“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
I was sixteen years old when I first dreamed of travel. Through my school, I participated in an Educational Tour Program to Paris, and the city immediately captivated me. The food, the language, the fashion, the culture – everything about the French capital enticed me. After that trip, I completely fell in love with travel, and if there is one thing I have learned, it is that planning is essential!
These are the things to consider: Are you traveling alone? With a group? With family? How often do you plan to travel? Do you wish to vacay yearly or just plan one big trip? There are many ways to get you to your dream destination, but today I’m going to share mine. As mentioned, I first traveled abroad through my school, and for my following vacations, I traveled with my parents through our time-share.
When planning a trip anywhere these are the six essentials: airfare, accommodation, transportation, excursions, food and extras. My main tip for planning is to start at least six months early (the earlier the better). Saving up and creating your budget becomes much easier when these elements are divided, and you give yourself enough time to prepare. You know exactly what your total price range is and can decide how much you wish to put towards each aspect. So let’s get started.
It’s all about the airline. You must do your research and compare prices. Numerous airlines now offer rewards programs, allowing you to earn cheaper flights, upgrades and even free flights.
When choosing an airline, or even a rewards program, consider: where you’re going (domestic or international), how long will it take to get there, connections, and the time of year you’re traveling. When looking for flights online, it is always best to browse in private mode, because then your past searches are not stored to increase prices. Here is a guide for private browsing in Mozilla, for example. Once you have opened a private window, use Google Flights to compare prices, selecting different days, for example.
When you get where you are going, where are you going to stay? How long are you going to stay there? Who will be with you? Do you want a place that is kid-friendly or kid-free?
When I traveled for Paris, for example, the program allowed us to pay a fixed fee (a few thousand dollars) that covered airfare, accommodations, transportation, and food. If you are not going through an educational program, check out airfare and accommodation deals, if you book them together, you can often get a discount.
A time-share could be a good investment that helps divide the expenses amongst accompanying travelers. Through the time-share with my family, for example, we are allowed an exchange for a fee of $180 to stay anywhere in the world that is within bounds of the time-share. (The time-share initially cost over $10,000; like I said, it’s an investment).
Normally when traveling without a time-share or an educational program, you’ll pay a hotel price for every night you stay and an additional fee that won’t be charged unless there are damages to the room.
Staying during a specific resort or hotel’s off-season always reduces prices, so again, make sure to research for the best deals.
When you get to your destination, how are you going to get around? Some places are easier to navigate, and others are a nightmare. You must think of how people drive and which side of the road they drive on. It might be safer to take a taxi or public transportation. If you are traveling through a group tour of any kind, transportation might already be included. Or it might be more cost-effective to rent a car for the duration of the trip.
If you decide to go with a rental car I recommend downloading the app, maps.me, which includes an offline GPS navigation system. That means, you can download the map of a certain area and use it without Wi-Fi or any service at all!
Now it’s time for the fun! I’m talking tours, boat-rides, scuba diving, hiking, ziplining, museums, and any other fun activities, especially if you are staying at a closed-in resort. Doing prior research and looking up reviews on your destination can give you a taste of all the fun activities you can do there. In my opinion, it is a must to immerse yourself in the culture, explore, and try new things.
Emailing the different excursion companies and booking tours beforehand can reduce the stress of planning a trip. My own advice is to plan out the main things you want to see or do, and then allott free-time for anything else.
This is important to think about because you must eat, like every day at home. Sometimes meals are included in hotel prices, especially at all-inclusive resorts. Sometimes you can pay an additional fee to have unlimited access to a resort’s buffet. Maybe you want to try the local food.
Did you know you can take food on board a plan if it is a non-liquid, non-leaking and frozen solid container? Of course, you can go grocery shopping where ever you go but the currency conversion might not be the most cost effective. Also, depending on where you are going, be careful with street foods and/or water that is not from a sealed bottle. Therefore, it is so important to do extensive research on your destination prior to traveling. Normally I do a little grocery shopping at home for things like small seasonings, drinks, and a few frozen goods. Cooking some days and then going out somedays will allow you to be cost-effective without limiting yourself on tasting the culture.
Always plan for extra. You never know what you might need or want. Extra money “just-in-case” is always a must. An emergency or expense can always happen. Souvenirs for yourself or others, or even a cool activity that you want to try that you didn’t even know was available, are just a few examples of what to prepare for.
Now some tips
- Again, plan early (at least six months in advance).
- Create a separate savings account strictly for travel so you do not disturb your existing savings.
- Put a small percent of your earnings towards saving for the trip as well as any additional money you may receive like a bonus or income tax returns.
- Do the math – calculate an estimate of what you plan to spend on your trip then calculate the best amount to take out of your check towards your savings to meet your deadline.
- Consider the currency conversion.
- Register for a rewards program and keep track of your airline points.
- Consider obtaining your TSA pre-check – no more going through airport security in the U.S.
- Do extensive research on your desired destination and look at reviews.
- Familiarize yourself with the culture – you don’t want to offend anyone or accidentally do something inappropriate.
- Don’t overpack – your accommodation might have laundry machines or there might be some nearby.
- AC outlets – different countries have different power outlets, make sure to take an electricity converter with you.
- Don’t stress over planning the trip.