Everyone can holiday. Don’t get bogged down by pictures you see on the internet or articles you read that make it look expensive. Sure, holidays CAN be expensive, but they don’t always have to be. You can travel the same destination in different ways making it luxuriously expensive or adventurously inexpensive. Whatever the destination may be however, holidays take planning.
Don’t ever take an itinerary that has been planned by a travel agent.
I learnt this lesson the hard way. Here’s why. While this is the easy way out, remember, travel agents will plan your trip based on where they will make their highest commissions. I have taken a lot of planned itineraries, and not one of them was as fun as the ones I planned myself. It can take some work, but in the end, it’s totally worth the effort.
1. Pick a destination first
Now, most people would say fix the budget first, but honestly, I always start with the destination. The only cost that you cannot get around is visa, travel insurance and tickets, if you’re planning a destination outside the country. Within the country, it’s just the tickets.
For an international trip, I would factor in about Rupees 60k per person (economy) return as the maximum flight ticket price, no matter where I was going. Tickets to some of the most remote locations in the world is that high. Everything else should be within a range of Rupees 30k to 40k. If you can travel with that being your flight budget, trust me, you can travel anywhere in the world. Only if this is too high should you pick the destination first.
2. Read about the destination
Once you’ve picked the destination, spend a few hours reading about it. It could be a country, a city or a combination of them. Usually, I pick only one country at a time. For e.g. most people would combine several cities in several different countries across Europe while planning a holiday. I prefer however, to explore each country at leisure. It depends on what type of traveler you are. No two are the same. You may want to change destinations depending on what you read. Once you’ve found a destination you really would like to visit, the real planning starts.
3. Visit the tourism website
Once you know where you’re going, visit the tourism website. Most places have their own webpages, cities, regions, countries included. If you have multiple destinations, visit the tourism website for all of them. Spend a few days reading them and list down the activities, places to visit, roads to drive on, trains to take, places to eat, museums to visit, everything you want to do in that place. Write these down. Figure out how much time you need in each destination and which are the ones that you absolutely have to go to.
Next figure out what’s the best time of the year to visit. Destinations are not the same all around the year. Switzerland is very different in the summer from the winter. Most prefer the summer, I love the winter too. Figure out what time of the year you would like most.
Remember, the best deals are during the low tourist season and shoulder season.
After that, get a map which has all these destinations. Most website will courier a tourist friendly map if you write to them. Or, you could just print them. Now depending on where you land in the country, you will need to figure out the order of the destinations you are going to visit, city to city.
4. Travel time
Once you know what cities you are going to visit, figure out how you’re going to travel between them. These could be by train, by air, by bus or by car. This depends on your company, your budget, the amount of time you have. Do think it through though. If there are more people and driving is an option, this is likely the cheapest and most convenient. However, factor in how difficult it is to find parking where you’re going and how much it costs. Figuring travel between cities and countries is a time consuming affair.
5. Don’t book just yet!
Once you’ve figured this out, pick your dates, write down your itinerary as you see it, with days and dates and see if it works. If you’re flying between cities, check flight times and prices. This may lead you to change your dates. For e.g. connectivity between cities may not be daily but only some days of the week.
You may want to add in a day extra here and there once you’re through to make sure you aren’t tiring yourself on holiday.
You may choose to do something which you won’t find in the travel guides, but will make you happy! Remember, you’re on vacation!
6. Book only what you must
Remember to always leave yourself some flexibility of altering plans at the last minute. No matter how much you plan, things will go wrong. It’s going to happen not because you didn’t plan well enough but because things aren’t always in your control. It is therefore critical to book only that which you must.
Here’s what I always book:
Airline tickets: I always have to book this because I won’t get a visa without it. Having said that, I also always book this months in advance. This is because the earlier you book, the better the chances of getting a good deal. If you have a layover, always book your connecting flight on the same carrier. In case your first flight is delayed and you miss your connecting, the carrier will accommodate you on the next connecting flight. If you book a different carrier, they will simply refuse to be of any help.
If you have a really long flight, always ask at the time of check – in whether an upgrade is available. Sometimes, you’ll get an upgrade at throw away prices.
I also use an app called “hopper” to figure out when the prices for a particular sector are going to be cheap. You will find that on certain days of the week, the variation could be as high as 20k!
If the crowd is young, no elders and no kids, you really can do without hotel bookings. You can pick a great place once you get there. Don’t let your imagination mess with your brain. You will always find a place to stay within your budget no matter what time of the year it is. Only book hotels in advance if you’re travelling during the festive season. By festive season, I mean festive for the destination you are visiting. This allows you to stay an extra day in a city or town if you fall in love with it, with no regrets.
Having said the above, if your travel is long, book the first night at your destination. You’re likely going to be tired and having to look for a place to stay is only going to make you more crabby.
Only book internal travel if you’re flying within a country. This is because ticket prices can spike. Be mindful of the amount of luggage that can be carried on. A lot of countries enforce weight restrictions very strictly. It’s easy to land up spending all your holiday money on overweight baggage. Buy and keep a portable weighing instrument in your bag. It’s small and pretty much weightless. It is extremely useful!
Don’t bother making bookings for trains and busses or any local passes. You can get all of these once you get to your destination.
Other than the above, nothing, absolutely nothing needs pre-booking. Don’t plan your itinerary down to the hour. Give yourself time to breathe and explore.
7. Other things to keep in mind while planning
It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, always buy travel insurance. While most countries do not issue visas without it, it is important to get it. This not only insures you against getting hurt while on holiday but also for missed flights, lost baggage, delayed connections, pretty much everything. You spend a tiny bit more for a lot of peace of mind.
Before you travel, figure out what the weather is going to be like and plan accordingly. Depending on how cold or hot it gets, and where you currently live, shopping may be in order.
Once you’ve figured out everything, and if you’re traveling on a tight budget, think of how much you would want to spend every day on food, telecommunication, shopping, attractions, adventures, and moving around. Once you know your daily limit, you can relax about how much you’re spending. If you overshoot on a certain day, it’s ok, you can make up for it on the next day.
That’s it! Go ahead and plan your perfect holiday!
For anymore tips, or questions, leave a comment below or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org