No matter what length of vacation you are thinking of doing, you need to plan for travel so you can get the most out of your vacation and save money
Plan for travel in a way so that you never again feel cheated by a vacation
Ever stared at a blank screen or piece of paper and just felt stuck before you start? I know the feeling. Begin with the simplest of thoughts. Start to ask yourself some basic questions…
I have to admit, taking my first steps in travel planning, I was clueless. Through the years, as I have traveled, I have learned a whole lot. While I became capable to master a plan to travel, one of the most important things I can honestly say, was a moment that added the missing ingredient.
It was something that changed my entire perspective. Simply, it was adjusting my attitude when it came to great vacations and finding places of interest that actually interest me and not just the opinion of others.. Here we explore how to formulate your travel plan and what can make it perfect.
Table of Contents
Create your plan to travel action list
- Do the WHY? quiz
- Know where it is you really want to go
- Decide on the duration of your vacation
- How are you going to afford the vacation? Start to investigate all the costs
- Determine, if you need to save, how long that will take you
- Make plans, if necessary, to get more income
- Start prepping for the trip months ahead
- If you do a lot of transactions on credit card, apply for a travel rewards card
- Get an ATM card that you know will be accepted worldwide
- Make your airline tickets a priority to purchase once you are sure of your ability to afford the vacation
- Book Your Accommodation
- Get to preparing your paperwork, passports, visas etc.
- Start to research the place you are going to in more detail so you keep your inspiration
- Plan your activities and places you want to see
- Think about your packing and the type of clothing you need
- If you have pets and commitments make sure you arrange these things in advance
- If you are planning a long trip, be sure that all your bills are going to automatically be paid by debit orders
- Organize you travel insurance
- Do an electronic gadget inventory
- Get packing
- Don’t be a tourist. Be a traveler.
Persistence is your friend. Constant engagement your power.
Although particularly for the traveler who is thinking of long term travel, having your goal in mind should apply to anyone who is trying to save for the vacation.
Above all, saving money requires discipline and discipline requires motivation. The key to any plan is to keep it in mind as much as possible.
It is easy to get totally ‘psyched’ about your plan and then life just gets in the way and puts it into a foggy recess in your mind.
Have an interest that connects – learning a language, taking up photography, writing blog posts about your plans. Keep the goal fresh!
Get creative with the way you save and collect the money .
First things, first. Why are you going? It sounds stupid but really, think about it…why? The power of just that one word – WHY- can offer so much insight, direction and truth. It can help you get to your dreams faster and plan better.
It’s interesting that kids can send you crazy with the WHY? after every explanation. This is how they make sense of stuff and we should follow their example and do the same. (Quietly to ourselves that is).
When starting to plan to travel, I would suggest simply writing down a list of answers to the question WHY? Honestly, it shocks me most times when I begin to get my own self clarification through my answers.
So, WHY are you going to take a vacation/ have an adventure?
- Do you want to travel around the world and discover things?
- Are you wanting a romantic getaway with your partner?
- Do you need a change of scenery, disconnect for awhile and have a rest?
- Is it a nice family vacation that you are seeking?
- Have you a feeling that you want to change your life…?
…and the list goes on. The point of this is that once you know the WHY, you can determine all sorts of things . Looking at some of the suggestions above, each answer will then point you in the right direction as to the place you will need to find.
Ways to think
For example, if you want a romantic getaway, you are unlikely going to go and do a trek in the Sahara or go machete bush whacking in the Amazon. Most likely you will be looking for idyllic settings in a lodge, a beach or lake house, perhaps a resort. Probably, you will seek someplace quiet, beautiful and tranquil and …well, romantic.
Whatever you decide, you now have a starting point.Those discounted trips and seductive brochures can no longer steer you wrong. We see a bargain and sometimes don’t give further thought to if it’s something we would like. You are not going on vacation to save money. You are going on vacation to do what you want to do and enjoy.
The idea here is to ‘tune-in’ directly to what it is you are expecting and desire and then you can more effectively identify a place you may want to go.
