I love to travel. Sometimes even just planning travel is enough to get me excited enough to ignore the fact that I’m still sitting at my desk and not in an old town in Europe, though usually just for a minute.
I have very expensive travel tastes; however, so until I suddenly inherit a vast amount of wealth from a previously-unknown filthy rich relative, I’m taking the budget route with the rest of the flotsam and jetsam. I’m constantly giving (solicited and unsolicited) travel advice to those around me, so I thought I would share with the public at large as well.
Consider a House or Apartment Rental, but Be Sure to Comparison Shop
On my trip to Paris I stayed in a one-room flat in the heart of the Bastille neighborhood, and it was amazing. The building was cute and quirky and mere blocks from the Metro (subway system). I saved money because the flat was super cheap (it was the early days of AirBnB) and I was just outside the popular tourist area, in a neighborhood with real Parisians, while being only a few stops from downtown. I highly recommend Airbnb for home rentals. They have extensive security checks (I’ve been both a host and a guest) and a huge selection.
Don’t let house-sharing scare you off, it can be surprisingly budget-friendly. Check sites like AirBnB, VRBO, and HomeAway, but check hotels also. It may turn out that a hotel is having a sale and is significantly cheaper than a vacation rental. Or maybe you could get a large house for a big group of people instead of a bunch ofhotel rooms. For either option, always read reviews, don’t just look at the rating. The reviews could give you detailed information about the room, location, or neighbors that you may not find out about elsewhere in the listing.
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Keep in mind when comparison shopping that, while you have the option of cooking if you rent a place with a kitchen, will you want to take the time and effort? Groceries still cost money, so that must be taken into account, the same as if you were to stay in a hotel and dine out. Do you want the convenience of someone cleaning the hotel room every day? Are there booking and cleaning fees with the rental? Consider all these additional costs when choosing between the many lodging options.
Use Airfare Comparison Sites, But Don’t Forget Other Airlines
Did you know that Southwest, along with a handful of other budget airlines, doesn’t post their fares to search engine sites like Kayak? Orbitz and Expedia are in cahoots with the airlines they do show, so they’re often not the lowest price. It always pays to shop around at several different sites, and especially at the airlines’ own sites.
I use Skyscanner to compare flight prices across carriers. They also have hotel deals!
Check the airlines’ social media pages as they often post deals exclusively to one service or another. You can even try a Google search for a coupon code for the airline of your choice. This method tends to be a lot less fruitful, but still worth a try.
Sign Up for Deal Alerts
I love Travelzoo, not only for the travel deals available, but also for the Local Deals. They have some really great sales on airfare, vacation packages, activities, spa treatments, cruises – you name it. And rather than checking their website all the time, I get the deals sent straight to my inbox. When I’m planning a vacation, I go back through my weekly newsletters from various sources to see if there’s a deal that looks particularly enticing, or that aligns with what I’m planning.
Groupon and other couponing sites also have travel deals, and while sometimes there’s a lot of fine print (the deal is only for flights from JFK and you live in Seattle), these deals might reveal options you hadn’t considered before, like a roundtrip 7-day tour of Ireland (or maybe you have considered that before, in which case we may be travel soulmates).
One last tip – BUY TRIP INSURANCE! Fortunately, I’ve always purchased it and never needed it, but I HIGHLY recommend using Allianz Travel Insurance. The plans are affordable and for just a few dollars you can have piece of mind in case something goes wrong on your trip. If you have weather issues, missed flights, hotel catastrophes – these insurance plans can be invaluable. Make sure you read the fine print as not every plan covers every scenario.
These tips may seem like no brainers, but it’s easy to forget the basics when you’re in a hurry or frustrated or just plain excited about a trip. What are some basic tips you always consider when planning travel?
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