How to get the most out of your vacation time with a full-time job
2020 is the year you want to make your travel dreams come true, but you have a small problem... your full-time job. Domestic travel is difficult enough to plan, but with limited PTO international trips may seem impossible.
I’d like to introduce a bit more strategy into your vacation planning. Following these 2 simple tips at the beginning of every year can highly increase your chances to travel and reduce your spending.
Who Will This Work For?
This advice is for you If you work a traditional 9-5 job in a corporate environment, or have limited PTO availability in general.
Those of you who work in health care, child care, are civil servants, or similar careers...I’m sorry! You likely don’t have the standard 9-5 allotment of time off because you work directly with patients and people, and people don’t only need help on a 9-5 schedule. And if you’re self-employed or fun-employed, good news! You make your own vacation schedule.
This is to help those with limited PTO visualize, strategize, and most importantly utilize it in the most cost-effective and way.
Highlight the Long Weekends.
Most people see long weekends as an extra night to stay up late, another morning to sleep in. I see them in the same way… while traveling. Long weekends are opportunities to travel without using PTO or important university classes and often come about when federal holidays that fall on Fridays or Wednesdays. This is prime travel time for short domestic trips and weekends away.
Start by consulting a list of established federal holidays for the year such as the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day, and make sure they are on your calendar. Then note birthdays, anniversaries, religious holidays, Coachella, or any other events that you will likely travel for. Now you’ll have mapped out when is optimal for you to travel, and when you prefer to travel, and you can work on integrating them together.
Example: Perhaps your birthday is on May 20th, which in 2020 lands on a Wednesday. Not very convenient for celebrating.
However, if you map out your calendar you’ll see that Memorial day lands on May 25. Not so far away! If you truly wanted to celebrate on your birthday, you could use 3 days of PTO for 3 days, May 20-22, but be on vacation a total of 6 days, May 20-25. Knowing when and how much PTO you might use as early as possible can help you prioritize your spending so that you’re sure you’ll have enough when you need it. Now you can spend your birthday in the Republic of Georgia instead of Georgia.
Outline the low seasons for regions you’re interested in.
Would you go to South Korea in February? Iceland in August? Banff in July? Well, if you’re looking for huge cost-savings on your international vacations, you should consider it! These times are known as the off-season, shoulder-season, or low-season because they are not the peak tourism months for a location.
With a few simple Google Searches, you can identify the low season for a few regions you’re interested in visiting i.e. The Mediterranean, The Caribbean, The Middle East, The Pacific Islands, etc. I recommend searching by region instead of country or continent because regions are separated by more subjective variables like climate, and will be a more accurate representation.
This usually means that you will experience less than desirable weather—a little bit of rain, a little bit of humidity—but what you get in exchange is worth it, in my opinion.
Fewer tourists, more locals, smaller crowds (which means better photos), shorter lines, lower prices, and best of all, tourism industries who are coveting low-season business and are extra motivated to please!
For example, I’ve been to Cancun during its rainy season. I was there for 5 days and, as expected, it rained every single day… for an hour. Each day would begin with gorgeous weather, sprinkled every from 1-3 PM, and then revert back to its sunny gorgeousness. But because it was the low season, the beaches were practically private and the service was VIP. We even got a free room upgrade because of availability.
Of course, you don’t want to head into the Caribbean during hurricane season. But by doing your research and going during the rainy season can give you a premium result as I had!
One small reminder before you book: in the slower tourist seasons you might experience local businesses having shorter hours or be completely closed for short stints. This occurs often in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, either because of the weather or because the locals themselves are taking advantage of the slower business to travel. However, the remaining locals themselves still have shopping and eating needs so I’ve found that just enough of the attractions stays open for me to enjoy the destination and it still is worth avoiding the huge crowds and cruise ships of people.
Why Should You Do This?
This may seem like a lot of effort for bad weather and a few long weekends. Why should you bother?
