It's My Birthday I Can Giveaway If I Want To

Today is my birthday!

To celebrate, one lucky subscriber will win a $25 Amazon gift card AND an Anker portable charger to keep your device charged on your next trip. 'Cause, you know, Instagram.  Or Snapchat, whatever. 

How to Enter: Starting April 28 at 9 AM PT, click here to enter your email address and name -- which also subscribes you to The RoundTrip if you haven't done so already -- and you're in!  Follow us and share on social media for extra entries.  Winner will be announced in next week's The RoundTrip.

Good luck!

How To Fly Around the World for Under $200

This blog post could also be titled, How I Afford Travel, or How I Convince My Husband To Travel Internationally Every Year, or How Not To Get Ripped Off by the Airline Industry (just kidding. I love you airline industry).

As you have likely already gathered about me if you know me, if you've read my early posts, or if you've read the "About Me" on this site, I'm a relative newbie in the travel world.  I've always had the desire to travel, but didn't get my first passport until 2013, and didn't leave the continent until 2014 when I went on a trip around the world.

Booking the trip around the world opened my eyes to a new world of travel.  Since that fateful night when I booked flights from New York - Milan, Prague - Paris - Thailand for $177 (yes, total!), I've become obsessed with fare glitches, fare deals, fuel dumping, and insane airfare deals.

I find airfare to be the most daunting - and often most expensive - part of travel.  Especially when you're brand new to travel.  Booking an expensive flight, hotels, researching where to go, what to do, what to eat, cultures, potential scams, and everything else with travel can be scary!

But.  The more I travel, the easier and less daunting it has become.  Honestly.  

TRAVEL. IS. AS. EASY. AS. BOOKING. A. FLIGHT.

And guess what?  Booking a flight can be as quick as 5 minutes.

Since the Round-The-World trip in November 2014, my husband and I have returned to Europe the last 2 years, and have another trip booked to Italy come May. That's 4 years in a row traveling to Europe, when I had never been in my life!  And it's all thanks to finding crazy good travel deals.

I'm constantly asked how I find these deals.  So, I'm sharing my favorite sites here for you to browse, follow on social media, and check out for inspiration for your next trip!

TIPS:
1. BE FLEXIBLE. The best deals I've found have been about 6 months in advance of the trips I've taken, but I've been flexible with destination and exact timing. Often amazing deals pop up for the next 1-3 months - with my full-time job I can't usually jump on those, but if you have a more flexible schedule, you're in luck.

2. ACT FAST. You NEVER know how long a deal will be up. Be (somewhat) spontaneous. Deals most likely won't last longer than 24-48 hours after they've first been discovered. (Note - you can cancel airfare within 24 hours, so you may want to book now, ask wife-husband-boss for forgiveness later.)

3. KEEP REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. Sometimes these deals really are too good to be true and can get cancelled.  I booked a $200 rt flight on Delta to Portugal over a 5 day weekend that ended up getting canceled. I was bummed, yes, but another deal popped up a month later that was honored. 

4. HAVE AN OPEN MIND. And be ready for adventure. When we booked Round the World, we didn't know how we'd spend the time between Milan and Prague. We pulled up a map and Austria was on the way - a country that was not on my radar.  AND WE FELL IN LOVE. Be ready to be surprised and wowed and keep an open mind!

5. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A NEXT TIME. Found an amazing deal but it's not the right timing, or you don't have the right financials? There will be another deal that will pop up.  This one I still struggle with on a daily basis. :)

Now that we got that out of the way.....are you ready to book your next trip of a lifetime?  

FLIGHT RESOURCES

SecretFlying posts great flight deals with tips on how and where to book. Easily search by trending deals, latest deals, and deals by continent.  I follow them on Facebook and Instagram (@secretflying) as well.

SecretFlying posts great flight deals with tips on how and where to book. Easily search by trending deals, latest deals, and deals by continent.  I follow them on Facebook and Instagram (@secretflying) as well.

The Flight Deal: Sign up for the Flight Daily Deal e-newsletter.  They send out a daily email with about 10 flight deals. Also share travel tips.

The Flight Deal: Sign up for the Flight Daily Deal e-newsletter.  They send out a daily email with about 10 flight deals. Also share travel tips.

Google Flights is my favorite search tool.  Google makes it easy to search by location or date and compare airports for arrival or departure to really find the best fares.   Play with the explore anywhere, or have fun clicking around the map to find the best deals.  You can also narrow search to x number of stops or specific airlines if you want to avoid multiple layovers and really budget airlines.

Google Flights is my favorite search tool.  Google makes it easy to search by location or date and compare airports for arrival or departure to really find the best fares.  

