The Bohemian Vagabond’s Travel Tips & Checklist
Booking your flight:
Domestic – There are many broker sites which will find you cheap flights, it’s a good starting point to see where the cheapest flights are to that destination. Cheapflights.com, Orbitz.com, Kayak.com, Priceline.com, Travelocity.com, Expedia.com. But I prefer to book directly with the airline as I feel more control in having direct contact, as well as mileage points. Look directly at JetBlue.com, VirginAmerica.com, Delta.com, Southwest.com.
Rewards Card – Whatever airline you fly, make sure you sign up for rewards points! Especially for the 3 major Alliance Teams – SkyTeam, StarAlliance, OneWorld. Between those 3, they contain most all the airlines. It depends which airline you prefer to fly most, but it helps to compile them all into 1 family so you can rack the points up faster.
A good rule of thumb is on average 25,000 miles can get you a domestic flight, and 60-75,000 miles an International flight.. give or take.
Credit Cards – ThePointsGuy.com has all the in&outs on traveling for free through credit card points, etc. Just as a starting point, keep updated with your favorite airline on what their latest deals are. I signed up for both United Airlines and American Airlines Credit Card last year and each gave me 50,000 miles upon signing up and spending $3000 within 2 months. That’s practically a free roundtrip!
Travel Agents – another good option. I suggest doing your research online before asking a travel agent so you have a ballpark of prices. Usually, they get cheaper deals and can arrange details including hotel packages/itinerary if you don’t have the time to sort that out yourself.
Travel Insurance – I’ve never purchased it. But if you like to play it safe, look into it.
Health Insurance – Check with your Healthcare Provider to see if they are International. Although in most countries, seeing a doctor is relatively inexpensive. You’ll have to keep an open mind & trust their local medical customs.
Check online at least 1-2 months prior to your trip if the country you’re going to needs a Visa. It varies also depending on what passport you have. Visa prices range from 20$-150$ depending on the country, length of stay, type of visa (tourism versus working visa). From my current knowledge, countries that you don’t need: Most European countries, Costa Rica, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Canada, Mexico.
Travisa: For all your Passport/Visa needs. They provide a list of all the countries and whether or not you need a visa to enter.
Some visas you are able to obtain at the border or Embassy, but from previous experience, I suggest you prepare that at home at a local embassy before going. For example, I got my Vietnam visa in a Vietnam Embassy in Thailand, which was completely legit & took 20 minutes to process for 25$.
Visa Nightmare: While having a beautiful success in getting a visa in Vietnam, the bordering country Cambodia, we had major problems that would scare the living shit out of anyone. We had been warned about the problems of crossing the Thailand-Cambodia border. First off, the bus would only take you to about 2 miles from the border, then you have to grab a taxi or rickshaw to the actual border crossing. And these drivers have been INFAMOUS of bringing travelers to a fake embassy located ½ mile from the border, next to a “Visa Office”, forcing you to get off and buy, telling you that this is the only place to buy. If you’ve done your research ahead of time, you will know this is a scam. Some drivers are more aggressive than others, the more confident & adamant you are, the better you’re off. Finally getting to the actual border, we approached the visa box office, with a printed sign above that says “Cambodia Traveler Visa for 25$” The worker in his crisp suit smiles and asks for 1000 Baht = 35$. We argued for 10 minutes while he made no sense but held a devious disgusting smile insinuating in his look ‘I know you know I’m full of shit and pocketing your money, but what are you gonna do about it? I can put you in jail for no reason since you’re in my corrupt government, so pay up!’ So we settled at 30$.
Lesson – Find a local embassy near your home before traveling if you’re going to a third-world country with a corrupt government.
Make sure your passport is not going to be expired within 6 months of your trip and have at least 2 pages left.
Passport Photos I found cheapest at Costco. 2 photos for 5$.
*Check any conflicts you may have in having a US passport, and whether or not you are allowed to visit 2 certain countries on the same passport, due to conflicts. Such as trying to visit Iran when you have an Israeli passport stamp.
It is crucial that you check at least 2 months prior to your trip if vaccinations are necessary. You can find the list at Passport Health. What I learned from my mistake, is to not get your shots at a “Travel clinic” but instead to go to your own physician, or any doctors within your insurance network for these shots. Most of these vaccinations are recommended anyways every few years for your own health. If you mention you are getting them for travel purposes, or go to a travel vaccination clinic (Passport Health) like I did, your insurance most likely will not cover the expenses, unless you have a high coverage. For example, the Hepatitis series A-B-C, Tetanus, Rabies.. These are all shots recommended to you. But I was charged close to $100 for each of them from the ‘Specialized’ Travel Clinic. One could easily spend $500 on these shots which can be avoided!