80s.

Read next: The Demise of ‘Satisfries’ and the Sad History of Healthy Fast Food

MONEY deals

How to Book an Entire Private Jet Charter Flight for Just $4

JetSuite
Jessica Ambats—Copyright: Jessica Ambats JetSuite

Travel like a CEO on a minimum-wage budget.

For the second year in a row, JetSuite, a private jet charter company that’s been called the “Southwest Airlines of charter flying,” is running a special promotion offering last-minute flights for just $4. That’s for the entire jet that’ll accommodate four to six people, mind you, so at most each person in your party will have to pony up $1.

For that princely sum, you’ll get the full private jet experience—small planes, no lines getting on and off the plane, big plush leather seats with fold-out desks and free wi-fi.

Of course, there’s a catch. The details of the promotion, as spelled out by the Robb Report and the New York Times, specify that the $4 charters will only be available for takeoff on a single day—Saturday, July 4—and that the exact routes will not be posted until the day before, Friday, July 3.

Snagging one of these bargain private flights won’t be easy: You’ll have to be lucky, in that one of the mystery itineraries must work for your location, and your timing must be perfect in order to beat the masses of other travelers who are surely eager to scoop up the same deal. At most, a few dozen travelers will be able to take advantage of one of these July 4 steals. Bear in mind too that these are one-way flights, and you’re on your own figuring out a way to get back home.

JetSuite will list its $4 routes on July 3 at its website. Travelers also have the option of signing up for a destination “WishList” to be notified via text or email if JetSuite deals are ever offered for your preferred airports.

JetSuite, which was created and is run by former JetBlue executives, and has attracted big investments from the likes of Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, has a business model that sells discounted flights on otherwise empty private planes that are en route to more standard charter bookings. Normally, JetSuite’s daily “SuiteDeals” start at $536 for short-haul routes such as Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers in Florida, or Hyannis, Mass., to White Plains, N.Y.

That’s for the entire plane, and that’s dirt cheap for a private jet booking. But still, it’s not anywhere near as cheap as $4.

MONEY

Grateful Dead Fans Gouged in More Ways Than One for Reunion Shows

The Grateful Dead perform during a reunion concert Saturday, Aug. 3, 2002, in East Troy, Wis. From left are Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart.
Morry Gash—Associated Press The Grateful Dead perform during a reunion concert Saturday, Aug. 3, 2002, in East Troy, Wis. From left are Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart.

Maybe a friend of the devil isn't a friend of mine.

“Every silver lining’s got a touch of grey.”

The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia sang these words in one of the band’s extremely rare hit singles back in 1987. The Dead was considered mostly past its prime even then. Of the 20 essential Grateful Dead shows as named by Rolling Stone, only five took place after 1977, and none of TIME’s picks for the best Dead shows were after 1975. Still, some of the revived interest in the 1980s and ’90s came from the children of the band’s original fans, and the Dead’s fan base has grown and grown and now ranges in age from roughly 8 to 80.

For the most diehard fans, the early 2015 announcement that surviving band members would reunite to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead—and 20 years since Garcia passed away—with a few “Fare Thee Well” concert shows was a dream come true. But the “touch of grey,” in this instance, is that the short-lived tour would be accompanied by some extremely unseemly business that has generated loads of aggravation (and loads of money) from the Dead’s mellow, peace-loving fans.

Almost immediately, ticket prices for the Dead’s shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field over July 4 weekend went bonkers. Before tickets had even gone on sale, ticket aggregators like TiqIQ reported that prices on the secondary market were averaging $876. The speculation and expected resale of Dead concert seats drew comparisons to the 2015 Super Bowl, when some seriously shady price gouging took place.

Some 500,000 people tried to buy tickets at face value ($59.50 to $199.50) when they actually did go on sale, and the extraordinary demand pushed scalper prices skyward. For a while, Chicago resale tickets were averaging $1,400 to $2,000, and the cheapest get-in price (for the worst seat available) was over $350. Greedy online sellers were asking over $100,000 apiece, and some fans forked over $10,000 or more per ticket.

