Trip Planning Tips from an Amateur Traveler

For some reason I always thought you had to be rich to be able to travel, but I have recently learned that that is not the case. Thanks to the internet, you can find ways to beat the system and go on that trip or vacation for half the price that you expected. I am very far from being a professional, but I have had my fair share of traveling to have a good idea on things that have worked for me, and things that backfired on me. I hope some of these tips/suggestions can help you save some cha-ching and/or inspire you to book that trip you have always wanted to go on.

Happy traveling!

Transportation

Whether it is by car, train, bus, or plane, you can always find a way to make the most out of your buck, and time. The best way to do that is by planning ahead of time. For plane or train tickets I find it best to check online multiple times during the week to watch the prices fluctuate, giving yourself enough time before the trip to observe these patterns. And if you are lucky you could find a ticket worth half of the price it was the week prior. I’ve also heard a couple times that tickets drop in price on Tuesdays, so check it out, worth a shot. Another thing to be aware of, airline hub airports. This could potentially determine the price of your ticket. For example, if you are flying with American Airlines to an airport that is not one of their hub airports, it could cost you an arm and leg. One time my friends and I found round trip (yes round trip) plane tickets from Philadelphia to Chicago for $89.00. We had to take the time to say ‘yolo’ and go for it. Soon after, we found out that cheap price was probably because of traveling from airline hub to airline hub. Maybe we should ‘yolo’ more often if that leads to getting cheap plane tickets.

If your destination is not too far from where you live then a great alternative to driving is taking the good ole’ bus. There are bus companies that drive city to city for very low rates, such as Megabus and Greyhound. I have taken Megabus from Philadelphia to New York City multiple times and the most I have paid for a round trip ticket was $25.00. Each passenger is allowed to bring one checked luggage and carry-on (always check the luggage allowance before you begin to pack.) And each coach bus is equipped with air conditioning/heating, free wifi, charging outlets, and comfortable seating. I would say the price is more than right.

If you are exploring an unfamiliar city and have access to a smartphone, check out the maps app and plug in a destination spot. It will quickly show you the quickest routes by walking, car, and by transit. Yes you got that right, transit. Exploring NYC and don’t know how to use the subway? No problem, your iphone has your back. Now you’re a pro (kind of.)

Lodging

My go to website for trip planning is expedia.com. You can do it all there: book your flight, hotel, and rental car if needed. The more you bundle, the more you could potentially save. (I find that the flights listed on this website almost always cost less than purchasing the ticket from the airline’s website.) Here they show hotels, motels, and basically everything in between. Whether you want a five star hotel or a shack, they have it listed. The great thing about this website is all of the information you can find there: the reviews, maps, suggestions, etc. I would suggest using your best judgement on what they have to offer verses how much you are able to pay. This part of your budget could be where you either save some moolah, or treat yo self.

A more recent and now very popular way to stay is through airbnb.com. This website allows people to list, find, and rent rooms, studios, apartments, and even houses. Depending on your needs, renting an airbnb could potentially be cheaper than staying in a hotel. With the spaces more cozier and ‘homier,’ you feel right at home. I recently visited Los Angeles and stayed in my very first airbnb. The man who was managing the studio apartment was very helpful when it came to giving us advice on where to go, where not to go, what to do, etc. Although the space was limited in a studio, we were only really there in the morning to get ready and at night to sleep, so it worked out great for the price we paid.

If you are against hotels/renting then I suggest getting connected. If you know someone that lives in that area, reach out to them, it never hurts to try. Or if you love road-tripping, you can find free places to camp or even car-camping.

Car Rentals

The only experience I have with a rental car is the one I had with flightcar.com. My friend and I were desperate for a rental in Boston, but we were 19 at the time. Since you must be 25 to rent a car, or 21 to rent with certain fees, we were almost hopeless. We thankfully came across Flightcar. It is a car rental service in major cities where you actually rent someone else’s personal car. The service essentially works the same as others: you cannot exceed x amount of miles, must return the car with the gas tank full, and you pay if you hurt the car. Flightcar allowed us to rent someone else’s car for the normal price, an additional deposit fee, and they required a copy of our own car insurance. Apart from the deposit, the normal price to rent a car was actually cheaper than the price of a regular rental car. (Oh and we did get our deposit fee back thanks to our fabulous (and paranoid) driving skills.) So if you are younger than 25 and need a rental car or you are simply looking for an alternative rental service, give flightcar a look.

No matter where your heart desires to take you, always always always do your research. Absorb all of the reviews; positive AND negative, lovely and ugly. By doing this you will prepare yourself for any experience, good or nasty. Live in the moment, have fun, and take in this crazy place we call Earth, because it doesn’t have to cost a billion dollars to enjoy it.

Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times. Asian Proverb
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