Today is National Plan for Vacation Day. Seriously. The reason I know this is because I opened up my email to find three “offers” to help me celebrate this national holiday.
Since I work in the travel industry you may conclude I either 1) fully endorse this holiday (think: a certain greeting card company selling $7 Valentine cards to give to your loved one…from the dog), or I 2) am perplexed by this gimmicky holiday (think: I immediately Googled: Who Is Making Up These Weird Holidays?)
OK, OK, I did do that Googling bit, but after briefly perusing the “offers” in my inbox I thought, maybe this “holidate” isn’t a reason to blast out a sales email to our mailing list, but instead, a good prompt to think about how we, as travel professionals, plan vacations. Are there any tips the Zephyr Adventures staff can provide to help people plan a vacation…any day of the year?
I asked around. A theme immediately became obvious: technology. Websites and apps. We have our favorites, and we use them for planning – a lot! And so, here are some technology hacks we find useful for travel planning. If you choose to embrace Plan for Vacation Day, happy geeking out!
LODGING (CAPTAIN OBVIOUS: SOMETIMES ON OVERNIGHT TRIPS YOU NEED A PLACE TO SLEEP)
- Hotels.com: I use this because the search engine seems pretty good and because they give rewards for frequent use. Keep in mind the rewards expire! (Allan, Zephyr’s Owner)
- VRBO and Air BnB: For my personal travel, I frequently prefer to stay in private homes versus hotels. However, I never book a rental that is just a room in someone’s home as that does not sound like a vacation to me! (Allan, Zephyr’s Owner)
FLIGHTS (WHEN WALKING OR SWIMMING JUST WON’T DO)
- Orbitz: I always check airfares first with an aggregator like Orbitz and then I almost always book the flight directly with the airline unless it is a multi-airline flight. However, keep in mind Orbitz does not list fares from Southwest Airlines. (Allan, Zephyr’s Owner)
- Skyscanner: If I have a good timeframe for travel, but I’m not sure where to go, I use Skyscanner and select “Everywhere” for the destination so that it brings up the cheapest flights for a whole list of destinations. (Beth, Marketing Lead)
- Uber: I rarely take a taxi. Uber is much more efficient and usually cheaper. In fact, it is cheaper for me to Uber to my local airport than it is to park there for five days so I take Uber to start and end most of my trips. (Allan, Zephyr’s Owner)
ORGANIZING THE CREW (HERDING CATS)
- Private Facebook Pages: I organize a yearly cross-country ski trip with friends. I create a private Facebook group page so I can keep everyone updated on everything: costs, times, meal-plans, ride sharing, snow reports, etc. It saves me time by not having people ask me (the organizer) the same question over and over. I also organize teams for several ice hockey tournaments each year. Once I have the team selected and committed, I create a separate private Facebook group page for each one. It is helpful for posting schedules, directions to the rink, etc. Hockey players love to heckle one another, so it also turns out to be a lot of fun in the process! (Kris, Alumni Ambassador & Tour Operations)
- Doodle: For the above-mentioned cross-country ski trip, I use Doodle to determine the best dates for everyone. “Doodle radically simplifies the process of scheduling events, meetings, appointments, etc. Herding cats gets 2x faster with Doodle!” Best of all, it’s free! (Kris, Alumni Ambassador & Tour Operations)
- Splitwise: My husband and I are vacationing with four friends in Baja, Mexico, next month. We are staying in three different towns throughout the trip. I reserved and paid for a hotel, a 4×4 vehicle, and a VRBO. Other friends reserved and paid for another VRBO. The other set of friends did and paid nothing, but will buy groceries or pay for dinners once we are there. We are using a free app called Splitwise in which we can record all the payments and it figures out who owes who what. At the end of the trip, we can simply PayPal one another right from the app. It is brilliant! (Kris, Alumni Ambassador & Tour Operations)
- Google Docs is a lifesaver, not only in my work life but when it comes to sharing information with my travel mates on personal trips. When I plan a trip with friends, we can easily collaborate and add details to one itinerary that we can all access from our computers or phones.(Kris) In Google Spreadsheets, each day of our trip gets its own row with columns for where we will be staying that night, potential activity ideas, links to confirmations if we have reservations for that day, and flight info. (Beth, Marketing Lead)
OTHER (USEFUL, BUT THEY DON’T FIT IN A CATEGORY ABOVE)
- Units Plus: Converts currencies, temps, distances, etc.
- Weather Base: Check historical weather averages for most any location.
- XE Currency Converter: The name says it all.
- Google Translate: Download the language(s) you want to translate so you can use the app offline. Use your phone’s camera for instant translation.
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