Finally, now you know WHY you are going someplace, you hopefully have narrowed the field down considerably. You should at least know the type of vacation you really want. So, let’s break it down further with a few vital questions:
How long do you plan to travel?
What is your travel budget?
Here you need to do some research on your present situation and monthly costs. In order to know where you are going, you need to know where you are. All this may appear simple, but it is that very simplicity that people tend to overlook.
Dealing with limited travel funds
All the decisions in the world need to be fueled by action. This is the next step. If you have calculated that your savings are sufficient and the vacation will not put you at financial risk, then you are streets ahead.
For most people, however, it is not that simple. After determining what they want and then where they want to visit, they would have probably discovered, after calculations and research, that the trip will cost more than they can afford.
How to start saving
So this will be your consolidation phase. You need to save money, How?
If you determined that the vacation will cost you $6000 all inclusive, then you work backwards from there.
How many months before your planned date? Determine this, and then reverse engineer your plan. Work backwards as this is the most practical and effective way to get a real picture and handle on your goal.
Let’s say you have 6 months to departure date. You would obviously be smart in trying to secure your air and accommodations as soon as possible because it’s cheaper. Airfare would be paid fully but accommodation does not always have to be.
You can usually secure your accommodation for a deposit and sometimes just with a credit card as security and not paying right away. So, the airfares will be your likely non-refundable commitment. So, do all your planning first.
*Useful tip – Open a separate savings account that you cannot/will not touch
How it may work
For arguments sake, let’s say that your airfare is $1200 return. That’s your first target. Pay it as soon as you can. Once paid, you are committed. Now the balance you calculate on how many months left after paying off the air ticket.
Lets say 4 months. Simple maths = outstanding amount of, lets say, $4800 for the entire trip – divided by 4. You need 1200 bucks a month to save from your paycheck.
Now, of course, this calculation you need to do before you spend a dime. If that calculation is impossible, you go back to the drawing board or extend your time to have vacation. Or, come up with some ways to supplement your income.
Check out this great video with some hot tips about how to save money. Ok, it’s aimed at the US market but a lot of the hints offered are universal and great ways to make a solid saving.
25 ways to save money in your plans to travel
Visiting Places without Preconceptions
Recently I came across a great article about being an anti-tourist and it totally resonated with me. It basically spoke of how NOT to be a tourist. I have always been of the opinion that when you go visit a country, the most important thing to do is to really VISIT THE COUNTRY YOUR VISITING!
What I mean by this is that you really are there to take in the sights, sounds, and tastes of a new culture, right? Conversely, are you really there to have a Fodors’ carbon copy experience of the guidebook pages you read?
Destination Travel is about what?
Why do we travel to a place? Because we want to see the landmarks or maybe learn some history? Maybe to learn about another culture? The reasons could be all those and more.
How do we go about making a travel plan? Well, obviously we surf the net, read travel books and start the process of identifying the places of interest that may be worthy of our time. But herein may be the first mistake we can make in our travel plans.
Almost anyplace could become an amazing destination if we think differently
Travel Planning with a Guidebook
Sure, some of the guidebooks are excellent but they are a guide…These books and articles are a great suggestion tool but not the almanac of all things you have to do and places to visit when you go on a trip.
Something to consider is that your plans need flexibility and space between excursions for downtime and relaxation. The ‘go…go…go’ mentality will leave you feeling stressed and in need of a vacation to recover from your vacation.
Ask yourself: How did we plan for travel? Was our planning for travel based solely on travel books and blogs? Did we check what the top travel places to visit are and simply follow the list.
As a result, how many of us schlep to the nearest famous landmark to seize a trophy snapshot that says “I was there”. In comparison to living the experience of visiting a new nation?“
“People know what they like and like what they know”
It was an adage we used in my days of radio DJ work. This is so true. However, travel does challenge that mind set.
We have to break out and discover new things we like. I have made this very mistake many times in the past, thinking only of what I know and not finding out new things that I should or could know. Furthermore, it is about getting the maximum from your vacation
Later, only about a decade ago, did I realize that the real value of any destination travel is the adventure of the unknown. It is as much about the experience of the new as it is to just simply go and see.
