Toronto-based The Grey Canvas shares her best travel tips and how to get the most bang for your travel buck. Engineer-turned-blogger, Safinaaz is living the dream by exploring the world, indulging in the best cuisine, and raising her twins. She inspires a positive lifestyle and definitely knows how to save a few bucks while doing it.
Here Safinaaz shares her best tips and tricks for travelling with kids, where to save vs. where to spend (hint: Rakuten is part of it) when planning your travel, and more info/inspo for fellow Wanderlust-ers.
Q 1: What are some of your most memorable travel destinations?
There are so many! Too many in fact, but I’ll share two of my favorites.
After watching Midnight in Paris far too many times, my husband surprised me with a trip to Paris. We spent every day exploring different areas, visiting as many museums as possible, and eating our way through the city. We even made friends with a few locals, one of whom invited us to try out their Airbnb if we ever came back. Getting lost in museums and seeing all my favourite paintings in person is something I will cherish forever.
Another one was a family trip to Africa. I had been asking my in-laws for years that our next family trip destination be Africa. Finally, they said yes! We had the most amazing 10 days in Africa visiting their home, where they fell in love and where they got married. We also reconnected with some of their friends and family whom they hadn’t seen in over three decades. We also got a chance to cross an item off of my bucket list – visit the Ngorongoro Crater.
Q 2: Can you please explain what goes into choosing and planning your next trip? How do you find the best deals?
OH my gosh, I feel like this is going to bring out my nerd side to explain how I choose and plan our trip! I have a long, and I mean LONG, bucket list of places I would love to visit. I also have a list of when it’s a great time to visit each location, what to see, where to eat, and so forth.
After travelling to Rome and finding out that a few of my favorite landmarks were under renovations, I always (and I mean always) check to see if there are any scheduled projects to renovate historic landmarks. If there is, I move on to the next destination depending on what month we plan on traveling.
My three biggest tips when it comes to getting the best deals for travel are:
1. Book your flight on a Tuesday (these tend to be the quietest day for airlines)
2. Book your flight 45 days before your trip and your hotel 30 days before your trip
3. Always use Rakuten.ca right before checkout to make sure you get rewarded (and use that Cash Back towards excursions on your trip!)
Q 3: What is the most exciting part about travelling?
That’s easy! It’s the food, landmarks, and people! All three factors are exciting to me because they give me a unique insight to the city.
I love to try new cuisines, especially local family-owned spots. It’s also at the hole-in-the-wall eatery that I meet the most interesting locals! Our conversation usually starts with how we discovered the restaurant and turns to them spilling secrets on where we must visit before we go back home. I think in all the trips I have taken in the past few years, I have always stayed connected with the people we have met during our travels. And yes, we exchange birthday and Christmas e-cards.
Q 4: What are some of your favourite shopping hacks?
Develop a healthy habit with money and shopping. I know, it sounds complicated but hear me out. When we were on our last trip, there were so many knick-knacks from souvenir shops I wanted to get. Fortunately for me, I developed a healthy habit of asking myself why I need it, where I was going to place the item [at home], would it compliment my décor and most important – can I score a deal if I pay in cash.
For shopping at home, email alerts are a blessing and incredibly useful, so is the browser extension for Rakuten.ca. Rakuten Express is a great way to make sure you NEVER EVER miss the opportunity to score cash back when you shop in the comfort of your home.
For shopping hacks, I have a list of items I need and I tend to save them all in my shopping cart that is waiting to be checked out. I never checkout without using Rakuten, but there is one thing I always do… I patiently wait until Rakuten has a promotion to help me score major Cash Back!
Q 5: What are your travel essentials? Any packing tips?
Definitely my camera, sunscreen and a good pair of sneakers! These are three items I cannot live without and they are always packed in my carry-on just in case I lose my suitcase (it’s happened to me three times!) in addition to a day’s worth of clothes.
Another tip to avoid buying little plastic toiletry bottles is to keep an eye on the samples from Sephora. I always check to see if my usual beauty products are available as free samples with a purchase. I save a great deal of room (and money) this way.
Q 6: Tips for travelling with kids?
Traveling with kids is tricky but it comes with a lot of perks!
One of the biggest ones we learned was that you can purchase a car seat travel bag and you can shove whatever you need inside during gate side check-in (there is no weight restriction). To save yourself some luggage space, identify what items you can purchase locally instead of taking up valuable space in your suitcase. Items like diapers, wipes, and powdered milk.
Another tip is if you are traveling with babies is to make sure your stroller is a car seat and stroller combo. This will save you a great deal from renting a car seat if you plan on renting a car.
Q 7: Where do you save vs. spend when it comes to travel?
Save: Flight, hotel, souvenirs.
Spend: food and experiences
Q 8: Any secret travel hacks you can share?
- Buy your plane tickets and hotel at least 45 days before your trip and buy it on a Tuesday!
- The cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Never ever fly on Friday or Sunday – they’re the most expensive.
- Travel during off-season to ensure MAXIMUM savings!
- Always plan each day with a buffer in case it takes you longer to get to the place or home.
- Make sure if you are visiting a restaurant or landmark that they are actually open the day you plan to go.
- Convert money in advance at the local currency exchange location.
- You have to expect (and plan) for the unexpected!
- Always pack with you at least 3 pairs of shoes. Because shoes tend to take up a lot of space, all you need is your 3 basics – sneakers, sandals and a pair of heels.