Researching, planning and budgeting
Planning and researching our trips well in advance is our holiday style...we definitely aren’t the “wing it” kind of travellers. We like to have everything pre-booked and planned down to the last detail. With three young kids in tow it makes our life much easier when we are organised. Obviously things don’t always go to plan which we found out on our latest trip when we had to charter a small plane to get off an island in the Philippines! . When these problems arise we will deal with them and so far they are few and far between.
When we are doing a trip with a few different destinations there is a lot of planning like mapping out a rough itinerary, finding out the distance to each place and the easiest and most kid-friendly way to get there, costs and accommodation options.
One of our favourite websites for planning is Rome2Rio.This site tells you how far away destinations are, travel times for every mode of transport and even rough costs for each, including taxis. It's fantastic !
The other site my hubby uses religiously is Google Earth. From Google Earth you can get a rough idea on how much is around hotels etc as far as restaurants go, how far hotels are from each other – you name it google earth will show you! We used this recently when planning a trip to Vietnam with my parents. They wanted different hotel options to us so we were able to check the distance between where they wanted to stay and where we would be staying to make sure we weren’t too far apart.
Once we have our itinerary sorted and have initial flights booked we will work it how long we want to stay in each place, then calculate the travel time to each place. Then we can book our accommodation and organise our transport. In Europe we used the train to each country, it was relaxing , cheap and a great way to see the countryside. The Philippines we used a mix of ferries and domestic flights – a 40min flight on Cebu Pacific as opposed to a seven hour ferry was much more appealing!
Once everything is all booked and confirmed we will print off all our documents, make notes of what has been paid in full and how much is owing if we have only paid deposits . I'll mark in my calendar when final payment is due ...a lesson I learnt the hard way after a hotel recently cancelled my booking without notifying me the day before I travelled, purely because I forgot to pay the balance and they never chased it up or reminded me.
Before we travel I love to look up tour options, attractions and research what I can... printing maps, addresses of things I want to visit, and pop them all in the file for that destination. It makes managing your days a bit easier when you arrive, especially if your wifi isn’t great . We downloaded some awesome offine maps for Paris, London, Venice and Rome which were very useful when you don't have internet. Look up any apps for the place you are visiting as those can he helpful too and will often include maps.
Before you even start planning you need to set a rough budget so you know your options. There's no point in planning a three week trip through America staying at flash resorts if you have a budget of $2000. Work out what you can afford to spend per day for the whole trip including food, transport, tours and accommodation and go from there. If you’re travelling with a large family AirBNB can be a great money saver and can be much more roomy! When it comes to saving for trips we aren't great at this - we tend to put it on the credit card and worry about it later But when we have a trip coming up we will cut back on going out for dinners and lunches, and all those little unnecessary expenditures.
It's always good to take a little backup money because you never know when you might need to pay $1000 cash for a tiny propeller plane to get you off a stranded island! Opening a savings account dedicated to travelling is a great idea - set up a automatic recurring payment from your main account each week well in advance.
FREQUENT FLYER/REWARD PROGRAMS
I recommend signing up for a great frequent flyer program, so you can accumulate points with your credit card. Do your research to find one that will give you the best benefits with the least fees. We use our credit card for everything possible, as well as work bills and we have enough points for five of us to travel to America at the moment! Here is a guide I found useful on different programs. Groceries, bills, absolutely anything you can use your card for and transfer back. You'll be so surprised how quickly it adds up.
Sign up to every airlines VIP membership so you can get early access or notifications to sales on flights. The AirAsia Big Account normally gives you access to promotions 24 hours earlier than non-members and you can snap up some great fares. We recently got 5 of us to Vietnam in school holidays for $1500Aud which we thought was a bargain!
Apps like Hopper are great and you can put in your preferred dates and destination and it will tell you when is cheapest to book or send you notifications when they are on sale. The only downside was getting notifications after we booked our Philippines with cheaper fares !
My friend Vanessa from Wanderlust Crew wrote a great post about how she flies for cheap or sometimes free which you can read here and Evie from Mumpacktravel has written a post on skyscanner and great ways to find cheap flights here which are both very useful articles.
MY TOP TIPS
- Print maps for your destinations before you go and any other useful information including hotel addresses
- Open a dedicated savings account which you can set up a automatic transfer from your main account
- Take extra cash in case of emergencies, or ensure your credit card has enough spare
- Sign up to airline VIP memberships to ensure your notified of flight sales
Everyone is different, some people like their travel plans flexible and are happy to book as they go, especially if time isn't an issue. Some prefer to have all their plans and itineraries booked well in advance leaving no surprises. Some prefer luxury resorts, and other more traditional experiences like homestays. Whatever your preference , planning and researching is half the fun of the trip! Enjoy your next adventure - and let me know if you have any tips to share in the comments below.