I forget the actual epiphany moment, but my whole way of traveling changed. I started to actually live in the minutes passing and not numbly be the observer anymore.
Most noteworthy, the value I received by changing my plan for travel was worth its weight in gold.
Planning for travel is to plan for flexibility and acceptance
The term ‘sightseeing’ has a certain negative connotation to me nowadays. It suggests we go gawk at places.
I have stopped viewing everything through the camera lens. Instead, I have adopted a more immersive approach and become a part of the scene and not just a spectator.
Nowadays, I prefer to live the experience and, along the way, see the sights and places to visit that appeal to me personally.
Plan to travel for you and not for your scrapbook
Our fundamental psychology of collecting and travel planning
I have a theory, based on my own mildly obsessive nature. I believe that many of us have a checkbox psychosis. We love to check the boxes.
People are conditioned to accomplish, to manage, to sort and to achieve an end goal. In this case, there’s nothing bad about being organized and driven.
However, do we carry that too far sometimes? We love to collect, to accomplish. It’s human nature, but on vacation, that can become really obstructive to the very idea of a vacation.
As individuals, we become quest driven. We need to ‘collect’ all those landmark sights and places to visit that we read about. We need to record the photographs, check the box of “done”.
In short, the question we must ask ourselves is; “Is this how I want to spend my vacation and the way I should plan to travel?” Perhaps not.
Places of interest should uniquely be places that interest you! Certainly they should be tangible, first person memories borne from an immersive and active involvement and not some’ removed’ and distant perspective.
A dream travel destination but without the tourist trap
Standard tourism practice states: “Plan your trip to the places you should see and go to” (read: need to go to because it is some travel guide sacrilege to miss on important landmark)”.
Nothing wrong with that, per se, however, how limiting a thought process to go to Paris, France and come away from a 14 day trip with memories confined to a few coffee bars, shops, and restaurants along with a checklist of landmarks seen.
The typical travel planning day
For most, a tourist existence is waking up in your hotel, reading your To Do List and determining that the Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles or some other historical landmark is the purpose of the day.
Why? Because that’s what is expected of you or what we expect of ourselves?? There’s nothing wrong with seeing landmarks. But is that really that you want to do?
For destination travel to be a success, it must connect with all the things you would love to see and do.
Of course, there are the iconic areas to take in and the Eiffel tower, Arc de Triomphe etc and other places to visit may be the very reason you wanted to go to Paris in the first place.
Finding a good balance when you make travel plans
The point here really is, maybe plan to join the dots with the visits and take in the exploration of everything in-between.
Travel like a native – use the metro, take a bus. Go eat where the locals are, away from the santized and somewhat fake tourist areas.
In summary, avoiding the Lemming syndrome of just following the suggested routes and places to visit can open up a whole different level to the quality of your travel. For the most part , it’s not about the destination, it’s about how you get there.
Go on a trip and do something you have never done before
My top travel experiences are always the ones where I just did something totally out of character or alien to my usual habits. Essentially, my plan for travel is…not to plan. At least not plan every moment.
In Amsterdam, I decided to hire a bicycle. It was one of best things I have ever done on my travels.
The mobility that gave me was incredible. Discovering amazing places to visit that were not even in the guide books or on the Net.
Quickly, I found out the way to ride in the Netherlands (each country has its protocols). Amazingly, I survived! Let me tell you that riding a bicycle in Amsterdam is terrifying, to begin with.
Eventually, you gain enough confidence to become one of the tribes of ‘cycle-paths’ who zoom along, oblivious, to all the two-legged creatures. Pedestrians beware!
The First Place in a travel plan Starts with You
I have recommended, what I thought, were awesome travel destinations to people and they return with an insipid response to what I believed was an incredible place to go on a trip. Recommending a top travel destination to them and they returned with ‘kinda enjoyed it’. What?!
In the meantime , I came to realize that there are no guarantees that just because I had a brilliant time at some place that others would too.
It really isn’t about the destination as much as it is about you. I am not suggesting that many wouldn’t love to do all the touristy stuff and have an incredible time doing it. Simply, I am putting another angle out there. As I have said time and again, travel is very personal. It is like clothing fashion. You might like the idea of the outfit, but is it you?
