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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Planning Your Budget Travel Itinerary 4.14.12

Tomorrow is the last day to enter to win a $100 vacation credit to BookIt.com. If there are 100+ entries at the close, the winner will also receive a copy of my summer ebook.

So, it was brought to my attention that although (most of) you guys know where to find good deals, it’s difficult to also find things to do at your destination and Viator just isn’t cutting it for some. I understand. I’m a crazy Googler when it comes to planning my vacation, but I know that many just don’t have as much time, or the desire, to look at destination websites all day long. I’ll tell you, even I have trouble trying to remember some of the best sites to find things to do where I’m going and have to refer back to my own book. There are just so many good sites out there, but I’ll give you a few that I tend to go back to again and again.

Deer, deer and more deer at a wildlife museum
TripAdvisor РClich̩? Maybe, but I always find some weird things mixed in that people have done that really help me choose something new and different. Of course, this is one of those websites that has long lists of things if you are going somewhere very popular or large. If you are visiting a destination that is not quite as big, it can help you find the three things that they actually have to see, do and eat there. Luckily, you can choose how to sort the long list of possibilities. I usually start with Most Popular and then decide if the first 10-20 even sound remotely interesting to me before trying a different tactic.

Pamper yourself for half off or more!
Groupon – Yes, I know it isn’t so much searching, but it’s like finding buried treasure when you’re emailed a fantastic deal for something you really wanted to do and also wasn’t sure you could afford. 50-90% off is always a great price. Usually, these are good 6-12 months out, so you can sign up for emails for your destination(s) as soon as you know you’re going. We saved hundreds of dollars on our trip to Hawaii. Don’t forget, Groupon isn’t just for the U.S., it’s worldwide, so whether you are going to Florida or Finland, you can get deals!

LonelyPlanet – Their guides are great, but you can save money by using their online guides to plan your trip. The best thing about Lonely Planet is that they don’t assume you have unlimited funds. Nope. They are written by regular people like you and me who don’t actually get paid extra to stay in hotels or eat in restaurants, so they have honest opinions about things and suggest things they could afford, not what they get paid to write about.
Yup, that's an outdoor butcher.
What’s On When – It’s always nice to know about any festivals that will be happening when you get where you’re going. Nothing worse than getting home and realizing you missed some huge thing that everyone was talking about, right? Always go to What’s On When and not only will you see any special happenings going on, you can also look at ongoing events (farmers’ markets, shows) and find out where the good food, activities and shops are. If you’ve been to Vegas, you’ll notice that they have copies of the magazine everywhere. It’s just as informative, but way more convenient (and eco-friendly) online.

Uptake – I always find interesting cheap and free things to do at my destination on Uptake. 80% of it may be wonky things you’ve never heard of and people say sucks, but the other 20% is pure gold! (It really depends on where you’re going, because some destinations have better recommendations than others, but it’s still fun to look at things that are super random and you may not have found elsewhere.

Us at Pearl Harbor on a Groupon tour.
National Geographic City Guides (online) – You can find all kinds of free things to do in a destination with these.  I love it, because you end up finding some pretty cool stuff and it’s totally free. Some museums are only free certain days and times, but it will give you a starting point. And if you aren’t going to be there when the museums are free, many can have a reasonable admission fee, so don’t automatically dismiss them because you won’t be there on a Wednesday evening.

If you still aren’t finding things you want to do, maybe you are just being too picky or are going to the wrong destination, but I’m positive you will find more than enough things that you will think are exciting that are also affordable to fill your days with just by using a few (or all) of these sites. There is a great resource list of planning websites in my budget travel book, too.

Do you have a favorite site you go to for helping you plan your trips?
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