How to Get the Absolute Cheapest Fares

Guess what! I just booked us a trip to Paris for a combined 5th wedding anniversary (what) and my son's first birthday! Best of all, we are only paying $800 RT for the three of us on a full-service nonstop flight. Yes! We are taking the baby. He will celebrate his first birthday under the Eiffel Tower. It is bound to be more enjoyable for me than his last birthday which was a world of pain and actually I don't remember most of it. 

As I was booking this deal, it got me thinking. I've come a long way to figure out how to travel this cheaply. Since beginning this travel booking endeavor, I've had a few people ask me for the impossible, that is cheap plane fares when and where there are none. I am good at what I do, but I can't produce a miracle. Sorry. Here are my top tips for finding cheap travel deals. 

 The Hardest part of traveling  for me is getting out of the house.

The Hardest part of traveling  for me is getting out of the house.

1) PLAN IN ADVANCE!! I can't emphasize this one enough. Want to go somewhere in the summer? Start planning during Christmas. How about the winter? Start planning in the spring. This allows you to keep an eye open for deals. As a rule, the closer you get to your date, the more good stuff will be taken. I love Airbnb, but the good ones get snapped up quickly and you are left with the rentals nobody really wants. 

2) Be flexible on either destination or date. I knew I wanted to go to Paris, but I didn't know when. My top choice was in the fall, but I also would have gone in the winter or the spring. As such, I kept an eye open for all those dates and eventually something came through. 

 Paci time, screen time, and dad time. one happy baby.

Paci time, screen time, and dad time. one happy baby.

3) Don't travel in July or during the last two weeks of December. The last two weeks of June and the first two weeks of August are also challenging. You will pay double, sometimes triple for the same trip. Do a road trip then or stay home. However, an international trip over Thanksgiving is doable because it is an American holiday. My favorite months to travel are: October, September, and February (warm destinations only). 

4) Work through your bucket list. Instead of choosing ONE place, have a list of the next three places you want to go. Jump on the deals, as they don't last long. Next for us are Paris, Seoul, and Iceland. This helps narrow down opportunities and incentivizes you to jump on them when you see them.

5) Look into getting a travel credit card. We have one we really like and we ended up paying for our Paris hotel with our miles. Cha-ching! Also, many travel credit cards offer trip insurance and no foreign transaction fees. 

 our credit card also get us into these fancy airport lounges for free. This one had free food and a kid's room.

our credit card also get us into these fancy airport lounges for free. This one had free food and a kid's room.

Ask me for more specific advice tailored to your destination! Inquiry is free, we only charge $15 if you end up booking the flight (aka save a boatload of money). I am tuned in to a LOT of travel websites. I get many deals sent to me and I would love to pass them on. 

Flying Norwegian

 

If you've worked with me by now, you know I am a fan of Norwegian and many other budget airlines. I mean, why pay $1000 for a trip when you could pay $400 if you just plan ahead a little bit? The tips I have written are specifically for Norwegian, but they work well for any other budget airline.

 Norwegian Model. Well he’s actually Swedish and french, but still.

Norwegian Model. Well he’s actually Swedish and french, but still.

Here are my top tips for a great experience on one of Norwegian’s Dreamliners. The good news is that no expense is spared on the plane itself. Expect a top-of-the-line jet with built-in TVs in every seat. They dim the lights to correspond with the light at your destination to reduce your jet lag. And they are FAST. Their flights are faster than most other international air carriers, making for less total time in the air.

1) Pack light. If you can avoid checking a suitcase, you usually save yourself about $25 bucks each way. Budget airlines bank on charging you for extras to make up for the low fare. We always bring one backpack and one small roller suitcase with a little bit of empty space (room to bring home snacks!) on the way there.

2) Bring your own food. I can't emphasize this one enough. The main way these budget airlines make their money is by charging you when you are desperate. On the way there, I pack a HUGE lunch and dinner and snacks ahead of time. We both eat it on the plane and are happy as clams. I try to bring sweet things, fruit, veggies, crunchy snacks, and two main courses (sandwich and some sort of leftovers). On the way home, we make a stop at the grocery store wherever we are and load up on foreign grocery store food. 

 I've gone whole flights only seeing the flight attendant once. It's kind of a blessing in disguise. Nobody waking me up to ask if I want soda.

I've gone whole flights only seeing the flight attendant once. It's kind of a blessing in disguise. Nobody waking me up to ask if I want soda.

3) Bring TWO water bottles and fill them before you get on the plane. Most airlines don't charge for water, but another way they save money to get you a cheaper price is to down staff flight attendants. I have a serious fear of being without water for any amount of time (thanks pregnancy and nursing), so I hate waiting for a flight attendant to fill up my bottle.