Play with the explore anywhere, or have fun clicking around the map to find the best deals.  You can also narrow search to x number of stops or specific airlines if you want to avoid multiple layovers and really budget airlines.

Skyscanner is a global travel search website that provides a free flight search service as well as online comparisons for hotels and car hire.  Explore best deals by month or destination.  They have a website and app. 

Skyscanner is a global travel search website that provides a free flight search service as well as online comparisons for hotels and car hire.  Explore best deals by month or destination.  They have a website and app. 

Momondo helps you find and compare fares from 700+ travel sites, giving you access to the best rates for airline tickets online. Momondo will also search third party agent sites for the best flight deals.  They have a website and app. 

Momondo helps you find and compare fares from 700+ travel sites, giving you access to the best rates for airline tickets online. Momondo will also search third party agent sites for the best flight deals.  They have a website and app. 

TravelZoo puts out a weekly Top 20 list of the best travel deals and packages every Wednesday.  You can access via website or sign up for their email list.

TravelZoo puts out a weekly Top 20 list of the best travel deals and packages every Wednesday.  You can access via website or sign up for their email list.

I've launched TheRoundTrip -- a weekly 5 minute tip sheet on all the top travel news and deals.  I spend hours each week going through each of the above resources, to share the very best deals with you.  You can find each week's newsletter and deals by clicking TheRoundTrip in the header, or sign up here. 

I've launched TheRoundTrip -- a weekly 5 minute tip sheet on all the top travel news and deals.  I spend hours each week going through each of the above resources, to share the very best deals with you.  You can find each week's newsletter and deals by clicking TheRoundTrip in the header, or sign up here


Pin so you can easily access these resources next time you're ready to book a trip!

Pin so you can easily access these resources next time you're ready to book a trip!

Planning Our Trip Around the World in 18 Days Part 2: Thailand

If you haven’t read Part 1, about how we planned our Europe portion of the trip, read here.

Thailand has been at the top of my bucket list for over 10 years since I took a college Geology course on Natural Disasters.  It was the spring 2005 semester  and the TA had spent the previous Christmas in Thailand.  She was in Phuket the day of the major tsunami that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and caused billions of dollars in damage. She had documented the day – even pre-tsunami disaster – via picture,s and shared her experience running for her life with our class one morning.  Like many others, I don’t always remember too much from college, but I definitely remember her story.

Typically learning about a country based on a devastating natural disaster would deter one’s interest from visiting the destination.  But those pictures, and all of the pictures and stories I’d be exposed to over the next 10 years, made me fall in love with the beaches, the food, the culture, and the people.  I knew I had to visit Thailand someday.

In the Trip That Started It All, I mentioned the flight options took us from New York to Milan, and from Prague to one of four Asian cities (via 24-hr stopover in Paris).  Those four Asian cities were Beijing, Singapore, Tokyo, and Bangkok.  Bangkok!  Even better than getting to go to Europe after 2 previously failed planning attempts, I’d also have a chance to get to Thailand!  Choosing which city was easy.  It was choosing how to spend our time in Thailand that was impossible.

Our work and personal lives ended up dictating how long we had to spend in Thailand – which was unfortunately less than a week.  We briefly discussed ditching the flight to Thailand in favor of staying in Europe a full extra week, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to not only finally make it to Thailand, but to also complete an RTW trip (round-the-world). So, we accepted the short window and laid out our options.

In a dream world, I would’ve had our 30 days in Europe, and at least 2 weeks devoted to Thailand.  I would spend a night or two in Bangkok, head to Chiang Mai to visit an elephant sanctuary, and then fly down to Phuket and Krabi for some beach time.  But, given our reality, we had to make some tough decisions.  We were already spending so much of the trip traveling – why add in even more traveling at the tail end of the trip, despite how badly we wanted to see ALL of the Land of a Thousand Smiles?

In the end we compromised - we would spend 1 night in Bangkok so the Mister could experience all of the amazing street food the top 10 city in the world has to offer -- and I could hit Sky Bar at Lebua a la Hangover 2 (Hello #bucketlist item) -- and we'd spend the rest of the time parked up at a beach with drink(s) in hand. And we ALL agreed that another trip to Thailand was imminent so we could see the elephants in Chiang Mai.

Thanks to TripAdvisor, we narrowed down our beach options to 3 nights in Khao Lak, an hour or so north of Phuket airport, and the last night at Karon Beach in Phuket. After months of debating, bartering, and googling "best place to go in Thailand," we finally had our destinations set.  

