There’s no doubt where I picked up the travel bug. My grandparents loved to travel, they didn’t miss an opportunity to pack up the kids and go on a road trip. Although most of their travels were throughout the US they covered a lot of ground. I’ve always been wanderlust, never wanting to go home when there are so many adventures waiting.
I love a good road trip as much as a trip around the globe and I wish I had the money and time to travel as much as I wanted. If I don’t have the time I try to find some local places to visit or take a drive or train and get away. Living in New York it’s easy to find some type of adventure right outside my door.
As much as I love to travel I cringe at the actual action of arranging the details. I love researching locations, hotels and things to do but when it comes to booking flights and laying down the actual arrangements it can get overwhelming because I want to make sure I get the most for my money.
Last year I booked a trip for a friend and I to Spain, we wanted to visit as many cities as we could in 11 days. My friend couldn’t make the arrangements due to other obligations so I nervously took it on knowing that it was going to be a big task. This was a multi destination trip so the pressure was on. I had only traveled overseas for work or as a part of a group tour and each of those trips were meticulously organized by someone else. I didn’t want to book a tour because the schedules can be too rigorous and inflexible. After asking several friends who had traveled to Spain for tips and listening to the amount of work that went into booking travel I needed help. I went to Google and searched travel-booking services and came across one of the most easy to use services, Tripmasters!! My saviors!! Our trip would involve air, car, rail and bus travel, the thought of booking all of this separately was mind numbing because you can’t see all of the details in one place unless you make your own tracker.
Tripmasters to the rescue!! I am not a sponsor for this service and I am not sure if there are better sites but their service allowed me to book my trip as if I was going on a tour without all of the time commitments to group activities. Not only do you get to build the trip of your dreams you get the cost savings as if you booked a tour. The site allows you to take care of small details like booking car service from the airport to the hotel, booking rail passes, additional air fare, and tickets to attractions. So easy, unbelievably convenient and made to match your budget, you can choose the amount of days, hotels and activities it’s a one stop shop. Why major travel sites like Travelocity or Orbitz aren’t providing a service like this is beyond me. If there are any problems their customer service team is excellent too.
Our itinerary included a well-priced flight into Madrid with car service to our hotel in a Mercedes Benz (I told my friend not to get used to that because that is the only car service I booked for the trip). I booked 1 rail pass from Madrid to Sevilla and based on advice from friends and travel blogs we were going to wing it when it came to booking the rest of our travel since it is so easy and inexpensive to get around Spain once you’re there. I did pre book all hotels with Tripmasters they give you a list of hotels so you can see if the location, pricing and accommodations are what you want. Booking trains and getting from city to city was a snap. Spain is so easy to navigate and relatively inexpensive to get around and thank Google for Google maps. When you’re overseas make sure you check with your cell phone service providers for deals to stay connected and an old fashioned map still comes in handy.
Our trip included 5 cities; Madrid, Sevilla, Marbella, Granada and Barcelona with a day trip to Figueres to visit Salvador Dali’s museum.
There were no set plans for the trip, which made it stress free. The only places that were a must see for me were La Alhambra in Granada; the most beautiful place I have ever seen, if there is a Garden of Eden this is it; The Picasso museum and Park Guell. It’s also a good idea to purchase attraction tickets like La Alhambra months in advance because they will sell out and you will pay triple the cost to get in if you are able to get a ticket at the gate or through a broker.
The hardest part of traveling is finding a travel companion whose interests and time match up with yours. Luckily I have a friend that is incredibly flexible and has a wide variety of interests but sometimes finances and time don’t allow us to travel together and there are just some people that you just can’t travel with. If you’re attached then obviously it works out best when you and your significant other travel together but for the single person it could be worth it to travel with small tour groups. I found a couple of groups that seem to have similar interests to mine that I plan to investigate for future travel. Most of these groups have set itineraries but hopefully not as rigorous and when I say rigorous, I mean getting up at the crack of dawn everyday of the trip, which is not always my cup of tea when I am on vacation. I listed some of the best rated group tours below.
Up In The Air Life – www.upintheairlife.com
Black Girl Travel – www.blackgirltravel.com
Travel Noire – www.travelnoire.com
What are your top 5 travel destinations?
If you have any other tips for booking and saving money on travel, leave your comment.
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