What keeps you from hitting the road and using up all of your vacation days? What makes you groan when figuring out what to pack, how to get a good deal on a plane ticket, and how to keep your belongings safe?
Traveling can seem stressful and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. The following five insider’s tips are sure to make your next holiday a simpler and more enjoyable one:
Buy a Plane Ticket the Right Way
The most expensive part of an international or domestic trip is often the flight. Booking months ahead, doing so at just the right time, and taking low-cost airlines whenever possible are sound and well-known pieces of advice, but did you know that there are other options to make it the booking process even cheaper and easier?
If possible, be somewhat flexible. Use services like Kayak’s explore function, which allows you to select a date range, or even an entire season, as well as your departure airport. The map then comes back with prices for destinations all over the world. Want to fly from Germany to South Africa for a couple of weeks in the spring? It could be possible for under $200 if you can be flexible enough with your dates.
What if you can’t be that flexible? Use an aggregator like adioso.com, which allows you to narrow down the dates and destination choices to a specific continent, country, or airport. Next, visit the airline’s website directly and see if they offer the ticket for even cheaper. If traveling internationally, try switching over to the airline’s local site and currency, and the price may drop even further.
To illustrate how this works, I once scored a flight from Berlin to Johannesburg in South Africa for €410 after searching first on Adioso. I knew that I wanted to visit South Africa in January, but didn’t much care where I flew into since I planned to stay for at least a couple of months. After finding that Johannesburg was cheapest, I clicked through and was taken to the airline’s German-language website. Now, I don’t speak German, but when I switched to the US site in English and USD, the price suddenly shot up. By using Google translate for words I didn’t know, and conducting the transaction on the German site in Euros, I saving hundreds of dollars.
Travel Carry-on Only. It’s Easy, Truly!
Checking bags, keeping track of multiple suitcases, and potentially forgetting items can make traveling cumbersome. Traveling carry-on only removes the risk of the airline losing the bag, nixes the fees associated with checked baggage, makes moving around a lot easier, and allows you to keep your bag with you while in transit.
Sure, it seems impossible to travel long or even short-term with just a carry on-sized bag, but would you believe me if I told you that I traveled for an entire year with only carry-on luggage? The secret lies in buying packing cubes for clothing, and washing items regularly while on the road. Worried you’ll get bored by lack of variety? Bring cheap clothing that you can part with easily and buy more while abroad, or trade with a fellow traveler.
Also, ditch the blow dryer and go au natural with your hair, only bring the makeup you absolutely need, and know that shampoo and soap are universally available, so there’s no need to lug around that 20 ounce bottle of shampoo. Simply refill smaller bottles as you go.
Lock up Your Items the Easy Way
Some hotels offer safes or lockers and some do not. For peace of mind when staying in more basic accommodation, or when in transit on a train or bus, keep your valuables locked up.
I love the PacSafe Backpack and Bag protector for this, and am constantly suggesting it to fellow travelers because even on a train, bus, or in a bamboo hut, with my bag tightly wrapped in a web of wires, robbing me becomes a lot more difficult and much less appealing.
Download the Map Before You Go
Will you be landing in an airport for the first time without a clue as to how to get around? Download directions on Google maps to your smart phone before leaving home. Since maps uses satellites, it can still find you on your route as long as you’ve loaded the map prior to leaving a Wi-Fi zone.
Moreover, be sure to call your hotel for the best directions and read up on taxi scams, should those be a problem at your destination.
Never Use Moneychangers
Moneychangers will never give you the best rate, traveler’s cheques are outdated, and carrying around a large chunk of cash is ill advised. The best rate will almost always be the one offered at the ATM.
Though the ATM may assess fees, if you have the right bank account, such as Charles Schwab or Fidelity which refund all ATM fees accrued at home and abroad, it’s possible to avoid paying any extra just for pulling out cash in a foreign country and currency.
Armed with these tips, get out and explore more in 2015, use up those vacation days, and enjoy your vacation like a pro.
Kristin Addis is the solo female traveler behind BeMyTravelMuse.com, a website for off the beaten path adventures! She is also the author of solo female traveler guidebook, Conquering Mountains and How to Solo Travel the World Fearlessly.
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