Staying Healthy in Sin City

You’ve worked out consistently for weeks, ate every green vegetable you could think of and drank water like crazy – all in preparation for your upcoming vacation. You go on vacation, eat whatever you want and forget about the gym the second you hit the pool. When you get home from vacation, you step on the scale to realize you have not only gained back what you lost but brought a few extra souvenir pounds with you. Who else has been there??

Sadly this used to be a regular occurrence when traveling. I have learned however that a vacation doesn’t have to be the end to a healthy lifestyle. Now when I travel, I want to be able to enjoy my travels but maintain the hard work I have put in. While it requires a little planning, staying healthy while traveling is important and something you will appreciate yourself for after the fact.

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But how do you stay healthy in a city that is known for buffets, alcohol and lounging by the pool? Well as you are planning your next trip to Sin City, check out some of the best deals for hotels on Vegas.com for hotels and activities in Las Vegas.

To ensure you keep up your lifestyle, here are 4 tips for staying healthy in Las Vegas, Nevada:

Set aside time for a workout

You don’t want to let your hard work go down the drain so start your day off on the right foot with a sweat session. Whether you visit the hotel gym or fitness studio in the area, make sure you set aside time to workout (I know I plan to visit the Orangetheory in Vegas the next time I’m there). Whether you love to workout at the barre or have a gym membership, find a workout that you love to do so you will stick with your workout routine through vacation. Better yet, set your next full or half marathon to be in Vegas (Rock “N” Roll Vegas was one of the best I have done) so you can enjoy a runcation. If all else fails, dance some calories off by hitting up one of the night clubs! Even if you don’t want to leave the hotel room (and may have enjoyed your night out a little too much) use a no equipment needed workout to get your heart pumping and burn some calories.

Use your feet to explore

I can’t tell you how many times I have walked up and down the strip. With traffic and congestion on the Strip, walking to your destination is the way to go! This has led to also finding great bars, restaurants and casinos along the way. A great way to get your steps in while exploring Sin City is walking around the city. Another fun activity? Walking to get a bird’s eye view of Vegas on the stairs to the top of the Stratosphere! Remember walking may not get you sweaty but you are burning calories to prepare you for the time you will spend sitting at the tables or next to the pool.

Allow yourself one cheat meal

Like I mentioned, Vegas is known for delicious food. Vegas has some of the most amazing restaurants (now my mouth is watering for some Grand Lux Cafe!!!) but they could also pack your daily calories into one meal! This is why people gain back the weight they lost if not more when on vacation. They simply take in more calories than they are burning. Allow yourself one meal, drink or dessert that you will indulge in (I got through my half marathon telling myself I would get a Sprinkles cupcake after). It is all about balance so make sure to keep your 80/20 rule so you are only indulging 20% of the time. The 80% of the time when you are not eating a cheat meal, utilize some of the healthier food options that Vegas does have like Skinny Fats, Canyon Ranch Grill and Protein House.

Take an active day trip

Vegas really is the center location from a lot of national parks. You are a fairly short drive to Red Rock (the closest), Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon. Why not take a day trip to enjoy nature? Hiking in some of the most beautiful parks around the US is a great way to further expand your trip and get your heart pumping. In addition, Vegas is close to Lake Mead, Laughlin and Havasu where you can enjoy water activities like wake boarding, water skiing, boating and kayaking. Especially during the warmer months, you get to burn some calories and cool off in the water! Even if you do not want to drive, you can set up a tour (Vegas.com) to get you to one of the nearby destinations to do some exploring!


Tell me: Do you work out when you go on vacation?

Travel Tips: Safety When Traveling

Before traveling, the excitement and plans of the upcoming trip are usually on the forefront of all thoughts. As I research, plan my outfits and packing, safety is usually the last thing I am thinking about. Last year, before our trip to Thailand, I was really worried about my safety abroad due to the increase in terrorist attacks. Sadly, since November, they have not stopped and continue to be a recurring news story. While traveling should not be consumed by these threats, it is always a good idea to keep yourself as safe as possible when you are traveling. Traveling is life changing as you are exposed to new food, culture, experiences and languages. However, travel can be life changing in a bad way, if you are not prepared and aware of what is going on around you. Today, I am going to share some tips on staying safe when traveling.

