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Free and fabulous finds

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY is just one of numerous sites in Washington, DC, where you can spend time without spending money.
What is the ultimate bargain? Getting something terrific for free (or, at least, for next to nothing). Fortunately, you don't have to spend a lot of money to enhance your travels. From events and attractions to activities and transportation, there are a number of things you can enjoy for little or no cost wherever an assignment takes you. Here, we are pleased to highlight a dozen locations where you won't have to spend a cent to enhance your travel experience.

Fairfield, California

Visitors to the Jelly Belly Candy Com-pany's factory at One Jelly Bean Lane are greeted with the scents of cinnamon, chocolate, and other sweet aromas. You may take a 40-minute tour and learn how jelly beans are made and why producing a single bean can take up to a week. Best of all, you can enjoy 150 different flavors of jelly beans at the complementary sample bar, including pomegranate, the newest addition.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

"Ecliptic" on Rosa Parks Circle is a must-see sculpture park. Creator Maya Lin incorporated art and architecture on a 110' x 80' pad of concrete, where concentric rings create an optical illusion. In the winter, the exhibit, illuminated by 146 fiber optic lights below the surface, is used as an ice rink. Ice skating will cost you a dollar, but skate rental is free.

Houston, Texas

Scouting for savings
Four miles from downtown, ou can escape the hustle and bustle of the city and experience the natural world at the 155-acre, non-profit Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. Offering 5 miles of serene walking trails, the sanctuary invites you to observe butterflies, hummingbirds, armadillos, and swamp rabbits at no charge.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Circus Circus Hotel and Casino offers free ringside seats on The Strip. The world's largest, permanent circus presents renowned live acts daily from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, with a variety of amazing performances rotating each half hour.

New Orleans, Louisiana

The French Quarter Festival, a 3-day weekend event, features more than 150 free musical performances on 15 stages throughout the famed district. Nearly 60 food and beverage vending booths fill the U.S. Mint, Jackson Square, and Woldenberg Riverfront Park, where the "World's Largest Jazz Brunch" serves up the best authentic local cuisine from renowned area restaurants. This year's event takes place from April 13 to 15.

New York, New York

Justin Ferate, an award-winning histo-rian, storyteller, and urban explorer, offers a free 90-minute walking tour of the Grand Central neighborhood every Friday. Sponsored by the Grand Central Partnership, it will give you the chance to observe unique architecture—from Grand Central Terminal, to the Chrysler Building, to the glass-faced Pershing Square—and learn about social history in the heart of midtown Manhattan.

Rather than exploring the areas outside of her assignment communities, Debbie Gordon, CST, prefers to learn as much as she can about the people and cultures of her temporary homes away from home.

When I was in grade school, my mother put herself through nursing school. Her dream—once my sister and I were grown and fulfilling our own goals—was to become a healthcare traveler. At the time, while I wasn't sure I wanted to be a nurse, I remember thinking how neat it would be to visit new places and get paid for it.

Which setting do you think would be right for your next contract—a teaching institution, community medical center, rural hospital, Level I trauma center, or something else? In addition to charge responsibility, shifts, and hours, what are some of the other vital elements you must consider? At times, establishing which options are best for you may seem overwhelming, especially if you try to figure it out without the benefit of an expert.

The act of traveling sounds simple enough. But add a pet or two and it gets a little more complicated—and a bit more hairy.

In December, yet another tax bill was passed. The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 contains a few items you may be able to take advantage of, given your traveler status.

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