Travel Tips

Travel can be affordable! I am just like the majority of the population who work for a living and with limited number of vacation days per year. For every trip, I put a lot of time to plan out my vacation to maximize what I get from what I paid :) Many of you might not have much interest as I do on planning or might not have much time to plan so here I put a list of useful tips to make your vacation planning easier and save some hard-earned money!

Flights

1. Google Flights: https://www.google.com/flights/

I use Google Flights when I have a general idea where I want to go but not exactly on place and date, for example, the Caribbeans. I usually input my home airport and select a date and then click on the "map".  Then, it'll display all the flight prices to everywhere in the world during that time period so that'll give me an idea of the price around that area. When I know exactly where I want to go, I can search on "lowest fares" and select the duration of the trip for example 8 day trip. That'll display all the prices of a 8 day trip from now up till 11 months for some destination so I know when is the cheapest time to travel. Note: Google travel is like a search engine, not an agency, so it'll direct you to the airline to book.

2. Hotwire: http://www.hotwire.com/

I use this when I know where to go and when to go because sometimes Hotwire offers "hot rate", this is discounted rate that you can't choose the airline or the time of the flight; information will be revealed once booking is confirmed. But it will listed the specify departure time range, number of stops, and guaranteed connections of no more than 3 hours within the US and Canada but might be longer on international flight. However, hot rate is not qualified to earn frequent flier miles. I did this on my Hawaii trip, $550 roundtrip from Boston :)

3. Directly with the airline

Sometimes airlines have special sales that the rates aren't available in other 3rd party booking agency like Expedia. Sign up for the airline's email notification to get alert of sales! I saved at least $100 with my Grand Cayman flight from JetBlue's two days fare sale event!

4. Yapta "Track Price Drops": http://www.yapta.com/

I use this when I know my travel dates, I search for flights and picked a list of flights that I want and added them to "track price drops". It'll notify me when the price drops; I can even customized it to notify me when the flights drop below a target price. Good tool to use when you are too busy to search everyday!

Hotels

1. Booking.com: http://www.booking.com/

What I like more about booking.com than other hotel booking sites is that it displays pictures of each category of rooms. It's really important for me to know how the room looks from pictures than text description of the room. 

2. Hotwire: http://www.hotwire.com/

Once again, Hotwire's hot rate offers one of the deepest discount but it won't tell you the name of the hotel until booking is confirmed. However, it does have the hotel's star rating so you can narrow down the range to guess which hotel is it or know which hotels will you be expecting. For example, I booked a hot rate on a 5 stars hotel on Giudecca Island, Venice. Since the hot rate guaranteed the 5 stars rating, I told myself the worst it would be is still a 5 stars! I ended up getting Hilton Molino Stucky Venice for 3 nights for $471.64! Huge saving!

Trains in Europe

The fastest, most convenient, and affordable mode of transportation in Europe is usually trains. There are ways to save on train tickets. One of the best resource to find out how is TripAdvisor http://www.tripadvisor.com/!  Go to the TripAdvisor forum and search, usually transportation is under the "top questions" on the right hand side of the forum. If not, just post a question and I am sure many experts will jump in to answer! Here are some common ways to save:

1. Rail Pass: http://www.eurail.com/

If you know how many trips you'll be taking and want some flexibility on travel dates, sometimes a rail pass can save. You'll need to do some calculations between a rail pass versus book directly and individually for each trip via the train company to determine which way saves more. Also, if you are under age of 25, a youth rail pass is the cheapest way to travel with flexibility!

2. Book Direct

Book direct with the train company since many 3rd party providers charged a fee and/or marked up the price. Some people choose to book with the 3rd party for convenience because many experienced difficulties with their credit card payment. I have booked many times with many companies and never have a problem! Many countries' rail companies have English version and very easy to navigate! Plan early and book early to take advantage of advanced discounts as much as 70% off!

(If you are traveling with 2 or more people including yourself, DB Bahn offers a group ticket for less per person, also look for a one-day pass for unlimited travel within a region)
(I like new trains from Westbahn, free wifi which makes a 4 hour ride passed quickly)
I also wrote a quick guide on how to plan a day trip to Hallstatt: http://missvacation.blogspot.com/2014/03/quick-guide-on-how-to-plan-day-trip-to.html

Attractions

Look for a pass like the museum pass is available for your destination. I had the Paris Museum Pass and it gave free and direct access to many top attractions in Paris without waiting in the line ticket line. It saved us time and money!!! If you plan to visit many attractions then the pass is the way to go. However, if you plan to visit a few attractions then do the calculation to see if it makes sense :)

Restaurants

I found this when I was planning my trip to Paris: http://www.thefork.com/. This website offers discounts and promotions on restaurants like 50% off and special set menus. This really save us a lot of money in Paris - often viewed as expensive dinning out!

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