Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Few of Our Favorite Travel Tips

We are planning a quick weekend getaway.  We are excited for this trip and plan to soak up the last of our "us" time before we head out on a much longer trip {back to Iowa} in a few short weeks.  As I was packing this morning, I realized that we've learned a thing or two about traveling the past two years.  So, I thought I'd share a few tips on how we get up and go without killing our wallet!

1.   We always pack snacks!
I love to eat and especially love enjoying local food when we’re traveling but, let’s be honest, our bank account {and waistlines} can’t handle eating every meal out while on the road.  So, we typically arm ourselves with snacks to get us through the day to cut down on the meals that we end up eating out.  We have found almonds, PB&J, pita chips and hummus, water, and Starbucks Double Shots do the trick just fine.  In addition, we will sometimes pack beer and wine in case we want to enjoy a cocktail at the hotel before heading out in the evening!  Finally, we love to share meals when we do eat out.  Again, this saves us money but also leaves room in our bellies to enjoy local brews or a glass {ok, multiple glasses!} of wine.

2.   Free breakfast!
Of course, when you’re flying somewhere, rather than driving, it can be hard to lug along a giant bag of snacks.  This is when I typically try to find a hotel with a continental breakfast.  You can get through a morning of exploring by grabbing a yogurt and a few bananas as you fly out the door.  One caveat that I will add, however, is that we love coffee.  We will often grab our free breakfast to-go, and seek out a local coffee shop to enjoy their brews.  And, we collect Starbucks mugs from across the country so if we can’t find a local joint, we’ll always stop in a Starbucks! 

3.   Be Brand Loyal!
Is this a travel-tip list or my marketing philosophies?  Well, both, I guess!  I love reward programs and am a member of many.  When we fly, we typically fly Delta.  So, I’m pretty brand-loyal there and that translates into my hotel stays.  If we are a member of a reward program at a hotel that we don’t stay at often, I ensure my points go toward my Delta miles.  However, we have a few favorite hotel chains, and for those we stick with accruing their points that offer free stays down the road.  I also seek out their promotions that can offer 4x (or more) the points at different times during the year!

4.   I LOVE Groupon Getaway and Living Social Escapes!
When we start planning a trip I typically head to Groupon and Living Social to see what kind of deals they have in the given area.  We have had great luck so far.  Hotels often offer good deals on stays and include vouchers for food and drinks while you’re there.  I love this because it gives us a chance to head to the bar, grab a drink, and ask the bartender for local recommendations! 

Last year, when we went to Vancouver, we had a pretty specific budget and no specific plans so I hopped on Groupon and bought a deal for our hotel and multiple attractions in the area.  The Groupons lead us to cool local restaurants and different parts of the city that we may not have otherwise sought out.  In looking back, this was one of our all-time favorite trips!

5.   Social Media Rocks!
Again, what’s with the marketing director appearing in this post?  I love to ask for recommendations!  I don’t go many places without shooting a Tweet asking for must-see areas!  When we were planning our trip to Napa, I reached out to our favorite wineries in the Willamette Valley on Twitter for recommendations.  I then researched the recommended wineries on Facebook to learn even more, and all that research proved fruitful!  We also never underestimate our friends and family who will point us in the right direction based on their experiences in a given area!  

How’s that for a morning mind-dump?  Balancing our budget, and need for adventure, can be tricky so we are always looking for more tips on how to accomplish this task.  What do you recommend?

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