Travel Tips Part 1

Traveling

Whether you are traveling in a well known tourist filled destination or an off the beaten path city, you must always be aware of what you are doing. It is easy to get into the moment of visiting a beautiful beach or finally seeing that Wonder of the World you have been waiting for. These are the times that people often get pick pocketed or are scammed out of money. The worst feeling is being in a situation you feel unsafe while in a foreign place, not knowing the language or having a device to get in contact with. Preparation is always key in traveling, especially when it comes to your safety.

  1. Make photo copies of all important documents (credit cards, passports, etc.) – You definitely do not want to be traveling and lose the documents you need to get home. Make sure to always make a copy of your documents and keep on hand. I usually make copies of all forms of ID and my credit cards to keep with me at all times while leaving the real documents in a safe.
  2. Notify your bank that you will be traveling – This allows for easier use as you travel from state to state or country to country as well as preventing credit card fraud.
  3. Leave valuables at home – I left my engagement ring at home when I traveled to Thailand. I did not bring jewelry and brought my cheap $5 Forever 21 glasses. When talking with the newlyweds we met in Thailand, they advise that they bought $10 fake rings for the trip. They left their real ones at home so they did not have to worry about losing their rings. If you would be upset if you lost it, do not risk by bringing it.
  4. When traveling internationally, notify the embassy of the place you are visiting – With the recent global terrorist alerts, you can be sure I let the embassy know when we were traveling to Thailand. An easy online process, STEP is a really great tool for notifications on alerts as well as getting information on the specific place you are traveling.
  5. Research local tourists scams and recent happenings – Know what you should be watching out for and what you should be sensitive towards. You can never know enough and being well informed is the key to traveling safely.
  6. Stay alert at all times, be aware of your exits and surroundings – Trust me, I know it is so easy to get caught up in the moment, taking in sights, snapping a picture or just relaxing on vacation. You should always stay alert when traveling. When you enter a venue, restaurant or attraction, look for your nearest exits, always be aware of what is going on around you and always (ALWAYS) leave if you do not feel safe.

At Home

While being safe while traveling is important, a lot of people forget about what they are leaving behind when they travel. Their home, family and belongings are being left for days, weeks, sometimes months which means it is the easiest target for burglars. In addition, you wouldn’t just get up and leave without a little preparation. You would ensure your house is locked, your alarm was on and if you have a pet, that they were being taken care of. When planning a trip, safety of your home should definitely be thought of during your planning.

  1. Leave a family member or friend your planned itinerary – When we traveled to Thailand, we made sure to leave our parents a detailed listing of when we would be arriving, traveling domestically and planning to leave. Good communication will help that someone knows where you should be at all times.
  2. Have a family member or friend check in at your house – We always have someone staying at our house when we are gone with the dog. If you do not have a pet that requires someone to stay at your place, ask a friend or family member to stop in.
                *Give the illusion that you are home if you cannot have someone check in – Doing things like setting up motion censored lights, leaving the windows open and/or having your newspaper or mail picked up will keep the illusion that your everyday activities are occurring.
  3. Safety proof your house – Just like you would take precautions to ensure your safety while traveling, ensure your house is set up safely before leaving. Make sure electronics are unplugged, all devices are off and set up an alarm system if you do not have one. Bringing your cellphone with you? Set up a device like Simplisafe which allows you to monitor your house from your phone.
                *Contact your alarm company to notify – Especially if you are not able to have someone stop in at your place, make sure you notify your
  4. Stop or forward your mail – It is extremely easy to stop your mail from being delivered while you are away. A simple setup online prevents your mail from being stolen and showing your house as an open target for theft.

Tell me: What are your tips to stay safe when traveling?

Check out past Travel Thursday posts on the Travel page! 

