En Route

Plan the Per­fect Trip

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - IN THIS ISSUE - Story and pho­tog­ra­phy by Re­becca McCormick

If you're plan­ning a trip any time soon, you now have more op­tions than ever — not only in places to go, but also in how to get there, where to stay and what to do. In re­cent years, tra­di­tional trip plan­ning has gone the way of the big three tele­vi­sion net­work sta­tions. What used to be con­fined to the web­sites of rel­a­tively few cor­po­rate trans­porta­tion and ac­com­mo­da­tions providers has now been sub­di­vided into tiny slices of op­por­tu­nity by niche mar­ket tech­nol­ogy ven­dors who con­nect trav­el­ers like us with real-time al­ter­na­tives in nearly ev­ery cat­e­gory of price and ex­pe­ri­ence. To par­tic­i­pate, all you need is a lit­tle time and an In­ter­net con­nec­tion.

Th­ese emerg­ing trends in travel are be­ing fu­eled in large part by what is known as the shar­ing econ­omy. Ac­cord­ing to Forbes mag­a­zine, com­pa­nies in the shar­ing econ­omy are cre­at­ing plat­forms that help peo­ple gen­er­ate wealth from un­der­used and ex­cess as­sets —like cars, houses and spare time. In the process, we get great per­sonal and so­cial cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences where trust, not com­pany size, is the un­der­ly­ing mea­sure of qual­ity.

Dur­ing the past year, I've been ex­per­i­ment­ing with non-tra­di­tional re­sources, of­ten re­ferred to as “travel hacks.” Here are a few of my fa­vorites.

Trip Plan­ning: If you're on a bud­get, but not picky about where to go, try Kayak Ex­plore. All you do is put in your orig­i­nat­ing air­port, and the site shows a map pin­point­ing the low­est air­fares to cities around the world. Keep check­ing back to get a feel for pric­ing trends. (www.kayak.com/ex­plore)

With enough lead time, you can learn the fastest ways to ac­cu­mu­late and re­deem re­ward points and fre­quent flier miles for free travel from Brian Kelly, The Points Guy. (www.the­p­oints­guy.com)

Ac­com­mo­da­tions: On a re­cent trip, I booked a room us­ing Airbnb, a room-shar­ing ser­vice started by two guys who rented a spare air mat­tress to raise cash to pay their sky-high San Fran­cisco rent. Their sim­ple idea has now mush­roomed into a com­mu­nity of hosts who rent out their un­used spa­ces to trav­el­ers who search for and book ac­com­mo­da­tions in 192 coun­tries world­wide.

My first-time ex­pe­ri­ence was great. I booked a pri­vate room with a pri­vate bath, posted by a fe­male col­lege stu­dent who ended up be­ing out of town ski­ing dur­ing spring break. Her boyfriend brought me the key to her apart­ment, which I rented in its en­tirety for $50 a night. (www.airbnb.com)

Other op­tions for en­tire-prop­erty rentals in­clude

Va­ca­tion Rental by Owner (www.vrbo.com) and Home Away (www.home­away.com), which al­low you to rent ev­ery­thing from cab­ins and con­dos to cas­tles and vil­las. More ad­ven­tur­ous? By join­ing Trusted House Sit­ters (www.trust­ed­hous­esit­ters.com), you'll be el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for hous­esit­ting gigs world­wide, giv­ing you a free place to stay in ex­change for watch­ing over some­one's house (and usu­ally their pets) while they're away.

Trans­porta­tion: Uber (www.uber.com) is a ride-shar­ing ser­vice that con­nects rid­ers with pri­vate driv­ers through a GPS-based app ser­vice. I used it a cou­ple of months ago for a 20-minute ride from the Wilm­ing­ton, N.C. air­port to my $50-a night apart­ment. My driver was prompt, po­lite and pro­fes­sional, and the fare was just over $13, which I ac­tu­ally got free as part of the “first-time rider” pro­mo­tion.

