It’s the final week of the Making the Most of Travel Series, and the one I am most excited about! This week, some amazing travel bloggers share their favourite travel planning hacks to help you make the most of your adventures! There are so many important things to do before your trip, and hopefully this guide will help you through it!
In case you missed out on some of the posts in the series, you can find them all below.
Week 3: Must-Use Trip Planning Resources
Travel Blogger’s Top Travel Planning Hacks
I think the best tip for people planning a trip, especially budget travelers, is to be flexible. Being flexible and patient when it comes to buying your plane ticket is key to getting the best deals for your wallet. Look into traveling during low seasons such as fall and spring or in the middle of the week like Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
When the time comes for you to go on your holiday, you should continue to have a flexible attitude. You should have an itinerary because you don’t want to waste time when you get to your destination but know that not everything will always go as planned sometimes. Being flexible will overall give you positive vibe and refrain you from being overly stressed. You are on vacation! Have fun!
– Justine from The Iridescent Wings
I have been a travel nurse for a year and I live and work in a new place every few months. The contracts are usually 13 weeks long. My favorite thing about moving to new locations and taking vacations is planning. Planning is half the fun, right?
If I am driving, I write out an itinerary for my road trip. We make it a point to stop every 2 hours, whether it is for a point of interest or a small town diner. I also love to make bucket lists for each new location. My bucket lists include tourist attractions, food, and local events/activities. For my next bucket list, I think I will even include pictures for myself. This will act as a visual motivator when I get stressed or anxious about my big move.
I also like to study up on the culture, fashion, food, and language of my destination. I am currently listening to an audio book to learn French and I have downloaded some French songs that I found on their Top 40 songs. Every life event deserves a soundtrack! I’m obsessed with keeping with the “theme” of a particular location or event and I tend to stimulate all of my senses to prepare myself for the experience.
– Kayla from Vagabond RN
Confession time: I’ve been planning trips professionally for years and continue to offer (free) help to those who need it! This means that I am probably a bit “too organized” when it comes to planning my own trips. I have certain steps I follow without fail:
- Decide on the destination
- Decide on the time frame (and IF we have any flexibility)
- Decide on the transportation (skyscanner.com for checking the flights; bahn.de for train in Europe)
- Check accommodation options (personal connections in the place we visit; or booking.com)
- Book flights/ferries (trains can usually be bought on the spot or a couple of weeks before)
- Book your accommodation
- Check if we can do any day trips/tours, etc
- Make a list of “must visit” places
- Make a list of what we should pack (considering carry on limitations)
- Pack, fly, enjoy, take notes and photos!
– Cristina from LooknWalk Greece
The first website that I go to when booking a flight is Kiwi.com. It includes all the features you would usually find on a flight aggregator with one additional feature; a “radius search“. This is great if you’re flexible with your start or end destinations and perfect for those in well-connected places like Europe who might be able to save hundreds just by jumping on a train first to a nearby city before a flight.
– Cristal from Tofu Traveler
One thing I do every time I plan a trip, no matter where I’m going, is look for food tours. Food call tell you a lot about a culture, and it’s intricately linked with the country’s or city’s history. Food tours are also lots of fun – I don’t think I’ve ever been on a bad one – and they’re a great way to see a little of the city while learning about the local cuisine. They’re also usually small groups, which makes for a more enjoyable experience.
I recommend taking a food tour as early as possible in your trip because they usually give you tips on where to eat during your stay, and some even provide a list of restaurants they recommend. To find food tours, I search on Viator and Get Your Guide, and I Google “food tours + [name of city]” to see what comes up.
– Ali from Ali’s Adventures
When I first started travelling, I would just pick a country and get a ticket for whenever I was next available. Now, it is amazing being spontaneous but it really pays off doing your homework before arriving in the city/country you are travelling to. Google search the locations and learn more about what there is to do and see. Make a list and write it down so when you arrive, you are able to start your trip off right.
What’s more, it doesn’t pay off to book your room in advance in some countries. In the US, rooms are much cheaper if you book them on the same day as you arrive. If you don’t travel in a high season or in super-touristy spot like the Grand Canyon, you should book your room in the morning, a few hours before arrival. This could even score you a 50% discount!
I visited United Arab Emirates in July, and the extreme heat and humidity made outdoor activities nearly impossible. Even photography was a challenge, as my lens got foggy within seconds of wiping!
My all time top tip would be to use Pinterest to plan your trip. It’s the perfect social network for travel planning, combining the envy inducing photos of Instagram with the practical advice of TripAdvisor, together with a friendly community of travel bloggers to connect with for further advice.
Whether you use it in the initial planning stages to get ideas and inspiration for your next destination or as a research tool to help work out what you should pack or where you should stay, Pinterest has everything you need to plan the perfect adventure.
My top Pinterest tips to help you plan are to create some boards on locations you want to visit, and don’t forget to follow boards that already exist. Many tourist boards and local experts have their own boards that feature tons of location specific advice and tips. From researching things to do, what meals you should try to practical advice on currency and basic language tips it’s the perfect travel planning tool.
– Sarah from Not Another Travel Blog
- Visa requirement: this may seem like a no-brainer for many travelers who are US or EU passport holders, but for US permanent residents who are not originally from “developed” countries, visa requirements can be a huge deterrent while choosing a vacation destination. So for those of us unarmed with a passport that opens up the world, it is always good to check the visa requirements with the consulate of the country you plan to visit.
