Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ten on the 10th: Travel Tips

We are home from our babymoon! For pictures click here.

There are few things that get me as giddy as traveling. So today, I want to share 10 travel tips we've learned from our last 6.5 years of getaways that have worked for us to make saving, planning, and experiencing positive travel experiences possible.
1. Have a vacation fund. I can be thrifty to a fault sometimes, but I've never come back from a vacation and wished we hadn't spent the money. Vacations are a chance to get away, rejuvenate, gain life experiences, and grow closer as a couple or family. So plan for them like you would anything else. If you set aside money, even a little bit each month, and plan for future adventures, you won't regret the memories you make there.

2. Boost your travel fund with unexpected money like gift cards, gift money, babysitting, tutoring, side jobs, etc. For the first 5 years of our marriage, I tutored twice/week and make $80 extra dollars. That money was strictly our vacation fund. It made me feel like I was contributing to our marriage in a fun way by giving us an opportunity to experience new adventures together without the guilt of spending our "own money." That extra 1.5 hours / week allowed us to go to Las Vegas, San Francisco, Chateau Elan, NashvilleGreenville, Savannah, and our Mediterranean Cruise.

3. Make a bucket list of places you want to visit. A bucket list of travel ideas will make your vacation fund feel worth it (but not as much as taking the trips will!) and will get you excited about future adventures. When we first got married, we made a list of close-by places that were within driving distance, as well as BIG trips that we dreamed to one day go on. The Mediterranean Cruise was actually one of our big-idea trips that we never imagined we'd experience before our 20 year wedding anniversary, but we did thanks to a great travel deal website (more on this in #7) and a vacation fund. You can read more about that in the post about the trip.

4. Get away for 1-2 nights to places that are drivable. This piggy-backs to #4. If you have a vacation fund and aren't saving for a specific trip, use some of the money for a quick weekend getaway to rejuvenate. Or use your "unexpected funds" for this. I love combining our gift money from our birthdays and Christmas to make a short getaway possible. To me, memories from a trip, even a quick one, are worth more than a new outfit or gadget that would cost the same price.

5. Use credit cards to gain points for free travel. I have shared this on here before. As long as you're disciplined with your spending and treat credit cards like "real" money, paying off the full balance each month, they are a huge benefit and serve as free money for you! 

Most rewards cards now offer a variety of ways to redeem your points (flights, hotels, rental cards, store and restaurant gift cards, cruise credits, etc.). We only use the points for free flights. In fact, I can't remember the last time we paid for two flights when we traveled. Matt and I both have a card that goes toward the same bill, and we charge everything on it each month. And we don't pay an annual fee for our card because that defeats the purpose of having the credit card work for you. We use the Chase Rewards Mastercard. A few years ago, they tried to add in an annual fee, but I called and told them I didn't want to pay it and would move by business elsewhere if they charged me to use their card. Credit card companies want your business, so don't be afraid to negotiate terms. 

I know many people like having a Delta Skymiles card, but the free version only gives you 1/2 point for every dollar you spend and it charges much higher points for a free flight. When you're researching cards, look for ones that have a set number of points for a certain dollar flight. For example, ours is 25,000 points for any domestic flight $400 or less and will give credit toward a more expensive flight so that it's not all or nothing. The better the rewards, typically the higher the interest rate, so make sure you pay it off every month or the card is no longer working for you! 

Also, if you're opening a new card, make sure you get a card that offers initial bonus miles. Some credit card companies give as much as 50,000 points as a bonus after a set initial purchase- that's two free flights right there!

If you're interested in finding the right travel rewards card for you, this post from The Points Guy looks really helpful.

6. Book all-inclusive for a honeymoon. Unless you've lived together for years and already have a set budget from both of your incomes, all-inclusive is the way to go for your honeymoon. It's so nice to spend your first week of marriage enjoying every perk of vacation without thinking once about money- we did this and LOVED it! (For pics from our honeymoon click here.) Some all-inclusive resorts also have a no-tipping policy, so you really don't think about money once while you're away. For a list of the current best all-inclusive resorts,  click here.

