Updated: Dec 23, 2019
Easy! Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love the beach. Doesn't matter where or what season...I LOVE THE BEACH! I don't know why I love it so much, maybe the peaceful crashing of the waves, the crisp & refreshing air or digging my feet into warm, soft sand...it feeds my soul.
Maybe two or three years ago I watched a documentary about various Caribbean islands that have ties to African culture/traditions. Seeing so many places that still practices various religions and traditions derived from African descent sparked something in me: I want to visit as many Afro-Caribbean islands/countries as possible. My love of beaches and desire to learn more about African culture from around the world has created this new goal for me.
Now, I definitely have not excluded the idea of visiting other places...I've visited some amazing places that don't have beaches or anything to do with African culture. So I am still open and eager to visit those places too.
Now choosing an ACTUAL destination can be influenced by my conversations with friends, things I see on T.V. but it mostly comes from the amazing travel groups that I follow on social media. BLACKTRAVELGRAM (Instagram), Black Travel Movement (Facebook), Black Girl Travel Movement (Facebook), Travelisthenewclub (Instagram) and TRAVELNOIRE (instagram) are just a few of the groups that I follow/have joined to keep up-to-date on intriguing destinations, travel hacks, information and connect with other people who are starting out in travel or are well-seasoned travelers. These platforms also allow for me to share my experiences and I get to view amazing pictures that people take from around the world.
Once I settle on a destination, I begin to research lodging, this is usually a sporadic Google search that helps me compile of list of potential hotels. I try to pick a landmark or popular activity/business to use as a way to map out where I want to stay. This helps me in case I get lost or confused about where I am staying. Locals can always provide directions to a landmark or popular businesses.
Now before I get into this I must share that I usually plan my trips 6 months to a year in advance. Why you say? It's all about the savings. I work in a person-dependent industry, meaning people need to be present to provide adequate coverage to ensure that safety and care needs are being met effectively and continuously on a daily basis. So in knowing this, I know that planning a trip without advanced planning time or notice for my job can be a little tricky. My job only allows two people out for leave a day and with 20+ staff members it's often a race to see who can get their leave approved first.
I also find that by planning so early I get to see the sporadic changes of prices of flights, hotels, etc. I can get a general sense of how much a price will fluctuate or even when it will move no further. This allows me to budget/save in preparation for my trips. I also plan a lot of my travel in the fall and winter. These are times when prices are really low for travel especially with summer being the most popular for travel to warmer places. I can sometimes get away with cheap travel in early Spring. It's all about planning.
Once I identify where I want to stay, I look for real traveler reviews and pictures to get a sense of how the property really is. I strictly use TripAdvisor for this task. TripAdvisor allows actual travelers who have stayed in hotels or engaged is various experiences to leave reviews along with pictures. And the people do not disappoint with the pictures, they make sure to get every nook and cranny of their stay. I've stayed at amazing hotels because of those reviews and steered clear of some sketchy ones because of those reviews. TripAdvisor usually has thousands of pictures from travelers which provides a thorough view of what people experience. Hotels will often provide the best reviews and professional pictures to depict their property which could be misleading.
Finally with my flight, I've subscribed to so many flight fare trackers; Skyscanner, Scott's Cheap Flights, Google Flights etc. I receive almost daily updates about flights that I have indicated I am interested in purchasing. I am able to compare various airlines, budget/save appropriately for flights and purchase directly through those sites. I haven't actually purchased directly through those sites, I am not a fan of third party sites but that information paired with flight sales have gotten me amazing prices on flights. I'm also subscribed to just about every airline for updates on flight sales or deals. Usually when those happen, I often buy my roundtrip ticket but most recently have been purchasing one-way tickets. This enables me to continue to watch the fluctuation of ticket prices and snag a cheap returning ticket.
My all-time favorite airline is Southwest; I get to choose my own seat and bring two free checked bags and a carry-on. You can't beat that! However, I do have a Delta AMEX credit card that I use mostly to accumulate points for flights but also to buy my flights to Atlanta. My card provides me with priority boarding, one free checked bag and main cabin seating. Not too shabby.
And there you have it folks, I put a lot of effort and research into my trips. I know there are probably simpler ways to get all of this accomplished, i.e. Travel agent, third party sites , etc. but I find great joy in the planning process of my trips. I get excited about all the things that I am going to experience and the fun I will have which makes the entire process worthwhile; gratifying is the best way to describe it.
P.S. Please enjoy a few pictures of amazing beaches that I have been blessed to visit :-)