Are you going on vacation and want to see something more than the hotel swimming pool at an all-inclusive trip? Do you find organized tours to restrictive for your taste? Are you being tempted to buy some of the super-cheap plane tickets, but you’re afraid planning your trip will be too much for you to manage? If you’re sure planning your own trips is the best way to do it, here’s a few tips on how to do it properly and keep your sanity intact.
Choose a destination
Bargain hunters can skip that part – we’ll talk about them later ;). Most of us have a couple of dream places to visit, or even a whole checketlist, be it the Great Wall of China or the Trevi Fountain. Perhaps you’d like to spend a romantic weekend in Verona, drive around Georgia or simply relax at the Turkish Riviera. Or maybe you’re on a tight budget and all you can afford is to go camping near the lakeside?
Set your trip budget
It doesn’t mean you have to make a costs list and stick to it no matter what. On the contrary, the goal is to enjoy your trip without a guilt trip – and to avoid any unpleasant surprises, Before you go, be sure to check how much are the plane tickets and rooms for the night. Food prices and museum admission fees are also important, as are souvenirs. If you sum it up, the total cost can surprise you. Sometimes you’re in for a pleasant surprise – there are a lot of places you can visit for a minimum price. Choose a place you can afford without struggling too much.
Book a date
Most of us are unable to get a few days off just like that. Longer trips (more than 2-3 days) have to be planned in advance – you have to take into account both your job and your friends’ schedule. It’s good to check which time of the year is the most attractive for visiting your chosen destination. Check the weather forecast, because even the cheapest flight won’t make up for a week of walking around in pouring rain, while sightseeing in extreme heat can turn out to be virtually impossible. Remember that accommodation tend prices hike up during special events like the Carnival in Venice or the Queen’s Day in Amsterdam. Make sure there are no events like that around the time of your planned excursion. Unless of course, you’d like to see them.
NOTICE: Check all your documents! It’s easy to forget about you passport expiry date, especially nowadays, when we seldom use our passports. It’s good to figure it out beforehand, so that you have plenty of time to get a new document.
Decide on your method of transport and book tickets
If it’s a long journey, planes are your best option, but if it’s not that far, a train might be a better choice. It’s not just about environment issues, but also time and comfort. Train stations are usually in the city center, so we can avoid wasting our time on finding transport from the terminal to the city. On top of that, all you need is to get to the station 15 minutes before the train departs, as there’s no need to check your luggage.
If you’re planning to do a lot of sightseeing, you might consider going by car. It will give you the opportunity to see some interesting places on your way and you can take more baggage with you. Be sure to have a spare driver, even if you like driving a lot yourself.
If the route takes just a few hours, a bus could be a good choice. Of course, provided that a night spent in a bus won’t ruin your trip. However, if you can sleep in any conditions, just like me, it means you can go from Warsaw to Vilnius for as much as you’d pay for a pint of beer in Cracow.
If you go by plane, take these things into consideration:
– elastic people pay less – if it’s not imperative, taht you spend your anniversary in Paris and nowhere else, check all the places you can visit for less. Or if you have a dream place to visit, check out the dates, when it’s cheaper to travel there.
– basic ticket price includes only your hand baggage and there are often serious size restrictions.
– once you pay for your luggage, it may turn out that the regular carrier charges just as much and there’s a meal included.
– the costs of getting to the airport can be bigger than flight costs
– night flights aren’t always a great idea
– online check-in is absolutely free
Take care of yourselves
Your well-being is the most important. Find out if you need to get vaccines before you go and if it’s enough to get only recommended vaccines. Be sure to bring some medicine you can use during your trip.
Buy an insurance! It’s often a requirement if you visit countries with visas. If it’s not mandatory, it’s still a good idea to get an insurance. While reading the terms, pay attention to exclusions from insurance. It’s very important, especially if your planning on doing extreme sports. The insurance sum should be adequate to healthcare costs in the country you’re visiting. It’s best if you never have to use it, but as always, prevention is better than cure.
