There are almost as many ways to see the world as there are people living in it. Those who travel on someone else’s dime have learned how to take advantage of at least one of the following six opportunities: sell, write and promote, exchange, work, points, and luck.
Selling may seem like the most unlikely way to travel free, but if you’re an organizer who is good at bringing people together and you convince 15 of your friends or family to vacation together somewhere, you just might be able to negotiate free airfare or lodging for yourself.
Another option is to get a job in the world of international sales, and spend a lot of your time on the road.
Travel writing/promoting is a growing business and a unique way to get a great vacation in exchange for a review on social media of your experience. Even if the cruise or tour doesn’t live up to expectations, it’s still really a win-win: you get to travel free and you get to share the pros and cons of your trip with your audience. TravelPro has a luggage reviewers program and is a travel partner with Two Monkeys Travel. We’re meeting all kinds of travelers and influencers who fund vacations through their own promotion and writing work.
Have you ever wanted to visit a country and live like the locals? Through Couchsurfing and HomeExchange.com, you can share authentic travel experiences while staying in someone’s home in one of 65,000 homes in 165 countries or invite a traveler to stay with you while visiting your town.
If you travel for work, one of the greatest perks is tacking on a few days or taking an extended vacation after you’ve completed your responsibilities. After all, the company has already footed the bill for your airfare, so you can delay your departure by a few days, and you just have to pay for that time yourself.
Perhaps the most common way to travel free is to use points with one of the many loyalty programs available through airlines or destinations like Disney. Do your research and glean from those who have learned the ins and outs of the system, and you’ll find amazing vacations can be earned by using a credit card or hoarding your points from work travel.
Photo credit: kokorowashinjin (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)
Traveling is expensive; there’s no way around it. But that doesn’t mean you have to fall prey to the hidden costs and extra surprise charges. There are ways to avoid unnecessary fees that can come along while you’re traveling, so here are a few ways you can avoid the problem.
When you’re at the car rental agency desk and are asked if you want to buy their insurance, you can politely answer with a confident “no, thank you,” as long as you know that your standard car insurance policy covers rental cars (check with your agent to be sure). Also, some credit cards provide insurance for rental cars as well, like American Express.
Hunger strikes when you’re least prepared, and it seems like the only option available would be the overpriced airport and hotel food. Not true! Since you know you get hungry approximately three times a day, whether traveling or not, avoid that $3 bottle of water by packing your own empty one, and filling it at the water fountain. Better yet, fill it from the bottle-filling stations if available.
Recently, Matt Long, creator of Landlopers and self-described normal person who just wants to get the most out of his traveling, shared his best tips with Yahoo Travel, on engaging and embracing your destination when you take a vacation. We thought you’d benefit from his sage advice.
Except his first tip worried me a bit. He suggests getting lost. As in, on purpose. Long believes there’s much lost from visiting a place if you seek to remain comfortable, only “exploring” the well-known tourist areas of any given city. So, in order to force himself to experience wherever he is like the locals, he intentionally shuts off Google maps and takes off on foot from his hotel for a walkabout.
“Along the way,” Long says, “I always discover little things I would never have found otherwise and, more importantly, I start to get a feel for the real city away from the tourist bubble.”This leads to his second tip: shop a local grocery store. Besides being economical, Long believes you will learn more about the culture you’re trying to experience if you peruse one of its easiest-to-engage gateways, food.
“Food and travel go hand in hand,” Long wrote, “and it really is the best way to become a part of a new culture, rather than just a voyeur.” You’ll be able to purchase snacks and drinks cheaper at a grocery store than at your hotel, and you could even put together a light meal there to take al fresco.
Long also recommends talking to people. “Whether we vacation as a family or a couple, we all tend to stay fixated on our own packs,” Long said, “rarely engaging other travelers or locals. For me, travel is about personal enrichment and growth, and to do that I need to talk to people.”
If you don’t feel comfortable striking up a conversation, Long suggests joining a local walking tour. You’ll meet other travelers, and you’ll have access to someone with a breadth of knowledge who also likes to talk to people from other countries!
Becoming immersed in a different world is part of the appeal of traveling. What are your suggestions for making the most of your time away from home? How do you engage and embrace your destination? Leave us some ideas in the comments section below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.
Would you like to grow your brain, have more energy, eliminate stress, and decrease your risk for a heart attack?
How does travel grow your brain? Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, explains.
“When you expose your brain to an environment that’s novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 2014. That exposure causes the brain to sprout dendrites — dangling extensions — which Nussbaum said grow the brain’s capacity. Who doesn’t want a bigger brain?
If you had the choice between being able to maintain adequate hygiene or take a selfie while on vacation, which would you choose? If you said selfie, you have good, albeit stinky, company.
According to a recent study by Expedia of 9,642 travelers, 33 percent said they use their phones more during vacation than while at home. Aman Bhutani, president of Brand Expedia Group, said that participants claimed having their smartphones with them “improved the quality of their vacation.”
