As I continue to travel each year, I find myself frequently doing the same routine things to pre-plan for these new adventures including: visiting key websites, developing my own itinerary, and following other bloggers advice. Best of all of this information is free. Please let me share some of my travel essentials and feel free to share your own with me.
Essential 1: Knowing when to go
To know when to go is often a challenge if you are just wishing to traveling to a certain part of the world. This concern can easily be answered through exploring TripAdvisor and posting a question to the site. Of course, other concerns to consider include: allotted vacation days, if it is a special family or friend event that you must attend, or you have extra cash that allows for travel.
One true consideration that can quickly eat into your travel expenses is not considering local holidays, especially when traveling to Asia or South America. For us in the U.S., I would plan well ahead for Spring Break and avoid the usually locales for travel destinations such as the southern states.
You may find www.mycalendar.org helpful. Not all countries are there, but it’s great tools to start with that will assist in identifying holidays.
Also, this site offers some good options to explore ideas when considering the climate and season for exploring a country. You may find best time to go helpful.
Essential 2: Finding The Cheapest Flight
Turns out there is a best time to book a flights. According to Peter Greenberg, it is Wednesday at 1 am. He explains the reason for this time in his blog from 2014 titled: The Best Time to Book Flights, Airline by Airline
The catch is that it is not time zone specific and is applicable to the airline’s hub. If you take Peter’s advice and I have a few times, you could save some $$ through this extra effort on the phone versus online. Below is an updated list of the best times to book flights and the numbers to all of the U.S. airlines based off the original list from Mr. Greenberg’s blog.
Eastern Standard Time
Central Time Zone
- American Airlines / 1-800-433-7300
- Southwest Airlines / 1-800-43-9792
- United Airlines / 1-800-864-8331
Mountain Time Zone
- Frontier Airlines / 1-800-432-1359
Pacific Time Zone
Hawaii-Aluetian Time Zone
- Hawaiian Airlines/ 1-800-367-5320
Should you always call the airlines directly? One can still find very discounted flights or if you are member of any of the airlines awards programs (i.e., American Airlines or Delta). You can still grab some good deals through exploring the web. My two main online resources are listed below:
Another good one is SeatGuru which allows you to check which seats are the best on the aircrafts for the most important airlines.
Another good website to know when to arrive and leave from many of the world’s airports is ToAndFromTheAirport.com It is not just for air travel, but can be used for buses, trains, and other transit.
A Mobile App Must Have
Do you not like uncertainty in not always knowing if you are booking the best price? Now, there is an option you can add to your mobile to potentially predict with very good accuracy (around 95% per the site). It is known as the Hopper app. I have used several times and happy with the results. You log in the typical flight details and receive notification whether to book now or wait for a better price. You can request to be notify when the price drops.
Essential 3: Need a Place to Stay
Once you have your flight booked, you will need a place to stay. One of my favorite sites to explore for the best stays (hotels, bed & breakfasts, apartments, etc.) is Booking.com This is a community of contributors (including yours truly) from across the global who offer honest and often detailed reviews of their stays. You can also use TripAdvisor for other objective reviews, travel recommendations, and guides.
I always visit both of these sites in my planning for the next adventure either find a hotel from scratch, or check the reviews of a hotel I am considering staying. Why do I use both as a comparison? It is my way to decide between the mix of reviews present on both sites and to gain a better understanding for the true intention of the person reviewing the stay. Sometimes the ‘bad’ review was not so bad and was an isolated incident of someone expecting a red carpet treatment at a 2 or 3 star stay. My advice: always read all of the reviews.
Essential 4: Currency Convertor
One of most frequently used apps on my iPhone is the Xe Currency app. You can also use their website to explore exchange rates at xe.com I don’t think there is a currency on the site that they avoid giving details. At least, I haven’t come across it, yet.
Essential 5: Time is Important
This often not a concern if you don’t need to communicate with your home country. However, there are two reasons to consider time zone difference when traveling internationally.
1) knowing when the Spring (the Spring Forward–thing) time zone hour changes worldwide or don’t for some countries, and
2) Being able to call your bookings for questions that can’t be answered on their websites.
A good app to download is:
for IOS devices: Timeanddate
for Android devices: Timeanddate
The website for the above is timeanddate.com/worldclock
Essential 6: The Weather
I can attest to planning everything and just a couple of days before the trip was to occur, a hurricane hit the area. This is where another essential comes later. You may not be to predict everything all the time, but two good tools to explore the current weather and local forecast is weather.com or weather underground
Essential 7: Travel or Trip Insurance
This next essential may read as if I am selling an insurance policy. Of course, this is not the case. I have found the the need to cancel a few of our travel plans due to various reasons and without travel insurance, the expense would have shocking! I highly recommend travel insurance for any international trip. One of the main trusted sites that I have used is WorldNomads.com You can learn more about travel insurance by visiting Travel Insurance
Trip cancellation insurance is just some of the many perks now being offered by many credit card companies when booking travel, but be sure to read the policy as there are often more restrictions than the above travel insurance policy.
Essential 8: Vaccinations
There is more to travel than these eight essentials and I plan to add my thoughts and perhaps fellow travelers’ recommendations as well into a quick reference. Some questions to consider:
Is Tuesday or Wednesday still the best travel day? Is Saturday catching up as the best travel day?
Is seasonal travel really the best means to plan your travel?
What other tools do you use when planning your trips?
Please let me know in the comments.