By Rishika Sharma, on January 19, 2023

That’s a wrap! The best of Out Travel The System 2022

With every new year comes new year’s resolutions, and according to recent data, more than one-third of Americans have set travel-related goals for 2023. Whether you’re simply hoping to travel more this year, are looking to be more responsible in the travel choices you make, or are aiming to be savvier with your travel budget, we can help chase your wanderlust-inspired dreams with the best tips, tricks, and hacks from Season Four of Out Travel The System.

Air travel hacks

In our Holiday Planning episode, we learned that strong traveler demand for flights coupled with airlines not fully up to their pre-COVID capacity levels sent ticket prices soaring in 2021, especially during key holiday periods – and we saw these high prices continue into 2022. It’s likely that prices will ease in 2023 as airlines continue to increase their capacities, but it always pays to consider your departure dates (and even the day of the week that you make your booking!) if you want to bag the best possible deal – especially for holiday travel. For example, when it came to 2022 Thanksgiving flights, you could have saved between 20% and 30% by departing on the Monday before the holiday instead of over the weekend.

For more tips on how to save on your flights, check out Expedia’s 2023 Air Travel Hacks Report.

Additionally, in our Loyalty Hacks episode travel finance expert Katherine Fan shared her tip for travelers to keep a running list of the places they’d like to go so they can periodically plug them into a flight search tool to see when there are dips in prices. Expedia’s Price Tracker Tool – available on select flights via the Expedia app – can also help you keep track on flight prices and help you predict the best time to book. The price predictions aren’t guarantees – but they’re still a great place to start!

Doing Disney World like a pro

There’s nothing like a trip to Disney World, but the price can add up, especially if you’re traveling as a family. But as we learned from Lou Mongello – a Disney super fan who has visited Disney World over 1000 times, and has written the books and produced the award-winning podcast to prove it – if you can be flexible in your dates, you can save a lot by traveling during ‘value season’. According to Lou, there are multiple value seasons every year, which often fall just before or after the major holiday periods. Visiting during value season can help you nab some of the park’s best accommodation deals, which can save you around 40% on your stay.

Disney World in Orlando, Florida

Picking the right destination

In our Disappearing Destinations and Doppelgänger Destinations episodes, our guests – former New York Times correspondent Elizabeth Becker and former Travel + Leisure editor Siobhan Reid – shared some of their favorite examples of lesser-traveled destinations to explore if you’re looking to indulge in the beauty of hot spots like Venice, Santorini, and Bali, but without some of the baggage that comes with overtourism. For example, Siobhan told us how much she loved Paros – a stunning Grecian Island near Santorini and Mykonos. Paros is home all of those classic Greek Island sights and experiences – the bright white houses covered in pink flowers, dazzling Aegean Sea views, incredible Greek Island cuisine, and jaw-dropping sunsets – but for an average of $200 less per hotel night (even in peak season!) than Mykonos.

Paros, Greece

By going against the crowds, you’re also more likely to secure reservations at amazing restaurants and hotels, as we learned in our Megamoons episode with Anne and Mike Howard – the world’s longest honeymooners. It’s also a great tip for those looking to be more conscious with their travel habits, as picking less-visited destinations is also one way to travel more responsibly and sustainably.

Perfect planning

“Don’t overplan” and “Leave some flexibility in your schedule” were two tips that nearly every expert repeated this season. But in our Holiday Planning episode, our family and group travel expert Nevin Martell shared another pearl of wisdom. If you’re planning a big family vacation or getaway with all your friends, then try to pick at least a couple of activities that are just slightly outside of people’s comfort zones. This will introduce them to new experiences – from foods to activities – and will add an element of adventure to the holiday that will make it even more memorable for the whole group.

Listen to our Season Four Wrap-Up now and follow the transcript below. For even more intel, check out the full episode guides for Season 4.

We can’t wait to see where you get to with these tips! So make sure you share your adventures with us on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter.

Want to learn more?

Listen to the podcast now, check out the complete transcript below, or catch the full conversation on Spotify or Apple.

Nisreene: I’m Nisreene Atassi, and this is Out Travel The System.

[Musical interlude]

Nisreene: Hello, hello, and welcome to the final episode of the season. I can’t believe it. It has been such a great couple of episodes that we’ve had here this season. We have learned so much. We’ve had some unbelievable guests on. I’m really, really happy with just all of the knowledge that’s been shared.

