Monday, June 9, 2014

Travel Resources & Tips - Part One

If you would like to see all my travel posts, including recaps, tips & recommendations and packing guides, please visit my travel page.

I absolutely love travelling - who doesn't, right? I also love planning, researching and reading. So I thought I would share my favourite resources - websites, blogs, specific posts.. all the things. And some of my own tips, because I've done it a couple times.

15 Travel Blogs Every Travel Lover Needs To Know    Travel blogs can help you reach your life goal to see the world.
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Flights

I always use Expedia to get a general idea of how much something will cost, though I rarely book through them anymore. I like Delta because they are generally cheap, I have a miles thingy with them, they aren't as sucky as United, they are pleasant and have tons of movies to watch... I'm easily pleased. I have also flown with EmiratesVirgin Australia, Qantas / American Airlines - all good but not normally the cheapest.

For US domestic, I love Southwest but my next choice is Delta. I'm all about the cheapest and fastest. For Australia domestic I pretty much always used Jetstar or Tigerair.

I have read many people suggest getting a travel rewards credit card, and I completely agree. It is one of the best, easiest ways to get free flights. I personally love Delta, but there are tons out there - I have heard great things about Southwest and Chase Sapphire.

My tips:
  • Compare, compare, compare. Like I said, I use Expedia to get an idea of how much things will cost, I look at different airlines, airports and dates as well. When planning for Europe, I looked at buses, trains and flights to see which was the cheapest / best option. Another example - flying from Louisville to London is about $1,500. Flying from Louisville to Dublin is about $1000. Say what? A flight from Dublin to London is about $100 and we want to see Dublin anyway, so really we saved ourselves $500. And when you're married and it's coming out of one account-that's $1000. Shopping money!
  • Pack lightly. This goes for checked & carry on. If it's a short trip, a carry on backpack or small suitcase is all you need, plus a handbag or something. Airports and planes are not the places you want to be lugging awkward and heavy things (trust me, I've stupidly been there).
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  • Bring at least one snack and one book. Obviously, I love to read so I always bring a book.. or two... I also bring a snack (like almonds or rice cakes) although airport food is sometimes necessary and unavoidable, I try to save that just for meals during layovers.
  • Buy a drink at the airport - after security. I personally buy a big ol bottle of water after I get through security. I know you get free drinks on the plane, but I hate waiting and they never give me enough - I like my liquids. Flying makes me feel dehydrated, so h2o FTW.
  • Comfort is key. I have a similar 'uniform' for each flight I take - leggings, boots or sneakers, comfy tee and a coat with a hoodie. I like the hoodie because its like a mini pillow, and helps a little to block out the light and noise.  
LC does it again
  • Calm down and be nice. People can be kind of annoying and it can get frustrating when they hit you with their bags or stand in front of you at the luggage merry go round (I'm waiting too, butthole). I try to always be pleasant to security, flight attendants, other passengers - I know this should be common courtesy but I really find it makes my day more pleasant if I just be nice, patient and remember to smile. 
Hotels

Tripadvisor - I don't think I have ever actually booked anything via tripadvisor but it is an absolutely fabulous tool for finding good hotels and tips about certain places. 

I frequently check agodapriceline and hotels.com as well - but tripadvisor has never steered me wrong. 

I read as many reviews for a place as I can because somebody else's 'worst hotel ever' reason might not be a big deal to me. I don't particularly care about the staff unless they spit in my face. I just want somewhere clean, safe and a good location. It would be great if the staff were wonderful and helpful, or the breakfast was delicious but I care about people saying things like bed bugs, items stolen or bad areas. 

My goals for hotels are cheap, safe, clean and comfortable. 

I would love to stay in fancy hotels, or just better than average hotels, but at the end of the day we won't be spending our vacation in a hotel - and if we do, we're doing it wrong.


I google distances as well - KC and I love to walk, but I don't want to save money by staying in x area if we have to catch taxis to get everywhere. I would rather stay as close as possible so I can walk everywhere, or utilise public transport. So I pick something, like Big Ben, and then I 'get directions' to the hotel to see where it is. Obviously I don't want to stay right next to Big Ben, but you get the idea.

I, personally, never expect an upgrade or freebies. If I want a certain room, that is the room I will book. I don't bribe or try to sweet talk the front desk person because that's just not my style. However, on our honeymoon, I guess we were just so happy and nice and honeymoon-ey that the front desk lady upgraded us to a penthouse suite. I know she probably does that for everyone, but it was a nice and unexpected gesture. 