4) Bring your own headphones! This is another way they get you. Many airlines offer TV, but charge you for headphones. So be one step ahead!

 Ok but really, I could totally see this happening on a budget airline.

Ok but really, I could totally see this happening on a budget airline.

5) Lower your expectations. You get what you pay for. You are likely saving a TON of money flying budget, so if there are delays or things you don't expect, just roll with it. Honestly, it happens on nicer airlines too, so at least you aren't paying an arm and a leg to get delayed!

With a little advance planning, flying budget can be a great experience! It has been for us. 

 It is highly amusing to me when people are surprised by what budget airlines charge them for and act all indignant. You get what you pay for. I like paying a little bit and fending for myself so I can go on many trips!

It is highly amusing to me when people are surprised by what budget airlines charge them for and act all indignant. You get what you pay for. I like paying a little bit and fending for myself so I can go on many trips!

 

Pismo Beach with Shelley!

Shelley contacted me just a week before she wanted to travel with a request for a family Spring Break destination that was within driving distance. After going back and forth a bit, we settled on Pismo Beach.

 Morro Rock is a favorite surf destination in our family.

Morro Rock is a favorite surf destination in our family.

It was a struggle to find an affordable hotel or Airbnb without much notice! All my favorite spots seemed to be booked. After a lot of phone calls and much searching, I found this adorable little place up in the green hills. Oftentimes when people go to Pismo Beach or any beach destination, they refuse to search for places that are not right on the beach. However, when you expand your radius, you can often find a gem in for a much more reasonable rate.

 The Madonna Inn is completely worth a visit but is NOT an affordable place to stay.

The Madonna Inn is completely worth a visit but is NOT an affordable place to stay.

Here were her 4 favorite things she did, in her words:

1) Morro Rock was so cool we went twice.

2) We loved the ATVs and we had fun playing games at our Airbnb.

3) Marc and I liked Hearst Castle more than the kids did but I am totally good with that.

4) The elephant seals were super fun to watch.

 "My daughter and I had fun, while my son and husband had crazy-fall-off-your-ride fun."

"My daughter and I had fun, while my son and husband had crazy-fall-off-your-ride fun."

Thanks for letting me plan your trip Shelley! You were super fun to work with. She's trusting GG with her Oahu itinerary next.

It is only $25 for a full-service weekend getaway planning, so if you've been thinking about trying out GG, a weekend getaway is a great place to start. 

 

What Am I Getting Exactly?

It's been about a month since I launched Get Globetrotting. I have been excited by all the interest so far! Planning trips is so rewarding; I am glad I took the plunge and started doing it for real!

I've had some inquiries about exactly what it is that I do. Here is what you will get for a $40 full-week trip planning service. 

Overview: This is your trip on one page with a brief list of activities organized by day. 

Interactive Map: Everything you're going to see color-coordinated and laid out on a map. This is when it's handy to have a husband who is a Data Scientist. ;)

Booking Checklist: An itemized list of everything to book before leaving on your trip. This includes things such as hotel information, flight information, and any activities that require advance booking. All of the websites and prices for everything are included in this list, so it's easy to get a snapshot of how much a trip will cost. This is one of my favorite things to provide for my clients because it ensures that they don't miss anything important by not planning ahead! One example of an activity that requires advance booking: Da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan. I'm still kicking myself for not getting advance tickets because we didn't get to see it!

 We did get to see this amazing place however.

We did get to see this amazing place however.

Detailed Itinerary: This is the meat and potatoes of your full trip package. Every day is laid out for your traveling ease. I use Rick Steves, blogs, museum websites, Pinterest, and personal experience to craft the perfect trip. All you have to do is tell me the ages and interests of your group. One lady just sent me her Pinterest board and I planned her whole trip off of it. Here is an example of the level of detail for one day in Paris for a couple in their 30's. Of course it looks different than the trip to Paris I planned for a family of four. 

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Morning: Orangerie Museum. Either follow the tour or just go in and experience Monet’s Water Lillies for yourselves. (RS tour p. 191)

Directions: Metro stop Concorde or bus #24. The museum is in Tuileries Garden where you will be spending the day.

 Inside the Orangerie Museum.

Inside the Orangerie Museum.

Midday: Reservations at Angelina. This place has the best hot chocolate in all of Paris! Their pastries are also delicious. Some of their food can be overpriced, so you may want to find some lunch elsewhere and then come here for the pastries and hot chocolate.

Address: 226 rue de Rivoli 

(reservations: https://module.lafourchette.com/fr_FR/module/53361-93fc5)

Note: There is also another macaroon place worth knowing about near here. If you can stand it, maybe visit is after the Tuileries Garden. It’s called Laduree boutique and the address is 14 Rue de Castiglione.

