2018 has just started, and with a brand new year again comes the process of choosing new destinations and budgeting our upcoming trips. If you get to make a living out of travelling (or have a generous bank account), then this is just like any other part of year. But for us common mortals who need to negotiate our paid vacation days with our employers, the first couple of months of every new year can be a stressful time. As such, we want to give you some simple tips on how to plan a trip in order to guarantee you make the most of your free time and travel the world low-cost!
Besides, we made a promise that every year, during the months of January and February, we will be offering our travel planning services to those in need. We will help you choose a destination, design your budget, choose the best flights and hotel, define what to visit and when to visit and, overall, help you achieve an amazing experience without spending a lot of money! Hurry up!
Anyway, we are big fans of the “Do It Yourself” methodology, so there you have a 10-steps guide for how to plan a trip.
HOW TO PLAN A TRIP IN 10 STEPS
1. ESTABLISH A LIMIT
We believe every destination can be enjoyed in a low-cost approach…with that being said, some cities/countries are easier than others. While in Budapest or Warsaw you can have fairly good meals and sleep at nice hotels for a reasonable price, finding cheap decent restaurants or rooms becomes a tougher task when visiting the likes of London, Paris or any of the countries in Scandinavia. If you’re not sure about the cost of living of the cities you want to visit, we recommend using Numbeo or Price of Travel. Remember: you want to travel but you need to be aware of your financial health and your real possibilities. For that reason, before choosing where exactly you want to go, you need to set how much you want to/can spend.
2. PICK A DESTINATION
Now that you know how much you can spend, it’s time to choose your destination! This one is entirely up to you, as your choice will be based on your personal preferences. Just keep an eye on the length of your trip and the time of the year you are visiting, as you want to make sure the time you’ll spend there – as well as the weather – will allow you to see and visit everything you plan to.
3. BUDGET YOUR TRIP
Time for the toughest part. We are actually planning to write a full post on how to make a trip budget, but for now we advise you to focus on what are generally the three major focuses of expense when travelling: flight, accommodation and meals. You don’t need to waste a lot of time on the first two, as this step is meant for you to get a general idea of how much it will cost you to fly from city A to city B, and then sleep in the latter. However the same can’t be said about the meals! While the final cost of your flight and accommodation will be known when you book them, the meals are a variable cost, and these might ruin your budget if not properly researched. Besides taking a look at the websites we mentioned above, there are some general advises regarding your meal budget: try to google some restaurants; avoid eating near the main tourist attractions and pay attention to “hidden” service charges (Italy) or unmentioned taxes. Also, if you’re visiting a city with a reputation for expensive restaurants, consider having heavier breakfasts – especially if included in the room rate – to help you make it through the day. This way you can save money on lighter lunches (such as sandwiches or street food snacks) and then spend it on more generous dinners.
4. MAKE A LIST OF WHAT TO SEE
Creating a list of what you want to visit is fundamental. Do your research and make a list of at least 20 places you’d like to see in the city you’re visiting, and then create your own itinerary based on those places’ locations. It’s also a great exercise of money and time management, as you won’t be wasting any of the two in needless public transportation rides. This is pretty much what Walking Tour Companies do, so be smarter and create your own personal tour. As you’re doing this, remember to keep developing your first budget draft by searching for admission prices while taking a look at available price reductions such as special fees for students or free days.
5. RESEARCH LOCAL TRANSPORTATION
A good local transportation network can really make a difference on your experience. It is important for you to get to know the different transportation options available in the city you are visiting, as well as their reach and prices. This will also play an important role on your hotel choice, as room rates are usually higher when closer to the city centre. It is up to you to understand if it is better to choose a hotel further from the main tourist area and rely on public transportation, or on the other hand, pick an accommodation right in the centre of the city, and mainly walk. In order to make this choice, you need to estimate the cost and commodity of both options. Keep in mind that it is also of the utmost importance to check the connections between the local airport and the city you’re visiting, as you won’t want to get ripped off by a local cab driver, when there’s a train station that can lead you to El Dorado.
6. BOOK YOUR FLIGHT
After you’ve accessed pretty much all of your costs, it’s time to make it official! But before booking your flight, make sure you’ve known all of your options. If there are no direct flights between your place of residence and the destination you’re seeking, then try to look out for cities than can make the connection. You can usually find such information on Wikipedia, if you google an airport’s name. Then all you have to do is research direct flights between that city and yours. It may seem a bit complicated, but using a stopover is actually a great way to get to know one more city! Besides, avoid flying on Fridays and Sundays, as these are generally the most expensive days to fly.
7. BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION
Now that you’ve booked your flight there’s no turning back, so you better find a place to sleep! As we’ve already written above, consider the information you’ve gathered about the local public transportation system, and make a decision accordingly. The cost of living should also play a role on your hotel choice, as breakfast-included options are a great way of saving some money on meals on more expensive destinations. In order to book a room, we recommend Booking or AirBnB – they’re reliable, popular and you can find out a lot of information about the previous guest’s experiences on the reviews section.
8. CONSIDER A DAY-TRIP
If you think you have some extra time available, adding a day-trip can be a great way of enhancing your experience. There’s not really much to say here, all you have to do is google it and you’ll find out a lot of information and different options. When researching how to get to your day-trip destination, make sure to check out the national railways website of the country you’re travelling to, as well as bus companies that connect different cities within the region (such as FlixBus for Central Europe and Western Europe).
9. CHECK THE REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION
This is an obvious one! Never travel without your ID or your passport. Furthermore, you can generally check the need for visas and other special permits such as invitation letters through the official website of your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You can also find a lot of useful information on this subject through Project Visa.
10. LOOK OUT FOR USEFUL CONTACTS
We got to admit we had never really paid attention to this subject until we witnessed the Paris terrorist attacks, but only then we understood how important this is. We don’t mean to scare you, travelling is a wonderful thing and 9 out of 10 times things will turn out the way you had envisioned… but still you’re better safe than sorry! Make sure to always write down the local emergency number of the place you’re visiting, as well as the contact and address of your country’s embassy in that territory. It also doesn’t hurt to leave a copy of your ID with someone of your trust back at home. One never knows when it will come in handy!
And we guess that’s pretty much it! Make no mistake, this is heavy work and requires a lot of time to be done properly, but it’s a vital part of the process as it can make or break your experience. Consider our offer and we’ll teach you how to plan a trip!