I am a bit of an obsessive planner. I love organizing and making lists. When it comes to traveling, planning for the trip is almost as much fun as the trip itself for me. Luckily, my boyfriend hates planning but is usually down with whatever I want to do. A match made in heaven?
After traveling constantly for 4 years, I have mastered the art of travel planning. But I’m always on the lookout for new hacks and tricks. Today, I share the ultimate guide to planning the best trip ever! From finding the best flight deals to maximizing comfort and safety when you take off, the guide is broken down into different sections. I hope you find something helpful for your next adventure!
Read to the end for a FREE TRAVEL PLANNER PRINTABLE!
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Free Travel Planner printable
Go where the deals are
The biggest rule to getting the best flight rates is being FLEXIBLE. That means being open to when and where to travel. Skyscanner is my favorite search engine for scouting for cheap flights. They have “Everywhere” as an option for “destination” which will show you a list of cheap flights to anywhere in the world from your departure point. As well, they have a “Cheapest month” option for travel time. Everything is displayed in handy charts for comparison. It’s a really fun tool to play with and for inspiring new travel goals. You can also set up price alerts for the travel dates you want for a certain destination and get emails when the price changes. So handy!
Follow Facebook groups and pages for deals
Do a search on Facebook and you might just find groups/pages that curate flight deals for your city or area. I follow the Toronto Flight Deals & Travel Specials page and there are constantly amazing deals being posted. Like just yesterday: “Toronto to Angeles City, Philippines – $395 CAD roundtrip including taxes” WHAT? The bigger problem is wanting to get on every one of these deals. They are just too good.
Research the local weather before you go
Having said the above point of being flexible with travel timing to score deals, It’s important to check the weather pattern of the destination for your travel dates. It’s easy to forget this when you are over the moon about having found a cheap flight. Sometimes, flights are cheap because it’s during a yucky season. I learned this lesson first hand when I booked a trip to Taiwan in August only to be caught during typhoon season. Boo! Never assume, always research!
Join frequent flyer programs
I’ve been lazy for a long time in learning how to earn miles with frequent flyer programs. Which is sad because I probably would have gotten so many perks by now with traveling so often. But in truth, it’s not all that complicated. Look up the airlines you fly with most often and I bet they have a frequent flyer programs. Start gathering those points every time you fly! I have membership with SkyTeam and Aeroplan which cover most of the airlines I travel with.
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Use Airbnb like a boss
Ever since I discovered it, I have preferred staying in AirBnBs over hotels. I love that you can find all sorts of unique accommodations for way cheaper. You can find apartments with full kitchen, laundry and baths for great prices. Not to mention, having a private local host is a great chance to get recommendations and make a new friend.
Here is an adorable AirBnB I stayed in recently in Chengdu, Sichuan.
Related Read: 10 Things to do In Chengdu, Sichuan
Print copies of your important documents
This is super important in the event that something bad happens on the road like losing your bag. Print out your passport, travel itinerary and other identification documents. Put a copy in each of your bags.
Stash cash in different places
Cash is still king no matter where you go in the world! Save some emergency cash in secret spots like toiletry bag, shoes, inner jacket pockets. You never know what could happen where you might need it. Just don’t forget about where you put the cash though!
Have different ways to access your money
Although cash is useful, make sure you have at least one backup. When we were traveling in Indonesia, a lot of unexpected things happened so Alan and I ran out cash. It was really stressful but luckily, he had a travel money card with some money that saved our behinds. Consider credit, debit or travel money cards. If you do plan on using credit cards though, notice your bank of your travel plans so they don’t freeze your account of suspicious activities over sea.
Do some research about scams
Depending on where you are going, for certain countries, you might want to do a quick search of common local tourist scams. I did this before our trip to Cambodia and learned that the tuk tuk drivers like to tell people a certain site is closed to trick them into going somewhere far. Sure enough, we were told this after we arrived! It’s good to look into things such as the average taxi fare from the airport to the city so you know what to expected and have to be guided blindly.
Protect yourself with travel insurance
It’s sooo important to have travel insurance in case of the unexpected. My favorite program is the World Nomad’s Travel Insurance. I love this program for its flexibility and simplicity. The coverage is very comprehensive and process to making claims is very easy and smooth! The fact that they have 24/7 emergency assistance really gives you a peace of mind.
Get a quick quote here
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Comfort and convenience
Unlock phone for local SIM card
If you plan on getting a local SIM card, it will definitely make your life easier in a foreign city. We’ve all been through the disoriented feeling. Just make sure your phone is unlocked before you go!
