Beginner’s Guide to Traveling

Your Journey Begins Here

So, you want to travel? But don’t know where to start? Travel and travel planning can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! I’ve traveled to almost 30 countries, 100’s of cities, and 30 U.S. states, making my dreams of travel reality!!

Where to Start: The Essentials

There’s levels to this travel game, but no matter what level you’re on, there are few must-do and must-have things I highly suggest to everyone!

In my e-guide, The Ditch the Travel Agent Starter Kit, I have 30+ pages of travel tips, facts and information compiled in an easy to digest comprehensive e-book, outlining tips from getting/renewing your passport, saving money on lodging or airfare, building an itinerary and everything in between!

Travel insurance and travel credit cards (or rewards programs) are things that I highly recommend to everyone who asks me about becoming a savvy traveler. I also discuss these things in detail in my travel e-guide, but below I’ve linked additional resources and information for some of my favorite companies, pricing and how to determine what’s the best fit for you!

Travel E-Guide

In my e-guide, The Ditch the Travel Agent Starter Kit, you’ll find 30+ pages of travel tips, facts and information compiled in an easy to digest comprehensive e-book, outlining all you need to know to book your next trip, and the one after that. Outlining how to save money, best travel hacks and great resources for easy planning. I recommend starting with this!

Travel Insurance

If you’re wondering if you should get the travel insurance, you should! In travel, always expect the unexpected. From delayed flights, delayed or lost baggage, emergencies, inclement weather, changed/canceled plans, rental car coverage and more, travel insurance can cover most, if not all, crazy scenarios that could cost upwards of $1000’s of dollars without coverage! There are so many travel insurances out there, check my post below to figure out what type of insurance would work best for you, how much it’ll cost and where to book!

Travel Credit Cards

Credit and credit cards can be scary or intimidating, especially for those who are on a journey to being debt free! However, when leveraged properly, travel credit cards can unlock a world of benefits and at little to no risk and cost! How? never charge more than you can afford to immediately pay off, pay your balance in full-monthly and leverage every benefit offered! I am a huge fan of the Chase Sapphire suite of credit cards, but there are so many available depending on your budget, frequency of travel and other needs. Check my post to find the perfect travel card from you whether it’s one with no annual fee, an airline/hotel specific card or something in-between!

Then, head to my post on the 5 Must-Do’s before any trip HERE

Here are some of my Favorite Travel Resources

These 4 things help to make my “travel” life so much easier, from sending deals directly to my email, helping me to save money or just making traveling or travel planning simpler, I highly recommend you subscribe to or download these resources!

  1. Scott’s Cheap Flights
  2. Google Translate
  3. Hopper App (Or Momondo or Skyscanner)
  4. Global Convert

Screenshot/save this to help with packing!

As soon as I knew I was going on my vacation, I knew exactly where to go to get information! Thank you for making your platform!

-Kia | @kiagcnl

How Do I Budget For A Trip?

When asking my Instagram followers what they consider their “biggest barriers to travelling”, the responses were overwhelmingly geared towards finances and knowing where to start! ! Let’s start with budgeting- it’s hard to travel or to plan a trip when finances are a concern! Here are my tips:
1. Start a monthly savings plan that works within your current finances and stick to it! You know your budget and financial situation better than anyone else, so no one can tell you what this should be. However, after your basic necessities are covered, start allocating any “disposable” or “incremental” funds to a travel specific savings account. This should be separate from your emergency and long-term savings accounts and can be any amount.

2. Once you have funds available, you can start outlining your plans. Honestly, your budget doesn’t always have to be the main driver of where you vacation-but it will obviously be an important factor. Whether you’re a budget traveler, mid-range or prefer luxury, you’ll have to make some decisions. There are tons of destinations that are often deemed as more affordable, like Thailand or Vietnam that cost on average $30USD a day to navigate (including when broke down) vs. other locations that may cost in upwards of $100USD a day like Barcelona. The flight and the lodging will often be the most expensive aspects of your holiday, you can choose to cut costs and stay in a hostel or decide that you want 5 star, this is where you’ll start to hone in on decisions once you know your destination. I’d start HERE, with Budget Your Trip. BYT is a great tool for getting a loose idea of how much it would cost to travel to just about any destination in the world based on your travel preferences (budget, mid-range or luxury) as well as length of vacation! Honestly, there are times that I do not mind staying in the 3-star hotel to be able to spend that money elsewhere towards my plans and other times I want a 5-star experience. I also always fly in economy unless I get an airline upgrade or have miles to put toward my airfare.

