In the first part of this series, I talked about how I plan my trips from gathering information about a country and its attractions, to picking the right hotel room or checking what events are going on in town. In this part, I’ll be talking about how to find out about the best deals, last minute offers and packages and any corners that you can cut to get more bang for your buck.
Booking the Trip
When I’m flexible with my plans (or procrastinating) and working with a shoe string budget I hit Voyij.com to get an idea of what my options are; it never fails to inspire. Aside from being able to search through many internet sites for the best and cheapest deals that fit your budget, it also has a great Twitter Stream. It offers a real-time search for the best deals offered on Twitter and there is always a chance to catch some awesome fire sale offers on there.
I usually like to compare deals and prices that I get on the web and hence I love Kayak.com, too. Kayak allows searching across several online booking sites like Expedia, Orbitz and others along with their own site, giving the option of comparing them head to head and picking the cheapest deal. The flexible date search option, which requires you to register with them, is always helpful to make sure you get the best price.
There are a couple of other sections that tend to be overlooked by visitors of the site. The private sale page on their website allows you to ostensibly get the best deals on hotels anywhere on the net; they are special rate auctions that go for up to 50% off the hotel room’s retail price. The other little gem is the Kayak WiFi Database, which has pricing and availability information for hot spots in airports, hotels, and even airlines.
After ironing out the details of when and where, it is time to get personal. The idea of getting stuck with the worst seat on the plane on a transatlantic flight is the definition of a nightmare to me! Therefore, as I’m booking my ticket, I make sure to check Seat Guru so that I’m able to get the best possible seat on the plane. In the future, I’ll be looking forward to doing more than that. I hope services such Satisfly will not only help me pick the best but also the best person to be seated next to as well.
Mixing with the locals
In the past, there was always a wall that tourists couldn’t break through; it was difficult to interact the locals out of the context of being a tourist. What I mean is that you always had be guarded in every interaction because of the possibility that the person you are interacting with is someone trying to take advantage of you because you are a tourist.
However, nowadays it is extremely facilitated and simplified! If changing my status on Facebook declaring my destination doesn’t elicit advice or offers for going out for coffee when I arrive then I simply go to sites like Couch Surfing.
CS not only provides me with the ability to ask some locals to go out for coffee and maybe show me around town, I can even ask them to crash on their couch for a few nights. I was also able to network with other people visiting my destination who are interested in seeing the same things and organize trips and outings together. That way I was never alone unless I chose to be! This takes the dread out of venturing alone in a foreign country.
An Authentic Experience That Lasts
After having spent five wonderful days in the company of my new found friends in Istanbul, I turned to one of my new friends with the question “How long have you know so-n-so?” and was flabbergasted with the reply of “I met him for the first time over here!“.
That’s another new landscape for traveling nowadays, through Facebook, travel sites, and various internet services not only has your knowledge and planning for your trip been made amazingly easily, you are now able to develop, maintain and network with ease wherever you go. It got to the extent that meeting for the first time no longer has this awkwardness and alien feeling that new contacts used to have and it feels more like you have known that person or group for ages. The reason for that is that the goal of enjoying travel and tourism unites you and your new buddies.
How has your touristic experience been changed in the past decade? What role does social media play in it?
Share with us your thoughts.