Estimating the cost of a vacation can be daunting especially if you’re looking for cheap places to travel. Embarking on a vacation on a budget can be stressful, difficult to plan and budget properly, and lead to more frustration than excitement. You worked hard to plan this vacation, and the planning should be a fun first step to a fun adventure to someplace new. So let’s all just cool our jets, breathe, and get ready to be realistic with our expectations (and our wallet)
Since the early days of recreational travel, travel agents who worked in a travel agency have been helping the public plan and book amazing vacations worldwide. They were Disney travel agents, Marriott travel agents and others. In the “good old days,” your travel agent or travel consultant was a trusted ally in your circle who most-likely worked in a tour agency - much like your family attorney, doctor or accountant. Your travel agent sent you a card on holidays and your birthday, and always kept you alert to new specials and emerging destinations to visit. They would throw get togethers and invite you to view slides from one of their client’s recent vacations. In short, they were your personal inspirational motivator of exploration. (I like the sound of that!)
In previous articles, we discussed the creation of a “Vacation Dream Calendar”, scheduling your holiday travel and Spring Break. If you missed any of those, you can read them here.
If you have followed my counsel and created your calendar and scheduled your holiday season travel and Spring Break travel, then CONGRATULATIONS! Your vacation calendar looks amazing! Now let’s discuss summer travel.
In previous articles, we discussed the creation of a “Vacation Dream Calendar” and the importance of scheduling your holiday travel now. If you missed either of those, then you can read them here.
If you have followed my counsel and created your calendar and scheduled your holiday season travel, then CONGRATULATIONS! I am so proud of you. Now let’s discuss Spring Break travel which is of course, all about spring breakers.
In a previous article, we discussed the creation of a “vacation dream calendar”. If you missed part one of this series, you can read it here.
I thought now would a good time to discuss MAJOR holiday travel planning. If this applies to you, then you’re in luck! If not, go ahead and pass it along to that friend who every October bemoans the “airline tickets for Christmas are so expensive”.
Scheduling for holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years can be tricky, because it oftentimes involves extended family members who aren’t as prepared as you are! Be that as it may, do your best to book these travel plans as early as possible to potentially save yourself a lot of money and headache at a very stressful time of year.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to plan, you’re planning to fail”; and I couldn’t agree more. It’s January, we’ve recovered from the holidays and it’s time to take a look at the calendar to decide what vacations you’re going to take this year. I am all for spontaneous getaways, but for most of us, the calendar is a factor in our trip planning. So I say, create a “Dream Vacation Calendar” for the year. Why do this? Because the sooner you book, the greater the likelihood you’ll get a better deal on price. For instance, “wave season” in the cruise industry starts January 1 and runs through the end of March. This is the period of time when A LOT of cabins get booked for the year. I suggest using a printed calendar so its a visual you can look at day-to-day for motivation! So let’s get planning!
It's time to take a look at your driver's license and see if it is compliant for travel within the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on December 20, 2013 a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act (the Act), as passed by Congress back in 2005. This means, if you are a US citizen over the age of 18 and are flying domestically (within the US) then you will need to present a compliant, valid ID. If that is your driver's license, then it must comply. You'll know because it, generally speaking, will have a star at the top of the license.
You can read the official release from the Department of Homeland Security here.
The deadline to comply is October 1, 2020 so check with your state's DMV to acquire a new ID. You will not be able to pass through security checkpoints at airports without this enhanced driver's license or other acceptable forms of ID.
The TSA has a little helpful "Real ID" information which can be found here.
You can use a valid US passport for domestic travel but why risk losing it for quick trip to Chicago? I say, do a little home-state sleuthing and get yourself down to the DMV.
So, you have the travel bug and your significant other doesn’t? Or, maybe it’s you that simply just doesn’t see the value? In either case, I can help. Travel is aspirational, it’s a “want” and not a “need” in the eyes of most. It’s often hard to clearly define the benefits of travel because, well, travel is personal. And what I mean is, travel means different things to different people, therefore the pros and cons are all over the map, so to speak. Nevertheless, I will do my best to shed a little light on the subject.
