Are you thinking of taking a last minute trip this fall before winter officially hits? If so, you’re in luck! Travelgirl magazine’s Stephanie Oswald joined me recently to dish on the secret to planning a great last minute trip this season, how to find the best deals, how to stay healthy while traveling and the must haves you need to have a blast on that weekend road trip!
Candace: What’s the secret to planning a great last minute trip this season?
Stephanie: Candace, the secret is research. Treat vacation planning as a part-time job. The payoff will be a better quality holiday! Fall is a fantastic time to travel because there are fewer crowds, some super shoulder season deals and there’s still time for a beach vacation if you haven’t had your fill this summer! Here’s a tip to help with your research: Create an e-mail account that’s specific to your travel planning. Use it when you sign up for travel newsletters, frequent flyer programs, frequent stay programs and rental car rewards programs. Online sites such as TravelZoo send out weekly deals that you should sign up for. If you have a flight route that you want to monitor to see when the price dips, sign up on AirfareWatchdog, Kayak and/or TripAdvisor – and use that designated e-mail address. That way you won’t clutter up your work or personal e-mail “in” boxes with travel info, and you can review it all at the same time – do that regularly, so that you don’t miss any time-sensitive deals.
Candace: How can travelers get the best deals?
Stephanie: One way to get some super deals is to visit the tourism board website for whatever destination you are planning to visit. The tourism boards, along with the Convention and Visitors Bureaus, take pride in making sure that potential visitors know all that’s great about their destination, all that’s happening, and how to best enjoy it all! One way they do that is by putting deal information and printable coupons on their websites. For example, I’m planning an October trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and I went to their website: www.VisitMyrtleBeach.com and found a long list of hotel packages, discount coupons for attractions and even a list of “10 Activites Less than $25” – having that type of travel knowledge will save me a lot of money over the course of a week. Social media has transformed the travel industry. If you take the time to follow your favorite hotels, airlines and destinations on Twitter and “like” them on Facebook, you will be the first to know about any special events or last-minute deals. That said, another way to make sure you’re getting the best deal is to pick up the phone and call the hotel, tour operator or attraction and speak with someone there — because there are times when something won’t show up online. On the same note, you can’t always depend on a deal that’s online because it might sellout — so call yourself, or work with a travel agent. Also, be sure to ask about any deals you may be entitled to because of membership with a special club such as AAA or AARP.
Candace: Do you have any advice for those planning a road trip?
Stephanie: I love road trips! Like the “staycation,” they will always be a part of our travel culture. Here’s something fun I’ve been doing with my kids: I have the “vacation fairy” visit the car the night before we leave. She hides tiny presents in the car—sometimes they are under the seats, in the glove box, hiding in the trunk, etc. Those items come in handy when the little ones get restless or if a prize is needed for whoever won license plate bingo! A more serious piece of advice: have your car checked out at least 4-5 days in advance of the trip. That way if something is wrong, you have time to fix it! No one wants to spend precious holiday time at the car shop or getting an oil change, so don’t run to the Jiffy Lube the day before your journey — take care of all that the weekend before your trip. Also, before you pack your vehicle, take all the unnecessary items out of the car — because extra weight will lower your gas mileage and cost you money in the long run.
Candace: Where are some of the top travel destinations?
Stephanie: The Fall issue of Travelgirl Magazine highlights Norway, Alaska, Catalina Island (off the coast of Southern California) and New Orleans — so those are some fabulous destinations to think about. I’m biased toward New Orleans since I live here, but there is so much to do in this city, all year-round. Voodoo Fest is coming up the first weekend of November, and the Fringe Festival (www.nofringe.org) is November 20-24th. You can always find something unique and rewarding to do in New Orleans. Fall is also a terrific time to take a river cruise in the United States. I just did a story on this for CNN.com/Travel, you can look for ideas from the Mississippi River to the Hudson River in upstate New York — cruising during fall foliage is a wonderful option. Myrtle Beach, with its 60 miles of pristine coastline, is perfect for anyone who wants to squeeze in a beach holiday — if you look at some of the deals to be had down there, you can find an oceanfront condo for around $100 per night. Other resort packages include fishing, spa or golfing perks — all at a discount. This is the time of year when the tourism industry wants to get people traveling, since we are between the popular summer family travel season and the upcoming holiday rush.
Candace: How can travelers stay healthy when away from home or on the road?
Stephanie: Candace, that’s such an important question, and it’s something every traveler should pay attention to, when traveling solo, with a partner or with the kids. The answer is to always have something healthy handy, which is easy to do, once you train yourself to be a savvy traveler. This can be a breakfast bar, a protein bar, nuts or dried fruit. And I always remind everyone that once they get through security at the airport and confirm their gate, their next stop should be the closest shop selling water, because you can’t always count on the in-flight service. Staying hydrated is critical to everyone’s health, from toddlers to the oldest person who has ever flown. You could be delayed on the tarmac, or run into turbulence in the air, and then you will be thankful you spent the $3-$5 on the bottle of water. Another tip: people who travel regularly should find a fitness regime that will travel with them. What I mean by that is to find an in-room yoga routine that you can do in your hotel room, or make sure you are booked into a hotel that has a pool if swimming is your thing. If you’re a runner, invest in a pair of running shoes that are easy to pack; you are investing in your health!
For more information please visit: www.travelgirlinc.com.