It has been a long time since I have sat down and written a blog post. Life gets so busy that there aren’t enough hours in a damn day! If you follow us on Instagram, you will see pics of our lives and what we have been up to! One thing people are always asking me about is all my travel experiences. My husband and I love to travel and see the world. I post pics of our trips on IG and Facebook all the time. Because of those pictures people are always sending me messages asking who I use to book our trips, asking for restaurant and hotel recommendations and if I can help them with their trip. I get so many questions and responses to my pictures I decided to sit and write a “How To” of how I travel! I have so much to say on this topic I decided to break it into segments. In this segment I discuss what to do prior to traveling, flights and where to stay.
I want to add an important note here about passports. *If you haven’t been out of the country in awhile and are planning a trip make sure to check as to when your passport is expiring. A new travel condition stating that any US passport that is 6 months from expiring is no longer accepted for travel. So, if you are expiring in 6 months but are headed to say Italy next month, your passport will be denied. You must renew prior to your trip. This is fairly new so be sure to stay updated on International travel updates prior to leaving the US.
Two important things to keep in mind that will make any trip easier
#1 Good Luggage
Not EXPENSIVE luggage, I said GOOD luggage! I recommend buying super light weight, hard shell luggage with 4 wheels for both a carry-on and checked bags. TJMaxx is my all time fav place to purchase luggage. For around $100 you can get yourself a fab suitcase! Check out their selection here http://www.tjmaxx.tjx.com. You can get a matching carry-on to your suitcase for around $60. I scored an adorable Mia Toro suitcase set at TJMaxx for a fraction of the price I would have paid on the brands website! If you haven’t seen Mia Toro luggage check it out at http://miatoro.com. The bags are easy identifiable at the airport and have the cutest designs on them!
#2 TSA Pre Check or TSA Global Entry (for the international traveler)
At $85 for 5 years, you can skip the long security lines and opt for the shorter lines! Added bonus…you don’t have to remove your shoes, belts, laptops, liquids or jacket! You can apply online at http://www.tsa.gov/precheck. After applying online you will need to go for a 10 minute back ground check. It is that easy! If you are an avid International traveler you may want to go for TSA Global Entry. The difference is that you will receive expedited US customs screening when coming back into the US. It is slightly more $$ as it is $100 for 5 years. You have to apply online at https://ttp.cbp.dhs.gov/ This definitely makes travel easier especially when security lines are long!! (Personally I LOVE not having to take my shoes off!!
Flights. How to get the lowest fare on International travel
After you have your fab new luggage and have been pre checked, flights are the next step! When traveling to Europe, I start checking for flight prices months before I plan on going. To date I have found the cheapest flights on Priceline. They make it easy to book multi city flights if you plan on traveling between countries once you are in abroad. You can download the app on your phone, but I find it easier to use the actual desk top site when making flight arrangements. http://www.priceline.com I usually start checking on flight prices around 6 months prior to my departure date and don’t actually purchase until I am around 3 months to my departure date. Prices tend to increase if you book anything later than 3 months to your departure date. I have never seen a great price for an International flight a month before my desired date. Economy seats tend to go first and you run the risk of having to fly Business class or Economy plus if you wait to long and the prices are VASTLY different than Coach seats to say the least! Also, if you don’t have your heart set on just one specific European country, play with the locations!
Example** On Priceline, a flight from Hartford, CT to Orlando, Florida (round trip, non stop on Jet Blue) is $411. On the Jet Blue website the same flight, same flight time is $456. Savings of $94 for you and your loved one!
Example** I am headed to London and Dublin in October. I found that if I went to Dublin first, then to London the flight would be around $635. By swapping the destinations and visiting London first and then Dublin, the price went down to $525!
Lastly, the rumors are true. Flight prices differ as to which day you depart and arrive on. By flying out to your destination on a Monday or Tuesday compared to a Saturday, you can save over $200! Be flexible when traveling on an International flight. If you are willing to do some searching and have the luxury of being able to leave during the week rather than a weekend, you can get some unbelievable deals.
Now how about this….the same flight, flight time, airline and seats from our example above are $22 cheaper if you left on a Tuesday rather than a Saturday. You can save even more! The savings may not seem like much, but they add up and you can use those savings to pay for airport parking!
Where Do I stay?
There are so many options as to where to stay when traveling. My husband and I prefer to NOT stay in hotels if we don’t have to. Our favorite thing to do is rent an apartment or even an entire house. We have done this for years and have never been disappointed that we didn’t opt for a hotel room instead. We have rented homes in Florida multiple times on http://www.flipkey.com and have rented homes and apartments in Italy, Ireland and in the US on http://www.airbnb.com.
We have found that hotels tend to be more expensive per night than a house/apartment rental. We also like that we have a washing machine, dryer, multiple bathrooms and a kitchen.
How the rental websites differ from each other
I have only used the 2 rental sites I have listed above. Flipkey and Air BnB. There are tons of sites to choose from but here is my take on these 2 in particular.
FLIPKEY* I have rented houses and apartments in Florida only from this company. I love that when booking, I only have to pay a portion upfront with the rest due a month or so before arriving. This is great if you are booking early and have months and months before your trip. I find Flipkey great for bookings in the U.S. but not so great for International travel. I find more options on Air BnB for International cities. Flipkey has a ton of places for rent right near Disney though! (I should add that I am a Disney snob and have previously wanted to ONLY stay on property and ONLY in certain hotels. These rental sites have cured me from this and saved me tons of $$$) When I say you can rent a place right outside the magical gates to the theme parks I mean it! I rented an apartment around a year and a half ago for a Disney vaca in January. The place had 2 master bedrooms complete with master bathrooms. Stand alone showers and jacuzzi tubs with double sinks. There was also a 3rd bedroom with 2 twin beds in it and another full bath off that room. A laundry room, modern kitchen and living room that opened up onto a screened in porch completed the apartment. The complex itself had 2 pools, a game room, movie theater and a restaurant. I could see Disney fireworks from the porch! I was down the street from a grocery store and the highway. I was 10 minutes from the Magic Kingdom parking lot. This place was AMAZING and an unbelievable price. You can find some AMAZING deals on this site.
AIRBNB* I deviate between sites when booking houses/apartments, but find Air BnB superior when booking International cities. Unlike Flipkey, you pay in full when booking. But, I look at it as that portion of my trip is paid and taken care of and it is one less thing to worry about. I make sure to check the reviews when booking and will ONLY book with a “Super Host”. When applying your filters when house searching there is a tab for “Super Host”. This means this host has received great reviews on the site. I am very cautious of booking something in another country that seems to good to be true. If it seems that way, it usually is to good to be true! Make sure to read all reviews and make sure there are a lot of reviews. I often will see a listing and then see 3 reviews. I want something that has 103 reviews. I have found some AMAZING deals on this site and stayed at one apartment in Rome for literally $144 for 2 nights, 3 days. The owner was amazing and picked us up at the train station in Rome and drove us to his apartment for free. He spoke better English than some Americans and arranged for transportation for us to the airport when we departed. There was free Netflix and the apartment over looked a farm! It was quite and relaxing! We walked to the beach and the complex had a grocery store, restaurant and a coffee shop! 10 minutes from the airport and 30 minutes from the city. It was the perfect place to relax after 2 weeks of being in the city.
Stay on the lookout for Part 2 of this travel series and happy traveling, Tara