- Visit the Taj Mahal under a full moon, experience Holi, see the Venice of India and spend spiritual time in Varanasi
- See where the Monarch butterflies go for the winter, discover the amazing city of Guanajuato, eat some incredible food (street food too) and finally see Freda Khalo's home in Mexico
- Relax and enjoy time on the French Riviera
- Spend spring break in St. Petersburg. Not Florida,...Russia
- Vacation in Ireland
- Watch the sun rise and set in the Sahara Desert in Morocco
- Enjoy a weekend in Montreal, Canada.
Three years ago I was inspired by a young friend who in our conversation as I was daydreaming out loud about being able to see the Taj Mahal simply said, "you are never going to go until you buy a ticket." It hit me like a bolt of lightening. From that day on I made up my mind to actually work to fulfill my travel dreams. Now I don't just dream about travel. I buy my ticket.
I've found it really helpful to make a list of places in the world that I'd like to see. One thing I don't do is lock in to any one destination, ever. Sales pop up all the time and my goal is to find one of my destinations on sale. I am a loyal Delta traveler so I keep up with their sales and I use the Kayak EXPLORE feature to be able to track where the best prices can be found. Have you played around with the EXPLORE feature? Love it.
I take advantage of Delta Vacations - a lot. Our trip to Nice, France and our summer trip to Ireland were all thanks to incredible packages put together by Delta Vacations. And when I say great, I do mean great. It is so hard to believe that the vacation package to Nice which included hotel stay in a 4-star hotel and airfare was $998! Yes, you read that correctly. Our trip to Ireland was $200 more but we were traveling during the peak summer season so the added cost was to be expected. Delta vacations won't work for every trip but if you plan to use one city as a base, the package deals can save you a boatload of money.
And be sure to keep up with economic news and monitor the exchange rate. I use http://www.oanda.com/currency/converter/ which has a tab to also provide historical data. When the economy is in your favor, take advantage of it.
Speaking of the news, watch international news for inspiring places to visit and for world news. We are huge fans of BBC International and Al-Jazeera America (sad to see it go). I feel I'm a much better ambassador for my country if I'm informed and have a broader understanding of the world.
I'm typically not a traveler who wants to be part of a tour group and I really enjoy spending time learning about the target destination and detailing out an itinerary. For me it is part of the journey and I will spend hours combing websites and reading through travel forums to help with the planning. But I've learned that sometimes I need help. Some traveler friends use agencies to help them with their journeys but when I've needed help my best sources of information have been friends who've already been to the target country. Don't get me wrong, agencies can be great and most of my friends who have used agencies do so because they don't have the time to do the research but that is a part of the journey that I love. Calling on friends who've recently traveled makes the planning process more fun. Friends are usually very excited to share their travel knowledge, connections and photos. When planning my trip to India I was determined to do it alone but after two months of lunches with friends it became apparent that help was needed. Lucky for me my husband's cousin leads tour groups on trips to India and she connected me with an Indian tour company that was incredible. Last year I spent 2 months emailing tour companies in Morocco to find a company that would let me customize our trip and luckily we found a small family-owned group that not only let us customize our journey, they are now like extended family (seriously, we have our own private Whats App chat group)!
Four years ago we went to Italy and stayed in a B&B in a tiny town on the hilltop above Positano. Believe me, it was such an affordable stay. And the restaurant in our tiny hilltop village invited us to join mama in the kitchen to make pasta! Now THAT was a cooking lesson and we didn't pay a thing.
Developing Budget Travel Tips
I follow travel bloggers and subscribe to various travel publications to continuously learn about destinations around the globe. I also try to connect with other travelers when I travel. Travelers from other parts of the world have some great suggestions for on the ground discounts, locally owned companies and cost-savings we might not hear about. Do your homework before you go to determine ground transportation options. On our recent trip to Ireland at the last minute we decided to rent a car. I located a local Irish car company that cost us under $100 (with insurance). In Mexico some of my most memorable experiences have
been taking the local bus to get from city-to-city. What you probably don't want to do is wait until you get there to figure it out. Sometimes that can work but not planning tends to be a lot more costly and can sometimes throw your travel schedule off course.
|Oh the cafes of Montreal!|
Try to be flexible. This is the most important tip of all. Travel means things will be different and being flexible can help you enjoy your trip, even when things go wrong. My husband and I arrived in Casablanca this fall expecting to take a three hour train ride to get to Marrakesh. We were departing Marrakesh early the next morning. Unfortunately the train was delayed for hours and by 7 o'clock that night we were panicked about how we would make it. Luckily we met the NICEST young woman who helped us get to the train station, bought us dinner and made sure we arrived safely. We couldn't thank her enough. Had it not been for her kindness and our flexibility, I would have ended up paying about $600 for a driver to get us there. Instead, it cost us $22.
Learning About Places
Don't let the news scare you too much. Yes, there is evil in the world but the more I travel the more I realize that most people everywhere want the same things I do - a happy life. And, remember there are so many more amazing places in the world that just Europe. Don't get me wrong, Europe is beautiful but the world is full of beautiful places! On recent trips I've met a traveler returning from Iran, another from Rwanda who just returned from a visit with the Silverback Gorillas and a member of the Masaai tribe who lives in the U.S. for six months of the year but returns home for six months each year so that he can maintain his tribal status. I've been inspired to meet numerous workers with NGOs doing incredible work around the globe. I was moved to tears to spend an hour in a waiting area visiting with the sister of a gentleman who was on the MH17 Malaysia Air plane crash and completely amazed by the secretary I met who lives in DC but has spent the last 4 years making frequent trips to France. A secretary by day, yes, but in partnership with a local book store she is soon to launch her travel company leading French tours. How's that for a fun retirement at the age of 63?
And my best piece of advice - Start planning your next trip before you return from your current trip. I got a few things lined up for the first quarter of the year. Because of my travel wish list I was able to get some budget travels booked last fall.
Good luck with your travel planning. If you ever want to share experiences let me know. I'm always happy to share my tips and I love learning from other travelers. I would love to hear from you.