How to Book Cheap International Flights

When it comes to booking cheap international flights, even the most experienced travelers have issues knowing when the best time is to book. The truth is, you can research flight prices all you like, but when it comes to booking, you are always going to have to take a bit of a gamble. But to help you stay on the right track, I have compiled a list of tips, which in my own experience have been extremely helpful!

Start looking early

If you start looking early (up to a year in advance), it’s easier to get a feel for what constitutes a good price versus a bad price for the journey you are after. This way, you can get a feel for how much prices generally fall and rise, and you’ll know what a good price looks like when you’re ready to book. Don’t book right away, though. When airlines drop their fares, others are likely to do so too, shortly after. Prices also change depending on the day of the week, so keep an eye out for general trends. In saying this, however …

… When you see a good deal, grab it!

I have made this mistake, many, MANY a time. I start looking, watch prices for a while, then come across a good deal, but I always think, “what if it gets even cheaper?” The truth is, the chance that a good deal will get even cheaper is much smaller than the chance that you miss out and the price goes up! If you have followed the above tip, and found what looks like a great deal, then strike while the iron is hot!

Be flexible with dates

It’s amazing how much of a difference just a day or two can make! If at all possible, check out the prices of flights +/-5 days of the date you would ideally like to travel on, and you might find yourself saving hundreds of dollars. Also, flights are generally cheaper at unpopular times or on unpopular days of the week, so if your schedule allows it, try traveling at these times (middle of the week, Saturdays, at the crack of dawn).

Be flexible in general

A small inconvenience can save you a whole lot of money. Although you might want to reach your destination as fast as possible, flights with connections or transfers are generally a lot cheaper than direct flights. This also applies to flights with long layover times.

Also, you can save a lot of money if you are willing to sacrifice comforts like in flight meals and entertainment. Many budget airlines offer screens and food for an extra cost, so keep the price low by opting out of these options in favour of a homemade sandwich and your iPod instead.

Compare airlines

Never just look at one airline. Shop around! Use sites designed to compare airlines, my favourite is skyscanner.com. You can see the best prices of all major airlines side by side, providing a good comparison based on factors such as duration of the flight, how many layovers and more.

Happy flight booking!

How to Pack Lightly for a Backpacking Trip

Packing lightly for long (and short) trips is a fine art, one that has taken me a long time to learn, and one that I am still perfecting! I was 18 when I went on my first solo overseas adventure, and knew that I would be on the road for the next six months. So what did I take with me? Just about everything except the kitchen sink! Luckily, I had family in Berlin who would serve as my ‘home base’ while I was away, so I was able to shed a few kilos of luggage early on, after quickly learning how much easier life would be without them.

Five years later, I am now a much more cutthroat packer. My shoulders and arms thank me for it and yours will too. Following the tips below will help you avoid making the same mistakes that I did!

If you haven’t worn it in the last month, it’s not coming with you!

This rule has a few exceptions, of course. But in terms of clothing, if you haven’t worn that t-shirt in the last month, the chance that you are going to want to wear it on your trip is very slim. You might think “but what if the occasion arises”. Trust me, it won’t. If you haven’t worn it in the last month, it’s not coming with you. Simple as that.

I mentioned that there are exceptions, though. This includes seasonal items that you may not have needed recently, such as a rain jacket or polar fleece.

Avoid unnecessary bulky items

I have met many travelers who have taken sleeping bags with them. My advice to you, however, is to avoid taking a sleeping bag, unless you are absolutely certain that you will be camping. 99% of hostels and backpackers will provide sheets, or at least give you the option to rent them. In the few rare instances in which a sleeping bag would be useful, you can always make do with other items, such as a sweatshirt or a scarf. The same goes for pillows or large beach towels. Most of the time you won’t need them. If you do, there will always be other items in your luggage, which you can use as an alternative.

Avoid heavy items

This includes items such as heavy shoes, books, electronics or paper. Don’t make the mistake of carrying multiple books with you. I know having reading material is great for killing time on long journeys, but try loading some books onto a kindle if you have one, or choose one book to take. After you’ve read it, do a swap with another traveler or leave it at the backpackers for someone else to enjoy. The same goes for other electronics, and paper. I tend to print off all important documents and tickets that need to be printed, and have the others ready to present on my smartphone. I also avoid carrying a laptop, because it is both heavy and valuable, and you’ll spend half your time worrying whether you’ve locked it away safely or not.

Limit the footwear

Similar to the point above, shoes can add unnecessary bulk and weight, and lets face it, you can do without the luxury of having a massive shoe choice for a while. When traveling, trust me, no one cares if you have your favourite heels on when you hit the bars or not. Pack footwear which is light and versatile. For shorter trips, I tend to pack a pair of flip flops, my favourite converse sneakers, and if I really know I’ll be doing a lot of hiking or walking, a pair of lightweight trainers. That’s it.