Make a „To See” list
Whether you’re going on a city break or a tour, it’s good to jot down the places you want to visit and divide them into ones you absolutely must see and those you can check out, if there’s enough time. Based on that you can estimate, what you can do and decide beforehand, which attractions you could skip if need be. It’s a good method if you’re going in a larger group – you can check what people want and split up the group some day, so that everyone sees what they want. If it’s a tour, you can always work out a compromise. It’s the perfect time to read some guides (which you can get from your local library), read some travelling blogs and check out the offers provided by a travel agent.
Set a route
Browns through your ‘To See’ list. Check all the opening hours – you don’t want to end up activating your discount card on a day, when the most important museums are closed. Mark those places on your map. Google Maps might come in handy – you can share the route map with your travelling companions. You don’t have to run from one attraction to the other, checking the watch every single minute. But you wouldn’t want to miss anything you wanted to see. It’s good to have some spare time left in case you want to relax on the beach or you miss your bus. It’s best if you settle for a minimal trip schedule that you can expand, if time and your will allows it.
Book places to stay
It might seem strange, that this one’s so low on this list. Although I prefer to book my accommodation early on, so that I can relax without worrying about it, I only book my rooms once I know where I’m going and what’s the plan for the trip. Perhaps you’d like to spend a night in Warsaw when going to Mazury or you want to change your accommodation every few days while touring around Cyprus instead of spending the whole trip in one city? You should adapt your accommodation to your sightseeing plan, not the other way around. I won’t give you specifics here – it depends on your budget and personal preferences. Remember though, that it’s better to pay more for a well-situated hotel, than waste your time and money on transport. If a city is well communicated, you might opt for the suburbs or even local towns. Find out if the reception desk will be open when you get there. Be sure to ask if you can leave your luggage if you arrive before your check-in or if you leave after you check out. Be sure to arrange it before you arrive. Sometimes things that are simple for us can be a problem elsewhere, especially in a different culture.
Find out, where you want to eat
Some people gain weight during holidays, others during vacation. I’m definitely in the latter group. While my colleagues settle for one course meal, I get treated with soup, main course and – last but not least – the dessert. My philosophy is – if I’m going someplace, trying out the local cuisine is as important as visiting monuments and enjoying the sights. It’s an essential part of each country’s culture. By discovering new tastes we get to learn more about a given country. Do some research on what’s the region’s speciality, what should you order in a restaurant and what you should buy at a marketplace. Perhaps there’s something you could bring back home as gifts for your friends? If you can’t speak the local language, be sure to note down the names of dishes you want to taste. It might come in handy while ordering your meal. Make a list of places recommended by travelling blogs and guides. You don’t have to visit them all, but once you’re hungry (or even hangry!) and in dire need of a restaurant, your list might help you out a lot.
Pack your stuff
Every single time I swear I’ll pack my belongings earlier and always turn out doing it moments before it’s time to go to the airport. But I always manage to do it. Perhaps it’s because after a while you gain skills and instantly know what you might need. But if you’re not a „human whirlwind”, for whom only life on the go has a meaning, then it’s best if you pack your things earlier. Go over your trip plan once more and pack all the things you think might be useful. Take the clothes you like, so that you feel comfortable during your trip. Try not to take too much. A friend of mine, who’s a veteran traveller, advised me to take half the things and twice the money I intended to. Don;t panic if you forget something. As long as you have your wallet and documents – you’ll manage just fine.
Tell your friends and family about your trip
It doesn’t mean you have to go on and on about your plans for vacation. But it’s best if your firends and relatives know where you’re going. Today we have mobile phones and Internet, so you might think it’s ridiculous, but it’s always good to tell someone about your plans. My mom used to instantly forget the name of the country I told her I was going to, so I left her a note on the fridge, with details about my flights and accommodation – just in case, so she can check it anytime.
Once you go through all these steps, all you need to do is enjoy your trip. If you think something is unclear, let me know, I’ll be glad to answer your questions. I’m guessing for some of you it’s not a problem to plan even a long and distant trip and you probably haven’t learned anything new from this note. You might even think I forgot to mention something. If that’s the case – be sure to let me know – you’ll be helping the less experienced travellers.
That’s it for today, hope you have some awesome trips!