my travel plan of attack

Posted by susan on November 10th, 2011. Filed under: travel tips.

I very rarely offer travel advice here because despite the fact that this is a travel blog, I just don’t consider myself an expert. Yes, I may travel more than the average person, but my 9 to 5 job keeps me grounded most of the year, literally. Even so, in my real life I am regularly asked my opinion on where to find the best deals and ideas for travel.

My advice tends to flow in the following order…

Read travel blogs

There are so many fantastic bloggers uncovering the greatest tips, deals and general travel advice for you, like Nomadic Matt, FoXnoMad, Camels and Chocolate, the Everwhereist, Chris Around the World and I could go on forever. Blogs are the perfect place for inspiration and once I’ve decided where I want to go, they are the first place I look for ideas.

The ultimate example of this is the time that The Travel Experta got me and Mike to Costa Rica. I recommend Marina to anyone heading to Latin America because she’s smart, responsive, thoughtful and has some amazing connections to get you really great deals.

The plane ticket

I tend to begin my search for flights with Bing Travel and Kayak, but my general rule of thumb is to scour every single one I can get my mouse on to do my own comparisons and make sure I’m getting the absolute best deal. Then, I buy the tickets straight from the airline. Despite the fact that many airlines have a reputation for bad customer service, especially when your itinerary goes awry, I like having the security of dealing directly with a vendor.

I do have one exception though, and that’s when I go to Vayama Travel. I absolutely love them. They’ve found some of my best travel deals, which brought me to Tunisia and Spain for my honeymoon. And when you book your flight you get a pretty comprehensive itinerary that somehow seems personal. They’ve also perfected customer service. For my honeymoon, our flight from France to Tunis had been delayed due to a strike and I received an email notification and a phone call to update me of the change in the itinerary.

There was a flight change and a human contacted me. Can you imagine?

What’s in my inbox?

Recently my girls weekend crew and I were planning our next trip. We all have alerts set up and receive emails on cheap flights, but until recently we could only think of options that encourage us to select specific cities. Our problem is that we’re willing to go anywhere as long as the price is right.

This is where I bring it all back to blogging.

Annelise of Quarterlife Lifestyle – queen of finding the best deals about travel, lifestyle and the like – came along and reminded me of Airfare Watchdog.com in a recent post. These guys are great because they allow you to select your home base airport and then they update you on flights to wherever it is cheap to fly in the near future.

Gate 1 Travel is also in my inbox for one reason alone. It helped bring My Beautiful Adventures to India. Andi is not only a blogger I admire, she’s a blogger I trust, so when she helped me discover a way to uncover information on travel deals I jumped at it. While I’m not quite as seasoned a traveler as Andi, like her, I tend to shy away from tours, but when I saw that oftentimes you can opt to not participate in a paid tour, but rather, explore a city on your own once you get there – I was hooked.

Note, I’ve never actually used Gate 1 Travel so I can’t speak to the experience, but I can say they seem to offer some great trips at reasonable prices. Also, their emails spark conversations with Mike and I that begin with questions like, “want to go to China?” right as we walk in the door from a long day of work. I know, I need to settle down.

I also like Smarter Travel and I’m of course a Travelzoo VIP.

So that’s what I do when I start plotting my adventures. What’s your plan of attack?

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