Flights

  • Be organized. The sooner you can commit to a travel plan the better. I often plan one year in advance.
  • Use an app like Hopper when researching flights. The app alerts you to price changes.
  • Keep checking fares on your own — on sites like Google Flights and the individual airlines. I check everyday when I’m interested in a flight. Not every airline cooperates with flight aggregators like Google and Kayak.
  • If a deal looks good, book it. If may never go lower.
  • Don’t expect deals around holiday periods. You’ll find nothing cheap around Christmas or Thanksgiving. Sometimes, you can save on your outbound flight if you depart a 10 to 14 days before the holiday. You likely won’t get the same deal on the return flight if it’s during the peak season.
  • The idea that seats are cheapest four to six weeks before a flight is nonsense. Seats are sold in buckets and the first buckets tend to be the cheapest. Airlines begin posting their flights between 300 and 340 or so days before departure.
  • When I’m using airline points, I always make my booking on the day the flight begins taking reservations, so at least 300 days before departure. That way I get what I want.
  • Cheaper flights often mean layovers and connections. That could add costs. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to book a more expensive flight and save the cost of a hotel room and meals.
  • You’re less likely to get bumped if you have a seat assignment. Consider spending the money to pre-book a seat. But, airlines often bump based on ticket price. That is, who paid the least. Remember this if you think you bought from the cheapest bucket. Often, I’d be happy to volunteer to be bumped.
  • I use airline credit cards to accumulate points. I alternate between two cards based on travel plans. Remember, you can use your points one-way if you don’t have enough for a return. I do this a lot, as point programs seem to be constantly devaluing their rewards.
  • Paying for access to a business class lounge can sometimes be worth it for a multi-hour layover after a long flight. I paid $30 USD for access to the Asiana Lounge in Seoul. Stayed four hours. Ate, slept, showered.

Hotels

  • Always check Trip Advisor. But, bear in mind some reviewers expect five star accommodation at three star prices or uber fine dining at all-inclusive resort buffets. Not reality.
  • I prefer clean and safe (with a small fridge) to luxury. For diving trips, I book into two or three star hotels. Anything higher is a waste of money.
  • Many hotels have free or cheap airport shuttles. Check this out when you’re booking. Don’t forget to tip shuttle drivers ($2 per bag)  and hotel room staff ($2 per day).
  • Learn how to check for bedbugs (there are videos on YouTube). Do it. My luggage goes into the bathroom, unopened, until I’ve checked.
  • I’ve slept on an air mattress at an airport during a layover. It’s not for everyone, but it can save you money.

Getting around

  • I’m mostly leery of cabs. I researched a lot about cabs before going to Thailand. Some cabs are legit and others are not. I usually opt for public transit to be on the safe side. Unless I’m arriving late at night.
  • You can save money by walking a few blocks away from the airport, train or bus terminal to catch a cab there.
  • Don’t let a cabbie put your luggage in the trunk until you’ve settled on a price. I once had a cabbie in Phoenix try to change the fare after we added another person to the trip. We gave him the originally agreed on price then walked away.

Travelling alone

  • I often travel alone when I scuba dive. I’ve been all over the world and not had any terrible experiences. But, I’m cautious and well-researched on tourist hustles. I’d never accept an invitation to anyone’s home. I’m usually back in my hotel room by nightfall.