I’ve had the opportunity to do a ton of traveling the past few years, more so than I did when I worked a 9-5. Paris, Tulum, Mexico City, Barcelona, Ibiza, Charleston, Chicago — it has been one amazing year and it has sparked a full on travel bug that I can’t seem to shake. As fun and adventurous as it can be, it can start to get a little pricey. Scratch that. REALLY pricey. From the start, I knew that if I wanted to travel a lot and travel to far I’d have to get creative. Over the past few months, I’ve learned a few tips along the way to help keep the costs AND stress as low as possible so I could focus more on the adventures and experiences. Now don’t get me wrong, I still tend to splurge on certain aspects of my vacay when it makes sense or if I want to do something special. I have also been able to work with some of great travel partners along the way when creating content for my blog. However, I still use every single of these travel hacks when planning my trips to make things ten times easier. Check ’em out below!
NO. 1 | PLAN AROUND FLIGHT DEALS
I learned this tip from Megan aka the travel boss. She was the first to school me on sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights and Secret Flyingand I’ll never look back. There are probably even more sites like this out there but these are the two I subscribe to religiously. Every day, I get an email with their top flight deals. This is how Megan & I scored $400 flights to Paris…nonstop. Roundtrip. Yup. We also got our flights to South Africa through one of these daily newsletters. B and I are going in January, roundtrip nonstop for $700. Talk about a deal.
The way they work is simple. You can select the frequency of emails you receive and then you’ll get an email with the latest flight deals. Some of these sites also have searches on their main home page so you can look for flights or set alerts for destinations (I love Airfare Watchdog for this). They give you a list of sample dates and prices and then you basically go in and play around with the search fields until you find something that works for you. (adding in number of passengers, preferred airlines, etc.) There isn’t a ton of flexibility with dates and departing location. Most of these deals are around specific seasons, departure cities, etc. so I typically only use these deals when I come across a good one that aligns with my availability and budget. For example, Megan & I knew we wanted to do a big trip earlier this year so we just checked our daily emails until we saw a location and price that worked for us. I love this sense of “spontaneity” but you still get to book your flights with enough planning time before you travel. To be honest, this is one of the only ways I’ll travel now. You just can’t beat a good deal.
NO. 2 | LAND A GOOD SEAT
Now that you’ve got your cheap flights booked, the next thing to stress about are the seats. I don’t know why this gives me so much stress but getting a good seat on a 7+ hour flight is KEY. But let’s be real, trying to figure out seat maps and how much room you get is near impossible – sorry, no first class for me. I was recently introduced to SeatGuru and can’t stop, won’t stop. All you do is plug in the Airline, Flight # and date and it pulls up the exact seat map for that aircraft. This is SO helpful for international flights. B and I also sometimes look at this before we book a flight to ensure we can get good seats (i.e. ones we can afford, that are together and not near a bathroom).
NO. 3 | USE TRIP IT. THANK ME LATER.
This app you guys. It’s a life saver. Whether you have one too many flights to track, don’t want to forget your confirmation numbers, need to keep your hotel reservations in one place or just get super stressed with the details…TripIt is going to be your new best friend. It’s an app that keeps all of your travel plans in one place, curating your perfect itinerary and keeping all parties traveling on the same page. This was seriously my go-to for Spain and you better believe I’m using it in South Africa. All you do is forward your confirmation emails for things like flights, hotels, etc. to their TripIt email and it pulls everything together in one neat + pretty itinerary. You can then access it from your phone or computer and add to it when you have new travel details. It is a true lifesaver and eliminates the need to carry or print out one thousand documents. #guilty.
NO. 4 | COMMUNICATION ABROAD IS KEY
I might have taken over seven years of Spanish in high school and college…but I can speak about 3 words and that’s not helpful to anyone. The two apps I can’t live without when traveling abroad are Google Translate and WhatsApp. Google translate is perfect for so many reasons. Download the language of the country you’re visiting before you leave and you can basically conquer any conversation. Not only can you speak english into the app and it translates it for you but you can also hold your phone up to someone speaking the foreign language and it reads out loud in English. While it’s always great to catch up on some of the basics before you visit any country or new place, this app is such a great resource. Did I mention you can also scans menus, signs, etc. that are in the foreign language and it spits it back out in english. Um, yes please.
WhatsApp is perfect for texting with people who have non-US numbers. We use this all of the time with tour guides, travel agents onsite, hotel contacts, etc. It’s such a great way to stay connected while abroad and you can setup group chats for your travel group, family, etc. Love this one!
NO. 5 | GET. A. PHOTOGRAPHER.
Okay so this isn’t a travel hack or really even a must have but it’s something I try to do one nay and every trip. Whether I’m going as a “blogger” with fellow boss babes or heading out on a romantic getaway with B, I love being able to work with someone from that location to capture memories. It’s one thing to be able to take your own photos – which I still do – but working with someone who knows from experiences the best locations and best times to shoot, tips for getting around and may or may not have special access to great views…well that’s something you can’t pass up. I love planning a little mini photo shoot wherever I go and I think it gives you the opportunity to get photos of you and your group/travel partners in crime without having to jump in front of a tripod or one person constantly rotating in and out to snap the pic.
I typically do a search with Instagram hashtags or bookmark my favorite travel bloggers and keep note of who their photographers were in any given city. You can also use Flytographer to find photographers in the area you’re visiting!