This is that time of the year when we usually head out to Bali to work from our remote office ensconced in the paddy fields of the island. However after falling violently unwell and wasting a lot of money rescheduling flights last year, we decided to give Bali a miss this year. But we’re not veering from the theme of revisiting old favourites. This time of the year isn’t to explore new corners of the world, it’s to live and work in places that are familiar, places we know well!
So we’re heading to some of our favourite places in Europe to feel at home with favourites but also savour a host of new experiences. We will visit some of our best friends in Paris, rent a scenic cottage or apartment somewhere in France or Austria and make it our office for a few weeks. We also want to head to Northern Europe to for a winter break (it’s no secret how much we love those!) 🙂
Even after years of travelling, let me tell you that planning a trip is no easy feat – we’ve spent the majority of the past month hunched over my computers comparing flight prices, trying to find scenic accommodation that is pocket-friendly for long stays, jotting down rough itineraries, and figuring out where to go and where NOT to go! So many of you ask us for tips on planning vacations, so I thought this might be the perfect time to pen it all down, step by step – we hope it’ll help you in planning your next trip better 🙂
Step 1 – Booking the best (and cheapest!) flights
Once you know where you’re going, the first and most obvious things to do is book a flight. Of course, most of us research a bit before booking a flight. So do we! Here are couple of tips to choose the flight that’s best for you
- We would recommend you to steer clear of using individual airline websites and using a price comparison engine to check the best deals that are available across the internet. We love Skyscanner and have been using it for years but there are plenty of similar websites and apps too.
- If you’re flexible about dates, try using the ‘whole month’ feature available on most price comparison websites to see if flying out on a Monday instead of a Saturday will reduce costs significantly.
- If you’ve been researching for flights for the same route for a while, try clearing your browser history or searching on an incognito window. A fresh search sometimes yields better results.
- If the cost difference isn’t too much, try refraining from booking a non-refundable flight. Non-refundable flights can be enticing but you never know what might come up at the last minute – illness, unavoidable guests, work etc – and you end up wasting a bunch of money!
Keeping all these things in mind, decide on the ideal flight based on your priorities. If you don’t mind a 20 hour stopover at an obscure airport, book the cheapest available option. Alternatively opt for a shorter stopover or a direct flight to your destination. In case you do go with the first option, cross check whether you need a transit visa for the stopover BEFORE booking your flight or you might be deported before ever reaching the destination.
Step 2 – Researching and charting your itinerary
Most people book their flights and hotels and then begin to flesh out an itinerary. Never do that! You might have to skip seeing the most scenic part of the destination because it’s a 4 hour drive from your hotel.
We love roadtrips, so we usually start by checking if we can rent a car in the country/city we are visiting. Research a lot before you decide on these key things – read reputable websites and blogs to find out accurate information about the destination. For instance – renting cars in busy cities such as London and Paris is a bad idea. It is also not safe to rent a car in countries such as Guatemala. When you’re renting a car, always use a price comparison website to get the best deal which will save you a significant amount of money. For the past couple of years we have been using EconomyBookings to compare prices and book our car rentals.
Once car rentals (or the lack of them) are out of the way, we read a bit about the sites and sounds of the place we will be visiting and use Google Maps to chart a rough itinerary, which includes places we think we might like. We also use apps such as Travelibro and Tripadvisor to browse through other travellers’ journeys and suggestions and fine tune this list. We try to look up some of the best scenic spots, panoramas, little villages, crumbling ruins, independent cafés etc – things we veer towards on most trips. At this stage, you don’t need to have a day by day breakdown of your trip but it is good to have a rough idea of the route you will take along with the highlights of that route.
Step 3 – Booking accommodation that suits your tastes and budgets
To a lot of people accommodation is just a place to sleep on holiday. We feel differently. We truly believe choosing the right kind of accommodation can really amplify the experience you have on your holiday. So we suggest taking your own sweet time to book accommodation.
