HOW TO BE YOUR OWN TRAVEL AGENT
When it comes to booking your next vacay, there seem to be two types of travellers: problem solvers or people who throw money at people to solve their problems. Unfortunately, in more ways than one I fall into the second category. Similarly, while washing my own car should be easy enough, I throw money at the issue and have it washed even though I know I could save myself $40. Lazy? Most definitely.
Well, planning and booking my gap year (and many trips that followed actually) I have put my trust in friends to find the best spots, seek the best deals and organise the perfect accommodation. Time and time again, my many hours playing on the internet, reading reviews and clicking on link after link after link become a tad overwhelming… the hands go up in the air, the laptop is flung across the room and the credit card details are handed over to the travel savvy friend, no questions asked.
With a world waiting to be explored, its time for you to become the travel savvy friend, the one always in the know about the best flight deals… the ones that don’t involve ten stop-overs for the sake of saving $300.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
We usually always have an idea of where we’d like to go next. Whether based on time, proximity, cost – these are all key factors in planning the perfect trip. From there, ask around. Friends and friends of friends, people you know and trust are the perfect tool. Not knowing who or what to trust on the World Wide Web can be a bit daunting, so start local. Travel forums are also highly informative and offer a non-sugar-coated way to some of the best-kept secrets. Where I get lazy is in reading reviews, BUT when all you have to go off are pictures and ratings online – they are worth it! Spend some time flicking through reviews (TripAdvisor or Yelp particularly for the States are good options) to ensure you aren’t stranded in a 5 star crack den you thought was the Taj Mahal.
SHOP AROUND FOR THE BEST DEAL
Start by using sites such as Skyscanner, Kayak and Expedia to get a realistic view of prices and layovers or possible routes. In saying that, always be sure to double and triple check the sites they lead to. Wherever possible, use these as more of a scanning tool and then jump onto the official airline sites and go from there.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
As mentioned briefly above, be smart! Geography is NOT my strong suit, but understanding where you’re going and what’s around you could save you time, money and energy in the long haul. Added to this, with travel and lugging suitcases from airport to airport and back again in not pleasant when you don’t know where you are heading. Pick a route that makes sense geographically, and if you do have limited time consider spending more time in one place or exploring towns and cities nearby rather than cross-continent.
You want to get the bang out of your buck. Years ago, upon the old school advice of my parents, I made the mistake of taking the equivalent of AU$4,000 in travellers cheques, I repeat travellers cheques to Europe. The BEST part was running around Paris to the one and only bank (yes, one and only!) in Paris that would cash them. Now, while my parents still stick by their choice for safety purposes (although they say now the amount was perhaps a bit OTT) the money I lost in transferring these suckers put a huge dent in my Parisian plans. Anytime I’m overseas though, I think it’s best not to dwell on exchange and conversion rates, c’est la vie – the cost of travel. I would rather spend my money in restaurants, not ATMs so sourcing the best travel cards should also be priority, particularly for longer trips.
For some and again, great with longer trips, drawing up a budget is a great way to map out spending and keep you on track. Never have I regretted a cent I have spent overseas (ahem, well almost never!). Some of our best memories are created from travelling – whether they be good experiences or bad but one guarantee is that you’ll come home with one hell of a story.
PHOTO CREDITS: @MADELINEJOYRELPH
FEATURE BY ARABELLA STUBBS