Remember playing tag when you were a kid? Slapping someone on the back and yelling, “Tag, you’re it!” Well, I’ve just been been ‘virtually tagged.’ My friend and fellow travel blogger, Shannon Lane, was ‘tagged’ to participate in the meme known as My Three Best Travel Secrets (a meme, which rhymes with cream, is a catchphrase or concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet). From what I understand, the game was started by Katie of Tripbase.com, the lovely folks who awarded me second place in the category of best North/South American blog of 2009 in their annual Travel Blog Awards.
After sharing three great secrets about her home state of Louisiana, Shannon ‘tagged’ me to be next in line to divulge my best travel secrets. My first reaction was, “Only three?” How could I possibly narrow it down to only three. Should I talk about little known secrets in Sarasota, Florida, such as the $40 annual membership to GWiz Science Museum that provides FREE admission to over 300 other science centers throughout the U.S. as well as other attractions around the State of Florida? Or about my list of little-known coffee shops around the country that let me work on my laptop all day for the price of a cup of coffee, like Sippin’ Internet Cafe in Key West, Pastry Art in Sarasota, or Rev Coffee in the Atlanta area?
In the end, I decided to reveal my secrets for booking last minute accommodations and transportation around the world without breaking the bank. Frankly, I detest being locked into definite travel plans. My preference is to book the first night at a destination (two nights at most), and then wing it from there. Fellow travelers are always eager to share secrets about spectacular, little-known towns or sites they have visited and not being locked into reservations allows me to take advantage of these tips, but it also means I am often looking for last minute bookings, which can be frustrating as well as expensive. However I do have a few tricks to help with this process, which I’ve detailed below:
In the U.S. I regularly use Hotels.com to find great last minute hotel reservations at affordable prices and the cheapest places to travel. In Europe, I use Venere.com; in SEAsia and Indonesia I have the best luck with AsiaRooms.com; and in Australia and New Zealand it’s Wotif.com.
In the U.S. I never use the big online booking agents like Expedia or Travelocity because they do not search all discount carriers. It takes a bit more time, but I go to the AIRPORT websites that I want to fly between, search to see which of the discount airlines serve those airports, then book directly on the airline’s web site. Discount or affordably priced airlines in the U.S. include Southwest, AirTran, Spirit Airlines, and jetBlue; in Europe they include Ryanair, easy Jet, and airberlin; in SE Asia try Air Asia, Asiana Airlines, Nok Air (Thailand only), and Tiger Airways (also Australia); and in Australia check into JetStar, Regional Express (REX), and Virgin Australia.
Once you’ve determined which hotel or airline you wish to book through, before making your final purchase, Google the hotel/airline name with the words “discount coupon code.” You will often discover an additional discount that can be applied at the time of making the online reservation. For example, I just Googled “discount coupon code hotels” and found RetailMeNot.com, which provided codes for 15% off Hilton Hotels and 20% off the lowest rates at Best Westerns, among other deals. (TIP: this works well for all online shopping, from Amazon.com to individual stores like Crabtree & Evelyn, and there are numerous sites that search the Internet and display all these discounts on a single site.)
So there you have it, my top travel secrets (OK, I’m cheating; I’ve given you more than three – so shoot me). Now all that’s left is to ‘tag’ five other travel bloggers, and here they are:
- Sherry Ott at ottsworld (oops – previously tagged)
- Mark H at Travel Wonders of the World
- Robin Locker at MyMelange (previously tagged)
- Heather Cowper at Heather on her Travels
- Andy Jarosz at 501 Places
- Sebastien at Colliding Continents
- Lanora Mueller at Writing Travel
TAG! You’re it!!!