Aside from the overall better travel experience afforded by smaller crowds, I do think this method is worth it for keeping good graces at your job. If you work a 9-5 but want to travel, you may find yourself constantly asking management to reserve vacation days (and possibly being rejected), or constantly haggling hours with coworkers and sacrificing some holidays for others. This can cause office tension and ultimately damage your work environment. But by using this method, you are optimizing the vacation time you already have with your weekends, and burdening your work team as little as possible!
Also, by mapping your prime travel times at the beginning of the year, you give yourself the opportunity to book flights, accommodations, excursions (and haggle with tour operators for the best group prices), some months in advance. This can result in thousands of dollars in savings!
With a bit of research and forethought, your 9-5 job does not have to keep you from seeing the world.
Gabby Beckford is an early 20-something with a passion for travel and an eye for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. You can read more of her blog at https://www.packslight.com/.
When is the best time to book a flight for your trip?
So often these days, travelers feel captive to the whims of the airlines. Flight prices, what’s included with your ticket, what’s considered an add-on, even whether or not you can bring a carry-on – it can be confusing and frustrating. Qtrip aims to simplify this process for travelers, and one way we can help is to be transparent and provide insights into the best time to buy an airline ticket.The Qtrip Airfare Study analyzed more than 917 million airfares across 8,000 markets to uncover insights and provide advice so that travelers can make informed choices when they plan. How far in advance should you book a flight? Based on data from the past year, Qtrip found that the average best day to buy a flight is 77 days in advance of your travel date (for domestic U.S. travel). This is an average finding, so it’s best to think of a range of dates.Qtrip classified the range of dates in which you can buy an airline ticket, called Booking Zones. There are 6 Airfare Booking Zones: First Dibs 315 to 202 days in advance (Approximately 10 to 6.5 months) If you are a traveler who appreciates having the most options, you’ll likely find the First Dibs zone ideal. The most choice in seats, specific flight times, and even classes of service occur when you buy early. If you buy in this early bird zone, you’ll spend around $50 more than if you wait to buy in the “Prime Booking Window.” It’s money well spent, if you prefer to have all the choices. Peace of Mind 201 to 128 days in advance (Approximately 6.5 to 4 months) The Peace of Mind zone is best for travelers who like to keep a balance between choice and value. It’s early enough that you’ll still have options, and it’s not quite as expensive as First Dibs (you’ll save about $30 on average compared to First Dibs). Prime Booking Window 127 to 21 days in advance (Approximately 4 months to 3 weeks) This is where you want to be if budget takes precedence in your decision-making. Year over year, this prime booking zone consistently yields the lowest prices for travelers (within 5% of the lowest ticket price). You’re likely going to trade in some of that choice we mentioned earlier, but if cost is the main consideration, there is no better zone for you. Push Your Luck 20 to 14 days in advance (Approximately 3 – 2 weeks) Here’s where things can get dicey. Inside of 3 weeks, the odds are prices will go up, and choice gets limited. This is a zone best left to gamblers, Sometimes you can find a great deal in the Push Your Luck zone, but it’s not a sure thing. Playing with Fire 13 to 7 days in advance (2 weeks to 1 week) Real risk takers dwell in the Playing with Fire zone – these are travelers who can’t help but wait until nearly the last minute to buy tickets. The truth is that playing with fire will often leave singe marks on your wallet. There’s usually much less choice and the prices are even higher. Hail Mary 6 to 0 days in advance (Less than a week) Most people find themselves in the “Hail Mary” zone out of necessity (family emergency or unexpected trip), rather than a premeditated choice. If you hope to save money OR like choice, there’s little to recommend buying here. If you have to do so, you’ll likely pay about $200 more, on average, than you would if you shopped in the Prime Booking Window. Should you find yourself here, you do have options. Qtrip offers monthly payments for travelers.
