As a long term traveler, I’m always looking for new travel tips and tricks to get the most out of my travel budget and my crazy bucket list of adventures. Because I’m always on the search for expert travel advice, I decided to ask Irina, who owns the travel company Allé Travel and books trips for people all day, to give us from free travel tips she uses when working with clients!
Welcome to the Traveling Spud, Irina!
As the founder of a travel planning company, I’m used to being asked to share my insider tips, the inside scoop on getting the best deals, traveling at the right time and finding the most awesome, Insta-perfect travel experiences. Below, I’ve compiled the tips I most often evangelize, and the ones that I think are the most useful (though truth be told, there’s a lot more where these came from).
1. Think off-season
Everything is cheaper and less crowded, you’ll get better deals, and usually, the weather is even better than in peak season. Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid Europe during the July- August months because it’s hot and sticky, and everywhere is either packed (beaches) or deserted (the center of town).
If it’s Europe you’re after, it’s best to travel May- June, and better yet, September- October. In Asia, the weather will dictate a lot for you: rainy season is intense, and it’s hard to enjoy your trip during a monsoon, so for places like Bali, think September – October or May; months like this ensure fewer tourists but great weather. For Thailand, June, though its rainy season is a good time to go to places like Koh Samui or January- May ensures all around great weather without too many fellow travelers.
2. Use Pinterest and Instagram
Both are great for finding inspiration and more specific information about the things that are of interest to you. They’ll also help keep your travel tips all in one place. When you are ready to dig in, start a Pinterest board with everything you find for your destination. Bloggers are more on top of things these days than a guidebook will ever be. As you pin articles and pictures, make sure they are recent (no point in pinning something from 5 years ago).
And with Instagram’s new “save” feature, search for #[insert your destination] and then save it so you can come back to it later and use the geo-location feature to figure out exactly where it was taken.
3. Map it out
One of the hardest things about planning a trip is wrapping your head around geography. At allé, when we plan, we always have a Google My Map open, which offers you a modern, saveable and shareable way of opening a physical map and putting pins on it. We throw everything into a Google My Map and then we plan the whole how-to-get-there and what-order-to-do-things-in aspect. The best part is, you can save your Google My Map and access it on your phone when you’re at your destination and use it to navigate from point to point. No internet? No problem. Instead of Google My Maps, download the Maps.me app to your phone; it provides you an offline version of Google Maps that also does off-line, real-time directions for both walking or driving from point to point.
4. Find the best flight deals
This travel tip is invaluable, Momondo is a great tool for finding really incredible flight deals- recently, for example, I flew from Minneapolis to Munich for $445 (yes, that’s round trip). Hopper, on the other hand, is an app that allows you to enter your travel dates and then, using its flight price prediction algorithm, it tells you what a good price for that route is. It even watches the route for you, notifying you of when the best time to buy is. I really put Hopper through the wringer day in and day out, and I have to say- it delivers about 90% of the time.
5. Clear your cache and switch locations
Have you ever noticed that you find a flight, love the price, get all excited for a trip, and then later in the day when you get your card out and are ready to book it mysteriously goes up in price? That’s because your searches are being tracked and watched by nearly every website by cookies. If you see this happen, don’t stress. Instead, clear your cache, go to a different location (different IP address), pull up an incognito window or search from an entirely different computer. Or just give it a day, often times, flights will drop back in price in a few hours (though not always).
6. Get mobile data roaming
For me, this travel tip is one of the most valuable and yet often forgotten. I can’t overstate how amazing it is to have access to your mobile data when on the road. The world is literally at your fingers. With internet access, you can use Google Maps just like you would at home (hello renting a car and feeling like a local!), as well as translation apps (we love Google Translate), currency conversion apps, and not to the mention countless easy ways to keep in touch with loved ones at home.
7. Think ahead about money
When your card is charged for a purchase in anything other than dollars, often foreign conversion fees are charged by your bank. These fees can add up fast (and are sometimes as high as 3%), but certain banks and cards don’t charge a cent. So do yourself a favor and check around, call your banks and credit cards and find out their policies. Capital One has some great cards with no foreign transaction fees, as does American Express, though it’s important to note that many vendors abroad don’t accept American Express cards.
8. Be smart about packing
First and foremost, pack with a realistic mindset; have you noticed that you usually barely use some 50% of the things that you pack? The less luggage you have, the easier and more comfortable it will be to travel. And most likely, even if you do forget to pack something, it will be fun to find a local replacement. Plus, you want to leave some room for local finds, whether it’s clothing or souvenirs.
We suggest that you set your bag out about a week before your trip. That way, when you have a thought about packing something, put it into your bag right away. Then, when it comes time to really pack, eliminate until you get down to the very essentials.
Another favorite tip is to always pack zip lock bags! They are the best when traveling. They provide a waterproof pouch for your phone when you’re on the beach or around a waterfall, and they are a great place to store wet bathing suits on your last day when you’re packing to go home, toiletries, etc.
Some essentials that you might want to consider purchasing in advance include sunscreen and insect repellent. People in most tropical destinations prefer physical sunscreen (hats and clothing), and sunscreen creams are mainly sold only to tourists, so a bottle may cost you twice what it would at home.
9. Keep your mind open
So this one isn’t necessarily a travel tip, but when you travel, things may be a bit different from home. That’s a good thing! It’s the whole point; embrace it, you’re making memories in the process, and besides, science shows it’s good for your brain.
10. Get help planning
Sometimes planning your trip is the hardest part and a lot of people opt to hire someone to help them. No shame in that game! Travel tips are amazing, but doing it all yourself can sometimes be daunting. Advisors/ planners/ agents do this whole travel thing day in and day out and can make everything quick and easy. Take my agency, for example. We know places most people haven’t heard of and can easily craft the perfect trip depending on your criteria. Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle and enjoy planning your own trips but want just a bit of local insight. Check out our ask allé travel coaching service, where you get all of your destination-specific travel planning questions answered.
I hope these 10 travel tips will help you plan an awesome vacation! Got any more tips that were left out? Leave them below in the comments as I always love to hear new ones!