The Dead shows had a similar effect on the Chicago hotel scene. Rates at some downtown properties during the shows were three, four, even five times more expensive than the same period in 2014, Bloomberg reported.

After the concert dates drew near, and after the band added additional tour dates at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, however, the bottom dropped out of the market. Earlier this week, tickets for the Santa Clara shows were available for as little as $19, and Chicago seats could be had for under $200.

As of Friday, the resale site StubHub was listing tickets in Santa Clara starting at $48 for this Saturday, and $36 for Sunday. Get-in prices for next weekend’s shows in Chicago ranged from $175 to $198. StubHub data indicates that average resale ticket prices remain quite high—$222 for Santa Clara, $862 for Chicago—and some of the asking prices on the secondary market are still absurd, at $5,000+ for prime seats.

According to the research of Beyond Pricing, a software development firm focused on dynamic pricing for Airbnb and other vacation rentals, the July 4 weekend lodging market in Chicago went on a rollercoaster ride similar to that of Grateful Dead concert tickets. Here’s what happened, and here’s why many Deadheads have a right to feel like they’ve been ripped off, per Beyond Pricing’s Ian McHenry:

Speculators snatched up hotel rooms as well as tickets in hope of turning a handsome profit. And some of these speculators succeeded. As soon as all the rooms and tickets were gone, people who missed out started to get desperate. The smart speculators slowly unleashed their inventory of rooms and tickets to these people, often at highly inflated rates. Scarcity and lack of supply collided with huge demand to equal astronomic prices.

More recently, however, ticket scalpers have been dumping seats at lower and lower prices because they don’t want to be stuck with them at show time. And hotels that were once listed as sold out, or that were attempting to gouge guests with insane markups are posting available rooms at rates that are a more reasonable 70% or so above the norm. Airbnb rates in Chicago have taken a nosedive as well, partly thanks to the dramatic increase in supply, “from 2,500 before the concert was announced to over 4,300 the week before the event,” Beyond Pricing notes. Like hotel rates, Airbnb rental rates next weekend in Chicago are about 70% higher than normal.

The speculators, scalpers, hotels, and Airbnb hosts still stand to cash in big time on the backs of diehard Deadheads over the next two weekends. But it appears that fans aren’t getting ripped off quite as badly as they were in the recent past.

In what’s been a long, strange, likely unpleasant and distasteful trip for legions of Grateful Dead fans, perhaps a few more words from Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia’s “Touch of Grey” will provide some comfort and allow them to enjoy the shows:

“It’s even worse than it appears / but it’s all right.”

Read next: Grateful Dead Tickets Once Priced in the Thousands Now Sell for $19

MONEY Travel

10 Quirky, Fun, and Cheap Summer Vacation Lodging Ideas

Usually around $100 or less for the opposite of a cookie-cutter motel.

Often, the best thing a traveler can say about a motel is that it was just like you’d expect. In other words, there was nothing memorable about the stay whatsoever. Instead of planning your summer vacation pit stops around basic hotels and motels that are serviceable—but also anonymous and utterly forgettable—consider venturing off the beaten path this summer. Here are 10 funky and unique kinds of lodging that are sure to create great memories for road trips and family vacations.

  • Treehouses

    Out ’n’ About Tree resort
    Woods Wheatcroft—Aurora Open/Corbis Out ’n’ About Tree resort

    It’s a cliché, but you’re bound to feel like a kid again if you get the chance to spend the night in a treehouse—perhaps while bringing along kids of your own. At Oregon’s Out ‘n About Treehouse resort (or “treesort), guests choose between more than a dozen different treehouse rentals, starting at $130 per night. The treehouses are reached by rough-hewn stairs, handcrafted spiral staircases, and swinging bridges. Most of the accommodations are 15 to 20 feet off the ground, though the highest treehouse is perched 47 feet up in a Douglas fir. There are quite a few independent Airbnb treehouse rentals around the country too.