The first step is always to understand your priorities – for eg. the two of us like scenic B&Bs and luxurious hotels for short holidays and apartments for longer breaks. Here are some tips for choosing the right accommodation, whatever your budget maybe:
TIP FOR CHOOSING HOTELS
When you’re choosing hotels, make sure you check out price comparison websites. Sometimes there are crazy deals to be found on the best of hotels. There are plenty of price comparison websites out there but we love Hotels Combined and have been using it for years (in fact you’ll find it linked in most of our articles on Bruised Passports). We like it because it collates deals from a variety of websites such as expedia.com, booking.com etc and throws up the cheapest rates available online. Narrow down a few hotels that suit your budget and read reviews before settling on one.
TIP FOR CHOOSING RENTAL APARTMENTS
For rental apartments, Air B&B is our choicest website. We’ve rented on Air B&B lots in the past and had some AMAZING experiences, especially in countries such as France, Slovenia, Indonesia, and Mexico. However we would recommend being extremely careful while booking Air B&B apartments in large cities such as London and Paris as a lot of the affordable apartments tend to be far from the city centre or really tiny – read reviews well before you book.
To conclude, we’ve found some really scenic and affordable cottages and villas on Air B&B in the European and Asian countryside but struggle to find nice apartments in busy cities. In either case, I would recommend checking out facilities closely (look out for things that might be essential to you such as wifi, kitchenette, free parking etc) before booking anything. If you do book on Air B&B you can usethis link to get a decent discount off your first booking 🙂
Step 4 – The finer details: Booking day trips and/or meals
Now that the flights and hotels are out of the way, it’s time for the fun to begin. Start planning the finer details of your itinerary. Read more about the destination and book some day trips that do justice to the natural beauty or culture of the destination. If you enjoy more touristy experiences, then book hop-on-hop-off tours or guided city tours. If you, like us, enjoy offbeat experiences then we would suggest immersive day tours such as bespoke wine tasting in Sydney, a scrumptious food tour in Rome or Paris, or an underwater walk in Mauritius.
If you’re fond of fine dining, then research about the restaurants you might want to visit and book a table for yourself. A lot of Michelin Star eateries in cities such as Paris and London accept reservations months in advance, so this is the time to get that out of the way as well.
Step 5 – Planning what goes into your suitcase aka packing
Packing is usually a last-minute activity for most travellers but planning ahead can save both time and money. Try to read up about the destination you’re visiting and make a list of any special things that you might need to carry.
These could be essentials (for instance – thermals or woollen socks for visiting the Arctic Circle, hiking boots for Iceland) or just little things that will zhuj up your look (such as colourful bohemian accessories for Morocco or Disney merchandise for a visit to Disneyland Tokyo). Order these items ahead of time so when the time comes for your holiday, you’re well prepared and packing is a breeze.
If you’re packing for a long trip with varying climates check out this article which has a list of every single thing that goes into our suitcases when we travel for months at a time.
Step 6 – Enjoy your holiday and document the journey
Yay – now all the preparation is out of the way and it’s time to truly soak in the place and enjoy your holiday. Don’t try to pack too much into a short holiday – instead take all the time you need to let the romance of the place sink in. We always try to surrender to the rhythm of the place in order to enjoy it fully.
But don’t forget to document your holiday so you can look back at it fondly. We do this in a number of different ways – we upload photos on social media (Instagram and Facebook) and I also scribble notes in my travel journal. In addition to this, we upload day-by-day accounts of our adventures in real time on Travelibro. I mentioned it last year while talking about my favourite travel apps and we are still enjoying using it. It’s an easy way to chronicle your trips in real time and look for inspiration on the go. The photos uploaded by other travellers make it easy to find fun things to do in the vicinity while you’re on the go. We love uploading our journeys and day to day itineraries with loads of tips, videos, and photos on our profile hoping it’ll help fellow travellers out there. If you sign up on Travelibro, do come and follow us there.
Phew that’s it – 6 easy steps to plan the holiday of your dreams. How do you plan your holidays? Did you learn something new from this? Do tell us all in the comments below – we love hearing from you 🙂