Let’s start off with a big one a lot of people still don’t know about. Did you know most modern mobile phones (iPhone, Google Pixel, Samsung) all support multiple SIM cards through something called eSims. An e-sim, as the name implies, is a virtual SIM card you can install on your phone. Leveraging this feature is ideal when travelling since you can obtain significantly cheaper data rates than if you continued to use you home country’s SIM card. By purchasing an eSim for the country you are visiting and installing it on your device will unlock prepaid data that you can use in that country instead of having to pay roaming charges imposed by your home country carrier.
Here is a real example from my recent trip to Nashville. I used an e-sim provider called Airalo and installed their mobile app on my phone. From the app I picked the country I was visiting and how much data I wanted. I chose 3GB of data at a cost of $11 USD. This was plenty for the messaging, navigation and Spotify usage I was anticipating. Once the eSim has been purchased and added to your account it is a simple process to install it onto your phone. You can let the app do it or you can use a QR code if you want to install the eSim on a different phone. This proves to be useful if you want to purchase eSims for your children while travelling. Both your actual SIM and eSim can both be active at the same time or you can disable your main SIM card if you chose. You can also configure which SIM should be the default for phone, text new data. Furthermore, even if your eSim is installed it won’t be “activated” until you connect to the network it belongs to.
For my upcoming trip to the UK and Ireland I plan to try Alo for my eSim. This is a Canadian company and offers slightly better rates for the combination of the UK and Ireland that I was looking for. In this case it will cost $9 USD for 3GB with coverage across all the countries I will be visiting.
When travelling outside of your country I highly recommend using an eSim to stay connected and most importantly to save considerable money.
Accommodations when travelling takes up a large part of your budget so finding some savings here can make a big difference. I do like to use AirBnb in certain cases since they offer more rooms and a kitchen that a hotel cannot offer. However, AirBnbs do not offer the same level of service and generally cost more. I prefer hotels for short stays and AirBnb for a longer stay where we can make our own meals and have a bit more space. For hotels however my advice is to book as early as possible and book refundable rates. This may seem counter intuitive since non-refundable rates are generally less. Let me explain. When you book early you can generally lock in a good rate. As the date gets closer you then need to periodically check the hotel for updated rates. You would be surprised how often rates go down when your travel dates get closer as the hotel tries to fill its empty rooms. Since you have a refundable rate you can easily re-book and get the better rate which is often less than the non-refundable rate you would have locked in months earlier. In addition, refundable rates give you more flexibility if your travel plans change (which is often). From my personal experience I feel like I have come out ahead by following this strategy.
As an aside also try to book with the same hotel chain as often as you can (eg. Marriott). This will maximize the points you can earn towards future stays which add up faster that you may think. Credit card points are also a great way to rack up your hotel points even faster.
Who loves maps as much as I do? If you do you must try the My Maps feature of Google. Using My Maps you can create custom maps for your destination and add as many points of interest that you may want you visit as well as accommodations and restaurants. You can the also add as many driving directions as you want. All of this can be done on separate layers that you can turn on and off. I find it really useful to visualize during the planning process how far distances are and where places I am interested in visiting are in relation to each other. This helps me figure out how many places I can visit in a day plus determine the most optimal routes to take. Since all these maps are stored in your Google account it is also useful to revisit them after your trip.
Next time you are planning any type of trip, short or long, try out Google My Maps.
See you at the airport in fifteen days!