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Travel Tips & Useful Apps

With over 100 years of travel experience, our team has put together some of the best travel tips and apps to make your travel experience even more enjoyable.

Get Out of the Box on Lodging.

The default for most people is the Hyatt or Hilton but there are many choices that can give you a whole different experience then the standard hotel room.

Home Rentals

VRBO and Airbnb have revolutionized the short term rental business. Short term home rental is almost my default now for several reasons. First home rental is usually cheaper, gives you more room, allows you to cook your own meals if you choose and puts you more in touch with the culture. There are several home rental sites that work only with upper scale homes, onefinestay.com and www.oasiscollection.com are two that are worth checking out.

Hostels

Hostels are for college kids, right? The image of a room full of bunk beds full of 60’s throwbacks may deter a lot of travelers but many hostels have gone upscale, with private bedrooms and baths. Hostels are a great way to plug into what is happening in the area. Many hostels have restaurants and bars which can be a ton of fun.

Free Lodging

Home Exchange

There are several ways to do home exchange, the first is a simultaneous exchange with the owner of the other home. You can also do non-simultaneous exchanges or host the other family. We have made some very close friends with home exchange, all of our experiences have been non-simultaneous or hosting. There is no better way to get plugged into an area then having a family host you. We have had some incredible experiences through home exchange experiences.

Homesitting

There are people all over the world who also want to take a vacation and need someone to watch a pet, take care of a garden or some other menial task while they are gone.

Know Where You Are

As soon as you check in grab a business card, take a picture of the hotel sign or put the address of your hotel or rental in your pocket. This comes in really handy after a few drinks or after sightseeing all day when you want to get back home. Use your phone to document, where you parked your car, street signs or anything else you would like to remember. A picture of your passport’s main page.

Things should never leave home without:

  • A flashlight, you never know when you need one but when you need it, you need it fast.
  • Attach a safety pin to the inside of your luggage, perfect for clothing malfunctions.
  • Buy a small roll of duck tape and smash it flat and store somewhere in your luggage.
  • Several pens and a small pad of paper.
  • A charging stick, don’t get caught with your phone going dead and no way to charge it.

When booking airline reservations with a partner, book the window and the aisle seat, the middle seat is always the least desirable and is many times left open. Chances are you will get the whole row, if not almost anyone is willing to trade a middle seat for a window or aisle seat.

Prepare financially.

  • Get a checking account that does not charge finance fees. Many times when you use an ATM in a foreign country there are two finance charges that can be as much as $15 for a transaction. Using a no finance checking account also helps protect your personal account, only move the money you will need on your trip into the account. If someone gains access to your account you reduce your exposure by only having trip funds in the account. I like using Charles Schwab, there is no cost to set up an online checking account, get a debit card and use this account for travel.
  • Notify your bank where you are going and when you will be back. It is a total pain to be somewhere and have your bank block a charge because they think it is fraudulent.
  • Prevent pickpockets when touring by putting your wallet in your pocket and putting a water bottle in on top. Any pickpocket will have to get the bottle out to get your wallet and you have a water ready to drink while walking.
  • Split your money, some in pocket, some in backpack, some with partner. Just like investing, reduce the risk of everything getting stolen.

Use Travel Insurance.

Travel insurance has saved me over and over, just recently on a trip to France we missed two international flights, the final cost to get to our destination? Almost $3000.

We like using CSA or Travel Guard, buying a comprehensive travel insurance plan also provides you medical and evacuation insurance, along with missed connections, trip interruption and baggage delay and loss. We have reported all kinds of things damaged or lost baggage during a trip that have I have recovered reimbursement.

We have also had my baggage delayed, which allowed us to go on a shopping spree. Get travel insurance.

USEFUL TRAVEL APPS

Uber is the king of ride apps around the world, Lou and I have used Uber all over the world and find it much better for several reasons, first there is a record of where and when you were picked up and dropped off. Second, no money changes hands and you know exactly how much the trip will cost so you aren’t pulling out cash and you don’t have to worry about currency conversions and lastly Uber drivers are more friendly and the cars are newer and cleaner then most taxis.

Google Maps is widely regarded as the best navigation app around. It offers directions for travel by car, on public transit, on foot, by cab, or on bicycle. The app allows you to search for things along your route, like gas or restaurants. You’ll find it fairly reliable in offering up local public transportation options in many countries, and you can also download specific areas for offline use. This is particularly useful if you don’t want to use data and don’t have WIFI. Make sure you understand your data plan before using real time GPS navigation.

Trip Advisor is awesome for evaluating and finding a good restaurant, museum or other attraction quickly then jump to Google Maps for directions. Trip Advisor can make all kinds of recommendations depending on your taste, level of activity, family friendly, etc.

WhatsApp is an excellent free messaging app that allows you to send texts or call other WhatsApp users for free. It is the most used messaging app around the world. Great way to communicate without using cell data.

Bands In Town Lou and I love live music, so I use this app a lot to find local live music. The app will find your location and allow you to put a radius to search for live bands. Great way to plug into the local music scene.

Bird is the hottest new craze! These electronic scooters are invading many cities. The scooters are activated using a smartphone app. You are charged $1 to unlock and .15 cents per minute for usage. You use the app to find a scooter near you, unlock it and take off. You and your partner will need to download the app if you want to ride together.

Hopper is the app to download if you’re really looking to get the cheapest possible price for a plane ticket. Like Kayak and Skyscanner, you can look at the cheapest dates to fly, but Hopper prides itself on telling you when to buy your tickets via push notifications. The company claims it can save you up to 40 percent on your next flight by analyzing and tracking billions of flights. The user interface is simple, and Hopper says you can book a flight in 60 seconds or less. Apple added it to the App Store’s Best of 2015 list, and Google made it a 2016 Google Play Award winner.

PackPoint – Making a checklist of everything you need to pack can be useful, but what if one’s already made for you? PackPoint looks at the weather forecast for the dates and location of your trip. It will also ask you to select activities you may participate in during your trip, like a meeting for business, a swim at a pool, or a fancy dinner. It will then offer up a list of items you should pack based on these activities, along with general items you’d need on any trip. You can remove items you don’t think are necessary, as well as share lists with others, in case your friends need some help, too.

TripCase is a free app that helps you organize your itineraries. It takes all the confirmation messages you receive via email about your upcoming travel and arranges them into one tidy itinerary. With TripCase, you forward emails into the service.

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