Wednesday, October 31, 2012

tips for vacation planning

happy halloween!  i will be sharing more about my halloween tomorrow [since it hasn't happened yet!].

i am so excited to be going on vacation with mike a month from tomorrow.  i have been a traveler my whole life.  i am an only child and my parents were both teachers so we shared vacations.  i was incredibly lucky that my parents would take me on trips every year during february and april vacations as well as in the summer.  they taught me how to be a prepared, quick, economical, and fun traveler.

here are some of the most important tips i have learned over the years:

1. booking your airfare: don't book on the first day you're planning your trip.  [if you can,] spend a week or two looking at prices to find the best one.  expedia, orbitz, and kayak are great and definitely use all of them.  however, they don't necessarily have every airline.  for example, always check southwest separately because they do not appear on any of those other websites.  

2. if you are taking time off from work or don't have to travel around school vacations, fly on weekdays.  it is usually much cheaper to come and go during the week.  

3. rental cars, on the other hand, can be booked up to the day you leave.  usually there isn't a fee to reserve a rental car, unlike airfare, and they can be easily cancelled. if you think you find a good rate, book it!  then keep looking for better rates.  you can never have too many reservations!

4. if you're traveling in the winter and need to make a connection, avoid changing planes in a cold place.  for example, from new england, i never fly to chicago or detriot for a layover.  i look for a southern hub like atlanta.  i don't want to worry about snow in more than one place.

5. use tripadvisor - with a grain of salt.  it can be a great resource to find reviews and average prices for hotels, but think about it: would you ever really write a review if you had a great experience at a hotel? probably not.  sometimes you will find more negative than positive reviews.  look at what the complaints are before you judge based solely on the 1-5 rating.  if i have no idea where i'm going, i usually like to go with a hotel referred by a friend or family member or a well-known chain like a hampton inn, courtyard, or ritz-carlton.  

6. think about using priceline to combine airfare and hotel.  a couple summers ago, mike and i stayed 7 nights at a beautiful hotel and flew across the country for $700 a person.  

7. in your checked baggage bring: toiletries to save money [but bring half-used toothpaste, small bottles of shampoo, and things you can throw away at the end of the trip to make room for the trip back], plastic bags for dirty clothes, and a separate beach bag for day trips.  lay out clothes in outfits by day so you don't bring way too many clothes.

8. pack an outfit or two for the climate you're traveling to in your carry-on bag.  in case you happen to lose your bag in transition, you won't have to spend tons of money on all new clothes.

9. buy a baggage scale for checked baggage.  $5 or $10 will save you a whole bunch of worry on the way to the airport. bring it with you, too, so you can make sure not to pack too many souvenirs!

10. search groupon and living social starting a couple months in advance for the city/area you're traveling to.  if you've been there before, look for restaurants and activities you might already be planning to go to, and if you have not, go to tripadvisor [idea #4] and check out some places you see groupons for.  it can definitely save you some money you were already planning to spend.

11. call and see if there is a refrigerator in your hotel.  if there is, think about making breakfast in your room or stocking lunch meats to make sandwiches for lunch.  that way you'll save a little money or be able to spend more money on dinners.  [i, personally, enjoy dinners out the most.] 

12. planning ahead vs over-booking: it's a good idea to have ideas for adventures, activities, and dinners, but it is a vacation so rigid schedules are unnecessary.  

if you notice, there aren't many tips for while you're there.  if you follow all of these suggestions, you will simply be able to enjoy your vacation while you're there.  

some of my favorite vacation moments with mike... 
san francisco
new york and disney world


Jamie said...

Great tips! I try to utilize a lot of these when I travel!

Angi said...

Great post!! I didn't know that about rental cars...and I didn't even know you could buy baggage scales!

Meg said...

Yeah - they are great! Here's a pretty cheap one:

Thanks for reading!

Kate @ Daffodils said...

My husband loves trip advisor but I say the same thing that you do, it is mostly people complaining!

Amanda said...

These are great tips! And I'm an avid user of TripAdvisor. I think it's super helpful to look at when I'm unsure about a place.

Jane said...

I love the Groupon tip!! That is a brilliant idea!

ChatterBlossom said...

I'm saving all these tips on a stickie right now! Thank you!!

Meg said...

Yeah that's definitely been my favorite tool lately. Thanks for reading :)

Meg said...

Cool, thanks! If you have any questions, definitely feel free to ask :)

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