If you’re looking for destination-specific details, you can find loads of it within each blog post. But there’s a lot more to travel than the destination. Here, we’re highlighting some of our favorite resources and travel gear options. We’re also delving into our own travel planning process in hopes that it might help you plot your next perfect adventure.
THE PLANNING PROCESS
The difference between an amazing vacation and one that just doesn’t hit the mark? Research. Lots of it, most of the time. I promise you that I’ve seen so many fun-loving vacationers who book flights for a stunning destination, only to end up resenting the property or area they’ve chosen to stay in, or not have access to meals or activities that required advance reservations, or simply haven’t flipped through a guidebook that shares secrets you wouldn’t find elsewhere. If you’re looking to make the most of your travels, you’re going to have to invest some time and energy up front. We assure you, it will be 100% worthwhile. (Plus, you’re on this site already … you’re headed in the right direction!)
- What’s the purpose? Ask yourself/yourselves these questions to help determine what you’re looking for out of this time away:
- Am I looking for relaxation and commitment-free days of leisure? Or, am I looking for activity and new experiences that will recharge me?
- What sort of atmosphere will achieve the type of getaway I’m looking for? A tent or yurt in a remote location? Beach bar service at a posh resort? A budget hotel in a foreign city? An Airbnb a few hours drive from home?
- Does my travel partner (if relevant) want and need the same sort of travel experience that I do? If not, how can we compromise so that we’re each gaining something from this trip?
- How long am I willing to travel to get to the destination and how many layovers can I stand? (Always assume that you won’t be able to sleep through a full flight, just to create some buffer space for yourself if needed.) And will I need an additional day off once home to recalibrate?
- How much am I willing to spend and at what point will money become a stressor, and lessen the joy of traveling?
- Can we make it work? Once you’ve nailed down the basics of your desired travel (let’s say a remote location that blends some adventure and some luxury, for instance), consider the following:
- Which airlines service this destination and on what days are arrivals and departures available?
- In what area of this place or region do we want to stay? Near touristy attractions and restaurants, or farther from the crowds? If it’s an island, read up on the microclimates that could mean drastically more or less rain in areas only miles apart.
- What lodging is present and does it have availability for our travel dates?
- Are there any packages available that would make sense to consider booking? Either group travel packages, or combined air-hotel-car packages, or even discounted travel site bookings, which often require purchase farther in advance.
- Book it! Quickly! As soon as you’re confident in your destination, airfare and lodging, book those babies up. Far too often, we’ve waited one day – or one hour – too long and have missed a great deal or preferred travel itinerary.
- Read ALL the things. Now that your destination, dates and home-away-from-home have been selected, get to researching the nitty gritty details that will make your travel everything you’re hoping for.
- Consider whether you’ll want to make any dining reservations (a special brunch, for instance, or a celebratory dinner). Check out travel websites that offer restaurant and cafe recommendations; note which ones seem to be worthy of a visit.
- Determine if you have interest in any type of activity or excursion (spa, anyone?). The best ones, and those with limited spots, often book far in advance, especially over holidays when many folks are traveling. Read reviews and check refund options.
- TIP: I like to Google something like “Bermuda + travel blog + female” to find a first-person account of a destination from someone my age and gender. Better yet if the blog post is from the past year, which means most recommendations and tips are still relevant.
- Prep and confirm details. A week out from your trip, gather up all of your travel details including flight itineraries, hotel addresses and reservation confirmations, receipts for any planned or pre-paid activity and maps or recommendations that you’ve printed off online.
- Now is a great time to call your hotel and make any requests you’d like, perhaps for early check-in, a higher floor, extra pillows, etc.
- Check to ensure that your camera and memory card are in good order.
- Buy and set aside shelf-stable travel snacks, if needed. (Jerky, granola bars, candy, hand wipes, etc.)
- Pull out any seasonal clothing that you’ll need, if it’s packed away. On that note, ensure that you’ve got appropriate clothing and gear for your destination (gloves and rain-proof hiking wear for colder climates, sunscreen and sunglasses for beach locales).
This is almost always where we start our travel brainstorm. Enter your departure city and travel dates and manipulate the map to see flight options and prices. (Note, you can also use Google Flight “insights” to map out the cheapest days to complete your travel and also to graph forecasted flight pricing, in case your flight typically goes on sale between now and your travel dates.)
This has been an often-cited source for us, as we’re avoiding destinations where Zika outbreaks have occurred.
This site offers a curated collection of global lodging options and special deals, if you choose to become a member. Either way, it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for unique, higher-end properties. Another great option: MrandMrsSmith.com, which even recommends which room number to book in some cases (we’ve done it!).
This is a no-brainer, but I almost always check hotel reviews and traveler photos before booking lodging. Sometimes, hotels websites can be deceiving.