Travel Tips: Part V – More Travel Websites

Last year I wrote the “Travel Tips” series which included 5 of my most used websites when booking travel. Over the past few months, I have noticed a few more travel websites making their way into my weekly rotation. Yes, weekly. What can I say, if I’m not planning a vacation, I am looking for the next one. Much to my husband’s dismay, these often happen at the same time. Since planning any trip is all about the research, it is necessary to have an arsenal of go-to websites when you are ready to book. Here are some of my favorite travel planning websites:

Travel Tips Part 1

Costco Travel – I mentioned using Costco Travel during our Greece research in a Friday Favorites. I think Costco is one of the last places people would think of when booking travel. However, they offer competitive, inclusive packages that rival most vacation packages. In addition, they offer cruise and theme park packages. Especially if your travel plans are open, this is a great option. They will present packages to your desired destination that allows you to customize the days spent in each city.

TripDelta – Plain and simple, this is one of the two flight searches we always check when booking airfare. TripDelta compares hundred of companies to show you all the possibilities. As we have been booking our honeymoon, I would usually be on Skyscanner and the husband would search using TripDelta. TripDelta boasts a wide range of results in an extremely quick manner.

TripAdvisor – Another site I have mentioned before, it is a go to when we have set a destination and start planning what we want to do. My favorite, most used feature on the site is the “Things To Do” which gives you the top voted things to do in any city. We have stumbled upon some amazing museums, parks and activities we would have otherwise never visited. You can book tours directly on the site through one of the other sites I shared before – Viator.com. TripAdvisor also has hotel, flight and restaurant searches as well as forums for fellow travelers to discuss their own findings.

AirFareWatchdog – For flight searches, this is the best site to have them do the work for you. Not only do you have an extensive flight search, you can also set up notifications for a specific destination you are planning to visit. They will send you an email when the price has changed for that destination. I used this for my Europe trip when booking. I waited a few weeks until AirFareWatchdog told me the price dropped and then I jumped on the lower cost.

Tell me: What websites or companies do you use for booking travel?

Visit the Travel Page for additional ‘Travel Tips’ from Planks and Planes!

 

Top 3 Places to Visit in Paris

I love Paris! Paris was the longest dream of my life. From a young girl, I dreamt of seeing the Eiffel Tower, eating a croissant on a sidewalk in the middle of Paris, walking in gardens and soaking up as much of the French as I could. On our trip to Europe last year, our second stop was in Paris, France. Our first night in Paris, we saw the Arc De Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysses. I thought we could leave at that moment and I would be happy. Thankfully we had four more days in the memorable city. We walked our way through the entire city and I left knowing I would return to the city of love. If I was to return to Paris with only one day to see the city again, there are the top 3 places I would visit:

TOP 3 PLACES TO VISIT IN PARIS, FRANCE

  1. Eiffel TowerThe highlight of my trip was not only finally seeing the Eiffel Tower in person but walking 1,400 steps roundtrip up the metal stairs on the outer perimeter of the Eiffel Tower. Sure, you can wait in the long line, if it is not sold out, to take the elevator up to the top. I could not pass up the chance to walk the steps to the top of something I have wanted to see for most of my life. The Eiffel Tower is just as brilliant in person as it was in all of the pictures that hung in my apartment. At the first level of the Eiffel Tower there is a restaurant you can enjoy a meal with a view. The second level allows even better pictures to make all of your Instagram friends jealous. Climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower will always be one of the highlights of my life. Whether climbing or taking the elevator, this tourist spot is well worth it and a must-see!1181
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  2. Luxembourg Gardens – Luxembourg was my favorite of all the gardens we visited in Paris. The garden are very extensive as there are hundreds of statues, monuments and fountains throughout. The fountains were filled with sailboats that children were sailing around the  large water bowl. Coming from the US, I loved that the gardens were filled with people reading, eating and talking. It was such an enjoyable place to relax and refresh. The garden contains vivid flowers and well kept greenery that result in beautiful pictures. Although Paris is filled with multiple gardens, the Jardin du Luxembourg was hands down the best!1097
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  3. Notre Dame Cathedral Paris – Ready for goosebumps the second you walk in? The well known church does not disappoint. The Romanesque exterior is just as beautiful as the stained glass windows inside and sculpture filled garden surrounding. While the line  in the summer was a tad longer than preferred to get in, you will forget you are waiting in line as you take in the awe of the church’s architecture. When walking through the church, the colorful windows, high ceilings and historic information will captivate you. Pictures do not do justice to this 12th century landmark so make sure to check it out for yourself.1018
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Now is the time, book that flight to Paris and enjoy an almond croissant for me in Paris!