This week, we’ll be revisiting some of our favorite conversations and episodes that feature the best of what we found out about travel takeaways for you to plan your next vacation. I’ve had so many eye-opening conversations this season. Each guest was jam-packed with expert tips, tricks, advice, hacks, and more on everything about travel. Vacations for extended family, orchestrating special honeymoons, or maybe taking that big, epic bucket-list trip. Our guests covered all of it this season, and I’m so excited to revisit our favorite moments.

This season we did something fun and coined the term ‘doppelgänger destinations’, which, for me, was a really fun conversation, because we’re all about trying to make travel accessible for everybody, and sometimes it’s not that easy – whether it’s distance or price. So finding some alternatives to some of the most popular tourist spots was a really great way of hopefully opening people’s eyes to all of the different options that they have out there. For me, one of them was Montreal. And while Paris isn’t something that you can really replace, going to Montreal felt like a pretty good second option, right? I sat down with travel journalist Siobhan Reid to discuss some of the uncanny destinations that sort of give that same out-of-this-world experience, but are maybe a little less touristy and, in some cases, less expensive.

Siobhan Reed, travel journalist: In terms of doppelgänger destinations for Santorini and Mykonos, I have a few faves. Last summer I traveled to Paros and Antiparos, and these are kind of within the same – they’re within the same island chain of Santorini and Mykonos. So, easy to access from Athens. And I just thought that these two islands are the ultimate Greek Islands. You could easily travel between them. Paros has more sightseeing. It has great restaurants. It has these beautiful mountain villages. It has the seaside villages. There’s so much to do and discover. And once you kind of get your fill, you can go more off-the-grid to Antiparos, which is more laid-back, a little bit more… a little bit less developed. And you can – you know, I rented a motorcycle and drove along the coast and it was amazing. I felt like I had the island to myself.

Nisreene: So for a lot of Americans, going to Montreal is a little bit of an easier trip than flying all the way to Paris, France. So I love that we sort of talked about that as an option.

Siobhan: I am a big fan of Montreal and Québec City. Sure, it’s not Paris. And you know, Paris is just one of those cities that, let’s be real, it has no equal. Paris has it all. It’s singular in its beauty. But Montreal and Québec City offer incredible history. Both cities have UNESCO-recognized old towns. Québec City is actually home to the largest fort in North America. I had no idea. And it’s the only walled city north of Mexico. So Québec City is a fascinating place to discover. And the cuisine in Québec is truly wonderful. Like, I go back often and I’m always amazed at kind of like the culinary tapestry in Québec. I think because you have so many people from all over the world living in the province – you know, it’s not just French bistros. You also have incredible shawarma shops, you have incredible Israeli food, you have Mexican restaurants. And then in Montreal, it’s a city to be a flâneur in. You know, it’s one of those places you just want to walk around and kind of lose time in. You don’t need a map – just stroll. Start in the Downtown, go to the Plateau, go to the Mile End. Like Lake Paris, it’s just a wonderful city to stroll around.

Nisreene: Planning for a vacation is, frankly, a daunting experience. But as we’ve learned this season, it doesn’t really have to be. Your dream vacation is actually a lot more attainable than you might think. And as we all know, you never really know when that window of opportunity will fully close. And hopefully 2020 doesn’t make a reappearance, but at least now we’re prepared for it. This guest was travel icon and bestselling author of 1,000 Places To See Before You Die, Patricia Schultz. And we learned how actually planning for that bucket-list vacation is not out of reach. We chatted about turning your wildest travel plans from dreams to reality.

Patricia Schultz, travel writer: Yeah. Do you need 11 pairs of shoes every third month, or do you need the new iPhone, you know, every year? I’ve never had a car. I mean, my transportation was an airplane instead of, you know, monthly auto loan payments. So it’s all about priorities, I think, and when travel is foremost on your list of what’s important to you. Hopefully you’ve got a bucket list of your own. You’ve seen a movie, you’ve seen a documentary, you’ve gone out with, you know, a guy from Amsterdam, and you’re desperate to see where he came from because you’ve never been and you’ve heard only wonderful things. And, so, kind of narrow it down to three or four and see what’s feasible and then see if you do have a traveling mate who’s on the same page and wants to see the same place you do and at the same time. And if that doesn’t happen, like I said, solo travel is a wonderful thing. I can’t encourage it enough, even if it’s your first time.