  • Tipis

    First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, Ulm, Montana
    Stephen Saks Photography—Alamy First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, Ulm, Montana

    The tipis offered as overnight lodging from the Under Canvas operations at Yellowstone and Glacier national parks fall into the category of “glamping,” i.e., glamorous camping. With cots, mattresses, pillows, blankets, towels, and safari chairs all provided under a canvas tipi exterior, you’ll hardly be roughing it. Starting at $95 per night, it’s one of the cheapest options that can still be described as luxury camping. Some state parks in Montana, Minnesota, and North Dakota rent tipis for overnight stays as well.

  • Hike-In Lodges

    Hikers walk past the lodging area at the Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park, Montana.
    Matt Mills McKnight—Reuters/Corbis Hikers walk past the lodging area at the Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park, Montana.

    When the only way to get to your accommodations is on foot, one thing is for certain: There’s no way your sleep will be disturbed by the sounds of honking cars or road traffic. Beyond the tranquility of staying overnight in a hut or lodge reached only via hiking trails, guests get to enjoy the way that somehow conversation, food, and yes, sleep, are always better after long, active days in the great outdoors. Among the hike-in options around the country: The Hike Inn in northern Georgia, the backcountry Granite Park Chalet and Sperry Chalet lodges in Glacier National Park, and the series of huts in the White Mountains of New Hampshire maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club (from $127 per person, dinner and breakfast included).

  • Lighthouses

    Pigeon Point Lighthouse Electric Candlelight
    Tyler Westcott—Getty Images/Flickr Pigeon Point Lighthouse Electric Candlelight

    The sound of crashing waves below, the salty smell in the air, and the views that stretch for miles of empty water are among the memories that you’ll come home with after a night spent in a lighthouse. At just $28 for a dorm bed and $76 for a private room, northern California’s Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel has to be one of the world’s most affordable lighthouses that welcome travelers. Other options include the Race Point Lighthouse in Cape Cod and Michigan’s Big Bay Lighthouse B&B.

  • Fire Lookouts

    150623_EM_QuirkyLodging_FireLookout_Webb
    Ei Katsumata—Alamy Webb Mountain Fire Lookout in the Kootenai National Forest in northwestern Montana

    Dotting the deep forests of the western mountain states, fire lookouts were built decades ago to be manned by rangers hoping to warn of forest fires as soon as they erupted. Modern technology has made fire lookouts less of a necessity. But the structures remain, and dozens of fire lookouts can be rented by the night or week. Montana has the most lookouts available for rent, with 20; Oregon has 19, while Idaho has 11. The Squaw Mountain Lookout, one of two fire lookouts in Colorado, is a 14-foot-by-14-foot granite lodge built in the 1940s at an altitude of 11,000 feet. The cabin, which rents for $80 per night, comes with an electric stove, refrigerator, heat, and beds, but no fresh water. Most important, the building is encircled with windows—it’s a lookout, after all—and the views are endless.

  • Covered Wagons

    Old western trailer functioning as a hotel room on Bar 10 Ranch Hotel, Grand Canyon, Arizona
    Alamy Old western trailer functioning as a hotel room on Bar 10 Ranch Hotel, Grand Canyon, Arizona

    OK, so spending the night in a covered wagon is sort of a gimmick. Inside, the accommodations are usually not all that different from the bunks in a basic state park cabin. But this is a seriously fun gimmick, especially for anyone fascinated with the era of cowboys, pioneers, and “Little House on the Prairie.” The wagon accommodations at Colorado’s Strawberry Park Hot Springs run $60 per night and include access to the natural hot spring pools. Some campgrounds, like Smokey Hollow in Wisconsin, have big wagons that can fit the whole family (from $70 for up to five people). And the Bar 10 Ranch, within striking distance of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, has a wide range of lodging options including 13 covered wagons.

