Traveling has completely changed my life. I have been so blessed and grateful to experience so many places around the world and still counting. I have never thought of becoming a travel agent, but people will come to me asking to assist in planning their trip, probably because I'm an avid researcher and budget-traveler. Below are a few sites that are my usual go-to's for my trips.
Planning a trip can be stressful in itself with questions like; Where to go? With who? When? Is it safe? Where do we stay? What do we do? Which is why a lot of people will resort to travel agents. I personally have never gone through a travel agent, but if you have one who always guides you through this part then amazing! For myself, I go to Skyscanner which I love because of the search options.
Once you choose your departure airport with Skyscanner, you have the option to search everywhere. I love this, because depending on what kind of trip you're looking to take, you can see which destinations are the cheapest from your location. For instance, when I planned a family member's trip, I searched roundtrip from her hometown to Barcelona, it was pretty pricey, but when I searched everywhere, it showed me that to fly to London was 2 times cheaper, and then to get a flight from London to Barcelona was next to nothing, so she ended up saving a lot!
Another feature I love about Skyscanner is the departure and return dates. You are able to search the whole month instead of a specific date, to see which days are cheaper. It saves you so much time from searching day by day to see if prices go up or down.
Side note: Search your flights using an incognito tab, and if you don't, always remember to clear your cookies. I'm sure you know by now that the internet tracks everything you do, and if you continually search the same flight over and over, you will start to see that the prices rise.
Once you find flights that interest you, be sure to research the airline company beforehand. There can be some scams, such as a company called buymytrip.com and also, a lot of airlines have hidden fees, or some of the prices you see might only include a personal bag and not a carry-on. With some airlines as well, I've noticed that you have to pre-book your food, so if you're on a long-haul, you might want that. So just research, research, research!
I have done all-inclusive vacations, I have done cruises and I have just flown to a place and explored. All-inclusives were nice, as everything is included and only extra costs would be any tours or excursions. Cruises I love as you can explore different places each day, but it can feel a bit rushed. I personally enjoy flying somewhere and renting an Airbnb and taking in the city and surroundings at my own pace. Not everyone loves Airbnbs, but I have stayed in my fair share and all but 1, have exceeded expectations. You can find some beautiful getaway homes on Airbnb but I would definitely just recommend reading ALL of the reviews. Click here to receive $45 CAD off your first booking!
You can really get some good deals on Groupon, whether it be for excursions, hotels or dining out. Just search the city you're traveling too, the category you're interested in and voila! Just again, be sure to read reviews. I tend not to buy anything that has none or less than 3 reviews, but that's just me. Groupon usually has really good packages for Niagara Falls if you're ever wanting to visit!
This is so important. I used to take this lightly and thank God I haven’t had to use it, but I’ve met and heard so many stories of people who didn’t purchase because they thought nothing would happen to them, and the costs incurred without insurance were INSANE! Most credit cards have it included in their policies but if yours doesn’t, or you don’t have one; I usually use Travel Cuts but again, definitely do your research!
This website/app is a great way to see a bit of Europe. You start by choosing your departure city and then pick your travel dates. They have options for specific European cities or an option for All Europe and they'll customize the itinerary. The only thing is, if you're from Canada, they only depart from Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary. So if you live in another province you'll have to fly to one of their departure cities. (FYI - Depending on where you live in Canada, it's sometimes cheaper to fly to Europe then to fly to Toronto or Calgary) You choose how long you want your trip to be and then they provide an itinerary with all the transit routes!
*Please note that a lot of flights are with Ryanair which is a budget airline, which means you pay for everything, including a carry on - so be mindful!
UBER - Can be cheaper than taxis.
LYFT- Can be cheaper than Uber! Click here for $$ off your first ride.
GOOGLE TRANSLATE - An obvious app to help you with language and communicating when traveling. You can also take photos of menus in another language and it will translate to your language.
GOOGLE MAPS - When connected to the internet, search the place you're visiting and at the bottom select download offline map so then you're able to use it and get around when you're not on wifi.
HOPPER - A cool app where you can search for flights and hotels and it will tell you if you should wait to book or to book now. You can also receive notifications on when the price drops or if it's going to go up.
WHATSAPP - One of my favorite apps, hands down. It's so convenient, as I can keep in touch with my friends and family around the world for no fee. It includes video calls, phone calls, messaging, exchanging photos, etc. But the other person has to have the app as well!
TRIPADVISOR - Probably my #1 website/app I go to for reviews. Whether it's for hotels, attractions or restaurants, it definitely comes in handy.
PACKPOINT - A good app to help you organize your packing. It will ask a few questions and based upon your answers, will generate a packing list to get you ready for your trip!
I understand that not everyone is able to travel as far or as frequently as they would like, due to health, financial, job, life etc. but honestly, stepping out of what's comfortable and experiencing a new place doesn't have to be somewhere across the world, it could be in your own country, even your own province. There are hidden gems everywhere! The planning and booking can sometimes be overwhelming but the trip makes it all worth it! Always remember:
1. BE OPEN-MINDED
Leaving what you are accustomed to and traveling somewhere you've never been can be a challenging thing, but with an open mind, it can be one of the most beautiful learning experiences.
Do plenty of research on the place you are visiting. Study and learn a few basic phrases if it's a country that speaks a different language. Be respectful of cultures and of people. Open your mind to trying new food and participating in local excursions. Also, depending on how long you'll be visiting a place, try joining some local Facebook groups. When I moved to Spain, I joined a Girls in Valencia FB group and was able to participate in so many activities around the city and meet some incredible people.
2. PACK SMART
Whether you’re a pre-packer who likes to pack well in advance, or if you’re like me and leave it till the last minute - you want to make sure you pack smart! Definitely research the weather beforehand so you will know what type of clothes to bring. Make sure you make copies of travel documents and don’t pack anything important in your checked luggage! Also, invest in a portable charger, some packing cubes and depending on where to travel to - a universal plug. Lastly, make sure you have some extra space for any shopping 🙂
3. STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
You can learn so much about yourself and about life when you step out of what’s comfortable. When you travel, try something new. It doesn’t have to be something as exhilarating as skydiving (although you should definitely try it) but depending on your level of fear, start small. But once you scratch something off your bucket list, even if you feel a bit nervous, I promise ..you will be filled with so much joy afterwards.
4. BE SAFE
Some of this might sound like common sense, but it honestly is so important. Research the place before you go and see if there are any travel advisories. Be aware of where you store your valuables, and while walking the city with any personal items, try to keep them in a fanny pack or pouch that is in front of you. While traveling Europe, so many people I knew, including my aunt, had their passport, money or cell phone pulled from their bag or back pocket while on a train or walking in a big crowd. Also, e-mail your itinerary to family or friends so they know where you're always at. Drink responsibly - especially if you're on a solo trip. There's a lot of scary stuff that could happen so you want to make sure you always know your surroundings and are alert. Lastly, if something doesn't feel right; don't do it!!
5. PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN
Yes, you’ll want to document and have photos and proof of where you’ve been to show once you get home; but take a few hours a day (more if you can) and just be in the present moment. Have meaningful conversations with locals, watch the sunset or sunrise, sit on the beach and listen to the waves, go to a museum or a coffee shop and just sit. Experience the culture and the city without being glued to your phone.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or want any assistance in planning!! Happy Travels 🙂