Planning A Trip Around the World in 18 Days Part 1: Europe

Generally, when planning a trip, the traveler already has a specific destination or route in mind, and searches for airfare to fit their ideal dates and locations.  So how do you plan a trip when you’ve booked a multi-city or open-jaw flight? (If you’re wondering what an open-jaw ticket is … it’s a return ticket with different origins or destinations.  Like flights from New York to Milan, then Prague to New York, or New York to Milan, Milan to Boston.)

After we booked our Trip Around the World (read here and here) we had to figure out how to spend our 8 days getting from Milan to Prague, plus make a decision on where to go and how long to stay in Thailand.  When you’ve never left the continent and have a bucket list a mile long, and you may or may not be one of the most indecisive people in the world, it can be a little tough to narrow down options.  Not to mention, we all had those pesky things called jobs without unlimited vacation time – unfortunately.  (Although, if you have one of those unlimited vacation benefits packages, can you hire me? Please?) 

Anyway.  Planning. As it usually works out when I have a genius idea or plan, I ran through option after option, itinerary after itinerary until I drove my husband crazy.  For the Europe portion of the trip, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, and Greece were all at the top of my list and were all viable options.  

So, we had to begin the narrow down process.

Since our Oktoberfest (hyperlink) plans were officially pushed out a few years, we figured we’d save Germany and Switzerland for that trip.  We also knew we wanted to make a dedicated Italy trip one day, so we decided not to focus there.  Then Greece and Croatia were ruled out by ease of getting there.  Plus, time of year was a huge factor.

We pulled up Google Maps and right smack in the path from Milan to Prague was Austria.  Austria had not been at the top of either of our travel lists, so we figured, let’s go to a country we wouldn’t have otherwise picked first.  A little bit of Googling and Pinteresting cemented the idea even further.  The pictures we found of Austria were so breathtakingly gorgeous we immediately fell in love.  Austria was the clear winner.   

We ran the idea by the 3 friends we were planning to spend the whole trip with, and they were 100% on board.  I still was contemplating a stop in Budapest or Bratislava, but quickly ruled that out in favor of stops in both Salzburg and Vienna.

We finally settled on number of days/nights in each city and mapped out the train routes and times.  Our fast and furious 8-day Euro itinerary was officially set.  We would land in Milan and spend one night in Venice (thanks to the train passing through anyway!), 2 nights each in Salzburg and Vienna, and 3 nights in Prague.  From there, our flights gave us a 24-hour stopover in Paris on the way from Prague to Bangkok.  We would soon be traveling through 7 cities over 9 days.  It was turning out to be a whirlwind trip, but well worth it.

The Trip That Started It All...

It all began with Shonda Rhimes....

It was Thursday evening ahead of Memorial Day Weekend, 2014. I stayed up past my usual bedtime to watch the Scandal season finale.  At about 11 pm I looked at my husband and told him that while I should be going to bed, I had to see the finale.

Olivia Pope is my spirit animal

Olivia Pope is my spirit animal

By 11:30 pm, I received a text from a friend.  The text simply provided a link to a blog post, and read, “wanna go around the world??”

Confused, I clicked the link.  Fly around the world for $150.  Flights from New York to Milan, and then Prague to four asian cities. For $150.

This was a joke, right?  A glitch you hear about on the news, and airlines would never honor, right?

Let me back up a bit.

Husband and I were dead set on going to Oktoberfest (yes, the one in Germany) in 2014. We agreed about 14 months ahead of time that no matter what, we were going. We made all our plans around it.  And then, my work schedule proved impossible.  At the advice of my boss, we started planning a trip to France and Spain (2 of our dream locations) for that June instead. Until yet again, a client’s needs interfered. Everything we tried conflicted with my work schedule. I was so utterly devastated that I wouldn’t be able to pull off a Eurotrip in 2014 after all.

So. $150? To go to Europe after all...AND Asia?  All we’d have to do is get from San Diego to New York, make our way from Milan to Prague, and then home from Asia?

You better believe I wanted to go around the world!  

The next half hour was a bit of a blur, but before I knew it, I was booking airfare.  

Even if the tickets got cancelled, we figured it was a really good story.  Hey, remember that time we booked flights around the world for $150?

In the end we opted to shell out the big bucks to have a 24 hour stopover in Paris.  And by big bucks I mean $27.  And then we decided to be smart and get trip insurance because..well…this was way too good to be true.  So, $234 (each) later, three of us were flying most of the way around the world.

In the end a number of friends were smart enough to jump on the deal. We waited some time, but the internet was still telling us our flights were confirmed. Ticketed. Seats assigned.

Before long we realized, holy crap.  We’re flying around the world.

Inspiration for planning the trip - possibilities were endless

Inspiration for planning the trip - possibilities were endless