Musings, Travel

Travel Tips for a Friend

I recently offered a friend a tip about rental cars in the hopes that she would consider visiting me when she travels to visit her son. I happen to know that there are times when you can rent a car in one location and return it to another without the “one way fee” that can double the cost.

Finding fees and ways to avoid them can be tricky. Photo by John Guccione

When I mentioned it, she suggested I write a blog with those sorts of travel tips. The problem with that is each trip you plan is different. In fact, the same trip at different times of the year can be different. 

Research in advance will ensure you have the right map. Photo by Leah Kelley

I’m really lucky that I enjoy doing research. Online … in a library … in person … it doesn’t matter where I need to poke around. I love the hunt, a lot of people don’t. For that reason, the best travel tip I can give is find one (or two or three) travel agent(s) you trust. Contrary to popular belief they do NOT charge fees (well, not the good ones) and can actually save you money. 

Here’s the inside skinny on that:

First: Travel agents nowadays specialize. Some are really focused on cruising, others on group tours. I have two I use regularly. One specializes in accommodations in Key West. Susie at KeyWestKey, Inc is a marvel! She can find a place that meets every one of my occasionally quirky requests AND get me a deal to boot. The other is a European travel EXPERT. Micky at Travel Planning For You! not only speaks German fluently, but has traveled extensively in Europe and knows ALL the tips and tricks. We met when we both lived there … but despite my familiarity, I can’t come close to her expertise when it comes to specific accommodations, especially river cruises and train tickets. This may sound like I’m plugging a couple of people I consider friends, but it’s more about sharing the fact that even I need the help of specialists … and I travel a LOT! 

A good travel agent is passionate … and worth her weight in gold. Photo by Tatiana Syrikova

Second: When a travel agent researches a trip for you after taking the time to get to know you and your requests, requirements and preferences, they are doing what they do best. Don’t take the information they give you and go to some online travel discount sites to see if you can beat their deal. When something goes wrong (and something always goes wrong), your travel agent will step in and FIGHT for you and your rights (and your money!) Trust me on this one … those online travel discount sites will NOT do that. So consider that $100 on a $3000 trip is piece of mind and someone who’s got your back when you need it. It’s well worth the extra few dollars.

Don’t struggle with the planning, leave it to a pro who loves doing it. Photo by Yan

Third: If you enjoy reading reviews on five different websites for the same hotel, decoding those reviews for your preferences and poking around like a crazy person, you can always do your own research. It’s fun for me, but even my husband rolls his eyes at the thought of planning a single day of adventure together.

As for other travel tips … hmmm … that’s nearly impossible for the above reasons … but let me throw out a few of my favorites:

  1. Travel off season – prices are better, people are less stressed and friendlier, crowds are smaller
  2. Take a few steps outside your comfort zone. It’s ok to be a little uncomfortable in a foreign country, but accept that you may feel that way in a new restaurant across town, too. 
  3. Take the time to get a guide book on your destination and look over it. You don’t even have to take it with you or use it to suggest sites to see, but they often include tips like local traditions and regional things worth trying. Libraries are great resources because while prices and businesses change, traditions and specialties really don’t so it’s OK if the book is a little outdated.
  4. When you get where you’re going, watch locals and try to act a little like them. If the natives are quiet in restaurants, don’t be loud. If they aren’t forming proper lines to buy something, nudge your way in like they do. 
  5. Brand loyalty has its perks. Earning your way up the loyalty club ladder can pay off, but sometimes you have to go off brand. Stick with your favorites when you can. 

One of my favorite quotes is “travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.” But simply plopping down a credit card for tickets is not enough. It takes time, energy and effort. For me, the value is immeasurable. 

My slogan: “There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored,” is a life motto. The world constantly calls to me. If you think you might want to get out there and start exploring, I can’t recommend it enough. But, as I’ve said before, pack your patience; be ready to roll with the unexpected; remember that every unplanned event is a bonus adventure.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2021 — Unless otherwise indicated, no compensation was received for this blog.

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