Thailand. South of France. Vietnam. Italy. Prague. Mexico. Oh you know, these are just some of the places Jessica Wright, aka San Francisco’s biggest travel blogger, has traveled to and documented recently on her blog the Bon Traveler. She is one of the coolest -and most relatable!- travel bloggers for advice and inspiration. Oh and homegirl been to over 20 countries in just the last 3 years. Wowza.
We sat down with Jessica (over coffee of course) to pick her brain for some real-deal travel advice. You know we don’t like to beat around the bush! Neither does Jessica. Our main focus was to find out HOW to get the biggest bang for your buck and what we can do to ensure smooth traveling.
One reason we trust Jessica’s opinion so much is because she’s worked in the travel industry for the last 4 years, spending her first couple as a travel agent. Her passion for seeing the world and belief in traveling for the soul is unmeasurable. From the stories and photos on her blog to her Instagram, it’s easy to get swept away in her beautiful and inspiring travels.
We had a lot of questions and Bon Traveler was just so cool and confident in her answers. Humble too. She gives her advice in a very been-there-done-that-this-is-what-you-do kind of way… which we really appreciated.
Okay, tips from The Bon Traveler herself!
“I want people to invite themselves into bigger experiences with life. Travel is a great medium for people to do that.”
Q: What are the best website sites to book airfare and hotels?
Jessica: For flights use Kayak- they do a good job bringing in all the data from all the different airlines and third party services combined.
For just hotels, use Booking.com. Then go to Priceline as a 3rd validator– to make sure you are paying the best price for yourself. Though I’d recommend to always book direct with the hotel when possible as many hotels are matching the
prices to the third party booking companies and often throw in some extra perks like an upgrade or complimentary
breakfast for booking direct.
After you check out the prices on Kayak (look at the grid +/- 3 days before and after travel), go directly to the airline and book direct because you have less middle men to deal with and they always give you better service.
Q: How far in advance should we book a flight?
Jessica: If you book too far in advance, the flights might change in schedule and price. Typically, for the lowest prices, book domestic flights 3-4 months in advance and 4-5 months for international. The most expensive flights are typically 10-14 days before departure.
Q: What are some tricks and tips to knock down a price?
+ Clear cookies on your browser. Travel sites are always keeping track of what you do once they’ve dropped some cookies on you! Example: “I was searching for flight once on a Sunday night and the flight was $275. I look at it again in 20 minutes and the price has jumped to $400. I looked up the same trip info on my husband’s computer and it was $300.” So… don’t let them dupe you!
+ Use Travelzoo.com to find some great travel deals. But remember, booking through a third party can be riskier and more things can go wrong. Not saying they will, but can!
+ Try booking an Open-Jaw ticket. This means flying into one airport and flying out of another — this particularly
works well in Europe when you are starting somewhere say like Paris and ending in Italy. Instead of spending
more money to return back to the original entry airport, you can fly home via another hub.
+ Online purchasing sales hit Monday night. That’s when other airlines start to match prices and it’s usually set by Tuesday afternoon. Shop Tuesday 3pm for the best domestic flights.
Q: What are some of the cheapest round trips outside the country that would surprise some people?
Jessica: This is dependent on timing of the year, but you can travel more inexpensively into places like Asia. For instance, you could fly into Taipei first, followed by Thailand or Vietnam. With that itinerary, I’ve seen flights for less then $900 roundtrip. (WHAT! Crazy good!) Another killer country that is cheap to get into is Stockholm and Copenhagen because a lot of the smaller airlines run massive discount tickets for around $600-700, which means it’s a cheaper entry into Europe. Scoooore.
Q: What is trip insurance and do you recommend it?
Jessica: I highly recommend it if you are going anywhere out of country. Travel insurance keeps you traveling safe and helps when you need it. Let’s say you cut your knee, the right travel insurance will help cover medical costs. If your flight ever gets canceled or delayed, call your trip insurance first, customer service can help get you in the right direction. They can come in really helpful with delayed flights and unfortunate mishaps. Something to keep in mind!
Recommended: worldnomads.com. Their trip insurance covers medical costs, emergency evacuation, trip cancellations, and
Q: Are there any airports you avoid at all costs?
Jessica: I always avoid Chicago and LAX.
Chicago- it’s huge and there are always delays and flight changes. They are also notorious for weather delays and the connection there can be incredibly stressful.
LAX- I avoid LAX in Los Angeles when going from domestic to international. The transfer in-between is a pain in the ass because you have to switch terminals. I choose a flight itinerary with a stop in San Francisco over LAX whenever I can.
Q: Are there specific airlines you recommend?
Jessica: When you stick with purchasing through the actual company airline and traveling within a loyalty program -as opposed to booking third party- you can expect better treatment and experience. It’s the loyalty programs that will get you free baggage, upgrades, and lounge access.
Jetblue offers free wifi on most flights, the dopest snack selection, and the best amenities.
Air Tahiti has great in-flight food.
Virgin Air has the best in-flight entertainment, no doubt.
Q: What is the difference between Legacy airlines and Low cost airlines? Are low cost airlines even worth it?
Jessica: The difference between legacy and low cost airlines can be quite large. I personally tend to stick with Legacy airlines. Some of those would include United, Delta, and American.
Low cost airlines serve their purpose but if I’m going international, I’ll always fly legacy for a few reasons. Better service, better in flight entertainment, meals on board, possible wifi connection, and for an international stopover, they’ll transfer your bags for you onto your final destination if booked with them (Low cost airlines will not, you’d have to transfer your own bags and go through security again.) Also, low cost airlines typically do not have a lot of the amenities as offered on the larger airlines.
Q: What is the FIRST thing you do when you start planning a trip? Plan then buy tickets? Tickets then plan? How FAR in advance do you usually start the initial planning?
The first thing I do is read — I look everywhere from TripAdvisor to Instagram inspiration, to in-depth blogs to Fodor’s, to NY Times 36 hours guide to Pinterest. All of it. I take a look at a destination, get a feel for it, and start to plan.
For international trips, I always make sure to buy flights at around 6-7 months in advance if I am using points as these are the best times to redeem. I typically research a destination, figure out how many days I want to be there, and if I have the same airport I want to fly into. I then pull the trigger on the tickets before planning the details like transportation/accommodations.
Q: Being a travel blogger- how do your vacations and trips differ from the normal travel goer?
Since most of my travel is usually a campaign or creative opportunity, the time on the road is spent capturing. I capture everything via photography and journalism, trying to catch the moment so I can share it in some facet. Often when in a destination, there are meetings and appointments with different aspects like hotel / air / tours / etc to understand what a place has to offer. I typically start the day with the sun to get the best shots for photos, the rest of the day is for meetings and experiences, and at dusk for photos again. The nights are spent in hotels writing down what I experienced and catching up on work. I think the biggest differentiator from a normal travel trip, is that there is a level of pressure to do a good job, to make sure you capture the best moments to help others see the beauty of a place through your eyes.
***For beautiful and inspiring stories and more helpful travel advice broken down in a way we can actually understand, visit Bon Traveler’s blog!***