Tips for Travelers: Budgets, Bookings, and Free Wi-Fi

During one of our long layovers on our way home from Australia, Mr. Wallaby and I started crunching some numbers, and we couldn’t believe how complicated the logistics of our honeymoon were. Don’t get me wrong—we had a GREAT time and relaxed a lot on our trip, but we keep marveling at how much we packed into 17 days. Pretty redonk, people. Check out the Wallaby honeymoon in numbers:

  • 11 flights
  • 4 cities
  • 6 beaches
  • 5 hotels
  • 2 rental cars
  • 9 taxi rides
  • 2 train rides
  • 2 boat rides
  • 2 carry-on suitcases and 2 small backpacks
  • 2 loads of laundry
  • …and 2 people happy in love (dawww)

From this trip as well as past travels, we’ve learned a heck of a lot about traveling abroad. If you’re the intrepid type and want to book an adventure-packed honeymoon, or if you’re looking for some general travel advice, here are the Wallaby Rules of Traveling:

HipsterTraveler

Hipster traveler / Personal photo

Booking the trip

  • Book in advance. The cost of airfare is inflated a lot right before you travel. We booked our flights from Houston to Nelson, and from Sydney back to Houston, nine months in advance and scored a great deal on early-bird tickets.
  • Take advantage of Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, and other travel websites to compare the costs of airfare, hotels, and rental cars. I usually book our flights on Priceline and our hotels on Expedia (which usually offers an even lower rate for non-refundable bookings). (Gross, sorry, I sound like a walking advertisement…but seriously, those websites have dealz.)
  • I am normally all for going paperless, but when it comes to travel, I print out a copy of every confirmation email I receive for booking flights, hotels, and rental cars. These emails contain confirmation numbers that help speed up the check-in process (and they’ve saved my butt countless times!).
  • If you’re traveling abroad, make sure your passport is up to date! I’ve heard a lot of people are turned away from cruises because they leave their passports at home.
  • Check to see if you need to apply for a visa in advance. We didn’t need anything except our US passports to enter New Zealand, but Australia required us to apply for electronic visas before we began our trip. It was an easy process, but without those visas we would’ve been barred from entering the country!
  • Be very careful when booking a trip with layovers. Mr. W and I learned this the hard way: I booked a round-trip ticket from Sydney to Cairns for the fourth leg of our trip, so on the final day when we were supposed to fly home, we flew from Cairns to Sydney…and totally missed our flight from Sydney to Houston, which I booked separately with a different airline. I should’ve booked the whole itinerary through one booking so that when we missed our flight, the airline would have guaranteed us a spot on a later flight. We fortunately flew on standby on the next flight out of Sydney, but it was only at the goodwill of the airline. If you can’t book all of your flights through one booking, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time for the layover(s). The Sydney domestic and international airports are in separate buildings—we had to take a taxi from one to the other, which is part of what caused us to miss our flight.
  • Check and see if your car insurance offers any discounts on car rentals. I book through my insurance company, USAA, and I’ve gotten a 25% to 30% discount and they’ve waived the fee for me being under 25.

Honeymoon1

Photo by Sweet Little Photographs / Image via Lover.ly

Packing

  • Pack as lightly as possible. seriously. Every time I travel, when I get home I unpack at least one pair of shoes (invariably, a pair of statement heels) and one outfit that I never wore on the trip. Try to pack pieces that mix-and-match well, and pack some scarves and bold jewelry if you get bored of wearing the same thing again and again.
  • When traveling abroad, don’t forget to pack a power converter and adapter plug! I bought an Australia/New Zealand adapter plug for under $10 at Target. If you’re traveling to multiple countries, you may need a “universal adapter/converter,” which allows you to plug into each type of outlet you’ll encounter.
  • Pack a small container of laundry detergent so you can do a load of laundry on a longer trip. I buy mini bottles of Tide in the travel section from Target. I have washed clothes in hotel sinks plenty of times; it allows me to pack much more lightly.

Honeymoon2

Photo by Ryan Ray / Image via Lover.ly

Budget-savvy traveling

  • Save money by traveling on public transportation. I’m a huge fan of traveling by train—and when I backpacked around Europe I got around exclusively by train. Just be sure to grab a subway or bus map to help you plan your trip. There are also lots of apps out there for trip planning in major cities. OneBusAway, developed by my alma mater, University of Washington, shows you where the nearest bus stop is in Seattle, when the next bus is coming, and whether the bus is running on schedule or behind.
  • Need wi-fi? (I know you can’t get enough of Weddingbee, even on the road! ;) ) Most Starbucks and McDonald’s locations offer free wi-fi. I’ve taken advantage of their wi-fi all over Europe, in Queenstown, in Sydney, and even in the US.
  • Accommodations can really drive up the cost of your trip. Check out a less touristy neighborhood, or consider renting an apartment. I’ve rented a very cheap apartment in the heart of Paris, and that saved me a lot of money on croissants meals as well, since I whipped up simple meals in the apartment’s kitchenette. I also like to check out less touristy neighborhoods to get the “real experience” of a city—Mr. W and I LOVED staying in Potts Point in Sydney.
  • Even if you’re staying in a hotel rather than an apartment with a full kitchen, seek out rooms with mini fridges where you can store small amounts of food. Mr. W and I live off of cereal for breakfast, and we kept milk in the mini fridge of each hotel room we stayed at on the honeymoon. This was far, far cheaper than going out for breakfast every day.

