My Top Tips For Booking Cheaper Travel Like Pro

Let’s face it, airfare can easily be the largest expense of your trip, leaving us picking a more affordable destination or spend less money at your vacation stop to stay within your spending limit. Since first publishing this blog post in 2013, times have changed and many of the tips offered don’t exactly apply to travel in 2019. I’ve also have added in other money-saving tips to help along with your travels.

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Visit During Shoulder Season

Peak-season rates on islands often reflect nearby countries' vacation schedules rather than the best time to visit. Bali's hotels, for instance, fill up with Japanese in early May and with Australians in January. In low season, many businesses shut down. Shoulder season--when crowds are thinner, but the weather is still good--is the solution.


Sign Up For Emails & Alerts

The best airfare and hotel sales are typically unannounced. Airlines and hotel companies target specific subsets of travelers, and notify them via email. This includes loyalty program members, holders of certain credit cards, and people who have registered on their website. To keep your in-box from getting bombarded, get a dedicated email address for such alerts; and check it when one is ready to start planning your next trip. One of my absolute favorites is Scott’s Cheap Flights for flash deals on flights.

By setting alerts for price drops, can help save on flights. Ticket prices can fluctuate on a daily basis, even a small drop can result in a large savings if you need to buy a ticket for each member of your family. Google Flights will even show you the different flight trends in a graph format.


Rewards Travel

Credit card miles are also amazing, and how I travel for the most part. I also LOVE the United Explorer Card. When you sign up up, you get earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months that your account is open. This card is great if you fly United or any of the Star Alliance airlines. Another card I highly recommend for any and all travel is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card. The high-value Ultimate Rewards® points on every purchase, making them an ideal referral for most anyone who travels (or wants to do so). Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus you’ll also get $300 Annual Travel Credits as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. TSA Pre-check, Global Entry, Uber Rides… all covered by this travel credit!


Lounge Access

While you’re waiting out a long layover, nothing seems more enticing than the airport lounge, or even better, being able to freshen up after a long international flight. With amenities like free Wi-Fi, drinks, snacks, outlets to charge up, and glossy magazines, airport lounges feel like the answer to a lot of your travel annoyances. At the very least, they can give you sanctuary from the noise. A lot of credit card companies and airline loyalty programs offer lounge access. United Explorer Card offers two complimentary passes per year and the Reserve Cards and Amex offer lounge access through Priority Pass.


Get The Best Room For Your Dollar

At luxury properties, rates vary considerably according to occupancy. A room could be $450 one week because there is a large group, and $250 the next because nobody is coming. For top-end hotels that have on-site reservations desks, call and ask the manager when, during your travel window, the hotel will be emptiest and therefore have the lowest rates. Then ask something like, "If I come on that date, would there be a chance of an upgrade to ocean-view?"

Even better? Apps like HotelTonight offer same-day deals on hotels. This is one of my go-to’s when it comes to last minute hotel stays. I’ve gotten a chance to stay at really nice hotels for a fraction of the cost. If you use promo code VFIDAN you’ll get $25 your first booking!


Time it Right

Traveling off-peak days — and at off-peak times — means lower fares, a less crowded cabin, and a greater chance of snagging those elusive mileage award seats. It used to be that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturdays used to be the best days. But according to travel data from May-December in 2018, booking flights for domestic travel on Saturdays and international flights on Sunday for the cheapest day to book a flight. Want to play it safe? When looking at all destinations around the world, Sunday on average had the cheapest.


Hop Between Cities at Midday

When traveling through Europe or Asia, and want to get from one city to another; consider scheduling transportation for the middle of the day.

Why? Because if you are leaving at dawn, you might miss the sunrise--ideal for photography and observing locals. Sunrise is also a great time to get those amazing instagram shots with no one around. Plus, leaving at the wee hours of the morning, you’ll likely reach your destination at midday, when temperatures are the highest, the light is at its worst for photos, and it is too early to check into your hotel. You’ll also fight rush-hour commuters and miss a breakfast that is included in your hotel rate.


I hope you found these helpful! Do you have any travel tips? Share them with me on Insta! @valeriefidan


Published March 2013; Updated June 2019.

