This post is not just for chicks traveling solo. It can be for guys traveling solo, or family travel or for anyone, really.
Almost always, I look at a trip I want to take and then look at the total cost of it and it is so disheartening. I question whether I can do it at all.
Here is how to overcome that.
Plan a trip out far enough (but not too far) so that you can prepay most of it a little at a time. Then instead of looking at $1,000+ at one time, you are looking at more like $25 – $300 at a time.
Step 1 – Pick your dates and stick with them. One of the downfalls of prepayment is most of the time, it is nonrefundable and unchangeable. In plain English, that means you don’t get your money back if you don’t go as planned and you absolutely cannot make any changes to the reservation. Prepayment is not for people who are afraid of commitment.
If you have any spontaneity at all in your nature, plan a day for doing nothing. These are the days where I don’t have to be anywhere at any certain time. I don’t have to get out of bed if I don’t want to. I can wander and explore on these days or get a massage if available. I commit to nothing on this day and just go with the flow. It may turn out to be a relaxing day. It may turn out exciting and festive. You just never know.
My general rule is to take care of your transportation and shelter first.
I usually commit to a trip when there is an airfare sale that I cannot pass up. Of course, there are circumstances that occur you cannot avoid and this is not possible. But this is what I shoot for.
Take care of your airfare. Book direct, check with your credit card companies to see if you have earned any airline miles, look for fare sales, book through a travel website – – whatever your preferred means is to do so. If I know I am going to have to shell out $1,700 on airfare, I buy airline gift cards – Pick an airline, then $200 here, $300 there, I ask for them for my birthday, $50 another time – before you know it you have all of it and maybe a little extra to use on an upgrade or toward another flight.
Consider insurance if you feel there is a chance of something happening to keep you from going. Death, hospitalization, injury, natural disaster, terrorism, etc. – all of it pretty grim. CHANGING YOUR MIND ABOUT YOUR VACATION WILL NOT BE COVERED.
Next, take care of your hotels. I am a HUGE fan of Priceline and Hotwire. You don’t know what you are getting until you pay for it and you can’t change it once you do. While this is a huge turn off for some people, I find it a little exciting. I look at 5-star hotel prices and see them at $375 – $625 per night and I am going to pay $155.
I try to stay at 4.5 – 5-star hotels. Does it really matter what 5-star hotel you get? You know it is going to be nice and in a good part of town. If it is a good deal, go for it.
If I have a certain hotel I want to stay in, I check on Tripadvisor. They list several places you can book that hotel and the prices they offer. You can save a great deal that way and compare prices on several websites at a glance for the dates you need.
Be sure to check the hotel’s website for discounts too. I am a AAA member, so sometimes I save a bunch by booking direct.
The next things I look for are events. Concerts, lectures, openings – things like that are set in stone so you will want to plan around it. You don’t want to miss out on a Coldplay concert because you booked a non-refundable, non-changeable, yet expensive tour that is offered every night of the week.
Now you can prepay admissions. You can save a buck or 2 or way more by paying for your admissions to various attractions before you go. Just go to the website for what you want to do and if there is an option to buy your tickets online, do it. On a previous trip to Vienna, my friend and I bought tickets to 2 castles, the zoo, a Ferris wheel, a tour, 2 museum exhibits, and our transportation from the airport. That is 8 things we didn’t have to even think about spending our money on when we were there.
If you are not a Foodie, this next part is not very important.
Being a Foodie, I want to check out some of the hottest or most classic restaurants in town. I do love hole-in-the-walls too. I first go to the restaurant’s website. I check out the menu and the prices. I estimate how much my meal will cost and then if offered, I buy a gift card near that amount. There is an endless range of restaurants in different prices and categories that offer this. I have recently purchased a gift card to the Russian Tea Room for my New Your City trip. Earlier this year when I went to Las Vegas, I got a gift card to Fat Burger. Both are great – both are very different types of eating establishments.
Check hours of operation. You don’t want to drop $150 on a gift card to a fancy restaurant that your trip will only allow you to visit on Sunday night, only to find out that restaurant is closed on Sundays.
Be sure to check for expiration dates on anything your prepay. Some say good for 90 days or 6 months after purchase. If they have one, you don’t want to purchase it too soon. Some don’t have expiration dates at all, so you are good.
Research is critical. Know what you are buying, when you can use it, make sure it does not conflict with anything else and make sure you are actually getting a good deal.
Example: Say you need a MetroCard in New York City – $32. Someone is offering it online at a 10% discount, so the price of the MetroCard is $28.80. Shipping is $6.95. Total = $35.75 You are actually paying more = not a good deal. Now it’s only $3.75 more, but that equals a Mr. Sofftee with sprinkles outside Lincoln Center.
Before you know it, you will see your trip building and things falling into place, and that is exciting.
You are on your way!