Check out the Travel page for “Top Things To See” in other cities! 

Travel Thursday: A Survey

I personally love reading blogger surveys. I think prompted questions get great answers because when you start writing it leads to additional thoughts and information. Plus, as a blogger, it is a fun way to reminisce (it is #throwbackthursday after all) about trips and past travels. I hope you play along in the comments and answer one of the questions for yourself. I would love to hear your replies.

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1. What do you do to stay healthy when you travel?  First and foremost, drinking as much water as possible. Especially when on the airplane and after your flight you will appreciate drinking lots of water. I also love being active on trips whether walking instead of driving, exploring the city by running or activities like paddle boarding, kayaking, etc.

2. Do you have any irrational fears that your travels have helped you overcome? How?  Irrational, maybe not. Fears? Absolutely. The three fears that have been almost overcome with traveling? Flying, heights and claustrophobia. I have learned when I want to do something, I will fight my fear full fledged. 

My fear of flying as a whole has gotten much better. It is still not perfect but I continue to tell myself that I have to fly in order to see the world. That alone has helped my fly much better which I am really hoping carries over to our 18 hour flight to Bangkok.

My fear of claustrophobia has almost entirely gone away because I have been in small spaces where I had no other option but deal with my fears. I think I really faced my fear head on in London when we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral. I wanted to visit the top of the church but it would require a tight space with only one person fitting in the space at a time. My desire to reach the top outweighed my fear so I barreled through that space to get to the top.  

Lastly, my fear of heights has completed been overcome with my fear of flying becoming much more manageable and again, my desire to want to adventure when traveling. My fear was thrown out the window when I was determined to walk the steps up the Eiffel Tower. You can bet the views were worth it! I realized that the fear is in my head and holding me back. 

3. Do you read other travel blogs or books?

Yes travel is 1/2 of everything I read (fitness the other half). I read travel books whenever I can but travel blogs are a daily read for me. Some of my favorites include: World of Wanderlust, Travelettes, Grease and Glamour and The Tourist of Life.

4. What are your favorite tips for saving money or cutting expenses on a trip?

Credit cards that reward you for traveling and researching your trip have saved me hundreds of dollars for traveling. Check out my travel tips for more information.

5. If you had to give up your passport and get another country’s passport, what would you pick / If you couldn’t ever travel again but could pick any city to be confined to, where would you pick?   I would have to say France for the passport but to be confined to one city, Paris, France.

6. Are there any books you read as a child that inspired your travel interests? I loved this question because there was a book and movie that absolutely started my love of anything and everything Paris – Madeline!  I read the book growing up but  the movie was one of my favorites when I was in elementary school. I loved the Eiffel Tower growing up and knew one day I would see the Eiffel Tower in person.

7. What was the first trip you took as an adult?   International : Europe- London, Paris and Rome / Domestic : Orlando, Florida

8. What’s something you pack that is not absolutely essential but you like having it? A swimsuit. No matter where I go, I always bring one. You never know when you will run into a pool, ocean or river!

9. What piece of advice would you give young people who want to travel?  DO IT! It will only get harder to find the time and money. Travel as much and far as you can. 

10. How many trips do you take per year?  That definitely varies. Last year I went on one international trip and one domestic trip (and 2 local trips in CA). This year however has been one international trip and 3 domestic trips (and 3 local CA trips). My goal at a minimum would ideally be 1 international and 1 domestic a year!

