It’s time for another installment of Travel Insiders, where we share the real life advice of renowned travel bloggers to help you achieve your travel dreams. Today we’re featuring Harlan Vaughn, the brains behind Out and Out: a travel / positive living blog packed with tips to help you live a better life. Read on to learn about how he got his start and how you can travel on the cheap!
Where or when did your interest in traveling begin?
My first time traveling was on a Greyhound bus when I was 17. Shortly after that, I took my first flight, so I didn’t discover air travel until my late teens. Knowing nothing about the various airlines or how they worked, I simply booked the cheapest flights I could get whenever I wanted to go somewhere. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to maximize my travel with points and miles, mostly earned from credit cards.
How do you make it work financially?
I price out all the flights and hotels before I book anything. I pay out of pocket for inexpensive flights and hotels and then I use points or miles for the rest. I usually travel in the off season for even lower costs. Bonus: traveling in the off season allows me to enjoy places when they’re not as crowded and the service is better, too!
As a final money-saver, I treat my credit cards like a debit card, meaning I pay them off in full every month. Never pay interest and your travels can truly be free!
How has your life changed since you got into traveling?
I’ve grown so much as a person and I’ve realized how big the world really is. With each trip I take, I come back home with 5 new places I want to visit. For example, when I visited Fiji, it made me want to see even more of French Polynesia.
Travel has given me gratitude about life. There is so much in the world to be thankful for, including the modern miracle of air travel. It’s expanded my horizons in so many ways.
What are some of your best practices?
Never check a bag!
Seriously, I can’t even begin to calculate how much time I’ve saved by not waiting at a baggage carousel or checking in luggage before a flight. People don’t really need as much as they think they do. Try to cut back when you pack.
Also, give “shoulder season” a try. It’s usually right when the seasons are changing. The benefit is that the high season is winding down, but the next season hasn’t fully taken hold. For example, I visited Alaska in early September. The weather was still wonderful and there were no crowds.
Finally, I often hear people say they have trouble redeeming their airline miles. This is usually because they accumulated miles that aren’t aligned with their travel goals. Different miles have different “sweet spots.” Take some time to read about the various programs. There is still a lot of value to be had if you know what to look for.
What’s your most and least favorite trip so far?
Most favorite was my round-the-world trip that took me to Los Angeles, New Zealand, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, Abu Dhabi, and Frankfurt in Germany. The entire trip was in business class. Some of the flights were so lovely. And I got to see so many different landscapes and lifestyles – from tropical ocean communities to modern, cosmopolitan cities. Being able to visit the Southern Hemisphere was a delight.
(Honorable mention goes to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. It would probably be my favorite if I could remember more of it!)
My least favorite trip was one I took to Santiago, Chile last year. It was just so rushed. I didn’t take the time to research, so I got down there, fumbled around, and then left. Since I didn’t give myself enough time, it was all my fault, really.
If I had it to do over again, I’d visit the vineyards. I’d go on a day trip to Valparaiso. And I’d give myself more time to properly explore vibrant Santiago. I owe Chile another visit to make up for my poor planning. But even still, I made the most of it. The people I met were some of the kindest on the planet!