How to become an effective destination traveler
One of my solutions to avoid the tourist trap is to assume I will be living in the country I am visiting. This was one of the best travel tips I learned.
Instead of booking a 5-star hotel, I now rent an apartment. This means that I actually have to go and seek my needs as opposed to having room service provide my every (expensive) wish.
Learn by.. ‘being’. For now, I am a resident for the time I am in the country. In my list of places to visit, the seemingly ordinary is an adventure.
With excitement, I go to all the local stores, markets and supermarkets and buy my food. When I plan to travel, I research the local environment as much as the things and places to see.
Getting the most out of your travel planning
As a result. the evolution of this process of localizing my experience, allows me to quickly start to understand the culture. I speak to people who I would never have met, practice my language skills and have fun doing so.
To summarize, my experience becomes one of discovering the real side of a city or country from a totally non-tourist perspective.
Locals will divulge their secrets to you as a non-tourist. You will find out where the best restaurants, cafe’s and stores are.
The inhabitants will point you to the non-tourist beaches and off the beaten track places, exposing to you the authentic underbelly of the land you visit.
How to avoid being a tourist!
Travel Tips to avoid being one of the flock
1. Rent a residence and avoid hotels.
2. Take up the local ways by watching, emulating and using public transport
3. Avoid ever looking at a travel guide as the Oracle. It is a guide!
4. Do normal things like getting your laundry, shopping, and requirements on a trial and error basis.
5. Never ask cab drivers for suggestions – they are generally the ‘kick-back’ concierge of tourism – ask the local cashier or random stranger instead.
6. Get a bicycle – if it’s safe, and ride aimlessly, in any direction that tickles your fancy.
7. Don’t buy souvenirs unless they really are something you think have decor value back home – anything less will become another dust collector in the attic
8. Meet people! Take photos of those people. Drink and be merry with those people. Those photo’s ten years from now will mean so much more than some dry postcard photo of some landmark.
9. Eat the local food and drink. Avoid MacDonalds, Dominoes and Starbucks at all costs. Make it a rule – if you can get it at home, why bother?
10. Go get a haircut, pedicure, massage or anything else from a local source and not some over-priced hotel Spa.
“Be a foreigner in a foreign land but ….just don’t be a foreigner”
More Travel tips with substance
1. Get a sense of humor fast – learn to laugh at yourself. (This also ranks as one of the most important travel tips I could ever give anyone).
2. Be patient. Relax and enjoy the ride.
3. Adopt a new psyche for travel. Be everything positive that you’re not in daily work and residential life back home
4. Don’t be afraid. As they say, FEAR is really False Expectations Appearing Real
5. Always try and be friendly. Smile at strangers, greet the locals. Chances are you’ll make a new friend and have a whole new insight into the destination you are vacationing in.
6. Sample the local food. To know a culture is to adopt some of their customs. Don’t look for the nearest MacDonald’s or Starbucks right away. Food is one of the major ways to experience the country you visit.
“Take your travel slow and easy..”
7. Avoid rushing about trying to cram in every landmark or sightseeing venue on the map. You might as well stay home and watch the travel channel then. Take it slow and really absorb. Less is definitely more in this case.
8. Try speaking a bit of the language. If in a foreign country, try a few words of the local language. It really opens doors and locals usually enjoy your attempts.
9. Snap photos and record videos but don’t see the whole trip through a lens. A lens is a narrow representation of what we are actually looking at. It is amazing how much we can learn from having a more peripheral vision.
“Awareness and integration of your surroundings makes the difference”
10. Become aware. Notice the smells, the sounds and the feel of the place you visit. If you kick in your senses into high gear, with conscious effort, the uniqueness of the place you are visiting is so much more apparent.
Perfect holiday destinations do not really exist. Bottom line – it doesn’t really matter if you packed all the right stuff, made the right arrangements, found the right hotel or even had a good flight. What really makes the difference and makes for a great trip, is your positive attitude.
Travel tips, no matter how useful, have no real effect unless you have the right attitude to go with them.