Friday, January 30, 2009

Job Layoff = Travel Opportunity

The news is bleak. 900k US construction workers are not working. More than 75,000 workers laid off this past Monday. Most states have over 5% unemployment.

What can you do if you are out of work or facing a layoff? Whine? File unemployment? Start a business?

Get outta town! I meant it. This is a great time to travel. I have been laid off three times (the perils of working in high tech). Twice I took the opportunity to travel. I flew to Hawaii, criss-crossed the US several times, went to Europe.

You have sensibly managed your finances, right? Obviously, if you have debt, you cannot just pick up and leave. Many cultures, countries, and people have gap years or even sabbaticals--between jobs or other major life events (marriage, graduation, etc.). Most people, however, are under the false impression that they must work. There are countless websites, books, and resources about living abroad alone or with your family, travelling indefinitely for cheap or free.

For readers in Northern Virginia (if you know people in Northern Virginia, let them know, please!), sign up for one of my upcoming classes:

- Feb 11: Road Trip (Oakton, Fairfax county)
- Feb 17 and Feb 24: Do It Yourself Trip Planning (Sterling, Loudoun county)
- March 4: Road Trip (Clarendon, Arlington county)
- March 18: Quit Your Job and Travel the World (Oakton, Fairfax county)

Could that last class title be more perfect?

Whether or not I see you in one of my classes, realize that the current economic environment is not so good for employment but it is great for travel.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Don't Forget Travel Books

Believe it or not, the internet is not the only way to learn travel skills to save you money, time, and stress. As an author, I am partial to travel books. As a travel consultant, I find travel books invaluable. When I am planning a trip, especially to an unfamiliar destination, my first stop is usually my public library--from where I will check out several guidebooks. Guidebooks provide sample itineraries and recommendations for sightseeing, lodging, eating, transportation, when to visit, and more.

There are many different publishers of guidebooks, including Lonely Planet, Frommers, Fodors, Let's Go, Rough Guides, Rick Steves (Europe Through the Back Door), Moon, Insiders. I encourage you to, as I do, use several different guidebooks when planning your trips. The more times you do this, the more familiar you will become with each series. You will likely find yourself attracted to one or more series. Each publisher has a target audience, whether it is budget or luxury, young or old, independent or not. Everyone has their favorites, including me. By the way, the above guidebook publishers are listed in the order they came up in Google (not my preference).

The main disadvantage of travel guidebooks is that the information takes a long time to get released. By the time a guidebook is published, the entries (lodging, dining, attractions, etc.) may be obsolete (changed ownership, closed, changed prices or policies). Another problem (for some) with guidebooks is that since many travelers follow their advice that the once-quaint recommendations are soon tourist traps. I have seen many stories of someone visiting a remote village only to find other travelers with the same guidebook at their breakfast table or visiting a unique spot.

The value of guidebooks is that the information is provided by people that have already visited destinations I want to go to. They tell me places to visit (stay or eat) and not to. To independently plan trips, it really helps to know how long other people spend visiting area or how to use local transportation, for instance.

OK, that briefly covers travel guidebooks.

In my next post, I will discuss travel reference books. Whereas guidebooks cover specific destinations, travel reference books truly teach travel skills--such as how to save money, time, and stress.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009 Resolution - Slash Travel Costs

Do you want to save money on travel in 2009? Whether or not it was your expressed resolution to travel more and/or learn how to travel better or cheaper this year, I can assist you. No scams. Nothing illegal, fishy, or sneaky (well, some tips and ploys are a bit sneaky). Just advice and tips on how to save money, time, and stress--on all aspects of travel.

Finding the best travel deal is not as simple as visiting one website or calling one telephone number (unless you are paying someone to research for you). I do believe, however, that anyone can learn the skills necessary to save money, time, and stress on every trip.

This blog will be periodically updated with skills, resources, and tips that will teach you how to save money, time, and stress on all aspects of travel. Now that you have found me, take some time to read older posts and stay tuned for much more. Follow the blog (subscribe) so that you can receive a message when there is an update. Feel free to leave comments and share this blog with your co-workers, family, and friends.

In addition to this blog and my website, I offer travel courses. My travel classes are offered through the adult education departments of local public schools in Northern Virginia (Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties). A list of my travel courses through March 2009 can be found here. If you are interested in one of my classes but live in another area, let me know. I may be in your area and can set up a session. Of course, you can always hire me, too.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Check for Lower Rates After Making Your Reservations

Earlier today I checked the current rates at a property I have a reservation at later this month. Sure enough, I found a lower rate, which I quickly reserved. I cancelled the original reservation after receiving confirmation of the new rate. For my trips, I typically re-check lodging and car rental rates after making my reservation and before the actual date. Of course, I encourage my clients and you to do the same.

No, the rates are not always lower. Unfortunately, rates usually increase. Sometimes, though, like today, I find a lower rate. Most often, when I find a lower subsequent rate (after initial booking), it is for car rentals rather than lodging. I sometimes find better quality lodging or car options, whether or not the rate is lower.

This is my first post of 2009 and I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Incorporate this technique into your existing travel process and you will likely save money on at least one trip this year.

© 2009, Charles McCool