My Favorite Apps/Websites for Traveling

I am attached to my phone. I’m one of those people with my face buried in my phone when I’m on a bus, in an airport, or even when I’m waiting for the light to change. Since I can’t get away from my phone, I try to make it work for me as much as possible. Below are some of my favorite apps and websites to use when I’m on the road, or planning for my next getaway.

Google Flights

By far, Google Flights is my favorite travel app. It’s not technically an “app” since it’s available through your Google account, but it’s by far one of the most useful tools I have at my disposal. I like to look at flight prices months in advance, because I feel like I get a better idea of what the price fluctuations will be when I finally buy my ticket.

Expedia

I love Expedia, mostly for the discounts I get on hotels. I discovered I also like the “Reserve Now, Pay Later” option on some of the hotels offer on their listings. It’s convenient, and it makes things easier for those times when you’re departure date is not set in stone. The points program is nice too, especially for those weekend getaways or for any impromptu trips.

Yelp

I use Yelp mostly to find food. I’ve known others who use it to find yoga classes or gyms on vacation, but I find it more useful for finding nearby restaurants or cafes (Viator is more useful for me when it comes to sightseeing or activities). When I travel, I don’t like to drive, so I need everything to be either within walking distance, or easy to get to by bus.

Viator

I started using Viator to plan my vacation activities when I went to San Francisco a few years ago, and I’ve been a faithful customer ever since. Viator makes looking for tours and activities, from bar crawls to cooking classes, much easier than a simple Google search. The prices are reasonable compared to other tourism companies, and sometimes you can find a better deal with Viator than you can on your own.

Google Trips

I’m a big fan of all Google apps. They’re convenient, easy-to-use, and compatible across multiple devices. One of the newest Google apps I’ve discovered is Google Trips. Whether you’re going on a long trip, or you’re planning a last-minute vacation, the app can help you organize your travel plans in one place. Besides arranging your reservations and itinerary, Google Trips can also offer suggestions for activities and sight-seeing.

Hotel Tonight

Hotel Tonight can be a life saver if you find yourself in need of a last-minute hotel. My friend and I had to utilize the service once in Los Angeles during a holiday weekend. We ended up in a Motel 6, but we got a better rate for using the app than we would have if we booked on our own. Whether it’s for an impromptu weekend getaway, or a family emergency, Hotel Tonight can be a lifesaver.

Google Navigation/Maps

Again, I know it’s technically not an “app” but…you can’t go wrong with Google navigation. Whether you’re on foot, in a car, or taking a bus, Google Maps can tell you how to get to your destination, and estimated travel time. Even in my home town, it’s a life saver when I’m not sure where I’m going. I dislike driving within city limits, so it’s a huge help when I’m on a road trip and navigating an unfamiliar city. When I don’t have to drive, I still use it to guide me, saving myself a lot of time and a lot of headaches.

 

 

 

Tips on Choosing an Airline

I’m picky about who I fly with. Long before the recent horror stories of United and Delta, I agonized over the airline I chose the way some people agonize over which restaurant to eat at. After all, I figure if I have to spend a number of hours cramped in an aircraft with strangers, I might as well make sure I’m as comfortable as possible. Below are some of my criteria when I’m booking a flight:

  1. Price: Price is without a doubt my number one deal-breaker or deal-maker. I scour all of the typical websites: Kayak, Expedia, Priceline, Orbit, etc. to get an idea of what fares go for to my destination. Once I get a rough estimate, I then use Google Flights to track those flights.
  2. Additional Fees: Many airlines will allow you one carry on, and one checked bag without additional costs (I’m looking at you Spirit Airlines). But luggage isn’t the only place you can get hit with a hidden fee. If you book via telephone, want a pillow or have to travel with a pet, you can incur additional charges.
  3. Perks: Another thing to consider is an airline’s frequent flier program. Southwest Airlines has a history and reputation of being one of the cheapest domestic airlines around, and also having a one of the best rewards programs around. If you fly a lot, this will matter more to you than it would for only the occasional flyer.
  4. Duration of flight: I want to be on an airplane for the bare minimum amount of time. More important, I want to be in airports for the least amount of time possible. So I always go for direct flights when they are available. Sometimes connections are unavoidable, so this is of less importance to me than the price of the flight.
  5. Seat of Choice: I don’t like middle seats. Middle seats give me the cold sweats. I will stand watch on my phone when it’s time to check in just so I can get a decent boarding position and avoid the dreaded middle seat. The price and the convenience that Southwest offers is hard to beat, but I very much dislike the cattle call method of boarding an airplane. I prefer to choose my seat well in advance, and not have to worry about fighting someone for it later.
  6. Word of Mouth: If I still have a hard time choosing a flight after going through my top five criteria, I’ll ask others what airline they prefer flying. Everyone has different experiences when it comes to customer service, but if you hear about similar experiences over and over (good or bad) it can become an easy tie-breaker.

