One of the main reasons people hesitate to travel is the expense - and, airfare is often one of the most significant factors, which is why I'm often asked, "How do you find the cheapest airfare?"
Unfortunately, there is no one "magic trick" to doing so. It does take a lot of work, and knowledge of how the system works too, but these tips can help you score a better price on airfare.
Book Well In Advance
If you try to book your flight at the eleventh hour, it's going to cost you a lot more, there's just no way around it. Flights are the priciest within two weeks of the date you plan to fly, but it’s usually better to book well in advance of that, especially if you're going to travel internationally. At the same time, you can't book too far ahead either. The "sweet spot," if you will, generally falls between six and eight weeks of the date you plan to travel, for domestic flights. It's a little more complicated for international flights - for Europe, booking 4 to 5 months out, and if you plan to go to Asia, Africa, the Middle East or the Pacific, the ideal time to book is typically 6 to 9 months in advance.
Cheaper Times of the Year to Travel
The price also depends on what time of the year you plan to travel, and if it falls around a holiday. If you want to fly during a holiday period, you’ll often need to book your airfare even further in advance, and you're unlikely to find a bargain.
Flying to the Caribbean can be pricey during the winter, as that's when everyone in colder climates wants to make an escape, but if you go in the summer, or during hurricane season, it's a whole lot cheaper. In most places around the world, however, summer is the most expensive time for airfare and accommodation. Do some research to find out the peak, shoulder and low season for your desired destination - airfare is typically cheapest during the low season, followed by the shoulder and peak season.
The Best Flight Search Engine
Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no one flight search engine that is always going to give you the best price. That means that it's going to take some time to score the lowest airfare. You’ll need to search a number of different sites, every day, and even at various times of the day, if possible. Start by researching airfare on the major sites, like Travelocity, Google Flights, Kayak and Skyscanner, so that you'll have an idea as to what the "typical" airfare might be. Then compare those airfares to the same flights on the airlines' websites - there are some that guarantee the lowest fares if you purchase directly.
You may need to check airfare directly for low cost, budget airlines, as they often aren't included in those travel search engines, such as Frontier, Southwest and Spirit Airlines in the U.S., and European budget airlines like Ryanair, Easyjet and Norwegian Air. Just remember that many of these airlines, while offering much lower airfare, not only come with few frills but often require all sorts of fees in addition to the cost of the flight. You might have to pay for to get a seat assignment, or to check your bags, for example - some even have fees for carry-ons these days. That means it's essential to total up all of the costs before comparing to the other airlines to be sure you're getting the best deal.
The key to all of this is really time - you need to make the time and effort if you're hoping for the lowest possible price.
As mentioned in my last post, I'll be visiting Greece in September, with a short stay in Athens followed by 10 days on Naxos and a few days on Santorini. Choosing where to go among some 230 inhabited islands isn't easy, but I did learn a lot during my research which I wanted to share with you.
While there is no one perfect island for everyone, the best to visit really depends on the type of traveler you are and what you're hoping to experience.
For me personally, the top priorities are the chance to get to know the locals with a more authentic stay rather than spending my time in a touristy resort, as well as scenery, historic sites and outdoor activities. Nightlife and shopping definitely aren't priorities for me.
First, decide what you hope to experience, and then consider what some of the top islands have to offer. To help you out, I've included a varied selection of some of the more popular isles recommended by other travelers, and a few lesser-known gems as well.
I'll start with Naxos, the island I chose to spend most of my time on during this trip. The largest in the Cyclades, it's said to be the best when it comes to experiencing authentic village life and outdoor activities like water sports and hiking. It offers classic Greek island ambiance, with whitewashed homes and Venetian mansions, and boasts long stretches of beach as well as mountain villages and ancient ruins. There are 46 traditional villages on the island, and each one has a bakery or cafe, as well as a square where locals sit around the tables sipping coffee and chatting.
