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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

How to Plan a Fun-Filled Vacation in 5 Steps

Do you find planning vacations as stressful as it is exciting? The thought of booking flights, hotels, and excursions during peak season can leave anyone dazed.  And, let’s face it - vacationing is extremely expensive these days, and the costs will only continue to rise. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take time off work and explore new places. You just have to be smart about how you do it. A little bit of preparation can go a long way when trying to save money for a vacation and ensure your vacation is stress-free


Do you find planning vacations as stressful as it is exciting?  A little preparation can go a long way to saving money and headaches for a vacation.


To make things easier, here's a 5-step plan to help you organize your next vacation from start to finish:

Step 1: Decide on a destination.

When deciding on a destination, there are various factors to consider. First of all, you should consider the climate as well as your interests. For example, if you’re going on a family vacation, you may want to consider a destination that offers activities suitable for kids and adults.   Additionally, you should view the event calendar of the goal as well. For example, suppose you’re visiting during a season where significant festivals or events occur. In that case, you may want to consider vacationing during cheaper months as it could raise the cost of your vacation.

Step 2: Estimate how much you can spend

Before booking hotels and flights, you need to estimate how much you are willing to spend. This way, you can avoid booking the most expensive flight or room simply because it’s convenient or available. Also, if you’re traveling with a group, you should all sit down and decide on a budget together. This will help avoid conflicts and disagreements when booking.

Step 3: Find the best travel deals

Now that you’ve decided on a destination and have a general budget, you can start looking for travel deals. There are a variety of websites that offer travel deals and discounts for flights, hotels, and excursions. These websites have tie-ups with travel agents that provide exclusive deals to their customers. You can also visit the websites of airlines and hotels to see if they offer any discounts. It’s also a good idea to subscribe to travel newsletters to be among the first to know about special offers and deals.

Step 4: Book your flights and accommodation

Once you’ve found the perfect flight and hotel deals, you can book them. It’s a good idea to book your flight tickets as soon as you find a good deal as seats get reserved quickly. The same applies to booking hotels and excursions. The earlier you book, the more likely you will get the best rates.

Step 5: Plan your excursions and activities

Plenty of online resources help you plan your itinerary and discover local attractions. You can find information on the best times to visit places, as well as information on festivals and events taking place. You should ensure everyone on your trip is satisfied with the activity plans and make compromises if not.  For example, if you’re traveling with your children and you want a relaxing holiday, but they want something interactive and stimulating, you could consider planning for a day at this interactive aquarium in Virginia.  In a setting like this, you can relax and watch while your children enjoy the more interactive side of things.  Or, you could plan a day doing activities that you are interested in and another day for people in your group with different interests.

Conclusion

These five steps will help you organize your next vacation from start to finish so you can enjoy every moment. If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to save money, avoid last-minute stress and have a vacation you will remember for years to come.


Monday, September 26, 2022

5 Reasons To Travel Alone

Traveling with a group of people, especially a group of friends or family, can be exactly what you want out of a trip - it's great to be able to share adventures with the people you love. However, if you ask any seasoned traveler if they think it's worth it to venture out on their own every once in a while, they'll almost unanimously say yes.

If you ask any seasoned traveler if they think it's worth it to venture out on their own every once in a while, they'll almost unanimously say yes.
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There are numerous reasons why going it alone on a trip is the ideal option if you want to see the world and all it has to offer. There are many benefits to taking a solo trip at least once, and you can read a few of them below.

You Don’t Have To Be Right

Sometimes when you're traveling with others, you don't want to attempt something new for fear of disappointing them or making them feel uncomfortable. So you could end up missing out on some truly remarkable opportunities. When you're by alone, it doesn't matter if you pick the wrong activity for the day; no one has to know that the museum you thought looked wonderful was only half open or that the speedboat excursion you went on only lasted 10 minutes. If you fail at something, rather than beating yourself up about it, you can take what you learned and try again another time.

Change Your Plans 

When traveling with a large group, it's helpful to have a detailed plan outlining each day's activities and any necessary gatherings, such as times and locations. The process of making adjustments to such plans can be uncomfortable and time-consuming, especially if not everyone involved is on board with the new direction. There's a chance it may even spark an argument.

If you're going on a trip by yourself, you can easily adjust your itinerary to suit your needs and interests. If you decide to abandon your original plans for the day, no one will object or get into an argument with you about it. Your vacation experience will be much enhanced by the freedom of choice you have.

Focus More 

One of the advantages of solo travel is that there are fewer people around to distract you. Since you won't be in constant conversation with anyone, you'll be able to pay much closer attention to and fully absorb your environment. This is one of the best reasons to go on a solo trip since it enriches the experience and makes it more memorable.

If you want to share your trip with people, make sure you take some photos and videos (although not so many that it distracts you from what you’re doing). Store everyone on a laptop after you’ve spent time cleaning up space, and make a night of it when you get back. In the meantime, take it all in. 

Meet New People 

Having a constant companion on the road can make it difficult to strike up conversations with strangers, but this is never an issue when traveling on your own. Being alone forces you to seek out other people for company, which can lead to the development of lasting friendships. It could begin on a boring train ride when you and your fellow passengers have nothing better to do than chat, or it could start when you try to order food but can't think of the right word and ask the person in the line behind you if they know it. If you asked your family and friends instead of a total stranger, you wouldn't have the same fortuitous interactions that could lead to something much bigger.

