If you read this, you guess you're ready for vacation, but you do not want to pay a travel agent, you're not sure where to start and / or you're a DIY type of person willing to put something in elbow fat for more control over costs and tour structures. Travel planning can actually be one of the more fulfilling parts of taking a vacation, as the hope often builds excitement before your trip. Here are some excellent resources for travel agencies, activity guides, finding places to live and how to summarize it.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 28, 2017 and has been updated to include more tools, apps and a featured video.
Determine Budget / Time Limits
The natural first step in planning a trip is to find out where to go. Some people already have a destination in mind, others are more flexible depending on when they can take free work or how much money they are comfortable to spend. My personal rule of thumb is if you have paid free, a vacation for yourself should cost about the same as you do in a paycheck. This way you have the opportunity to splash on a weekend trip or a longer vacation on a budget.
But if you have family members to factor, a tool at BeFrugal.com can help you estimate whether it's better to fly or drive somewhere. This can cause costs such as gas and tolls or taxis to and from the airport to help weigh up and downs. Of course, the action to come to and from a location is not the only cost factor (think of hotels, activities, food and possible gifts to take home) so plan ahead.
Where to Find Flights
Flights work best when you're flexible, and one of the best ways to find them is to explore airliners on sites like Kayak or Skyscanner. My personal favorite is Google Flight & # 39; Discover Destinations Search. You can restrict search results from your home airport to the length of the trip, time of year and / or continent and see a map of how much it costs to get there. You can also enter destinations of interest, such as "beaches", "eco tourism" or "honeymoon" to get some popular recommendations. From there you can limit the results even more by setting a maximum limit or just selecting nonstop flights.
If you need even more ideas, sites like Booking.com's destinationfinder can also help you find where to go depending on your interests. Once you know where you go, you can use Kayak and Hopper tools to check if a flight price is a good value.
If you are extremely flexible on time and location but not so much on cash, your best bet is to follow airport pages and newsletters. There are countless sites like Airfarewatchdog or The Flight Deal, but one of the web's most raved-about services is Scotts cheap flights. You can sign up for a free newsletter or get a paid subscription for insider savages at cheaply priced prices. Sometimes you can even end up with something called wrong price – a ticket sold at an incorrect price due to a technical or human error – so if you find these rare tickets, make sure you have a confirmed ticket before booking accommodation.
It is important to remember that flight is not the only one to be considered in your overall budget. A flight to Thailand may be on the pricier end, but things equalize when you arrive because the living costs are lower there. (The opposite may be true about a trip to Iceland.) Then weigh these carefully before you connect to your destination. Do not forget to consider visa application requirements, depending on your country of citizenship.
Book your flights
Now that you decide where to arrive, it's time to book. If you followed the recommendations above, you should hopefully get a pretty decent deal on your flight.
There really is no right way to do this. You may want to book directly from an airline's website so you are guaranteed to choose places (provided that basic economic regulations do not apply) or if you want to use accumulated flights miles to pay. You may also want to book through aggregates like Orbitz and Expedia to earn points, or use points from your credit card to book. The general council book directly with the airline gives you more leverage when flight cancellations or other irregularities occur so that you do not need to contact a third party to rebook. But depending on your credit card, you can also have a good travel policy. Check with your local bank to determine your permissions before making the final decision about where to book.
Book your stay
Determining where you can live can be quite overwhelming, especially if it's the first time you travel there and you do not know anyone who can give you personal advice. Guides on websites like Airbnb and Foursquare make it helpful for travelers to learn more about different neighborhoods and businesses there. It is also helpful to browse the city forum on TripAdvisor to get a feel of what the locals / other travelers recommend. I recommend this for hotel travelers who prefer room service or housekeeping. If you'd rather stay somewhere with a more local flare, Airbnb or HomeAway may be better options for you.
When you know where you want to stay, be sure to specify the need for free in-room Wi-Fi or late check-in so you look for the right option. When booking on websites that are rented, please read the description carefully to determine if there is a cleaning fee or an additional personal fee associated with it. Some hosts charge varying amounts extra, which means that a room costs $ 89 / night without additional charges will be cheaper for three days than a room that is $ 59 / night plus a cleaning fee of $ 150.
If you have one Budget, websites like HostelBookers, HostelWorld or CouchSurfing are alternatives to finding somewhere to stay for cheap (or in some cases free of charge). Do not let the word "hostel" throw you away. Some places offer amenities like pools, games room and rooftop bars, making them almost indistinguishable from most hotels.
Things to do
I like to mix my resources when it comes to filling in the travel plan. Generally I start with TripAdvisor forums and published guides from the Lonely Planet, Fodors and New York Times travel section. For more off-the-beaten path ideas, Atlas Obscura can also offer local attractions and unique things to check out.
Other places you can inspire is to search YouTube for travel blogs or screening through an Instagram site tag of a particular city. If there is an activity you want to do (paragliding, brewery tours or nightclubs), make sure there is an active subreddit for a city you visit to investigate locals. You can also use it to look for upcoming events or even try to meet.
When traveling internationally, keep in mind that sites you may be used to when looking for restaurants and businesses in the US will not be widely used elsewhere. When I traveled to Japan, for example, Yelp was rarely used; The community has its own version called Table and Restaurant reviews and photos. In Croatia, it was easier to find places to eat on Google Maps or even Facebook.
The Apps Thumbnail rule is that you want to maximize the ability to use these apps offline, if you are in a remote, unsecured area or do not want to splurge on an international SIM card / roaming plan. Before you go there are some practical apps to keep in a travel folder.
When you go to a foreign country, Google Translate is a must. Ideally, you should download the language you want in advance so that you can use it offline. The same goes for Google Maps. You can select an area you want to save and navigate without internet connection.
While you can choose to buy a local SIM card, provided you have an unlocked phone, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber have made it easy to make international calls for free. Just remember to add your contacts before leaving and hoping that the hotel's Wi-Fi is strong enough to support a quick chat.
When you're ready to collect everything, apps like Google Trips can collect all your travel information in one place, including train tickets, maps, and booking confirmation numbers.
Many cities around the world offer local routes or tax-absorbing apps so it's worth checking out if you're willing to splurge and download in advance. Having this linked to your credit card will eliminate the need to have money at hand when you leave the airport. However, if you want some money, you are more likely to get better rates for pre-exchanges at your local bank than at airports.
Major credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express offer apps that can help you find local ATMs, prepare a mobile wallet, or convert currencies. Just be sure to notify your banks if you plan to use the cards abroad so that you are not unexpectedly locked.
In my opinion, these apps are the absolute minimum you should have before you take off, but for specific interests like food BonAppetour has a good list for a variety of needs.
Set your OOO!
Personally, this is one of the most satisfying things to go away. Turn off online availability and just enjoy yourself. You deserve it!
When you're home, check back with Google Timeline to relive the trip again.