Bethenny Frankel is the four-time bestselling author of Skinnydipping, A Place of Yes, Naturally Thin, and The Skinnygirl Dish. She is the creator of the Skinnygirl brand, which extends to cocktails, beauty, fitness, and health, and soon to be host of her own talk show, Bethenny. In 2011, Bethenny won a Glamour Women of the Year Award and was named one of the Top 100 Women in Entertainment by The Hollywood Reporter. She is a graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. Visit Bethenny.com for more information.
Here, she shares an excerpt from Skinnygirl Solutions, published by sister company Simon & Schuster. If you’re traveling on a budget, first ask yourself these eight questions.
Traveling can be fun or it can be stressful. It’s up to you. It’s been a sometimes bumpy road, but I’ve learned over the years how to travel lighter and how to find time to unwind, no matter how full my itinerary looks. You may not have any control over what kind of trip you’re about to take, but if you do, a little planning can make your whole travel experience easier. Here are eight questions to ask yourself before booking your next trip:
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What kind of getaway do you want or need?
A weekend car trip can be inexpensive and you will still feel like you’ve been somewhere, even if you haven’t left your region of the country or even your state. But maybe you hate car trips. Maybe you want to jet to Europe for a long weekend or only a beach will do. Know yourself. If you’re not the outdoorsy type, don’t let someone talk you into camping. If fancy hotels make you uncomfortable, don’t book one just because it went on sale. If you love the sun and the water, don’t book a trip in a city center. If boats make you nervous, don’t go on a cruise. Your trip should be whatever will make you feel excited about going, whether the destination is Hong Kong or Miami Beach or Anchorage, Ala. If you’re traveling with your partner, you’ll have to make a marriage of what you both want. If he likes adventure and you like relaxation, try to find a place where you can go white-water rafting and get a massage afterward, or if you can afford it, split the time: three days skiing and three days in the sun.
Will you fly or drive?
Driving can be less stressful than flying, especially if you have your family along or you have to bring a lot of things. You won’t have to go through security holding kids and snacks, take off your shoes, wait in long lines, or risk delays. You can bring as much stuff with you as you want to, and a car trip can be a fun and interesting journey in itself. On the other hand, if you are traveling alone or with one other person, you can pack light, and you just want to get to your destination, flying can be less stressful. Take a carry-on only, wear slip-off shoes, and bring work or a book so you don’t waste any time in case of delays. It all depends on what kind of trip you’re taking.
Can you pay less?
Never pay retail: I say this about clothes, but it applies to traveling, too. You can find great deals online if you sign up for travel-alert sites, but comparison-shop, because what you think is a great deal might just get greater at a different site. Join all the frequent-flyer and hotel clubs. They are free, and you get points based on travel you have to do anyway, for both flying and hotel stays. Stay on top of it and always have your frequent flyer numbers handy (store them in your smartphone). You could end up earning enough for a free trip. Sign up for travel-deal alerts for last-minute travel, if you can take off for a weekend on the spur of the moment. You can save a ton if you can get away and unless it’s a very popular travel time, you can always find a great last-minute deal. As long as you use a credit card, you might as well use one that gets you airline or hotel points. Always ask if the hotel includes free breakfast. They might include it but not tell you.
Can you comparison-shop for spas and yoga retreats?
If you are dying for a spa vacation (who isn’t?), definitely shop around, because there is a wide range of spas. A spa used to be a fancy place where wealthy women went to lose weight, but now that everybody wants the experience, many spas have answered the call, broadening their services and lowering their costs. Some are super high-end, but many spas with beautiful surroundings and great services are surprisingly affordable, with yoga classes and fun exercise activities like drum dancing or hip-hop dancing. Some are spiritual, some are hard-core for weight loss or fitness, and some are all about stress relief. Some are more rustic and eco-chic, with openair sleeping quarters and yoga on the beach. Some have sweat lodges or native beauty treatments. Some focus on meditation or spiritual exploration or holistic healing, with spa treatments in between. Go with a girlfriend or two and add female bonding, which is also rejuvenating, especially if you spend your days around men. Look at SpaFinder.com for ideas.
What do you need in a hotel room?
Are you traveling to get out and see things or to sit in a hotel room and look around at the art on the walls? For me, if I’m away for fun I don’t need a fabulous room. I need a clean room. If you really will be in the hotel a lot and a weekend of luxury matters to you, then spring for it. However, if you have a hotel mostly for somewhere to sleep, you need a clean bed and a clean bathroom. It shouldn’t be 90 percent of the cost of your trip.
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If you travel with friends, you can split expenses and your trip won’t cost a lot. One of you can get airfare, the other the hotel, or however you want to work it out. If you are traveling with your partner and your money is all the same, you can still save money. Look for romantic things to do at low or no cost at your destination. Lying on a beach or going to a park or outdoor concert might be free, but figure out things you both want to do. You might have to spend a day on the golf course, but is that too high a price if it means your partner will spend a day with you at the spa getting couple’s massages, then having a candlelit dinner on the beach? Of course, there’s also no reason you have to spend every second together. You could get your massage while he’s on the golf course, then meet up for a romantic dinner afterward.
Are you bringing kids?
If you are, you don’t have to get two rooms. A junior suite can be more economical. Some of these rooms have an enclosed bedroom for you and your partner, with a separate space that has a pull-out couch and an extra half bath. When traveling with family, it’s also more economical to get a room with a kitchenette and go to the store. Do you really want to take your kids to a restaurant three times a day when your young kids really just want peanut butter and jelly or your teenagers are constantly starving and need 24/7 snack food available?
Can you plan your meals?
Unless meals (like breakfast) are included in your package, don’t eat at the hotel. This is much more expensive and often not all that good. Instead, look for good restaurants in the area and try new things. You can often eat like the locals for a fraction of the price of a hotel meal and get a more authentic experience at the same time.