By Lisa Allen-Kost
Forget about everything you once learned about travel. The days of calling your travel agent are over. Well, maybe not over, but you will need a laptop, smart phone and a few tricks up your sleeve to find the best places to go in 2016.
First, start by understanding you may have to look longer than an “e-Bay minute” to find what you are searching for online. Almost all good hotel rooms and great rates happen at a certain time. The best time is Tuesday nights after midnight – shh! I have stayed up late many Tuesday nights to steal a travel deal, even if it means an extra cup of coffee in the morning.
Second, although you are a Type-A planner who prides herself on super-human packing skills, remember all travel is good travel, even if it isn’t perfect. I fondly remember the time we arrived at the airport and my son had packed scissors in his backpack (I can laugh now); or the moment the TSA threw the sparkling Empire State Building snow globe I was bringing home for my daughter into the trash (I am unable to laugh about this experience yet).
Third, really spectacular travel requires some element of surprise. Don’t sell yourself short on your ability to try something completely new, like Airbnb, for example. You’ll want to do your due diligence and check out the guest reviews, but many larger cities, like Paris and New York, rent lovely condos at half the price of an expensive hotel. Go to airbnb.com to download the app.
A few years ago, I planned our entire trip through Europe using vacation rentals by owner, or VRBO. You can try all you want to “do as the Romans do,” but $500/night hotel rooms aren’t going to leave room for your Roman sandals. I would rather spend all of my money on good wine, out-of-this world cheese, and rainbow-colored gelato. Besides, where else are you going to find a clean, two-bedroom loft, balcony included, overlooking the Spanish steps for $250? Go to VRBO.com to get started.
Want to know another secret? If you are having trouble getting a good fare on a direct route, let’s say to the Michigan State bowl game for example, you can book to another location, with the pass through your actual destination, but forgo the final flight. Huh, you say? Here’s how it works: you want to travel to Dallas, but the flights are too expensive. Try searching for a flight through Dallas to LA or Vegas, but you get off in Texas. The flight might be cheaper than booking direct to your location – just make sure to carry on your luggage.
Once you have your flight, hotel and transportation booked, you are ready to go. Bring your best friend, your kids or travel alone – just remember to leave your snow globe and scissors at home.