Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ten Tips On How To Travel In Style Without Breaking The Budget

In my household, as soon as we take winter holiday decorations down and pack the mistletoe safely into the attic, the question arises:

So where should we go on vacation this year?” 

Once the question comes up, everyone turn toward me, and I don’t blame them! Who better to plan a vacation than yours truly - I travel about 80K miles in the air yearly and have found quite a few helpful tips on how to travel best for less!

Hmmm. What do I want this year? This is the first question I ask myself. Am I so overworked, stressed, and tired, that all I want is to lie at the beach, listen to the waves, and sip a Mai Tai? Or would I rather walk the streets of New York, San Francisco, Florence, or Saint Petersburg? Or would I like to soak in the culture of a little town, enrich my soul and mind with amazing art and delicious new food?

I let my imagination free - I will think of how to get it done later. Over the years, I realized that there is always a way to have the vacation I want without breaking the budget.

When to travel: 
1. Avoid traveling during summer, unless, or course, you plan on soaking in the sun at the beach or sailing to Alaska. During summer months the airport lines are long, streets are crowded, sun is scorching, restaurants waiting time is long and food isn’t as good. I hope this is convincing enough for you to go to your boss as soon as you can and ask for time off in September, October, May, or early June. If you have kids at school, then you better stop by your boss’ office as soon as you are back from vacation and ask for another vacation time for the next early June. A year notice may sound silly, but don’t forget that you need to outsmart the rest of your co-workers.

How to save on airfare: 
Last year I flew to Rome for unbelievable price of $90. How, you ask? 

2. Miles, miles, miles. Whenever you fly, sign up for the airline’s mile program for every flying member of your family. It may be not too much at first, but the miles do add up.

3. Sign up for a credit card that gives you miles for dollars you spend on the card. You can use these miles for yourself or any one you want - the miles are transferrable! If the card has annual fees, make sure to call the card customer service and ask if they waive the first year’s fee. In a year you can re-assess if it’s is worth keeping.

4. While I found that prices on Orbitz and similar sites are usually the same as those offered by airlines directly, if you do decide to purchase tickets from those sites, make sure to add your airline mile account number and use a credit card to get even more miles for your money. You will find that the airline will give you hundreds of free extra miles as a thank you gift. Your next air-travel will be either of minimal payment or even free.

5. At the time you book your ticket, don’t forget to choose your seats - the last thing you want is to be stuck for hours in a middle seat.

Where to stay:
6. Ok, while I cannot afford fancy resorts, I do choose my hotels with extra care. I need to know that after a long day I don’t need to walk very far to my hotel, and, once there, I can take a shower in a nice bathroom, put on my pajamas, and slip between white sheets on a comfortable bed. It does not ever hurt to ask my Honey for a foot rub.

7. In the world we live in with the internet under our fingertips, you will get a pretty accurate picture of what a hotel is like. So when booking a hotel, make sure to read comments and check out the hotels photos. After all, a good location, a friendly staff, and a nice clean room is what you need after an exciting but exhausting day out and about.
Try to reserve room from the hotel directly. Not only you will find the same prices as you can find on Orbitz or Hotwire or, but also you will be rewarded with an upgrade upon checking in. *Keep in mind that you can always ask the Hotel Reservation clerk to give you a discount or match the price of other sites.

Where to eat. Mmmmmm. 
8. Take time to visits a few local locals’ favorite spots and a farmer’s market. Culinary experience is an important part of your travel. You can chat with local farmers and meet friendly looking diners and waiters. This experience will make your vacation feel much closer to your heart. For a moment you will feel like a New Yorker, or a Quebecker, or an Argentinian, and this will make the place a little bit your own. After all, we all share one home, planet Earth.

9. If you need help, Yelp! Oh my, how many times have we chosen restaurants or cafes with rude waiters and expensive food which was not even good! Well, living in the 21st century comes with great perks like... smartphones and Yelp. To find a good place to eat, all you need to do is to turn on the location feature on your smart phone, open the Yelp app, and search for a place to eat. You will get a list of restaurants not too far away from where you are, menu, rating, and comments of kind or not so kind customers who are all looking out for you. By spending just a couple of minutes searching for the right place on your phone app, you will be rewarded with a delicious meal. And when you have free time, help future travelers, and leave a comment too.

Create Long Lasting Memories: 
10. Do something outside of your comfort zone - take a helicopter ride over the city, or the Alaskan glaziers, or the Hawaiian islands. You can zipline through the Mexican forests, swim with the dolphins, or try unusual foods. While these may seem pricy experiences, their memories will last forever.

Happy travels! 

With love always,
xo Zuma A.

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