Below is an example from BYT website for an estimate on a visit to France!

3. As mentioned, the most expensive part of my trip is typically lodging and your flight, but there are ways to save money here! I usually recommend that people chase the deals not the destination, meaning go where the flight deals are taking you to help lower this cost! Track your flights on sites like Google Flights, Hopper App or Skyscanner to get an estimate on when your ticket will be the lowest fare. Or sign up for newsletters like Scott’s Cheap Flights to be alerted via email of weekly flight deals around the world. Aside from monitoring flights and trying to get in at the lowest price, I also sign up to loyalty programs and utilize my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn points that can be redeemed for flight credits. I give more information on rewards/loyalty programs in my travel guide and break down how to leverage these programs for free to low-cost travel!
Grab a copy of my e-guide here.

4. Once you have a travel bank, have your destination, are tracking your flights and understand your lodging options, start thinking about your itinerary and any related expenses. Do you need tickets? Is it cheaper to book ahead or once at your destination? I usually google to see what other traveler’s are saying, unless it’s say visiting Universal Studios in Florida, something that is the focal point of my trip or has a tendency to be sold out, I usually confirm ahead of time! I always search the web for any discounts or deals that may be available. Are there free walking tours or museums, etc.? What is the transportation situation? Is it easier to rent a car? (Read my post on 8 tips for renting a car in another country HERE). Is ride sharing available (e.g. uber/lyft)? Are trains, buses or other public transport the norm? How expensive are these things? In Japan it was much more efficient to use their transit system to maneuver around the cities, whereas in Los Angeles, it made the most sense to rent a car! I also recommend everyone always carrying at least $20-$100USD (or it’s equivalency in cash).

5. Budget for additional expenses like travel insurance-which you should always have, whether it comes as a benefit on your travel credit card or choose one of the following options from THESE reputable companies. Your insurance should always cover: travel interruption, accidental death/dismemberment, baggage delay/lost, trip delay, weather-related delays/cancellations, illness, rental car coverage and supplier bankruptcy. Many insurances will offer additional coverages, including coverage for Covid-19 related incidents, be sure to vet the policy for your specific needs and understand if your destination requires a certain level of coverage (e.g. up to $50K USD in Covid-19 related coverage for testing, hospitalization and mandatory quarantine, if needed.)

3 Things I Can’t Travel Without

What’s always in my travel bag? There are 3 things that I simply cannot travel without, no matter where I’m going or for how long, they are:

  1. Cellphone
  2. Power Bank
  3. Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

    It may seem like common sense, but check my post to read more about how I leverage various travel apps, all of the benefits of my chase sapphire and stay ready for anything with my power bank! I’ve also included links and further details as well as listing a few more must-have travel items!

Other Good Travel Buys:

  • Packing Cubes: packing cubes are individual, smaller bags meant to help organize your suitcase, actually enabling for more space in your bags and less clutter. I purchased my packing cubes from Amazon HERE and take them on every trip!
  • Luggage Scale: Most airlines, with the exception of Southwest, charge for checked luggage. So, unless you either have status with a specific airline or are just traveling with a carry on, you’ll have to be prepared to pay to check your bag, prices range from $25-75USD for 1 bag, 1 way, for a normal sized/weighted bag. If your bag is overweight, the price can easily go from $25 to $45 or even $80USD depending on airline and destination, instead, don’t wait to get to the airport for a surprise and weigh your luggage yourself with your luggage scale. This is also helpful once you’re at your destination preparing to come home with all of your liquor and souvenirs, helping to balance the weight between your checked and carry on bags to stay within range. I purchased my luggage scale at Amazon HERE.
  • Travel Pillow: I use my travel pillows on long-haul trips for comfort in-flight. I purchased my pillow from Marshalls for $7.99, but you can get them at most retailers or again, on Amazon HERE.
  • Ink Pen: There may be forms that you need to fill out on the airplane or at customs and there will not always be spare pens available, don’t get caught slipping!

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