Course to Cordiality
When I was working in NYC and was required to take a yearly two-week mandatory leave, I used to personally refer them to my course to cordiality (my first blog in fact!). Travel has had a special impact on my life and has evolved as I have grown. When friends ask for trip recommendations, I would mind dump travel recaps into emails and hit send. Over time, I find it harder to recall the little details that really made those moments flourish. From a taxi strike which turned into a 10 mile hike to the Cinque Terre, to the kind security guard who led us on an impromptu tour of an underwater Cambodian temple, I want an outlet for sharing those experiences on the Medlare, so I can better synthesize the recommendations I used to send to friends but also help keep those memories alive for myself. I can only speak for my experience and would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations along the way.
Trips have gotten both easier and harder to plan as the resources available have grown. Whether I’m planning a group trip or flying solo, I rely on many of the same tools. The below are some of my favorite ways to plan, research, and experience trips.
Skyscanner, Kayak, Google Flights, Hopper: not only are these great for fare comparison, they also tend to show smaller local airlines that not all aggregators capture. Skyscanner in particular was able to secure me flights all over Southeast Asia when I was unable to find flights through the large carriers. Hopper predicts airfare pricing over time, and pushes notifications to alert you on your saved routes.
Scott’s Cheap Flights: the only downside of being a subscriber is having major wanderlust over $300 flights around the world while I sit hunched over my desk at work. The Premium upgrade basically pays itself back if you book one trip because of their email notifications.
Car Rental (Sixt): I drove a tiny car throughout Eastern Europe and even dropped it off in different country than the origin pickup, and it was cheaper than renting a car one way from SF to SFO.
Bus & Trains: while I don’t often utilize these services in the States, they’re often the most efficient way to get around abroad. In some areas such as Peru, bus travel can be done luxury style ($20 for a four hour trip ain’t bad) and often traverse land that would otherwise be treacherous via car.
Lyft & Uber: it’s surprising how popular rideshare is around the world. It takes the quandary of “how much does this cost”, “how do I get a taxi”, “how will I get from A to B” and refines it.
Booking.com: I like this site not only for the customizable filter settings (i.e. pool, near airport, walkable) but also because they often access stays that are refundable up until check-in.
Airbnb: While S prefers hotel stays, I have gravitated to checking listings especially when I travel alone or in bigger groups. Not only is it often cheaper and higher quality, the hosts can be quite welcoming and helpful in navigating the area (such as the wonderful hostess in Budapest who helped arrange my airport transfer).
Splitwise: group travel is awesome but can also be a pain when you need to figure out who owes whom for what. This app enables the group to easily add expenses for the group and select individuals to partake in dividing that expense. There is an integration with Venmo, to help you make that one and done funds transfer.
Google Translate: how often do you sit down with a menu in a language foreign to your own abilities and think “hmm, I wonder if they have an English menu?”. I like to download the area’s language before I travel, and then when I need too, can hold up my phone and have the text transcribed into English.
WhatsApp: I don’t typically add an international data package when I travel. WhatsApp is my preferred app for staying in contact. I have found it’s more reliable in areas with spotty wifi reception. It’s also easy to create groups and is agnostic to that one Android user in your friend group.
Google Sheets: this is a useful option of sharing tips, logging schedules, and keeping everyone in the loop. If S and I take a longer trip, we will use this to help organize the days so we can both easily add and update with details. Before we leave, we will share the doc with our family so that they can Liam Neeson their way to us if need be.
iCloud photo stream/Google Photos: gone are the whiny requests to ask someone to take the same photo across multiple phones. These photo sharing options are easy to snap, share, and upload memories so everyone can post the same Instagram photo at the same exact time.
TripAdvisor: while I caution utilizing TripAdvisor solely for their rankings of dining, stay, and activities, I do use reviews to help plan and narrow down which vendors to go through. Unfortunately, there are fake reviews to help bolster business, but usually you can decipher real tourist experiences. I try to review most places I visit, because many of these small businesses rely on TripAdvisor to attract customers. Cross-reference with other review sites such as Booking.com and travel bloggers.
For longer trips, I generally try to have an idea of how many days I will be in one area based on how many attractions or activities I want to be able to explore. I try to determine and secure which attractions require bookings ahead of time, and then plan the rest of the days around them. A lot of my most memorable excursions have been the result of more impromptu decisions upon arrival. If you’re staying in areas that prosper from tourism, utilize the knowledge of those around you. Often times, the concierge or local guide can better advise you than any book or mainstream site can.
Travel has been the escape I rely on to help reset. I hope these recaps can help you plan where to go next and find your own course to cordiality.