How to find the cheapest Mediterranean cruise and hit the seas for under $200
Whether you’re gazing upon the Trevi Fountain in Rome, dining on baguettes in the South of France, or trying to wrap your head around the Acropolis in Athens, a Mediterranean cruise is the trip of a lifetime. When to book a Mediterranean cruise Booking far in advance (two years or more) or relatively last minute (two months or less) can often find you cheaper prices. June, July and August tend to be the busiest, and most expensive, months to take a Mediterranean cruise. Your money will often go further if you plan for the shoulder seasons in spring and fall, when the weather is still reliable, if chillier and grayer. Winter will get you even steeper discounts and fewer crowds, but in most cases, it lacks the sunshine and warm weather the Mediterranean is known for, and you’ll have fewer daylight hours to explore. How to find the best cruise deals Discount sites like Expedia, Kayak, or cruise-specific sites like Cruise Critic can lead to excellent prices. Cruises typically set their rates as per-person with an assumed double occupancy, or as per-day prices. Consider what’s included in that price. For longer trips, is there self-service laundry on board, or is there a fee? Are drinks – coffee, alcohol, juices, sodas – included? What are your food options, and what to reviews say about food quality? You’ll be spending a lot of time on the ship, so know what you’re paying for. Below, we’ve tried to give you an idea of the cheapest Mediterranean cruise options. Everything is in per-person rates. MSC and Costa dominate as the lowest-priced options (under $500) when it comes to Mediterranean itineraries, although Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean will sometimes have deals of note. How to choose a Western Mediterranean vs. Eastern Mediterranean cruises Both areas have Unesco World Heritage sites, unbeatable local cuisine and excellent shopping. Western cruises in the budget realm tend to focus on Spain, France, Tunisia, and western parts of Italy, such as Genoa and Rome. Eastern Mediterranean cruises hit Italian destinations like Venice, as well as Greece, Montenegro and Croatia. If you’re most thrilled by warm sandy beaches, the Eastern Mediterranean will be the best choice. Some Eastern Mediterranean itineraries may also include Albania or as far as Turkey and Middle Eastern countries, though we couldn’t find them on any budget itineraries. The best budget Western Mediterranean cruises If you want to keep your cruise real short, MSC runs deals on single-night itineraries from one western Mediterranean city to another for less than $100 per person. For example, as of this writing, there are April 2020 overnights from Genoa, Italy, to Marseille, France or Barcelona, Spain for $69. Keep an eye out for MSC’s promotional deals, which often include a 2-for-1 price with kids sailing free. For example, an eight day, seven night sailing on MSC Poesia (one of the most elegant ships in MSC’s fleet) to Italy, France, Spain and Tunisia in November starts as little as $389. On Costa Cruises, a three-night western Mediterranean itinerary can be as cheap as $231 in October, sailing to Marseille, Barcelona and Genoa. This one is on their Costa Magica ship, which attracts a lot of Italian cruisers and has Italian-themed decor to match. If you’re the plan-ahead type, you can spend three days visiting Rome, Naples and Barcelona on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, currently the world’s second largest cruise ship, for less than $400 per person, but you’ll need to book as far out as October 2021. When it comes to high season prices, the newly-launched Costa Smerelda sails to Barcelona, Palma, Cagliari, Rome, Savona, and Marseilles for as low as $669 in June. Bonus: the ship was designed to use 100% liquefied natural petrol to cut exhaust emissions. Royal Caribbean International’s best deal is a seven night trip in August through Italy, Spain and France on Explorer of the Seas – which has an ice skating rink, surf simulator, and rock climbing wall onboard – for $754. The best budget Eastern Mediterranean cruises: Eastern Italy, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro Limited on time and money? See three countries in four days for $279 aboard the MSC Musica in October, which sails to Greece, Montenegro and Venice, Italy. For folks with more vacation days, spend seven nights on the MSC Lirica to see several spots in Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, and Greece for $347. When it comes to the high season, Costa has a late May steal of a deal for a seven night cruise for $649 on the Costa Deliziosa, a relatively small ship with room for less than 2,300 passengers. This route stops in Venice and Bari, Italy, as well as several ports in Greece. Royal Caribbean International has seven night July itineraries that explore Greece and Croatia for less than $800 on Rhapsody of the Seas, which has run numerous awards from Cruise Critic, including 2018’s best dining, best entertainment, best overall cruise ship, and best value. A seven-day trip on the Celebrity Infinity in late June hovers around $940, likely because the ship is getting a planned major overhaul later in the year. But hey, it’s still a great way to Venice, Split, Kotor, Corfu, Naples and Rome, and people regularly praise the variety of restaurants onboard, renovation or not.
