Planning a vacation. I LOVE it. Almost a little too much, in a can’t-get-enough-of-it kind of way. But it can get away from me and our budget, so I need to be able to know how to reel it in. It is difficult to giveaway all of my secrets as each trip is unique and different. There are definitely more things to cover when booking a multi-national all-encompassing adventure, over a long weekend local trip, but here are the “Basic 6” – well, seven… if you include my overall must-do. Don’t worry… you’ll see 🙂
NUMBER 1 | Pick a Destination
This is quite possibly my favourite part of it – and the logical first step. Where do you find yourself day-dreaming to? That’s likely going to be where you need to take yourself. I like to put a few destinations in one trip, as we really only get to do one big trip a year. And, while here in Canada doing multi-destination trips can be super expensive, that’s not always the case in Europe, South America, and Asia – so keep that in mind as well. It’s not really a “how do you decide where to go” type of situation, it’s a “where do YOU want to go”. There are plenty of ways to make an expensive destination affordable, so lay it on the table, and figure out a way to do it.
If you don’t really have a place in mind, and really just want someone (thing) to give you inspiration, Cheapflights.ca or Kayak, or any one of these search engines are great for ideas. They’re likely promoting somewhere because of a seat sale as well, so you know chances are you’re going to get a good deal.
This year, we’ve opted for Amsterdam for a few days, and then Nîmes to finish ‘er off. It’s going to be incredible.
NUMBER 2 | Book Flights
So you’ve picked a destination, and you’re going to have to get there somehow… And unless this is a car/boat/train-bound trip, you’re going to need to book a flight. Here are a few things to think about when diving in the world of airfare.
I like to use Cheapflights.ca (or .com, or .where ever you are in the world). If nothing pops out at me, I look towards the destination country’s airline – ie. KLM = The Netherlands, Lufthansa = Germany, etc.).
I also like to keep in mind my frequent flyer miles – I used Aeroplan – ie. Star Alliance. If I can find a flight on something Star Alliance, I’ll likely take it.
I’ve also heard a rumor that going “incognito” on your browser will find you cheaper flights… but I’m not entirely sure. Hey, couldn’t hurt to try it next time. 🙂
Now, when to buy…. there are some crazy researchers out there that have actually found the minute or hour to get the best deal on flights, but I’m not one of them. All I know, is Tuesdays or Wednesdays are the best days to book. And try to travel on weekdays as well. Weekend flights are notorious for being the most expensive.
NUMBER 3 | Book Accommodation
I think, hotels are almost becoming a thing of the past. Especially in Europe, or here in North America. If I’m heading to Asia or South America, I will still make the investment but, I’ve mentioned this before, even Mexico, I think my guy and I are done with hotels.
We’re using Airbnb for the first time on this trip, and in truth, already I think it’s turning out better than some hotel bookings. Stay tuned for our complete experience, coming in July! But in the meantime, click here for a $40 CAD travel credit when you book with Airbnb.
If you’re looking for a deal, check the guidebooks (ie. Lonely Planet) for the best budget places. To take away from any concern, search your selection on Tripadvisor, but always remember one persons terrible experience, when there are few others, are likely because of the weather, who they went with, construction, etc. etc. and not actually their experience with hotel staff, their room, or their accommodation in general. I find travelers so quick to judge and post a terrible review, when really it was a third party that ruined it for them, and completely out of the hotels’ control.
NUMBER 4 | Create an Itinerary
Once I’ve nailed down my destination and how I’m getting there, my next step is to start searching everything I want to see! This can take a while…. Talk about your rabbit holes. But I love it. It’s super thrilling to picture yourself in a space. And knowing that you will actually get to see whatever it is first hand, in the next coming months!
All of this can be done online, yes, but there still something so great about purchasing the guidebooks. They also give you a lasting memory as a coffee table book!
What you do to create your itinerary is up to you – last time we went to Barcelona we didn’t have anywhere to stay, didn’t book a thing – but it worked out. When we went to Colombia everything was booked, and I mean everything. And that was great too! Some destinations deserve different moods.
NUMBER 5 | Find Transportation, Entertainment, Food, Activities!
I may not be a stickler for booking accommodation in advance, BUT knowing how to get from the airport into the city centre – where the accommodation is – is a must for me. Is it a bus? A train? A taxi? And how much is it? While you may not like to bring a wads of currency with you on the plane, it is important to at least have enough for this transportation, remembering that not everywhere will accept your VISA card.
If you’re going to a place like NYC – check to see what’s on- or off-broadway! And get those tickets in advance. Use Tripadvisor or Yelp! to find great restaurants, and definitely use Bloglovin’ or Google Search to find travel bloggers that may have gone to your destination. There are plenty of how-to’s and guides to travel destinations out there.
Check to see if there are any walking tours. Sometimes these can be free – however tipping is a good idea. If you’re a solo traveler, this is a fantastic way to meet people while seeing all the sites for cheap!
NUMBER 6 | Packing
Packing is where I start to lose my patience in travel. This is probably why I’ve done so many packing posts before (here & here). I literally make hand-written lists of what I need to bring, weeks before we actually leave. And I’ll likely start putting things in my suitcase, 2 weeks before… It’s a bit ridiculous, I know.
But other things to consider here are: do you need vaccines? What about a Visa? Is your Passport valid? How about your Nexus? Some of these things need to be considered months before departure. The last thing you’ll want is to be turned away because your vaccination card isn’t up to date. Check the GOC website to see what protection you need.
How much money are you bringing? We like to put a lot on credit because of points, but remember not everywhere will take your card – or another way to look at this, what happens if your card doesn’t work? Bring a money wallet – keep it in a safe – and only take out the minimum per day. I typically like to bring $200 – 500 CAD in the foreign currency. Remember you’ll likely get a better exchange rate in your home country (away from the airport) than you will on the other side.
And my tip #7 is to leave room for the adventure. Don’t over-plan. You never know what’s going to happen when you step foot on that soil. Who you’re going to meet? What adventures may stem from one of the plans. Have fun and don’t feel too structured!
Alright guys, so I think that’s about all the tips and tricks I have for you so far. If I’ve forgot anything, please comment below! Safe travels and Bon voyage!