In addition, being alone makes you much more approachable, which can result in individuals approaching you rather than the other way around.

Your Money, Your Choice

You'll not only be in charge of what you do, but you'll also be in charge of what you spend because you won't have to worry about anyone else's money. You can only go to free attractions if you'd rather save your money for good food. Or, you can buy food as cheaply as possible, or even make your own lunches to take with you, so that you have more money to spend on amazing experiences. You won't even have to talk to anyone else even if you want to borrow more money for your trip.

Why is this good? It means you have complete control over what you spend and how you spend it, so you can have the budget you’re comfortable with and not have to think about anyone else. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Flying On Play Airlines

I am writing this post while aboard a flight to Paris. This wouldn't be interesting at all, except for the fact that I'm doing it on a brand new airline. Play Airlines just started flying this year and we took a chance on some really cheap flights when they went on sale last December.

Play Airlines just started flying this year and we took a chance on some really cheap flights when they went on sale last December.

At the time, we hadn't really flown anywhere for two years and we were excited to get back out into the world and explore. We've had a Disney World trip planned and canceled several times since 2020, and we had decided to put that off indefinitely for personal reasons. (If you have read this blog over the course of the pandemic, first of all, thank you, but second, you can probably guess what those reasons are.) The idea of going to Paris again, and splitting time between the city and Disneyland Paris was pretty appealing though.

When I saw an article about Play, I was intrigued and quickly looked through their destinations, and they said they were booking flights to Europe for around $250 per person roundtrip. The catch? There were several:
  • They were selling flights that didn't, technically, exist yet.
  • They only flew out of Boston and Baltimore.
  • They were super budget, so you would pay for everything "extra".
After going through booking and picking flights, seats, and adding carry-on bags - yep, you pay for anything that doesn't fit under the seat - our total came out to approximately $750 for 2 of us. We paid nearly double that to fly to Scotland in 2019, including an EasyJet flight from/to London.


Sure, we still had to get to Baltimore, but we would figure that out later. Later came and the war in Ukraine is ongoing and airfare/fuel were at all all-time high. I had friends that flew from coast-to-coast and were paying $1200 or more. The cheapest RT flights I could find were somewhere in the ballpark of $1100 per person, because we had to work around another flight. What did we do? Well, I did contemplate crying, but instead we looked at our resources.

We'd never been to Baltimore before, so spending a whole day there wasn't a hardship. We found a flight there leaving the night before on Alaska, and used our companion fare for our second ticket. We found a flight coming home on Delta the morning after we flew back, where we were able to use air miles. So, now we had a whole day to explore Baltimore on the first part of our trip and then booked a hotel room there for the last part, where we'll have time to eat dinner and relax a bit before going to sleep. We still paid less than what we spent to fly to Scotland. Not by much, but it wasn't 3 times as much, like it was looking like for a bit there.


So, what's it like flying on Play Airlines?  Pretty good, actually. The crew is lovely, the planes aren't full (though I suspect that will change soon enough), and we had the most legroom we've ever had not being seated in an exit row (I'm told that will probably change in the next year, but for now, I was able to reach under my seat and get my bag out without having to contort myself into a pretzel). We had a whole row to ourselves on our first flight - a thing we'll never complain about. Our connecting flight was the same.

My one complaint was the check-in process. Play doesn't have an app and you don't fill out much info when you book. You check-in online and enter all your info at that time...if the website works. It errored out for me all day, but I was able to go to the desk at the airport to check in and the desk agent was very nice and helpful. We high-fived that our airline existed and then went and sat in the very empty gate area.


You get nothing on Play, but if you're like me and sleep most of the way, it doesn't actually matter. There are no screens, except the ones that tell you how far you've flown and local times, and no seatback chargers. Anything you get from the snack or beverage cart costs money, and you must use  a card that has the tap to pay function. This is the height of no frills, but the seats were comfortable, I brought a charging bank for our phones (2 actually), and packed a bag full of snacks and two reusable water bottles. We had everything we needed.

Bonus fact: the flight attendants have a mix-and-match wardrobe that is unisex. They all wear pants, though I did see one lady wearing a dress, and look much more comfortable than almost every other flight crew I've seen.

If you've flown on other budget airlines like EasyJet, you're probably used to the awkward airport experience. You won't know your gate until an hour before your flight leaves and then boarding starts rather quickly. Instead of 30 minutes before takeoff, you're looking at more like 40-50 minutes. We were able to get off the plane in Reykjavik, use the restroom (Keflavik airport has amazing water closets), go through (very fast) customs, get a drink and snack and get directly in line to board our next plane. While not entirely convenient for those of us that like to explore an airport, or those that don't like to sit on the plane longer than necessary, both flights took off early and landed early, so no complaints there. You also don't have to take the service stairs to the tarmac to get on your plane. There are actual jetways. We'll see if that changes coming home, though.


All-in-all, my flight experience was great and we would definitely fly Play again, especially now that they have expanded their US departure cities, and next time we would take advantage of their layover in Iceland, just to get a feel for the country if it's not our final destination.

Have you ever flown a brand new airline? How did it go?
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