While we’re in the midst of a big travel adventure in the Bahamas, Florida, and Belize, we thought we’d tackle the topic of travel planning. It seems fitting, considering that we often find ourselves spending a little time during each of our trips thinking about — and sometimes starting to plan — our next trip!
Building a Budget
Let’s face it — travel can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to break the bank! We’re all about budget travel, but before we hit the road, we’re all about budgeting for travel. Check out our post on the frugal living website GoGingham.com for tips to make travel affordable.
Deciding on a Destination
Consider letting your destination take a back seat to the purpose of your trip. Looking to add a travel destination to your list? In need of an adrenaline-filled adventure? Or do you need some down time? Let the purpose of your trip shape your itinerary. An all-inclusive resort might hit the spot if you need some R&R, but probably wouldn’t suffice if you’re looking to explore the outdoors.
When to purchase airfare is an age-old, sometimes seemingly unanswerable question. While the experts differ about the exact timing to purchase tickets, and the data continues to pour in, we’re firm believers that it’s never too early to get a feel for airfares as soon as you’ve chosen your travel destination. Tickets become available about 11 months in advance, and here’s our detailed advice about securing a good airfare deal on one of the biggest expenses for your trip.
If you’re a frequent flyer mile collector (and you should be!), here’s what we’ve learned about the best way to use those miles to book free travel.
Locking in Lodging
Once you’ve chosen a destination and purchased airline tickets, it’s time to book your lodging. Whether you’ll be camping, hotel hopping, or relaxing at a resort, the number of lodging choices can be overwhelming. Narrowing down your choices and getting a feel for prices is the first step to finding your accommodations. We have a step-by-step plan for booking lodging that hits the sweet spot of both meeting our needs and being a good value.
Renting Your Ride
Now that you’ve figured out where you’re headed, how you’re getting there, and where you’ll be laying your head at night, it’s time decide whether or not you’ll need a rental car. If you’ll need one, it’s best to comparison shop. Most rental car companies allow free bookings without cancellation fees, so it’s fine to book one and then continue to seek a better deal. Doing this routinely saves us up to $100 or more per booking and is well worth a few minutes of research.
Being away from home involves more than preparing an itinerary and packing — there’s also often a lot to do around the house, especially if you have pets. Check out our pre-travel checklist that can not only prevent a few headaches, it can actually save some money!
Get an Expert’s Experience
Especially if you’re visiting a destination for the first time (but even if you’re returning to a favorite spot), pick up a travel guidebook or two. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to filling in your itinerary or choosing sightseeing stops. (Many guidebooks can help with off-the-beaten-path lodging options, too!) Consider them a down payment on your trip, one that will pay dividends!
Pack Light, Pack Light, Pack Light!
Now that your next travel adventure is right around the corner, and your travel details have been nailed down, it’s time to pack, and it’s never too soon! (We finished packing for our most recent trip two weeks before our departure date so that we wouldn’t be stressed out the day or two before we left!) We’re firm believers in packing light (you can always buy extra deodorant once you get there) and have some handy packing tips to share (both borrowed and learned the hard way).
Now that you’re packed, all you need is a ride to the airport (we have some friends who are also avid travelers that we call on for rides, and then return the favor), your sunglasses (but they were on your packing list already, right?!?), and some spending money!
How do you plan your travel adventures? Let us know in the comments and enjoy your week or your weekend, wherever your travel plans take you!