Travel Chic on the Cheap

I've had some friends ask me how I plan trips within a budget recently, so this post is all about what I normally do when I'm planning or organizing a trip.  I'm going to start with a disclaimer that my advice below is served up as suggestive info to help you plan the most epic trip possible, but won't work for everyone or every scenario.  So take what you wish and apply it to your next journey.  Feel free to pass along the advice if it helps! If you have your own tips and tricks you live by, feel free to leave a comment and share! 

Tips for Planning: 

1.  Always have a base line plan but be willing to go with the flow.  If you are travelling  for a week or a month, make sure you have a plan of which cities you want to see, landmarks you want to hit and how long you want to stay in each place.  Obviously this plan can change along the way based on your experience, the people you meet, and the recommendations you get. 

2.  I normally read about each place I visit beforehand.  I read about travel for pleasure so this isn't really an addition to my normal routine but if I have a trip lined up I definitely focus my reading more on my destination.  I normally read Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller, Afar, and travel blogs related to my trip.  I always buy the Lonely Planet guide before I leave.  These are nice to have while travelling so you can look up information about monuments, areas, transportation and history while exploring (if you don't have internet).  The guides normally include a few different maps of different areas so it can help you get around as well.  I also make a list on my iPhone that combines all the main attractions, historical sites, areas, restaurants and bars that I've read about and want to visit.  This way I know what I want to experience but I'm always open to new experiences and recommendations when in the moment!  Always keep an open mind when travelling! 

Tips for Flying: 

1.  Always check for flights at least three months before a trip! Use Hopper to keep track of increases or decreases in prices over time.  I wouldn't book more than two months in advance unless you are travelling on a really popular weekend or during the summer/Holidays.  Conde Nast did research and claims that Tuesdays are the cheapest day to book your tickets! 

2.  When you see a great price, buy the ticket Don't wait to see if it will decrease further. I normally use Expedia, Kayak or my credit card points to book flights.  I fly economy to save money and rarely upgrade to premium.

Tips for Sleeping:

1.  Do your research!  I personally like funky, cool, different or boutique places to stay.  Or I like to go local.  On the rare occasion we'll stay in a chain in order to use credit card points but only if it makes sense. I always look at a bunch of booking sites and check hotel's website for deals as well.  I normally look at expedia.com, kayak.com, booking.com and AirBNB when I stay in cities.  If I'm looking to splurge I love checking out the hotels in my area on Small Luxury Hotels' site.  If my trip is more focused on nature then I always check Hipcamp or Gampinghub to get out of my comfort zone.

2.  Staying in a less popular area helps save money.  Some cities have really cool areas that are up and coming but don't attract the typical tourist YET.  Accommodations could be cheaper in these areas since they are being gentrified and have yet to become popular with the mainstream traveler. 

3.  Air BnBs are always fun.  Why not live like a local?  If you book in advance you can get a small space for a good price.  The more people you're with the more affordable an AirBNB can be since you can split between the members of your group.  

4.  Choose where to splurge.  If there is a castle in Northern Italy you are dying to stay in then DO IT.  To stay on budget stay in a cheap hostel in the next city! It's okay to go all out and reign it back in depending on the experiences you want to have. It's called balance. You can have a great time in a castle and just as much fun in a cool hostel! 

Tips for Moving Along: 

1.  Every country has different transit systems.  If you don't speak the local language, get a map, use your Lonely Planet travel guide and ask questions! Once you ride the bus or train once, you'll get the hang of it for the rest of your stay.  

Tips for Exploring:

1.  Get Lost.  Wandering without a destination (or opening your map/phone) is the best part of exploring a new city. 

2. Trust local's recommendations.  They live there, so they know good food, they know good shops, and they know the tricks of the trade.  Trust me, you could end up having the experience of a lifetime! If you're skeptical look it up and see if it's up your alley. 

3. Trust your gut.   FOMO is okay!  If you want to go somewhere or see something then DO IT.  You don’t want to leave without seeing what you want.  Being selfish during travel is allowed!