Bitterwallet Travel Guide, Part 1: Introduction

9 January 2009

We all love travelling, and would do more of it, if only if it was for fun.

But we all have jobs, limited number of day's leave in a year, and have a box set of Planet Earth HD-DVDs that seem to at least do justice on the 40" Plasma.

But does watching 1000 Places Before You Die really do justice compared to physically being there?

As someone who enjoys looking for the best deal for everything and gathering travel hacks for myself, I've decided to start up this new Bitterwallet travel feature to share some of the best resources/knowledge/tips/advice that I come across.

The long term plan is to have a collective shoestring travel guide for every major city in the world by the end of 2009. Call it a new year resolution!

Let's start with a few basic travel hacks that I've come across from various resources over the years:

1. Pre-flight reading: Do a quick study of your arrival destination and the local rules. For example, those traveling to the USA may want to check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website to avoid security delays. They now have an air travel assistant site with travel tips including a list of prohibited and permitted items that gets updated regularly. It's worth a quick read to ensure you avoid getting delayed at airport security, or telling the Americans why the British are more polite.

2. Pack Well: The Universal Packing List is a terrific online application that allows you to build a customized packing list, complete with reminders and tips, for any traveling you'll be doing. I used this in preparation for my current two month trek across the Americas. Simply fill out an online form with details about your trip, and some details about the kind of list you're looking for. Then, based on your answers, it gives you a customized list of what to pack as well as some general advice and reminders. It's very simple, yet very effective.

3. Pack Light: Vince Wong's father once said, "Once you go light, you will enjoy your flight". And Wong was certainly right. There are plenty of benefits to packing light, including breezing through certain airlines if you have no bags to check-in, getting your boarding pass upgraded (like via Easyjet) to group A which means you get a better choice of seats by boarding before most people. How to learn the art of travelling light? Try website OneBag.com, which has an "exhaustive detail on the art of living for an indefinite period of time out of a single bag." I must also follow my own advice and implement this for my upcoming trip.

4. Find the Best and/or Cheapest Tickets: We will discuss this in more detail in an upcoming post as it's obviously of interest to many. Most of us are likely pretty savvy with finding flights already, but with millions of ways and methods, here's a few pointers that I use myself.

I start off with the airlines of my choice, and look at deals on their website. It's not terribly efficient especially if you don't know what airlines to fly with, but I've bagged some deals in the past this way, often with top airlines; that way, I also have a point of comparison. Next, I use Kayak, a travel search aggregator that not only searches through other travel aggregators but directly from airlines also. For European flights, I would use Skyscanner. I also use Farecast, which predicts the rise and fall of ticket prices. It's not always accurate, but gives a good gauge for the 'best' time to buy.

5. Remember your air miles: There are often frequent flyer promos that can secure you bonus miles, and it all adds up. Website MileMaven will keep you updated with current promos and offers.

6. Get the best seat out there: We've mentioned this before, but website SeatGuru will tell you the best seats on the plane by accounting for how close you are to the bathrooms, in-flight movie screens and even variations in seat berth.

Finally, we all have our own way of doing things, so please share with us your own tips and tricks for finding the best deals out there.  I'm hoping to learn as much from you guys, so please let us know what you'd like to know / learn.  We'll also feature some of your best ideas and tips/tricks in the upcoming posts. Bon Voyage!

TOPICS:   Travel   How To Guides

6 comments

  • Anon
    What exaclty is the point?
  • MB
    I've used tips from the onebag site before, and found them quite useful. The idea of bundle wrapping works well to reduce creases. What is the point? Saves about £24 by not having to check in bags on an easyjet / ryanair trip, plus you get to leave the destination airport earlier as you don't have to hang about waiting for your luggage.
  • andy y.
    I switched to cabin baggage only last year.Packing only thin clothes and doing the old knickers in the sink with hotel shampoo and dry on the shower rail routine.It was great ,no check in(saves 45 mins) no luggage carousel, first to the car hire desk..the only problem is you are stuck with the10x 100ml liquid items limit.Which just means a bit of planning. The dosh saved on no luggage fees I spent on extra clothes in resort.I flew out in stanky old togs and left them in the hotel bin.
  • Lam
    ESTA - Mandatory for travel to the USA. Not sure if you guys have mention this yet - but from 12 January 2009 you need to apply for an ESTA ( Electronic System for Travel Authorisation ) online at least 72 hours before your departure if you wish to travel to the USA. Your ESTA will be valid for two years so you can use it repeatedly during that period unless your passport expires within those 2 years, then you will be given a ESTA valid until your passport expires. Best get one now if you fancy a weekend quickie to NY or an urge to gamble in Las Vegas. You will not be able to fly if you have not applied for the ESTA and received a Authorization Approved response. Us Brits have always been able to travel visa free to the USA. Well this is still visa free travel but ..... To strengthen the security of travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, requirements to travel visa-free have been enhanced. Nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries will still be eligible to travel without a visa but will have to obtain an approved travel authorization prior to their travel to the United States. Here is how the travel authorization process works: The Department of Homeland Security and the United States Customs and Border Protection have provided a secure public Web site https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ with an automated form for you, or a third party, to complete in order to apply for a travel authorization. Once you enter the required biographic and travel information on the secure Web site, your application is processed by the system to determine if you are eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program without a visa. The system will provide you with an automated response, and prior to boarding, a carrier will electronically verify with the United States Customs and Border Protection that you have an approved travel authorization on file.
  • Paul S.
    Hey Lam - thanks for that. We'll put something out about it shortly.
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