As I’m reminiscing about my backpacking adventure in the UK, I thought it would be helpful to publish a post about maximizing funds for your trip, the importance of pre-planning and taking advantage of proven resources.
Swipe It… Responsibly
I was raised the old fashioned way: 1) Never buy anything you can’t afford and 2) “Cash is King”. Even good practices evolve as they are passed from generation to generation. I say, 1) Never buy anything you can’t afford at the time of the purchase and 2) you’re a fool if you don’t take advantage of Rewards Programs.
Forking over cash doesn’t earn you credits toward hotel stays, airfare, car rentals, excursions, fuel, food and more. There are Rewards Programs to tickle anyone’s fancy. The Chase Marriott Rewards and Bank of America Power Rewards are two cards that fit my needs. I’ve earned free airfare, upgraded seats, car rentals and free stays for charging what I was going to pay for in cash – your gas, groceries and date nights add up.
Remember, credit cards are convenient while traveling, but they also put you at increased risk of identity theft, non-tourist areas may not accept them or you may pay a premium in international rates. Make sure to call your credit card company before traveling, let them know where you’ll be staying and inquire about incurring any additional fees.
- Don’t cheap out & read those reviews: You get what you pay for – read every review and don’t just book a hotel, motel or hostel without reading and documenting everything you can. Know what you’re willing to compromise on and what’s a hard limit. I don’t particularly mind taking a cold shower, sharing a room with six other females or if breakfast is included, but safety and security are top priority for me. Recently, I was convinced this brand-spanking-new hostel with all the bells and whistles was the queen jewel of all budget stays… until I found one review that caused a change of heart. Centrally located in the city, yes, but it was off the beaten track on a back alley, poorly lit and difficult to find. Location, location, location. Safety, safety, safety.
- Communicate: Don’t be afraid to call the hostel management team or send them an e-mail. I’ve never contacted one that hasn’t been more than happy to help. They don’t make money by running a poor business, so you’d be surprised at the level of customer service you’ll receive… all you have to do is ask.
- Resource: Hostelworld.com is a trustworthy site that provides you with plenty of quality reviews, lets you compare locations, amenities and prices and connects you directly with the hostel website. This is a must-have app while you’re traveling.
- Resource: If a Platinum Status existed for those with an OCD list obsession, then I would be president of the club. Grocery list, cleaning list, daily planner, workplace project tracker, random notes in iPhone – yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. So when my friends introduced me to Google Docs as part of the trip-planning process, it was like falling in love for the first time all over again.
- I am a big believer that you can never be too prepared. How you’re traveling also determines the level of research you’re going to need to complete prior to getting on the road. If you’re planning to go the tour route then the most important research you’ll do is on the tour company itself. Nearly everything else is handled for you once you find a reputable group that suites your needs – typically your airfare, hotel/hostel stays, breakfast, tour packages and transportation are included in the price. If a tour isn’t for you then you’re responsible for dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” to ensure a successful trip so grab your reading glasses and make a pot of coffee.
- Resources: EF College Tours is a FANTASTIC tour group for young adults ages 18-25. Fun, outgoing and knowledgeable guides lead your adventure-packed vacation. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. This is a great way to meet people your own age – many of them still in college – network and experience more than you thought was possible in such a short period of time. Go Ahead Vacations is another solid choice to consider but is more laid back with less excursions planned for the day and more free time scheduled so you can explore on your own. Any Rick Steves resource in valuable to your entire planning process, including financial, accommodation, sightseeing and transportation tips.
Don’t Sit on a Good Deal
As quickly as they come across your computer screen and cause you to have a shriek of excitement, they vanish and so does that smile from your face. I stumbled across a roundtrip ticket to Dublin, Ireland from Aer Lingus. It was so unbelievable it caused my eyes to bug out, mouth to drop, heart to patter and voice to crackle like an adolescent boy. I could barely contain myself when telling my friends. I was so proud of my find that I was beaming. Needless to say, I waited 24 hours too long and lost out. I ended up paying $200 more for the same ticket.