Tuesday, November 20, 2012

3 Things to Know Before You Book Your Travel Plans

Traveling is something we all want to do, but the finances of it all can keep us from seeing the most beautiful places the world has to offer. When planning your next trip, think about these 3 things before you book. It might save you more money than you realize.

1. When thinking about where you want to go and what you want to do, its important to know your own travel style and expectations. Ask yourself these questions:
  • How comfortable do you want to be? A hostel might be a cheap option and put you in the middle of town, but a hotel might offer more peace and quiet as well as your own space. Both options are great, and will come down to your own style and expectations.
  • How cheap do you want to be? Prioritize your needs, and weigh out which items you'd be willing to spend more or less money on. If you're going to Italy, nice food might be a part of your trip, but it also might be the most expensive. But if you're going to Sri Lanka or Tunisia, you may opt for PB&Js each day, and decide to spend money on more tourist attractions or nice lodging. Regardless of your preference, it is important to decide how you want to allocate your money.
  • What is the goal of your trip? If your goal is to spend time with someone, consider booking less activities and leave room for more downtime together. If your goal is to experience a new culture, then you might be more open to the local food, staying in different types of establishments, or connecting with people from that area.

Knowing your own style and expectations will keep you from getting side-tracked throughout the trip planning process, and will ensure that each leg of your trip is exactly what you want it to be. And who knows, it might even save you some money!

2. Look at the cheapest times of the year to visit. Ireland might be cheapest in the winter, but 35 degree days might not be your first choice when booking a vacation. But checking year-round weather might help you find a specific month within the "cheap" range that has warmer/cooler temperatures. Dublin in April might offer you the same cost benefit as would January, but the weather might be 25 degrees warmer. Doing a little research can be easy, and save you 50% on the plane ticket price tag.

3. How to decide on a price (for everything). There are many things to consider when finding the best price, and I admit that some of them can be time-consuming. Here are a few takeaways that I've found to be the most beneficial in my travels that are relatively easy to manage:
  • Consider booking individual legs rather than round-trip flights. Sometimes individual legs offer you a cheaper price, but they also might allow you to see more than you might have seen if you had to travel back to your starting point. So check both options to be sure you're getting the most bang for your buck. *Also check local or smaller airlines as well. They might not be as comfortable, but the money they save you could be put towards somethings more memorable or worthwhile.
  • Book your plane tickets at least 6 weeks out for the best deal. Occasionally you can find cheap rates the week before an excursion, but the planning for and getting excited about your trip is part of the fun (even research agrees). Booking later might mean a spike in prices, fewer options, or unmet expectations. Also keep in mind that if a ticket goes on sale later, you can always buy the cheaper ticket and return your original one. *Places like kayak.com and orbitz.com both allow you to set alerts for when tickets go below a certain price. Using tools like this save time, and also help save you money.
  • Always ask for a deal. Find a way to emotionally connect with whoever you're working with, and be genuine about your excitement over the trip or seeing their city (because everyone takes pride in where they live). Letting the hotel concierge know that this is for your anniversary and you're hoping to do something special for your significant other might get you further than you realize. Being condescending or negative will not. If there isn't a deal that they can give you, ask for a price match. The worst they could say is no.

Although this is not an exhaustive list of everything you can do to maximize efficiency, cost and happiness when you travel, it'll at least point you in the right direction.

Let me know if you find tools or strategies that work for you that I might have missed. There is not enough ink in my computer to type out all that is available, but I am always hoping to learn and grow my own process. Happy travels!

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