Its spring and I’ve made it through another cold and blustery winter. I almost want to run outside tossing coats, boots, and scarves while screaming at father winter as if I were Captain Dan cursing the hurricane in Forrest Gump. I am ready to sacrifice my winter clothes in a great conflagration to the Gods to curry favor for a warm spring and long summer. I am itching for a getaway, a vacation, a trip—something to pull me out of these winter blues.
It is time to pull out and dust off my bag of travel tricks. When planning my next getaway, this is what I tend to consider:
FLEXIBLE TRAVEL DATES
I get the best bang for my buck when I am not wedded to a particular travel date or timeframe. This workaround may result in me travelling at odd hours, like flying out on a Wednesday afternoon and returning Monday night on a redeye flight. However, the reward of saving hundreds of dollars is worth it. Some search engines (e.g., Kayak) and airlines (e.g., American Airlines, JetBlue or Southwest) will show fares for an entire month. I like playing with these features when I start fantasizing about my great escape.
Check out what I mean with this Southwest example. Southwest has a Low Fare Finder where it pulls fares for a specific route within a particular month. Notice the difference in prices between May 16 and May 17. The cost has almost doubled!
If you desperately need to catch a flight somewhere, anywhere but here, then, Kayak has the perfect tool for you. When searching for flights, enter your departing airport, and select ‘Anywhere – See where you can go on your budget’ and voila! You will get a world map showing flights for anywhere and everywhere. You can narrow down your destination by price, dates, travel time and nearby airports. You might be surprised where you can afford to go. Vieux-Fort, Saint Lucia anyone?
TRAVELLING BY LAND
When I cannot travel by air, I travel by land. Wanderu is a one-stop shop for bus and train fares. I recently used it to find the most cost-effective and shortest commute to New York City. For $25 I will be aboard a double-decker Megabus with WiFi. I was able to snag a budget fare on Amtrak for the return for $43. The train is obviously more expensive than taking the bus, but since I’ll be returning very late, it makes sense to take the shorter and more comfortable commute.
A PLACE TO REST MY HEAD
When I need accommodations, I use Booking.com. I can be a particular traveller, so I appreciate the multitude of filters to help me find those places that sincerely meet my needs. If I need a guesthouse with a view, near a hot spring bath that offers breakfast, an airport shuttle and an electric vehicle charging station in Lagos, Nigeria I can filter my search for it.
What I like most about Booking.com is that some properties have free cancellation, allows you to book without a credit card and no prepayment. What? That is insane. Yes, I know! When you are traveling (with flexible dates) having that extra cushion of protection for those what-if moments is essential. Overall, Booking.com is pretty thorough and straightforward to follow in terms of pricing, fees, reviews and property amenities, which is why it’s on my go-to travel list.
I recently used Airbnb for the first time on my trip to Costa Rica, and I had a fabulous experience. The host was terrific, and the apartment looked exactly like the photos. In fact, it seemed a bit better in-person. I had such a great experience I am using it again for another trip, but this time with my cat. Meow. Unlike hotels, Airbnb hosts don’t charge a separate fee for pets if they allow them, and I know my cat, and I will be more comfortable in an apartment than a hotel room, which makes AirBnb ideal for my next venture.
Airbnb hosts tend to be more hands-on with their properties, so I believe they have more of a vested interest in guests having a pleasurable experience. When you contact the property quite often, you are communicating directly with the owner. I seriously doubt a guest has called the owner of the Ritz-Carlton about the check-in time.
Groupon is another excellent resource for travelling, whether you are looking for a getaway deal locally, domestically or internationally. I have used Groupon to book a two-bedroom duplex at a resort in Williamsburg, VA for less than a hotel stay. My experience at the resort was no different than any regular paying guest.
There are ways to lower the cost of a flight when using airlines miles. But, I don’t fly often so I cannot rack up airline miles. This thought is so far from the truth thanks to airline partnerships. Airlines partner with other companies to offer purchasing incentives usually in the form of airline miles.
Many programs work similar to this: If you buy from an airline partner, the airline will give you X amount of miles per dollars spent. So, theoretically, you could accrue thousands of miles on purchases you would make anyway. I learned American Airlines partners with the FSA Store only after I made several purchases. I could kick myself having lost out on more than 1,000 airlines miles since American was offering 9 miles per every $1 spent.
Rule to self: Before buying online check to see if the company has an airline partner. I have earned hundreds of miles because of JetBlue's partnership with Amazon, and I love shopping on Amazon, so it is a win-win. Though it typically takes several thousand miles to be eligible for a free flight, you could still cut airfare costs using miles earned from shopping. I am just getting my feet wet in this arena so I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I have learned this much.
TRAVELLING BY SEA
For those who are looking for an affordable all-inclusive getaway with preplanned entertainment than a cruise might be for you. I have only been on one 3-day cruise, which was enjoyable, but not for a person who likes to get up and go at will. Split between two people, I spent less than $100 a day, including alcohol, for the all-inclusive excursion. I tend to check out cruiseonly.com because you can find cruises from all around the world, and they clearly show guest ratings as well as extra perks. Please know that I have never booked through cruiseonly.com.
So, that’s it -- my starting points for travel.
START SEARCHING FOR YOUR
NEXT VACATION TODAY!
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HI. I'M AWET.
A simple soul who likes to engage the world in meaningful ways in the hopes of inspiring others.
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