Nisreene: I couldn’t have agreed with her more. And, see, this is where I thought Patricia was really great to talk to, because we learned a lot of different ways to really capitalize on airline miles and sort of maximize the way to travel frugally. And while Patricia might encourage us all to really max out our credit cards, I feel like we’ve got a bit of a balance now with some of her helpful tips.

Patricia: I can’t tell you how many people are not saving their points and it’s just, like, miles out the window that – you know, you may not get a free ticket every month-and-a-half, but over the course of a year, you can probably accrue enough mileage points with any of the airlines to get you to Europe or to get you to, you know, to Manitoba to see the polar bears, or to get you to the Dominican Republic. So be very, very conscious that these possibilities are real and they’re, you know, yours for the cost of signing up with a credit card, which sometimes will have joining options that are as much as 30,000, 40,000 miles. And that’s half your ticket to Paris.

Nisreene: Patricia also gave us some really good reminders. Time is running out for some destinations and, simply, we’re all getting older and it can be a little bit harder sometimes to schlep around the way we used to. Certainly if you have kids, that’s for sure. The pandemic literally took years away from travel, so she was really a good reminder that now is the time to take advantage. If you’ve got the means and you’ve got the able body, get out there and see those spots, because you never know what’s going to happen.

Patricia: Yeah. And I usually get it from older folks. And just two nights ago, at someplace I was on the book tour for Why We Travel, a woman said that she was one of legions of people who waited until she retired. And this is especially not good, because people are retiring later and later in life – often because they have to financially, sometimes because they love their job so much. So, you don’t want to, “Oh, I’m so tired…” Or, all of a sudden, “My vacation time, I have to use it within the next 48 hours. I didn’t make any plans, so I’m going to organize my closets, or I’m going to paint the deck, or I’m going to, you know, I don’t know, take the kids out.” People have all kinds of excuses, but if you want to travel, you need a plan, and it has to be your reality and you have to do it. And not just when you’re retiring or when you’re, you know, on your honeymoon. I mean, make that honeymoon happen alone.

Nisreene: I’ll just say it: Packing – and packing well, for that matter – can be a nightmare. But I will tell you this – since I had a chance to speak with celebrity stylist Jennifer Michalski-Bray, I used to be a chronic over-packer and, let me tell you, I’m not anymore. This past Thanksgiving, I packed only what I needed. I wore absolutely everything I packed, and I feel like I owe it all to Jennifer.

Jennifer Michalski-Bray, celebrity stylist: I think this circles back to wearing neutrals, again, or wearing something that’s tonal so you can mix and match different pieces that you packed so you could pack, you know, eight pieces instead of 16, because you can mix and match and wear them again. And when you steam, going back to steaming, it basically cleans the outfit for you. So, like, it gets rid of all of those germs and it’s basically like washing your shirt.

Nisreene: She also talked about what to wear to the airport to maximize room in your suitcase for more cute outfits, which I also did for Thanksgiving. I wore my UGG boots on the plane, because I was going home to Chicago and it was absolutely freezing, which it’s not in Seattle. So I still wore those boots because I wanted to save space.

Jennifer: Loads of layering. So I will always be on a plane in layers if it’s going to be cold. And I always find that super handy – and you only need, like, one jacket or one cardigan. You don’t need to have a different jacket or cardigan for each outfit, because you’re packing a tonal wardrobe. So that jacket or cardigan will match everything else that you have in your suitcase.

Nisreene: And, lastly, Jennifer shared her essential items to pack when traveling with kids, which we all know is a bit of a trying time. So all the tips are welcome.

Jennifer: Well, back when I was breastfeeding, I loved the Elvie pumps, because I went straight back to work. So, I didn’t take any time off after the kids. I just kind of, like, made do and would, like, have them strapped to me on set and just bring them around for fittings, just dangling off me. So I would have, like, the Elvie pumps when they couldn’t be with me and so I could pump and it’s, you know, not attached to anything. Just stick them in your bra and it has a little app on your phone. It’s so, so handy, so good for any new moms. It’s worth the investment, ’cause I know they’re not very cheap, but it’s something that I highly recommend.