Tell me: I would love to hear answers to #1, #3 and #8

Travel Thursday: Picking The Perfect Hotel

When we stayed in Miami, I spent quite a few hours looking through various websites to pick the perfect hotel. During our last trip, we thoroughly enjoyed the hotel from the moment we checked in as we were handed margaritas to the moment we checked out as we were handed a bag of waters for the ride to the airport. In college, any time I looked for a hotel, I looked for the cheapest 3 star option I could find. Over the years of increasing travel, I have changed how I look for a hotel due to good and bad experiences from hotels.  Here are the most important factors when looking for a hotel:

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  1. Location – I believe location is the most important factor when picking a hotel in any spot around the world. By setting your main agenda (for example: visiting the beach, seeing particular tourist sites, etc), you will find the best hotel location to fit your desires for your trip. In Europe, knowing that we were to rely on public transportation, finding a hotel that was close to the main attractions was important. If you plan to do a lot of walking, having a hotel that you can return to easily if needed should be considered. A relaxing vacation means your hotel should be close to the spot so you don’t have to venture further than the hotel bar for a refill on your pink umbrella drink.3yHQzLho5TGmiLk4H-PrQU0XmRseiL4s0onF-GYY13M
  2. Concierge – A hotel’s concierge has become increasingly more important to me. During our trip to Miami, we used the concierge for a suggestion of a place to grab dessert as well as the best way for us to paddle board at the beach. The concierge contacted a local company and within an hour had a company bring us paddle boards directly to the beach outside our hotel. I have used a hotel’s service more and more for suggestions on the best places to eat, how to get around and places we must visit. Especially when visiting another country, you want to make sure that the hotel offers a concierge that will help you with any request that can help to make your travel easier.
  3. Parking / Transportation – If you are driving to where you are visiting or renting a car, make sure to check the parking situation. I have learned the hard way that hotels can charge an additional $20/night just to park your car. Other hotels may offer a limited selection of parking which you will regret if you plan to return to your hotel late. If you are not driving, you want to find a hotel that is located close to local transportation like the subway or a bus stop.
  4. Hotel facilities/ amenities – Every time I pack for a trip, I ensure that I throw a bathing suit in my suit case. It is rare for me to not use the pool or jacuzzi when I stay at a hotel so a hotel with a pool is important for me. In addition, gyms, restaurants and spas are important facilities that a hotel can offer. Although you will leave your hotel, you want to know that while you are at your hotel, you will enjoy all it has to offer.
  5. Reviews – Reading other people’s experience from their visit is insightful to what you can expect from a hotel. I always look for reviews that mentioned specifics such as the cleanliness, any extra fees that may have been added and the service received. There are many places that have reviews that do not match their number of stars. Reviews are the best view into what you will encounter during your stay.FullSizeRender 31

Tell me: What do you think is the most important factor to consider when booking a hotel? 

Travel Tips: Part IV – What to Pack in a Carry-On

I am so thrown off this week with my days. I have a short 4 day work week which has made me question what day it is every single morning. Thursdays mean one thing over here on Planks and Plane – Travel Thursday! For today’s Travel Thursday, let’s finish off the last  of the Travel Tips series with What to Pack in a Carry-On. In case you missed the first Travel Tips, check out Part I, II and III. When traveling I have definitely gotten much better about utilizing the space in my carry-on bag. Here are the 5 Carry-on Items I Must Pack every trip:

What to Pack in a Carry-On

1) Empty Water Bottle – My favorite water bottle is a 32 oz. CamelBak that I bought for my Europe trip. I throw it in my bag every time I travel. Bringing a large empty water bottle in your carry-on allows you to fill it up after you pass security as well as have a water bottle for the rest of your trip. Since you will be on a plane where moisture is lacking, hydrating is necessary!

2) Chapstick/ Lip Balm – Speaking of lack of moisture, I will never travel without chapstick or lip balm  which has resulted in running around an airport like a maniac to get some before I board a plane. Even for short flights, your skin just gets  very dehydrated in the cabin of a plane so do yourself a favor and toss a chapstick in your bag. You will thank me later!

