Jump start your travel plans by tapping @KAYAK, one of the world’s leading travel search engines and its vast reservoir of data. Not only can they help you find the best deals on flights, trains, hotels, car rentals, and vacation packages but they’ve also made it easy to sign up for price alerts.
Other useful features on their site include personalized recommendations for trips starting from your home airport to anywhere you want to go and an Explore tool that will show you all the places you can travel based on your budget. These tips along with my 7 travel hacks should make planning your vacation a snap.
What are travel hacks?
Travel hacks, for those of you new to the terminology, are tips, tricks or tools used to make the sometimes onerous task of planning a vacation that much easier or cheaper. Travel hacks can cover everything from redeeming your points, to getting the best deals in hotels, to how to save big on airline tickets to packing and technology tips.
Not only will my 7 travel hacks make it easier to plan any future holiday but in all likelihood they’ll save you a whole lot of money
Travel Hacks – first decide where you want to go
Let’s start with where do you want to go? Tied into that question is how flexible can you be with regards to a destination, and how much time do you have for a trip? Don’t go to Africa for a week. Use common sense and plan to spend several weeks in a place that requires a lot of time to get to. Be flexible with your start and end days. If you fly mid-week you’ll almost always save money.
As a travel blogger, I have no shortage of places around the world that I want to visit. But what makes me ultimately decide where I’ll go every year?
As much as I love to explore Canada (and I do almost monthly) I still love one big trip a year that’s an exotic vacation – which to me means off the beaten path, preferably to a country I haven’t visited. I have at least a dozen ideas floating around in my head all the time, inspired from photos on Instagram to posts from fellow bloggers, to magazine and newspaper articles to travel sites like KAYAK.
Where can you draw travel inspiration?
One place you can start is by checking out KAYAK’s 2018 Travel Hacker Guide– a resource full of data-driven insights and travel hacks for the upcoming year. The Guide is based on 1.5 BILLION annual searches analyzed by their team of data scientists and travel experts who have segmented travel destinations into 5 lists: trending, popular, beach, wallet-friendly and KAYAK picks. It’s a fun place to start – and quite frankly travel planning should be fun.
Follow the crowd and head to Maui, trending in the #1 spot. If you want popular go to Las Vegas, but if wallet friendly is important consider Guadalajara, Mexico, the top pick in that category. Oahu is the #8 choice on their KAYAK picks list (a compilation of destinations they foresee being in the news this year) because more airlines are adding routes and therefore prices should fall. That piece of information got me thinking especially since I know it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to Kauai, an island I REALLY want to visit.
If price is important – and when is it not – you can review while on KAYAK’s Travel Hacker page what month you might want to buy an airline ticket – whether it be domestic or international. Based on their data they can show you savings of between $150 and $600 per person, depending on the month and the day of the month you purchase a ticket. For example if you buy an international ticket on December 2nd you’ll save almost $600 over the same purchase on December 22nd.
The bottom line – spend some time on KAYAK daydreaming about where you want to go. Then take action.
Travel Hacks – don’t pay for seat upgrades before checking SeatGuru
Twice this year I’ve been burned paying for extra leg room on trans-continental flights – once to London on British Airways and once to Delhi on Air Canada.
On a long flight you can expect to pay $100 and up for a supposedly better seat each way. Although we had lots of leg room, the seat itself in both cases was wildly uncomfortable as it was rigid plastic so there was no give for your butt. It also wasn’t as wide as any of the free seats on the plane.
I am now a fan of SeatGuru – and won’t pay for an upgraded seat before checking out their suggestions and reviews from other passengers. They also tell you what seats are missing a window (cue my 10 hours on the plane from Prague to Toronto last year) and what seats don’t recline. They also speak to on-board amenities like power outlets.
Travel Hacks – avoiding foreign transaction fees
If you travel out of the country and you use a credit card did you know that an additional 2.5% is added to every foreign currency transaction? On a week long trip where you spend $3000 that works out to $75 that you can put towards a great meal.
Consider getting a credit card with no foreign transaction fees (more popular in the US than in Canada). Otherwise I recommend taking a large amount of money out of an ATM in the country you’re visiting (providing the risk of mugging is low) and paying cash.
The exchange rates at ATM’s are competitive and if you take out larger amounts, you reduce the costs associated with a withdrawal. For example it can cost the same amount in ATM fees to take out $20 as it does to take out $200.
Travel Hacks – miles versus points
Know when it’s worthwhile to use your miles versus when it pays to buy a ticket. In Canada I collect Aeroplan points and I’m very careful about saving points for expensive flights or for last-minute flights because of an emergency.
You will always get better value using airline rewards over merchandise but I find some destinations are never worthwhile booking on points. For example, l always find London, England is expensive even with points because of excessive taxes.
Spend some time looking at the reward chart and plan far enough in advance that you can use the minimum number of points for the maximum distance. I just booked Calgary – Tokyo return for 75,000 points and $173.21, good value in my books though Calgary to St. John’s Newfoundland for 25,000 points and $150 is even better value when you factor in what the cost of a ticket would be.
Travel Hacks – clear your cookies or go incognito when researching
Websites track cookies so when you’re doing preliminary research on pricing – whether that be for car rentals, hotels or planes, don’t be surprised if the price goes up when you come back to book, especially if you’ve visited the website multiple times doing the same search.
To avoid a price increase, clear your cookies and try again. That will give you a fresh start when it comes to pricing. Your other option is to go incognito with a simple click of the key on your web browser.
Travel Hacks – download maps before you go
Put an end to chewing through data on the road. Download all the maps you’ll need before departure. With Google maps, display the area you want to download. You can adjust the area that shows up and then press “Download.” Not only will it save data but roaming charges.
Travel Hacks – pack light
Traveling light get be hard but it pays dividends – no extra fees, no waiting for your baggage after a long flight, no lost bags (and waiting in a line-up to fill out forms) and its easier to get around at your final destination.
Don’t forget you can always buy something at the other end if you really need it. A few years ago I was heading out on a three day kayaking trip in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam in January when an unexpected cold-snap forced the purchase of a hat, scarf and mitts – not a bad thing considering the money went into the local economy and I stayed warm.
Visit OneBag.com and you’ll come away with tips on everything related to traveling including wardrobe suggestions, ideas to reduce the weight of toiletries, along with thoughts on items for health, comfort, paperwork and more. The site is a gem and will turn you into a one bag believer.
So dear readers, what are you waiting for. Why not start your travel planning with a visit to KAYAK.com.
This post was done in partnership with KAYAK.