Wednesday, October 16, 2019
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Travel Resources

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Easy flight booking

 

Skyscanner
Whenever I need a flight anywhere in the world, I go to skyscanner.ca. This website provides everything that I am ever looking for when I am trying to plan and book flights. After I input my search criteria, it lists every possible flight option available. I then filter the results according to what is most important to me. For example, I can ask for the search results to be listed in order of “cheapest”, “fastest”, “number of stops”, or “airlines” (or more). If I find a flight that interests me, the website will also redirect me to other websites where I can purchase the ticket.

One feature that I really love is the ability to search for flights when I don’t know the best airport from which to leave or arrive. For example, if I was searching for a flight from London, England to France, and I was flexible about which airports I could use, I simply put in the search terms “London, England” for “From” and “France” for “To” and every airport combination comes up with the number of stops and the price. This allows me to make the best decision about which airports are most convenient, how much I am prepared to spend, and the number of layovers that I might need to make.

Google Flights
I use google flights when my travel dates are flexible. Once you input your search criteria, you can click on “Date Grid” or “Price Grid” to see whether there are any substantial price differences to travel on different dates.

 

Accommodation the way you want it

I rely on two sources when I am looking for accommodation. booking.com and tripadvisor.ca.

booking.com
I rely mostly on booking.com to search and find the best accommodation at the best possible prices. I like the filters that are readily available to help with my searches and the score that is listed next to each of the properties to indicate how other travellers have graded their experience. Another feature that I like is that booking.com not only lists hotels, but also apartments, resorts, villas, B&Bs, and guesthouses..

However, what I love most about this site is that it highlights not only rooms that are available, but also properties that have sold out for the dates in which you are interested. This is important for two reasons.

First, a lack of availability on booking.com does not mean that all the rooms in that property are sold out. Rather, only the ones that the owner of the property decided to list on booking.com. In other words, if I am still interested in staying at the property, I can contact the property directly through its own website to see if other rooms are still available for the dates that I want.

Second, if all rooms are actually booked for my dates, but my dates are flexible, knowing about the property allows me to decide whether or not I wish to change my dates in order to stay there.

Tripadvisor
I rely on Tripadvisor for the reviews. I do not rely on it to help me search and find the best properties because unlike booking.com, it will not list the best or all available hotels, only the ones that are available and can be booked through its website. However, I love Tripadvisor for helping me decide whether a property is the right one for me. Accordingly, once I identify accommodation that I like through booking.com, I then read the reviews on Tripadvisor before I return to booking.com to make my reservation. Normally, I read the most current reviews, but also focus on the “terrible” or “poor” reviews to see how current they are and how consistent the complaints are.

 

Travel insurance I recommend

I am often asked whether you should buy travel insurance. I always answer WITHOUT QUESTION! I can’t imagine being in a foreign country with my family, and someone getting sick or having an accident. The last thing that I would want or need is to worry about how I would be going to pay for the doctor or how I would be getting us home. The only thing that I would want to focus on is taking care of myself or my loved ones.

There are different kinds of travel insurance. Quite frankly, this is way too complicated of a subject for a short blurb here. However, in brief, I think that the 3 most important ones are:

  1. Health insurance:
    In the event of an accident or becoming sick, you would have coverage for medical care and transportation back home.
  2. Trip interruption:
    If something out of your control happens and you miss a flight or something similar, you would be reimbursed for additional travel costs.
  3. Trip cancellation:
    If you had to cancel your trip before leaving, you would be be refunded for your travel costs.

When I book my flights or any significant nonrefundable travel expense, and again, a couple of weeks before I actually travel, I always review and explore all of my travel insurance needs. Travel insurance does not have to be expensive or even separately purchased. You might have it and not even realize it. However, you should absolutely figure this out before you leave home. Normally, the most common way you may have some type of travel insurance, without separately purchasing it, is through:

1) Extended health benefits at work;
2) House or rental insurance; or
3) Credit cards.

That is not to say that any of them do provide you with travel insurance, or that they all provide every different kind of travel insurance. I am only suggesting that if you have any of these that you review the terms of the coverage before you purchase more travel insurance.

World Nomads
In the event that you do need to purchase travel insurance of any type, I would highly recommend World Nomads. With little effort, you can input your destination, length of trip, age and other important information and within minutes, receive a reasonable quote and an offer.

 

Find the right visas

One of the first things that you should research before you book a flight or make a nonrefundable payment for accommodation or a tour, is whether there are any visa requirements. A visa is a document for which an individual applies to allow a person from one country to enter into another country for a specified time. Not all countries require visas from every foreigner, but many do. This is a somewhat complicated area because every country has its own rules.

One resource that I use to determine whether I need a visa and what I need to do to get one is iVisa.com. If you do need a visa, iVisa.com provides an easy and inexpensive way to acquire it before you travel.

However, it isn’t always necessary to acquire a visa before travelling. Many countries offer travellers the opportunity to easily secure a visa upon arrival, although not all. Accordingly, it is very important to find out before you travel whether you must obtain your visa before you leave or whether you can wait until you arrive.

One final note – even if you can purchase your visa upon arrival, it is sometimes a bit risky to do so, depending on the country that you are visiting. Ultimately, a custom official in your final destination decides whether or not you should be granted a visa and the decision could be quite arbitrary. Accordingly, if there is any risk of being refused a visa upon arrival, then I would take steps to secure one through iVisa.com before your departure from your home country.

 

Great trips and tours

I love tours. Normally when we travel, I want to see or experience as much as we can in the time we have. Sure, we can rent a car and do it ourselves, or grab a city map and explore on our own, but to me, that isn’t often ideal. A tour is normally led by a local who is an expert in their field. In many countries, tour guides must earn a certain university degree, pass tests and be properly accredited. What a tour guide can accomplish in 3 hours, would likely take me 6 hours and countless more in reading and researching in preparation, not to mention a little bit of stress and aggravation.

Private Tours
Generally, I prefer private tours so that we have flexibility in deciding how our day is going to be organized. It also allows for plans to change as a tour progresses to include or exclude experiences as they arise. If I am organizing multi-day tours, they are always private.

I always try to find a reputable local company that can help me organize multi-day tours. I want to work with someone who lives in the country and who personally knows what I should and should not see, based upon real life experiences.

Group Tours
On the other hand, if I am organizing a one day or half day tour, I may book a group tour. Sometimes a private tour is unnecessary: the cost is too high in relation to the cost of the group tour; or the itinerary of the group tour is exactly what I want.

Get Your Guide
One of the first sources that I go to when I am trying to organize my time in a destination is getyourguide.com. This site lists thousands and thousands of private and group tours from all over the world. Get Your Guide is a great resource for seeing what sights and experiences are popular in a particular destination, even if you choose to book a tour elsewhere. In addition, it offers many ways to see the sights or do activities with different tour companies at different prices. Normally, tours costs are competitive. Further, Get Your Guide offers reasonable cancellation policies and customer support for any issues.

Even if I am looking for less main stream experiences, I always start with Get Your Guide because it gives me a general background for experiences and costs that guide me when I research other tour options.

 

Curated essentials made easy from Amazon

After 45 years of travel, I have figured out a thing or two about how to pack, or what I need to have when I travel. Below is a list of those products that I currently use and which I would recommend you acquire in order to make your travels easier and more organized. From time to time, I will update the products listed so I hope to see you back again to discover what is new!