These translation apps can be a personal travel interpreter for your travels
Technology has fundamentally changed the way we travel. Whether following directions, snapping pictures and taking videos, or just communicating, mobile phones have made everything simpler for the modern road trip. Thankfully, the newest digital features also include a slew of translation apps and services to help you better navigate foreign countries and cultures. And though they won’t automatically upgrade your core skills or teach you to perfectly speak another language, they will allow you to easily converse and connect while abroad. Here’s what you need to know before setting off on your next international adventure. Google Assistant Interpreter Mode The Google Translate app has already proved to be a huge help in translating over 100 different languages using voice, image and handwriting. But the just-launched Interpreter Mode for smartphones is a real-time translation feature which can be accessed using any Google Assistant-enabled phone, either Android or iOS. Just use the greeting, “Hey, Google” to begin, then ask your Assistant to translate or help you speak across any of the includes 44 languages – almost instantly. You’ll then be able to see the translated conversation on your phone. Don’t want to speak your instructions out loud? You can choose to type or manually select the language. In addition, Google has added a similar feature in Google Maps to help you navigate, allowing your phone to translate names and addresses in the local language. Google Assistant comes installed on Android but Apple users can download it from the Apple Store. Microsoft Translator A great option for business, this mobile app can help you translate over 60 languages using either text or voice and can even translate more than one person at a time. Within the app, you can choose the type of translation you need, be it spoken, typed or image, or just tap on the People icon, which allows you to start or join a conversation by sharing a digital code via smartphone or even enter a group chat. Offline language packs also let you access basic translations when you’re not connected or find yourself off the beaten track. Available for iOS, Android and Windows 10. iTranslate This simple and popular app helps you converse in over 100 different languages. Speak into your phone and it will automatically translate your words into text of whichever language you choose. Need to translate a sign, menu or map? It’s as easy as snapping a photo. The app also instantly translates websites into over 40 languages, includes a dictionary with verb conjugations and even offers an extension for using your Apple Watch. Available for iOS, Android and as a Web App. TripLingo This well-rounded, not to mention fun, app not only includes a voice translator for conversations, but also comes with a built-in phrasebook to help you sound more like a local and less like a clueless tourist – incorporating over 2000 phrases representing four levels of slang, formal and more casual options. You’ll also have access to a suite of learning tools, like audio lessons, interactive flashcards and a quiz mode to get you in fighting (or conversing) shape. Travel tools are also helpful and include a direct line to emergency services, a tip calculator and an etiquette guide for improving your cultural manners. For an added charge, you can also instantly access live translators on standby. Available for iOS and Android. Speak & Translate This app comes with a price – you can purchase it by month or by year – but puts a premium on less common languages, like Icelandic and Zulu, using a sleek, seamless experience for translating conversations. Real-time voice recognition includes 117 languages for text translations and 54 languages for voice translations. Translation history can be synchronized and accessed across Apple platforms, and voice settings let you choose how fast or slow you want your translations read out loud, as well as a choice of male and female voices. Available on iOS. SayHi Simplicity is this apps raison d’etre, giving you access to a super simple, split-screen interface which allows you to speak or type the words and/or sentences you need translated in 90 languages. It also allows for regional dialects in certain languages and lets you share your translated conversations using text, email Facebook or Twitter. Voice settings let you adjust the speed of your translations in either male or female voices. Available on iOS and Android.
