Lately we've been a little lazy during our travels. It seems that the more we travel, the less planning we do, and we find ourselves making a lot of mistakes.
Like the time we went to Turkey without a tourist visa. Not only did we not have a tourist visa, we had no Euro on hand to buy one upon arrival. To make matters worse, the ATM was out of order at immigration. Dave had to be escorted out of the airport and taken to an ATM so that he could pay the fee. Had we done proper trip planning this wouldn't have happened.
Planning Travel Properly Saves You Money (and Can Reduce Stress)
With our first Caribbean cruise happening next month with Carnival, we decided that we had better take our time to do some planning. We want to make the most out of our time on board and don't want to miss any of the exciting excursions or activities at each port of call.
We think that the great thing about taking a cruise is that you can plan your trip ahead of time. You can book all your tours, spa treatments, and special dinners in advance so that your vacation is free of stress. Leaving you time to relax and enjoy your vacation.
Tips to Help You Plan Your Dream Trip
Since we're in travel planning mode, we thought we'd share some of our tips on how to plan for your trip. Just because we've been lazy lately it doesn't mean that we're not good at planning. As a matter a fact, we've learned many tips over the years. Now that we're reminded of the importance of making plans, we thought we'd share the best practices for planning your trip abroad!
1. Choose your location. We have been to over 100 countries and we still have a hard time choosing our destination. There is so much to see in this world. So we go by what we want to do.
- Do we want our trip to be an adventure?
- Do we want warmth and sunshine?
- Are we looking for culture?
- Or do we want to relax?
When you know what you want to do, it's easier to narrow down a destination. New Zealand or Iceland is great for adventure. The Caribbean and Mexico is super for fun in the sun, and the Mediterranean is a wonderful place to relax.
2. What's your budget? Decide on your budget and then think about the following options.
- Location plays a huge part in deciding your budget. South East Asia is probably the most affordable destination on the planet, and South and Central America are more reasonable than Europe.
- For North Americans, package tours to the Caribbean and Mexico can save you a lot of money. Also, think about currency exchange.
- Similarly, cruising offers a lot of options for seeing many destinations at once and offering a lot of activities giving you bang for your buck.
- Accommodation plays a huge role in budget. Are you going to go the luxury 5 star route or budget hotel? Maybe you’ll save money on food by staying in an apartment and cooking meals at home? Think of all these questions to help decide how much your budget will get you.
- How far will your dollar stretch? The British Pound is worth a lot more than the Mexican Peso, for example.
3. Rewards and Credit Card Points. You’ll see this in a lot of “How to Plan Your Travel” posts, but there is a reason avid travelers recommend it.
If you know you are going to be traveling a year from now, sign up for a credit card that offers rewards. Put your every day purchases on that card to rack up the points, but make sure to pay it off monthly. Normally credit card programs have a signing bonus where they’ll offer you enough points for a free domestic flight or several nights in a hotel. Dave and I just stayed downtown Athens in a four star hotel on our American Express points. You can really cut a lot off the initial budget it you start collecting now. Remember, don’t over extend yourself, just use it to buy the every day items that you would already need to purchase like gas, groceries, and day to day items. Points can add up quickly.
4. When do you want to go? Is it going to be a spur of the moment vacation where you’ll be looking for last minute deals?
Can you travel during shoulder season when everyone else is at work? You can save a lot of money during the off-season and crowds are far less. It’s worth looking into the time of year you are traveling and then deciding on a destination that is currently just coming out of, or just about to enter high season.Cruising has a high season and low season too. You will find great deals if you plan a cruise vacation during the off-season. Your ports of call will be less crowded and the weather is often still fantastic and you still have all the same services and amenities.
If you have flexibility in your time, you can go anywhere, but if you aren’t flexible, look for the destinations that are in the off season that fit into your schedule. High season in Peru is very different from high season in the Bahamas.
5. Group Travel or Independent Travel? Do you want to travel with a group on a tour or do you want to plan your own itinerary. There is nothing wrong with either way. You just need to make a choice. Many people choose group trips to ease the stress of planning and having to make bus, train, or transfer plans. Better yet, a cruise offers the freedom of having the option to spend time alone, with the convenience of allowing you to see many destinations without having to unpack.
When you go with a group, all you have to do is select the tour and book your ticket. This is an excellent choice for busy professionals that only have a week or two of vacation time a year. When you have limited time, you don’t have a lot of room for error, so it is a good idea to leave the planning up to the travel professionals.
Independent travel can also be far more affordable than a prepaid package tour, but it can also take a lot more time to plan. It’s important to think about how much time you have before your vacation to plan your travels and how much time you have during your vacation. Independent travel tends to be slower and there is more room for error, so you may find yourself lost or changing plans along the way.
6. Check documentation. Before you travel, make sure you look to see if you need visas. Is your passport up to date? Many countries won’t let you enter if your passport expires within 6 months. If you are renting a car, do you need an international driver’s licence or will your home country’s license suffice. After you’ve done everything. Make backup copies and store them on email or in the cloud.
There are many things you need to do to plan your travels ahead of time. The 6 tips above are a great start, but there are so many things to take into consideration like: make sure you have your prescription medication on hand, proper travel insurance, know a bit of the local language and know the currency exchange. But most importantly have fun. Travel is about enjoying your surroundings. With proper planning you’ll have a better chance of making the most out of your vacation.
What’s your best tip for planning your travels?
This post was created as part of our collaboration with Carnival. As always, all of the opinions, thoughts, and ideas in this post are our own.