I have had many friends and family ask me how I go about planning an overseas holiday. It is very overwhelming knowing where to start and how to go about booking flights, accommodation, car rental, currency and activities. Going on a trip is a huge expense and you will want to get as much out of it as possible.
The first major cost to your holiday is the flights. This is the big expense of the holiday and being flexible with dates and airlines is the key to getting the best flights. There are always deals out thereto be had. Being a teacher I am restricted to school holidays only which means continually searching for deals and jumping on the tickets as soon as they come up. I use two different Apps – Skyscanner and Hooper. These Apps allow you to set up alerts for the dates and location you wish to travel to. Every time there is a drop in price I will get an alert or an email to let me know of the change. Be ready to book when the price drops. I have found that the airlines have specials and cheaper prices on the weekends. I also like many airlines on Facebook which will show the special fares on their Facebook feed. Read about how to survive the flight here.
PINTEREST and INSTAGRAM
Pinterest is the next place I look at once I have book the flights. If you aren’t on Pinterest you are missing out on a huge amount of tips, tricks, photos and travel ideas. I create a board for our next destination and start to Pin any places that appeal, things to do, unusual places and must dos for each location. Pinterest will also give me ideas on where to stay and which areas are the best location. Prepare to get lost in Pinterest as it is an amazing resource that is a wonderful time waster. You can follow me on Pinterest here and see all my travel pin boards.
I also have started to utilise Instagram for holiday inspiration and ideas. There is a search button on Instagram that lets you search a destination or other travellers photos. It has given me restaurant ideas, places to visit and a great local feel of a place before arriving. You can find me on Instagram here.
Pinterest gives me such a great ‘feel’ for the place we are visiting, I then feel ready to look for accommodation. I have previously written about how I look for places to stay here. Our next trip is booked in for my 40th in Hawaii and I have started looking at Airbnb and VRBO.com. I want a place with a view which is walking distance to restaurants and bars as we aren’t taking the kids this time! Paying for the accommodation months before we leave is a great feeling as it is another expensive dealt with before arriving.
PLANNING the ITINERARY
Ok, do you feel like you now have too much info and too much on your ‘must see and do’ list? Take a deep breath……
I write a list of everything I want to see in each city/area. I will have a list for food, attractions, entertainment ideas, museums. There is a mixture of kids activities, Billy’s choices and mine. I will try to include street addresses or train stops that will help us when we arrive.
Visitacity is a new App that I have used when we went to Tokyo. Read about it here. The App allows you to choose how many days you a visiting for and what type of attractions you are suited to. It will then develop an itinerary for you, even down to how to get to each location and the travelling time.
We love the ‘Old School’ way of planning and borrow books from the library. Lonely Planet is always our go to.
I will use the plan and list each day to make sure we know what we plan to achieve when we leave the accommodation for day. Many times the plan starts off well then we find something that sparks our interest or we get lost…..that’s all part of the fun.
I am not a huge fan of packing, mainly because I do the whole families. Last trip I forgot the boys’ underwear and no one had any socks! But we managed and shopped when we arrived. We have tried many different bags. Each of our children have a small bag with wheels,they are in charge of and it is used as carry-on for all of us. As a family we check-in 2-3 bags. We have found the 4-wheel bags with spinner wheels so much easier than 2 wheel suitcase. We have completed 2 long trips to the USA and always purchased bags over there to bring home our shopping and then sold them on our return. I am keen to try packing cubes on our next trip. I have read about them on many different blogs and they are on sale in Aldi this week. They will hopefully help keep the small things like underwear, socks and chargers/cords separate and not get lost in the large luggage bags. I am hoping to have 5 different colours, one for each of us.
TOP PACKING TIPS
- When packing I try to spread everyone’s clothes throughout each bag in the case one bag gets lost, then a whole travel wardrobe for that traveller will not be completely missing.
- When Tommy was little we bought a pram and all our car seats whilst in the USA as it was cheaper and also less to carry on the plane. We also left it in the USA and didn’t have to carry it home.
A MUST to purchase but which to buy??? I will search a few different companies and compare the essentials. I always want unlimited medical, especially for the USA. I also require from the travel insurance company that the excess on the car rental to be covered and the loss of luggage and missed flights. I have used 1Cover and Virgin Travel insurance in the past. I am yet to claim so I am unsure how they are in the event of a claim.
When we arrive in a country one of the first things that Billy has done is buy a SIM card for his phone. He has a Samsung and has never had any trouble just purchasing a pre-paid card for a select amount of time. On the other hand my iPhone hasn’t always just accepted the SIM card from another country. So on our last trip to the USA I organised a SIM in Australia through this company. It is an amazing service and if you follow all their steps your SIM card will be sent to you before you leave Oz and work the minute you touch down (or on the date you organise). I needed to top up as we extended our stay and this was easy to do. SIM cards in Japan can be read about here. Tip: USA SIM cards don’t work in Canada.
PASSPORTS AND VISAS
An easy oversight, but make sure your passport is valid and you don’t need any VISAS for the country you are visiting. Australians needs a VISA for USA, it is an online form through ETSA. There are many companies trying to scam you into spending more than the $14 per application so be careful. Canada is bringing in a VISA program starting soon. The government website Smart Traveller is a great source for information.
Planning the trip is so much part of the fun. What are you waiting for? Booking that flight is the first step and the rest will fall into place….