WANT TO TRAVEL THE WORLD? HERE’S HOW I DO IT

I have been a Travelzoo member since 2009, and was thrilled when they approached me to share all the reasons I’m a fan. While I was compensated for this post, all opinions & travel geekdom are courtesy of yours truly.

TRAVEL: A LUXURY OR WITHIN REACH?

  Beaches of Phuket — Thailand

Beaches of Phuket — Thailand

No matter your financial status, you may think of travel as something of a luxury. You perceive it as a bonus part of life, and one that you’ll pursue when your future self, who is wildly successful, has deposited more money in the bank. At least—I certainly used to think of travel that way. Growing up in the Midwest, vacation consisted of Mom and Dad piling all the kids in the car, and heading north to Michigan where some friends owned a rustic cabin with squeaky floorboards. Where I grew up, travel was a luxury that was only available for a premium.

After spending 10 years working in travel, however, I am thrilled to know that traveling can be surprisingly affordable. Sure, you could probably drop a hundred grand on some mega yacht trip around the world if that were your prerogative. (Feel free to let me know if that’s your prerogative. I’m a great shipmate.) However, nowadays the world can be your proverbial oyster without breaking the bank.

A COMMON THEME

  Agra’s famed Taj Mahal   — India

Agra’s famed Taj Mahal — India

Because I work in travel, people ask me for recommendations on a daily basis. “Where should I go for my summer vacation?” “How do I find a flight that costs less than the travel agent rate?” “What’s the cheapest way to explore Southeast Asia?” When I look back through all my recommendations to friends and family over the years, one common theme surfaces: Travelzoo. Travelzoo pops up in at least 13 Facebook message threads, over one hundred Tweets, and hundreds of emails that I’ve sent to people over the past eight years.

In perusing these communiqués, I see that I’ve encouraged hundreds of people to buy plane tickets to adventurous destinations like Thailand and Peru, or river cruise packages on waterways like the idyllic Danube, or all-inclusive travel packages to natural wonderlands like Iceland. When I further explore the message chains, I see that a large percentage of those friends and family members have actually acted on said travel deals, and become frequent travelers just like me. #winning

TRAVEL #SQUADGOALS

  Safari   in Lake Manyara   — Tanzania

Safari in Lake Manyara — Tanzania

After enough friends approached me saying things like, “I never would’ve left the country were it not for that deal you posted to Stockholm,” or “I work overseas now because your travel deals inspired me to explore!”, I decided I should learn more about the booking site I kept sharing with people. I was pleased to find that I’m not alone in my moderate obsession: Travelzoo has more than 28 million members around the world—and all of us have access to the website’s offerings at no charge.

Now, let’s get real here: I try to buy discounted stuff whenever I can. Whether I’m shopping Nordstrom Rack instead of normal Nordstrom, or buying extra almond milk at the grocery because it’s 2-for-1, I like saving money. Who doesn’t? Sometimes, though, I get that gross feeling that a brand is saying it’s doing me a favor, but really it’s going to gouge me when I get to the checkout counter.

What I most like about Travelzoo is that it isn’t an online travel agency. Rather, it’s a deal publisher. That means that, yes—it wants to share travel with you; but, no—it’s not trying to trick you into buying a crappy deal (or worse: a crappy deal with hidden fees) just to shore up revenue. The Travelzoo team actually aims to provide value by doing the research for us. Their approach is that they will never publish a deal they wouldn’t book themselves, which I appreciate since I also only share deals with friends that I would personally book. Hooray for “sharing is caring”!

WEEKLY TOP 20

  Classic cars along the Malecón — Havana, Cuba

Classic cars along the Malecón — Havana, Cuba

The way I learned about Travelzoo was through its weekly Top 20: a roundup of the travel industry’s best travel and entertainment deals. Each week, a team of experts in offices around the world scours the Internet, delving into hundreds of deals that range from cruise packages to hotel deals and beyond. From there, Travelzoo’s experts narrow down those hundreds of deals to just 20 baller picks like: $59 cross-country flights during normally exorbitant holiday weekends (Looks like I’m headed home for Thanksgiving, Ma!); $799 for a Castles of Ireland 6-night adventure including airfare (Guinness Factory tour, anyone?); or even $99 for a four-course dinner for two at Four Seasons properties (Honestly, still thinking about that Guinness, though).

FLIGHT DEALS

  Flying over the atolls of the South Pacific   — Fiji

Flying over the atolls of the South Pacific — Fiji

I can say from personal experience that some of Travelzoo’s flight deals are so good that you’ll find yourself saying, “I can’t not buy this ticket.” As in—the deal is so good that you’d forever regret it if you didn’t book it. That’s what happened to me when they posted a flight deal in 2013 for Japan airfare: just $600 bucks from Los Angeles to Tokyo, round-trip, including taxes and fees. $600 may sound like a lot, but it’s actually very affordable when you consider that my flights home to Ohio for Christmas regularly cost me over $700, and they cover less than half the distance flown. When I saw the Japan fare, I immediately reached out to a college friend I hadn’t seen in years, asked if she wanted to take an impromptu trip with me, and we both jumped at the chance to explore a part of the world that was new to us.

Sometimes, though, I don’t have the vacation time to book another trip. That’s why I get excited helping others to take their own dream vacations. I get to live vicariously when friends find cheap tickets on Travelzoo’s “Today’s Best Fares” page, hitting destinations like the Cook Islands, New Zealand, and Copenhagen—all of which are places I long to visit one day.

HOTELS

  Hotel view in Condado   — Puerto Rico

Hotel view in Condado — Puerto Rico

Once you’ve got your flight booked, the site makes it extremely simple to not only search for a hotel deal on your desired dates; but also find hotels with members-only perks like free breakfast, late checkout, and room upgrades. Travelzoo has over 3,000 hotels on a curated list, many of which offer limited-time rates that you can’t find anywhere else. Booyah.

LOCAL DEALS

  Paragliding off the Southern California coast

Paragliding off the Southern California coast

If I’m jonesing for a new experience, but don’t have the time or resources to leave the country, I geek out about adventures in my own town. Groupon-lovers and LivingSocial deal-hoarders can all agree: a local bargain is always exciting. After using a variety of different sites like the two above, I choose to book Local Deals on Travelzoo, as the booking process is simple, and I don’t get judgy looks from business owners when I walk in with a Travelzoo voucher. Through Local Deals, I’ve booked philharmonic tickets, multi-course tasting menus at restaurants that would normally be too expensive for me, holiday ice-skating dates, and even Audiobooks on Audible.com.

TRAVEL ADVICE

  Iconic taxi speeds by in London   —   England

Iconic taxi speeds by in London England

Finally, whether you’ve got your next adventure planned, or you’re just looking for inspiration, the Travelzoo blog offers savvy insights into the world around you. Articles on the blog range from discussing how to honeymoon on a budget, to the 30 best ways to use your smartphone when traveling, to what Brexit means for the average American traveler. I even got brownie points with my fella for knowing Valentine’s Day Traditions Around the World this year. (Real talk: I’m glad women aren’t expected to be the big spenders in the U.S. like they are in Japan).

SAYING YES TO ADVENTURE

  Sunset over fishing nets   —   Kochi, India

Sunset over fishing nets Kochi, India

At the end of the day, life is what you make it. This is your story. Whether you want to explore your own town, or reach the edges of the earth to catch sunrise on the other side of the planet, those adventures are available to you. Our world is better connected than ever before, through transport, communications, and tech, and companies like Travelzoo exist solely to help us experience that connectedness. Now the choice is in your hands. Will you say “Yes” to adventure? Click here to explore your possibilities.