3) Headphone splitter – I actually just bought a set this week for our trip next month. You can buy these in most stores like Best Buy, Target, Walmart but I found a cheap pair on Amazon. The splitter will let the husband and I listen to the same device which will be perfect to watch our shows together on the flight.

4) A scarf – I cannot tell you how many times I have mocked my husband for his travel neck pillow so you will not find me using one anytime in the near future. If I need something to rest my head on, I will put out a plush scarf from my bag. Not only does it help when it gets cold in the plane but it also helps to use it to rest on during the flight. Plus, then you have the accessory to add to your wardrobe during the trip.

5) Chargers – If I was to be separated from my suitcase, I would definitely want my chargers (especially when traveling internationally). Could you imagine going to baggage claim to find your bag not there and have no charge left on your phone? I would have a meltdown in the airport. Having chargers for all devices in your carry-on lets you charge during layovers as well as have your chargers readily available if you were to be separated from your items, not have your information of hotel or lose any important documents.

Tell me: What MUST you bring in your carry on? Have you ever had your luggage get lost?

Missed previous Travel Thursday posts? Check out #1, #2, #3#4#5 and #6!

Travel Thursday

Travel Tips: Part III – Packing

One of my favorite things to do before going on a trip is pack my suitcase. I am known for my over packing. Often my thoughts are “why not bring it, just in case I might need it.” That often results in me carrying around unnecessary extra weight and bringing lots of stuff back I should not have brought in the first place. As I have continued to travel to different places with various types of weather, I have improved my packing skills with each trip. With our weekend trip to Portland in August, I will really test how much I have improved on packing smart when I will only take one carry-on. I guess this is good practice for the rest of the trips I have this year as well.

Travel Tips

To finish off the last of the Travel Tips (check out Travel Tips I and II if you missed them) and keeping in line with Travel Thursday, let’s talking about packing when traveling. Here are some of the best tips I have picked up over the years which will help you pack only what you need and hopefully get away with just a carry on for some of your trips:

-Make a packing list- First and foremost, write it down. Create a packing list accounting for how many outfits you will need based on the weather of where you are visiting and what you will be doing. When you have a list, it is easier to stick to without adding additional items you really do not need. As I mentioned in Travel Tips I, research is crucial to planning a trip so make sure you research before you make your packing list. Creating a packing list based on research of your destination also makes sure you bring anything you would not have thought of based on the current conditions, i.e. sunscreen, umbrellas, hiking shoes, etc.

-Roll your clothes- Not only does this help save space when packing but it helps to keep clothes less wrinkled. I hate wrinkled clothes and hate it even more when I arrive at a hotel where they do not have an iron in the room. Folding your clothes in half then rolling them up takes up significantly less space and allows to you better utilize small space in luggage.

Dress smart: Layer, stick to neutral colors and pick versatile items- When packing clothes for a trip, pick light weight, versatile clothing items that you can mix and match as well as layer. This allows you to use clothing items multiple times in different outfits which means bringing less. When you stick to a neutral color palate or one color you will be able to mix and match easier. Don’t fret- this does not mean you need to look like a plain jane in your vacation pictures as you can still add color into your wardrobe. Add color through jewelry, accessories and shoes which take up much less room.  

Pack your shoes- Yes I love shoes but I am not reminding you to bring them. Instead pack the inside of your shoes with small items i.e. jewelry, socks, accessories, phone cords, etc. This way you are utilizing as much space in your luggage or carry on as possible. You would be surprised how much fits in them saving you space and allowing you to store smaller items without worrying about them getting lost in your luggage.

Maximize your personal item- Utilize the fact that most airlines allow you to have one personal item in addition to your carry on. Don’t bring a small purse or bag, use a backpack or duffel. They offer a maximum size you can bring on so make sure you take as large as you can. Pack your personal item with important documents (passport, credit cards, ID, etc.) as well as the items you will use on the plane and valuable items like electronic devices and chargers.