Nisreene: I think if adults go to a Disney World resort, it’s really only fair that they also get to have a little bit of fun – whether it’s a break from the family or a quick trip to the bar. I spoke to a certified Disney expert to get some firsthand advice. And let me tell you, this conversation was so fun. And we have done three Disney episodes on Out Travel The System, and every single time I walk away feeling, A, super informed and, B, super jazzed about going to Disney. And it’s always new information. Like, literally nobody has shared the same tip more than once. So, a note to all of you to go back and make sure you listen to all of the Disney episodes that we’ve got, because they have so much good information. But let’s hear what Lou actually had to say.

Lou Mongello, Disney expert, author and podcast host: So it basically is themed after a sort of old Victorian-era Florida. So if you imagine the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego – with the white exterior, with those red shingled roofs, very delicate, ornate features in it, Disney’s highest-end restaurant, something called Victoria & Albert. It’s a AAA Five Diamond Award-winning restaurant, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and some of the best food you’ll have anywhere. And you’re right on the monorail loop, so you can literally hop on a monorail from the resort or take a boat across the lagoon, and you’ll be right at the steps of Magic Kingdom. If you have young kids and maybe you want to take them – and, sometimes, if you come in summer, you’re going to maybe need to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon, the ease of accessibility – of quickly getting back to your resort for a nap, for a swim in the pool, you know, maybe you need to change your kids or whatever it might be. There’s a lot of value that I think has to be factored into that.

Nisreene: We all know Disney can also be a little bit expensive at times. But what was great about the conversation with Lou was that he had a lot of really good inside tips on the best seasons to go to Disney to get a more affordable price. So, sometimes the time of year that you go makes, actually, a big difference. And Lou had all the details.

Lou: So ‘value season’ is a number of times throughout the year. So it’s the first week after New Year’s. It’s also the middle of January to early February. As long as you start avoiding some of the Presidents Day and some of the holidays. But even, like, in August, mid-August or early September, when the kids are getting back into school, that’s also  it’s a nice, sort of easy way to sort of sneak in. Like, it’s summertime, but it’s value season. So, again, there’s no sort of defined, “This date to this date, this date, to this date.” They come and go. But, so, value season might be around $760. If you want to come for Christmas, right? The busiest time of the year, you want to come in between, you know, December 15th through Christmas Day, that number is going to jump up to about $1200.

Nisreene: I think a highlight of this episode, though, was Lou telling us all about the most affordable Disney resorts and what their accommodations can look like for the entire family. Knowing the difference between the top-of-the-line and maybe something that’s a little bit more budget friendly I thought was really, really helpful for people to understand what the trade-offs might be.

Lou: So Disney has basically four moderate resorts. There is Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, and then Port Orleans has two resorts – there’s the Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside. And, honestly, these are some of my favorite resorts on property. I think they really sort of hit a sweet spot in terms of theming, location, dining, amenities, and even transportation, ’cause places like Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, you have access to the Skyliner. Coronado Springs, you have access to the Skyliner. These beautiful, very quiet, serene skyway buckets that will take you to other resorts, as well as places like Disney’s Hollywood Studios or EPCOT. So you don’t have to worry about a bus. You don’t have to worry about getting on a boat. That Skyliner that’s going back and forth runs throughout the day and the evening, and the theming in the resorts is gorgeous. Port Orleans French Quarter is the smallest of all of the Disney resorts in terms of size, but it’s also, I think, one of the most beautifully well-themed. There’s an intimacy to it on these small, quiet streets with wrought iron railings that make you feel as though you are in the heart of the French Quarter. Beignets in the morning are awesome too, as long as we’re going to mention it. And, again, moderate resort prices are going to, you know, offer you a much greater discount. You can stay at a place like Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort for $250 or so during value season. Obviously that’ll go up to, probably, you know, in the five hundreds for a similar room. But it’s, I think, it’s actually great value for all of those different factors.

Nisreene: And if it’s better for you and your family to maybe stay off the property and not necessarily in the park, no worries. Lou even had all the answers for that too.

