Life

Insider Tips For Cheap Yet Awesome Vacays From 5 Full-Time Travellers

For many of us, the holidays represent that golden window of time where emails slow down, Slack is set to snooze, and business halts. Sure, it’s a time for family and friends to get together. Or you could cut out of town and see the world.

Why the holidays? Off-season spots are cheap, busy cities empty out, and it’s an opportunity to see how other parts of the world celebrate the season. Lucky for you travel-curious readers, we tapped five travel writers who trot the globe as a full-time gig.

Ahead the travel pros spill how to find fares that won’t break your bank, cheap dining options, ideas for wallet-friendly places to stay, and other insider tips for zipping off somewhere exotic during the holidays.

Danasia Fantastic founder of the TheUrbanRealist

This Altanta-based blogger, launched her lifestyle blog TheUrbanRealist in 2013, and started blogging full-time two years ago. “I’ve always loved the idea of traveling but didn’t get my passport until May of last year. Since then I’ve been to 13 countries—I’ve been trying to make up for lost time,” she says.

How to score cheap flights:

Always browse for flights and hotels in incognito mode. When you browse in normal mode the cookies track your movements and clicks—the more you visit the page, the higher they raise the flight price. If you can learn to only pack a carry-on and personal item, download the Skiplagged app ASAP. Skiplagged finds cheap regular flights as well as hidden city flights. Hidden-city flights refer to itineraries with multiple legs where the traveler exits prior to the final destination.

Budget-friendly places to stay:

A lot of people think Airbnb offers the best options, but that’s not always the case. Once taxes and fees are tagged on, I find that at times it can be more cost effective to stay in a hotel. If you are going to use Airbnb for your trip, be sure to book your stay well in advance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waited until the week of my trip to book my stay, just to find that only 10 percent of listings were available.

I also use Pinterest to find affordable places to stay. Normally there’s a travel publication or blogger who has already been to the location I plan on visiting who has written a blog post about affordable options at that destination. Using the search feature on Pinterest is the perfect way to find several of those types of blog posts at once.

Insider tip:

When booking with budget airlines be sure to read the fine print—a lot of times they charge you $50 plus dollars for a carry-on bag. It ends up being more expensive than going with another airline. Use social media to find glitch-fares and unbelievable flight deals, I follow @secretflying @airfarespot @airfarewatchdog and @theflightdeal on Twitter for flight deal updates.

I find that I spend way more money in two hours at the airport than one day on my trip. To avoid spending at the airport, pack your own food as long as it’s in a clear bag, you can bring it through security. Also spend the $16 bucks and purchase a plastic Brita water bottle to take with you on your trip, it’ll save you a ton of money during your trip.

Alice Ho, founder of GoFindAlice

Wanderlust is practically food and travel blogger Alice Ho’s middle name. She calls New York her home base but a self-proclaimed nomad, she’s lived in Shangai, Hong Kong, Vancouver, Paris, Melbourne, and Los Angeles.

Where to go on a budget:

In peak travel seasons, sometimes it’s actually cheaper to fly internationally than to fly domestically. If flying from the East Coast, there are always terrific deals to Europe. I once flew to Iceland during Thanksgiving for $350 roundtrip, with a free stopover in any major European city as well (Icelandic Air). Try Google Flights and in the destination slot, leave it empty or enter something vague like “Europe.” It will generate the cheapest destinations based on your dates entered.

Cheap eats:

Almost every city should have some sort of amazing, cheap eats that they’re known for. Sometimes it can be unexpected (like hot dogs in Iceland and Döner Kebabs in Berlin), so my advice is to be open-minded to ask around. Ask the locals, to be more specific. Not only will the locals know what to eat, but also where to get the best.

Holiday planning:

Be sure to plan ahead when checking out museums and popular attraction sites. Oftentimes, they are not open on certain weekdays and close early on some days. Also, a lot of sites have guided tours that happen at certain hours of the day—so check ahead and book or plan accordingly if you wish to join a tour. Also, some popular attractions may be so popular that it requires making reservations or buying tickets ahead in advanced, so check on that too.

Krista Simmons, culinary travel writer, producer, and founder of Fork In The Road Media

California native Krista Simmons’ obsession with travel is only matched by her love of food. She’s brought her culinary knowledge and natural curiosity to the screen on TV shows like Top Chef Masters, and written extensively about her jet-setting and food adventures for the likes of Travel + Leisure and the Los Angeles Times. She also recently launched her own production company Fork In The Road Media, and a has a seriously swoon-worthy Instagram where she generously answers commenters burning travel questions on the regular.

