New Series: Travel
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
Welcome to the Curious Metisse’s new series: Travel.
I’ve been fortunate that despite my young age, I’ve been able to travel extensively around the world. My parents started instilling the travel bug in me from early on. They were definitely not the type of parents that believed you couldn’t travel far with young children - not at all. I was barely 3 when my mom took me on a trip to South Africa. I was 7 when we moved to Montreal. For as long as I can remember, travelling was our treat.
I have also been incredibly lucky to live in Belgium, which, thanks to its amazing location in the middle of Europe, makes travelling anywhere a breeze. The continent is small and densely populated, and exhibits a huge variety in terms of cultures and landscapes. This means you do not have to travel far to experience a complete change of scenery. In addition, we have access to extremely cheap airfare and a lot more vacation days than our North American counterparts. As if that wasn’t enough incentives, Europe boasts a visa-free, border-free area composed of 26 countries, most of which have the same currency. Yes, Europeans love to travel, and they do it often.
Travelling has become so popular, some places have started taking measures against tourists. Instagram is filled - filled - with people’s vacation pictures. There are countless travel blogs, articles and companies, to the point there’s almost an overload of information. I don’t know better than them. In case you didn’t know, I’m no Routard.
The Curious Metisse is a personal journal that I’ve made public. It’s a door for random information that I find relevant. Travelling is such a part of me that I thought it’d make sense I’d talk about it. I also like the idea of having more practical content that readers can refer to should they ever venture where I have been before.
This new series will take you through cities all over the world. Those 'City Guides' will be filled with recommendations, tips and must-see. There’ll be anecdotes too, moments that gave another meaning to each and every trip I’ve ever taken.
I’ll be starting in two weeks time. The 'City Guides' will be published every month from there onward. In the meantime, I thought I’d start with a little glossary of all the resources I like to use when planning a trip. I usually plan all my trips online and have only used travel agencies a couple of times. There are countless resources online to help you make the most out of a vacation. It’s all about knowing where to look, and be careful about the usual traps.
To Book Flights
Skyscanner is my number #1 website whenever I start planning a vacation. I usually look at flight prices before I set my vacation dates. Flexibility is key to get the best deals. You will also almost always have cheaper prices if you fly in the middle of the week, so on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Although Skyscanner is a great resource, I always double check third party websites before booking through them. I simply check customers reviews to make sure there’s no hidden traps. In general, you will get good deals going through third party websites, but it’ll be a massive pain if you ever have to do any type of change to your reservation. I tend to only use Skyscanner to see the best deals, then go directly to the airline’s website to make a reservation.
To Book Accommodation
Booking is a great way to start appraising prices for accommodation. The website does not only show hotels but also apartments, hostels and more. I like to check Booking before I go on AirBnb to get an overall idea of rental prices. AirBnb is great and I have been using it for years. But don’t assume that AirBnb is automatically going to be the cheapest option. Sometimes hotels slash their prices massively and you can actually get pretty good deals.
Thinking of good deals, my partner introduced me to Hotwire, a pretty awesome website that offers great deals for hotels in throughout North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia. The concept is simple: you pick a destination, a price and a star-rating. The website will then find a hotel that matches your requirements at a discounted rate.
When I was backpacking, Hostels was also incredibly useful to find cheap hostels anywhere in the world. Hostels are often the cheapest type of accommodation you can find, particularly for long-term travel.
What About Resorts?
I personally almost never book all-inclusive vacation. I actually very rarely travel to resorts in general, so it definitely plays a role. I’ve often found that the food offered is never great and quite repetitive. I have vivid memories of fried vegetables every freaking day of the week when I last went to the Costa Brava with friends.
In a similar vein, staying in a hotel for longer than a few days makes food quite expensive, as you’re bound to eat out at every meal. That’s why I usually like to have access to some kind of kitchen to cook my meals as much as possible.
To Find Great Restaurants
I use TripAdvisor all. the. time. It’s honestly the easiest way I’ve found to have reliable options for food all over the world. Google Reviews are also pretty useful. I particularly like using Google Reviews when I'm looking for something to eat near me, as it will shows all the options within a walking distance.
To Find Activities that Should not be Missed
TripAdvisor is unfortunately not as good with activities, as they tend to favor paid and overly touristic activities. I’ll rely on Google instead. Most cities will have a blog / website that gathers all the latest information on events. BlogTO is an example for Toronto, and I remember using TimeOut in London.
Realistically, you’ll never have better recommendations than from a local person. You might not know someone directly, but maybe a friend of yours do, so don’t hesitate to ask around.
Stay tuned for more... I'll start in two weeks time with one of my latest vacation - how to throw a bachelorette party in Porto, Portugal.