I have to be inspired and then I’m off to the races. It becomes an obsession. Map out a basic plan. But not too many details. I don’t get caught up in all the intricacies just yet.
My flow typically is to have a well laid out shell, then the night prior, when I’m reliving the day, start thinking ahead to solidify a plan for the following day. This allows me to stay in the moment and really appreciate the present. Make sense?
How do I even get started? I scour social media articles for must do’s for months. I join Facebook interest groups focused around national parks, single women travelers, world explorers and reputable travel magazines. There are always pictures popping up (especially on Instagram) to add to the ever expanding bucket list, as well as fellow travelers asking for advice in their trip planning. I save articles by grouping them under a few different headings – general travel, US destinations, Asia interest points, Europe deals, etc. Plus I have running notes on my phone of a handful of future travel locations that I just dump all the info I’ve gathered until it’s time to really frame up a plan.
For flights, I detailed my research plan in a previous blog.
Car rentals are typically your biggest expensive if you are really going to explore for any length of time. If it’s short trip, I typically forego a rental if I can be centrally located with easy access to my interest points. I compare all sites because I haven’t found a 100% go to yet. From specific car sites like Alamo, Dollar, Sixt, Thrifty to generic websites of Rentalcars.com & carrentals.com, I am always receiving emails with discount codes so try them all. Also I should mention to check out if there is a drop fee to possibly start in one location but drop at a different one. There never used to be, but nowadays it can be substantial. And of course, gas prices are always a factor.
Accommodations I scour all the sites – Airbnb, VRBO, HomeExchange, Hotels.com, TripAdvisor & booking.com. Sometimes I prefer a home base, while others I like to jump around. That is all personal preference and how close your activities are to each other. Be careful and read reviews, as housing in foreign countries has a wide range of comfortability and can be challenging. Personally, I don’t get my hopes up too high and just go with the flow. I tend to lean towards a comfortable, low key stay and don’t mind rustic conditions. It adds to the authenticity in my opinion, but know what you are getting into. And don’t be afraid to wing it a few nights…… I’m serious! It’s ok to not have sleeping arrangements for the night if you are ready to explore or possibly have a full day planned and don’t know how far you will get. My 2 “go tos” for day of needs are apps for hotels.com and hotel tonight. I swear it can be exhilarating!
Activities are were I spend most of my efforts and savings. While I mostly enjoy hikes and outdoor, natural excursions instead of the touristy, expensive traps, I will splurge on a one of a kind experience the location may be known for. I still to this day grab all the brochures in hotel lobbies if they spark an interest in me. My route finder of choice is http://www.myscenicdrives.com, as it finds the fastest route between destinations and even directions for when you go off grid without GPS.
Culinary delicacies are the reason most people venture out. While I do love supporting local businesses occasionally, I’m not a foodie and tend to keep it simple with easy snacks ready on the fly. Think about this one as you can blow a ton of money just eating out if you haven’t planned ahead. Anytime you visit a resort (ski town, amusement park, national park concessionaires) you will pay a premium for lackluster tastes. Hit a grocery store prior and avoid the distraction.
Now that you have a destination picked out. Flights. Car. Accommodations. Activities. Food.
Get to packing!!! One of my first ever blogs detailed my luggage thoughts and I will emphasize it again….. pack less. Period. What do you really need? Enjoy the experience not material things.