If there’s is one claim I can make, it’s that I’m a good planner, a really good one I mean! And when it comes to traveling, I dare say I have not failed anyone yet! So I guess that gives me some credibility to write today’s post where I’ll be sharing my tips on planning the ultimate holiday trip.
Now let’s get started! With all the explosion of travel info on the internet, lots of people are now considering planning beforehand. But many of them seem to get distracted with all the pretty pictures of attractions which can easily be found at their hotel lobby! So here’s a list of what you should REALLY be considering, and if you’ve got all of them checked on your travel list, you’re probably going to have a hell of time.
1. Booking your flight
Booking your flight at the right time and through the right place is one of the key points on saving a whole lot of money. It’s no-brainer that booking last minute is the worst decision. But you might be surprised to know that booking too early is also a bad idea. There has been a few researches done on when is the best time to book your flight. According to what I have read and experienced, 1-3 months prior to departure is the ideal time for booking international flights during non-holiday season. As for the high season, you’ll have to book as early as 4-5 months.
skyscanner has always been my first option when it comes to booking my flight. It’s the best place to compare prices, but when you’ve chosen the company you want to fly with, it’s best to check their own website just to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Another recommendation is e-dreams. I have found that sometimes flights were cheaper there then anywhere else.
You would probably want to book your hotel right after you have your departure date. Booking.com has been my one and only trustworthy place when it came to finding a place to stay.
If you’re traveling in a group or with family and you’re staying long term, or even as short as 3-4 days, you might want to consider renting an apartment. While you would have to pay extra for room service, you will have a kitchen all to yourself where you can prepare your own snacks and food when you don’t want to eat out. It’s a great way to save up and avoid eating junk or processed food at times. Nowadays there are some amazing deals on apartments in most countries in the world and it has become a norm for many travelers. We stayed in apartment in Barcelona and we could have not asked for a more modern, clean and comfortable place.
Make sure you read the reviews of your hotel and don’t just rely on the ratings given on the website. There’s no better place to review travel related stuff then tripadvisor.
3. Airport transfer
Unless you’re arriving at 3 in the morning when there’s nothing to be found, avoid getting a taxi. If you do, make sure you know the average price to your destinations. You never know what taxi drivers might ask for.
Almost all the airports have a train or shuttle buses to the city center which are considerably affordable. Trains are still the best option as they avoid traffic and save you time. In some cities they even turn out to be cheaper then shuttle buses. So make sure you do your research and find out your options. Know the exact train number or shuttle bus company you’re getting to avoid waisting time wandering around the airport.
Now this is the fun part! There are tons of places where you could read all about the major attractions of any city in the world and tripadviser is again my first recommendation. But if you want to skip the touristy stuff and get more deep in the local life and culture, try checking out some blogs. Usually bloggers would give you some tips and secrets that you wouldn’t come around on most travel agency website.
Once you’ve got an idea of the places you want to visit, go and check each and every one of their websites. yes! Each and every one!! This is something a lot of people don’t bother to do, and I’ll tell why it’s wrong. First of all you never know if you’re going to arrive at closed gates. So you better double check the closing dates of wherever you’re heading to. Second, if your place of interest requires an entry fee, there’s a big chance that there are some specific days or hours when entrance is for free. Taking into account that many palaces and museums in Europe would cost you somewhere around 10 euros, you might actually be saving a lot of money and being able to splurge on a delicious meal instead. You also want to check if there are any kind of discounts available that include you and make sure you take any documents that might be necessary.
Now after taking all that into account, make a daily plan of everywhere you want to visit including the hours you should be there. It’s also a good idea to have a back up plan incase anything else happens.
If you’re a fan of guidebooks, get yours a couple of weeks before your departure so you’ll have enough time to read it through and get excited about your upcoming adventure. I personally love the DK Eyewitness Travel guides, since they have beautiful pictures and a nice layout and they give all the info you need. As I do most of my research online before leaving I also really like The top 10 series from the same publisher. It basically narrows down everything to the very important stuff and it’s a lot more affordable.
For obvious reasons you’d want to know what kind of transportations are available at your destination. If you’re originally from a small town and are traveling to a huge capital such as Paris or London you might want to get yourself familiar with the metro system. While these cities have great transportation it can be quite complicated for some to figure it out. If the transportation you’re using has an application, download it beforehand. If not, just download the map from Google and try to find the stations and the routes you’re likely to use.
6. Tourist Pass
Most major tourist destinations have a variety of passes which they can’t wait to sell to tourists. They vary from museum passes, to transportations or even both. It’s good to see your options before you leave but my experience has always told me to NOT be fooled by them.
They normally provide you access to a huge number of places within a limited time. So you might be fooled thinking all the fees to those places are going to be way more expensive then what you pay for the pass, but this is all marketing tricks. There’s no way you’ll be able to visit so many places in a few days, and even if you really take advantage of your time, you’ll probably be paying the same amount of money if not less. So while I do always check out the options, I’m yet to find a pass that is actually worth the money!
7. Public holidays
There’s probably one day of the week in every city when all the museums and most indoor attractions are closed. Surprisingly this is mostly during week days. So you want to check out the date and make sure you arrange your outdoor options for then.
Every country has it’s own public holidays. While traveling on these days might mean coinciding with amazing festivals and celebrations, it might also mean arriving at closed doors. So make sure you check the calendar to not arrive at a shut down city.
There are tons of great travel applications which can make your life so much easier. So don’t be scared to try some of them out. Here’s a list of my top favorites which I regularly use while traveling and they are all FREE!
By now you might think I’m a freak having to go through all that trouble for only a few days trip. Surprisingly, this is actually one of my favorite parts. It’s the part where I learn the most and it gets me excited. Somehow, it also guarantees that I will be having the time of life without going broke and that’s exactly why you should be coming back to this post right before your next adventure!