If you are like me, the winter months probably have you cooped up inside more than you would like. Without the outdoor activity, you feel the need to travel somewhere even more strongly than usual. No worries. Before you go spinning into an out-of-control “I NEED TO TRAVEL NOW!!!” tantrum, here are 5 tips on how to get going on planning the perfectly-timed, much needed getaway. As an added motivator, I’ve sprinkled photos throughout!
1. Start SAVING $$$. By starting to save right away (if you haven’t been already), you can make your way toward your travel goal even as you plan. My favorite way to do this is by setting up a direct deposit from my checking to my ING account. That way you don’t have to think about it or remember to do it – it just goes! Trust me, I saved just over $4,000 by doing this for a year and a half. Depending on the expense of your trip and your current financial situation, start thinking about little changes you can make. By bringing your lunch to work everyday, drinking the free (although admittedly ALWAYS inferior) work coffee in lieu of Starbucks, etc. you can save a lot of money that can be re-directed toward travel.
2. Find a travel buddy….or don’t. Decide if you want to travel solo or have someone come along with you. If you would prefer a companion, think seriously about who would be good to travel with. Word of caution: not all of your friends, regardless of how “fun” they are, are going to make good fellow travelers. Don’t choose someone who always backs out of plans (spoiler – they will back out of the trip too, leaving you very angry). Think about how the person has reacted when plans go awry. If they are a major drama queen maybe you don’t want to be traveling with someone who will break down and cry at the sight of one bug in your hostel. Also, depending on what types of activities you want to do on your travel, pick someone who is also interested in those things. The best person is generally someone whom you always have a good time with and that has a good sense of humor! Choosing a travel friend now gives you someone to continue the rest of the decision making process with. Although perhaps too many chefs spoil the broth and you would rather have a set plan in your mind and then just present it to those you think would be interested. This really depends on your own personality and your friends. If so, save this step until after the next two.
3. Decide on a time frame. How soon do you want to leave? How much money do you have saved already? How good of a saver are you? Answering these questions will help you decide how much money you will have to spend and as a result, what destinations will be feasible. If you only have $50 in savings and want to leave right this second, then perhaps a month of backpacking through Europe is out of the question. If you think you can wait and have a little bit of savings already, I say go for something big! May as well start knocking off the dream list now. I know it’s hard to wait at all, but once you have your vacation planned, you can start to look forward to it and the waiting will be much easier. Plus you can make yourself a countdown and spend your days learning about your new destination.
4. Choose a destination!! If you already have somewhere in mind, this is likely to be easy. Also given what I said in #3, you may have to rule out some of your options and save those for another trip. But maybe you have no idea where you want to go – what then? One idea would be to subscribe to emails from travel websites, such as Travelzoo. Each week they send out a list of their top 20 travel deals. Scan through them and pick something that sounds interesting!
Another idea is to think about your hobbies and interests and choose somewhere that reflects them. If you like yoga, maybe you want to head to Costa Rica and relax with some yoga on the beach, can’t get enough pho – head to Vietnam, drawn to art – find a museum or exhibit that you would love. Last year I went to Chicago to see Aerosmith because I love Aerosmith, they weren’t playing in DC and I had never been to Chicago, so why not?
If none of these methods works for you, throw a dart at a map or put your finger on a spinning globe. Or pick up Lonely Planet’s The Travel Book and flip through the pages for inspiration. If this all fails, you should probably just stay at home – you likely suck at life.
One thing NOT to do is to get hung up on what you should do on vacation or what a vacation is supposed to be. Do what you want! I’ve done all-inclusive, I’ve done luxury, I’ve done backpacking and hostels. All have their merits. Do what you feel like doing!!! If you aren’t big on art, don’t feel like you have to go to a “must-see” museum if you don’t want to, hate spice food? – then don’t try the spiciest of Thai food. At the same time, travel is partially about being outside of your comfort zone and trying new things. As with most things in life, it’s about balance. Travel the way you want, see and do the things you want; but don’t be a pig-headed, stubborn, rude ass about it. There is a happy medium – find it.
5. Logistics and Itineraries. Depending on who you are, this could be your favorite part or this could truly be your biggest nightmare. It does haven’t to be a big debacle. Once you have made your travel date choices (probably should consult a guide for best times to travel), get your plane tickets squared away. If you are going to be traveling by plane once you reach your destination, those quicker trips are almost always going to be cheaper on smaller, local airlines – and sometimes will only be available in this way. For lodging, decide if you want camping, hostels, moderate hotels, or luxury and go from there. Activities and sights – you could search the internet and scour books, but I”m telling you, you will be overwhelmed if you do this. If you are indecisive like me, to the point of choosing a cheesy card for your sister takes you 20 minutes, then the amount of information available will certainly be a little much. A great way to avoid this is by asking other travelers! Don’t know anyone that has gone to your desired destination? Hit up Twitter or travel advice sites written by travelers. Twitter is fantastic because you can find people who have traveled and/or lived in the locations, find blogs about travel, and be able to interact with people.
The following is a list of some sites that I find helpful:
Hopefully this was helpful to you – flee your cubicles and get out in the real world!