My tips:
  • Pick something you want to be near, like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben or the like. Google to make sure that is a good area, and then use Tripadvisor and google maps to find a good hotel.
  • Set a budget - like, $100-$150 a night for the whole trip. You might have to pay more in places like Paris, but you can make up for it by going cheaper in another city.
  • Pay in advance. A lot of hotels will let you book without paying or only with a deposit, but I prefer to pay in advance. It's often cheaper, and that way it doesn't come out of the money that you bring with you to your destination. 
  • Use a name your own price feature, like Priceline or Hotwire - I have only used this a couple of times and it is a great tool. There is a plethora of information on the internet and lots of good experiences. I am hoping to use this more when we go to Europe. Better Bidding is a brilliant place to start.
  • Be friendly and polite. It never hurts. I'm sure people working at hotels (well, people everywhere) deal with rude, assuming, demanding people all the live long day. Won't you be a refreshing change?
I also find it super helpful to write everything down as I am planning in a cute little travel journal or notebook. 
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Do you have any tips or resources that are essential to your travel plans?

29 comments:

  1. We use Southwest a lot too. And I'm so with you on the comfort thing - I'm not about to wear fancy clothes on a flight! Awesome post!

    www.madeintheshadeblog.com

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  2. I'm big on shopping around and comparing too! Love the "calm down and be nice" it's so true. Getting your panties in a wad doesn't help the situation AT ALL ;)

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  3. Great travel tips. I don't travel a Ton, but I do move around a lot so that kinda counts right? lol

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  4. Great post girl! My parents work for Delta so for the majority of my life it was the online airline I ever flew. Now I've been on others but I really don't like any besides Southwest and JetBlue as much as Delta!

    <3, Pamela
    sequinsandseabreezes.blogspot.com

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  5. I also have a general travel outfit. Cute and comfy.
    If I can I like to fly American Airlines. I've just found them to be friendlier and have had less problems with them. They can be expensive though =(
    I don't know how people ask for upgrades! I feel too weird about it! "So...Ummmm. Got any free stuff for me?" lol

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  6. I haven't really done enough big traveling to have my own "way" of doing things yet, so this is definitely helpful :) thanks for sharing! Hope you're having a blast in Australia :)

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  7. Love these tips! I do many of these already, but there were some here I hadn't thought of. Thanks!

    I have never used the name your price feature. I may have to check that out!

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  8. Great tips! I always dress comfy while traveling. I took the bus last week to Houston and saw women struggling with their luggage as they walked in 3-4 inch heels. I just don't get it.

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  9. Great post, Kristen! I totally agree with everything (though I am not nearly as well traveled as you!). I have a southwest card and I love it! When we went to Europe last year, we were able to fly to NYC for free because of our miles and our actual flights ended up being super cheap!

    It always makes me sad when people say that it's just too expensive to travel, because it is expensive, but there are so many ways to make it more affordable!

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  10. I fahreak out if i don't have a book, water, lotion and a snack when i fly.

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  11. Such a good idea to write everything down in a journal! That way if you go back again you can remember all your little finds. Being nice is such a good thing to remember. I swear half of our upgrades were just by Mark flashing his smile and me playing nice and magically that higher up room appears. I hope you are having a fabulous time and I can't wait to hear all about it!!!

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  12. pack lightly. ha that's funny.

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  13. I use all these! My traveladvisor app is always in use. Also that comfort thing is a big one esp for long flights I remember seeing a gilr taking off her heels to rrun through Heathrow airport in London. Heels and flying are dumb.

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  14. "Calm down, and be nice" YES! I feel like airports/ when traveling you run into two type of people-- the ones who are excited about happy to go wherever or the people who are angry and think they're more important than anyone else! Hope your first few days in Australia have been wonderful!

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  15. I'm all about comfort on a flight. Last time I was flying it was like 5AM and there were chicks in dresses and heels and it wore me out looking at them all fancied

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  16. I prefer not to travel ;) ... or just buy stock on barf bags... fun times.

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  17. LOVE Expedia and BTW, go through Ebates first and you get back like 5% if you book through them! Enjoy Australia!! XO

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  18. ahh LOVE southwest! have so much fun on your trip!!!

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  19. I am a total planner and researcher too! I have to know I'm getting the best price! Haha I am obsessed with tripadvisor that's my go to for checking hotels because I love that people post their own pictures so you're not getting fooled by those pictures on their website! I hope you're having a great time!!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeatsoles.blogspot.com

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  20. I love using Expedia and you can rack up points to put toward free flights or hotels. Great tips,e specially since I'm traveling to DR on Thurs!

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  21. This is a great post! I've also heard that booking Airbnb can be a lot cheaper than hotels too. I'm going to try it on my next vaca to Europe, whenever that may be. I always get myself a big bottle of water after I get through security and then a drink too to quiet my nerves. Hate being nervous flyer!

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  22. These are great tips, Kristen! Thanks for sharing! I agree with all of them :)

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  23. These are really great tips! Both for air travel, hotels and for the travelling! Thanks :)

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  24. This is a great post! I just bookmarked this for future use!!

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  25. Love this list! I'll definitely be using these tips when we plan/book our honeymoon!!

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  26. I have so much travel planned for 2016. I’ve not taken a proper vacation in years, so I’m kind of going overboard in the upcoming months. We’re visiting all over in India Just for adventure. I can’t believe we’re doing this.
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