Each year I attend the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show at the L.A. Convention Center. I am like a kid in a candy store roaming the exhibitor booths where I shake hands with outfitters and publicists for tour companies around the world. Travel gurus like Rick Steves, Samantha Brown, and Pauline Frommer give talks about what’s hot and what’s not in the travel world. Here are a few of the best tips I picked up at the show this year.
All speakers suggest you use an anonymous computer when searching for flights, hotels, and car rentals. Otherwise, sneaky algorithms pick up what you have searched in the past showing what you are willing to spend. The computer then selects choices that you have afforded in the past but does not show you less expensive options. To beat the system, clear your cookies and search history on a regular basis and use a friend’s computer to search for your flights, lodging, and car rentals.
In terms of bargain travel destinations, Frommer said airfare to Tahiti is 30 percent cheaper this year because there is a price war going on with the airlines. She suggests staying at the outer Austral Islands, where you can rent a cottage for $75-$100. If you are in need of a tropical paradise and want to experience true Tahitian culture now is the time to go.
Domestically, she likes Olympic National Park in the state of Washington because it is 95 percent roadless wilderness without heavy tourist traffic. She likes staying in Squamish, a charming town in nearby British Columbia.
For independent travelers ToursbyLocals.com is a wonderful resource where you can find a local guide in the region you are exploring specializing in your area of interest. There are 3.457 guides in 156 countries on this site with reviews to help you choose the right fit for you.
Thanks to the late, great Anthony Bourdain many tour companies are offering foodie tours, or adding a food element to their other attractions. Upon request, Tours by Locals can provide local specialties made with farm-fresh ingredients. Chiming in on this trend is Airbnb.com/experience and Foodietrip.com is another good source for a vacation focused on what’s for dinner.
Many travelers are opting for hostels, bed and breakfasts, and accommodations on Airbnb because they are homey and less pricey than hotels. Hostels are not just for backpackers. Many of them have full amenities and complete privacy for guests. All of these choices. however. often have a non-refundable policy, so it is important that you get travel insurance when you use them.
Even when traveling domestically, you should have medical emergency evacuation insurance. I learned this the hard way when I injured myself on horse pack trip into the High Sierras and had to be airlifted out of our camp. Travel Guard is the only insurance company I am aware of that allows you to purchase medical emergency evacuation coverage without buying a package that covers flights, baggage loss, etc. Compare different insurance packages offered by numerous companies at www.insuremytripcom.
Highly recommended for car rentals is Autoslash.com. Even after you make your reservations they will apply any discounts offered between the time you book and the time you pick up your car. Frommer likes Booking.com for lodging, TourRadar.com and StrideTravel.com for finding tours. There are tons of travel tips in the Frommer’s Budget Travel Guide.
Get app happy before you go. I like Currency Plus which shows me in big numbers the exchange rate and is very easy to use. Groupon offers deals around the globe. Plug in the location where you will be before you go and they will send you discounted options at your destination.
Tripit is a good one for organizing your itinerary and having everything handy on your phone.
For tips on how to save a buck, Russell Hanon has created The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less. Published in 2015. The book is still relevant and chock full of tricks to save travel dollars.
MY PERSONAL TIP
Living in the canyon is a wonderful thing, but too often Topanga Canyon Boulevard is closed due to mudslides or accidents. To relieve the anxiety of arriving at LAX two hours ahead on time when dealing with L.A. traffic on the 405, I get a hotel at the airport the day before departure. I use American Express (SPG) awards to get a “free room.” This way I can awake fresh, take the hotel shuttle to my departure gate thus avoiding traffic snarls and hikes from parking structures. This gives me room for the two hours getting through security gates and board my flight on time. When taking a long international flight, you can’t miss. In addition, if you start the journey refreshed, you will likely experience less jet-lag. The other solution is taking a red-eye (overnight) flight and waking up at your destination, but that is not always feasible.
Happy explorations! I look forward to sharing my favorite destinations with you in the Messenger Mountain News.
Linda Ballou is an adventure travel writer with a host of travel articles on her site, LostAngelAdventures.com. You will also find information about her travel memoir, Lost Angel Walkabout—One Traveler’s Tales. Subscribe to her blog, LindaBallouTalkingtoyou.com, to receive updates on her books, travel destinations, and events.