Download Google Map and Google Translate for offline use
If you plan on going budget and not getting a SIM, you have to know these lifesavers. In Google Maps, go to the area you will be wandering and type in “ok map” and you will be able to download the map of the area for offline use! For Google Translate, go to settings in the app and select the “offline translation” option. From there, you can download languages and won’t need the internet anymore
Learn some essential phrases in the local language
It’s always helpful to know a bit of the local language. Even if you can’t get the pronunciation right, I find that it will always put a smile on people face when they see a foreigner trying hard to learn their culture. Some of the most important phrases I like to know are greetings, apologies, asking for permission, asking for prices, and food related questions.
Have a plan for those long flights
Long haul flights are dreadful, especially if you are flying with budget airlines with little entertainment and services. I like to plan the flights to maximize comfort and minimize boredom. Bring a neck pillow, eye mask, and ear plugs for that much needed nap. Accompany yourself with an E-reader, book, travel journal, or movie on your lap top. The flight will be over in no time.
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My Best Flight Picks
Use packing cubes
There are so many packing hacks out there but a really useful one I’ve learned is using packing cubes. They allow you to fit more things into the luggage and keep everything easy to find. Compact and organized travelling at its best!
Pack a tooth brush and tooth paste in your carry on
I always feel gross after sitting on a long flight. Brushing your teeth is a quick way to feel refreshed. Packing a travel sized tooth brush and tooth paste is essential!
Pack a sarong
A sarong is so great! It can be used as a scarf, shawl, head wrap, skirt, top..I just love it. Talk about multipurpose wardrobe pieces!
Here I am rocking a sarong in China.
Have a little medical kit
It’s always better safe than sorry right?! I like to bring a little kit with motion sickness pills, Advil, Bandaid, and diarrhea pills. You just might needed on the road.
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My Best Travel Picks
Planning for activities is no doubt the most fun part of all this work. I still have a special place in my heart for Tripadvisor. It’s just a great place for reading honest reviews and seeing real photos of destinations from other travelers. One of my favorite features is suggested itineraries. It gives me an idea of where sites are in relations to each other and how to go about planning my days.
Ask the locals
Don’t limit yourself to just the tourist places. I’ve always found the best experiences are those that came suggested from local friends. If you have a friend from wherever you are going to, make sure to ask for their recommendations. I’ve also recently found this site www.likealocalguide.com that provide insider tips from real locals. Some really cool suggestions here!
Plan more time in fewer places
I am super guilty of trying to fit 10 sites to see in one day. It gets real tiring real fast. Save yourself the stress and just chill a little. It’s impossible to see everything. Just take your time at each location. Leave some time for R&R and you will enjoy the experience a lot more.
Research photo opt spots
A little vain but who doesn’t want great Intagram photos? I recently started to Google “Most Instagrammable Spots” for which ever city I’m visiting. You can find the cutest cafes and artsy places for those ootd shots. It will really get you excited for the trip!
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Consider your companions
All this talk about planning, it’s important to remember your companions if you are not traveling alone. Whether you are going on a trip with a friend, lover, or family, make sure the itinerary includes what they want to do. Do not make the trip all about you. If you have different traveling styles, (ie someone who loves visiting galleries vs. someone who just wants to beach bum) it’s ok to separate for awhile sometimes and do your own things. Nobody will have to hear complains later!
Make a trip email folder
I always make an email folder for collecting all the flights, hotels and activity booking confirmations. It makes things much easier to find later on!
Write your plans down
Ultimately, nothing beats having things on paper for me! Consolidating all the plans and writing them down on a page is just the best way to stay organized!
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To get you started in becoming a master trip coordinator, here is a 3 pages travel planner printable! It’s very cute and includes all the features you need for planning the best trip ever.
The first page is an organizer for all your flights and hotels information. Record up to 4 flights and 3 hotels. (Print more pages if needed).
The second page is for all the other essential planning you need: local transportation, activity bookings, tours, anything! A budget section is included for calculating the total expense. (Or you can just ignore this section if budgeting is not your thing ;P)
The third page is when we get to the fun things! Writing a “To-do bucket list” and “To-eat bucket list” will definitely get you excited for the trip! A bonus “Outfits planner” section will let you envision those gorgeous exotic ootd shots you can take oh my! Not to mention it will help with packing.
To unlock the FREE Travel Planner, simply sign up here and it will be delivered to your inbox!
Let me know what you think of the travel planner and what is your favourite travel planning hack in the comments! Until next time!
Next: Read How to Stay Health and Fit While Traveling
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