Serious question, how do you roll a wrap, of the taco variety, properly? I end up ripping the shell with my massive claws and then everything, including my shame, spills out onto the plate. I’ve witnessed, in awe, those wrap masters or wrapsters, as some may say (no one but me), in fast food places that do it so well, so I know it’s possible. This actually has nothing to do with this post but I think the rolling of wraps is a transferable skill. These fast food wrapsters must also be good at rolling clothes for packing, which is kind of- but still, not related to this post.
The post is about how I book my trips.
Eeeny meenie minny mo, what website should I book my flight with, fo sho?
Let me cut to the juicy stuff first.
I book with Skyscanner.
Yes, yes, I have been told Skyscanner doesn’t have every cheap airline on its site but I have compared it to Expedia, Kayak, Travelocity etc. and Skyscanner still is able to find the cheapest flights for me. I just booked a flight today and there were some annoyances with prices not matching up or my credit card not working (not my fault) because the price changed mid-booking. In the end, I have a flight to somewhere awesome so it doesn’t bother me anymore. As I type that, for at least 20 minutes I was spitting angry, red-faced muttering to myself but now I’ve calmed down.
How far is too far in advance?
I have read heaps of blogs and news articles about when the best time to book a flight is. Most of it is rubbish like 9:22 am on Tuesdays because that’s when a duck gave birth and ducks fly so you should fly. It makes sense that you will need to pay a shitload if you book at the airport the day of or are inflexible and have to leave the next day. When I worked for Westjet this is what it comes down to: prices fluctuate almost every minute. There are these massive computers that take hundreds of factors into consideration- everything from holidays, festivals, number of bookings, whether it is a business route, competitors with the same route etc. etc. and it adjusts it accordingly. That wasn’t even personal knowledge, it was actual knowledge from when I worked a number of years ago. I like saying things like a number of years ago because it makes me sound mysterious.
My rule of thumb: I just try to book as early as possible once I know the dates.
These aren’t chocolate chip cookies.
Now, I can’t be the only one out there- I don’t understand how the internet works. When people talk about cookies, to me, there is only one cookie and that’s the one that I can eat an entire box of in a single sitting. People have told me that websites keep tabs on you and track what flights you are looking at and then they increase the price if you go back to book it. It’s probably true but I personally haven’t noticed a huge difference. As I mentioned before, prices change within minutes and it has nothing to do with me looking at the flight or not. So I feel like this is a little column A a little column B situation. I once used two different laptops to check the exact same flight on the same day. On one laptop I had been searching for flights on for a week or so, the other not. I was channelling my inner Bill Nye the Science Guy when this happened. Turns out, they were the same price. I noticed a difference more so with which language site you use. For example, if I book through skyscanner.nl in Dutch, I get directed to more Dutch-only language sites that wouldn’t get brought up if I searched through skyscanner.ca (Canada’s version). That being said, for me, I end up paying an amount that I can live with. If I want to book a flight home to Canada in the peak season (Christmas, summer), I know it will cost me between 600-900 euros with a stopover. I get to that one point where desperation takes over and I just bite the bullet. I have a rule though, where once I book, I never go back and look. All my rules rhyme for obvious coolness reasons.
Pre-trip tid bits
What should I pack?
I got chu- check out my packing list.
When I go to check in for a flight beforehand, I usually look at Seat Guru to pick the most decent unpaid seat I can find. I prefer an aisle seat because I am the type of person who, if at the window or middle, will sit there for three hours needing to pee but I don’t have the heart to wake the person up if they are sleeping. I silently stare at them until the food cart comes around and smacks them in the knees, jolting them awake, which is much kinder than a gentle tap on the shoulder by a neighbour. Nowadays, most decent seats are paid but with Seat Guru, I avoid sitting near a toilet or being stuck in one of those really crap seats.
I don’t have the best luck with booking seats since even when I check in at the exact moment the portal is open, most things are usually booked already. This is for, I assume, two reasons, one of which I am pretty sure is true, the other maybe not. You will need to decipher which one is which.
- People still use travel agencies, especially families so they have access to more pre-booking seats than others.
- The airline blocks off certain seats for those needing extra assistance. They usually don’t check in online so when they arrive, the airport needs to be able to accommodate them or it’s bad news bears.
Check with the airline to see if you need to print the boarding pass, if it can be electronic or if you can check in with kiosks at the airport. Some airlines like Ryan Air charge you if you don’t have a boarding card on their app or a physical paper boarding pass at select airports. Knowing if there are kiosks at the airport can save you from waiting in line at the airport if you are unable to check in prior but kiosks hardly ever work if you have a “complicated” check-in.
Where am I?
If you are like me, after a 20-hour flight you become super disoriented and don’t know what year it is, let alone the time of day. For this reason, I always book my accommodation for the day I arrive in a new place. That way, I have some direction on where I need to go, instead of wandering around streets aimlessly looking for sleep and finally resting my head on a park bench somewhere. For hostels, I use Hostel World to search but then I go directly to the website of the hostel, if there is one. You save some $$ that way since there are no booking commissions from Hostel World. Just showing up to the hostel without a booking can save you a bit of money sometimes too but it’s all how you roll in those dicey situations. For being fancy with hotels, I use booking.com because they have free cancellations in some cases. More of my accommodation options and experiences can be found here. I will then also print directions (in 2010) or save screenshots on my phone or use offline maps like maps.me to the accommodation since I never buy a sim card/data when I am abroad.
That’s the plan Stan.
I love organization and lists, which I have talked about before. For me, they are essential for travels with a time restraint. When you are travelling on an open-ended ticket, it’s not necessary to book out every little detail but when I go for a two-week jaunt somewhere, I like to be prepared with the top hits- sites, hidden gems and of course, food. That way, I can already book the inter-country flights to, again, save time.
It also depends on where you are going. Some places welcome backpackers in droves so you will find hostels and getting around fairly easy. Think Europe and southeast Asia. Whereas other places that are not so touristy, say India. When I was in India, I assumed my half-Indian friend that I was going with had planned on where to go etc. This was not the case, so we ended up spending a lot of time trying to find suitable accommodation that was cheap and didn’t have bed bugs/ rodents roaming the place. They don’t really have hostels in India. I was told that staying in a 2/3-star hotel was the equivalent of a European hostel.
Wrap it up
That’s about it, other than the whole:
- check for visa requirements
- whether you need an onward journey or not (some countries require you to prove that you are leaving them so you don’t overstay your welcome)
- I was told credit card companies don’t need to be informed about travel, they just know. This seems suspicious to me but okay.