One of the biggest reasons why I joined Location Rebel in the first place was because I desperately wanted the freedom to be able to travel whenever I wanted.
Turns out, just having two weeks was not something that really worked well when I would try to plan a trip with all my imaginary vacation adventures every year.
I’ve discovered that I’m much more of a slower traveler than I thought I’d be. Whereas in my imaginary travel escapades I’d be off with my backpack flying off to a new place every week, I’m actually more of a ‘yea I’ll just park myself in this city for a month and chill type of gal.’
Who would have thought? (Probably anyone who has ever met me.)
My Favorite Tools to Plan a Trip
Now that I’ve been working and growing my business for a while, I’ve had the ability to travel whenever I want and wherever I want, which is pretty amazing to say the least.
What I’ve discovered along the way are a couple of key travel sites and tools that I’ve been able to use to grab awesome deals, learn a few hacks, and discover some places I’ve never been to before.
If you’ve been itching to get going on your next adventure, let’s get started.
Few things in the world set my ‘I’m about to blow a gasket meter’ off like standing in line at the airport. I attribute part of this to having spent years as a business traveler when I was in my corporate finance job, so I got very skilled at my clear bags of 3 ounce gels, the right shoes to wear to slip right off, and how to get my laptop unpacked in seconds.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people I encounter at the airport don’t seem to have these skills.
That’s why I splurged and went for the Global Entry Program, after the application, background check, and quick interview I was approved. It’s run by the US Government and is the next level up from TSA Pre-Check (which is included), it allows me to not only skip the lines domestically but also internationally when I’m heading back to the US.
Keep in mind the TSA Pre-Check portion does not yet work at all airports, or even at all terminals inside participating airports. In all my travels I’ve only run into this once when I was flying to Sean’s wedding and had to stand in line like all the rest of the non-special snowflakes at the Alaska Airlines gate.
I was not happy.
SkyScanner is my go to website when it comes to searching for flights. It’s super easy to use, pulls in tons of different airlines, and allows you to easily change up your search terms.
If you’re someone like me, who is pretty flexible when it comes to dates, one of my favorite features is how it allows you to pull up the flights in chart view by month. So you can see when the prices are at their lowest and plan a trip accordingly.
Here, you can see when I was checking out my flight to Portland around WDS time, I could tweak my schedule to go a little bit earlier and get a very cheap flight.
My absolute favorite feature of SkyScanner is that they allow you to enter “Everywhere” into the destinations box, and they will literally give you results for everywhere. If you’re just looking for the cheapest flight to say Europe this is a great option as opposed to going city by city and wasting a lot of time.
I’ve been using TripIt Pro for years to keep track of all my traveling. Rather than having to constantly hunt around my email inbox and try to figure out where those confirmation emails all seemed to disappear to, it’s all right there on my phone.
Having everything in one place when you plan a trip makes checking in and figuring out next steps so much easier, especially if you’re jumping from place to place.
It’s awesome for things like sharing your itinerary with your family or people who are picking you up at the airport, since you can do it right from the app. It can also keep track of your points, and even help you find a new flight if yours is cancelled or delayed.
That came in handy when I was coming back from Sean’s wedding (notice a pattern…) and my first flight was delayed because of a forest fire (??) making me miss my flight back to Boston.
TripIt helped me find a red-eye a few hours later that was actually better than the flight United had re-booked me on. If you don’t travel a ton, or are still getting into it, then you can still use the free version of TripIt which is still pretty awesome.
Chances are most of you already know about this one, and for good reason, it’s been able to really cause a big disruption in the travel world.
Now, pretty much anywhere I go, I check the AirBnB website first before I go to any hotels to see the pricing, More often than not you can find something that’s a bit cheaper, and even if it’s not cheaper, you can grab a place that might have some extra features like a kitchen or laundry that can really save you some cash on your trip.
I’ve been able to stay in AirBnB’s all over the world including the little gem above for two weeks in Nice, France just a minute from the Ocean for $585 total! And knocking on imaginary wood (read: the side of my head) I’ve never had a problem with the place or the host.
If you’re looking to stay long term in a spot, over two weeks, then check out the AirBnB Sublets site.
Sean told me about this site years ago, (see he’s occasionally useful for things other than massive travel nightmares!) and I’ve been addicted to it ever since.