Be­fore you leave home, check out thrift stores where you might be able to pur­chase a sec­ond­hand bi­cy­cle for much less than you will spend for daily or weekly rentals. At the end of your stay, you can do­nate it back to the thrift store for a tax de­duc­tion. Or sim­ply do good by giv­ing a free bike to some­one on the street. Din­ing: At my Airbnb apart­ment, I or­dered a meal to go through www.Surf­sideEx­press.com, a food de­liv­ery ser­vice (re­quires a $15 min­i­mum) that brings your meal from restau­rants that do not of­fer their own de­liv­ery ser­vice. Cus­tomers cre­ate an ac­count, en­ter their lo­ca­tion zip code and or­der from restau­rants lo­cated within a cer­tain mileage ra­dius and are promised de­liv­ery within one hour. I was no­ti­fied by text when my or­der was placed, when the driver picked it up and how long it should take the food to ar­rive.

My credit card was charged for the food plus a $5 de­liv­ery charge when I signed for the or­der. I loved the ser­vice — which per­formed ex­actly as promised. No money ex­changes hands be­tween cus­tomer and driver. My food ar­rived hot. I got to con­tinue work­ing with­out tak­ing out a chunk of time to go out for din­ner. And the $5 de­liv­ery charge was a lot cheaper than cab fare to a restau­rant, es­pe­cially since there were none within short walk­ing dis­tance from my apart­ment com­plex. A sim­ple search for “food de­liv­ery ser­vices” should turn up sim­i­lar op­tions in your lo­ca­tion.

An­other op­tion to tra­di­tional restau­rant din­ing is Cooken­ing, a ser­vice that pairs home ta­ble din­ing with trav­el­ers who want a so­cially rich en­vi­ron­ment. Hosts will­ing to en­ter de­tails about them­selves and their cook­ing can sell a place at their ta­ble to tech-savvy guests who can search for nearby avail­able meals. All money changes hands on­line, which pre­vents it ex­pe­ri­ence from feel­ing too com­mer­cial. (www.cooken­ing.com)

My fab­u­lous in home din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence took place last sum­mer in the Wilm­ing­ton, N.C., home of Alexan­der and El­iz­a­beth Fouros, who reg­u­larly host groups up to 12 guests for gourmet cook­ing demon­stra­tions. Alex, au­thor of Feast for the Gods: Clas­sic Greek Cook­ing from the Seven Io­nian Is­lands, fed us four cour­ses (wine op­tional) as fine as any I've eaten in Greek restau­rants any­where. The com­plex­ity of the meal did not per­mit last-minute list­ing on Cooken­ing, but I did find the event listed on the con­ven­tion and vis­i­tors web­site.

I should warn you — travel hack­ing can be ad­dic­tive. But if you find the chal­lenge ap­peal­ing, I rec­om­mend my friend Matt Kep­ness, oth­er­wise known as No­madic Matt. His book, “The Ul­ti­mate Guide to Travel Hack­ing,” is valu­able for begin­ners and ad­vanced trav­el­ers alike. It's one of my fa­vorite go-to re­sources to max­i­mize points, miles, money and time. (www.no­madic­matt.com/guideto-travel-hack­ing)

Happy trails!

Above, ex­pand­ing global ac­cess to Wi-Fi ser­vices makes it eas­ier than ever for trav­el­ers to find al­ter­na­tives to tra­di­tional trans­porta­tion, ac­com­mo­da­tions and din­ing op­tions.

Ser­vices like AirBnB con­nect peo­ple who rent all or only a por­tion of their homes with peo­ple look­ing for ac­com­mo­da­tions. Hosts list and rent un­used por­tions of their homes with trav­el­ers in 192 coun­tries.

Ride shar­ing ser­vices like Uber and Lyft gen­er­ate traf­fic as on-de­mand car ser­vices that con­nect rid­ers with pri­vate driv­ers through mo­bile smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.