Let’s start with the facts. According to Forbes, the travel industry worldwide is a $7.6 trillion industry. It directly and indirectly employs millions of people. It’s a true economic force not to be reckoned with. Think about, the airlines, travel agents, hotels, car rental agencies, cruise lines, local shops, restaurants, bars, theme parks, and national parks- they are just a cross section of industries whom all rely on a financial transaction that has something to do with travel. Let’s not forget about the auto industry, apparel, luggage, and tech companies- if you look around, you’ll start to see, travel isn’t a BIG it’s a HUGE business. So, by participating, you are fueling economies, paying for goods and services, or maybe helping to make someone else’s life just a little bit easier. Think of the housekeeper you tipped $5 for taking care of your room for two nights, or the server who went out of their way to serve you an excellent meal- so you throw them $20 as opposed to the standard 20 percent.
How about time off? According to the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off initiative, the average American leaves eight paid vacation days on the tabe each year. Unacceptable. Really? It’s a benefit of your employment. Because employers figured out long ago they want happy, motivated workers. They are literally paying you to be away from the office and, for the most part, were opting to stay at our desks working ourselves to death.
Speaking of health, more and more research emerges consistently about the health benefits of travel. Sure it might be a little counterintuitive because travel can be stressful, but the the big picture is, travel is usually good for the mind, body and dare I say soul. Have a look at the latest research conducted by Timo Strandberg of University of Helsinki, and learn all about lowering your blood pressure while away. More benefits include getting a little more Vitamin D from the sun, getting a little more exercise by exploring or swimming in the ocean, or even having better sex! It’s not my opinion, it’s science, folks.
Not getting along with your mate as well as you’d like to? Well, travel is an excellent way to share an experience with the one you love. Laughing a lot, trying new thing, and falling asleep in each other's arms again can all be part of the travel fun!
The New Year celebrations have long since ended and perhaps you made a resolution to learn something new. Or learn a new language or become more culturally well-rounded? Hello? TRAVEL!
Okay, now comes the uncomfortable part. How do you pay for this life-changing vacation? That’s up to you. But the word TRAVEL begs a little personal definition. I used to define “vacation” as a far off place, that's expensive, and that requires a tremendous amount of planning and financial resources. Those trips do exist. But after traveling for a living for more than a decade, I now completely understand the true meaning of the word. Travel is defined by YOU! An extended weekend away without the kids? Travel. A short cruise to the Caribbean? Travel. Getting in the car and rediscovering your neighboring town? Travel. Camping by the river or in your own backyard? Travel. Forget about keeping up with others. Don’t just do what everybody else does, do what YOU want to do. Go where you want to go and be with the people you want to be with. Nobody really cares and if you have people in your life that you feel are judging you based on your travel plans….get rid of them! You see, you DEFINE what travel travel means to you and yours. Travel doesn't have to be expensive. How about missionary work? Voluntouring? The possibilities are seemingly endless because travel’s such a huge business.
Hopefully, I’ve peeled back the onion layers here to help you get a clearer picture of the big world out there just waiting for you to explore. Now, all you have to do is... do it. Good luck and keep me posted on your plans- before, during, or after you return from your next great adventure.
Let's get down to planning! Congratulations for selecting a few destination options for your next great adventure! When it comes to planning your trip remember their really isn't a WRONG way to do it. But if you'd like some insight as to how I do my personal travel planning, then here is a short tutorial. This is a lot of info and honestly, we're just scratching the surface. So come back to this page often. It can be found by directly at http://www.erikthetravelguy.com/plan.html Let's do this!
Here are some helpful articles and videos of mine to get the logistical juices flowing!
