This list is for the novice traveler, or experienced traveler who can relate to these travel oversights.
1. Failing to track flights
Oof, it makes us cringe to think about flights where the ticket costs more than the actual trip. In the past, we would book the first available flight and never realize we could have saved at least $100 or more on that same exact flight. Nowadays there are sites and programs committed to tracking the cost of every flight available during your selected travel days and location. Below are a few websites we recommend you check out when planning your next trip:
Google Flights (free) - We use google flights most of the time, as it gives you a calendar with predicted cost of flights for each day. It also shows you if the flight prices are low, typical, or high for that particular trip. This is helpful because if the prices are typical, or high you can select track prices and google will send you emails regarding any price drops. Google flights also has a few other capabilities such as finding hotels and things to do.
Hopper (free app)- We don't use this one, but have heard many people swear by it. Hopper allows you to track flights, book hotels and car rentals, freeze prices, and protect your travel plans. They also have a rewards credit program, called carrot cash where you earn 2% back on your purchases made on the app.
Faredrop ($49 Economy Plan/$99 Business Plan) - Faredrop was created by Kara and Nate, two travel youtubers Keith and I watch. When you sign up you select your home airport, the regions you want to travel in, and your maximum travel budget, they then send you the best flight deals they can find to your selected locations from your home airport. Unlike other travel deal websites, faredrop has a real person who actively monitors flights from all over the world, and selects the best deals to send to your inbox.
Capital One Venture X Credit Card* ($399 annual fee) - At the end of last year we decided to invest in getting the Venture X card from Capital One. The annual fee is quite steep, but the benefits more than make up for your investment. If you want to know more about our thoughts on the Venture X card, you can read our previous blog post on our favorite travel rewards credit cards. One of the many benefits of the Capital One Venture X card is that you can book your travels through Capital One Travel, this feature allows you to book flights, hotels and rental cars, while you earn miles for future trips. Another added bonus is they offer price drop protection, price matching, price predictions, and alerts to ensure you are getting the best price for your travels.
2. Taking a nap after arriving in a new time zone
Two words: Jet lag! We discovered this the hard way when we traveled to London. Our flight arrived early in the morning, so we checked into our hotel and grabbed a quick nap before exploring the city. Well what we had planned as a cat nap turned into a 5 hour nap, for the remainder of our trip we could not recover. We would get exhausted by midday, and fight with ourselves to stay awake until night. We recommend arriving mid- to late afternoon, and staying awake until it gets dark. This will allow your body to adjust to the new time zone. During those last hours of daylight, you can settle into your accommodations, and explore a bit before going to bed.
When we first started traveling, we packed large suitcases filled with everything we thought we would need. However, we discovered that about half of our stuff went unused by the end of the trip. Our current preference is for carryon luggage over checked luggage. This is partly due to budget considerations, as most airlines no longer give you a free checked suitcase, but rather a free carryon bag. Keep in mind that some budget airlines will charge you for your carryon bag too. Additionally, it saves us some time once we arrive at the airport, no waiting at the carousel for our luggage, just grab it and go; also no fear of every traveler's worst nightmare.. lost luggage. If you are curious how we pack for weeks long trips in a simple carryon, we pack capsule wardrobes, a few tops and bottoms that we can mix and match throughout our trip. If we need to, we will do laundry at our hotel, airbnb, or find a local laundromat. Side note, we recently purchased packing cubes from TRIPPED Travel Gear* on amazon, finally our stuff will be neatly organized.
4. Not doing our research
There have been a few trips where we didn't do adequate research and found ourselves with some unnecessary travel stress. One prime example is on one of our first trips with a group of friends from college to Montréal, Canada. Besides flights and accommodations we didn't plan anything else. The trip overall was not bad, but it could have been better with some prior planning. Here are some things we recommend looking into as you plan your trip:
Weather - What is the weather like during the month of your trip?
Transportation - How are you getting around? Is your destination walkable, will you need a car(rent, or hire), is there public transportation (subway/train/bus route), is it free or will you need a ticket? If you're driving yourself, what are the driving conditions?
Accommodations - Where will you be staying and how far is it from everything you want to do? If you choose a hotel, does it provide breakfast or other meal services, is there a concierge to help in booking some excursions, do they offer transportation? If you're in an Airbnb, does it have a kitchen or kitchenette, are there restaurants or grocery stores nearby, did the host leave you any local recommendations?, If you are staying in a hostel, do they have lockers to protect your stuff, is it coed, do they offer any group itineraries or special get togethers?
Food - Will you make or bring your own food or will you need to find restaurants to eat at? What is your budget for food? If you have diet restrictions or are a picky eater, look up places that will offer what you like. Are there any recommended choices by locals?
Activities - Create a list of must do things and a list of things you would like to see but okay if you miss it. This will help you when you're planning out your day to day itineraries. If you're booking with a travel group, check to see if they provide transportation. Also keep in mind how long you will spend doing each activity, this will keep you from over booking your day.
Managing Group Expectations - If you are planning a trip with friends or extended family you will want to make sure your travel wants and needs align; or is your group willing to split up. This will help everyone get the most out of their trip, and avoid potential conflicts.
5. Not planning the big things ahead
If there is a particular activity or location that is high on your list of must dos, make sure to book or plan it ahead of time. Especially if it's a popular activity with limited availability each day, or unexpected closures. It's a bummer to get to your destination and that one thing you really wanted to do is not available.
6. Not getting off the beaten path
We struggle with this a lot. When planning out our trips we tend to visit list sites like "Top 10 must dos in XYZ City", "Things to do in XYZ", those types of lists are great jumping off points, but don't always list those local favorites. It's worth asking your hotel, host, or locals you come across for those off the beaten path areas; these will typically be worth taking time to do and make you feel more like a local.
7. Not taking time to actually enjoy our trip
Like most travelers you want to get the most out of your trip, and some locations have so many choices of things to do that it's hard to prioritize. This may leave you over scheduled or running yourself ragged and too tired to enjoy it. While you're on your travels give yourself time to take it all in, put down the camera or phone and take a moment to appreciate that you are experiencing this in person. No photo or video is ever going to compare to your memories of seeing it in person.
8. Thinking travel means leaving your home state or country
The great thing about your home country or state is that you could live there your entire life and still not see everything. If you're seeking adventure, but don't have the money or time to fly out/drive somewhere, think about looking in your backyard. Do a google search on your home state, town, or country, and see if there are places you have never been too. We have lived in Tampa for about 10 years and it seems like everyday we see something new that we haven't been too.
9. Not having contingency plans
When we travel we always try to have contingency plans; what happens if something unexpected happens. This allows us to travel with less worry that we wouldn't be prepared in case of emergency. Here are some things to consider in your contingency plans:
Missed or Cancelled Flights - Have a plan for if you miss a connecting flight or run into unexpected cancellations. We have been reading there have been a lot of flight cancellations because of covid outbreaks amongst crew members.
Covid Infection - If you were to become exposed to covid, would you be able to cover your quarantine cost.
Accident/Sickness - Have a plan for what to do in case of someone in your party has an accident or gets sick. Make sure to have emergency contact information, health information, and travel documents in case you need them.
Lost Travel Documents - Make sure to have a digital copy of your passport, license, or other important travel documents incase your physical copy gets lost. You may also want to send a copy to a trusted family member.
Local Currency - Have some local currency on you in case you need it.
Itinerary - Send a copy of your itinerary to close friends and family, and make sure to check in with them periodically through out your trip.
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