Seems like everyone knows how to travel: just pack and go. But how to travel smart? How to spend less money on accommodations and plane tickets? Which apps should be downloaded before setting off? How to find the best food in an unfamiliar place? Here you go, everything you wanted to know about traveling and beyond: tips and recommendations, useful apps and ways to save money.
Time to travel smart!
Don’t forget to collect all the photos from your trips and print them out in a beautiful photo album – the emotions from the traveling will gradually fade away, the photo memories will stay forever in the PastBook photo book!
Before setting off
1. Choosing the destination
- It’s always a good idea to keep track of the destinations and places you would like to go. Make it a habit to write down everything that you hear, read or see. A friend came back from a trip to Brazil and is full of exciting stories? Instead of just scrolling through the photos he posted on Facebook, take a moment and ask him about the things he saw and the places he liked. A recommendation from a friend can be much more valuable than those you find in guidebooks.
- Always keep in mind the weather conditions and geopolitical situation. Check the news – would be a bummer to find yourself in a city where all the railroads are closed because of a national strike.
- Take into account the preferences of those traveling with you. Your nomadic backpacker friend is raving about his outrageous low-budget trip through the South-East Asia, where he stayed in ashrams helping monks harvesting rice fields? Sounds great, but quite possibly, it’s not the best tip for a family vacation.
2. Planning the route
- The Holy Bible of all the travellers – Lonely Planet – is a tested and proved method of traveling: this guidebook covers the destination content for almost every place on the planet. Witty and intelligent, Lonely Planet will carefully guide you through the city of your destination, revealing its secrets and legends, showing you non-trivial sights, giving tips on how to plan your route, taking into account your time and budget. Visit their website before setting off: they have tips on how to pick the destination that will suit you; a huge community of travellers are ready to give you any kind of tips and advice; elaborate texts and stunning photos will help you picture your upcoming trip. Get a book and keep it with you throughout your trip: Wi-Fi might not available everywhere, but the hard copy is something you can always rely on. Travellers often leave the book in hostels where they finish their journeys – a high-five and a lifeline for the newcomers.
- Dig into the guidebooks and plan your activities. No matter if you are going to Paris for a week or travel South America for 6 months – do your research and try to think about the places you want to see. It might seem very romantic to have no plans at all, they can (and probably will) change during your trip – but at least you have the basic guidelines and are already familiar with the country’s main attractions, culture and traditions.
3. Buying the tickets
- If you are still using the services of travel agencies, it’s time to stop doing it and travel independently: all the cool kids have started booking plane tickets, accommodations and all the tours separately long ago. Unless there is a really good deal. Check some websites like TravelBird, which brings the best 6 holiday deals every day for European destinations. What if they have something that suits your taste?
- For the plane tickets, go to Delta.com or United.com – the sites are easy to navigate and they usually give you the best offers for the requested flight. Kayak and SkyScanner are great websites where you can find and compare the rates of the plane tickets. The sites give you the information on all the flights available, which are ranked from the lowest price to the highest.
- You can also set the fare alerts as long as you decided where to go. On Airfarewatchdog website you can type your departure and destination points, and the agents will send you an email as soon as the price for the tickets drops.
- On Priceline.com you can check the prices for the upcoming flights and even bid your own price! This option is great if you want to fly soon (in 2 weeks or less) – this way you can save up to 30-50% on the last-minute flights!
- If you are planning to visit more than one country, try TripPlanner – a tool that draws a route for you and calculates the cost for the tickets. It also gives the tips on which countries you can visit for no extra cost at all.
4. Finding a place to live
- The easiest way is, of course, to book a hotel or hostel. If this is something that you are used to do and don’t want to break the habit, go with tested and trusted websites like Booking.com, TripAdvisor or Hostelworld. The prices will be lower if you book a room in advance.
- Tired of dull unrelieved hotel rooms? Traveling with friends or family? Do you have some specific requirements for your vacations, like fireplace, outdoor grill or a private pool? With HomeAway you can find a house tailored specifically to you! With one million live vacation rental listings in 190 countries, it is a perfect way to stay in a cozy home atmosphere while being away.
- Do you remember movie “The Holiday” that features Kate Winslet swapping her English cottage for Cameron Diaz’s Hollywood mansion (and leading to respective love affairs with Jude Law and Jack Black)? Home swapping doesn’t guarantee you to score Jude Law or Cameron Diaz, but it’s worth trying, right? Knok, Love Home Swap, Intervac, HomeLink, and HomeExchange allow you to pick a home in any destination, contact the owner and swap houses! You don’t only save money, you can also be sure that your cat will be fed and the plants will be watered.
- If you are not familiar with Airbnb – high time to get introduced to it! Airbnb is an online community marketplace that connects people who have a spare space in their home and travellers who are looking for a place to stay, want to save some money and have a unique experience of living like a local. Search in the database for the properties of any type – you can have the whole place just for yourself, private or shared room, located in the city centre, on the suburbs or country side. If you are staying together with your host, feel free to ask him for insider tips and advice. It is common with Airbnb to spend some time with your host, share a dinner or even go out together!
- Want to cut one of the largest expenses of your travel – accommodation? Interested in having one-of-a-kind ultimate traveler experience? Try Couchsurfing! The idea is simple: people who have a spare bed or couch at their place let travellers crash on their sofa for free. They will also show you around, give useful tips on where to go in the city, share a meal with you and will generally give you the idea of how locals live. Why would they do it? Because “couchsurfers” is a certain breed of people – adventurous, generous, open-minded, hungry for new experiences, willing to give and share. If you are like this, they will gladly accept you in the couchsurfing family and will probably stay your friends after your trip is over. Keep in mind, that you need to have an open mind, free spirit, be adaptable and flexible if you want to fit the community.
