Monday, March 13, 2017

Trip Talk

"I may not be able to buy happiness, but I can buy plane tickets and that's pretty close."

Lots of people ask me how we travel so often and my answer is, I try to be really smart about finding good deals and bargains. The way I look at it is: I don't like to pay full price for shoes and clothes so why should I travel without finding some kind of discount? :) I also know what I personally prioritize - I'd rather fly economy class and be somewhat uncomfortable for 10 hours and put more money towards a nicer hotel room, but everyone's different - my sister, for example, really doesn't like to fly over 4-5 hours unless she's upgraded her seat. YMMV. 

I will use our recent trip to London and Paris this past December as a good example. When we got engaged and started house-hunting in the same year, I knew we had a lot of big purchases coming up in our future. I signed us up for a Starwood Amex and, as life went on and purchases were made, the credit card points came rolling in. I saved every single one to be used eventually for a big trip. 

Most of you know that Rami is a teacher - so we can only really travel long distances over his spring and winter breaks, and summer vacation. He got two weeks off in December so back in May or June of 2016, I started looking around on Google Flights for a reasonably priced flight to one of the places I knew we wanted to visit. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon a nonstop direct flight from LAX to London over the exact dates we wanted to travel - for $470 per person. I booked it on the spot - and then called Starwood and cashed in about 100,000 points and voila! Free hotel rooms for the entire trip! (Note - I arranged it so we stayed in Paris for 5 nights instead of 4, so that we could take advance of SPG's 5th Night Free Promotion!)

For every trip I make a VERY detailed itinerary in Google Drive that I can reference, change, add to, etc, and I break each day down by morning, afternoon, and evening plans. I am not one of those people who lands somewhere new and then just wanders around - I need a plan! 

Whenever I made a reservation or buy a ticket or book a tour, I put it into that day's plan, and include the date I made the reservation and by what means (email, phone, etc), a reservation or booking number if there is one, as well as the address and any other pertinent info I might need. Let's be honest, 99% of the time the restaurants are the first thing booked and the rest of the trip just gets filled in around mealtime :) 

For example, here's one of the days we spent in London:


Saturday, December 31: 10am - Churchill War Room Museum Noon - Harrods Department store and Food Hall for shopping and lunch 3:30pm - Christmas Tea at Sketch London, made on bookatable.com on 11/27 and reserved with credit card (Booking Ref: 2342-WW/SK7571) 6:30pm - School of Rock Musical, confirmed via email 11/16, pick up tickets at box office 9:30pm dinner reservation at Tramshed, made via Open Table on 12/14


When it comes to actually figuring out where to go and what to do, I have a few regular sources (besides Facebook + Twitter, because OBVIOUSLY). First of all - I have an excellent travel agent - shout out to Sybil who is the BEST! :) I also pour over TripAdvisor reviews and sort them by the month we're planning on visiting as well as the type of trip we're on (ie, personal, romantic, sightseeing), and sometimes by travel companion as well (ie, family trip, couples getaway, etc) so I can more closely compare our ideal experience with the reviews.

I also do a search on my blog reader (mine is Bloglovin) and see if I can find blogs written by people who live or work in the city we're planning on visiting - for example, I did this for Paris and came across some great blogs written by French girls and got some very cool ideas for restaurants! And other thing I do - this is really some light stalking if you ask me - I look up a popular landmark in the area - ie, the Eiffel Tower - and click on the geotag, then scroll through pictures people have posted. If the person looks fun or interesting, I click through to their profile and see if they've visited any other cool places in the area. This is a good idea if you like going to places off the beaten path!

I hope this is helpful for all of you who also love to travel. If you have any good tips please send them my way!

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