When traveling and self planning a trip it can be overwhelming and stressful. Especially a big international adventure. If you forget things, or neglect to do something it could spell catastrophe for your trip. Or at least great inconvenience. Here are 10 steps that help me plan my trips for maximum enjoyment and minimum stress.
Step 1: Buy tickets early- or super last minute.
The key to cheap tickets is pretty simple, buy early on, or buy last minute. If you have the luxury of buying last minute you can get reject airfare and super low prices. Airlines that don’t sell out tickets will sell them at discounted rates. BUT, in the real world most people have to plan in advance, ask for time off work etc. If you plan to take a trip in June and it’s March, buy your tickets in March. In many cases Early bird gets the worm. This isn’t a trick to get hacker fares, or uber cheap tickets, its just a trick to lock in your expenses a head of time and break up your costs over a long period of time to. I bought my tickets to Europe for about $520 each round trip, including travel insurance, yeah you can get cheaper fare, though not much. At the end of the day if I bought my tickets in November and my trip is next week I am done with the most financially strenuous aspect of my trip.
Step 2: Book your stay- at least 6 weeks in advance.
I prefer to stay with Airbnb hosts. They book up fast! There is nothing worse than waiting until the last minute to book your hotel/ room, then finding out that its a random foreign national holiday! This happened to Matthew and I on a trip to Scotland a few years ago and we ended up paying $300 a night for a room… ’twas a nightmare.
Step 3: Research Local Travel Apps for your location- 4 weeks in advance.
This is an essential piece that many travelers forget and it can really enhance your travel experience. I hate being spotted as an obvious tourist with a big clunky map of the railway system or city for any other purpose than a souvenir. It also makes you a target for pickpocketers and nerdowells. Most cities, have apps specific to their public transit system or maps geared towards local travel made by developers and companies that are located where you’re going. You wouldn’t necessarily know of these apps without researching them because they won’t be listed on trip advisor or other popular travel sites. I like to ask my Airbnb Hosts if they have recommendations or friends I may have in the area. Then prior to my trip I play around with them to test them for ease of use. I usually pick the 5 most appealing apps and widdle it down to 1-2 to use on the trip. I am a big fan of City Mapper, and of course the ever handy Google Maps.
Step 4: Buy the gear- 3 weeks in advance.
Get your gear! I order most of my stuff on Amazon prime. But sometimes things take longer to arrive, if you need any specialty gear it may take longer. Order ahead of time that way if you dont get your gear in time you can come up with an alternate solution.
Step 5: Confirm your bookings- 2 weeks in advance.
This is of particular importance if you’re booking through Airbnb or owner managed property. Reality is when you aren’t working with professionals there are few guarantees. I have a friend who had planned a multi week trip to New Oreleans for Mardi Gras. She had gotten an apartment near the action for a song. Under $100 a night and was ecstatic. She booked months in advance but a week prior to their departure she received a notice from her Airbnb host that they needed to cancel. She went back on the site and the host had re-opened the week she was there for more than double what she had paid. She could no longer afford the room and had to scramble making for a stressful start to what was supposed to be an awesome vacation.
Step 6: Begin setting aside your bits- 1 week in advance.
I am on a bit of an English kick if you cant tell. #bits The week before you leave is when you should start planning what you pack. There are those in my family who shan’t be named *cough cough Mom cough* who like to do alllll of their packing for a trip roughly an hour before they leave. This is stressful and usually results in forgotten items. So what I like to do the week before is begin washing things and whatever I THINK I might want to bring I throw in the suitcase which I leave generally in the middle of the living room next to the laundry room for easy access. This helps you see what you do and dont need and prevents you from forgetting things as well as over packing.
Step 7: Print EVERYTHING out in Duplicate!!! -2-3 days in advance.
I know this seems silly. I mean why in an age of smart phones and advanced technology would you print out all your crap for your trip? Isn’t that why I have said smart phone? Yes smart phones are awesome. I rely heavily on my Google Fi Network and Nexus 5X for traveling but reality is there is a possibility that you may loose that phone. Pickpockets and general forgetfulness have taught me… always have copies of important documents. Print triplet of EVERYTHING! From your hotel confirmations to your airline tickets and most importantly your passport and State ID’s. Bring 3 copies. Keep the origonal plus one copy on your person and then place one copy in each of your bags. If something happens to your originals or god forbid you loose a bag etc you have a copy of your essential information.
Step 8: Check in for your flights – 24-18 hours in advance.
This is self explainetary, don’t be a dumb dumb.
Step 9: Tell your bank you’re traveling.
Again… don’t be a dumb dumb.
Step 10: Check Traffic: 4-5 hours in advance.
I have another family member who shall remain nameless. This family member is forever late for almost everything in life except work. She has missed flights before because she always underestimates traffic in a city who’s name rhymes with Foss Mangeles. Check google maps before you go and make sure you a lot enough time to get to the airport at least 3 hours in advance for international flights. There are extra steps to go through and you dont want to miss this trip! It costs too much and you’ve done so much work and planning!
I do not always follow these guide lines. Sometimes I forget or I dont have time because that’s life. If nothing else confirming your bookings and printing your documents out ahead of time are the best things to do before an international adventure. In all likelihood you can buy clothes and toiletries where you’re going but it’s VERY difficult to overcome a situation where your documents are stolen or lost without backups. That being said I am ALWAYS looking for travel tips and tricks! If any of you are savvy travelers drop those below! I’d love to hear about how you plan for your trips and absorb any wisdom you can share!
As always, happy Schlepping!