We tend to plan ahead months before venturing into our adventures. That can potentially have some problems such as unexpected obstacles that can present themselves just before the journey starts. However, careful planning can definitely save you lots of money, like acquiring cheaper air tickets and allocating a lower budget for accommodation if you book early. Below we ‘ll present a list of ideas that have proved to be useful for travel planning, over the years. Most of them don’t seem too elegant to the experienced traveler, yet, silly though they may seem, are essential to rookie globetrotters.
First things first. We ‘ll state the obvious mentioning that the net in general is the greatest tool ever. I was told by a friend that his father planned a trip in the USSR all the way from Greece in his old car, back in the seventy’s and he made an epic effort to organize his trip collecting info on various sites and routes he had to take. As the amount of accessible data at his disposal were extremely limited, he had to find expensive travel guides and books to organize his legendary-like journey. Fortunately the modern traveler can simply get comfortable, read this post (or others like this one) and be informed about everything his trip will require.
Budget. So, the first thing to do is determine how much money you will have at your disposal. If you don’t have much of a budget you will have to find cheaper destinations and limit transportation between places. Luckily there are many low cost airlines that have terrific offers, suitable to everyone. We tend to fly with Ryan Air, but we constantly search for the cheapest option available. In order to choose your destination it is essential to have back up plans meaning that you may wish to visit a place, but if you cannot afford the cost, you might consider other options. For instance, our trip in the Baltic last year was not our first option since we wanted to visit Ireland and catch a cheap flight to Iceland, where we would spent five days. Sadly, we estimated that we would need a total of about 1800 euros for a ten day trip, which would also be on an extremely tight schedule (always on the run to view sights). We would have to forfeit one of these islands, but we wanted to visit more countries and we decided that plan B (or plan Baltic), at an estimated cost of 1200 – 1300 euros for twelve days was a more appealing choice. This year, we are planning to visit Portugal, Spain and Morocco and so far we’ve pinned down Portugal and Spain. If we don’t make it to Morocco, we ‘ll settle for some places in Iberia apart from Lisbon and Barcelona, thus cutting down our estimated costs of moving between countries.
Flights. As mentioned earlier, there are many low cost airlines that will get you to your desired destination. If you are traveling by airplane, you should check the airports that are near the place you wish to visit. A specific city’s airport might not always be the only choice, for example, apart from Vienna’s airport, one can visit the city landing on Bratislava (a mere hour away), or even Budapest (a couple of hours from Vienna). Then, an easy way to check for flights to this airports, apart from fare finding sites that is, is to visit a page like wikipedia and check the specific airport’s entry. There you ‘ll most likely find an airlines and destinations part, which can give you a brief summary of who flies from where on that location. You can also visit the airport’s web page but some airports do not inform about airlines landing there.
Transport. After you have determined where you will land and from where you will depart, you ‘ll have to decide whether you are staying there or you are about to visit other sights near there. You ‘ll probably, rent a car or take a train/bus/ship or all of them. Googling for options to get from one place to another is a basic step. One can find information on train/bus schedules, costs of renting cars etc, thus figuring out how much of his/hers budget will be needed to reach the destinations. As mentioned earlier you might have to settle for less. But in this case less is more. While planning, I usually get berserk imagining like we are going to manage seeing half the world in a couple of days.
“Ok, if we go to Finland, we can hop onto Russia and China borders Russia and Japan is a stone throws away. We can definitely do it in four says”
Well, I never said that, but you get the idea. Luckily Catherine gets me to my senses and we plan accordingly. What we are trying to say is DO NOT waste time planning to see everything in a limited amount of time. It will simply not work. Always decide what seems best to you and visit. Furthermore, if you cannot afford (either due to insufficient funds or time) to visit many places within a country, opt for a shorter itinerary. That way you save money and – what matters most, time in order to have a better experience of the place you are visiting. And we kindly beg all of you. If you don’t get to see a must attraction it’s no big deal. It’s your travel, therefor your rules. Anyone wishing you to visit some place they like, can do it themselves.
Accommodation. That can play a big part on you enjoying your trip. There are many dirt cheap options like dorm beds at hostels, which are great if you only need a place to stay. There are also luxurious hotels that treat their guests like Kings and Queens and are addressed to more wealthy travelers. We tend to be somewhere in between leaning slightly towards the dirt cheap category. Be warned though. The quality of the establishment you are based on can make a difference on you enjoying the sights. A dirty and uncomfortable place can ruin your disposition, a hotel that is remote, excluded from public transport and way off the main sights will cost lots of time to get to them and it’s no fun walking for hours, or paying lots of money on taxis. On the other hand, needless to say, a hotel in close proximity to the main attractions and one that can offer a decent night’s sleep without having to suffer from street noise or find yourself joining the neighbors’ drunken party while asleep. Sites like booking.com or hostelbookers and airbnb.com are some good options to find something suitable to your liking.
Main sights. That’s really a first step, since usually it is wise to know what to expect from a place. Some basic knowledge of the place you want to visit is necessary. I mean there’s no point going to the desert expecting to view pyramids unless you are in Egypt. However, most people – us included – have no idea about what they will encounter at a country, so if you have an idea about what to see you can enrich it by googling points of interest of the place, or visiting websites like wikitravel and tripadvisor. Tons of valuable information on the place you wish to visit can come from blogs created by locals, or other travelers. For example, for our forthcoming trip to Portugal, we stumbled upon Salt of Portugal, who seem to be delivering their declaration to present all that is glorious about Portugal, Jules and Verne, who seem to provide valuable info on what to see in the country and while doing some research on our trip to Morocco, we found Magazu travelling, who happened to visit some of the places that feature in our plans while in the country. The list keeps going. Nowadays, there are many people willing to offer potential visitors information about their countries, or fellow travelers, who share their experience. The biggest problem is sorting out all of this massive amount of data but no sweat. If you find some webpage’s suggestion enjoyable, they probably suit you. No need to dig for information too much.
Fun places to go. Everything stated previously regarding the main sights, applies here as well. Most worthwhile cafes, restaurants, clubs, bars etc, tend to maintain a website, which one can check to see the place. Apart from that, sites like Tripadvisor feature comments on many such establishments and places popular by the locals’ standards might have a review on a local’s webpage. However, often one can find one or two reviews on the web that are fake ones, originating from shop owners and acting like ads. That is not much of a problem though. To sum up, we believe that the best thing to do is check the places on site. If you fancy a place it’s probably a great place no matter what travel guides recommend. Maybe you will discover a hidden gem of a place after all.
The language. So, you have sorted out everything and you are ready to go. If anything happens I ‘ll deal with it on the spot. Besides, everyone speaks some elementary English or French or… What do you mean that is not always the case? Well it is true that English is the Lingua Franca of the modern world and most likely, in most major European cities you will find English speakers. However, when traveling in the countryside or of the beaten path, it is likely that few people or even no one will speak anything rather than the local idiom (and not even that where I come from). Therefor some basic knowledge of the local language can be a necessity. Wikitravel features a short phrasebook and I found out last year that Duolingo is an option as well. If you select a course and spend five minutes a day to learn the first skills of a language, you will find yourself conscious of some basic phrases.
Well, that’s pretty much all there is to it. We haven’t included apps like tripit, since we do not make much use them, but you get the idea. We hope that this is a pretty thorough guide of essentials for any beginner and one that will help you enjoy your travels.