Travel always looks so glamorous from the outside—stunning views, beautiful new destinations, relaxed meals al fresco, etc. But not only are there all the behind-the-scenes that we all go through to pull together our dream trips but the planning usually starts months before and doing it strategically can make the difference between a good trip and the best trip ever. As I sit here and plan my next big adventure I thought I would share my top 7 trip planning tips so that you can make sure all your trips are the best trip ever!
Travel flow: once you have your main destinations in mind, pencil out the easiest flow so that you’re going in the most reasonable way
Case in point: I am currently planning a European cruise and since it starts in Rome I am trying to figure out the best flow of the trip, I know I want to go to Venice as well during this trip so I am researching all the different ways this trip will work for me. Do your research and make a few different itineraries, that way even if you want to potentially change a few things along the way, at least you have a general flow set up and you can just work within that.
Flights: your international, across-oceans flights are best booked 6-9 weeks before-if you are using points you want to book 4-6 months before
This is kind of tricky obviously because you should pretty much always book your big flight (i.e. Vancouver to Paris) before getting your little ones (think Paris to London, Copenhagen to Dublin, etc). The big distinction I’m trying to make here is to just DON’T wait to book your shorter flights too—if you’re still trying to figure out an itinerary, feel free to take a week or so but don’t wait too long! It can be seriously surprising how much prices get jacked up when you play it last minute The only exception to this is busses or trains—you can book ahead but if you miss your departure time, you’re out money. I always book either at the station or a couple days before.
Accommodation: book as soon as possible and if you’re going to mix Airbnbs & hotels, there’s a right way to do it!
I’ve done some trips that have been all Airbnbs, others that have been a mix of hotels, Airbnbs and villa rentals. My main trick: do the hotels first. When you’re jet lagged and feeling so tired this is the time to have a luxe place to check into with more flexible check-in options, shuttles, etc., Get wish lists going for both well in advance (I literally have about 15 wish lists for different destinations going for years now) so that you can pull options really quickly that are typically within your budget! A quick tip for Airbnb: filter by Superhost! It will make it really easy to pick a quality place.
Sights, experiences, etc: while it’s usually the last thing you think about, so many sell out or get really packed—book them early!
If the general point hasn’t been hammered in enough, book as soon as you can! You don’t want to plan every single part of your day, but if there’s something you really want to see, by all means, book it in and just make sure you have that jotted into your calendar! Just a note too that a lot of restaurants are going to get booked up weeks in advance so if you’re dying to eat in one place, no harm securing a reservation!
Decide where to save, where to splurge to avoid future budget mishaps.
The fact of the matter is, you can’t get stressed about finances once you’re on the road because that’s such a slippery slope of mental stress—do your research beforehand and decide what you want to splurge on (new bag, a boat tour, a special restaurant, etc) and figure out how you can balance that appropriately. The more you have planned and budgeted out before your trip will save you time and stress during your actual trip.
Carry-on or checking in?
If you’re doing carry-on, then I would highly recommend some very strategic outfit planning. As a blogger I ususally check a bag cause you know gotta take all the photos I can. If you are checking in though, make sure you add luggage while doing your online booking, prices can be seriously higher at the actual terminal!
The nitty gritty: passport expiration, visas, international driver’s permits, etc.
So your flights are booked, your accommodation’s set, you have a budget game plan and you’ve got one of your key sights booked in—nothing left to do, right? Wrong! Take one hour and do a quick check on a few things. When does your passport expire? If it’s within a certain range, some countries won’t allow you in (France I believe requires six months!). The good news is you can expedite renewals! Visas, same thing! If you’re going to be driving while you’re away, you can get an International Driver’s Permit too—not all countries require it (and honestly, no rental agency has ever required them), but they last a couple years and it gives you that peace of mind. And worst case, if you get pulled over for whatever reason, it’s not a bad thing to have it! Finally, if you want a rail pass, you have to book those before leaving!
I know all these tips may seem a little much and maybe overwhelming, but I encourage you to get yourself a glass of wine and get it done, you will feel so good after all is planned and then you are left with all the fun things to do like picking out outfits, packing up, browsing Pinterest, etc!
Do you guys have any tips for planning your trips? Tell me in the comments below!