Erik's Top 8 Reasons to Take A Cruise
Erik's Top 10 Tips to be a Happy Traveler
Global Entry Basics
Travelocity, A Quick Read
If airfare is a consideration, then keep reading. If not, then skip this paragraph. There are essentially three ways to book airfare. First, is from the airline directly. Second is from an OTA (online travel agency) or finally from your travel agent or professional. If I'm booking a trip myself, then I'll check with an aggregate site such as Kayak to see pricing for flights. I try to book directly with the airline if at all possible. Again, here is some light reading and watching on the subject of air travel.
Air Travel With the Kids
Low Cost Airlines
Hug A Commercial Airline Pilot
Hotels, All Inclusives, Air B&B's OH MY!
Usually, I have a pretty good idea of the type of accommodation I'm seeking on any given vacation based on circumstances. But remember, you've got options and a lot of them! An all inclusive might be an excellent choice, a standard pay-as-you-go hotel or motel, a vacation rental, campground, or an Air B&B are your general accommodation options. If I have not selected to purchase a package (or bundle) from an OTA, then I try to book direct with the hotel brand whenever possible.
Here are a few articles on the subject of accommodations:
Air B&B - A Cautionary Tale
Cruises Vs. All Inclusive Resorts
Top 10 to Be A Happy Traveler
To Drive Or Be Driven
Renting a car in the US is pretty standard. But, remember, cars generally rent by the day on a 24-hour cycle. A car can be booked as part of a package through an OTA, by a travel agent or direct with the car rental agency. Most car rental companies are present at airports, in neighborhoods, or in some cases, they'll pick you up. Here is a helpful article on the subject.
Erik's Top 10 Car Rental Tips
So these are obviously just the basics. You experienced folks may have additional tips and tricks, so please leave them in the comments below. Of course now it's time to plan the itinerary and that is the subject for another post. Hopefully, this information will help you plan a successful, rewarding and memorable vacation!
Erik the Travel Guy is a respected travel industry expert and host of the nationally syndicated PBS travel television series Beyond Your Backyard. He spends, on average, 25 weeks traveling around the world, hosting his show(s), making short-form travel videos and speaking at events and conferences. He lives in New York City and most enjoys spending time with his two daughters. Read Erik's Bio here.
Do you need a short refresher course on who and what Travelocity Is? This is the blog post for you. Before you get travelling, you’re going to make some arrangements and Travelocity is one of the resources available to you.
Travelocity is an online travel agency. Which means they sell travel products and services online as opposed to a brick and mortar storefront (like a traditional travel agency). Essentially, they (Travelocity) buys travel products and services in bulk and sometimes at a discount (think hotel rooms, cruise tickets, car rentals, attraction tickets and tours) and sells them to consumers.
Travelocity is owned by Expedia Inc. Travelocity’s competitors include direct booking sites, travel agents and Booking Holdings (including Booking.com and Priceline).
So why buy from them and not directly from the airline or hotel company? It has to do with the “published rates” each of the suppliers can advertise. Personally, I like booking directly with the supplier, but Traveocity has built a big business packaging vacations so consumers save money! They also are competing for your loyalty with promotions, price alerts and interactive apps making it super easy to book when your ready.
Great travel deals for deals for hotels can be found on Travelocity but remember to read the fine print before you book. Also, look for customer service options including emergency contacts and 24-hour live customer support should things go a little sideways on your travels.
The bottom line is to shop around when searching for inspiration or pricing for a particular vacation. I usually start with Kayak (an aggregator), breeze through the OTAs such as Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity and Orbitz and then compare buying directly with the hotel, airline or resort.
Hope this helps! And, happy booking, people! Have you booked with Expedia or Travelocity? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
PS. Here’s a little explainer video about the definition of an OTA. and helpful tip about what you bring with you on your vacation.
Erik The Travel Guy is a respected travel industry expert and host of the nationally syndicated PBS travel television series Beyond Your Backyard. He spends, on average, 25 weeks traveling around the world, hosting his show(s), making short-form travel videos and speaking at events and conferences. He lives in New York City and most enjoys spending time with his two daughters.
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the Emmy award- winning, nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, "Beyond Your Backyard," I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!