Tips for affordable flights:
I’ve found that flights are always cheaper if you fly on the actual holiday, for instance New Year’s Day or Christmas Eve. If you can knock off of a day’s work, I’d also choose the less obvious return date, say a Tuesday or Wednesday instead of a Sunday at the end of a holiday weekend or break.

Budget-friendly places to stay:
I’ve had some really stellar luck with Hotel Tonight. On a recent assignment heading to the Azores, I was grounded in NYC for two nights due to weather, and ended up scoring the Presidential Suite on a free upgrade.

Cheap eats:
My best tip, especially in Latin America and Asia, is to find a line and get in it. Also, tap into Instagram as a resource, and reach out to local chefs and food writers. Trawl their feed, or DM them for their faves. Most food people (self included) are more than stoked to share their tips. (And of course, you can always ask me on IG, too).

Olivia Christine Perez, founder of travel blog, O. Christine

On her blog, Olivia Christine Perez reveals, “As a Bronx-born Latina (with Lupus and a former overworked career) I know what it feels like to burn out and wish for an escape. What it feels like to be unsure of how to start anew.” She started travel writing in 2014 with an aim to inspire others to find wellness through travel. A quick peek at her gorgeous Instagram will fire you up to get out and explore.

Best places to travel during the holidays on a budget:

I love escaping the snow and venturing to warmer destinations. My favorite budget-friendly winter regions are Southeast Asia and Central America, hands down. I also love enjoying the Southern Hemisphere’s summer during our winter, and once took an epic (and budget-friendly) trek through Chilean Patagonia’s Torres del Paine. It wasn’t always sunshine there, but it sure was warmer than their winters.

Flight tips:

I recommend returning home a day or two later than most people to score better prices. Flexibility is key. So many flight search engines have fare calendars now (I like using Google Flights and Fly.com) so play with the dates until you find a schedule and price that works for you. Also be sure to search surrounding airports—this can save you hundreds.

Insider Tip:
Have flexible dates; avoid high-traffic tourist areas when booking a hotel and instead opt for a less expensive neighborhood that offers access to public transit; don’t book a flight until you’ve researched hotel and dining costs in a destination (and exchange rates). Iceland and the UK, for instance, often have amazing flight deals but your time there can cost a pretty penny.

Jakiya Brown, Founder of the Traveling Fro

Jakiya Brown quit her fast-paced corporate job in Manhattan at age 27 to actually travel the world. “I thought would last 6 months but I’ve been traveling full-time for two years now,” she says. She’s currently based in Dakar, Senegal when she is not skipping around the globe. “One of my missions is to get people to travel to Africa,” she says.

Best places to travel during the holidays on a budget:

Focus on places where it’s off-season. You might not be able to jump in the ocean but prices are a little bit cheaper and people are a little bit more lenient when it comes to negotiating. The Caribbean is always an option it won’t be as warm but there won’t be as many travelers.

It’s summer in South Africa so definitely hit up South Africa. I just did a partnership with the South African Tourism Board and they have tickets round-trip from New York City to Johannesburg for $600, which is generally cheap for South Africa. It’s summer there so you can enjoy there’s so many festivals like Afropunk in December… There’s so much to do, and the exchange rate is pretty good, too.

In African countries like Ghana, Nigeria, and Ethiopia a lot of first and generation Africans go back to their home countries during December (they call it the return of the diaspora) and there’s so much to do because it’s a celebration, and there are also many Americans so you can find people to connect with and feel like you belong or your on the same page. I think it’s super cool to go to those countries when there is this influx of returnees.

How to score cheap flights:

I live by Google Flights because you can see everything at once. I’ve avoided the airlines Spirit and Frontier because of things that I’ve read about them, but I’m not a stranger to budget airlines. You just have to read about them and know what you’re getting yourself into… I do like Norwegian Airlines, they are a low-cost airline and I took them from New York to Europe several times and was very pleased with the experience.

Cheap eats:
I do coffee because it’s a good way to meet people, eat a big lunch, and usually do dinner at home. And I recommend going to markets. You can really taste what the city or country has to offer on a dime.


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