Six hacks for new travelers

To seasoned travelers these tips would be common knowledge but many people are not very comfortable doing their own travel search or booking through third party sites. The tips below should help you save a few dollars and navigate the dark deep web-abyss that travel search often turns into more easily.

Flights: I find Google flights to be the best starting point to get a price range on flights when you have a specific destination in mind. If you don’t have a date or a location in mind it’s always useful to subscribe to airline newsletters (in fact those are the only newsletters I do read) to be one of the first to find out about specials and in many instances (like Porter) get an extra 10% for being a member. The other loophole is your local travel forum, Facebook page, or Twitter account (eg. Next Departure,  Air Watch Dog or YYZ Travel Advice) where people share their finds – those are the places where you can find some of the cheapest prices for places you may have never though of going to, like Finland, in addition to popular destinations.

Accommodations: Ok, AirBNB is one of the best things that happened to budget travelers and people looking for an interesting place to stay. Primarily it is cheaper than a hotel, especially for longer trips as you often get a discount for booking a full week. It might seem sketchy and scary the first time but AirBNB has found an excellent formula and it does work. In a nutshell you are booking someone else’s house (condo, boat, tree house) to stay in, but many people use apartments specifically for rent in which case they are used as hotel-style rentals year-round. Once you make a payment you secure your booking but the owner of your accommodations does not receive the payment until you safely leave their place. A few quick pointers on booking through AirBNB:

– Check the amount of their deposit, to make sure it’s not more then your total price or otherwise ridiculous (you get your deposit back later on). And while you are there check the charges for extra people.

– Read through Description paragraph and check to make sure the Amenities include things you will require (the basics like towels for example).

– Always contact the host to make sure the place is actually available and to ask any additional questions you might have and…

– Always, always read reviews at the bottom, this is where you will find your deal breakers or get convinced this is the place for you to stay.

If you get referred to AirBNB you will get a $28 travel credit so here is my referral link for you to take advantage of that credit.

In regards to hotels, blind rates on RedTag or Expedia are usually cheaper and you do get an idea of the type of the hotel and location. With sites like booking.com and hotels.com you sometimes get an option to “book now and pay later” which could also means there is no cancelation fees and you can take that time to look for a more interesting, and cheaper, AirBNB option having the hotel as your secured backup.

Activities: when booking outings for tropical destinations or any sort of tours and train tickets it is usually cheaper to book them online prior to your departure as they are pretty much always more expensive when booking at your hotel.

Mobile Apps are handy things that help you avoid carrying around a map and looking like and uber tourist. Mainly, however, they help you navigate a foreign city more easily. There is nearly always a transit map (online and off line) and various city maps available (also online and offline). For example: kMaps for anywhere,  ULMON for European destinations (you can even build an itinerary) or things like New York City Offline Map and Embark NYC for your adventures in the big apple. I usually download a couple prior to departure – best ones based on rating and my WIfi access.

Car Rentals: are also cheaper to book in advance. If you are going to a completely foreign place and plan to drive a lot you will need a GPS which comes at a hefty price when renting a car. You can, however, buy a memory card with various country’s maps on Amazon and use your own GPS with it.

Packing: for those tips I’d recommend EnRoute magazines 100 of the World’s Best Travel Hacks.

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