Travel Planning

“How do you travel so often?” “Where do you find your travel deals?” “You must spend a ton of money!” “I wish I could travel as often as you do!”

First, I want to show people that there is no “secret sauce,” traveling does not have to break the bank, it’s all in the planning. Second, keep reading, and I’ll tell you more, HA!

I aim to take at least 1 “big” international trip a year, 1″ less big” international trip and several small domestic trips. I know you’re probably asking, “what the heck is a “big” international or “less big” international trip?”

“Big” International Trip is seven+ days, multiple countries, at least 1-day long travel.   “Less Big” International Trip is less than seven days, usually an extended weekend, to a nearby destination such as the Bahamas or other islands in the Carribean. (my opinion and own definition)

 

I start with my destination. Where do I want to go? For how long? Do I want beaches? City? Do I want to take classes? Learn something new? Or just try new food.I have a running bucket list of Countries/Cities that I want to visit including places like Kenya, Hawaii,  and London. I pick which destination I want to visit and then a general timeframe that I’d be interested in going.

i.e., For 2018, I really wanted to hit Asia as I’ve never been there. I have seen beautiful pictures of Thailand and decided that this was going to be my destination!
Egypt
Egypt 2013

I then look for my travel buddies. I have yet to go on a solo trip but definitely plan to soon, I’m very fortunate to have close friends who share my passion for travel. A lot of people struggle here because people say they’re in for the trip until it’s time to get serious, and then back out. Be sure you have reliable travel companions, who can afford the trip and are good company. Otherwise, solo travel is amazing (from what I’ve read).

Next is the RESEARCH. Now, this may seem backward to some but with all of the resources available, finding deals is relatively simple. I use GOOGLE for EVERYTHING. When researching the top things, I look into are:

  1. Is it safe? What is the current climate? Relationship with the US? Is this country at war? How do they treat minorities? How are women treated?  This can easily be found through google searches, by reading newspapers and watching the news. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, stay educated on the climate of the environment, so you don’t get yourself caught up in any mess.
  2. Along with getting caught up in any mess, pay attention to weather patterns. I was on a flight back to the US 1 day before Irma touched down in Cuba, but I read several stories of others being caught/trapped in the Carribean for multiple days. Mother nature is very unpredictable, looking at patterns of the rainy season or hurricane season can avoid a lot of headaches.
  3. How expensive is the country? Is it costly to get there, like Asia, is it expensive once you are there, like individual countries in Europe, is lodging affordable such as Airbnbs in Cuba? Using google, or cheapoair.com, momondo.com, skyscanner.com, hopper (APP), and the like can help with pricing flights. Hotels.com, Airbnb.com and, Travelocity can help with pricing of lodging. Comparing prices to packages like offered on Groupon or SmarTours ensures you’re exploring all options.

After buckling down on location, the best time to visit and,  knowing it’s safe and how expensive the trip will be, it’s time to buckle down.

i.e., I will be exploring Thailand in May 2018, 10 days is the average length people visit. I want to visit Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mia and my budget are USD 2,000 between all flights, lodging, and spending money. Thailand is very affordable to eat and travel between cities. It is a safe country and welcoming of different cultures. I will stay in hotels as reviews on Airbnb are not spectacular, and there isn’t a significant difference in price. I have booked 4 activities before my trip as many travelers recommend pre-booking excursions.

 

A lot of information I gather is from travel groups and travel buddies. I’m in several travel groups (i.e., Black Travel Movement, Solo Women Travelers and, Travel Community on Facebook) follow various travel blogs such as TravelNoire.com and TheTravelingChild.com and lastly, IG accounts such as @divadaystravel, @theblacktravelclub, @travelisthenewclub or @theblackoutdoors which I use for inspiration. In these groups, I learn what others have done, have experienced, get tips, advice and see really inspiring pictures.

IMG_4345
South Africa 2017 | Table Mountain

I am not rich lol. I have 3 weeks of vacation time from work. I live in one of the most expensive cities in the US, NYC, and have student loans….meaning, travel is a priority in my life, so I treat it as such. Want to travel?

The number one tip I tell people, have a separate savings account and do not touch it unless it is for travel. Set aside $50-$100 USD dollars a check, into this separate account that you do not pay bills from, you do not use for emergencies, and you don’t frivolously dip into.

 I highly recommend a credit card that offers travel benefits, I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Be on the lookout for a blog post going in depth on the various travel cards to see which one is best!

The number two tip is to be a bully in your planning, find the deals, ask for advice in travel groups and be strategic in what you do.  Travel agents are good and can take the stress away from planning but doing your own research can be simple, well sorta simple. Again, sites that I love to check are:

Skyscanner.com, google.com (for flights), groupon.com, travelocity.com, momondo.com,  travelpirate.com, cheapoair.com, HOPPER(app) & airbnb.com amongst others. I ALWAYS check the validity of a site through reviews to ensure I do not get scammed.

The number three tip is to be flexible. Sometimes the dates you want aren’t the cheapest, can you move your vacation times around? Other times, deals are available for other destinations than what you’re planning for, being flexible in where you want to go can save hundreds of dollars. Also, what airport you fly out of and your flexibility in leaving out of say, JFK (John F Kennedy) vs. EWR (Newark Airport), can be the difference in hundreds of dollars saved. Lastly, being open to layovers. Layovers aren’t attractive to some, but people miss the beauty of being able to see a “free country/city” for a few hours before they get to their final destination.

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Mexico 2013

So to answer all of the questions that I get so often…

Them: “How do you travel so often?”

Me: I save $150 a check and put it into a travel account. I also use my Chase Sapphire Preferred to purchase everything and use the points for travel. (I do not carry a balance, ever)

Them: “Where do you find your travel deals?”

Me: On the sites listed above, through travel groups and signing up for other travel blogs to get deals sent directly to my email.

Them: “You must spend a ton of money!”

Me: I have a budget, and I stick with it. I find deals, and I’m a bully with how I spend my money.

Them: “I wish I could travel as often as you do!”

Me: You can, and I’m hoping you’ve learned something new from this post.

 

Are there any tips or tricks that you stand by when travel planning? Comment below.

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