I hope everyone has been enjoying their holidays as much as me – on the beach, relaxing. 🙂 This early in January, I figured it would be ideal that I outline some great tips for better (and smarter) travel in the new year.
While I do not have much booked for 2019 yet, I do have a ton of new destinations planned. Specifically, 2019, for me will be the year of new destinations and countries. I’ve realised that I spend too much time travelling to places I’ve already been to so many times. I mean yes, I love Cathay Pacific, but how many times before Hong Kong gets boring?
My most unexplored area of this world is Africa and I plan to visit some incredible places on the massive continent. I also would like to spend more time in South America and Australia should life permit as those two continents are both marvellous. Regardless of where your 2019 travels take you, it is important to remember some tips so that you and your family can travel better and smarter next year.
Be Flexible and Ready
The best flight and hotel deals are often last minute. Be ready. Some of the best deals of 2018 required booking and heading to the airport right away (or the next day). While I understand it isn’t always a possibility for everyone to drop everything and go, it should still work for a majority of people if the trip involves something like a quick weekend getaway to Mexico or Caribbean.
This is also true for hotels – one of the best deals I was able to book this year involved checking into the hotel two days later – which wasn’t particularly easy as I was on the other side of the world. Thanks to last minute award availability and miles, I was able to fly in luxury and stay at an amazing beach resort in paradise for two weeks – all under $500 USD.
Never Stop Improving
This applies to everything. There’s always a better routing you can take, there’s always a better hotel that might open up, and there’s aways a better tour that can become available. Don’t just settle for what you see on the first search – book what you see, but later improve it. Airline award ticket change fees are reasonable and therefore sometimes it is well worth the extra $100 to fly a better First Class product with a world-class carrier. Sometimes you won’t even have to pay change fees (for example, AA allows you to change your award flights for free).
It doesn’t take ages to find a better routing – simply spend 5-10 minutes a day searching for flights and another 5-10 minutes for hotels and sometimes you might find better award availability that works with your schedule and allows you to fly a new airline with superior comfort.
Use Google Flights
If you are booking a revenue ticket, the only place you should be searching for it is on Google Flights. I can’t remember what life was like before this tool existed. The best part about Google Flights is that it allows you to search multiple origins and destinations at once, so you can truly book the best deal. My personal favourite feature is the calendar – which shows you the price of flights each day and you can quickly see when the cheapest option is available.
The most powerful aspect of Google Flights is the ability to alert you when the price changes on your desired itinerary. For example, you can set a tracker on specific flights and Google will automatically tell you when the price changes. There’s also a graph that tells you if Google thinks the price will go up or down based on historical ticket prices for your trip. Fancy!
Organize Your Trips
It is important to stay organised – especially when you have multiple flight bookings, hotels, car rentals, activities, tours, dinner reservations, etc. I’ve been using TripIt for ages, however I recently began to use Google Trips as it is so much more powerful and allows you to plan everything anywhere and everywhere.
Not only that, it will sync with your email to pull out all of the itineraries it can find and organize them nicely for you – so you don’t have to do anything at all. Just with the email confirmations you get, Google Trips will create an entire schedule and itinerary for you during your trip. No more searching your inbox for finding out what time your reservation or tour is – let Google work and you relax!
Check Your Seats
You booked First or Business Class on your dream airline and can’t wait. Be sure you have selected the best seat in the cabin in advance so you don’t get stuck in a less desirable seat (yes, they exist, even in First Class). My favourite website to check airline seat maps is SeatGuru – it shows you the configuration of each aircraft of that airline and it tells you the best and worst seats in each cabin.
You can then compare the airline’s website and seat configuration with what you found and select the best seat for yourself. If you cannot view or change online, you can almost always change or select your seat with the airline by calling them. Simply let them know your preferred seats and if they are available, there should be no issue with seat assignment. Note that some seats are reserved for Elite Members while other seats can only be assigned on the day of the flight at the airport.
Know Your Rights
With each flight, there are rights that each passenger has. This means that the airline must care for the passenger should there be a delay or cancellation. You may be entitled food, drinks, hotels, transportation, rebooking, and compensation depending on the situation. You can always do an online search for passenger rights in regards to your itinerary. The rights that will apply to you and your flights will depend on the country to which the airline belongs to, the origin, and the destination.
The general rule is that airlines should normally provide at least snacks and drinks if a flight is delayed more than 3 hours. The more excessive the delay is, the more care the passengers are entitled to. It is important to note that this all depends on the three points above and not every airline and country have the same laws. The best way to find out is to do a quick search online.
Always be several steps ahead of other travellers – this will ensure your journey is smooth and relaxing. Should the unexpected happen, you will always be prepared and in control. While I am sure there are millions of tips you can take into account while travelling, I do believe the ones I’ve outline above are some of the most important.
If you have your own methods, strategies, tips, or tricks for travelling better and smarter, please do share them below with fellow readers! I hope everyone has a wonderful end to the year and a fantastic 2019 filled with nothing but travel!