I travel a lot and have been on some pretty awesome vacations. I’ve been learning as I go and I want to pass on my knowledge to you. Awesome vacations don’t just happen, they are planned ahead of time and I’ll show you how to do it.
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Personally, I like to go to new places for vacations but in the past I failed to plan ahead of time. When you don’t plan ahead of time, you end up playing things by ear and next thing you know, it’s over. As we all know our time and money is valuable so lets make the most of what we have.
Recently my fiance, Jeremy, and I went on the BEST EVER vacation to Santa Barbara, California. It is the vacation that I employed all my traveling knowledge. So, I’m going to use this trip as an example for how you can plan yours.
HOW TO PICK WHERE TO GO
Pinterest is a very valuable tool that I use. What I like about it is you get to see pictures (called pins) first. For most pins, if you click on it you’ll find an article about that pin. I have several travel boards on my Pinterest account that I save pins to. Pinterest is also a search engine. My partner prefers to drive for our vacations and we love the beach. California is the logical place to go since we live in Arizona. I did a search for Southern California Vacations and I just started pinning the ones that seemed interesting to me to my travel boards. Then I’ll visit my travel boards and just look at the pictures and articles to narrow it down. That’s how we decided on Santa Barbara. Visit Blossoming Widow’s Pinterest and follow my boards. It’s a great start to find pins to save on to your own travel boards.
WHEN TO PURCHASE PLANE TICKETS TO GET THE BEST DEAL
DOMESTIC – They say the best time to purchase tickets is Tuesday at 3pm , six weeks before your trip. I always do this and find it to be true. From my research, the reason is because when airline officials come into work on Monday morning they’ll see how much fares should be, based on sales over the weekend. By Tuesday morning they’ll know how much their competitors fares are and will adjust their prices by Tuesday afternoon. By Friday, they’ll go back up.
Six weeks before your trip is enough time to snag the best deals. I always use Expedia.com to look for tickets because they work with quite a few airlines. When I find one that seems like a great deal, I’ll book it without waiting because they have a 24 hour cancellation period. Then I’ll go to Southwest Airlines and see if I can find a cheaper flight but for the most part, Expedia seems to give the best deals.
INTERNATIONAL – This is a bit different than domestic flights. In my research I found a great website on what the latest is on airfares. Go to Cheapair.com and you’ll see when they deem it cheapest to buy your international tickets. You can even purchase your tickets through them which I did when my son and I went to Europe in 2015. I followed exactly what they said, I even put it in my calendar to remind me. I purchased our tickets on the specific date they said, checked back the next day and lo and behold, they were about $300 more PER TICKET!
WHERE TO STAY
Airbnb – If I’m going to stay somewhere less than three nights then I’ll look for hotel rooms through Expedia but for three nights or more I almost always go Airbnb. What I love about Airbnb is that we can live like a King and Queen on a Paupers budget, even if it’s just for a few days. This is definitely one of the ways we save money. In the past two years I’ve used Airbnb and each time has been awesome vacations. These trips have been a Girls trip, trips with my Partner, Jeremy, and Solo trips. By the way, have you ever gone on a solo trip? Read one of my posts Solo Travel : Seven Compelling Reasons Why You Need To Travel Alone.
You can find so many options on Airbnb. You can rent an entire home or just rent a room. Another way you save money with Airbnb is most have a kitchen where you can do your own cooking. I don’t know about you but I get tired of eating out all the time and when you cook your own meals the savings is huge especially if you’re feeding a family! Saving money makes for awesome vacations 🙂
We’ve stayed in some really nice places:
Huntington Beach, California at an exclusive neighborhood a block from the beach. This was one of my Solo trips
This one was in Las Vegas for a Girls trip. This was a 2 bedroom Condo at Wyndham Grand Desert Resort
Oceanfront cottage in Newport Beach, another Solo trip. I was living the life!
This was in La Jolla, California. It was just a studio but it’s on the third floor and the ocean view is so awesome!
Santa Barbara, California. This place was at a great location and there was no way we could’ve gotten a better deal that close to the beach and sites.
If you go click on my Airbnb link here you’ll get $40 off your first trip and I’ll get a $20 credit towards my next trip. It’s a win, win for both of us!
GROUPON – Another good place to look and use is GROUPON. They have some fantastic deals, some even come with airfare. I’ve not used the Get-Away deals yet but I have a friend who does and she has taken some pretty awesome vacations. Click on the picture below and check them out.
WHAT TO DO
Once I’ve booked my accommodations I’ll go back on my Pinterest Travel boards and I’ll search my pins for, lets say, “Santa Barbara”. All the pins I pinned for Santa Barbara will come up. I’ll then go and click on them one by one to read the articles and make a list of the things I want to see and do. I will often try to find sites that are off the beaten path or hidden like The Rapunzel Tower in Victoria Beach that even many locals don’t know about. You can read about it here, Solo Travel : Finding Victoria Beach Tower In Laguna Beach, California.
GROUPON is an excellent source to find things to do and save money at the same time. The savings is actually pretty significant. When I was planning for our trip to Santa Barbara, I plugged in the location up top on GROUPON then changed the category to ‘Things to do’. I ended up buying two GROUPONS. One was for El Paseo Wine & Photo Tour from EAT THIS, SHOOT THAT. It’s a wine tasting, photo, small bites, 3 hour tour. The other, a scavenger hunt through Urban Adventure Quest where you use your smart phone to go around the city and answer questions. They have quests made out for different cities. Normally it’s $49 for a team (2 to 5 people) and I got it for $30. Both were fantastic, educational experiences and great ways to see the city.
Check to see what kind of deals you’ll find in Groupon. It’s not just for when you’re on vacation but for any day. Don’t forget the restaurant deals they have, you gotta eat, right?
MAKE AN ITINERARY
Now that we have the address where we’re staying and what we want to do, let’s create a plan. We’ll be doing this before going on the trip.
MAPQUEST – We need to know how far everything is from where we’re staying to create our Daily Itinerary. This is where MAPQUEST for directions comes in. Plug in the address where we’re staying at, then one by one input the addresses where our activities are located. You’ll get an idea of how far everything is and what to group together for each day.
PRINT IT OUT – I like to have everything nice, neat and orderly. We drive from Tucson, Arizona and I’ll print out the directions from MAPQUEST to our destination. I’ll make the size of the font big so I can see it. This saves on my smart phone data plan as usually it’s anywhere from 6 to 9 hour drive. Then when we get there, I’ll use my phones GPS to get around.
Here’s an example of what I printed for our Santa Barbara trip:
- Directions from Tucson to Santa Barbara
- Airbnb instructions. Rules, how to get in (door codes), parking instructions and phone number for the host. They’ll send these to prior to your departure, all in a page or two.
- GROUPON vouchers and instruction for each activity
- Walking/Biking trail maps provided by the city.
PUT IN ORDER – Once I have everything printed out, I’ll put them in order. Driving directions to our destination on top. First day of activities next, arranged in morning on top then afternoon under that. Second day next, so on and so forth.
I’ll put these in my bag and we’re set. Everything falls into place and works like a charm!
Where is your next trip going to be? Employ my tips and you’ll have some awesome vacations! Happy travels!