  • Train Cabooses

    150623_EM_QuirkyLodging_Caboose_RedCaboose
    Alamy The Red Caboose Motel, Ronks, Pennsylvania

    Around the country, retired cabooses and train cars have been given new life as private nightly rentals at B&Bs and hotels. Iowa’s Mason House Inn, for instance, has eight rooms in the main house, which was built in 1846, as well as the circa 1952 Caboose Cottage out back. Over in Missouri, the Cruces Cabooses B&B consists of a pair of cabooses from the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe lines that sleep five or six and rent for around $100 per night. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania’s Amish country, the Red Caboose Motel welcomes overnight guests and daytime visitors to check out more than three dozen train cars on the property.

  • Yurts

    Treebones Resort offers ocean view yurts on Highway 1 in Big Sur, California known as glamping, or luxury camping.
    Lisa Werner—Getty Images Treebones Resort offers ocean view yurts in Big Sur, California.

    Yurts are basically tents. But they’re round, sturdy, and tall, meaning they’re tents that won’t leak, and that give you the space to stand up and stretch your arms. All in all, they provide all the fresh air of tent camping—without the claustrophobia. State parks in places like Idaho and Washington have tons of yurts at very affordable rates. The Treebones Resort in Big Sur, Calif., offers the more upscale yurt experience, with queen-size beds, running water, and redwood decks overlooking the Pacific.

  • Converted Jails

    Liberty Hotel
    Michael Weschler Guest rooms at the Liberty Hotel in Boston, which used to be the Charles Street Jail, often go for more than $500 per night.

    The more traditional way to spend the night in jail may not cost the “guest” any money, but we’ll go out on a limb and say that the former prisons converted into hotels are probably more comfortable. In 2007, the old Charles Street Jail in Boston was reborn as the $500+ per night Liberty Hotel (liberty, like freedom, get it?), a luxury property that preserved the old jail’s catwalks and 90-foot atrium as the centerpiece. More affordable voluntary jail cells can be found here and there around the country, such as the Jailhouse Suites ($99 per night) in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

  • Drive-in Movie Motels

    150625_EM_QuirkyLodging_Movie_ShootingStar
    Dimitry Bobroff—Alamy Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream Park in Escalante, Utah.

    There’s movie night, and then there’s MOVIE NIGHT. Motels in Vermont (Fairlee Motel & Drive-In) and Colorado (Best Western Movie Manor) both offer the exceptionally rare opportunity to catch a movie at the drive-in from the comfort of your bed. Yet another bucket list booking for movie nuts is Utah’s Shooting Star RV Resort, which in addition to RV sites rents Airstream Trailers from $119—and the property boasts a vintage on-site drive-in movie screen and films on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights.

MONEY Food & Drink

Why Paying More for Imported Beers Is a Big Waste of Money

150625_EM_ImportBeer
Rene van den Berg—Alamy

Many "imports" aren't imported from anywhere.

A recently settled lawsuit means that customers who have purchased Beck’s beer in recent years may be entitled to refunds—up to $50 for purchases made since 2011. Customers who don’t have receipts can receive up to $12; to get a refund higher than that, receipts are necessary.

The settlement should serve as yet another alert to beer drinkers that “imports” such as Beck’s, Kirin, Bass Ale, and Foster’s—which are perceived to originate in Germany, Japan, England, and Australia, respectively—are actually brewed right here in the U.S. of A.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, the settlement arose from a class-action suit filed in Florida against beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, the owner of the Beck’s brand, over claims that consumers were deceived into thinking that the Beck’s beer they were buying was imported from Germany. Beck’s packaging includes phrases like “Germany Quality” and “Originated in Bremen, Germany.” In fact, the Beck’s sold in the U.S. has been brewed in Missouri for years.

The settlement comes a few months after a similar agreement regarding Kirin, another Anheuser-Busch product that’s seemingly imported but is also made in the U.S. In a settlement reached in January, the beer company agreed to pay up to $50 per household purchasing the faux Japanese brew, though at the same time AB InBev released a statement maintaining, “We believe our labeling, packaging and marketing of Kirin Ichiban and Kirin Light have always been truthful.”

