I’m taking a half-day from work today and heading to Atlanta to see some friends who recently moved to the area. I’ve only driven through Atlanta so I can’t wait to actually experience the city like a local with my friends. The blog is going to be a little quiet this weekend as a result.
I traveled a lot as a kid. Every summer, we would either hop in the car or hop on a plane and head somewhere new. This summer ritual led to my current love for travel. Growing up, my parents relied on a travel agent to plan most of our adventures, and while our trips were extremely organized, I never understood why they just didn’t plan them themselves.
When I was living in Europe I got my first taste of planning my own trips and was surprised by all my friends who would only go on planned trips through tour companies. If you think you need a tour company or travel agent to see the world you’re wrong. Here are some tips and tricks to plan your own trips and save money:
- Do your research! While skimming the Internet, I’m sure you have seen itineraries posted from tour companies enticing you to pay them thousands of dollars to take you on a trip. Save your money and use their itinerary as inspiration. The beautiful thing about planning your own itinerary is you call the shots and are not a hostage to the preplanned itinerary of a company.
- Play around with your flights. Many people use travel agents to score good flight and hotel deals, but playing around with Kayak.com,Priceline.com, or Hotel Tonight will snag you similar deals, but you have to know your airport hubs. A flight from New York or Philadelphia to Europe is going to be significantly cheaper than some other major airports. Instead of booking a flight from Nashville to Iceland, research what airports are running deals to Iceland. For example, Baltimore has been running a special to Iceland for a while now and booking a flight from Nashville to Baltimore to Iceland will save you a couple hundred dollars.
- Prioritize your spending. Traveling costs can add up quickly if you don’t prioritize how you want to spend your money. Do you want to spend your money eating at the most exclusive restaurants in Paris or would you rather spend your money on museums and the opera? Is a luxe downtown hotel your priority or are you happy roughing it at a campsite for a few days? Every traveler is different. To save money when I travel abroad I almost always opt for an airbnb rental or a hostel.
- Speak with the locals. A travel agency or tour company can certainly offer you their take on what to see and do on your travels, but there is no better resource than a local. A local is going to save you money by telling you what is a waste of time and what is worth seeing. Not to mention, they will likely have good recommendations for restaurants and bars outside of the touristy areas that will likely save you from overpaying.
- It will be, what it will be. Many people use travel agents to take some of the risk out of traveling. Travel agent or not, anytime you travel you run the risk of a flight being cancelled, a hotel not meeting your expectations, etc. These things happen and can be easily mitigated. My husband and I had numerous flight delays the last time we went to Italy. Consequently, we missed our two-night stay in a hotel in Lake Como. Luckily, we had travel insurance on our flight and we able to talk to the hotel manager to get our money back on the hotel. Sometimes it just takes some wheeling and dealing, but you can usually get your money back.
You know yourself and your travel habits better than any travel agent or travel company, and taking ownership of your travel plans will make it more enjoyable. So take the plunge, and be your own travel agent on your next trip!
*my husband took this photo in Cinque Terre, Italy