There are two things one must do to live life - travel and read. I do both these in abundance. Being married to someone who is addicted to traveling, it has become an integral part of our lives. Traveling, for me, is an exercise which starts much before we head out to the airport. It starts when we pick a destination. Here’s how I plan a vacation -
Pick a Destination - The first step is the most crucial. I read extensively about the place we’ve picked. Sometimes, I call off a vacation at this stage as it has same things we’ve explored earlier or doesn’t have enough attractions to justify a trip. I did so two months back when I crossed off San Diego from our California road trip. There are two things I do to get a rough idea -
- Google top 10 attraction of the place
- Then, I Google ‘2 or 3 Day Trip’ to that place. Like - 3 day trip to Sydney
I don’t merely read the bullet points. I read reviews, forums and see travel pictures submitted by the users on travel websites. I read the map of the city too. If I visit a city, I know it’s map at the back of my hand. This step helps me in calculating the number of days required to cover the city and also in making the itinerary.
Calculate the Cost - A trip has to pass the cost stage. There are many costs that should be kept in mind apart from travel, hotel, and food. One must take into account - travel from airport to hotel and back, travel cost within the city, attraction fees, car rental, shopping and also keep a margin of 15% for impromptu expenses. I canceled Alaska Trip as it failed to pass the cost test. It was way too costly for our budget. I calculate all the expenses to arrive at a final decision.
Extensive Research on Attractions - At this stage, the actual planning begins. I read blogs and make a list of places to cover in a city. Here are a few things I try to find out -
- Time required to cover an attraction
- What’s the best time to see an attraction
- Best places to take pictures of the city. Very very important for my husband.
- Free attractions
- Best means of transport - Sometimes public transport is faster and cheaper. Also, if we are driving a car, I check for parking, which is a big concern in all cities.
- Places to eat, it’s important as we are vegetarian.
- Last, but not the least, I check for hotels. We prefer to live in the city to get the feel of it.
At this stage, I make notes which help me making the itinerary.
Bookings - I check and compare different airlines to get the best deal. I do the same for hotels. And, we book. I also check for online deals on Groupon. After comparing and reading the reviews, we book the flight, hotels and buy online entry tickets.
Itinerary - I take into account - weather, the length of the day (it’s important as in winter, days are short), best places to take sunset or sunrise shots, entry fees - to make a day-wise itinerary. I use all the information I’ve gathered to make a complete itinerary. Generally, there are three parts in a single itinerary - hotel details, attraction details and places to eat. Here’s a sample for you -
A trip doesn’t end once I come back. I am so thorough that I make an account of our spendings. I know the cost of each vacation to the penny. The best part is - as much as I enjoy traveling, I enjoy planning for it too. In fact, it’s my stress buster.
P. S. - As I have talked about my Australia trip, here’s a picture of yours truly enjoying Melbourne city.