When we travel, we never work with tour operators or travel agencies. Apparently people are afraid to do their own planning/booking or just don’t know how.
We’re convinced everyone can! With some proper advice and some do’s and dont’s… In this little guide we’ll try to explain how we do our travel planning.
The beauty of it:
– Save (up to 30-40%) money
– Really get to know your destination
– Broader choice of transport, route, hotels, …
– Get a holiday feeling just by planning!
– A bit time consuming
– Problem? You’re on your own… (but that isn’t any different than @ home, right?)
So this is how we do it:
- When? => Where
- Plan route
- Book hotels
- Book activities
- Pack your bags
When / where:
One doesn’t go without the other. If you have a fixed holiday period, you can’t just pick an area. If you’re unlucky you’ll end up visiting Thailand in Monsoon season. The other way around: you want to go hiking in Death Valley? Don’t go there mid-August…
Many sites provide this info, my favourite: TheBestTimeToVisit.
Right now: Choose a period, no specific dates yet!
This paragraph is specifically for booking plane tickets.
So, your trip involves flying? It’s time to book your tickets. There’s tons of sites providing ticketing services, just pick one. In my experience there’s no big difference in pricing. My favourite: Kayak, they give an easy overview of different dates. A lot of work can be put in looking for the best rates, depending on many parameters. Roundtrip tickets mostly are cheaper than one-ways, while changing the date can decimate numbers. Remember you couldn’t pick specific dates yet? now is the time! We always plan our holiday according to plane ticket prices! The more work you put into this, the cheaper tickets you will get!!!
Route & info:
So we have a timing, a location and a way to get there. It’s time to start the real work.
Big decision: Are you going to plan ahead on your route?!? If you don’t, just go to the end of this post, as this info is useless for you. This will probably also depend on your destination. Finding hotels on-the-go in Italy will be easier in off than in high season, or in Bali vs Namibia. Forums and blogs do have accurate and up-to-date info on the subject. Info travel agencies don’t provide…
The method is simple:
– Make a list of all the places you want to visit.
– Open mymaps.google.com and plot every location on the map.
– Compare distances (in time!!!) and available time
– You have a route!
Now 1 thing to watch is not to overplan your route. It’s always better to drop 1 highlight if you fear you’ll have too little time in the next. You don’t want to spend most of your time watching the inside of a rental camper…
For route and hotel planning I use an Excel file which can be found here: Planning-Hotels-Route.
We recommend to build anchors into your planning. This are fixed points that, even if you don’t plan ahead, give certainty in some situations.
Example: Advance booking a hotel, when arriving by plane at 11PM local time is always a good idea. The night before taking a plane at noon: same thing. Visiting a busy city in high season? You get it…
Keep an eye out for free cancellation deals!!! Being able to cancel a hotel 24 hours in advance greatly adds flexibility to your plans.
Booking sites are numerous, but keep in mind you do get some advantages from booking on the same site. For example booking.com makes you genius, giving 10% discounts and other advantages. Expedia gives points for every booking, … It’s a matter of looking around which site suits you best…
… and then check all other sites too. Again: The more work you put into this, the more you’ll save.
Planning on visiting popular destinations? Book ahead! There’s nothing more frustrating than having to see the highlight of your visit only from a distance! 9/10 You’ll also get an early / online booking discount and broader choice.
Pack your bags!
Go reap the rewards of your efforts. Don’t worry if anything goes wrong during your trip. You’ll manage! If you can do this at home, you can do it anywhere!!! There’s a solution for every problem and if you’re lucky it’s even better than the original…
Lazy? or not up to the task? Just visit a tour operator’s website and copy a tour they offer. Worst case scenario: you get to see the same thing for 2/3 the price!