Group your outfit together in a large ziplock bag- I picked this trick up when doing Ragnar and I will continue to use it when it comes to packing. Instead of planning the top, bottoms and shoes for an outfit then later throwing an extra shirt in case I spill or different shoes in case I change my mind, I pack only my outfit. Using the jumbo ziplock bags, place your shoes (then any socks or accessories in the shoes as I mentioned above), top, bottoms or dress and undergarments together. Everything you need is grouped, in one spot with no unnecessary items thrown in. With the ziplock bags, you should only need one other bag for your toiletries which would easily fit in a carry on.

Use plastic bags or ziplock bags- If you use ziplock bags to group your outfits together, then you can put your dirty clothes back in the ziplock bags. Wrap up your shoes with plastic bags to prevent them from dirtying your clothes. Then you can use the plastic bag to throw your dirty clothes in during the trip. Saving space and planning ahead is what you need for packing!

Hopefully some of this tips will help packing on your next trip- good luck!

Tell me in the comments: Are you an under-packer or an over-packer? Do you have any tricks you use when packing?

Travel Thursday

Check out Travel Thursday I and II and III

Travel Tips: Part II

Last week on Travel Thursday, I shared the first post of the series Travel Tips. Following the tips I shared to help you start in the initial planning of your travels, today I want to share Part II of Travel Tips. As shared in Part I, researching, planning and booking a trip requires special attention to getting the most cost efficient trip. Over the past few years of travel I have found websites that I regularly check whether thinking about where I want to go on my next trip or am actually in the booking stage following a few weeks of the research stage.

I advised in Part I to subscribe to travel company’s emails so you can be notified about special offers or sales. I hate having a full inbox so I have one separate account for just travel companies. This way I can still receive offers from companies but do not have my work or personal emails getting too mixed up or bombarded with travel emails. Due to the exclusive offers you get from email subscriptions, it is beneficial to add your email to companies’ list. Beyond email subscriptions, there are many websites to book travel through that you can get competitive rates on which help you to make the best decisions when traveling.

Travel Tips

Here are some of my favorite websites that I regularly use when researching, booking and planning any travel plans:

Groupon – I love Groupon getaways because they offer some all inclusive packages that allow you to visit places at a great deal. We booked our Thailand trip through Groupon at an extremely competitive rate including air, hotel, some meals and the option to add tours. We knew that we wanted to visit Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand so we started researching into making the trip work. After looking for a couple months, we found a Groupon getaway for 4 days in each city. Basically Groupon did most of the leg work for us and allowed us to add optional tours to the trip. If you have a place in mind that you wanting to visit and are flexible on dates, Groupon is a site you should visit to see what options they have in getaways.

Hotels.com – Hotels.com offers not only competitive rates on hotels but many subscriber exclusive offers as well. One of my favorite features from Hotels.com is their reward program. For every 10 hotel nights you book through Hotels.com, you get 1 free night. If you are traveling often, this can add up very quickly. Hotels.com has a deal of the day where you can book a discounted daily rate for various cities. The website also offers many special deals and coupon codes through their email subscriptions.

Skyscanner – If I had to pick a favorite travel website, Skyscanner.com would definitely be it! It is a wanderluster’s dream website. The site compares flights across hundreds of airlines- high end flag carriers, charter flights, and budget airlines giving you many options when it comes to air travel. Besides giving an extensive listing of airlines allowing you to see the cheapest option, you can book the flight instantly with the click of a button. There are no added fees because when you’re ready to book we send you a direct link to the airline or travel agent. The best part of Skyscanner is their ‘Everywhere’ search which lets you input where you want to fly from and which month. The search will show a list of available flights from your airport to destinations across the globe.

Kayak – I use Kayak for finding the most cost effective flights and hotels. It allows you to input your search options which gives you results for multiple airlines and hotels. I used Kayak for my trip to Europe which was perfect due to their itinerary management. Once you booked an airline or hotel, it allows you to manage your entire trip itinerary within their website. This is very helpful in your planning stage to have everything in one central spot.

Viator – I owe a special thank you to my coworker who introduced me to Viator.com for booking tours. It is the best website to use when you have booked a trip and are starting to plan what you want to do or see. Viator offers cost effective tours for travel spots across the world. They offer tours that appeal to everyone from day trips, food tours, sightseeing tours, walking tours and more. The website will offer options for anyone in any spot you are planning to visit.