How? By providing them with the nagging sense that they’re falling behind on their work every time they gave into the urge to check email or voicemail? The device does offer quite a few helpful applications, but at what cost to truly relaxing?
It seems everyone has a tip for how to make the most of the space you have in your suitcase. No one knows better, though, than flight attendants. Many of them use the Flight Crew Series Rollaboard from Travelpro.
Here are a few of their expert packing tips, as shared with Condé Nast Traveler magazine.
Heavy items such as toiletries and shoes take up a lot of space, but where you put them in your Rollaboard will determine your ease of maneuvering the bag through the airport. If you place your toiletries and shoes in the bottom of the case nearest the wheel base, you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes. By doing this it keeps the center of gravity low and it avoids heavier items falling into your clothing when the bag is being pulled upright. Flip flops and some sandals are by far the most versatile shoe with the smallest packing “footprint.” They go with many casual outfits and can serve as slippers in the hotel.
Don’t use a garment bag. Generally, they don’t fit in the overhead bins well, and closet space on planes is reserved for use by first class passengers first. If you insist, most likely it will be checked and then you’ll have wrinkled clothes when you arrive.
Here’s a Technology I’d Like To See (TILTS) thought:
Having to make a tight connection is a source of anxiety for many travelers. When our originating flight is delayed, we’ll spend the entire flight rehearsing scenarios, wondering if our connecting flight was also delayed or what gate we’ll have to sprint to. Many of us teeter back and forth between hope and despair, working our stomach into knots.
With the increased automation available within the travel industry, it’s surprising some kind of app hasn’t been invented on behalf of some airline in order to facilitate a better experience for travelers.
For example, a simple email from my airline, informing me of the gate for my connecting flight or letting me know that the flight I’m so desperate to make has also been delayed would alleviate much of my angst and keep me from pressing my call button to pester the flight attendant for information that he or she can’t seem to procure either.
Most of us file travel days in the “lost” category, thanks to the amount of time squandered getting where we have to go. With the fast pace of business, you really can’t afford to lose days to travel. Here are some suggestions for how to make the most of your time while you’re traveling.
First of all, be smart in how you book your travel. Even if your company has someone responsible for arranging itineraries, it’s worth the extra time to investigate the best options and communicate them to your travel arranger. Don’t let that investigation become a time sink, though. It’s not worth saving $50 if it takes an hour of your billable time to find that savings. Time is money, and your time per hour needs to be invested wisely each day.
Commit to getting to your departure gate at least 45 minutes before boarding begins. This will give you time to check email and stay on top of whatever needs your attention before you’re unavailable for 2 – 4 hours. Running your timeline right to the wire — and showing up to the airport at the last possible minute — creates stress, which makes you less productive. Organize your time so you can have time to be useful to those who need to hear from you.
When traveling, it really isn’t enough just to fly the “friendly skies.” Friendly interactions with the native people of the places you’re visiting are what make the experiences you have the most memorable. After all, monuments can’t speak.
Ben Groundwater, well-known Australian travel writer and blogger, has compiled his own list of favorites. Groundwater looked up an old acquaintance in Scotland and was given a bed in his home, never left a pub alone in Ireland, was invited to play badminton in Laos, received genuine wishes for a great day and helpful directions from Americans, witnessed Fijians’ intense love for children and older people, found Indians notorious for their curiosity and their desire to truly know him, experienced abundant smiles in Thailand, discovered Kiwis of New Zealand completely lacking in cynicism, and felt emotionally and physically embraced in genuine love by Brazilians.
If you’ve ever been in a hotel trying to sleep and the wedding party — or fraternity formal, high school band, college football team, or rampaging horde of invading Mongols — returns from its festivities, you know how frustrating it can be to have your peaceful night interrupted.
Now imagine if the hotel could monitor the decibel levels in its rooms and environments and handle the partiers without you having to call down to the front desk?
Quietyme does just that. Founded in 2012 and currently deployed at the Radisson Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as throughout the HotelRed chain, Quietyme installs sensors in rooms for $3/month subscription and samples the noise level in those rooms once per second.
It streams the results to the front desk so that management can proactively respond. Through independent studies, Quietyme found that its technology reduced hotel noise levels by 65 percent at properties where it was deployed. It also helped reduce property damage.
According to the JD Power’s 2015 North America Hotel Satisfaction Survey, hotel noise is the second largest problem guests report to management after Internet connectivity. According to Huey Zoroufy, chief technology officer for Quietyme, instead of reporting the problem, customers are going online and leaving poor reviews about their stays. Quietyme gives hotels an opportunity to anticipate their clients’ needs, and solve problems before they become problems.
That anticipation translates into a higher score for the hotel, according to the same JD Power study. Hotels scored 310 points higher out of 1,000 if they strongly agreed that the staff anticipated their needs rather than responded to them.
Don’t be surprised if you see this type of technology spread to more hotel chains in the coming year. It might make you think twice about what kind of “in-room activities” you choose to participate in, or not participate in, while on vacation.
What do you do when you have noisy hotel neighbors or other hotel noise? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.
Photo credit: Ben Chun (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons)