Friday, January 16, 2015

How to Travel the World, or at Least Plan to...

One thing I have always wanted to do was travel around the world. Now that our children can take care of themselves, we have more freedom to think about traveling. Of course, there are still many obstacles such as the cash flow, work schedules, family activities, weather, pet care and so on, that keep us grounded at home, but at least we are getting out once or twice a year to new places. If you also like traveling, there are a few tips for planning that we can offer.

Try taking weekend trips. Instead of looking at longer trips only to be disappointed because the cost is too high or the scheduling is just too tight, look closer to home for weekend getaways. We happen to live at the top of the Chesapeake Bay so there are plenty of little waterfront communities that are great for spending a day or two without spending a fortune. We also have several major cities; Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Washington DC, and Lancaster that are between one and three hours away from us. We love checking out theaters or events happening close by and then adding on a hotel room for the night. This year, we hope to do a little boating and camping for even more adventure once the weather warms up. I hate to say that I cannot afford to travel, instead I try to find what I can do with the limited funds that we (like most people) have at our disposal.

Look for cheap flights. Of course, this is often the clincher in the planning of our longer trips but with the recent drop in the price of oil, I hope that the savings will translate soon to airflight costs. I like to look at Spirit Airlines as they often have very low prices but only to specific areas. Some folks complain that they don't like the idea of having to pay for each aspect of the flight, but I kind of like the barebones approach. I can bring my own food and water and don't need to carry much luggage so their system works for me. Besides Spirit, you can check out Google Flights and watch their indicators for when flight prices will drop and make your plans within their parameters. Don't forget to sign up for airlines' email offers.

Look at your calendar for blocks of time where you don't have to take off work. For instance, if you work a normal eight to five, Monday through Friday job, your paycheck might shrink if you take a day off to travel. However, if you chose to travel on days that you might already have off, like the day after Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July or January First, you don't have to use up valuable work days. This is especially effective if the paid holiday is on a Friday or Monday so you can make it a long weekend.

Use offers from your credit cards or other financial partners. It seems everyone is offering some kind of reward for using their financial services, especially credit cards, banks and credit unions. Look closely at your online statements and see what your rewards can be used for. Sometimes you get cash back that you can then save up for traveling. Others offer points that are useful for discounts on hotel rooms or car rentals. Once you get an idea of what they offer, you can make plans around the details. Don't forget the old standby of AAA, the original travel service. If nothing else, you get a reduced rate on rooms, rental cars and even restaurants besides the assurance of their roadside service.

Read reviews before you travel. With the vast quantity of information available at our fingertips through our smartphones, we have no excuse for doing a few seconds of research on a destination. I like to use the Google reviews as a start. Simply plug in the business name and see what other viewers have posted. Another valuable site is Trip Advisor. They have accumulated a vast collection of reviews from all over the world and I always take a look there before I try any new places. 

I am no authority on world travel yet, but as I learn, I am happy to share any advice I get for helping you to get out there in this wild and crazy world and try to visit new places. Feel free to comment on your tips too, if I haven't included them.