Hey there, if you missed it be sure to check out Planning an Epic Trip: Part I!
In Part I, we covered tips and tricks for deciding where to go, when to travel and how long to go for…but that’s just the beginning.
Now that you have the basics you can start to get super excited about your travel plans (yay!). One great way to keep yourself informed and excited is to track your trip in an app – I use Event Ticker which counts down the number of days until my trip and allows me to upload a fun picture as a backdrop. Now if you’ll remember, we didn’t actually book anything in Part I of this post. This is because a fair amount of planning needs to happen before you can book flights, accommodations and tours / activities. I want to provide a disclaimer here: there is definitely something to be said for buying a one-way ticket to anywhere and figuring it out as you go – but that’s a topic for another post. This one is for – you guessed it – PLANNING a trip.
Booking Tours and Accommodations
This is the first step you should take when “making it official” and booking your trip. But make sure you do a quick check to make sure flights to your chosen destination on (or around) the dates you want to arrive and depart are available. This is especially true if you are booking last minute as flights can fill up and you don’t want to be stuck with an epic trek booked only to find out you can’t get there!
Before you book the first hotel that pops up on Expedia, make sure you do your research. Decide what kind of experience you want to have. If you’re in a City, look into the different areas and neighbourhoods to understand what they have to offer, which parts you might enjoy the most and where it is safe to stay. If you’re staying in the countryside (think Tuscan villa) then make sure you have an idea of where you want to be and what kind of amenities you might want. Also, DO NOT underestimate the importance of transportation – whether it be public transit, rental car, walking, or any other form of getting around. Be sure to look at ways of getting where you want to go and whether the accommodations you’re looking at support it (close to a train/metro station? parking? walking distance to main attractions?).
Once you know the general location that works for you, think about what kind of accommodation you want – here are some options:
- Hotel (luxury? boutique? bargain?)
- Bed and Breakast
- AirBnB Apartment or House
- Guest House
- Camper / Van
As you can see, there are lots of options, and there are pros and cons to each. Some things to consider include cost, comfort, experience, amenities, and availability (of course!). Only you can know what works well for you, and every once in a while, venture outside of your comfort zone and try something new!
Travel Considerations – Extra Days?
Often it is good to give yourself some “extra days” this is particularly true for specific types of trips such as group tours and cruises. A few extra days on the front or back end (or both!) give you some additional downtime and in some cases, it allows you to get used to your surroundings. For example, when travelling to Peru to hike to Machu Picchu, I arrived in Cusco a full three days before my hike to help get used to the high altitude – and let me tell you – I’m really glad I did! Another benefit is that these “extra days” give you a buffer in case your flight is delayed or any other unexpected change in schedule occurs. Want another example of why additional days are a good idea? Imagine this – you’re flying to Rome to set out on a Mediterranean cruise and your flight is delayed…by the time you actually get to Rome your ship has left port and you are not on it (not a good start…). Solution? Extra days!
This is when things get serious. For me, flights tend to be the most high-stress part of booking trips. The options seems endless yet it seems impossible to find the ‘perfect’ option that aligns with the rest of your plans and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. When looking for flight options I tend to first check out sites that compile a lot of options for me to compare prices. Also, there are a ton of great articles and posts out there that tell you exactly how to get flights for cheap – especially if you collect rewards and points from various airlines. Definitely look into these options as it can save you a ton of money.
Booking hard-to-get tickets to your “must-do’s”
To avoid the kind of disappointment that only comes with travelling half way around the world to find out that your “must-do” bucket list item has a 3-month wait list (ahem, Inca Trail….), be sure to research this ahead of time and book your spot! It is perfectly reasonable to plan a trip around a trek or attraction that you absolutely must see. Another thing to think about is whether the “thing” you’re going to see is under construction or being repaired. On several occasions I have gone to places (especially in Europe) only to find main attractions covered in scaffolding and parts of it closed off from public access. Now, you can learn from my mistakes and plan accordingly (yay for you!).
Ultimately, you can put as much (or as little) effort into planning your trip as you like. I have friends who NEVER plan trips in advance, but somehow they get where they need to go, relying on spontaneity and the unexpected to fuel their travels. On the other hand, there are tons of people who always book in advance and plan every detail to make sure they get the very most out of their time. There is no one-size-fits-all with travel planning, but hopefully you have thought about what might work for you and what you can do to avoid common traveller mishaps!
Good luck and Bon Voyage!
SEE THE WORLD, MAKE IT BETTER.
~ Earthly Traveller