Lou: There’s somewhat of a secret hotel option that I think a lot of visitors, not just to Disney but the Orlando area, don’t think about are what Disney likes to call their ‘good neighbor’ hotels. So, in Walt Disney World property, there’s an area called Disney Springs. I consider it like Disney’s fifth theme park because it is a huge dining, entertainment, recreation area that you don’t need a theme park ticket for, but has some of the best restaurants, not just in Walt Disney World or Orlando, but, like, some of the best food I’ve ever eaten anywhere. There’s a Cirque du Soleil show there. There’s a lot of stuff for adults to do at night, families to do together. But on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, just, literally, like, across the street from Disney Springs, are some Disney good neighbor hotels. There’s a Wyndham, there’s a DoubleTree, there’s a Hilton, there’s a Holiday Inn, there’s a Drury resort that’s being built now, that are literally within walking distance of Disney Springs, have a lot of the same amenities and privileges that the Disney-owned and operated resorts get, but oftentimes at a much lower rate as well. You can stay at the Wyndham in Disney Springs for about $100 a night in value season.

Nisreene: Wow. Wow.

Lou: Yeah, and sometimes the rooms are even bigger too. You’re not going to get all the theming, but they have pools, they have restaurants, and you’re literally a walk across the street where you can hop on Disney transportation if you want to.

Nisreene: So every year we also do a family travel episode, because we know it’s incredibly stressful for everybody to plan and go. But we learned, once again, that it doesn’t have to be. Another great guest that we had was this incredible family and travel journalist, Nevin Martell. Whether it’s choosing the right kind of hotels or planning different activities and itineraries, he really had all the answers. This episode was super helpful for me, especially because the holidays are right around the corner. But also he really inspired and reminded me the beauty that traveling with your family and kids can really bring. And while we sometimes avoid situations like that because we don’t want to deal with the stress, he kind of reminded that that’s almost part of the fun of it. So let’s hear what Nevin had to say.

Nevin Martell, family and travel journalist: I find, when traveling with big groups, that something I always look for, whether we’re renting a property or we’re at a hotel, you know, a water feature – whether it’s on the beach or it has a pool, if it’s that time of year. You know, even if it’s in the winter, if there’s a hot tub. That’s always a great feature for every age group in the family.

Nisreene: This next tip was a personal favorite of mine, because I think sometimes when you’re planning these trips, you want everyone to do all of the same things and do it all together. But Nevin kind of reminded us that that’s not necessarily the case. And you can carve out some time for yourself, set some boundaries without really feeling guilty about it.

Nevin: Absolutely. I think you’re right in the sense that people feel like, “This is our family time together, so it has to be all family, all the time.” But think about your normal life. That’s not the way normal life is. Like, people go off to work, people go off to school, people go off to do their extracurriculars, they take their jog in the evening, whatever. When you suddenly say, like, “For the next seven to 10 days or whatever it is, we’re all going to spend all this time all together,” that’s just weird and abnormal for people. People need their time on their own, and people have their own interests that are specific to them. Let them enjoy themselves.

Nisreene: And if you’re like me and wear the planning hat in your family, Nevin gave some great advice on that too.

Nevin: Well, what I like to do is, like, my rule in life is if you’re the cook, you don’t clean up. And, so, if you plan the trip, you know, there’s going to be drudge work that happens on that trip. So delegate and give people stuff that you don’t want to do. And, you know, if they give you grief about it, just remind them how much work you did to get them there and how much work you’re doing as you’re there.

Don’t overplan. Plan just enough so that there’s flexibility in your schedule and there’s time for people to just enjoy a place at their own pace and do what they want to do. Try to pick activities that are both within people’s comfort zones, but also pick a couple activities that are slightly out of people’s comfort zones, that introduce them to new things, whether that’s new cuisines or new kind of adventure elements to a trip. Nothing too far out but, you know, push people to get out of their comfort zones and really experience the place that you’re in, the people that you’re meeting, the things that you’re doing. The last piece of advice I would give is that every trip you take is really prep for the next trip you take as a family, so that if things go really bad because of you – you know, I am always thinking, like, “I want this trip to go well enough that we all want to go on a trip together again soon.” And just conduct yourself well in the world.

Nisreene: And, of course, everyone’s favorite episode, year after year. If you’re looking for tips on the best time to book, whether it’s a flight or lodging, my data correspondent Christie Hudson had the latest Expedia data on holiday travel.