Honeymoon3

Photo by Joielala Photographie / Image via Lover.ly

Cash and credit cards

  • Check to see if using your debit or credit cards abroad will incur any foreign transaction fees. Bank of America charges about $5 every time I swipe my everyday debit card abroad. However, Bank of America has a partnership with a number of foreign banks—including BNP Paribas (France), Barclays (UK), and Westpac (Australia)—so when I withdraw cash from ATMs at those specific banks, I am not charged the normal $5 fee. Sha-wing! On our honeymoon, I withdrew cash when we spotted a Westpac bank.
  • Call your bank and credit card companies to let them know you’ll be traveling out of the country. If you don’t, you run a high risk of having your card or account frozen the first time you use your card abroad.
  • Go abroad with a travel-friendly credit card. Mr. W has Chase’s Sapphire card, which has no foreign transaction fees (woohoo!!) and allows us to earn points to use toward future travel. We love the card and we’ve scored some free flights from rewards points.
  • I’ve found it’s always helpful to withdraw some currency as soon as I arrive in a foreign country—especially if I plan to take a taxi to my hotel. I don’t like to withdraw cash too often, so I usually take out enough cash for a week at a time. However, whatever cash you carry on your body could be pick-pocketed, so unless you’re wearing a money belt hidden under your clothes, be wary of how much cash you carry around.

Honeymoon4

Image via Lover.ly

And my best advice for you, other than staying safe and healthy, is to enjoy every moment. Don’t spend your whole trip behind the lens of a camera. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a famous place—the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel—where I was surrounded by tourists who were busy snapping photos and videos of the beautiful sights instead of taking in the views with their own eyes. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s nice to capture special moments on photo while you’re traveling. But don’t be too preoccupied with taking the perfect photo of a famous place, or you’ll miss out on the actual experience. There are usually cheap postcards for sale 50 feet away if you need a photo to remember the place. Take it all in. Your honeymoon will fly by in the blink of an eye.

What advice can you add for future travelers? Anything you’ve had to learn the hard way?

BLOGGER

Mrs. Wallaby

Location:
Houston
Wedding Date:
November 2012
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comments

  1. Member
    mstreasure 1655 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:29 am

    This is a great post, Wallaby. We sound like we travel very similarly. :-)

  2. Member
    buffalo 178 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:32 am

    Mr. B is the same way about booking through USAA! They have great deals and he books through them whenever he can!

  3. Member
    lealorali 4827 posts, Honey bee @ 8:51 am

    SUCH a great post!
    • I would say only ever bring a carry-on. It eliminates so many problems.
    • Lay all your clothes out. Cut the pile in half and DOUBLE the money you plan to bring.
    • For free wifi- use your smartphone (Droid/ iPhone). As you lift off, put the phone onto Airplane Mode. You can get free wifi but data/ calling/messaging is off so you won’t get any charges. I used Skype in Europe, Ecuador & Brazil and it didn’t cost me a penny.

  4. Member
    hma812 366 posts, Helper bee @ 9:00 am

    So so helpful, thank you so much for this post!

  5. Member
    mstoadstool 2485 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:21 am

    Wow, this is great advice, Wallaby.

  6. Member
    genie 723 posts, Busy bee @ 9:35 am

    All of this travel advice is so great! Have you used the Bing travel predictor? It’s helpful to see when flights to your destination are at their highest and their lowest! I use it a lot for work and it has saved my company a pretty penny! Thanks for this post, Wallaby!

  7. Member
    stephk527 987 posts, Busy bee @ 11:34 am

    This is AWESOME advice Mrs. Wallaby!

  8. Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 2:09 pm

    Great advice, Mrs. Wallaby! I’m so ready to plan my next trip now :)

  9. Member
    graywolf 725 posts, Busy bee @ 2:21 pm

    good tips! i second @Mrs. Genie on bing and have used kayak too for awhile. europeandestinations.com usually has good trip prices and its nice to book through them as they’ll cover you on stuff.

  10. Guest Icon Guest
    Gwen, Guest @ 5:07 pm

    One thing I would add is to pack a small first aid kit-advil/pepto/benadryl/midol/day-quil/bandaids/blister care/whatever you may need. Even though other countries have similar products, they may be more costly (depending on the exchange rate) and you don’t want to waste vacation time finding a drug store (and trying to figure out the foreign version of Alka-seltzer)

  11. Member
    ChicagoDreamer 509 posts, Busy bee @ 5:13 pm

    Fabulous tips! I agree with them all!

  12. Member
    panda 1359 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:04 pm

    Such useful tips! I’m bookmarking this!

  13. Member
    cicijapan 263 posts, Helper bee @ 5:02 pm

    Great advice! Thank you!

  14. Member
    camel 703 posts, Busy bee @ 8:15 pm

    As a fellow traveler, I totally second all of these awesome ideas. And can I just say how freaking fabulous you look in the photo up there? I wish I looked half that amazing while traveling. Usually I look like a frumpy. exhausted hot mess.

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