Note from Sean: I’m not sure how I feel about the theme of this post…
When I plan a trip for shorter stays or when I can’t find an AirBnB that fits my needs, I always head over to Priceline or Hotwire and look for hotels there. My go to is to check out the express deals and then the name your own price feature because you can end up getting some really sweet bargains.
But, the biggest pain in the you know what about it is it can be super time consuming figuring out which hotel is actually the hotel you’re going to end up staying at, since the whole point is to keep it secret for a cheaper price.
All you have to do is enter all the hotel info like the star level, location, and amenities and poof BidGoggles will figure out which hotel actually matches the mystery listing.
Pretty cool, right?
If you really want to become a ninja with this, then use BidGoggles in conjunction with the forums over at BetterBidding.
The Flight Deal
Even though I’ve been on a mad digital purge kick and have unsubscribed from a billion newsletters, there is one I check almost every single time it lands in my inbox, The Flight Deal.
If you are someone who is a more flexible traveler, or you know you want to go somewhere during certain dates, but you don’t have the time (or energy) to sit around searching a million sites for deals, The Flight Deal does it for you.
Essentially, they are a flight curation brand. They search the internet for you finding big deals, flash sales, even error fares and send a daily newsletter highlighting them all.
If you don’t want yet another newsletter in your inbox, then you can head over to their site and find the same information daily as well. One feature I really like is I can search by my departure city, so instead of scrolling through tons of stuff I can see exactly what deals are happening from Boston, for instance.
I know it seems improbable, but sometimes someone over at the airline company fat fingers a fare number and a crazy low price gets sent out over the interwebz like a digital brushfire.
The smart and the quick are able to pounce on these fares before the error is fixed and people have been able to get ridiculous deals on airfare. Now, admittedly, I haven’t jumped on an error fare yet, but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep my eyes peeled for one that will work for me.
I was thisclose to grabbing a deal to Europe just last week, but couldn’t get the dates to work for me.
— Secret Flying (@SecretFlying) April 17, 2016
That’s why I pay attention to two Twitter accounts that do all the hard work for me: SecretFlying and Error Fares. Just like with The Flight Deal, they trawl the big sites, forums (like FlyerTalk), and websites where an error fare might pop up and then posts them on social media.
The key with these is let these sites do the work for you. Just pay attention when anything good pops up, because you’ll have to act fast. For more on error fares, Thrifty Nomads had a good how to post about them.
When I’m traveling and want to communicate with people What’sApp is my best friend. No more having to worry about missing a meeting time or place when I’m traveling abroad, no more having to send a million emails back and forth, now I just do it all from inside the app.
Since it runs perfectly fine on WiFi, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a place where it won’t work. You can use it to send photos, videos, voice messages, even your location. And now they’ve just installed end to end encryption so your messages will be safe.
I also love the group chat feature. You can use to if you’re planning a trip with a group of people, or if you’ll be visiting certain people so everyone can be on the same page.
Plus, it’s great even if you aren’t traveling abroad. Some of my best friends live in England, but with What’sApp I’m able to message them whenever I feel like it, we’ve been able to keep in much better touch no matter where we are in the world.
Also take a look at WeChat which is very similar and huge in Asia.
As someone who is not internationally known as a “saver” anytime I can find a way to easily get my travel bank account filling up is a great thing.
I cannot rave about Digit enough. It links up to your bank account and then automatically deducts money from your checking account into a separate Digit account.
There are a couple of really cool features about Digit.
First, it only takes out money based on if you can afford it (perfect for the freelancer lifestyle).
It actually tracks your spending and makes automatic adjustments, so if you’re rolling in the dough it might take out $50 in one transaction. Whereas if money is tight one month it could take out $1. The transactions are spaced out every few days, so you hardly ever notice them.
I can also control Digit from my phone. Every day it sends me a text message with exactly how much is in my account. I then have the option of doing nothing, requesting a certain amount get saved, or even pausing my saving until a later date. Once you’re ready to get your money back, just text withdraw and it will be moved into your main bank account.
For me, it’s been pretty awesome, I’ve only been using it for a couple of months and have already saved up a healthy amount of extra cash for my next trip with literally zero effort on my end.
There you have it, nine of my favorite travel tools. Hopefully, you’ve discovered a couple of new ones you can use for planning your next trip. If you have something you absolutely love that I didn’t mention, share it in the comments I’m always on the look out for new stuff!