Bitterwallet Travel Guide, Part 1: Introduction
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!