Travel Tips: Newbie Traveler

“Dear Kalyn,

I want to travel, but I don’t know where to start! 

Please help.”

I’ve had more and more people coming to me, asking for advice as they try to step into their own wanderlust, and I couldn’t be more elated. I highly encourage the desire to travel of everyone I know, no matter age, economic status, gender, race, etc.  Everyone should explore something or somewhere new, which could mean a new neighborhood or restaurant in your own city.

For those of you who are ready to embark on this new journey of exploration, I figured it might be helpful to have a post outlining some first easy steps to ease you into planning your first trip. Though I try to build every post or new series to be as informative as possible, it can be overwhelming, so let’s start here!

Step 1: Get your passport if you don’t already have one! It typically takes 4-6 weeks to receive your passport after applying, so factor that timing in when planning for your vacation. You can have it expedited for an additional fee. You can find more information on what documents are needed and where to apply on this site, PASSPORT. The cost of a passport will run you about USD 140.

Step 2: Get a travel rewards card and sign up for rewards memberships. I have the chase sapphire, which has an annual fee, but there are dozens out there that don’t! Look at your lifestyle and determine what perks are most important to you to help narrow down on choices.

Are rewards for a specific airline vital to you? Free bags? Double points in particular categories? I wrote a post dedicated to credit cards alone, finish this article and then reference that one for more info Travel Cards Post.

Step 3: Be flexible. This is regarding dates, locations, departing/arrival airports/lodging, etc. Don’t be a novice traveler who pays way too much for everything and doesn’t really get to enjoy their vacation or learn about the culture they’re emersed in.

Maybe Airbnb is a better option than a hotel. Don’t know what Airbnb is? Check out their site here. I’ve used their services all over the world and the US and highly recommend them as I’ve saved 100’s of dollars and really great people.

It is always cheaper to travel during the week versus the weekend unless you are rubbing up against a major holiday (i.e., Thanksgiving). Look to book travel for Tuesday-Thursday opposed to Monday or Friday. Larger/busier airports tend to have more flights and at cheaper costs, see if this makes sense for your circumstances. Sometimes, the location you want to go to is just expensive for that time period, can you go another time?

Step 4: Be a bull when you’re planning. Be aggressive when finding deals. Sites like momondo.com, skyscanner.com, travelocity.com, googleflights.com will all aid in finding the right deals and for the right time. Also, signing up for sites such as TravelNoire.com or thetravelingchild.com will provide you with deals to your email or advice on different locations.

Always put your browser into the incognito mode when searching, search engines can’t track your searches and hike up prices. Just do a quick google search if you aren’t sure of how to work the incognito mode.

On social media, join travel groups where folks will be posting different deals they’ve used or seen. They’ll share tips, facts, pictures, and other useful information. I’ve found suggestions on Airbnb or hotels to stay in, excursions to try, restaurants and so much more.

Some pages that I follow and love are Black Travel Movement, Solo Women Travelers and, Travel Community on Facebook and  IG accounts @divadaystravel, @theblacktravelclub, @travelisthenewclub, @blacktravelista, @travelingcocoagirls, @theblacktravelfeed or @theblackoutdoors.

Step 5: Book your flights and lodging, but think about booking excursions when you’re at your destination. Most often, it is cheaper to book upon arrival as you are able to deal directly with the operating party and negotiate on price. Always negotiate. 

Step 6: Pack light. Avoid additional fees as often as possible. And leave room to collect souvenirs and keepsakes from your travels. Check out my Travel Essentials post to see what I never leave behind.

Step 7: Notify your bank (credit/debit cards) that you will be traveling, so they do not flag and block your account. I usually don’t get a phone plan as I connect to Wifi when possible. If your phone allows a SIM card that is a much cheaper option. Phone carriers such as TMobile offer competitive plans with international access, though I’m #teamATT.

Other tips that I have. Have a savings plan/account just for travel. Putting away $5-10 a month is better than nothing. Traveling can be so affordable if the proper planning is put into place.

Note: I never encourage people to max out credit cards for travel, if you can not afford your trip, either look at other destinations, try to find more deals or merely save more until you can afford it.

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