Biggest question we’ve been asked: how?
Well, that’s a loaded question, now isn’t it? How indeedy.
So, I guess I should start by saying that both TJ and I run our own businesses. We don’t have to ask for time off, but we do have to organize things smartly so our businesses don’t tank in our absence. And it’s a lot of work before you leave and after you come back. But worth it.
Also, we work during our trips, when we can. We know we’re still going to be answering emails at least a little bit while we’re there, even if our “Out of the Country” auto reply is on. But, it does mean we can keep things moving even while we’re away.
We now regularly take a 3-5 week trip at least once a year. We have the advantage of, over the years, making friends and business contacts by visiting Scotland predominately, so that’s made it easier to go back over and over again. And, to be upfront, my photography has opened a lot of opportunities for us, but that’s been 20 something years of training and experience getting there.
Here’s some tips:
1: You’ve got to save money. Stop buying shit you don’t need and start putting aside money in a savings account. Fast forward: done.
Also, spread out reserving things online. This way, you don’t spend your whole wad in one load and you have time to save up more and still survive.
2. Get yourself a credit card geared toward travel points. Our favorite is the Capitol One Venture X card, but we’ve also taken advantage of Chase’s business cards and Aer Lingus’s credit card since, with the exception during Covid times, we mostly prefer to fly to the UK via Aer Lingus. Whichever airline floats your boat, look into getting a card that caters to that airline. If you’re a responsible credit card user and pay off your balances regularly, you can pile all your day to day expenses on one and get points quickly. Again – be responsible otherwise this is shit advice for someone who racks up debt.
Chase I absolutely loved initially. Then came the delays and cancellations of the modern times, and anytime I had to call customer service to sort things out, it was bloody ridiculous. I’ve spent hours on the phone internationally (thank god for T-Mobile’s rates), waiting on a customer service representative to be my middle man getting things sorted out.
So far, customer service with both Capital One and Aer Lingus have been better. I really like Capital One’s interface on their travel rewards site/app the very best.
*nothing in this blog is sponsored by the way.
3: Be realistic. How much do you want to spend per night on average for accomodations? We used to set a $100/night or cheaper manta. Granted, that’s tougher in 2022. But, typically you can average splurge stays with cheaper “transitional” stays. Some nights were cheaper, some nights were slightly more.
How? Research, research, and timing. Go off season. Scour the internet for great places that are more economically priced.
Get creative, depending on where you’re traveling. For example, we rented a camper van for 3 nights in Iceland (thank you, Happy Campers) and that combined our rental car and accommodations into one.
Planning the trip wisely meant a lot of time researching online. It turned into a part-time job looking at reviews, airbnb locations in relation to which sights we wanted to see, comparing rental car sites, etc.
Here are some websites we used:
Book direct at most hotels. It’s cheaper and better all around.
Instagram: I use instagram constantly to find new places to stay.
Google maps: If you zoom in and start looking at the little bed symbols in areas you’re thinking about, this is a great way to find places to stay.
Scottscheapflights.com, Skyscanner, and Hopper. All good for finding cheap flights if you’re flexible on when and where you’re going.
http://www.ryanair.com – Back in 2016, we used Ryanair from Glasgow to Dublin and then Derry (Northern Ireland) back to London. They are the same weight limitations, so keep those bags light or make sure your carry on is the right size. They’ll also charge you for extras, but if you’re not picky, than you can get super cheap flights to bounce around.
http://www.airbnb.com – I am in love with airbnb. In love. Nothing but wonderful experiences with the properties as well as the hosts. Most places we had the entire place. A few were b&b’s and private rooms, but all had their own private bathroom. READ THE REVIEWS.
http://www.autoeurope.com – Hands down our favorite place to rent a car from. Over and over again. Anytime we’ve swayed, we’ve been disappointed. The most amazing thing is the insurance that you can buy for so much cheaper anywhere else, including the actual car rental company.
As with any rental company, keep in mind that dropping off at a different location add a fee, but we felt it was worth it.
*Typically you can get upgrades cheaper if you wait until you’re at the counter of whichever car rental company you’ve chosen via Auto Europe.
http://www.happycampers.is – Our camper van for Iceland! We got the gravel protection and general insurance. The van was awesome. No 4×4, but perfectly great for the ring road and campsites.
http://www.booking.com – Once in awhile Booking is great if you just need something standard and don’t care if they sort of end up sticking you in whatever room is available.
http://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com – We booked our train tickets online from London to Edinburgh. We booked them the night before we left London, not super far in advance.
4: if you need data and phone while overseas, I highly recommend T-Mobile. Their international plans are fab (ours is just integrated into our monthly plan so we do nothing when we fly overseas, it just works once we get there) and we have great service most of the time. There were only a few areas in Iceland and Scotland that we didn’t have service. And that was fine by me. In past years, we brought a Garmin GPS with us so we wouldn’t have to rely on our phone’s GPS for those most isolated areas, but we haven’t really needed to do that recently. Most airbnbs and hotels have wifi these days, too.
The walk and public transportation features on googlemaps were lifesavers as well. Using the Citymapper app in London was great, too. And be sure to get an Oyster card in London and make sure your airbnb is in Zone 1 to get the most out of it.
Basically: plan ahead. Do a lot of research. Ask your friends for advice if they’ve been somewhere.