It’s that time of year when everyone resolves to do something … be a better person, lose weight, get fit, eat right, organize the chaos, quit smoking, simplify, and on and on the lists go.
As TravelBloggers we figure there have to be at least a few of you out there (like us) who are itching to travel more. Maybe that’s your New Year’s resolution … if not … maybe it should be!
No matter what your Travel Resolutions are, whether it’s to travel more often, to more exotic destinations, or just to start travelling, period … you have to have a plan!
Planning is my sort of thing – Iain’s more of an “on a whim” kinda guy, but he definitely agrees with me that if you want to do something a little outside your comfort zone, your budget or your usual rut, plans, goals and times lines are necessary.
Sound daunting? Yup! It’s going to take effort … but it’ll be worth it! So – where do you start? At this point, Iain would say, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite a time!” Same applies here … you have to break it down into chunks … it’s all about planning and perseverance, and oh … did I mention planning?
Here are a few planning questions that should help get you on the way to your dream destination:
Where have you always wanted to go? What is that dream destination? Be specific and realistic … because let’s face it – you can’t see all of Europe in one trip! Now … write it down (and the answers to all the questions below)! This may sound corny, but they say people who actually write their goals down (and subsequently how they plan to reach them) are the ones who achieve them.
When – do you want to go?
When would you like to travel? Are your plans flexible? Do you have set vacation blocks you have to take? Maybe you’re travelling to a special event or for a special occasion. Look at the calendar and write your potential vacation dates down.
When – is it realistic to you want to go?
Maybe you want to go to Europe, but the World Cup of Soccer is on – airfare and accommodations are going to be outrageous! As you start formulating your plan it’s a good idea to find out about high and low seasons or special events taking place at your selected destination. Will you settle for low season to get a good deal … or is it absolutely necessary that you go during high season. Either way – educate yourself – either via the internet or by reaching out to a travel agent (they’re there to help and are a wealth of knowledge). TravelZoo has a couple of good articles about when to travel where – Take a Peek at Off-Peak and When You Should Travel.
What do you want to do when you reach your dream destination? Now comes the fun part … you need to start researching all of the things to do and sights to see! Are you a group tour kind of person or do you prefer exploring on your own? Either way, now is the time to start enjoying the anticipation of the vacation! Search the internet for “Top Sites,” “Landmarks,” “Things to See and Do” … at your destination. Read reviews on sites like Trip Advisor for advice on which attractions and excursions are worth the price of admission, and which you should give a pass. It might seem like over-kill or OCD to plan every last little move, but if you’re having to really make an effort to even take this vacation, you’re going to want to make it worth your while so you enjoy minute … even if that means you’re just chilling out on that well-kept secret of a deserted beach – you’ll only find out about those spots by putting in the research effort. Trust us … it’s well worth it! On a couple of occasions we did NOT plan our vacations to death, and we ended up coming home with a few regrets.
How Much – Do I have to spend?
Do you have a budget? Is it hard and fast or are you flexible? If you’re a budget-minded traveller, the “How Much” question is going to be one of the most important parts of planning. If the cost of a vacation is your major hurdle, take a hard look at your budget and spending habits and start NOW to put a set-amount aside each week to a vacation fund. For tips on how to save for vacations, see our article “Wish You Had More Money to Travel? 12 Tips to Help You Reach You Goal.”
How Much – Is it going to cost?
If you don’t want to have traveller’s remorse you have to be very realistic about this one. You don’t want to blow your budget and be paying for your vacation long after the luggage is unpacked. Start by getting prices on flights or travel costs (train, car rentals, fuel, etc.), attractions and excursions too. What about accommodations? Are you able to stay with friends or family at your destination? Maybe you should (or could consider) travelling with a companion, another couple or a family – sometimes you can score some pretty swanky rentals and live outside your normal price-range if you’re able to share the cost. That brings up another topic – what’s your holiday style? Are you a catered or self-catered kind of traveller? The answer to that question will help you find some cost saving measures as well, so check out our article on the subject … it’s really something to think about if you’re pinching pennies, because dining out and tipping the maid can get costly – What’s Your Holiday Style? Whatever you do, compile a realistic list of costs so you can determine if your goal can be achieved this year … or maybe next.
How should I book?
In this day and age of the internet there are lots of options for online booking, and it all seems so easy and worry-free … sadly that can be farthest from the truth. Trust us … we’ve heard a lot of horror stories out there about online booking – especially for transportation – that urged us to write an article on that too – Book Smart – Top 10 Travel Booking Tips.
HipMunk is fast becoming my favorite trip planning tool – why? – #1 it’s adorable! Beyond that though it has a trip planner built-in, allows you to easily search rates based on flexible travel dates, can show pricing trends and even offers planning reminders via email that allow you to check the latest rates at the click of a button – AWESOME!
In our minds, you know yourself best, so be your own travel agent … to a point … then enlist the help of the professionals. We always book our flights using FlightCentre – they will match the prices you find through aggregators (and have the ability to search options you might not have thought of or be able to find in online searches), they have options for insurance, and they give you the security of booking with an agent if anything goes wrong – win win!
So … that’s it! These pointers may seem basic, but if you make a plan and stick to it, you can achieve your travel goals! Maybe not this year, but maybe the year after. Whatever your New Year’s Travel Resolutions are, make sure you have fun with it – be realistic, plan and persevere … and you will reach your destination!
Copyright © 2016 Iain & Gail Shankland / TravelBloggers.ca (at) Gmail.com
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Iain Shankland & Gail Shankland started blogging in order to inspire and motivate people to travel the world from their perspective – specializing in having the most fun while using the least amount of money, travelling on the cheap without sacrificing comfort.
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