I’m planning a couple of big trips this year, and the organizer in me likes to book travel early. Once you have the structure of a trip nailed down, you get to focus on finding fun things to do and thoughtfully planning your days. I’m also a broke Millennial, so I’m always concerned about how to save money. Here are a few guidelines I always use to stay organized and cost-efficient when booking travel.
You don’t have to stick to a round-trip flight, or even the same airline.
You may be able to score a better deal by looking at one-way flights on different airlines for going to and from your destination. It’s a bit more legwork up front, and you’ll also have to put forth a little more effort in keeping track of your information, but I recently saved around $175 doing this. The money you save can be put toward lodging upgrades or additional experiences on your trip.
Go beyond hotels.
I’ve stayed in countless hotels in my day. They were my go-to when I was on the road for my job. While there are some good things about hotels (fresh towels, a clean room every day, free breakfast sometimes), they don’t give you the full experience of a destination and don’t really allow you to connect with people.
There’s an ongoing debate about whether neighborhoods are being destroyed by Airbnb, and while I understand both sides’ arguments, this hasn’t stopped me from using it. I’ve had great experiences with the service and have been able to stay in some unique places, including a houseboat in Boston, a carriage house in Seattle, and an apartment close to Trinity College in Ireland. My advice when looking for the perfect booking on Airbnb is to pay attention to reviews (read a few pages’ worth) and seek a unique place reflective of your destination’s quirks.
Hostels are also a good option, but my experience with them is a little more limited. They’re great for when you’re traveling alone and don’t need a lot in terms of the comforts of home. My favorite place to stay in Asheville is Sweet Peas Hostel, and I’d love to stay in other hostels in the future if I’m on a solo trip. I’ve been a part of a music circle in a hostel, I’ve been invited to sit down with a group and paint with watercolors, and I’ve whispered good mornings to fellow hikers who were also up before the sun. Even for the introvert like me, it’s cool to connect with people from across the globe, and hostels allow you to do this easily.
Use Evernote or Google Docs to keep a running list of all your itineraries.
This is a great way to see all of your important information in one place and easily share it with people who are traveling with you. For flights, I include the name of the airline, flight number, confirmation number, and takeoff/landing times. For lodging, I include the confirmation number, checkin/checkout dates, and address. I also include the prices of the items in case I’m splitting costs with others. You can even use your document collaboratively to keep a list of your must-dos while on your trip, restaurant recommendations, and planning out your days.
It’s not always necessary to book a rental car.
The first time I went to Boston, my friends and I rented a car. We ended up not using it much at all because of how easy it was to take the T everywhere (and how stressful Boston traffic could be). When we visited the following two years, we nixed the rental car and relied on walking or using public transportation. When I went to Ireland, I walked or used taxis to get around Dublin and took trains and buses to get around the country. On the flip side, when I took a trip out west, I split my time between Phoenix and San Diego. In order to get to the Grand Canyon and then from Arizona to California, a car was necessary.
Read up on the walkability, bikeability, or public transportation in your destination, and also think about the activities and experiences on your must-do list. Let that guide your decision on whether to rent a car.
Pre-book airport parking.
This is mostly important if you’re flying out of a busy airport and plan to park offsite. I live in Birmingham but opt to fly out of Atlanta for some longer trips. Not only is Atlanta one of the busiest airports, but onsite parking can get expensive. To save yourself some hassle, reserve your parking early on. If you’re traveling over a holiday or popular travel time, offsite parking lots can fill up 6 months in advance (lesson learned: I tried to book at the lot where I usually park for my trip that coincides with Memorial Day, and there was no availability… in January).
Booking travel can be stressful even when done several months before a trip, but these guidelines always help me feel more in-control and organized well in advance. I’m always available to answer questions about booking trips, so feel free to comment here or hit me up on Instagram if you’re feeling lost. Look for more travel tips in future posts!