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More travel tips for when you want to get out of town

Tom Frazier
Tom Frazier

We don’t always stay in town. Sometimes we like to go somewhere else. We even like to travel to exotic far-away places.

The good news is that it is easier than ever to plan your trips. I’m so old that I remember stopping by AAA to get maps and local travel guides for our possible destinations. I didn’t even realize that a higher star rating was often a result of money changing hands!

My very favorite travel app is called ITA Software a Google product. They feature a matrix airfare search solution to finding just the right flights.

Let’s say I want to go to Miami sometime this fall, but I don’t have a specific event or date in mind. I really don’t care if I fly from Fresno, Sacramento, San Jose or Oakland – or other airports. With the Matrix software, I can select many possible departure and arrival airports. I can select exact dates, a range of dates or even the best prices for an entire month!

For the 30-day search I described, prices ranged from $208 to $434. The lower price is for a Frontier red-eye from Sacramento to Miami. On the same day, the Alaska Air fare from San Jose is more than $400 for a day-time two-hop flight.

Unfortunately, you cannot actually book on this site, but it gives precise routing codes that you can migrate to an airline or other booking site. It has other filters as well such as one-way flights, multi-city flights, restricting the return flight to the same one you departed from.

People ask, “When is the best time to book a flight?” That is one tough question! Airlines are constantly tweaking fares, sometime in ways that don’t seem logical. Generally speaking, if you wait too late to book, you will probably find higher prices. As seats begin to fill up, airlines raise the prices. For the search I used, it was usually better to fly on Wednesday or Tuesday. Have fun, try searching for your next trip.

Then there is Trip Advisor, a good friend. You can search for things to do everywhere you go. It’s a user-driven app — that is, regular folks like you and your friends write reviews and assign stars to sights, restaurants, hotels and other activities. While there are some reviews that may appear “fishy” – either too generous or too harsh, they are generally spot on.

Any time I go somewhere, it’s fortified by what other folks have recommended. And, you can use Trip Advisor to find things to do locally as well, it does not have to be somewhere in a big city.

Finally, we have had great luck booking the largest “hotel chain” in the world, AirBnB.

It too is user-driven with ratings and reviews. I’d estimate we used AirBnB in a dozen different places and each time found the site to be accurate and the house/apartment room was comfortable and reasonable. There’s none I would not return to for another visit.

One last tip: We have also had great luck using both Uber and Lyft. I’ve even used Uber to attend the Merced “Burgers and Brew’ which is coming up on May 18 at Bob Hart Square. No DWI for me.

Enjoy your travels, near and far.

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