Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Travel Tuesday: Travel Tips

Lover of travel that I am, I am bursting with helpful hints! Here are some things off the top of my head:

-  To get the best deal on airfare, accomodations or a car rental, try one of the ultimate comparison websites out there:
     -  Kayak is rather well known. Its motto is "search one and done."
     -  I also like ITA software, which is exclusively flight information. In fact, this is the service that furnishes companies like Travelocity with their flight information. You can easily search for the best price over a 30-day period here. Once you find the deal, go to the source to actually purchase a seat on the flight. Be sure to bookmark this (like right now!) so you don't have to remember its name.
     -  I am partial to Travelocity because of The Roaming Gnome. I adore gnomes and they've been known to join me on a trip. This site is handy too... as you can sign up for e-mail alerts when certain round trips fall below your specified price point.

-  Other tips to help make travel budget-friendly:
     -  Try Megabus. If you book well in advance, you could possibly go someplace for just $1.50! ...and it's nice! Every time I turn around, they are announcing new routes! They usually stop at city centers which is convenient for a super-easy day-trip. The last time I visited Philly, my friend and I took megabus from Baltimore. A friend and I took it from Philadelphia to New York a time during the Christmas season. I highly recommend it. Its competition is Bolt Bus.
     -  Let's admit it, flying can be expensive, not to mention hectic! I regularly patronize other forms of ground transportation: Amtrak, my regional train MARC, and Greyhound. If you book at least two weeks in advance, certain Amtrak trains, like Northeast Regional, are affordable.
     -  Stay in a hostel instead of a hotel. It's a bed, which is all you really need. You can also meet fellow travelers there, which often makes for a better experience. I use the website hostelworld.

-  How Not to Get Ripped Off:
     -  I just found out how the airport foreign currency exchange counter rips you off in this article, so in preparation for my trip to Italy, I will probably order some euros from my bank.
     -  Wear a money belt if you are visiting a foreign city. Rome has an office just to help out the victims of pickpocketing. (Crime is low when compared with America, but, unfortunately, some take advantage of tourists.) I've been to Italy three times and haven't had a problem, but am still not letting my guard down. I prefer it to a neck pouch. To get into this alternative you take it out from underneath your clothing; you advertise that you're a tourist when you're spending time pulling lanyard out of your collar. And there's a bulge on your stomach or rib cage under your clothing. (Do you know how many times a day I say these things at work??)

-  In Preparation:
     -  Call your credit card companies (the number on the back of the actual card) and tell them which countries (or domestic cities!) you'll be on which dates. If you don't, they may think someone else has your card and cut you off! This is a pretty simple call, don't forget.
     -  Make sure your passport is valid. If it expires six months after your trip, that still may not be valid enough in some countries. Also, make sure you have a passport as only about 22% of Americans do! (It's true! Read my source.) This is far too low! There is such a thing as a passport card now as well.

-Research:

Tartufo
(My Photo)

     -  I adore Rick Steves' books. Because of one of his books, I discovered tartufo, a very decadent chocolate dessert in the Piazza Navona in Rome (Italy 2007). I hope to stay in the Hotel Aurora in Verona on my next trip, another RS recommendation from his Venice 2011 book. Rick Steves promotes travel "through the back door." He and his team detail how one can experience a place like a native might rather than how a tourist would. It'll be a more authentic (and more delicious) experience!
     -  For restaurant reviews, I like yelp. This is only for cities (possibly metro areas) however. It has user reviews on restaurants in London, Paris and Vancouver and lots of US cities.     
     -  Subscribe to Budget Travel. Every month there are fabulous yet frugal ideas! Vacation packages take up space towards the back of each issue. Plus, with your subscription, you receive an e-mail newsletter with awe-inspiring photography, the latest travel news/ tips, and some sort of vacation deal. At least sign up for the newsletter! I keep my collection of issues on my desk at work to inspire my employees. I love the research before a trip!

-  A Final Tip:
     -  Make a trip happen. I can hardly afford a trip to Italy, but I am cutting back on going out to save money and am doing everything on a budget. I'm going in March, not so much a warm month! ...but oh so much cheaper in many ways. Only staying four days, four nights in the country. Going to four cities like 30 minutes apart. I'm flying into a cheaper, more major airport and then taking a train. I'm staying in hostels at least two nights. In addition, I'm budgetting my spending money while there. I just have to go back to Italy and this is a way to do it. I'm not waiting for someday, when I have money. I talk to too many people who always dream of places and never make the effort to make it happen. If I can do it on my budget, anyone can! If it's a time issue, make time to live! If you don't have anyone to go with, I recommend going solo, but I realize that solo travel is not for everyone and not advisable for everywhere on this planet. Locally, there are meet-ups... or simply sign up to be a part of a tour group. A friend of mine did the touristy thing on a tour in New York alone, something I'm jealous of!

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