Naxos also has a hilltop castle that dates back to the 13th century, and an archaeological museum. It doesn't get near as many tourists as some of the more popular islands like Santorini, and it's a lot more affordable too. I scored an apartment (Iliada Studios) with a kitchen overlooking the sea for only about $70 a night through Booking.com, and it has rave reviews.
Pretty much everyone has heard of Santorini, and most want to go, if they haven't already. It's a place I just couldn't miss, famous for offering some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet. The sunsets are said to be legendary, while the caldera is filled with brilliant, clear turquoise waters and the villages cling to the tops of the cliffs. It is more expensive and more touristy, but it's also a must experience that's renowned for romance. As I'm going alone, that was actually a bit of a concern, but Santorini isn't just for couples, there is said to be something for everyone, including outdoor adventure and relaxation.
I chose Kalestesia Suites in Akrotiri for my stay - not cheap but for a panoramic sea view on Santorini, definitely a good value at under $200 a night.
Mykonos is often referred to as Greece's answer to Ibiza, but without the attitude. It's especially popular for its nightlife and beach parties. The island is also very busy in the summer months, when the narrow alleys are so packed with people they're nearly impossible to get through without flowing with the crowd.
The scenery is said to be gorgeous, with whitewashed houses and flowered balconies, windmills and churches.
Milos is for beach lovers, famous for having some of the best beaches of all the Greek Islands. The southernmost island in the Cyclades, it has more than 75 beaches of all different types and is also known as the island where the Venus de Milo was discovered. There are whitewashed Cycladic villages, outstanding cuisine, and jaw-dropping sunsets too. I came very close to choosing Milos, but looks like I'll be saving it for another trip.
Rhodes is for history buffs, jam-packed with historic sites like the Temple of Apollo and the Acropolis of Lindos. The Old Town is one of the best preserved in all of Europe, consisting of strong walls, a magnificent castle, lovely paths and elegant stone mansions. It's also quite picturesque, with the town of Lindos featuring sugar-cube-like houses that spill down to the glistening turquoise bay.
Nature lovers are drawn to Ikaria, which is mostly made up of a towering mountain. There are miles of hikes for enjoying the landscape that includes forest, rivers, lakes and farmland. After taking a trek you can even soothe sore muscles in the warm mineral waters of Therma.
Crete is one of the largest and most populated Greek Islands, offering a little bit of everything, including plenty of restaurants, shops and an exciting nightlife as well as historic sites and the opportunity for outdoor adventure like horseback riding and hiking.
Koufonisia is tucked between two larger Cycladic islands, Naxos and Amorgos, made up of two small islets that are separated by a narrow sea channel. One is uninhabited, and the other is home to a population of less than 400. Definitely my kind of place! Although I'm not going to be staying overnight, I do plan to take a sailing trip here from Naxos. Everyone walks or bikes as there are no real roads, but there are those famous whitewashed houses with blue windows. winding alleyways, flowery courtyards and blue domes, as well as a few restaurants and accommodation options. You can even camp on the deserted isle for free.
Have you visited the Greek Islands? Do you have a favorite? I'm looking forward to reporting back my experience, with lots of pictures included!
For a Fun, Affordable & Less Pretentious Vacation in the Colorado Rockies, Skip Aspen - Visit Leadville Instead
I returned recently from a short trip in the Colorado Rockies and I just had to share one of my favorite places to visit here with you. Just about everyone has heard of places like Aspen and Vail, but few seem to know about Leadville.
Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the country at an elevation of 10,152 feet, but that's not why you should visit. If you don't care about celebrity spotting or high-end shopping, and would rather enjoy a more laid-back, less pretentious, significantly more affordable destination in the Rockies, this is where you should go.
