Taking vacations is always a good idea; tacking one onto a work trip is even better! Either way, if you don’t do your homework ahead of time, you might regret missing out on experiences in a new location. As they say, if you fail to plan…plan to fail! This is why, we always make it a point to carefully build a trip itinerary before taking off on our next adventure.
Now, we’re sure you’re thinking, “why not just pay a professional travel agent to do that for me?” And to that we say, travel agents are EXPENSIVE and doing the work yourself gives you so much more control over your trip (not to mention the gratification!).
Here are some tips on how to plan for the perfect trip!
DECIDE WHAT SORT OF TRIP THIS WILL BE: We start here because a trip type determines where you’re going, how much you’ll be spending and how you’ll be utilizing your time on vacation. Here are a few types of trips:
* Relaxing Beach Vacation
* High Adventure Vacation
* Cultural Immersion Vacation
* Purely Foodie Vacation
SET A BUDGET: This is a crucial next step because a budget will dictate many important decisions – transportation, lodging, entertainment and meals to name a few! Here are some starting points:
* Road Trip Weekend Getaway (Short Trip): $300-$500
* “Need to Book Flights” Extended Getaway (Medium Length Trip): $1000-$1500
* “Visiting a Different Continent” Getaway (Long Trip): $3000-$5000
* Honeymoon: Stay tuned for a post on that
CHECK YOUR LOYALTY PROGRAMS: If you don’t belong to an airline and/or hotel rewards program, we highly encourage you to find one that suits your travel preferences and sign up! We have platinum status with Star Alliance (airlines) and gold status with Marriot/SPG (hotels) and have cashed in our rewards points to pay for plane tickets and hotel stays! Check to see if you have points available in your accounts; this may help narrow down a destination or offset overages in your budget. Loyalty Programs aren’t limited to airlines and hotels, they also extend to credit cards! Our favorites are the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Capital One Quick Silver cards. Look out for another post on credit card travel benefits!
MAKE A LIST OF ‘MUST SEES’ AND ‘MUST DOS’: We always make a list of things we’d like to see when in a new city/country – spanning from museums to structures to open air markets to excursions. This list serves as a foundation for our trip schedule and helps us coordinate where to go when. Best ways to create this list:
* Talk to Friends: Chances are, someone within your network has already visited your next destination and can provide recommendations.
* Rick Steves: The man managed to get paid to travel around the world and write books about it! He is our favorite resource for all things Europe and has a robust website and podcast with recommendations on how to tour a new city like a local!
* Lonely Planet: The OG travel book publisher, Lonely Planet has a wide array of books, webpages, videos and advice on the best way to travel – across all seven continents.
* Instagram: With over 500+ million active users, there is a high probability that someone on the platform has visited the place you are planning to travel to. Use the location search and/or hashtag feature to find must visit sites; you may even stumble upon something the Rick Steves and Lonely Planets of the world have missed. Instagram has a way of highlighting socially relevant and popular-in-the-moment content!
* Google: It’s literally our best friend and has an answer to all of our questions!
EXECUTE: Book EVERYTHING! Start by booking your flights to lay a stake in the ground. Afterwards, book the following:
* Lodging: Find a place to stay (hotel, AirBnB, resorts) that is centrally located to everything that you want to do and see. We find it helpful to stay in neighborhoods where public transportation is easily accessible or areas that are within (1-2 miles) walking distance of main attractions.
* Reservations: If you’re a foodie, like we are, you’ll want to make reservations at top rated restaurants well in advance of your trip. Tables book up fast! We refer to the Michelin Star Guide, World’s 50 Finest, Yelp and OpenTable to scope out ‘must eat at’ restaurants.
* Excursions/Tickets: This would be a good time to start booking excursions, tickets to museums, shows, attractions, etc. Buying tickets ahead of time will usually save you time and money…which means more $$$ to spend on the trip!
CREATE A GOOGLE DOC: Once you’ve finalized your bookings, take time to create a Google Doc (excel) with three tabs:
* Day by Day Itinerary: Build out your day to day plans – fill in blocks of time with activities and reservations. Make sure to build in time for travel to and from point a to point b. We also recommend setting aside blocks of ‘FREE FLOW’ time to allow for exploration by foot and to stumble upon things you would’ve otherwise missed on a fully structured trip!
* Packing List: Depending on what you decided for step #1, you’ll need to pack accordingly! Make sure to take into account the weather and any activities/excursions you may be participating in. For instance, you’ll need a bathing suit and sun screen for beach time or tennis shoes and athleisure for hikes/long walks.
* Budget Tracker: Use this page to keep track of how much you’re spending and what you’re spending on. At the end of your trip, this page will be helpful in comparing how you spent vs. the budget you set for yourself. This will also help you financially prepare for your next adventure!