My mom is getting ready to take a pretty big trek overseas to Jerusalem at the end of the month, and when she asked me to email her my "packing list" it got me to thinking. Because I do so much traveling myself, I always get asked for advice on how I plan for things. Couple that with the fact that I'm more than type-A, and I think that's why folks typically lean this way when questioning the most efficient way to think about their trip.
So what I've decided to do is to compile a list of my favorite tips, tricks and some useful websites that we can all benefit from the next time we are planning a get-a-way. This advice can be applied for a personal vacation, a weekend stint, or for a work-related jaunt and is in no particular order to follow.
Booking Your Trip
First and foremost, start your journey at Kayak.com. This travel website site is easy to navigate and is a wonderful way to compare prices for flights, rental cars and hotels. This is always my first stop when I'm getting ready to plan another escape from the city.
Renting a Car
If you are renting a car, there are always so many rental companies to choose from (e.g., Avis, Budget, Enterprise), and it can be overwhelming to figure out where to get the best rate. I encourage you to take a look at National before you plug in your credit card for confirmation with a competing company. I started renting with National a little over a year ago and my experience has been exceptional — no hidden costs, the amount on my receipt upon returning the car is the same as it was when I reserved it online and the people that work there are friendly. The biggest advantage to renting with National is that fact that you can sign up for a membership that allows you to skip the reservation line (like most other companies), but where they differ is that they don't assign cars. You get to choose what you drive — so depending on your mood, destination, or other factors that could make the difference between choosing an SUV or a small sedan. Awesomeness.
Delta SkyMiles & Credit Cards with Perks
There are really two things to think about here. One, find an airline that you want to become loyal to, meaning that you will try to fly them at any cost and possibly even take a connecting flight to book with this choice. The benefit of loyalty in this case is gaining status for free upgrades, free flights and perks like skipping merrily through the security line. In addition, you may want to consider an Airline sponsored credit card that provides you benefits in the form of points towards your next flight when you spend money. I chose to feature Delta because that's what I sport in my wallet and it also provides the benefit of checking in your first bag for free! Wheee!
Learn About The Area
Next, no matter where you are headed, for work or for play, it's a true pity not to take a few minutes to educate yourself on your destination. Whether it be seeking lodging or restaurant recommendations, getting advice from other travelers, or learning more about the culture of the city you are visiting, always do yourself a favor and, at a minimum, check out The New York Times Travel Section, my number one stop shop for getting the quick and dirty on my port of call. Their "36 Hours In..." articles are very thorough and something I often print out and bring along with me.
Discounted Travel Sites
Lastly, and I'll leave you with this until next time (because there is far more advice to share on this exciting subject), start bookmarking discount travel websites. There are a ton of companies out there that are offering amazingly sick deals on travel, so much so that I challenge you to book your next trip entirely on discounted rates — it's more than possible, I swear! Here are a few of my go-to's (all members only but you can sign up for free): Groupon's New Getaways, Jetsetter, Luxury Link, Voyage Prive, SniqueAway.
Signing Off Ready to Travel,
Renee Woodruff blogs about travel, food and living life to its fullest on Shape.com. Follow her on Twitter.