- Lonely Planet: the lonely planet website has always been my savior every time I plan a trip simply because they have done it all and are pros! They have pretty good advice on off-kilter attractions and provide a very useful list of hotels and accommodations for all budgets!
- I often scour out recommendations on eater.com for the best restaurants in town (mainly local favorites) and stalk some famous fashion bloggers’ Instagram accounts where they get tons of recommendations from fans when they announce a city visit which is on my radar. I cannot tell you how many amazing places I have stumbled upon in this way, which I would otherwise have missed out on.
Once you’ve booked your hotels and airfares, you can kickback and start counting the days until your vacation, right? Not quite, as there’s still work to be done. For those of us traveling with North American passports, we often take for granted that we’ll be provided easy entry into other countries.
In many cases, that’s true, but not always. There are plenty of places that have special entry requirements, such as visas, vaccines, entry fees, and more. It’s not uncommon to see travelers denied entry into a country or onto a cruise ship because they aren’t properly prepared.
Part of your travel planning should include investigating any extra legwork you may need to do to get into your destination of choice, and be sure to leave plenty of time to get your paperwork in order. Information about entry requirements for different countries can be found on the US Passports and International Travel website, while details about required vaccinations is available on the Centers for Disease Control website. Keep in mind, it can take several weeks to get a visa processed, and sometimes the amount of effort and money required to get the visa can be prohibitive if you’re on a tight timeline or budget. The cost of vaccines can quickly add up, too.
It’s easy for even the most savvy traveler to forget to read the fine print. I’ve been to 50 countries, but for a recent cruise to South America I failed to do my due diligence before booking. It turned out I needed a very costly visa for Brazil that required a ton of information to acquire. Fortunately, I sorted it out with time to spare, but there were plenty of people who weren’t so lucky. Since we boarded the cruise in Argentina, we needed to show our Brazilian visas before getting on the ship, and many people never made it on board as a result of poor planning.
– Heather from the Wanderlust Wayfarer
Planning a trip can be stressful, as you are wondering how to find the best flight deals, whether you need travel insurance, and so on. No one needs those unnecessary headaches, as trips are meant for joy, fun, and adventures.
My best travel planning advice is to always take extra cash.
This is nothing you don’t already know or some trick, but still something you shouldn’t forget. How much extra cash to bring is a large part of planning your whole budget.
Having extra cash is important because you never know what might happen on a trip. When I was in Berlin for the ITB this March my flight back to Sofia, Bulgaria was canceled. If I didn’t have extra cash, it would have been a rather complicated ordeal. However, the extra cash I had ensured to bring with me saved the day!
– Bilyana from Owl Over The World
The best travel planning advice is to book the hotel as early as possible. You should do this through a website which offers free cancellation. This will allow you to definitely secure the best room for your budget. Should you decide to change your mind or find better deals closer to your trip, there is no rush or no pressure, because you already have a backup plan. I did this for my trip to Japan for the sakura season. I booked my hotels almost 8 months in advance. The result? Everything became crazy expensive and fully booked. I already had everything planned and paid a great price because I secured my booking so very early.
– Cory from You Could Travel
One of our favourite resources for travel planning is Skyscanner for flights, along with Google’s Matrix.
The reason for this is because travelling around Latin America, the airline industry is so underdeveloped, monopolies in each country, making it so expensive compared to North America, Europe and Asia. The budget airline industry simply hasn’t taken off over here yet at all. However, there are several hacks we’ve discovered to help ease the fall on the bank balance. We recently wanted to fly from Quito in Ecuador to Lima in Peru. It’s only a 2 hours one way flight, but it worked out cheaper to fly to Europe instead (that’s how bad the airline industry is out here). Using Google Matrix we discovered it’s cheaper if you book a multi city flight (for our onward travel after Peru) or even a return ticket back to Quito which we wouldn’t use.
We also keep an eye on SecretFlying.com for last minute deals that pop up on flights. Most of these are USA/Europe based, but if you’re flexible with time and location, you can get some pretty sweet deals on here!
– Stefan & Sebastien of Nomadic Boys
It’s usually yellow and white, maybe square and digital. Can you guess what it is? It’s the Google Maps app, and it’s one of the best travel planning tips that I live by. Once I discovered the extreme functionality and easy-planning system of Google Maps, I was completely hooked.
I now use Google Maps to plan my “destination” list for every trip that I do big or small, and I use it to navigate around a new city. Why do I love it so much?
- Google Maps allows you to go offline. This means when you have WiFi, download the local destination to your Google Maps (Tab > Offline areas > Download “custom” or “local” area) giving you access to streets and major locations when not connected to data or wifi. This was my lifesaver in Italy the summer of 2016.
- I can preplan my day by “favorite”, “want to go” or “starred places”, such as my museums, interesting coffee shops, hotels, train stations and other attractions. Business and museums are ranked very well on google, giving you great access to feedback about the location. This is how I found the perfect pizza joint in Florence, or my favorite coffee shop in Berlin. Tag your destinations with Google Maps.
- It’s highly recommendable. Like I briefly mentioned, businesses are ranked and reviewed on Google. This search engine is the biggest in the world, allowing you access to great information at your finger tips. Go download Google Maps for your next travel adventure.
– Megan from Hello Megan Marie
There you have some amazing travel planning hacks and tricks by some of my favourite travel bloggers. Do you have any more tips to add to the list? Leave them in a comment below!