Travel Planning Hacks – How I plan a Trip
Travel planning is actually one of my favorite parts of a trip! I love nailing out all the details from where we are going to things we will cover during our trip! After using many tools, I always come back to these travel tools listed below. Utilizing these tools allows me to do ultimate travel hacking, making each trip memorable and within budget!
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Finding a Destination
Since I have a never-ending list of destinations I want to go to, I always start out with Skyscanner. This tool can be used as a website or app that allows you to find the best flights.
I put my desired dates of travel into the search bar and choose “everywhere”. Skyscanner then shows me the best flight deals for each country from low to high. This mainly determines how I pick my destination and is my favorite tool for travel planning! The best part is that this app/website is completely free to use!
My other new favorite flight resource to use is Scotts Cheap Flights. They also have a free version you can use. Basically, all you have to do is sign-up, select your airports, and Scotts Cheap Flights sends you emails when there are great deals from your selected airports! You can also choose destinations you are interested in visiting, and they will send you deals on those as well!
After having it, I more or less want to book a new flight every day when my email comes!
Traveling During the Right Season/Weather
Once I narrow it down to 1-3 destinations that fall in my airfare budget, I simply Google “weather during (dates of travel) in (destination). This lets me know what to expect during the travel period.
For example, maybe I found great flights to the Bahamas, but it turns out to be during prime hurricane season. This might make me double-think about this particular destination or see what my travel insurance will cover. This search should generally be pretty quick.
Average Accommodation Price
Next, I will jump on Trip Advisor real quick and put in the destination and look at “Hotels and Places to Stay” and click the map.
This gives me a general idea of what accommodations are going for and what cities are most popular to stay in. If the prices seem a little over my budget, I will also check Vrbo to get a final idea if the destination will fall into my budget.
Once I determine the general flight price, accommodation price, and weather, I am able to narrow my choice to one!
Next is monitoring flights. Once I have narrowed it down to one destination, I go over to my 2 favorite flight travel hacking tools for planning my trip!
First, I head to Hopper. I put in my destination and Hopper will show me the most affordable and most expensive times to travel all color-coordinated for the entire year. I click my travel dates, and Hopper will then let me know if they think I should book now or wait to save additional money on the flight. You will definitely want to download this app!
Next, I go over to Google Flights. I put in my trip dates again, and click to monitor a couple of flights. Google Flights will then send me email alerts when the prices of my flights go up and down.
Even after I book the flight, I still leave it monitored this way I can analyze when flight prices generally drop the lowest. I’ve found for many of my flights the lowest prices have been from 35-28 days out, but I wouldn’t call this a general rule.
Between both Hopper and Google Flights, I am able to snag the best deals on my flights!
Using Travel Credit Cards
One of the best travel hacks to save money on flights is by utilizing travel credit cards. Being loyal to certain credit cards and airlines can help you rack up points and travel with your points!
One of my favorite cards to rack up points is on my Amex Rose Gold. Amex points are some of the most valuable in travel and have a wide array of transfer partners. This card also currently comes with a $120 dining credit and a $120 Uber credit that can be used on dining or rides. These credits help bring down the annual fee significantly and the card has no foreign transaction fees. Amex also has some of the best travel transfer partners to use your points.
Since Amex is not accepted everywhere, I also utilize my Chase Saphire Preferred. This card has no foreign transaction fees and offers 5x points when booking in the Chase portal. They also have a handful of great transfer partners and offer a $50 hotel credit. They also offer an anniversary points bonus. It does have an annual fee of $95 but the benefits of the card outweigh the fee IMO.
For a card with no annual fee, I also have the Capital One Venture Card. I use this card the least because the two above have more benefits, however, they are also tied to that annual fee. So if you are looking for a travel card with no annual fees, the Capital One Venture is a good option. Their booking portal is pretty straightforward.
Beyond being loyal to credit cards, make sure to sign up for all airline, hotel, and booking programs. Every time you use them, you will get points and bonuses. Furthermore, by being a member, you will also be alerted when they are having deals.
Actually Booking Your Accommodation
Now for actually booking the accommodation. I go through a couple of different channels and mainly check all of them before I make a final decision so I know I am getting the best price.
Booking dot com
Booking.com is my go-to for booking accommodations if I am not working directly with a hotel. I always find great prices and I love that they offer a ton of Free Cancellation options.
I also believe after 10 bookings with Booking.com, you hit Genuis level and get 10% off! (Make sure to make an account!) Booking (dot)com also always sends me perks, which I enjoy.
Hotels dot com
If there is a hotel I really want to stay at but it is not available on Booking, I will check Hotels.com. I usually go with Booking because they tend to have more reviews and better photos, but Hotelsdotcom is also a solid option.
Another travel resource is Vrbo. Sometimes I like having my own kitchen and being in a more local spot. This is where Vrbo comes in for us. It is also great when you are traveling with a larger group!
Full disclosure: I myself have never used Hostel World, however, tons of my friends have so I just wanted to include them from all the great things I’ve heard. I recommend staying at hostels when traveling solo.
Planning What To See
For me planning what I am going to see is probably my favorite part of travel planning and I have the perfect tools for travel hacking the best activities!
Update- I don’t do this as much anymore. I generally go straight to Google Maps, Blogs, and Pinterest.
I use my Trip Advisor App and go under “Things to Do” in my destination. I then bookmark the things that seem interesting. Trip Advisor saves these for me under my private ( you can make it public) trip. This is huge for helping me map out my days!
Speaking of mapping out trips, my Google Maps actually lets me map out my days! You need a Gmail account (if I am not mistaken) and can easily create a map with all the places you want to see.
You just type in the name and save it to your map. This allows you to really plan out each day and get an idea of the time frame you need! I also look under the section of Google for things to do and star it on my map.
I always go to Pinterest to look for other blogger’s itineraries. I save the itineraries I really like to a Pinterest board. I have always found bloggers go above and beyond to find the best places to see along with hidden gems.
Next, I go on Instagram and check the location and hashtags. Any pictures I really like, I create a safe folder with those pictures that I can go back to later.
I know travel insurance is not the most exciting thing to plan, but I never leave without it. After all, you just spent all this money, why not protect your trip and yourself? Did you know most insurance plans do not protect you abroad?
I happen to be very injury-prone. While it was nothing too serious, I did have to use my travel insurance in both Thailand and Malaysia. I was happy to know I was covered. Travel insurance also covers cancellations and delays, such as things that are weather-related.
Get Ready to Start Travel Planning!
There you have it! My favorite tools for travel planning and travel hacking! With these main resources, I am able to plan detailed trips that allow me to see the best of every destination within my budget! I hope this has helped give you the tools to make planning easy!
If you feel travel planning still might not be for you, or you just enjoy the idea of having someone else do it for you, I love helping plan trips! Check my destinations page and start travel planning today!
If you also like working on the road like me, don’t forget to get a VPN. This protects your IP address when working on shared WIFI, so you are way less likely to get hacked. VPN’s also help you use services like Netflix when you are in different countries. I use NordVPS and got a 3-year plan that came out to be about $3 a month!
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