Limit the liquids

When you are at your home base, having a variety of shampoos and products at the ready is a luxury. Traveling is not the time to be high maintenance in your appearance! Take the essentials, the things you need to feel clean and comfortably presented. I promise, no one is going to judge you for not having perfectly styled hair or a full face of make up when you are on the road. Personally, I tend to pack small bottles of shampoo and conditioner, sun block, moisturiser and foundation (in case I am feeling like I need a little extra coverage one day!). But everyone is different, so pack what you need to feel comfortable and confident without overdoing it.

Pack versatile items

We saw this already with the shoes example. This advice can be extended, however, to include clothing and other items. For instance, one of my favourite items to pack is a pashmina or similar type of scarf. They function as scarves, blankets and pillows, or to cover your head or knees when visiting temples, churches or mosques. Pack a cardigan that you can wear with any dress or outfit. Pack shorts that you can pair with any t-shirt, or wear for hiking. Pack dresses which can be worn in winter with tights, or in summer without. Avoid packing items which can only be worn in a particular way, for a particular type of event, in a particular type of weather.

Hopefully these tips will help you decide what passes the test and comes with you on your trip. And remember; if in doubt, leave it out! Happy packing 🙂

Pros and Cons of Traveling in a Tour Group

282506_10150352754335390_2303298_nTraveling as part of a tour group can be a blast. With so many companies these days offering an extensive variety of tours, there is bound to be a tour out there to suit your wants and desires. Traveling as part of a tour group, however, isn’t for everyone. Like all other modes of travel, it has its pros and cons.

Before you decide to go ahead and book your spot in a tour group, have a think about what it is you want to get out of your trip, and whether or not joining a tour will help you achieve this. The following list of pros and cons come from my own experience as part of a tour, and will help you get an idea on whether traveling in a tour group is for you or not.

Pro 1 – Travel Stress Free

This seems like the most obvious pro of joining a tour group. Whether you are unsure on how to go about planning and booking your own adventure, or you’re simply after a stress free trip, tour companies have got you covered. They make the decisions, so that you don’t have to. They do the planning, leaving you free to sit back and enjoy the ride. While some get a kick out of planning their own adventures, others enjoy being able to see the sights without worrying about how to get from A to B, and everything in between.

Pro 2 – Friends for Life!

I can guarantee you, that at the end of your tour, you’ll have made some pretty solid connections. You’ll be having experiences of a lifetime, and being able to share these experiences and new impressions with others will bond you in a way which nothing else can. When you spend eight hours on a bus together every other day, and all your free time together roaming unfamiliar streets, you’ll get to know your other tour buddies pretty well.

Pro 3 – Once in a Lifetime Opportunities

Tour groups have their connections, and often strike deals with other companies which give you the opportunity to experience things you wouldn’t normally think of doing as an independent traveller. In my experience on a 28-day tour of Europe, I had the chance to go paragliding in a remote Austrian valley, spend a day on a boat visiting secluded beaches in Greece, and overnight in an old chateau in the French countryside. While such activities can be done as a solo traveller as well, doing them as part of a tour group often means you get to have these experiences for bargain prices, and it is less of a logistical headache to organise.

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Con 1 – Say goodbye to freedom

My biggest issue with traveling as part of a tour group was having to stick to a schedule. There were days where I just didn’t want to get on that bus at 7am, and I got pretty cranky when our on-the-road pit stops interfered with my nice bus ride naps. While schedules mean that there are less decisions to be made alone, there is also beauty in being able to go where you want, when you want, and how you want to. Some tour groups offer some degree of freedom, with optional extra activities available. But for someone who enjoys independence and moving at their own pace, traveling in a tour group may not be the way to go.

Con 2 – Clicky-ness

Regardless of age, unfortunately, clicks are bound to form, and you aren’t going to get on as a merry bunch of travellers 100 percent of the time. When you spend all day every day together, clicks are inevitable, and groups will form. There will be personalities that get on your nerves, although this will happen regardless of how you choose to travel. When you join a tour group, there is no choosing who you travel with, and this can either work out amazingly or personalities can clash. That’s a risk you just have to take!

Con 3 – Lack of individual experience

Maybe for some people this isn’t so important, but you can be sure that when you retell your travel stories, there is less of an original flavour to them. There will be thousands of others who have been carted around on the same route that you’ve been on, doing the same activities, and eating the same food. But this doesn’t have to be a con, and depends what is important to you as a traveller! As an individual, your experience is always unique in it’s own way.

 

5 Tips for Overcoming Jetlag Quickly

Jetlag, a temporary physiological condition, can have an impact on our bodies when we travel across two or more time zones in one go. It can be frustrating, a hindrance, and everybody experiences jetlag to different degrees. But never fear, there are ways to minimise the symptoms of jetlag, and to adjust to your new time zone as quickly as possible! From my own experience, I have found the following tips to be the most useful in fighting jetlag, allowing you to make the most of every moment at your destination!

1. Sleep as much as possible on the flight

I know this probably isn’t what you wanted to hear. With amazing entertainment systems on long haul flights, this can seem like a perfect opportunity to catch up on all those movies you wanted to see. But trust me, your body will thank you when you reach your destination and are able to focus and stay awake without sticking matchsticks in your eyes. Whether you are arriving at your destination early in the morning or later on at night, getting enough shut-eye on the plane will help your body to adjust to the new time zone quickly and easily.