Off The Beaten (Tourist) Path

It's time to out the travel guides down, and skip the tourist trap attractions and experience a city like a local.

Off The Beaten (Tourist) Path travel tips

First thing firsts, if you want to experience local culture when traveling, stay away from tourist sites and tourist attractions. We all know that those experiences are far from truly experiencing local culture. Sure, you may want to explore the Colosseum in Rome  or visit Boca in Buenos Aires--but think about it this way...when you visit New York City, do you really get a New York experience by staying in Time Square? Do as the locals do. Travel with as few plans, commitments and reservations as possible. Be your most uninhibited self.

Easiest way to get the local knowledge is from the locals. This is true. Most people are proud of their home and love to tell you about it. One trick is to go to a restaurant early, like so you are the only customer - the staff will talk to you; sit at a bar and talk to the bartender, the always are in the know.

Ask your waiter.

Ask your cab drivers (use discretion here - cab drivers often get kickbacks for nightlife type activities).

Ask people you meet at the bar, or the cafe, or people you run into in the lobby of your hotel.  

Ask random people on the street.  

Rent places via AirBnB or Couchsurfing and ask your host.

As long as you are polite and use good judgment on when you are asking someone (i.e., don't interrupt people) usually people are happy to help and make recommendations.  Almost everyone wants visitors to enjoy their city/country and leave with a good impression.

Don't be intimidated by language barriers. Explore other forms of communications. Bring postcards from home to show and share. Draw pictures. Pantomime.

Be willing to try (nearly) anything. Food is a good example. Local "delicacies" may be intimidating, but you can pretty safely assume they aren't killing anyone.

Lastly, smile! People will respond best if you are approachable and polite. Well, at least this has worked for me!

Share your tips on Instagram!

5 Essential Self-Care Travel Tips

If you’ve been following me for some time or have scrolled to the very (very)  bottom of my feed, you'll know how much I love to travel. I don't think there has been a period of being stagnant for more than three months. Family and friends always ask where we are heading next, and have become a "go-to" for travel advice. 

5 Essential Self-Care Travel Tips

Traveling is a lot of fun. And, even the stresses of plane travel are something I look forward to; It's all part of the process and the journey. Yes, it’s fun, and it’s purpose-driven, and yes, it can sometimes feel quite glamorous; but, jet-setting (and, I use this term loosely... as in air travel) whether it be for work or pleasure, comes with its own set of complexities.

The main issue is self-care. It’s easy to run yourself ragged, hopping from one place to another, sometimes feeling homesick, and other times just feeling sick -- tummy, head cold, you name it. Here are five tips I have picked up along the way that keep me feeling 100% when I’m traveling.


Wipe It Down

I'm a germophobe, and more so when I get on a plane. I always use some quick hand wipes or a travel-sized sanitizer spray to wipe it all down: that includes the little TV, the service tray, and all the buttons around your seat. Wipe it down...all of it! Let's not get started on the bathroom.

Lubricate Your Nose

To avoid getting sick on planes, place a dab of Neosporin on a cotton swab and coat the inside of your nostrils. Not only does it create a barrier for germs, but it also lubricates the skin in the nose. That’s important because when the skin cracks, germs can come in, so the coating of the Neosporin doubly protects you. Personally, I travel with a tube of Waxeline. 

Stay Hydrated

It may seem obvious, but staying hydrated is one of the easiest, simplest ways to stay regular and well when on the road or in the air. Sometimes it can be easy to forget to hydrate while on the go, so find a water bottle you like and make sure that it fits into your carry on. Most airports have water bottle filling stations past security, so fill up!

Pack Probiotics

Go pro, and I'm not talking about the little video camera. This is a tip I got from my mom. Always travel with a high strain probiotic, and hydrate like you’re dying of thirst – because even if you’re not, for your body – the thirst is real. This dynamic duo of probiotics and water will keep your gut health in check and honestly stave off jet lag if you’re traveling to another time zone or another country. And, if you didn't pack a probiotic, don't worry. Buy local plain yogurt, and this will help do the trick.

