June 25: Map Your Escape Route

Throughout this month of directives on how to get busy living your life, I have focused on a lot of spontaneous travel related items, such as playing a few travel games, to getting lost.

Today, I will take a look at the safer side of travel, and how you can use that to help get the blood pumping, the excitement level up and motivated to make things happen.

Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now – Alan Lakein

Maybe you are the type of person that does not embrace spontaneity. Maybe you don’t have deep pockets (I know I don’t) but still love to travel.  If travel hacking isn’t your thing and you just want to book a trip the old fashioned way, then here are a few tips for you to help make the planning phase a little easier, and a little more exciting:

Choosing a Destination

When choosing a destination for a large trip, a lot of factors come into the equation, such as time of year, season, length of time for vacation as well as money.  While I am a believer that all travel can be had inexpensively, I wouldn’t try and plan a beachfront villa in Bora Bora when you only have a 4 day vacation and $2,000.  Moral of the story, be realistic here.

Sites like Wanderfly are a godsend when it comes to the indecisive.  It is an intuitive web portal that will search for destinations based on time of year, theme, length of time and budget.  While I haven’t actually used their site to actually plan a vacation, I do use their site for idea generation.  Just one quick search will give you TONS of ideas on where to go, where to stay, things to do and so much more.

I could seriously sit here and do searches all day long.

Finding Airfare

So you have used Wanderfly to dream up some amazing destinations and have a general idea on what to expect for the price.  While Wanderfly uses Orbitz for their searches, I prefer to use Kayak and Bing Travel for my searches for 2 different reasons.

Kayak is a descendent of the old SideStep, one of the first companies to really develop a flight search aggregator.  Kayak searches all of the major airlines websites, as well as popular travel agencies such as Orbitz, Expedia and Priceline.  With tools to help you search all local airports, flexible days with a comparison matrix, Kayak is 2nd to none in the flight search business.

Bing Travel is the result of an online travel search company that Microsoft bought and integrated into their Bing search engine.  The reason I really love this site is that if you are traveling a common route (we will use LAX to JFK for example) with multiple flights per day, Bing Travel will look at the trending analysis of the flight costs, compare them against recent travel trends, previous year’s pricing and return a recommendation on wether you should purchase the tickets now because prices are set to raise, or if you should hold off, as ticket prices are set to drop.  This really is a handy tool when looking at flight costs over 3-4 months in advance.

Finding Hotels

Now you know where you are going and how you are getting there, let’s take a look at where to stay.  The real question here is if you are looking for a hotel room, or an all inclusive resort.  Kayak is my old fail safe when it comes to hotel searches, as their hotel search engine is just as powerful as their airfare search engine.  Kayak also has a section for deals and vacation packages that will help you look into package bundles and other deals that have amazing savings.

My other default is the Marriott website, as Juliet and I have been huge fans of their customer service and standards for many years now, they are our hotel membership of choice.  More times than not, while sites like Kayak are great, nothing quite beats searching right on the hotel website of your favorite brand.

For us, we can deal with a long flight, maybe a delay or two, but we will not scrimp on a bad night’s sleep or a dirty room.  Hotels are our number 1 priority when travelling, and it helps us wake up in a good mood, ready to attack the day.

Finding Adventure

Ahh, the most important part of your trip.  So you have picked your destination, your travel there and your hotel.  Great. Now let’s plan the fun stuff.  Let’s scope out where we are going to eat, where we are going to drink and where we are going to go have some amazing experiences.

TripAdvisor is a great place to start.  With recommendations based on city and location, Trip Advisor for me has constantly turned up great recommendations for sights to see, places to eat and more.

Twitter is another great tool for researching destinations, as there is always people willing to help give advice and recommendations on things to do, places to see, food to eat, drinks to… well, drink.  Recently, Juliet and I booked a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a much-needed vacation.  With a few quick searches and with the help of some Twitter friends, I got some great recommendations for smaller islands to visit, great drinks to try and restaurants to visit.  Cannot beat first hand recommendations.

The last recommendation for finding adventure at your destination is an old-fashioned Google Search.  There are blogs and websites dedicated to adventure travelers, from personal blogs to corporate guide companies and everything in between.  Chances are with a quick search you will come across a number of blogs from people who have vacationed at the same places you are headed.  Look at it this way, the most website traffic that hits my website from Google comes from people searching about road trips.  Yes, there are plenty more like me out there.

These are just a few of the tips and tricks to help make planning a vacation a little easier and a little more fun.  I spent regular amounts of time on these websites just dreaming about the vacations I would love to take, but I also visit these sites when I am ready to book my travel as well too.  Dreaming can be fun, just make sure to have a plan to turn that dream into a reality, then go ahead and plan your escape from the real world.

Day 25. Way 25. Plan a vacation. Map your escape route from reality.

What are your favorite ways to research and plan for trips? Share your stories, tips and tricks in the comments below!

Hotel Photo Credit / Beach Photo Credit / Zip Line Photo / Lego Photo Credit

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  • I love what they’ve done over at Wanderfly, like you I can play on that site for hours.  It’s absolutely incredible!  I haven’t used Bing yet, I’m a Kayak girl. After just getting back from all of my mini-adventures, I’m ready to start researching my next few trips.  Both sites will be a huge help for that.

    • yeah, I recently came across wanderfly, definitely a fun tool.  Just writing this blog I realized about 15 minutes later I was still messing around on the site when I went to look up 1 feature! LOL