Tell me: What is your go-to website when booking travel?

Note: I have no affiliation with any of the sites listed above. They are simply websites or companies I have found to offer the best service, rates and booking options when it comes to travel. 

Travel Tips: Part I

Last weekend (while we were already on vacation mind you) my husband booked our next vacation to Portland, Oregon!  If you have been keeping track, that vacation is in addition to the New York & Seattle trip taken in February but before our trips to Miami, FL and Thailand. Needless to say this year is filled with travel. We are both very lucky to have jobs that give us plenty of vacation per year which allows us to travel. However, most often when people find out about our travel plans they make comments that we must make a lot of money or ask how it is possible to travel so much in a year.

By the end of the year we will have taken 7 trips- 6 domestic and 1 international. While that definitely equates to a lot of money spent traveling, we have been very smart when it comes to planning our trips. Every one of our trips has been carefully thought out and planned before booking. For example, our round trip plane tickets to Miami cost $80 for taxes and fees because we used miles to pay for the flight. This is just one of the many examples of how we are able to afford 7 trips in one year while working full time jobs.

So with that I wanted to do a 3 part series with some of the travel tips that have worked to get the best deal and make the money work for as many trips possible. I am definitely not an expert in travel planning but have found some resourceful ways to help with the details and costs of traveling so hopefully these tips will help you get to where you want to go. As a part of Travel Thursday, here are some general travel planning tips:

Travel Tips

First and foremost, I think the most important tip for any travel of any type is research, research and research. Read as much as you possibly can about the places you want to go. Plan where you want to go, what you want to see and when you plan to visit. Then research if your plans will work logistically, financially and physically. As a type A personality, this is one of my favorite parts of traveling. Planning is essential for any trip and starts in making your trip most cost efficient. Research the best time to visit where you plan to vacation. Many people thought we were crazy to go to New York in February. Crazy? Maybe a little. Was it much cheaper to visit than any other month? Definitely. We saved a significant amount on hotel & transportation because we went during the off-season. Researching the best time to visit will also help you to plan around the season you decide to visit.

This will allow you to start the next step of planning in regards to what to pack, what tours to take, how much your trip will cost and what to expect during the time frame you will be going. After you picked your travel destination, do some more research and start reading as much as possible on the place you will visit. By reading travel guides, other people’s reviews and online forums, you will be able to start the actual day to day planning of your trip by creating a list of things you want to do and starting an itinerary of your vacation.

After you have decided the time frame of when you want to travel, sign up for email notifications from travel companies. I know no one likes extra emails in their inbox but if you set up a separate account for just travel deals, you can find ways to save money. Many companies will send you emails with sales and special deals that only subscribers can book. If you sign up for email notifications from companies, usually they will give you a coupon code for your first booking/purchase. Also, by signing up for fare and sale alerts, you can track prices to determine the best time to book.

Another way to make traveling easier on your wallet is by making your money work for you. As I mentioned earlier, our Miami flights cost us $80 for taxes and fees because I used credit card miles to “pay” for the trip. Using an airline specific card, I was able to accumulate enough miles within the first 3 months to fly us from California to Miami. The majority of credit cards will give you a sign up bonus if you spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of getting the card. The initial bonus is usually is enough to cover 2 round trip airline tickets. In addition, you will earn miles for every dollar you spend, additional miles for dollars spent on travel and dining. Lastly, cards have additional benefits including set companion fares and special flight discounts. Make sure to research the best card for you and what you are trying to accomplish. Find out what each card’s miles points will cover. Some cards cover just flights while others allow you to also use points for hotels, transportation and car rentals.

Of course, these are some tips to start in the initial planning of your travels. Stay Tuned: In Part II of Travel Tips, I will share the websites that have helped me in researching, planning and booking the most cost efficient trips.

For my fellow wanderlusters: What is your #1 travel tip for first time travelers? 

Travel Thursday

Check out Travel Thursday I and II and III