2. Stay awake until a normal time

This may be excruciating on the first day, but when you reach your destination, avoid falling asleep until a relatively normal bedtime hour. If you arrive early in the morning, this might seem an impossible task, but this will make it so much easier to fall asleep later on and sleep through the night. If you get really desperate, allow yourself a nap, but don’t sleep longer than half an hour! Otherwise you risk falling into a deep sleep, which will only reinforce a bad sleeping pattern and encourage your body to be awake late into the night.

3. Eat at normal times

One unusual side effect of jetlag is feeling hungry at odd times, and not hungry at typical meal times. Fight those food cravings in the middle of the night, and even if you aren’t hungry at breakfast time, try and get a good meal in. Your body gets used to being nourished at certain times of the day, and just like your sleeping pattern, your eating pattern needs time to readjust.

3. Get out in the sunlight

Sun and daylight are crucial ingredients in resetting our circadian rhythms. Your body will be used to a particular day-night rhythm, and will need time to adjust to that of your destination. Light helps to inhibit the production of melatonin in the brain, a hormone that makes us feel sleepy. So, light exposure will help to reassure your body of its new rhythm, helping you to adjust quickly. If you arrive at your destination early in the morning or during the day, don’t mope around inside. Rather, get your body out and about in the daylight.

5. Use a sleep-aiding medication

Everybody is different, and everyone reacts differently to sleeping tablets, so be careful with this piece of advice. When I travel across more than eight time zones, I often find a herbal based sleeping supplement helps me to relax and doze off at the right time in the evening. Maybe this is just a placebo effect, but as long as you follow your doctor or pharmacists instructions carefully, it can’t do you any harm. But know your body, assess the impact of a sleeping pill on your body carefully the first time you use it, and follow the instructions from your doctor or pharmacist.

The Benefits of Traveling Solo

11912874_10154106253867662_2067083568_nFor some, embarking on a solo journey requires no second thoughts. For others, it requires a big leap of faith. Making the decision to venture off on your lonesome can seem daunting at first, but there are so many reasons to go ahead and do it!

While I absolutely love going new places with a friend or family member to share the experience with, I can say that, without a doubt, my experiences as a solo traveler have by far been the best! Here is why.

You can focus on your relationship with YOU

I know this might sound corny, but our longest relationship in life is that we have with ourselves, and there is no better way to work on this relationship than by spending time traveling solo. First and foremost, you learn to make decisions for yourself, and trust yourself in making those decisions. I always want to know in life that I am making the best possible choice, and often this means seeking a second opinion. When traveling solo, however, there are so many decisions to be made, both big and small, and there is only one person who can make them: you!

There is also an immense feeling of satisfaction that comes with navigating new territory, or reaching your destination all by yourself. Finding your way from place to place and overcoming those obstacles in the way lead to a serious feeling of achievement! In doing so, you really learn to trust your own abilities and problem solving skills.

Traveling alone doesn’t mean being lonely!

As a solo traveler, you will make a lot of new friends! I always find that others are more likely to approach me as a solo traveler than when I’m traveling in a group. When traveling solo, you automatically become a lot more approachable and open, and people will find you less intimidating to approach. Others are also more likely to invite you to join in on whatever it is they are doing or planning, when they see that you are on your own. In saying this, it goes the other way too. I’m naturally a shy person, but after ten hours on a bus by myself, I’ll make conversation with just about anyone! Sometimes after a long journey or a hard day, you will just want to vent to whoever will listen, and this openness and vulnerability can lead to fast bonding with other travelers.

Be whoever you want to be

Traveling solo really gives you the chance to be whoever you want to be! You don’t have to be the person your friends and family know you to be at home. If you are typically an introvert, try being bubbly for a day. If you typically love being organized and following schedules, try being completely spontaneous. If you typically like stay in your comfort zone, try being a dare devil, and do that bungee jump, or try that exotic new dish. Spending time traveling solo really gives you the chance to experiment, try out a life in the shoes of others and be anyone you want to be.

The world really is YOUR oyster!

When you travel solo, you can be selfish. You can go wherever you want to go, and when you want to. While planning a trip together with someone can be a lot of fun, anyone who has done it before will know that there are a lot of compromises involved. Traveling solo gives you the freedom and luxury to go where you want to, when you want to, and move from place to place at your own speed.

On a similar note, as a solo traveler, you have the luxury to make plans that suit your own budget and traveling style. We all like to travel differently, and some prefer higher levels of comfort than others. Make the most of this opportunity to make decisions for yourself on what level of comfort you would prefer, and how you spend your money.

J4 - Ile de Brac - Bol,Vidova gora (78)As a solo traveler, I can assure you that there will be times when you want nothing more than to share an experience with your best friend, have a cuddle with you partner, or just hang out with someone familiar without having to make an effort. But the experiences you have, the friends you gain and the memories you make will be unforgettable. And most of all, you’ll come out of the experience feeling like you’ve gotten to know yourself better than ever before.