One month to go. With my 6-week Europe trip only being four weeks away tomorrow (yay!), it is time to dive into some travel planning tips.
Saving time and money is the goal. We all know that planning a trip can easily take a long time. Browsing the web, reading articles and guides, trying to find the best suitable and cheapest deal. It can also get very expensive very quickly. Often, it then starts feeling more like a burden rather than something enjoyable. But it doesn’t have to come to that.
When speaking about travel planning, I want to stress something important: It is not necessary to plan every tiny detail of your day. After all, travelling is supposed to be about having freedom and going with the flow. But a rough guideline, especially regarding when you want to be where and how you will get there is in my opinion advisable. It allows you to remove stress while you are travelling. Therefore, you can focus on the most important task: Fully be in the moment.
Timeframe and Destination
Firstly, you will need to decide when you want to take your trip and where you want to go. Use websites, social media, conversations with friends, books, magazines and blog entries as an inspiration. Questions to keep in mind are: Are you going to one place or will you have more than one destination? Are they close enough together to make your trip worthwhile? Have you chosen a good time of year for your chosen location? Do flight and accommodation prices generally align with your budget?
Once you have decided where you would like to travel and when, book your main flights and create a calendar overview showing every day of your trip. On your plan, fill in when you are where and on which days you are travelling from A to B using arrows, e.g. London Heathrow 8:45 am –> Stuttgart Airport 11:20 pm. Design your overview on a separate piece of paper (not in your main diary) so you can see everything at once. Further down the track, you can also add main activities of the day to your overview.
To Do List & Budget Planner
With your overview close at hand, you are now ready to move on to creating your second important document: your to do list and budget planner in one.
Go through your overview step by step, determining which additional bookings or arrangements you will need to make. The start of the list could look as follows:
- Accommodation in London
Cost: $ 70 per night x 5 nights = $ 350
Details/Dates: citizenM Tower of London, 4 Apr – 9 Apr 2019, check in: 2pm, check out: 10 am
Booked: YES . Paid for: NO
2. Harry Potter World Tickets
Cost: £43 x 2 = £86
Details/Date: Sun 7 April, 3:30 pm
Booked: YES . Paid for: YES
3. Transport from London to Stuttgart
Cost: $173.30 for both
Details/Date: Eurowings 2466, Mon 8 Apr, 8:45 am –> 11:20 am
Booked: YES . Paid for: YES
Listing everything this way helps to have a quick overview what needs to be booked and paid for and how much it will cost. It also allows you to see what still needs to be paid. You can write your list on paper or create it on your laptop. Either way, it is quite an easy solution to keep all the information needed together. I personally would want to make sure that the first few nights of accommodation in each new location are pre-booked. Whether this means staying at a hotel, airbnb or organising house sitting is up to you of course.
When to Pay
Nowadays there are multiple options to pay for your trip including paying for accommodation when you get there or even financing. For me personally it worked best to book the main flights around 6 months in advance. Then, every 1-2 weeks tackle one booking from the to do list. That way it is not needed to use all your savings at once and you can use every paycheck to tick something else off the list. In the best case scenario you will then only have day-to-day costs while on your trip.
In any case, make sure you mark all the payments that are still outstanding to avoid bad surprises and stay on top of your travel budget.
When it comes to the booking platform, I believe it saves time (and in some cases money) to choose one for all your flights and accommodation. Having all the itineraries in one place allows for easy access to your travel information. Additionally, quite a few platforms (e.g. Expedia) now offer programs where you can collect member points which can be turned into discounts in return.
In conclusion, I believe that it can save you time and money if you organise your travel planning and payments with the help of detailed lists that work for you . The goal is to have everything in one place: calendar overview, bookings, budget, list of things you would like to see or do.
Once this is done, you can start with some more detailed planning concerning sightseeing etc. Travel guides (e.g. from Lonely Planet) seem outdated for many people, but I thoroughly enjoy using them for ideas while at the chosen location.
This is only a very rough guide to start with and I will go into more detail with some of this planning in the blog posts to come 🙂
I would love to know about your travel planning and travel budget tips. Do you work with lists as well?
Lots of love and happy planning,