Shortcut to Fabulous Travel Planning Tips and Websites

Lori Riviere travel blogger

I am your go-to girl when it comes to planning fab travel…especially to Europe. I have been bopping around Europe since I was a kid. Whenever a girlfriend is planning a trip, I am on speed dial and I love every minute. I get in total nerd mode when planning a trip and spend hours researching to find the best restaurants, best shopping, best hidden treasures, walking tours, bicycle tours, spas, experiences, etc. I must admit I almost enjoy the planning part more than the actual trip…all those days of playing travel agent in my walk in closet as a kid clearly indicate I was a weird kid and grew into a weird adult!

 

Over the years, I have developed a list of no-fail tips for planning travel along and have a nice set of fab websites bookmarked. So without further adieu…here are my travel planning tips for you:

  • Merry, Merry Miles. Try to use miles to book first or business class on the way to your destination…or upgrade. Here is my rule. If the flight is over 6 hours, I want first or business class. I put absolutely EVERY purchase on a miles credit card and usually have enough to score a first or business class ticket to my destination. If I don’t have enough to book round trip, I choose biz or first class for my flight to the destination. Here is why: I want to be fresh as a daisy when I arrive so I can squeeze every ounce of fun out of my trip. You can’t beat a bed on a long haul flight to keep you fresh and help fight jet lag. On the way back, I almost want a coach ticket because then I am that much happier to be home after a miserable flight. (Fave website for tips on maximizing airline miles: The Points Guy)
  • Deals Dictate. Sometimes when I am feeling stingy, I let the deals do the talking when planning a trip. I do a quick google search to find out the destinations offering the best deals and plan from there. Since I am a big fan of European travel, I also sign up for deal alerts with Expedia, Orbitz, Smarter Travel, etc and also with companies like Gate1 and Go-Today. I went on a fab trip to Budapest and Vienna a few years ago using Go-Today and stayed in one of the cutest boutique hotels EVER in Vienna. What is great about Go-Today  is that you still get to plan your own trip and be an independent traveler, you are just getting their buying power to get a package deal on the hotel and flight.
  • Insure it Baby. Remember the Icelandic Volcano a few years ago in Europe? No? Well, I do because I was there, in the thick of things, on a trip with my mom. We were supposed to be flying to Paris, but because of the Volcano never could make it there and ended up having to retool our trip and book new hotels, flights, etc. We spent about $1000 to salvage our vacay, but luckily we recouped every penny because I was smart enough to get trip insurance. You are spending a lot on your vacation…it is completely worth it to spend a few hundred dollars to make sure you are covered for lost bags, cancelled flights, a toothache in France, etc. I used Insure my Trip to compare travel insurance offerings and pricing. Generally for every $5K you spend on a vacation, you will spend about $200 on travel insurance with “the works” as far as coverage goes. That is less than 5% of your total vacay cost.
  • Krazy for Kinkos. I learned this tip from my pal, Rick Steves. I get knee deep in guide books…I am partial to Rick Steves and Lonely Planet guidebooks. I make them my bedtime reading for months before a trip and then I run to Kinkos and make copies of all of the pages I might need. Why you ask? Well it leaves more room in my suitcase for shopping! I have tried to use my ipad, but it is not the same as having actual pages to flip through.
  • Strike a Pose. One of my best tips for traveler is to hire a local photographer to take your photos on your vacation. Often, they end up being part tour guide, part photographer and you end up with the most fabulous photographs that are better than any cheap “made in china” souvenir you could get in a junk shop. I detail the experience here. To find a photographer in your destination city google “engagement photos” and the name of the city or “wedding photos” and the name of the city. You can also try googling “photo tours” and the name of the city. If you are going to be in Vienna, I highly recommend Claire Morgan. If you are going to be in Paris, I highly recommend Christiane Michels.
  • Rely on Reviewers. I am a big fan of the boutique hotel. When in doubt, I go Starwood, usually W Hotels…the one in Istanbul is sick! Anyway, back to my penchant for boutique hotels…how do I find fab hotels? TripAdvisor my friends. I usually do a city search  on Trip Advisor and look specifically for Boutique Hotels. For food recs I like Chowhound and Virtual Tourist.
  • Go Global with your Cell Plan. Before a trip call your cell phone company and see if they have a global roaming package you can add for just one month. Most companies do and they range anywhere from $5 to over $100 depending on whether you are looking for data plans, texts, etc. I highly recommend the upgrade, because you don’t want to get slapped with unexpected fees cause your bff was texting you on her disastrous date.

Got questions? Drop me a line at editor{at}shortcutstofabulus{dot}com and I will answer…unless your questions are about porn or viagra :)

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