 While researching this trip, I found there is a Laduree in Beverly Hills! Except I would rather fly to Paris than get on the 405.

While researching this trip, I found there is a Laduree in Beverly Hills! Except I would rather fly to Paris than get on the 405.

Afternoon: Tuileries Garden: Go find the toy sailboat rentals and the Ferris wheel. Make sure to get a nice break outside between museums. Wander over and check out Pont des Artes, a bridge over the Seine where lovers put a lock on the bridge and throw the key into the river. Other option: go home and rest before your night at the Louvre.

Evening: Louvre. Fantastically huge museum with the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo. Open until 21:45 on Wednesday nights only. Museum passholders can enter through the group entrance in the pedestrian passageway (labeled Pavilion Richelieu) between the pyramid and Rue de Rivoli. It’s under the arches a few steps north of the pyramid; find the uniformed guard at the security checkpoint entrance, at the down escalator. Allow about 2-3 hours here at least, so arrive around 6 pm. (RS tour p. 131)

 I can't look at this pyramid without thinking of the Da Vinci Code.

I can't look at this pyramid without thinking of the Da Vinci Code.

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And there is your peek into how GG works!

Grocery Store Tourist

The absolute best money saving thing you can do while traveling (besides having me plan your trip!) is to grocery shop! 

When I travel somewhere, I like to pretend like I live there. Do the people who live in Paris eat out for every single meal? I'm pretty sure they don't.

 Do the people in London have tea in Hyde Park every day? I'm pretty sure they do.

Do the people in London have tea in Hyde Park every day? I'm pretty sure they do.

 But they probably don't spill tea on their tea dresses.

But they probably don't spill tea on their tea dresses.

Some of my favorite travel memories include traipsing around the grocery store trying to figure out what to buy and decoding packages in different languages. It's just fun to pick out weird mustard and try new candy bars. Grocery shopping makes me feel like I am actually experiencing the country rather than just being a tourist.

 Funny story: I kept a picture list and rating scale of foregin candy bars for a while. 

Funny story: I kept a picture list and rating scale of foregin candy bars for a while. 

This is not to say you can't go out to eat. Honestly, when we were in Italy, we ate at restaurants twice a day. I had a friend who went to four pizza places in one day. Goals. But in Norway? No offense to Norway, but their restaurant food is overpriced and not super delicious unless you like very salty fish. Their chips and bread though? Unforgettable. I miss those blue Norwegian Doritos. Also they happen to have a scary looking do-it-yourself bread slicer in each of their stores. We figured out how to work it and still managed to keep all of our digits, though the directions were not in English. 

 Guess what my contribution was to this lovely picnic! I said grocery SHOPPING, not grocery PREPARING. Ain't nobody got time for that. 

Guess what my contribution was to this lovely picnic! I said grocery SHOPPING, not grocery PREPARING. Ain't nobody got time for that. 

Here is a sample list of things we buy when we touch down in a new country: bread, some sort of meat, cheese, mustard, Nutella, fruit, cereal, milk, plastic bowls and spoons, baggies. We bring along a little lunch bag and always have some food to eat on our person. This keeps us from getting hangry or getting stuck at an overpriced tourist trap restaurant. It encourages us to seek out worthwhile food instead of eating for convenience. 

This also helps me to not have travel scurvy. I am not talking about the ten pounds you gain while traveling, (can't help you there) but the feeling of being constantly stuffed and not eating fruit or veggies. Plus, picnics! The only thing to make a beautiful sight better is to have food to enjoy while viewing it. 

 If you squint, I am pretty sure this is a picture of me, Alex and my tiny baby in the future. Hint: take me to Paris Alex.

If you squint, I am pretty sure this is a picture of me, Alex and my tiny baby in the future. Hint: take me to Paris Alex.

Please throw away your giant suitcase

Travel Tip Numero Uno: Get rid of that huge suitcase. You know the one. It's too huge to fit down any airplane aisles. Toss it. Or use it to store Christmas stuff, I don't care just do NOT take it with you. 

"But I'm going for two weeks, how will I fit everything??" You will. Trust me. You just need to pack better and possibly do laundry once.

Here's what will happen if you take your giant suitcase with you:

  1. You will likely have to pay extra baggage fees.
  2. You will not fit down any train aisles.
  3. You will not be able to store your luggage in a locker while exploring cities.
  4. You will have to heft it up and down stairs unless you are rich and can hire someone to do it for you.
  5. You will be sorry.

Less is more when gallivanting off around the world! So do yourself a favor and pack light.