The larger truth, however, is that over the past decade or so imports—faux or genuine—have rapidly lost their status as the best brews money can buy. How this happened is that firstly, as pointed out above, many popular “imports” stopped being imported and began being brewed in the U.S. Many beer enthusiasts insist that the taste of the Bass Pale Ale brewed in Baldwinsville, N.Y., for instance, is vastly inferior to the truly English-made product of old.

Secondly, a little thing called craft brewing completely changed the beer scene in America and beyond. Craft beer production in the U.S. was up 42% last year, and craft beer sales surpassed 10% of the overall beer market in 2014 for the first time ever. Craft brews accounted for only 5% of sales as recently as 2010.

What’s more, according to the Brewers Association, which represents craft beer interests, America exported $100 million worth of craft beer in 2014, an increase of 36% year over year. Regions renowned for great beer traditions, including Germany and much of western Europe, have been welcoming American craft beers with open arms. And the reason this is so is that smaller labels have consistently delivered fresher and more interesting flavors than any macro brew, and that America’s robust and creative craft brewing scene is viewed as the envy of the world.

Considering how beer-loving nations around the globe are eager to import American craft beer because of its superior taste and quality, why would American beer enthusiasts pay extra for beer that seems to be imported from somewhere else? Especially when in fact this beer is brewed in the same facilities that make the macro labels they disdain? Increasingly, the standard menu at bars and restaurants, in which imports are separated by higher prices (and presumably, higher quality) from American brews, seems out of touch with the times.

The point American beer lovers should take to heart is that there are many compelling reasons to drink local. Above all, if you’re going to pay a premium for beer, be sure that it’s based on the product’s taste, not because of some outdated idea about which countries have the best beer. This goes doubly in terms of supposedly upscale and high-quality “imports” that aren’t imported at all.

MONEY deals

Amazon’s New ‘Treasure Truck’ Will Sell One Discounted Item Daily

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Darren Hendrix Amazon Treasure Truck

The goods will run the gamut of merchandise sold by Amazon.

If residents of the greater Seattle area spot a giant brown Amazon package on wheels in the coming days, it’s not a hallucination. (Well, it’s probably not a hallucination.)

The world’s biggest e-retailer is introducing something called the Treasure Truck. It’s a basically a standard delivery truck tricked out to look like a typical Amazon package—oversized Amazon logo and icons, brown cardboard box appearance, thick black line encircling the whole thing.

Starting this weekend, the truck will set up shop somewhere in Seattle—that’s the only location, for now at least—and offer a single item for sale. The goods will run the gamut of merchandise sold by Amazon.

“Each day the truck drives around Seattle parking in neighborhoods filled with but one highly desirable item exclusively for you,” the ad posted by Amazon on YouTube explains. Among the first items for sale at deeply discounted prices are paddleboards, professional knife sets, and porterhouse steaks.

Amazon doesn’t seem to expect all that many customers to walk up to the truck and impulsively buy inflatable paddleboards or steaks like they might pick up a fish taco or a Sno-Cone. Instead, the idea is that people will use Amazon’s mobile shopping app to scope out where the truck is and what’s for sale that day, and then purchase and pick it up later.

Why this process is any easier than using one’s Amazon Prime membership and having the item delivered to your home is something of a mystery. Presumably, you’d be able to get the goods sooner—you know, in case the immediate emergency need of a paddleboard arises.

From the consumer point of view, the main draw is that the prices are supposedly phenomenal. The item on sale on Saturday, the Solstice Bali inflatable paddleboard set, is priced at $99 on the Treasure Truck, nearly 80% lower than the retail price of $477. Another item coming soon, the Firmstrong Beach Cruiser bicycle, will be priced at $99 too. Amazon says the list price of this item is $299, but it looks like the bike is sold fairly regularly for around $200. Even if Amazon is exaggerating how big the discounts are, it sure looks like the deals are pretty terrific.

On the other hand, the selection and availability leaves something to be desired—just one item for sale daily, in just one city.

 

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