Buying airline tickets can feel like a mini lottery. You might get a cheap ticket, but end up paying for it in terms of comfort and quality of service, or the opposite. The important thing is that you decide what works for you, your vacation and your budget.

What’s in My Carry-On: Make-Up Edition

Since I went on vacation a couple weeks ago, I decided I wanted to do a series of posts on “what’s in my carry on”. I try to travel as light as possible, and if I can get away with just a carry-on and a personal item I consider it a success. I’m going to break up these posts in sections: makeup, clothes, and entertainment. I’m hoping it will help me streamline the packing process (I am a habitual last-minute packer, with no signs of rehabilitation in the future.

Make Up Bag:

Urban Decay Vice Lipstick (Stark Naked in the daytime, Mrs. Mia Wallace at Night): I love Urban Decay, and I think both of these shades cover the variety of day and night time events I have signed myself up for.

Lip balm: I prefer EOS balms, but Burt’s Bees is a great alternative.

ABH Stick Foundations (Natural, Warm Natural): I’m taking these primarily because of the humid weather. Not only that, stick foundations are much easier (in my opinion) to travel with.

ELF liquid eyeliner: ELF is a long-time favorite of mine. They’re cruelty-free and so affordable it’s almost criminal.

ELF eyebrow kit: See above.

Urban Decay Smoky palette: I went through all my eyeshadow palettes, and decided since I use this one the least in my normal life, I would make good use of it on vacation.

Tarte blush in Sensual: Long-time favorite.

Deodorant: I keep a travel-sized one with me at most times, because I live in Las Vegas and I get hot. So of course, I do the same when I travel.

Travel sized face wash/moisturizer: I love travel-sized products, and I try to stock up before each trip. I don’t have a particularly favorite brand, but I end up buying Neutrogena more often than not.

Makeup remover towelettes: Any brand will do, but I prefer Burt’s Bees.

Tarte Mascara in Gifted: This is the only mascara I own, so it goes everywhere with me.

VS rollerball perfume: It’s small, compact and smells terrific.

Eyelash Curler

Make up brushes: I don’t have a particular brand that I like; I’m not even sure where I got the current ones I have. But they must go with me every trip.

 

Harley Quinn Hairbrush: Just because. 

 

Las Vegas Price Comparison: Downtown Hotels

When people come to Las Vegas, the Strip is usually their first choice for hotel location. However, the downtown area is a viable alternative. Below you will find some of the average going rates of the downtown area. Keep in mind, these prices are just rough estimate and can depend on a number of factors (including events going on that weekend, holidays, etc.)

Hotel Weekday Rate Weekend Rate Resort Fee
Downtown Grand 32.00 – 81.00 USD 81.00 – 135.00 USD 44.68 USD
El Cortez 47.00 USD 180.00 USD 36.78 USD
Golden Nugget 49.00 -69.00 USD 159.00-259.00 USD 55.00 USD
Four Queens 53.00 – 138.00 159.00 -254.00 USD NO RESORT FEE
The D 24.00-69.00 USD 89.00-169.00 USD 44.80 USD
Plaza 29.00 – 55.00 USD 145.00 – 219.00 USD NO RESORT FEE
Main St. Station 48.00 – 90.00 USD 110.00 – 300.00 USD NO RESORT FEE

Las Vegas Price Comparison: Hotels on the Las Vegas Strip

Hotels on the Strip can be expensive. Depending on the time of year you visit, or whatever events may be going on that weekend, hotels rates can fluctuate up to 800 percent. Below you’ll find a breakdown of average prices for some of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. Note that these are strictly estimates, save for the standard resort fee. The rates will also depend on what kind of room you stay in; the suites and the bungalows are going to cost more no matter the event or time of year. These are also prices for the current fall season; these rates could increase greatly over the summer months.  I will do a “part two” to this table at a later date.

