Trying to determine the ideal gift to get someone during the holidays? Or is it about time to buy a gift for yourself? Well, try the gift of travel!
Whether you want to plan a getaway during the holiday season or purchase travel for some excursion for the upcoming year; I have some travel tips and related ideas for you to maximize your traveling experience.
TRAVEL AROUND YOUR INTERESTS: Before you can embark on a travel experience, you have to determine where exactly you want to go and want you want to do when you get there. I suggest traveling around your interests.
If you want fun in the sun, chose a tropical destination like Los Cabos, Mexico or Nassau, Bahamas. If music is your thing, explore a festival like Essence Festival in New Orleans or TBAAL Black Academy of Arts & Letters in Dallas. If you’re a foodie, there’s no other food festival like Walt Disney World’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in Orlando that literally lasts three months.
Whatever your interest, find a destination that fulfills your desired need and then plan your travel accordingly. Below is a clip of my appearance on the nationally syndicated talk show “Sister Circle” talking about this very concept.
UPGRADE YOUR LUGGAGE: I used to be one of those people who didn’t believe in investing in luggage. For many years, every couple of months I went to T.J. Maxx, Marshalls or Ross to find discounted luggage (typically by Nautica) that the airlines could tear up as they tossed it around with all of the other checked luggage. But then I got a designer backpack and realized that it looked rather weird for me to be sporting a designer bag on my back, but I was rolling with cheap, very pedestrian-looking luggage.
Most recently, I’ve taken a liking to Out Of Office (OOO) Luggage. This sleek, durable hard case bag has quality construction and is highly functional. It’s stylish design comes in several colors including black, teal, vanilla, orange and navy (I have this color). OOO Luggage offers amenities like an external charger for your phone and an international power adapter for trips abroad.
The bags also have a convenient back pocket for storing your phone while you’re in line for airport security or charging it on your way to the gate. It’s also extremely lightweight – an additional blessing for me, as my previous luggage set was very heavy even before packing it. And the wheels on these bags roll smoothly, making your dash through the airport (especially with the carry-on) even more easier. For pricing, the carry-on is $248.00; medium bag is $278.00; and the large is $298.00. Trust me; this is an affordable price for such high-quality luggage!
TRY A HOTEL ALTERNATIVE: For those who travel, there are two major options now — hotels and short-term rentals! And while you know about short-term rental companies like Airbnb and HomeAway, there’s one brand that just may be the best kept secret in the world of travel. Earlier this year I got to experience a service that changed the way I viewed short-term rentals called Stay Alfred. I really dig Stay Alfred because it offers the best of both worlds — private residences and hotel amenities. And the beauty of Stay Alfred, though it may be a short-term rental company, you’re not staying in a random person’s house in some stranger’s bed. Instead, they offer fully furnished properties in very nice buildings, some of which have hotel staff at your beckon call.
The six-year-old company furnishes the apartments, oversees the cleaning and manages the customer service for each rental property. Stay Alfred currently operates in downtown neighborhoods in 23 major cities including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Houston, San Diego, Washington, DC and Nashville. Watch my video recap of my experience at Stay Alfred in Nashville below.
TRAVEL TIPS: For some of the best deals on travel, buy tickets as far in advance as you can on a Tuesday in the hour after midnight. Tuesdays in general are a great day to purchase airlines tickets and to make hotel reservations, but prices often drop even more around midnight going into Wednesday. Traveling on an actual Tuesday or Wednesday can save lots of money on your ticket as well.
In some big cities, you can fly into a neighboring airport if the price is cheaper and drive the remaining distance (especially if you’re renting a car or in a city where ride-sharing services are affordable). For example, because I detest the Miami International Airport (MIA) I try to avoid it at all costs. Typically, I fly into the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) instead, which is just 34 miles away and about a 30-minute drive away from Miami Beach. Flights into FLL are usually more affordable as well, making this option even more attractive to me.
You can often save money by having a connection on your flight. If you don’t mind the extended travel and changing planes, this is a great way to cut costs. You have to be strategic about taking connecting flights depending on the time of year. For example, in the winter months, you want to avoid airport hubs that are prone to snow because you are guaranteed to have significant delays or get stranded in a city due to flight cancelation. Here’s a list of cities you have to watch during various times of the year: in the winter months you want to avoid connections through Chicago (United, American & Southwest), Boston (Delta & JetBlue), Denver (United & Southwest), Minneapolis (Delta) and Detroit (Delta). During the spring and summer thunderstorm season, be careful connecting at Dallas (American) and Orlando (JetBlue & Southwest).
Try the travel app Hopper. This app crunches data to suggest when the best flight prices are available. You can’t purchase business or first class tickets on Hopper, but it will help you save money on economy class tickets. This award-winning travel app does not have a website; you can only use it on its mobile app. Hopper pride itself on being able to help you save money not just on flights, but at hotels as well. It’s available for free on all Apple and Android devices.