7. Subscribe to travel sites for discounted travel. We booked our Mediterranean cruise off of one of Travelzoo's Weekly Top 20 emails (sign up for weekly deals from your city here), and booked our most recent trip through a Jetsetter email. Once I find a a deal that looks appealing, my next stop is always to Trip Advisor to check out the reviews for the place we're interested in visiting. 

8. When planning a trip, start your search based off of a set destination or a set budget. If your destination is specific, use Trip Advisor to plan hotels, dining, and activities to help set a realistic budget to save towards. This is what we did when we planned our San Francisco trip and what you can do if there's a place you really want to go. Even if you know it will take you a couple of years to save for it, you might as well have an idea of how much you need to save to make the trip happen!

If you're budget and dates are specific, use travel sites to book a surprise vacation within your budget and timeframe. This is what we do most often and why having a vacation fund is so important... we know how much we have to spend and find a trip through travel sites that matches our budget. This also lets us book closer to the actual travel date which opens up last-minute deals to certain destinations or resorts.

9. When you're in a foreign airport- act like you know what you're doing. Sometimes, you just gotta fake it 'til you make it. For me, one of the most stressful parts about traveling to other countries (particularly airports where you stick out as a traveling American tourist) is the airport. You don't have to be rude, but don't let anyone help you get your luggage off of the conveyer belt or help you find a taxi because they just want a tip or your business. YOU choose who you want to go with for a shuttle or a taxi and carry your own luggage. 

We try to move as quickly as possible through the airport part without making eye contact with any of the people standing around offering taxi services. Usually, once you get to the outside part of the airpot, it's much calmer and you can choose a taxi company you feel comfortable with- and negotiate! They always assume you'll pay more if your American, but they'll take whatever you offer. And if they don't, then there are plenty of other people to choose from who will take your offer. Which reminds me- have the set amount of cash you are willing to pay set aside in a different section of your wallet so that they don't see you pulling out a wad of cash. Say that's all you have and move on to the next person if they won't take it.

Most hotels/resorts will allow you to add on a shuttle service when you're booking online, but they're usually 4 x's more per person than what you'll spend if you just pay for a service when you get there. As long as you have the address of the hotel, you're good to go.

One last note on airports- this past time, we flew Delta and saw that there was a LONG line at check-in. The Sky Priority line was completely empty, so Matt asked the lady at that station if it would be alright if we checked in there instead. She let us do it without a problem. Then, on the way back in the Dominican airport, we just went through that line without even asking- no one checked to see if we were actually Sky Priority, and we saved a good 30 minutes of standing in the regular line. You can always play ignorant if someone does ask- sometimes it's easier (and faster!) to ask for forgiveness than permission. ;)

10. Save and GO! If there is a place you have ALWAYS wanted to go: family trip to Disney, a trip for you and your spouse to visit your home country, an exotic island getaway like the Maldives or Bora Bora, start putting away now to make the trip a reality. Putting away even a small amount each month will add up over time. Even if it takes you a long time to save, you will not regret the memories you make when you finally take the trip you've always wanted to go on.

For more travel tips click here.

Want to join me for Ten on the 10th? Paste the Ten on the 10th button somewhere in your post and email me {} the link to your post so I can read it and share it!


1 comment:

  1. Good tips, thanks. I want to add something that was a life saver on my last trip to Rome. I lost my passport during the day and had no idea it was missing. Fortunately, I had a tracer tag on it. A waiter where I ate lunch found it and entered my tracker number on the website. I was automatically sent a text message (and an email) with a pickup location before I ever even knew my passport was missing. Lucky for me, I was leaving in the morning for Germany and getting a new passport would have been impossible. Tags are available through That tag saved my trip from total disaster and I put them on my phone, laptop and almost everything that travels with me now.