Price Comparison of Hotel Prices on the Strip

 

Hotel Name Weekday Rate (Average) Weekend Rate (Average) Resort Fee
Monte Carlo 45.00 – 70.00 USD 220.00-770.00 USD $33.60 USD
MGM Grand 60.00 – 175.00 USD 480.00 -560.00 USD $35.84 USD
Caesar’s Palace 200.00 – 300.00 USD 400.00 – 500.00 USD $32.00 USD
Harrah’s 70.00 – 120.00 USD 200.00 – 300.00 USD $29.00 USD
Bellagio 170.00 – 440.00 USD 500.00-600.00 USD $35.84 USD
Mandalay Bay 100.00 – 365.00 USD 100.00 – 800.00 USD $35.84 USD
Luxor 40.00 – 50.00 USD 200 – 300.00 USD $29.12 USD
Exacalibur 30.00 – 50.00 USD 200 – 300.00 USD $29.12 USD
New York New York 40.00 – 60.00 USD 220.00 – 365.00 USD $33.60 USD

Road Trip Tips: Advice on Traveling with Pets

The only downside to traveling is the fact that I have to leave my dogs behind. I’ve got three little ones, and every time I leave their little faces behind it breaks my heart. Of course, if I had all the money I would take them with me wherever I went whether by, plane, train or automobile. Until that time comes, they have to stay home unless I am driving. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to making traveling more fun for all of us:

Take them out on a lot of short rides ahead of time. I take my dogs to the park on almost a daily basis, so they are used to getting in and out of the car without problems. Sometimes, I’ll take them on short errands with me, like going to In N Out or to visit family (but they’re never left in the car alone). Now they insist on coming with me each I grab my keys.  When you make traveling by car fun for them, you have already won half the battle.

Bring the food they are used to. It’s not a good idea to abruptly change a dog’s food under normal circumstances, and it is especially not a good idea to do while you’re on vacation. A change in food can upset a dog’s digestive system, and the stress of new surroundings can compound that.

Take frequent breaks. I try to stop at least once an hour or every two hours to let my dogs out. We stop long enough to take a short walk, have a potty break, and drink water. It does significantly slow down your travel time, but it is good for both you and your pet. Sometimes I catch myself just wanting to rush through the drive and get to my destination, but when you force yourself to slow down and take breaks, you end up enjoying the journey itself a lot more.

Don’t leave them in the heat. This is absolutely essential. In the desert the temperatures can reach well above 100 degrees in the summertime, making the insides of a car reach 10 to 50 degrees hotter on any given day or time. This is an easy rule to follow; the only time it can get a little tricky is if you are on the road and alone. You can’t bring your pet into every gas station you pass by, especially if you need to use the restroom. The times that I find myself needing a bathroom break on the road, I leave out cold water and keep the air conditioning on. I also time myself; I’m never gone for more than five minutes.

Bring plenty of water. This is pretty self-explanatory. I usually bring a gallon for the dogs and some of the 24 oz. Aquafina bottles for me depending on how long we will be traveling. If we’re on the road for longer, I bring more for all of us.  This is an important tip to keep in mind all year, but it is even more important in the warmer months.

Secure them in the vehicle. They make seat belts and crates for dogs that are specially designed for car rides, but I’ve always used their regular crates on trips. Keeping your pets kenneled during a trip not only ensures their safety but yours. Whether you get a ticket for having your pet in your lap, or your furry friend distracts you while driving and causes an accident, having a loose pet in the car can cause a number of headaches.

Go on a walk before you leave. Taking them on a walk before you embark on a road trip will help burn off excess energy, and allow them to use the bathroom. Even if it’s just a quick trip outside, it will be enough to get their brains working and prepare them for the long drive ahead.

Bring something from home. Whether it’s toys, blankets or pillows, items from home will give them the sense of comfort they are missing out on the road. It will also help them to stay calm if they need to be in the hotel room by themselves for a little while.

Originally posted on my other blog, Sparks of Wanderlust