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As a frequent traveler I’m often asked how it’s possible to travel so much. When the question is asked there’s usually a concern for the cost. Unfortunately travel is often viewed as something that only the super rich are able to do. Because of this notion many people never even consider doing a little research to find out how they can STOP staring at the exotic location on their screensaver and actually GO to the exotic location on their screensaver. You’d have to be living under a rock (i.e. have zero social media accounts) to not notice the recent boom in travel, specifically by millennials and others who are often counted out of the travel game. But folks, travel is accessible. To you. To me. To all of us. No longer do you need to have access to a trust fund or millions of dollars left to you by an uncle you’ve never met!
As many of you know by now, my career as an actor/singer has required me to travel for quite some time. Not only have I had opportunities to sing and dance in foreign and exotic locations, I’ve been able to afford my own travel in my downtime. BUT, this does not mean I don’t search for travel deals. This blog post is dedicated to sharing some of my favorite websites and apps for booking affordable travel as well as some tips for making the overall experience affordable and enjoyable.
Before I give you the sites and apps that I like to use I just want to say that nothing beats budget and planning. I like to plan far in advance for most trips that I want to take. I have a separate bank account specifically for travel and I deposit into it regularly. That way when I’m planning a trip I have money to draw from to pay for the flights, hotel, excursions, etc. Yes, glitch fares and amazing deals often come around at the last moment. Keeping a travel account will allow you to jump on some of those deals at a moment’s notice. But again, if you know you want to take a vacation this time next year, planning in advance and foregoing some of the luxuries that you’ve become accustomed to (bags, shoes, lattes, brunch, etc.) is going to help you stack more money for your dream trip to Italy. Now..are you ready for the info?!?! Check it out below!
FAVORITE WEBSITES & APPS FOR BOOKING FLIGHTS/HOTELS:
Clink the links to go directly to the sites or download the apps.
I love Skyscanner because they offer great deals on flights, hotels, and car rental. They also offer a feature called “Explore Top Deals” that allows you to search for cheap flights literally everywhere in the world from your current location. This is my go-to when I’m planning a trip in advance.
This is an excellent tool to find deals on goods and services in your city as well as deals on flights and hotels. They also offer pre-packaged deals (including flights, hotels, transportation, excursions, etc.) It’s important to remember that Groupon deals are offered by a third-party provider, so be sure to check the ratings of the company that has put the trip together.
If you’re going to use Groupon, you should definitely have an Ebates account (website and app…download the app for easy access). This company allows you to shop at tons of stores and websites and get cash back on all your purchases. Groupon Getaways through Ebates are currently offering 9% or more cash back. Get into it!!
The following are sites that I use less often but are great tools to find flights.
This site is very cool in that it will tell you WHERE you can go FOR what you can spend! Just enter your budget, dates, number of travelers, and home airport and the site will search for you!
TravelPirates offers vacations, cruises, flights, hotels, and even day trips. Be aware that each component of their packages is chosen by you. That means that the price they quote is the minimum that they’ve found based on their search criteria. You’ll be responsible for individually booking all components of the trip based on your dates and that may change the price a bit.
For those of you who may not know, a glitch fare is a fare that’s basically a mistake. Either human or computer error will cause a fare to be DEEPLY discounted so that you can get it at a fraction of the usual cost. Remember a while ago when people were flying round-trip to Dubai from the States for $200? That was a glitch fare. There are a couple of sites that I use to search specifically for glitch fares. When searching and purchasing this kind of fare be aware of a few “rules” that you should heed when dealing with glitches.
- DO NOT call the airline!
– As previously stated, these fares are mistakes. Calling the airline will only add to the confusion and ruin the deal for everyone else who wants buy.
- Purchase immediately!
– Because these fares are deeply discounted people will buy them FAST. In this instance it’s best to buy now, think later. Too much contemplation will have you staring at a “FARE GONE” message when you try to buy.
- Buy for your travel buddy!
– IF you have a regular travel buddy and IF y’all have each other’s backs when it comes to purchasing travel deals and IF you KNOW this person will be down for the trip and will pay you back…buy the flight for them! Be a good travel buddy and text while you purchase. But…notice all the IFs in that sentence? There’s nothing like a money issue to tear up a friendship so know who you’re buying for before you buy.
- HAVE FUN!!
I like to stay in a nice, swanky hotel as much as the next girl! But when I’m on a trip abroad, I choose my accommodations based on how much time I want to be spending there. If it’s the kind of trip where I want everything at my fingertips and I just want to relax and unplug, I’m all for booking the fancy hotel/resort with the all-inclusive price. But usually, I want to get out and explore and not spend much time at the hotel. In those cases, I’m a huge fan of AirBnB, cheaper hotels, and hostels. I know. The idea of a hostel causes fear in many people. But they provide a great way to meet other travelers at a budget friendly price. Yes, you’ll have to share a bathroom and a room. Just bring shower shoes, a lock for the personal locker that will be provided, and go for it! Check the links below to search for hostels and like anything else, be diligent in your research to find a place that will be right for you, your trip, and your wallet. Whether you’re booking a hotel, hostel, or AirBnB, you’ll want look for a place that’s going to be clean, critter free, in a safe area and easily accessible. Rest assured, that type of place does not have to break the bank.
Imagine this. The trip you’ve been planning for a year is commencing tomorrow. You’ve planned ahead, budgeted, secured flights, accommodations, excursions, the whole 9 yards. You hop on your flight with your roller-bag in hand (team carry-on), have a lovely flight across the ocean, and land at your destination. You get halfway through your vacation with no mishaps and then_____(fill in the blank: you get robbed, you get injured, your rental car gets damaged, etc, etc, etc). You’re distraught because you have no travel insurance and the cost of repairs or medical attention or recovering what you lost WAS NOT part of your budget.
This is why you need travel insurance. There are many companies that offer it and their terms may vary, but do the research to find the insurance that’s best for your trip and the kind of activities you’ll be enjoying. There’s nothing like an uncovered and unforeseen expense to ruin a vacation. Take the time, pay the extra cost (oftentimes, very minimal) to have peace of mind. Check the link below for an overview of the top choices in travel coverage. As I stated earlier, do the research to find out which company’s terms are best for you.
Top 10 in Travel Insurance
First I’ll say that I am not a fan of going into debt to travel. I believe that seeing other parts of the world is invaluable and provides an education that no book can give you…BUT going into debt in order to go on a pleasure trip is not a good idea. I do, however, love using credit cards to build points for travel. Use the card to pay for parts of your trip and pay the balance with the money in your travel account. There are quite a few cards that offer bonuses and rewards for new customers and the best card for your trip is going to be one that offers no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation coverage, and other perks for travel use. Two of my favorites are:
Chase Sapphire Preferred:
– 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on the card in the first three months.
– 2x points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide, no foreign transaction fees, primary auto rental insurance, and trip cancellation coverage
– you can also redeem Ultimate Rewards points directly for airfare
Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card
– Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points.
– Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees while earning points to use for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees
– 20,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening – which can be redeemed for a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
For more credit card options and info check out The Points Guy.
WHEW!! I know. That’s a LOT of information. But it’s all here so you can refer back at any time. Also, don’t forget to take a listen to the podcast (at the top of this page) where I share a few more tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years.
Remember, if you plan, budget, and do your research you’re sure to be able to plan a trip that fits your wallet. The world is at your disposal so get out and see it!!