I love to travel. I enjoy vacations that range from cruising the Caribbean to hanging out with Mickey in Disney World to taking in all the sights and sounds of New York City. And speaking of the Big Apple, I’m in the middle of planning our next trip there. So I thought I’d share my tips and go-to’s to save my wallet, and my sanity when traveling. A sort of travel planning survival kit if you will.

Favorite Travel-Planning Tips


For those that have not yet discovered the splendor of Amazon shopping, this is a must. I honestly cannot even remember what life was like before Amazon. Not only do they have virtually everything you could possibly ever need (if they don’t you probably don’t need it!), but they almost always have the best price! And that isn’t even the best part. If you subscribe to Prime (membership cost is $99/yr) you get FREE 2 Day Shipping!

Let me tell you why this is so incredibly handy when planning a vacation or any trip. Even though I’m an incredibly detail-oriented person there is inevitably that one item I forgot or didn’t think about when creating my many vacation planning lists.

Recent specific Amazon travel purchases

For example: ponchos. Specifically, rain ponchos for our most recent trip to Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. Everyone knows it rains in Orlando at least once a day in the summer. But who wants to carry umbrellas that are bulky or worse get caught unprepared at the parks and be forced into purchasing a Disney poncho? At the parks, ponchos cost at least $10 whereas I was able to order this 5 pack of ponchos for less than $13 and had them in my hands in 2 days! Just in time to leave for our trip!

Oh and this backpack was also a last minute purchase. It was a great deal and has gone on hiking trips, been all around Harry Potter World and will be making its way to NYC as well! It makes a great carry-on and I especially love the two mesh pockets for carrying water. It even folds into itself for easy packing or storing! It’s a great way to carry water and snacks – again saving some money and keeping those around me safe when I get a little hangry.

One last word on Amazon – reviews. I don’t buy anything without reading reviews and I have found that the reviews and feedback on Amazon have been dead-on. Can you tell I like Amazon??


Saving money and having fun in the big appleI do not plan any trip or dine out anywhere without first consulting TripAdvisor. As a matter of fact, I even use them in my home town. Charleston is a food town. There are a ton of new restaurants opening almost daily and I like to see what other people have to say before I go spending my money.

Because I like to maximize my money, this helps me avoid making poor choices and spending money at places I don’t like. Since everything is user rated (listing restaurants, hotels and things to do in order of how users have rated them) they are basically built-in reviews. Do I always agree with them? No, but I have found it saves a ton of time and money.

With our upcoming NYC trip, I really like checking out all the things to do – especially the landmarks and tours. It lists the top-selling attractions and even lists ones that may sell out. They also list attractions by neighborhood which is great since we’ll be covering such a large area. Their mobile site is also excellent. You can use your phone’s GPS to locate restaurants, hotels, and things to do near you. This really comes in handy if you haven’t done a ton of planning in advance and just want to know what options are available near you.

TripAdvisor is also a one-stop-shop. You have the ability to see all the top-ranked hotels, restaurants and tours and make your purchases with a low price guarantee. Again, saving money and time.

Expedia & hotel rewards

I don’t use hotel or Expedia rewards very often, but I have to tell you we are pretty big fans of Hilton brand hotels, specifically Hampton Inns. We have found over the years of pretty extensive travel that while they may not be the cheapest (often far from it) they are typically the most consistent. Some Hampton Inns may be a little older, but they almost always have the same great level of service and amenities. Also, I never feel like I’m being nickeled and dimed. Depending on location most Hampton Inns include the cost of parking and Wi-Fi. And they also have a free continental breakfast.

Because we appreciate their service and their amenities, we frequent them often which allows us build-up our Hilton Honors Points. It does take a while to build up enough for a free night, but when you do it is a great benefit especially when staying in more costly places like NYC. Because we’ve accumulated enough points we are able to get two free nights at a Hilton brand hotel just south of Central Park – one of our favorite locations! [Bonus tip: If you are a AAA member Hilton brand hotels often give an even further discount on their room rates – always check on this.]

I like Expedia because it allows me to do a lot of price comparison which is crucial when trying to save money on traveling. You can compare hotels, cruises, and flights – often at great discounts. Expedia also has a reward program, but we have not used it as often. I do see that we have a $50 credit – may have to use that for our next trip!

What are the travel and planning tips you’ve used to save time and money? I’d love to hear from you!