1. Getting around
The plane has landed, the luggage has been picked up, now what? Into the city, into the wild! Taking one of the airport cabs is tempting – it’s easy, convenient and fast. But we all know that the prices there are usually several times higher than they are supposed to be. Here is how you can save some money on the transportation.
- Public transport. Follow the guidelines in the airport – they usually give clear instructions on how to get to the city centre with buses or trains. Otherwise, use MoovIt app – a community-based tool that guides you step-by-step to your destination point, offering different means of transportation, providing the schedule and real-time alerts and advice from the community.
- One of the best alternatives for the taxi is Uber which operates through a smartphone app or a web browser and allows the users to request a ride and track its progress in real time. Uber is cheaper than a regular cab, the drivers are usually reliable, if you are not satisfied with your ride, you can get a refund. If, for any reason, Uber is not good enough for you, try its alternatives: Lyft (available in 50 US cities and growing), Sidecar (available only in the US), Curb (available in 60 cities, works only with professional taxi-drivers).
- In the era of shared economy, the concept of carsharing is becoming more and more popular. Carsharing is designed to reduce the amount of cars on the streets by connecting the car owners who don’t need to drive every day and those who need a car just occasionally. A network of vehicles stationed around the city can be accessed via smart phones, Internet and call centres: you can reserve a car for a short period of time, usually for a day or several hours. Carsharing has different forms. Return-trip: become a member of the community, get a card that opens all the cars of the network, with an app find a vehicle close to you, drive it as long as you want, then put it back on the place where you found it. One-way: no fixed stations, pick up and drop the car wherever is convenient for you. Enterprise carshare and Zipcar are absolute giants in the North America, Europe has dozens of carsharing companies, different in each country, the most popular one is Car2Go.
2. Traveling within the country or to the neighbouring countries
The world is not enough, the city of your destination has become too small and familiar, it’s time to move on! Depending on a region you are traveling, go with a train, bus, or get a ride from a local.
- Trains. Always check for discounts, special offers and promotions. Train companies also very often have a train pass – ticket that is valid for a certain amount of time for an unlimited number of rides. For instance, in Europe you can use a Eurail pass – it will save you a lot of money and will give you an opportunity to see rural European scenery from the windows of modernly equipped trains.
- Prefer being your own boss without being restricted by schedules? Rent a car! Try to avoid big national chains and try local independent agencies like Payless and Fox Rent a Car – they usually cost 15 to 30% less comparing to the big agencies. Most of the US car rentals can be also found in Europe. Otherwise, pick Europe-based agency like Europcar and Sixt.
- Buses are usually considerably cheaper than trains but also, less comfortable. If you are traveling through Europe, check Eurolines and Meinfernbus which offer very affordable prices and go to almost all the major European cities; or Busabout – which offers different routes with stops in 41 cities, covering 11 countries. For the US and Canada, the absolute leaders are Megabus and Boltbus. South America, Asia and Africa have plenty of big and small bus companies without recognised leaders. There are always options to upgrade your ride to the VIP and enjoy comfortable sleeping couches and on-board services.
- Adding up to the concept of carsharing, try good old carpool: join a ride from one destination point to the other and share the gas expenses. Keep in mind, that sometimes, especially if you are covering a long distance, you can end up with a chatty driver: be prepared to be engaged into long conversations. There are plenty of carpooling websites, the biggest are: Carpooling.com, Zimride and BlablaCar.
Other useful tips
- Always make photos of your passport, the backs of credit cards for phone numbers, driver license details, health insurance cards, travel documents, etc. In case your wallet or bag is stollen, you will have all the useful information at your fingertips.
- An absolute must-have when you are going to a country which language you don’t speak, is the WordLens app: it translates printed words from one language to another with your smartphone’s camera, in real time. No network connection needed!
- Never get lost in a foreign city with Maps.me – a free app for iOS and Android with. Download maps beforehand and enjoy speedy and flawless off-line navigation with high level of detail. The app also allows looking for restraints, hotels, major attractions, post offices and many more offline!
- It’s impossible to know all the languages in the world, but with TripLingo you will be able to communicate the basic phrases in almost every language in the world. The app has an interactive phrasebook that helps you find words and expressions, and memorise them using the built-in flashcards, quiz mode or audio lessons. Now you can easily have a small talk with the local merchants, taxi drivers or random people on the street!
- WorldMate app is your personal assistant that keeps the track of all your reservations and alerts you about a delayed flight or a gate change, when necessary. All you need to do is to forward your various confirmation emails for flights/hotels/hire cars/restaurant bookings etc. to [email protected] and the app instantly generates an itemised itinerary covering your entire trip.
- Foodspotting is a great for those who like to enjoy a good meal and don’t want to spend much time on finding a perfect restaurant. Foodspotting is about the dishes, not just restaurants. Browse photos of dishes that can be served nearby and see what looks good for you.
- Send postcards to those who wait for you at home without the hassle of buying stamps and looking for the post office. Snap a shot with Instagram and use Postagram app to mail the photo to your friends and family!
- Finally, don’t forget to take as many pictures as possible. Traveling is about breathing the foreign air, feasting the eyes with spectacular views, inhaling another culture, absorbing the flavours and sounds. Of course you can’t make a photo of these things but other memories can be saved and preserved. Create a photo book with PastBook before setting off and add the photos to the album directly from your phone, computer or import them from the social networks. Ask your friends to participate in creating the traveling photo book: they can add their photos to your album – fast and easy!
Travel light or fully packed, wander around the world or go to the tested and proved locations, hitchhike, sleep on the streets or stay in luxurious hotels. No matter what your style is, keep on going, because traveling is not only about destinations. It’s not even about the road. Traveling helps to reveal the world while revealing your own self.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart” – Confucius