I live for lists probably to a fault. I love the physical “CHECK” I make next to a task with my colored Sharpie. I can’t help it. People at work think I’m mental, but you know how there’s something indescribable about the musty smell of paper pages in a book mixed with a whiff of ink? God I love that smell. Well, that’s how I feel about checklists… only substitute professionally bound pages for sticky notes and ink for one of those cheap pens I neglected to return to my neighbor’s cubicle. But you get it.
Unfortunately in today’s day and age, paper lists aren’t always the most efficient way of checking the box. Friends introduced me to the benefits of Google Docs and I’ll never go back…when planning my road trip adventures that is. Everything you can possibly need to access should be in your Google Docs file – It can be set to be shared among select friends and is accessible from any device. Your Google Docs file should include the following:
- All airline comparisons, even those that are priced too high
- All hotel/hostel choices with the full address, phone number, cost, website and payment options (What if something happens with your planned reservation? At least if you keep the other choices in your Google Docs, then you’re familiar with pre-researched options if there’s an unexpected change in plans.)
- A trip breakdown by city with a list of all the things you want to do in ranking of priority
- City maps, potential alternate routes, as well as city parking and toll information
- Any tour packages, travel insurance, city transportation, or car rental information
- If traveling outside of the country then consider including a copy of your passport and birth certificate
- A detailed travel checklist reminding you to alert your credit card companies, bring two forms of ID for traveling out of the country, list any pre-researched spots to attain local currency (a post office should be the top choice – you won’t incur fees like you will at other exchange companies) and have a finalized itinerary to give loved ones in case of an emergency
- Anything else you feel is pertinent in the document
- Reminder, you should have hard copies of all your travel reservations which include airline tickets, hotel/hostel, transportation, etc.
Always check the airline websites first as a high-priced baseline and then use a preferred third party site to review various options, i.e., Kayak, Expedia, Hotwire, Cheapflights, Orbitz, etc. Personally, I like to use Skyscanner and Momondo. The rail is also a great option in those countries that offer it. Click here for more information from the blogger Distant Lands.
– Skyscanner.com: Has a very sleek and user-friendly search option. Skyscanner gives a “Price Check Comparison” in the same area you enter all of your other travel information. The comparisons open in a new window, so they don’t interfere with your primary search. And there’s an app!
– Momondo: By far, my absolute favorite third-party website to use in gathering flight data to make the most informed and budget-conscious decision. Momondo combines the great search options of Skyscanner with a graphical representation of price fluctuations within a 10+ day range so you don’t have to constantly change the travel options in order to do effective price comparisons. It combines the absolute best offers across all airlines to provide you with the best price and impeccable service.
– Airline Loyalty: If you’re a frequent traveler then chances are you spend a fair amount of time in airports. Build airline loyalty – even if you don’t fly often enough for it to translate into free tickets, it will earn you upgrades, earlier boarding and some preferential treatment with the sometimes obnoxious customer service folks.
Tip: The best day to book is Tuesday at 3 p.m. This is when most airlines drop their prices and the third party sites can pass the deals through to you. First flights out on Wednesdays and Saturdays (yes this typically means an ungodly hour) are good days to travel as well. Fridays and Sundays tend to be the most expensive.
Look for FREE
When researching options for doing a full tour with a group or traveling on your own, always include “Top FREE things to do in the city of (x)” – The search will return anything from free museums, galleries, gardens, walking tours, and more. You don’t need to spend big money to experience life like the locals.