Time is winding down! With a little over 70 days left before we leave for our international vacation, I thought I would share with you the planning process so far. Along with a few things I wish I would had known earlier and some of my favorite sources for information and finding travel deals!
1. Select your Destination(s)
This was an easy one for me because I’ve had the same destination in mind for over a year and a half. But if you’re not yet sure where you want to go, make a list of the things you’re interested in seeing. Are you a lounge on the beach kind of gal (or guy)? Or would you prefer to check out architecture? Maybe you just want to experience a new culture and food or go shopping in a famous city. Figure out what is your goal for traveling. Once you know what it is you want to accomplish on your holiday start your research to find out what cities can offer you the best of that. I was looking for awesome beaches and a new culture and saw a few of my favorite Youtuber’s vlog their time in that destination. If you to are looking for beach holidays you can Google “Best beaches in the world” (or what ever region you would prefer to travel to.) Take some time to look through photos of that destination, check out reviews, read travel blogs about it, even watch Youtube vlogs about people who have already spent time at that destination. Another thing to take into consideration is the time of year you plan on taking your trip. What is the forecasted weather? Rainy? Steaming hot? Chilly winds? Are there any political or social issues going on? I had plans to visit 3 cities on my holiday, but I discovered that March was a bad time to visit one of the cities because of the yearly slash and burn of the forest area. Once you are sure about where you want to go, or have settled down on 2 or 3 possible international vacation destinations you can move onto the next step.
2. Take Care of Paperwork
If this is your first time out of the country, go ahead and get started applying for your passport! ASAP! You need 4-6 weeks for your application to be processed, but I would really get started on this at least 3 months before your departure date. I had a lot of issues with getting my passport because I was recently married and hadn’t gotten an ID with my married name yet. When I tried to get a new ID, I needed my birth certificate which was with the passport agency, so I had to order a new birth certificate. As you can see it got very involved and frustrating and I’m glad I didn’t wait until the last minute to try to get that done. Depending on your destination and length of your holiday you may also need a visa to enter the country, so make sure you check into what is expected from you and if this applies to you. If you are certain on which country you would like to visit by now, make sure you know if any vaccinations are recommended or required for you to travel. You can find out what you may need by visiting the CDC website. Start on this early because some vaccines require multiple shots over a course of several months.
3. Saving for a Trip!
This is a big one. I assume we all know how to go about saving, but if you would like more detail I will go into it more in another post. However, a couple of quick tips to how we saved for our trip is to save as much as possible. Make sure all of your bills are taken care of and save the rest of your money. If you need to cut back on your clothes shopping or not visit Sephora for a few months it will help you reach your goal quicker. Also save enough so that you won’t have to empty your bank account just for a vacation.
4. Researching, Stalking and Purchasing Flights
Once you have started the process of saving you can move on to researching flights. I used TripAdvisor (I love this site! It has been extremely helpful not only in helping me figure out prices for everything but also the community is awesome in helping you make the most of your trip and answering any of the many questions I’m sure will come up in the planning process.) I watched flight prices for several weeks and did a bit of research on the actual airlines to see which would be my best option for a long-haul flight (over 20 hours). While it may seem like a great idea to go with the cheapest option available, that might not be the best idea. You need to check into flight comfort, flight food and airline safety. Even checking into the rules for baggage can be very important. Once you know which airlines you want to avoid, you can get back to checking out specific flights for the airlines you are comfortable with flying with. A big thing to make note of when picking out long haul flights are the layovers and overall trip time. A simple 20 hour distance can take some flights 35 or more hours to finally get you to your destination with all of the layovers (some even being over night!) Knowing that I get jumpy on a 2 hour flight if there a bit of turbulence, I wanted to get the shortest flight possible with out breaking the bank. Speaking of breaking the bank, the price of your flight can increase dramatically if your departure or return date is on a weekend, so if possible try to to make those dates for sometime midweek for the cheapest price.
By now I hope you’re set on your international vacation destination because if traveling internationally you should get those flights booked as soon as possible to get even more savings. I booked close to 3 months before departure and got an awesome deal, but I would keep my eyes open anywhere from 8 to 3 months ahead of time and book whenever the price looks right to you. Keep track of how the price goes up and down so you can get a feel for what an average price for your flight should be.
5. Researching and Booking Hotels
This is the step I’m currently working on. I’m waiting until the 60 day mark to book my hotels because I’m keeping my eye on TripAdvisor reviews. I want to see the most current reviews for my destination, but I also don’t want to wait until last minute to book. I used trip advisor to research possible accommodations and even looked into some of the places that I’ve seen fellow Youtubers stay in the past. TripAdvisor will show you current reviews on pretty much any hotel you can imagine. It’s not only the extreme reviews like on some sites (some sites only have really bad or really good reviews), but people will actually rate average and tell you why they really loved, hated or found it simply ‘okay’ while at the same time posting photos of everything from the bed and toilet to the small cracks in the window frame. Once I settled on a short list of hotels for our stay, I check in every few days to see how the most recent reviews are looking. I look through ALL of the reviews and photos for a hotel I like and if I see any mention of bedbugs or any other critter, they are immediately taken off my list of prospects. I can deal with a lot of things, but bugs and critters are a no go. Another perk of TA is that it shows you what several sites are pricing the hotels for, so you can get the greatest savings. Expedia may be selling an accommodation for $123 a night but Bookings.com may have it for $88 a night.
6. Figuring Out Your Luggage Plans
Once you have your hotels booked, it’s time to start thinking about luggage because things are finally getting real! Hubby and I will be traveling for about 15 days, but since this is our first trip abroad we have decided against carrying checked luggage. No one likes waiting in baggage claim and I don’t want to even image trying to deal with baggage claim in a foreign country, while trying to switch planes during short a layover. Check your airline’s site to see what are the rules on carry on and checked luggage and plan accordingly. How many bags are you allowed to check for free, if any? How much is each packed bag supposed to weigh? Since we are going only with carry on luggage, our bags have to be under 15lbs each and under specific dimensions. Definitely watch out for a “How to Pack Super Light” post sometime in March because it’s going to be epic! I’m not even sure how I’m going to make it work as of yet, but if there’s a will there’s a way.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next month, which will include tips on how to prepare your home for your time away and other important things you need to do once your trip is booked.