Christie Hudson, head of Expedia PR for North America: First, here’s what Expedia traveler data is saying about holiday travel for 2022. Airfare is pricey. The combination of strong traveler demand and airlines not fully up to their pre-COVID capacity levels means that ticket prices are higher than normal for the holidays. So the key to saving a bit of money on airfare is to be strategic about your travel dates. You can actually save between 20% and 30% just by departing on the Monday before the holiday instead of over the weekend.

Nisreene: So this season, we learned of a new trend popping up in the honeymoon space. We learned about a little thing called duo-moons, which, ironically, I actually did myself when I got married about ten years ago. We did a quick little trip to Belize and then saved up the big, big trip for when we went to Switzerland later on that summer. So I guess you can call me a trendsetter. And I didn’t even know I was.

So let’s hear from Mike and Anne of HoneyTrek, who are currently on the world’s longest honeymoon.

Mike Howard, travel expert and author: And that’s totally what the duo-moon is for, right? Stay a few days, tell all your friends… We did this at our wedding. We got married on a Saturday and we said, ‘Hey, guys, we’re throwing a big party on Sunday for anybody who wants to stay.” We really only told the young kids, you know. We didn’t we didn’t tell the old folks about it. But we had, like, 45 or 48 people stay for a Sunday party. A lot even stayed Monday night, so we had two nights at the wedding. Then we did our little three, four-day mini-moon, and then you can be like, “Okay, well yeah, we’re not going to go to London in November, but if we want to go in the springtime when things are blooming for the Queen’s Jubilee, cool.”

Back to our Instagram thing – if you see it featured on Instagram, look at other locations even in that same country, right? Your hotels will be cheaper, people will be more friendly to you when you get there because you’re not just another tourist crowding their city and creating waste and traffic.

Anne Howard, travel expert and author: On that same note is we lean on these household names. “You’re like, “Honeymoon – what does that mean? Bali, Maldives, you know, and Paris and then Venice.” It’s that we need to expand our vocabulary. It’s almost like you shouldn’t know the name of the place you’re going. You should go based on what interests you, not what you’ve heard before.

Nisreene: One of the reasons why we really wanted to talk to Anne and Mike and have them on the show was because they’ve just been on so many honeymoons. They have so many tips and they know exactly what are the core elements that just make for a great honeymoon.

Anne: I think it’s mixing it up. Even if you have the budget for five-star hotels every single night, that is a very limited view of a place. You have just traveled, in theory, across the world, and to recreate the comforts that you know from home – you’re not getting the most out of that travel experience.

Mike: Because this is it. This is your opportunity. This is the chance when your parents aren’t going to think it’s weird that you’re going for a three-week trip to Southeast Asia. Your boss is also going to approve it, because he’s like, “Wow, this is your honeymoon. Okay, gift to you. Here’s an extra week vacation. We’ll get somebody to cover for you.”

Nisreene: Whether it’s Expedia or an airline or your favorite hotel company, there are a lot of really great rewards programs out there that can save you and your family hundreds of dollars each year that can go towards your next trip. There’s so many deals and rewards programs out there in the world of travel, though, that make it a little bit intimidating and hard to know where to start. And if you’re not somebody who travels all the time, sometimes you might think that it’s not even worth it to sign up. I got a chance to sit down with The Points Guy writer Katherine Fan to talk about some of the ways that the pandemic has really changed airline bookings and some of her hacks for her favorite loyalty programs.

Katherine Fan, travel writer and rewards programs expert: Well, I think some of the typical trends you’ll see when it comes to sale fares is just kind of think of it from the bigger picture. If these are countries or destinations that heavily rely on tourism and have been really impacted by the pandemic the last couple of years, they’re going to be very motivated to offer rates that are encouraging for travelers who may not have been there in the last couple of years. So I think one reason we saw Croatia and Amsterdam being such wildly popular places to go again this past summer was precisely because of that. So I would encourage travelers to keep a running list of places that you would like to go. And whenever you’re bored, honestly, just run them through a flight search tool, plug them into Expedia.

Nisreene: And, also, our lovely data correspondent Christie Hudson had some great pointers, specifically about how the Expedia Rewards program works and some of the hacks and tips that you can use there.

