First and foremost the pricing is the same, when booking with a travel agent you have someone that has your back.  If you have a problem in destination and you booked it online who are you going to contact?
Thanks for a wonderful and informative post, Matt. I was reading step 8 (last minute deals) and wondering how much success one has with it. I am a ardent shopper myself and would always want to get the best deal out there. However, I wait too long (in hope of last minute deals) and usually end up paying more or compromising on the quality. Then, I get to listen to the lectures of my wife to buy early ?
Sometimes you won’t find your favorite or most convenient airlines on these sites. Southwest Airlines doesn’t list its flights with any third party vendors, while American Airlines is missing from both Orbitz and Expedia. When in doubt, search your itinerary directly with airlines to ensure that you don’t miss a cheap rate.
To help you even more with planning your vacation, we also talked to a few notable travel bloggers and professionals on how you can get the most out of your vacation planning. They’ve dedicated themselves to helping others get the most out of their travel experiences — and now they want to help you.
“There are certain cards that will refund your ATM transaction fee. Charles Schwab’s debit card is a great example,” Naveen says. “In fact, I have a friend who keeps a certain amount of money in his Schwab account so he can use it if he’s abroad or in Vegas or something since the fee is refunded to your account by the bank.”
If you are planning an overseas trip and don’t have a passport yet, give yourself enough time to apply – at least 6 weeks before departure and preferably as soon as you have booked your flights and accommodation.
Okay, you’re inspired, prepared, and on your way to saving money for your trip. But before you go buy that flight or book that hotel, check for deals you might have missed. You may dream of Paris but maybe there are great deals to Berlin right now. Maybe you can get a seven-day cruise for 70% off, a package deal to Hawaii for the price of your flight to Paris, or 50% off sailing trips around Greece.
Also don’t ignore an amazing flight deal because it’s departing from a different airport than the one closest to you. Remember how it’s important to be flexible on when you leave? Same goes for where you leave.
If you have a set schedule, feel free to book accommodation for the duration of your trip, but if you are going to be traveling long-term, book just the first few days. Once you know the dates you’ll be in your destination, there is no real reason not to find a place to stay. My view is that waiting will just lead to you losing your top picks.
If you aren’t going to be gone that long, skip this step. If you are going away long-term but want to keep your stuff, move it to a friend’s house or keep it in storage. A good storage company in the US is Public Storage, which starts at $50 per month.
Choose activities everyone can participate in. Make sure you think of all of your travel companions when booking activities. If you are traveling with children, be sure planned activities are kid-friendly. If someone in your group has health or dietary considerations, try to be respectful of those as you plan the trip.
Great article. I read your travel insurance post and you touch on that here too. Do you know of any insurance companies that would serve someone who doesn’t live anywhere? You touch on the importance of using cards instead of cash in your book as well.. is there a way for someone to get a pre-paid global card without having a residential address?
When I decided to quit my job and travel the world, I walked into a bookstore and bought Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on Shoestring. It made the trip seem more real, but it didn’t prepare me for planning a long world trip. Back then, there weren’t really blogs, guides, and apps like there are today. I was lost. I figured it out as I went, just hoping I didn’t miss anything.
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Pick a destination out of a hat. If there is no compromise on the horizon, let fate choose for you. Write down all of the destinations and put them in a jar or a hat. Then have someone (ideally, an unbiased third party) pull a name out. That’s where you’ll go!
“If you want to use credit cards for their reward points, I suggest that card,” Naveen says. “It’s classic, it’s solid, and the redemption options are incredible. An all-around great card for a beginner.”
Regardless of your mode of travel, consider packing a first aid kit, snacks, and entertainment for the travel time. Car trips and air travel both involve long periods of potential boredom, so consider bringing along games or activities for the travelers, especially if you are traveling with children.
When heading to a foreign country, Google Translate is a must. Ideally, you should download the language you want ahead of time so you can use it offline. Same goes for Google Maps. You can select an area you want to save and navigate without internet connectivity.

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“I always have a budget for travel,” Naveen says. “That includes saving a couple hundred dollars a month towards a travel fund. This is the money that I saved through the IWT system. I use for hotels and restaurants.”
Sketch out the major activities you want to enjoy and how much they cost. Make any last-minute adjustments to your savings so you can ensure you have enough money. This will also help you figure out if you need any reservations for your chosen tours or activities.
The Flight Deal. Another great site to find amazing deals on airfare as well as hotels, rental cars, and travel credit cards. They also give you information on flight deals happening in almost every major U.S. metro area.
CheapFlights’ Inspiration: If you’re really undecided, this bare-bones inspiration tool offers limited questions to get you started. Enter your departure city; whether you want to travel in the next 30, 60, or 90 days; and if you’re interested in a trip geared toward beaches, cities, family, adventure, ski & snow, or any of the aforementioned.
If you’re planning a trip and want to see live entertainment while away, like a concert or an MLB game for instance, you can use this handy venue locator http://www.clickitticket.com/find-venues-near-me.asp – all you do is enter your zip code where you will be and the max number of miles you want to travel, and it will show you where all the nearest venues are for concerts, sports and theater. And it lists all the events scheduled at each venue when you click on the links. It’s pretty cool and useful for planning all kinds of things when on vacation.
I was about to plan a trip for myself and just when I found this. Thank you for providing such descriptive and well-elaborated tips. I would definitely keep them in mind while planning a trip for me now.
Know how much time you will spend in the hotel. For very active vacations, a hotel room is often little more than a place you will sleep at night, and a lower cost will leave you with more money to spend on activities or meals. If you’re planning a more relaxed vacation, you may want a comfortable place to relax in luxury.
The quickest way to compare rental companies is to use an aggregator site that searches all the major car brands at once and checks which supplier offers the best prices for your chosen dates and location.
Travel doesn’t have to be a luxury. You can plan a family trip on a budget, then use rewards and savings strategies to make it a reality. Our experts have tips on building a vacation fund, getting the best deals on flights, the best credit cards for travel rewards and more. Click on a link below to start planning your next journey.