In the last year I’ve travelled all over the world – Vietnam, Dubai, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Yellowstone National Park – to name but a few – and I now live in New Zealand. I also worked as holiday rep for two years, living in both Egypt and Cyprus, and I have never forgotten how valuable those experiences were – and continue to be for me. If I had the option to spend the equivalent price of a degree on travelling, you wouldn’t see me for suitcase dust. Immersing yourself in a new culture, meeting new people, understanding how to communicate with people – these are all priceless life experiences, and that’s before I’ve even covered the exhilaration of the sights and sounds you experience whilst travelling.
But let’s face it – holidays are expensive, and the cost is only set to rise. So I’ve put together my top tips for booking the holiday of a lifetime…without the budget of a lifetime.
It’s fair to say that Hopper hasn’t helped me booked holidays – its actually the reason I have booked some holidays. What is it? A flight booking app. But it is SO much more than a flight booking app! The search function allows you to see the cheapest dates for flights (return or single) to every destination in the world. Pretty average right? Well, once you’ve found a flight, it then tells you if that flight is likely to get cheaper and therefore to wait to book it (sending you a push notification when the price drops!!). If you absolutely must book a flight – it’ll offer you ways to make it cheaper – i.e changing your departure day, moving departure airports, etc. Genius. The last time I used this app, I got direct return flights to Vancouver for under £450.
Available for download on Android and Apple phones.
2. Airline loyalty schemes
This is a pretty simple one – but it all helps. Most major airlines have a loyalty scheme that allows you to get points or flying miles for every flight you take – and some will send push notifications for flight discounts, free club lounge passes etc. My favourite apps are from Emirates and Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic have done a great job of offering lots of incentives for consistent use of their app Virgin Red – which is only available in the UK at the moment. If you’re in the UK – download it and get involved – lots of giveaways and voucher codes up for grabs.
3. Google flights
A little like Hopper, Google flights is an aggregated visual display of flights to and from anywhere in the world. Once you have selected your destination, and dates, you can then open the calendar and it will show you prices for each date in your specified month – so you can see when it’s cheapest to travel. Just head to flights.google.co.uk and decide your destination, dates etc – and then vary those to get your cheapest option. If you’re feeling very footloose and fancy free, you can click the ‘I’m feeling lucky!’ button. Who knows where you’ll end up?
Now, I’m aware that I’m preaching to the choir here, but I cant imagine travelling without airbnb. I’ve had better experiences in £45 quid a night rooms, than 5* hotels in Los Angeles. I didn’t mean that to sound so sordid! If you aren’t aware, Airbnb give you the opportunity to rent anything from a treehouse, to a caravan, to a house, to a mansion by the night. It’s available across the world – and there are some seriously unique places to be found! My first experience of airbnb was actually part of my first holiday with my boyfriend. We stayed in a beautiful brown stone building in Brooklyn (very Carrie Bradshaw). We had the whole house to ourselves – but the best part was meeting the owner of the property. When you book with airbnb, you don’t have a robotic booking agent – you deal directly with the property owner – giving you a thoroughly unique insight into the local area, allowing you to get to know the place like a local. For me, Airbnb is a far more unique and immersive experience. In the last year we have stayed in a one bedroom flat in downtown Vancouver, through to a cowboy ranch in Montana. There’s also something for every budget – from a space on a sofa through to a 60 bedroom mansion. It’s also super fun just to nose at some amazing properties all over the globe! Anyone can use airbnb – and if you’d like £25 off your first booking, just use the code SCHITTY3 or this link http://www.airbnb.com/c/schitty3 on your first booking.
5. Lonely Planet / Rough Guides
If you’re anything like me, as soon as you’ve booked your holiday, you want to know EVERYTHING about where you’re headed – whilst creating a list of all the place you must eat, attractions to visit, shops to spend in. I’m like a kid at Christmas, and the first thing I do after pressing ‘book’ is to buy a guide to my destination. it’s super handy beforehand – and almost irreplaceable whilst travelling. Most books come with a small fold out map, which you can slip in your back pocket as a handy help when navigating the new place you’re exploring.
6. Beat the flight providers at their own game!
Now this one might annoy some of you – but I hope this last tip will feel like you’ve got some revenge! I used to work for an online travel agent so know a few inside tips on the travel booking system and how booking agents make money. If you search for a flight online, the website you are using will track that search – if you search for the same flight again, it will put up the price because it knows you are interested enough to pay more. So if you’re booking a holiday which you’ve searched high and low online for, head to your internet settings and clear your cache! That flight or accommodation price might just drop! Simple when you know how!
If you find this guide helpful, I’d love to hear about it! Head over to Facebook and let me know.
Until the next adventure!