How to Plan The Perfect Trip:
Everyone loves taking vacations, duh! But I guess you could say that I am weird because I love planning the vacation almost as much as I love going. Taking the time to plan out a vacation really helps me relax and enjoy myself while in a foreign country by feeling prepared, on budget, and knowledgeable. So today, I am going to let you in on my secret top 5 tips to planning a perfect trip!
Tip Number 1 – 5: BE RICH, so money doesn’t matter and you can enjoy everything!!! (totally kidding). These tips are great for the budget travelers who love to have amazing, offbeat adventures.
Find Bargain Flights
This might sound obvious, but so many people overspend on flights. I start my process by heading to skyscanner.com and checking out the flight prices for different locations. When beginning to plan our next vacation, all we have is a date and we let flight and hotel prices determine where we head! Skyscanner and Kayak Explore let you put in a timeframe, price range, and starting location and then show you where you can go around the world. It is amazing and I am in love.
From there I start making a list of the cheapest countries and cities to visit and breaking down our top three. Skyscanner usually gives you the cheapest deal, I find, but I still take the time to check other flights. For example, our upcoming flight to Vietnam was listed on Skyscanner at $276 USD but after looking around a little more I found that going directly through the airline I could get the flight for $219, saving us $57 each! It may not seem like a lot, but when you travel on a budget like we do, every dollar counts.
My go to sites to check out are: Skyscanner, Kayak. C-trip (for Asia travel), and Travelocity. I am STRONGLY against paying additional fees for credit card uses and services charges (ask Terrell how it deeply upsets me), so I try my best to get around them if at all possible.
Spend Your Money on Adventures, Not Hotels
My thoughts on hotels while traveling: Unless you are trying to get an all-inclusive resort to spend your whole trip at, then a hotel is just a place to rest your head at night. With that being said, I am a germaphobe so…. sorry, but I wont stay just anywhere!
I start my accommodation search by Pinteresting and searching for the best areas to stay in. We obviously can’t afford the most luxurious part of the city, so we look for budget friendly areas that are close by the attractions we are planning to visit. Then I start the search with my favorite sites: Airbnb, Hostel World and Hotels.com. I am in love little quaint villas and boutique hotels, so Airbnb has slowly become my new favorite.
I give them all a good search through to see what I can find. I try to start my search at least a month out to give myself the best options. *Nerd Tip: Use a spreadsheet to keep track of all your options! Searching different sights can be so confusing, so try jotting down the area, price per night and then copy the link to find it easily again. I love using spreadsheets to track all my travel plans and expenses.
Once I find the perfect place and I am ready to book, I do one quick scan online to see if there are any active coupon codes to save a couple more dollars. Terrell rolls his eyes every single time I do this, but hey… I saved us $40 on our Hoi An airbnb, so deep down I know he loves it.
(If you recommend a friend to book, you get $20 off your next booking! If you haven’t tried it yet, use my code and save $20 on your first booking!)
Have a Plan!
After having our flight and hotels booked we get to plan the fun stuff, the adventures! I start this process by laying out a spreadsheet with the days we will be on vacation with the following columns: time, activity, price, and notes.
First, I will go through and put all the relevant information we will need for traveling such as flight confirmation codes, train travel times, etc. Then I lay out how much free time we will have every day of the trip. This lets me see which days we should plan our longer trips or activities on.
Next, I head straight to Pinterest and read, read, read. I love reading travel blogs, so I thoroughly enjoy this part of the planning. I think it is so interesting to hear about everyone’s different experiences and get a good idea of the options you have to explore. There is no worse feeling then arriving in a foreign country and sitting in your hotel room on Trip Advisor looking for places to visit…. SUCH a waste of vacation time! While I am busy reading all of the amazing blogs, I am jotting down notes of places I want to see and especially the restaurants that I want to try!
Lastly, I start fitting the activities I have jotted down into my daily plans almost like I am putting together a puzzle. Trying to fit the outdoor activities with the best weather and planning relaxing days after a strenuous hike or adventure. Terrell and I love having a variety of stuff to do on vacation so this part is really fun for me to try to get just right!
Now, you are all set! Woohoo! At this point in my planning I start my packing list, including breaking down the daily and nightly activities and what I would like to wear and then get my bags ready to go! Fashion is a passion of mine, so once again this tedious activity for everyone else is very enjoyable for me.
Don’t Stress About Following It
Now, this tip is VERY IMPORTANT in my eyes!
After spending of hours and hours creating the perfect vacation plan, don’t stress to follow it! What?! I know… I am crazy.
When people look at plans and schedules and feel that they follow it to a tee, it takes the freedom and fun out of your vacation! Please don’t be that person… the person who brings around a script of your day plans and makes sure every minute goes as planned. I understand, yes this might be the only way to accomplish everything on your list, but after all, you are on vacation! Enjoy it! If you hear from the locals about a great hike that is close by but it’s not on your list, go…. please go! If the day you plan an outdoor activity has crappy weather, switch plans!
The reason behind creating the plan is not to limit your vacation, it is to allow you to be prepared and have an idea of what you want to see. It is okay, actually encouraged, to go off schedule and do some adventuring. That’s why I have learned to always leave more time than you think for an adventure. Terrell and I always seem to get lost and find something amazing while trying to find our way back to the plan; these are sometimes our favorite moments of the trip.
Last, but certainly not least… document your trip! And no, not just for social media… one day you will want to look back and remember those moments getting lost in Hong Kong or the time you accidently found the best restaurant and had amazing tacos. Documenting your trip will look different for every person! Whether it is taking pictures, writing in a journal or even blogging, you will be thankful that you did it!
Personally, I obviously love taking pictures of the trip and then creating a trip review once I return for the blog J But everyone will be different, hey you might even choose to document your trip by getting a tattoo in every country you visit, sounds like a pretty great idea to me!
I hope that these quick tips help you plan a less stressful adventure next time your wanderlust strikes.
Cheers from China!