I have always gotten asked by so many people "how do you travel so much", "how do you have so much time", "where do you get the money from" . I am no expert traveler but I have definitely learned that if there is a will, there is a way. I have been able to travel to 26 countries and am only 4 countries away from my goal of 30 before 30. Here are some tips, tricks, and rules that we want to share with you that made it all possible.
1. The destination
This is always the funnest part - where to next? There are a lot of things you should consider when choosing where you want to go. Consider whether you want to go on a vacation or if you want to travel. Not a lot of people realize that there is a huge difference between going on vacation and traveling, and if it is not something you are well aware of, you can be in for a very rude awakening.
Once you know where you want to go, picking the right time is key! There are a few things that you need to consider when you're picking the time to travel.
- High-peak seasons - consider when is the high peak season for tourists to travel. Many times everything is going to be more expensive during high-travel times.
- Weather - look into when is the best weather to travel to a destination. The last thing you want is to book a trip to Bali during the monsoon season and be stuck indoors the entire time.
- Holidays - consider travel around holidays both in your home country as well as your destination country. If there is a holiday at the destination country be conscious of this as many things may be closed and unavailable.
There are lots of sites that can help you analyze when is the best time to travel to a particular destination. One of our favorites is Hopper This site provides insightful, data-driven research to help you make better decisions about where to go, and when to fly and buy. The websites listed in the Flight section below also offer a lot of insight as to when is the best time to travel.
A lot of times I get asked the question of "how do you get the time off to travel". I wish I could quit my job and travel for a living, but not everyone can do that. As a public accountant I am lucky to work for a company that does allow me flexibility to travel. Many companies have "flex days" or allow you to "float" a holiday. This is something I take advantage a lot of and combine it with weekend days to maximize my PTO. Ask your employer if you can take your Memorial Day at a later time or if you can work some extra hours to take some more time off - you never know until you ask! :)
Never pay full price for a flight! Air fares fluctuate constantly. There are lots of sites out there that offer cheap tickets. I always check flights on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and compare them across different sites. Also, the general consensus is that it's best to fly out on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. These days typically have less passengers and are lower fares. Fridays and Sundays are usually the most expense days to fly. Consider flights with longer layovers - maybe you can go see something extra. I once flew to Rome with a 24 hrs layover in Istanbul. The flight was much cheaper than a direct flight and i got to see a city that I've always wanted to visit.
There are some important things you need to know before going to search for cheap flights.
- Delete your cookies/history or load each site in a new "incognito" browser window before looking up flight prices a second time. Many times search engines store your date so when you come back you are pinged as being more ready to buy
- Go directly the the airline's own website - after you have used the flight search engines, check out the actual airline website to compare the price, you may be surprised to find it cheaper.
- Check out the airport website - you may find that there are other airlines to consider that don't show up in the big search sites.
Here is a list of our favorite search websites
CheapOAir This is my favorite website and the first one I always go to. They have a great functionality that helps your create flights with multiple stops and searches for flexible dates that may be cheaper.
Skyscanner This is a great flight comparison site and easy to use. It searches all the airlines, including budget carriers to find the best deal. Once you've found your flight on Skyscanner you are taken to the airline to make your booking (no middlemen). You can look for flights on a specific date, week, month or even see the prices over the whole year. One great feature is it allows you to type in “Everywhere” in the “To” box as an option. This helps you to select the cheapest destination from your point of origin. You can also just leave the “To” box blank.
ITA Matrix Software This is a good way to search flights if you know your travel dates. There are numerous parameters you can set and it is what travel agents use and it shows all the airlines, not just the ones who pay to be included. The downside is that you cannot purchase the tickets. You have to get the information you need and then go direct to the airline’s website.
Airfare Watchdog This site hooks you into time sensitive airline deals too difficult to track on your own. Airfarewatchdog lists low fares that are found and verified by humans and even lists promo codes and airline site-only fares you can't find on other sites.
4. Where to Stay
Stay away from hotels altogether if possible. They are usually way overpriced and for what?! A bed, bathroom, and if you’re lucky, a kitchenette, the same old scenery. Staying in a hotel will only add expense to your trip. Mix it up by opting for a home or apartment rented out by the owner. Most of these owners treat their home as their business. You will not lack any of the amenities you would get from a hotel. Here are a few great websites we like to use:
AirBNB A website for people to rent out lodging and has over 800,000 listings in 33,000 cities and 192 countries. This is probably one of our favorite sites and we discovered it on our trip to Croatia. You would be surprised at the amazing apartments and vacation homes you can find here (even beautiful villas on the ocean) at affordable prices. You can rent unique accommodations from local hosts in 190+ countries and feel at home anywhere you go in the world.
HomeAway Find & book vacation rentals with HomeAway. Rent everything from cabins & condos to castles or villas. The whole house, the whole family a whole vacation.
VRBO is an acronym standing for Vacation Rental by Owner, reflecting the purpose of the web-site to facilitate short-term rental of properties by their owner.
A lot of times it may be better to stay at a hotel - this is especially true when you are traveling to a country where English is not widely spoken among the locals. Cheaprooms.com Kayak.com and Tripadvisor.com are some of our favorite hotel websites.
Trying new food is one of our favorite things about traveling and vacation. I usually have a personal rule where I don't eat from chain restaurants when I am on vacation and instead try from various local restaurants. You would be surprised as to how popular Yelp is in countries across the world. This is always our first go-to site in terms of searching for places to eat. They have a great functionality for searching restaurants based on price, distance and type of food.
Ask the locals! This is the best way to find out where some of the best places to eat at are. When traveling to Morocco, we always asked around the locals and were never disappointed with the restaurants they directed us to! They always know where the hidden jems are!
6. Research, Research, Research!
Being prepared is the key to a great trip. Read up about the vacation spot online and go through travel books. Find out if there are city passes that offer discounts on attractions and transportation. Be sure to contact local bloggers, like expatriates, for information about where to eat and what to see.
Happy Traveling!! ~ xoxo VB Sisters