I’m a big fan of planning. To-do lists, schedules, stationary, timetables – love it, and travel is no exception to my planning ways. Whether it’s a weekend trip to Melbourne or a four week holiday in the states rest assured there is a schedule behind it.
But, as much as I love planning it’s so important to have time in your holiday to do spontaneous activities! My theory is that if you plan as much as possible then you aren’t spending time wondering what you can do and therefore have more time to go out and do it all. I hate returning home from a big trip with the feeling that I missed out on something so this method definitely helps with that.
To be brutally honest, if you are not using Google Flights then you’re probably not getting the best prices. This tool looks across all the different airlines to provide you will all the details you could need to book the cheapest flight that works best for you. The calendar view is incredible! It’s so easy to see when flight prices are cheaper so if you have the flexibility to push your holiday back a few weeks or even a day you could keep some spending money in your own pocket.
Secret Flying and I Know The Pilot
Another way that I find cheap flight deals is through Secret Flying and I Know The Pilot. Secret Flying is a handy little tool for making the most of flight errors (mistakes made by airfares when listing flights). Airlines don’t always go through with the sale, but when they do you’re looking at flights prices like $584 for a business class round-trip flight New York to Egypt. I Know The Pilot focuses more on sale fares. I’d suggest signing up for the mailing list where you can select to receive only the deals on flights that leave from your state and liking their page on Facebook. I more use this when I see the deals first and be like” Wow that’s cheap, we should go there” rather than “I want to go to China on these dates so I’ll look on I Know The Pilot”. But whatever works for you!
Holy smokes, if I had started reviewing all of the places I’ve every stayed, visited or eaten five years ago I would be a TripAdvisor Queen! TripAdvisor is my favourite review website.
The two best features I often use are reviewing photos taken by guests and looking at other people’s whole trip itineraries in the forums. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb to say that if the professional photos of a location don’t make you want to go there than the place itself isn’t going to be any more impressive. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, but looking at photos from everyday people help you get a better idea of what the place is really like. The forums on TripAdvisor are so good! If you ever have a question about a vacation it’s probably already been asked and answered in these forums. They are the Mary Poppins’ bag of travel planning.
I really like booking any international accommodation through Booking.com. But, you have to be a bit smart in how you use these booking sites. The sites will store bits of data called cookies on your computer and don’t offer the same price to everyone. So rule one of booking any accomodation online is to use an incognito browser to compare prices before booking anything! I’ve even gone as far to have friends log in on there computers to check pricing and have on one trip saved up to $400 on accommodation by doing this. When you start booking more and more trips you might even have access to special sales prices and discounts – but don’t think that these are the best deals. Still check everything on incognito mode to make sure you’re getting the best price.
For any trips inside Australia I’ll generally use Wotif. I find that it normally has the lowest prices and also has a really easy to navigate user interface. They also sometimes offer Mystery Deals, so if you don’t really mind where you stay then this could be a great way to score a 5 stay vacation at 3 star prices.
Instagram has revolutionized the travel industry, and if you’re not using it as a tool to plan your holidays then you are missing out! What I tend to do is search the geolocation and then any relevant tourism hashtags to see what people are posting in that area. If I find anything cool I will bookmark it and add it to a special folder in my Instagram bookmarks. For example if I were travelling to the Gold Coast I would have a look at Gold Coast as a geotag and then investigate posts using hashtags like #ExploreQueensland, #GoldCoast #VisitGoldCoast and #WeAreGoldCoast. It’s a great way to not only find the coolest places to visit but also get a sneak peek of a local’s perspective.
I’m obsessed with using Google Sheets to plan my holidays. It’s basically an online version of excel that allows you to invite others to contribute and edit the sheet in real time. It’s perfect for holidays where you have a big group of people or are travelling from different areas. And on top of this the app means you can access it super easily while you’re actually on holiday. One of the best things about using Google Sheets is that I have a pretty great collection of all of the details behind where I’ve travelled and can easily share the sheets with friends and family that are planning to travel there too!
The first thing I love to do when I book flights is to pop my travel date into the Days app on my phone. It’s a really beautiful interface where you can select fonts and pictures to countdown to your holiday. It’s the perfect app to stare longingly at while you work away in the office.
The OG travel inspiration hub. Pinterest is the perfect place to find blogs (just like this one) with specific tips around packing for certain seasons, best places to eat and lists of things to do while you’re there. I always make sure to set up a little inspiration board of all the places I want to visit and any tips I can find before I start booking anything.
So there you have it!
Remember that you don’t want to plan every minute of every day. Save time to walk around, explore, eat and be flexible with your planning. Above all of these tools the one thing that is going to make your holiday great is just having a positive attitude and an open mind.