Let Your Tummy Keep Time

If you eat on the schedule of wherever you’ve landed, you won’t feel jet lagged. It’s your stomach that tells your brain when it’s feeling wonky. By simply eating a meal at the time the locals are when you land, you trick your brain a bit and stay much more on track, and much less cranky. Along with this is getting some sunshine as soon as you land (given that you arrive during the day.) It might be tempting to nap, but keeping awake until dark combined with eating at the local time will help jet leg drastically!
 

Local Bloggers and Influencers Are The Secret for Insider Scoop

A wasted afternoon at a tourist-trap attraction?

Yup, been there; it has happened before.

A clear memory of this was in 2009 on a trip South America; getting stuck in the tourist trap that is La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Known as the birthplace of the tango, La Boca, a one-time shipyard has a famous walkway, El Caminito, where tango dancers perform and artists exhibit their work on this colorful street.

The true grittiness of the neighborhood is lost and now it is essentially a tourist trap, full of people touting for business. It is filled with over priced tourist trinkets and t-shirt heaven; faux tango eatery and photo hustlers are in abundance. The only genuine thing left is Boca fútbol stadium 4 blocks north, with a soccer museum charging $12USD entrance. A wasted afternoon indeed.

I wish we would have been warned that this place was the equivalent to San Francisco's Fisherman's Warf or Khao San Road in Bangkok. If only we would have known a blogger... or local for the inside scoop!

Every major city has bloggers obsessed with what's new and great in their backyard, particularly in regard to restaurants. Using Google Blog Search to find bloggers in whatever city you are visiting is a great place to start. You can also use Instagram by searching in the search or through geo tags.

Bloggers and influencers are a phenomenal resource but do not just read what they are writing: Contact them for personal recommendations. The more specific your request — and the more you flatter them for their insight and wit — the more likely you will be to pique their interest and get a response.  

Being from San Francisco, there is no denying that it is a foodie's mecca of must-try places. One might ask: "What's your favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurant within walking distance of the Hotel Vitale on Mission Street? We are looking for a place with a romantic vibe, ideally because it is our anniversary. We'd be so grateful for your help because you obviously know what's going on in San Francisco!" Bloggers love to provide tips and recommendations on their city!

Have I tried this? Yes!  

I've had plenty of people ask me as well via Instagram, and I've shared some of my insights as well.

While in Hoi An, Vietnam, I got in touch with via Twitter with Jodi from Legal Nomads, connected me with two bloggers that were currently in Hoi An--James from Nomadic Notes and Leif, a freelance travel writer and Lonely Planet author.

Gregg and I got the opportunity to have a Cao Lau dinner and share travel stories with James and Leif, followed by a fruit shake along the river. We also did research online as to what online travel bloggers recommend. Many recommended Ms. Chien's Pho Cao Lau Hu Tieu in the Central Market. The steaming bowls of pho were amazing!

By browsing Instagram, you can also get ideas in where to venture next. So, if you are unsure of where to head to, ask local bloggers!

Cover Image Credit: @amybuglione, Instagram; First published June 25, 2013; Updated August 14, 2017.

Insiders Guide to Tipping

Execute the correct tipping custom in a new country can be an etiquette minefield that can pose possible problems--especially when you don't know the local language. Here are five tips to help avoid any sort of awkward situation and be on point.

Screenshot Go Compare

Screenshot Go Compare

Be suspicious about what’s on your bill. When it comes to tipping it often pays off to be suspicious about what’s on your bill. You don't know what's included if you can’t speak or read the language. Get some advice from the hotel staff about what is commonly loaded on the bill.

Follow the local lead on tipping. If no one does, then don’t. (I get it, it can be weird not tipping.)If tipping requires paying more on top of than you would at home than not doing so much might place you in an extremely awkward position.

Don't over tip. American’s often over tip in foreign countries. Being an overly generous tipper can have unintended consequences, especially for travelers who come after you. They might be expected to follow your lead.

Have a stash of low-denomination bills ready for doormen, porters, and taxi drivers. Think of it as being part of the price, rather than an optional extra.

Find out from an independent source of truth for how much to tip. If someone has no vested interest in recommending you to tip, then you're more likely to get accurate information.

Want to see a full interactive map? View it here

Related: Use This guide for tipping around the world.

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