Christie: So, first of all, Expedia Rewards lets you earn and redeem points on anything you book on Expedia. That means flights and hotels, yes. But also car rentals and activities. So if you have some points from a hotel stay, you can then redeem them later on a car rental or a sunset catamaran cruise, for example. There’s also no minimum needed to start redeeming points, so you can start saving after just one trip. And then the third thing to know is once you collect enough trip elements, you earn silver and eventually gold status. And this doesn’t actually take long. In fact, it’s completely possible to get to silver in just one trip. And members with status earn points faster and get perks like free breakfast and room upgrades at thousands of hotels on Expedia. So those are all the basics, but there are a few additional ways to maximize on the program. Number one, always use the Expedia app. You’ll earn bonus points on every single booking. Number two – and this is truly my favorite hack – you can still earn your frequent flier miles on top of your Expedia Rewards points. You just enter those mileage plans in at checkout and then you’re double-dipping.

Nisreene: You can learn more about the Expedia Rewards program on our blog.

I thought I was well-traveled until I started reading more about our guest, Jessica Nabongo. Jessica really instilled a new sense of fearlessness within me, and I personally have always felt like I was someone who was open to a little bit of adventure and took some risks. But let me tell you, after I spoke to Jessica, I definitely feel like I can push myself a little bit further. It was so great. So let’s hear from Jessica on some of her valuable trip experiences.

Jessica Nabongo, writer, photographer and travel expert: Of those three – like, they all made the book because they’re all amazing places. But Venezuela was probably one of the top three just because the beaches in Los Roques were amazing – like, just stunning Caribbean beaches. South Sudan was really amazing. So I connected with some local people and we spent a long time – like, several hours – in a cattle camp because cattle are incredibly important in Dinka culture. Getting to know more about the culture, more about the political history was really amazing. Obviously, it’s the world’s newest country. And then Somalia was great. Being able to connect with local people is always the best for me. So, you know, we went to the markets, we did a road trip to the coast to Berbera, which is on the coast on the Red Sea.

Everyone asks about North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela… Even, when I went to Colombia and Haiti – I went to Haiti in 2015 to celebrate my 50th country. And everyone assumed I was going for work and I’m like, “No, I’m going for a beach vacation.” People just focus on the politics of a place. And for me, politics and the citizens themselves exist on two very different planes. But you have to separate politics and people, because they aren’t the same thing. That’s why I hate when countries do embargoes, because it doesn’t actually hurt leadership. It actually just hurts the regular, everyday people living in that country.

[Musical interlude]

Nisreene: Well, that’s our show for today and that’s our season for 2022. I hope this season was just as informative to you as it was for me.

I think, at the end of the day, every time I wrap up a season, I walk away feeling so incredibly honored to get a chance to talk to all of these amazing people. But also, it reinvigorates my love for travel and it really reminds me why I do this every single day and why I love my job. Because travel has such a huge impact on my life and a lot of your lives as well. So I love being able to impart all of this wisdom. And I hope that, you know, at least you take away a little bit of something, whether it’s inspiration or a helpful tip, from each of these episodes. So thanks for joining me and listening this season. I can’t wait to have you hear what’s in store for the years ahead. And happy holidays.

What was the best travel hack that you learned this season? Go ahead and share it with us and don’t forget to tag @Expedia. Or if you’ve got a tip or a hack of your own that we didn’t talk about, share it too. We love to hear it.

For more info on episodes, guests, and to find travel inspiration, be sure to visit Out Travel The System’s blog at Expedia.com/stories/podcast. And if you have any questions for me, or comments, or thoughts, of course, be sure to hit me up. You can DM us on at @Expedia. Follow, subscribe, and share so that you don’t miss an episode.

Out Travel The System is brought to you by Expedia, with special thanks to PRX and Sonic Union. I’m the Executive Producer and your host, Nisreene Atassi. Special thanks to the following:

Additional writing by Kimu Elolia.
Producer Rishika Sharma.
Associate Producers Syma Mohammed and Nathanael Taylor.
Production Assistant is Alex Thiel and Carolina Garrigo.
Theme music and original composition by Kevin J Simon.
Music edit, sound design, and mix by Rob Ballingall, and music supervision by Justin Morris.
Executive Producer and Writer Halle Petro.
PRX Executive Producer Jocelyn Gonzalez.

Out Travel The System is recorded with Sonic Union in New York City

Till next time, this is your host, Nisreene Atassi, for Out Travel The System. Find us on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Happy travels!