22 March 2016

5 tips for travel planning!


this blog will likely be quite quiet over the next two weeks, while the boy and i are adventuring and learning in the holy land. in the meantime, i wanted to share a few tips for travel planning!

we are very often asked for insights on how we prepare for our trips abroad. there's a bunch of information on this topic in the q&a posts i wrote after our epic journey around the world last year {here and here}. this post focuses more on the prep-work for shorter trips (like those we've been taking since we moved to the uk). we're no experts and recognize that there's lots of different preferences/styles when it comes to traveling, but i hope sharing some things that have worked for us is helpful for someone out there!

1. build a travel fund into your regular budgeting.
we set aside a certain amount of money from every paycheck and flag it specifically for travel. additionally, when we are extra conscientious about spending or have some type of bonus income and therefore end up under-budget in a month, we split the excess between our general savings account and our travel fund.
then, we make concerted efforts while we are traveling to make our travel fund stretch so we can continue to take more trips in the future. we often find grocery stores in new cities and stock our backpacks and hotel(/hostel/airbnb) rooms with food to eat for breakfasts, lunches and snacks, and we often chose cheap street vendors or cafes for dinner. we tend to choose walking or the cheapest form of public transportation to get around, and favor activities that are free or low-cost. we also have a rule (that is only very occasionally broken) to only buy one tiny souvenir (our tradition is a magnet) and nothing else on our trips.

2. use handy websites and be thoughtful to find the best flights. 
our favourite flight-finding resource is kayak, which consistently finds us the cheapest flights when we compare it with other websites. kayak has great filtering options. we recently also discovered skyscanner, which is an excellent resource especially if your destination is flexible and you just want to find a fantastic deal on flights somewhere in the world!
one specific tip for flight-searching: pay attention to takeoff/landing timing and airport locations on budget airlines! sometimes it is definitely worth the extra little bit of money to not have to leave home at 3am to catch a flight (or get home just hours before work monday morning...) and sometimes cheap airlines will fly you into some place that requires an expensive train/bus/taxi trip after the flight to get to your destination. also keep in mind that many budget airlines have very specific luggage requirements, and checking a bag can be really expensive. our suitcases are specifically made to be a-okay for carry on for ryanair/easyjet flights (they're pretty compact)!

3. use reviews and filters to find good accommodation. 
learning about the experiences of other travelers is so valuable when you are going to a foreign place! we love using the filters and reviews on both tripadvisor and booking.com to find accommodation. we have discovered that if a place has at least four stars on tripadvisor and/or at least a score of 8 on booking, it will be a solid, great place to stay. we have also been using airbnb more lately, because we've found that in many destinations we can find a better deal with rented-out rooms/apartments than at a hotel (if we're not going for the bunk-room-hostel thing, which definitely has its pros!). we've also decided that, for us, the most important factor in choosing accommodation is location. being close to the things you want to see and do in an exciting locale is really, really valuable! we also favor character over "nice-ness" and recognize that on a lot of trips the sole purpose of accommodation is eight hours of sleep, so we certainly don't need anything too special.

4. split responsibility for planning and keep things organized. 
we use shared google sheets to keep track of our planning for almost every trip we take. we both add in information about our itinerary, costs, booking details etc. over the course of a few weeks leading up to the trip, and then we use the spreadsheet as we go about our adventures.
we also tend to split the planning up - i.e. the boy is in charge of planning saturday and i am in charge of planning sunday (or more days each for a longer trip). we always talk through all of our ideas and have a conversation before we book anything, but each of us has ultimate responsibility for getting things ready for specific parts of the trip. this helps the planning seem less overwhelming and also ensures that both of us get to do specific things we'd personally really enjoy (or think the other would really enjoy!).

5. plan for misadventure and serendipitous adventure! 
here's the thing about travel - no matter how well planned a trip is, something (and sometimes it seems, everything!) is bound to go a little wrong and not work out as expected/hoped. but often those experiences make for the best stories and memories! so we try to always remember that there will likely be some timing/weather/crowdedness/transportation disasters and plan to embrace those misadventures. sometimes they lead us to serendipities and opportunities that are delightful and add so much to our experience. we also try to not plan with toooo much detail so that we have flexible time to notice, observe, meet neat people, try new or unexpected things and also - rest! because while traveling is sooo exhilarating for us both, it can also be sooo exhausting and sometimes you just need to sit at a corner cafe or a park for a good while and chill.



happy travels, internet friends!

6 comments :

  1. Thanks for the tips! It sounds a lot like our family's basic rules of the road trip:
    1. As soon as we leave the house, it's all adventure.
    2. There will be another time: we can always come back again.

    Both of these help us not sweat the small plan changes, and help us feel we don't have to do *everything* the first time around.

    We've also found for longer trips (> 1 week) planning a rest day *other than Sunday* gives both us and the kids a much-needed break.

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  2. How many days do you get off a year?

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    1. i am an independent contractor, so i have as many days off as i want. such a huge luxury! the boy has 23 days of paid vacation plus eight holidays off. this is average for full-time professional jobs in europe, from what we have heard. ian will also get four weeks (20 days) of paid paternity leave.

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  3. Thanks for this post -- awesome tips!

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  4. Very helpful tips. Thanks.

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  5. Great list! I love that your base in London gives you a wide range of European destinations that are just a short hop away, so that you can have a weekend adventure without burning vacation days just to get to your destination. :) And of course, all of the wonderful England spots that are so close by and easily manageable on a Saturday/Sunday. Fun times!

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