Nothing is ever called Welcome back without a Journey. If you desire to get results, you work it out, rather than hoping and wishing. Hope you understand this my friend.
Travel has always been our passion. Now that we are temporarily homeless due to unforeseen circumstances in Nicaragua, we are planning a six month journey to tropical countries. Although, we have been to Panama, Colombia, and Mexico, we are returning to visit places we haven’t seen before and do a short week of house sitting for friends in Colombia. The Dominican Republic will be a new country for us on this trip.
While waiting for Ron to have surgery ( nothing is ever quick in the U.S.) I planned our trip. Now, that his surgery is over and has been very successful, we are off on another adventure for November-May. Since I am obsessive about staying within our budget, I want to share some travel apps, tips, maps, and other services that have saved me money and time in planning and traveling.
I booked six flights using Google Flights. I really appreciate that I can find the cheapest dates to fly using the price calendar and the price graphs. I can track the price of the flights and book when the price is lowest. Also, there are certain airlines I won’t fly and I can check the airlines that I use often. I know you are wondering which airlines I won’t fly, right? American Airlines for their poor customer service and Spirit Airlines are the top two I avoid. Southwest Airlines and AeroMexico, which we fly often, are not listed in Google Flights, so I have to go to their airline websites to find comparable prices. And I have been so pleased with Delta, that I often send them a tweet saying how much I appreciate their service!
Since we are flying internationally, most of our flights are one-way, from one country to another. Most airlines now require proof of exiting the country on a one-way ticket, so I had to book every flight and keep the confirmations in a separate folder in my email so that I can prove we are leaving Panama, or Colombia, or the Dominican Republic. Our Southwest tickets are round trip, to Mexico from the states, so I don’t need proof of returning to the U.S. for that ticket.
II. Reward Credit Cards
We have a Capital One credit card. For every dollar we charge, we are supposed to get $.01 for flights, hotels, and other travel services. It is very easy to redeem our miles accumulated. I go to my statement online, and click on ‘redeem miles’. There I see a list of purchases I can use for my miles. However…if you look at the chart below, do you see that I can get more bang for my travel miles if I use Southwest Airlines instead of JetBlue? Why is that?
With Delta vouchers and two tickets bought with rewards, I paid $1,722.24 for all six of our flights.
I have the Airbnb app on my iPad. Five years ago we tried Airbnb for the first time in Ecuador and now we are hooked. The app records all of our trips and messages from the hosts.
We usually book an Airbnb for at least three weeks and take day trips from our central location. There are filters on the app where you can select the perfect place that meets your needs. For example, we always choose Superhosts, a washing machine, a kitchen, wi-fi, and TV. And we try to select places with flexible cancellation policies. I read every review and sometimes if a comment is made about the wi-fi not working, or a kitchen that isn’t clean, or the need for a car to go to the grocery store, we look for another place.
The best thing about Airbnbs are the hosts! We have made lifelong friends with some Airbnb hosts when we stay for at least a month. They are so helpful and kind with many suggestions for off-the-tourist-path locations for us to visit. When we booked a month in Javier’s place in Mexico, I received this message from him. I know from his response that we are going to be good friends!
Yet, the other day, I asked a friend what hotel to book that is near the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama. She recommended a hotel listed on http://www.amona.com. I had never heard of this site, but they have the best deals for hotels in 57,000 locations at the best prices. I compared the price of the hotel on Booking.com to Amona.com and it was $30 cheaper on Amona.com. Try it. You are sure to find some great prices when booking hotels.
Rome2Rio app is the ultimate travel app for finding buses, taxis, flights, trains, Ubers, and ferries. Put in your location and destination and it will tell you the mileage and list the types of transportation to your destination. We’ve booked buses, ferries, and taxis from this app from all over the world.
We didn’t use Google maps much until we drove through Canada in July and August. It is an amazing app. Since I had unlimited data for Canada on my phone, it recognized my location, directed us to our destination, and listed hotels, restaurants, driving distances, and gas stations along the way. It warned us of traffic and road closures, and rerouted us when there was a detour. If we were in a place where we didn’t have a phone signal, it had already downloaded our directions and we could continue to follow the route planned. I like the satellite option that has all the trees! Ron hates the satellite option and says it interferes with the directions on the map, but I never had a problem. It even has a walking option and we can use it to tour around large cities.
We never used Goggle maps in Nicaragua or any of the other countries we visited. I am not sure how well it works in countries where there are no street addresses. Our AT&T auto-paid plan gives us unlimited data in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, so we will definitely try it in Mexico.
When we lived in Nicaragua, we had an international health insurance. But, we didn’t renew our insurance because although we could use it in 182 countries, it was expensive. We needed a cheaper option that we could use for flight cancellations, delays, baggage, hotel and accommodation cancellations and medical evacuations and emergencies. Travelex to the rescue. It was one of the few travel insurance companies that would insure us for six months of travel. Their customer service is excellent. They answered all my questions and it is reassuring to know that we are covered for our six month journey.
To apply, I had to list our flight expenses and our accommodation prices, the initial day of travel and the last destination of our trip, and the name of our first airline. That was easy! The cost of our travel insurance for six months is $630 for both of us and it covers all of our needs. Much cheaper than our international health insurance!
As we age, our travel wants and needs change. We want comfort, a simple lifestyle that affords us an opportunity to be culturally immersed in a new culture for longer periods of time, and peace of mind knowing that if an emergency arises, we can handle it. These apps and tips have been a wonderful addition to our new nomadic lifestyle…and they have saved us money! We are below budget and looking forward to our new winter journey through the tropics.
If you desire to get results, you work it out, rather than wishing and hoping. It takes a lot of work to plan a journey, especially six months, but for me it is worth the effort.
What are your favorite travel apps, tips, and maps?