The streets are lined with magnificent Victorian buildings and homes, in fact, 70 square blocks of the downtown area are designated as a National Historic Landmark. There are museums to explore, mines to visit, interesting shops and a few outstanding restaurants, including my new favorite, Treeline Kitchen which not only has incredibly delicious food, including lots of healthy options, but rooftop seating, live music and a fire pit. Afterward, you can enjoy a Guinness at the famous Silver Dollar Saloon, an authentic Irish pub that dates back to 1879, or O2 by Period Brewing, which serves up some fantastic creative cocktails as well as oxygen for those suffering from the high altitude, which can happen pretty easily when you go from sea level to over 10,000 feet.
Don't drink too much though, because getting out in the mountains is really a must. The trailhead to one of my favorite hikes is about a 30-minute scenic drive from downtown near Turquoise Lake via Hagerman Pass Road. In the summer, you'll be surrounded by colorful wildflowers and dramatic mountain peaks as you trek up to the ruins of Douglass City. It's hard to believe it was once home to eight saloons and a dance hall, complete with pianos - getting all of that up here seems practically impossible, but they did - and, you'll see multiple foundations that remain of the buildings that were once here.
Back in Leadville, you can also visit one of the most famous mines in the U.S., the Matchless Mine, which was estimated to have produced $7.5 million during the peak of mining operations. The crash of 1893 devastated the Matchless Mine and the once very wealthy Tabor Family who owned it. Upon Tabor's death, his widow, Elizabeth "Baby Doe" Tabor, returned to her home here where she remained in isolation until passing away in 1935. Today, you can tour her cabin as well as the hoist house and headframe.
If you're looking for budget-friendly accommodation, there are a number of them here, including Super 8, and even the historic Delaware Hotel has rooms that start under $100 a night. There are lots of Airbnb options too, from entire vacation homes to private rooms at the cozy Happy Hippie House - while it's 420 friendly, many guests come just to enjoy the fun ambiance, and it has a great location just steps from downtown.
So, what's next?
In just a little over a month, I'll be heading to Greece! Choosing which islands to visit wasn't easy, so in my next post I'll highlight some of the most recommended by frequent travelers to the Greek Islands.
If you've never booked and stayed at an Airbnb, it can be a little intimidating at first, especially if you aren't sure how it really works, but oftentimes, the experience can be significantly better than a standard hotel, and more affordable too.
These are just a few of the reasons to consider Airbnb for your overnight stays.
Typically, an Airbnb is going to give you a lot more space than the average motel room. While they can range from a private room to a luxurious home with multiple bedrooms, no matter which you choose, you'll probably get a better value. This can be an ideal way for a large family or a group of friends to travel, as you won't have to book separate rooms, but you'll still enjoy some privacy. And, when splitting the cost with others, you're likely to save quite a lot too.
In many destinations, especially in more remote places around the world, hotels are few and far between. Considering Airbnb opens up a lot more options, you may even be able to score that perfect apartment in downtown Dingle, Ireland, where you'll be steps away from a myriad of pubs and live music, or even a lavish vacation home on the California coast, for the fraction of the price you'd pay a hotel room located in a similar area.
A More Authentic Experience
An Airbnb often provides a more authentic experience that allows you to see a destination through the eyes of a local. In Todos Santos, Mexico, for example, I like to stay in Casita de Los Inseparables. As it's located on the hosts' property, it has the feel as if you're living like a local, while offering plenty of privacy and the benefit of enjoying all sorts of insider advice and tips as to what to do, where to eat and so on.
Airbnb owners/hosts are typically very helpful with recommendations, directions, and any information they feel may benefit you on your trip. Some, like Claude and Celia, the owners of Casita de Los Inseparables, are so welcoming, they may even invite you over for a glass of wine and a chat, or a game of backgammon.
Comforts of Home
While most hotel rooms don't include kitchens, there are many Airbnb options that have them. That means you'll get to save on dining out by shopping at the market like the locals, in addition to enjoying many of the other comforts of home as well, like a washer and dryer. You might even have your own private hot tub!
After spending much of her life in a cubicle, at 40-something K.C. decided to finally LIVE. Today, she is always on some sort of adventure, or writing about it.
She hopes her journey will inspire you to do the same.