Travel Tips: Avoid these 7 etiquette mistakes while traveling abroad
Exploring new places and cultures is part of the thrill of travel, but it’s important to keep in mind that, just like when you’re a guest in someone else’s home, when you’re overseas, you’re a guest in someone else’s homeland. The same rules may not apply. We’ve put together this handy guide to help you navigate foreign etiquette. If you can be sure to avoid these faux pas, then you’ll certainly be welcomed back. 1. India: Your right hand is the right hand Sorry, lefties, but if you’re heading to India, you’ve got some preparing to do before you leave. In India, custom dictates that the left hand is used for cleaning your feet and other parts of your body typically covered with clothes. When it comes to eating, shaking hands, and all other social events, the right hand is, well, the right hand. Also bear in mind that the left hand is used for removing your shoes, which is a must when you enter someone’s home, a mosque or temple, and even some stores. 2. Greece: Beware the toilet paper trap in Greece Arguably the biggest attractions in Greece are the Parthenon, the Ancient Theatre of the Asklepieion, and all the other ancient architectural marvels. The ancient Greeks were as advance in their plumbing capabilities as they were with their building savvy, what with a Minoan king of Crete inventing the first flushable toilet about 2,800 years ago. But the technical know-how in that department has not kept pace. Toilets throughout the country today are equipped with pipes that are about two inches in diameter, about half that of pipes in the U.S. Toilet paper easily clogs them, so bins are supplied in every loo for paper waste. 3. Germany: Mind your hands Germans may not be known for speaking with their hands the way Italians are, but you still have to mind them when you’re around others. Don’t talk to someone with your hands in your pocket. It’s considered quite rude. It’s also customary to keep your hands on the table when you’re eating. And Germans are big on shaking hands, too. Whenever you arrive to meet or depart from a group of people, shake hands with each and every individual or consider yourself and outcast. 4. France: Don’t split the bill Here’s a term you should know before you head to Paris: La note separee (say-pa-RAY). That’s how to ask for separate checks when you’re dining out in the City of Light. In France it’s considered vulgar to talk about money, so to get into a whole who-owes-what deliberation when you’re out with friends would be the ultimate indiscretion. Play it safe and ask for individual checks. If you’re out to ingratiate yourself to someone, just say “Ce soir, c’est moi qui vous invitons.” (Tonight, it’s on me.) 5. Japan: Keep it clean Walk through any U.S. city and you’ll spot countless pedestrians hurrying down the street with a coffee cup in one hand and their phone in the other. That’s precisely what not to do in Japan. In Japan, cleanliness is truly next to godliness. Even the subway’s public bathrooms are as immaculate as a five-star hotel’s. Keeping cities spotless is instinctive to every citizen, which is why nobody drinks coffee, eats, or even smokes when they walk. It lowers the risk of making a mess – of your surroundings and yourself. And smokers, beware: lighting up in some public spaces is illegal, so make sure to check for signs first. 6. Chile: For best results, use a fork and knife Got Chile on your bucket list? Here’s what you need to know before you get there: finger food does not exist here. Yes, of course restaurants serve appetizers and fries and such, but it’s considered extremely uncouth to touch your food. It’s said that Chileans get this from a strong cultural link with Europe, so pick up your knife and fork before digging into those fries. And here’s a bonus tip: Mexico has the opposite etiquette. You’ll be deemed unworthy of your taco if you eat it with a knife and fork. 7. Thailand: Keep your hands to yourself If you accidentally touch someone’s head in Thailand, be sure to apologize. According to Thai Buddhist spiritual beliefs, the head is considered a very sacred part of the body so making contact with someone’s head is disrespectful. Of course, this doesn’t count in privacy when you’re with a loved one, but it does hold for children, so be sure not to pinch the cheeks of any cute kids you encounter.