There’s nothing I love more than scouring the internet for city breaks and sunny holiday deals. I probably check almost daily to see what bargains are out there, and with the deals I find I would be better starting up my own travel agent business – I’d be in the big bucks. When it comes to trips, I’m known as the “organised” one. I like having every last detail down to a T, and with the success of my trips that can only be a good thing, so for this post I thought it would only be right to share some of my tips and tricks for when it comes to planning the ideal trip.
SEARCH THE WHOLE OF THE BIG WIDE WEB
Don’t be impulsive and go for the very first deal you see, I know how easy it can be to want to book up the first thing you see because you think you’ve found a good deal, but ALWAYS look elsewhere as you might get more for your money or even money off the trip if you’re lucky and look hard enough. I typically go for package holidays with travel agents as I find that to be the most financially beneficially route and if anything goes wrong then the holiday is ATOL protected. There’s no harm in taking a look at what several different travel agents are offering and comparing them to see where’s best value for money. However, do bear in mind that sometimes it can be cheaper to book the flights and hotel separately, so make a note of any price differences. Cheap doesn’t always mean cheerful, so the key thing is to do your research…check out things like hotel reviews, and the hotel location because it’s not worth it if it’s miles out from the city centre and the majority of your trip is spent travelling to and from the city, you want to make the most of your time.
THE PLANNING STAGE
Once I’ve booked a trip, the next best part other than booking it and looking forward to it, is the planning stage. I can’t even tell you the excitement I feel when it comes to sorting out an itinerary. Asides from finding cheap holidays deals, I could also start up a business in selling itineraries because (not to boost my own ego)…they’re pretty amazing.
1. LISTS BECOME YOUR BEST FRIEND
First things first, search all of the attractions for the place you are going to and make a list of the attractions that you would like to see/do. Asides from the typical Google search, which is very handy, I also like to read blog posts such as travel diaries/itineraries. Reading what bloggers got up to on their trips is good for planning a trip as you’ll tend to find unique and quirky things to do or see that may not come up on the first page of Google search. Write your list of places down, type them up, whatever suits you – just keep a note of them so that you can refer back to your list when you’re putting the itinerary together.
2. SPLIT YOUR ITINERARY UP WISELY
Obviously depending on the duration of the trip, you want to make sure you cover as much as possible, if not everything on your list. My best advice would be to split your itinerary into areas, so for example with the likes of New York (where I currently am at the moment and still can’t quite believe it), you could split it into areas such as Lower Eastside, Upper Westside, Midtown, Lower Manhattan etc. Find attractions that are in those areas or as close together as possible so you aren’t spending all of your time going from one place on one side of the city to another place on the opposite side. When I was in Poland for a few days in the Summer, we split up our itinerary in the way explained above, so that one day was covering the Old Town, and the other day the Jewish Quarter. This was effective as it allowed us to cover everything in these areas, especially given that one of the three days we were there we would be travelling to Auschwitz so wouldn’t have time for much else that day. It’s also wise to look for places for a coffee break or for a bite to eat in these areas too, whether you have these planned out in advance (I tend to), or look for places when you’re there, it’s entirely up to you, a little spontaneity can be good though.
3. LOOK FOR MONEY SAVING OPTIONS
Look into ways in which you can save money, as this will potentially result in you having some extra spending money for when you’re at your destination. Does the place you’re visiting offer travel cards or attraction passes? These can be great money saving investments, however, it highly depends on what you’re wanting to see/do on your trip so it’s best figuring this out first. Below I’ve listed a few attraction passes/cards (including links) that I am aware of and some of which I have purchased myself, saving me and those on the trip a great deal of money.
Berlin – Berlin Welcome Card (also includes public transport)
Amsterdam – I Amsterdam City Card (also includes certain public transport)
Prague – Prague Card
Before rushing to buy an attraction pass, I usually produce a spreadsheet which lists all of the things I plan on doing. I have a column for the price of how much it will cost (without the pass), and another column for the price it will be (if any) if I were to purchase one of the passes. This allows me to see if the pass is worth purchasing and on average how much I would save if I was to purchase it. Trust me, such passes can be a great saving, I’ve found that out from my own experience of purchasing them.
4. BOOK WHAT HAS TO BE BOOKED
Remember to book things in advance that are hugely popular as you don’t want to waste an hour or two of a busy day waiting in line, or to be turned away because something has been fully booked or the queue is just out of hand. Skip the line passes can be beneficial, however it depends on the attraction and the time of year, you may not necessarily need to always book things. I booked skip the line passes for the Eiffel Tower a few years back and I found them to be a sensible purchase as I didn’t have to wait in any lines, and this allowed me to fit a few extra things into my itinerary for that very evening.
5. DON’T FORGET THE ESSENTIALS
With the whole planning of a trip, make sure you don’t forget the important stuff…travel insurance, toiletries, exchanging your money, adaptors (if needed) for charging up any gadgets. I actually got a Monzo Card for America so that I didn’t have to carry a large sum of money around in my handbag or leave it in the hotel room. A lot of places accept Monzo cards, and payments in shops and restaurants abroad are free so this may be something you wish to look into.
The final step is for you to enjoy the trip and let all the planning you’ve done come to life. I truly love nothing more than when a plan comes together. You spend the majority of the year working and saving up in order to see more of the world, so enjoy your time off and make the most of your trip.
What are your tips for planning a trip?