Preparation is essential in order to determine the best and most cost-effective ways of both booking and completing your trip. The below points cover some of the basics, to allow for maximum enjoyment once you are actually away.
Selecting your destination is the first step on any trip. Whether you incorporate a number of stays within an area over the duration of your trip, to just staying in one location and experiencing all that it has to offer. Some people like to return regularly to one place, others prefer to travel to different destinations each time, allowing for a greater experience of the world. Whichever you choose, as long as you are happy with it, then there is no right or wrong option!
As a starting point, why not consider some of the cities discussed in our City Guides section?
Plan your trip
Once you have decided your destination, planning your trip is a key aspect of preparation. It is far more beneficial to put together a vague or detailed plan, depending on the time you can devote to this, prior to setting out on your trip. Use a travel guide or book to gain an oversight of the key considerations in any destination. Put together a list of what you would like to see and when, vaguely, this would be best to do. It is not something you will have to stick rigidly to, however, will aid greatly in ensuring you do not waste time whilst actually in the location. Plotting out a day-by-day itinerary can allow you to determine best routes of travel, such as seeing things close to one another on a given day. This will save you travel time, and maximise the amount you can achieve.
Costs can vary dramatically depending on firstly where you go, and secondly how you choose to spend your time whilst there! Choice of accommodation is a huge factor in this, from camping in a tent to staying in a luxury hotel - the experience and cost will vary wildly. Personally, it is nice to have a best of both approaches, either mixing the two within one trip - or else, having a trip solely focused on camping or remaining in more comfortable surroundings.
Eating out or cooking for yourself will impact your budget, and should be something to account for in determining how much you need to save prior to the trip.
Furthermore, consider the fact that whilst you a travelling to these places, there is the tendency to feel that whilst there you may as well experience the culture and sights of the location. As a result, it is worth budgeting to include the key elements of your plan - to ensure you do not leave regretting anything.
Take a look at our quick Travel Money Guide to explore further.
Beneficial bank accounts & no-fee cards
Items such as travel insurance and fee-free purchases abroad are not an uncommon feature of some bank accounts - and it is worth considering these as options prior to travelling. This is particularly the case if you plan to travel regularly, and can save you money in the long-term. Fee-free ATM withdrawals can be incredibly useful, as the cost of regularly withdrawing cash can soon add up.
Reward credit cards
Reward credit cards can offer a hugely beneficial boost to your costs when travelling. Ensure you do your research, but you can gain benefits from these cards such as points, which can be used toward free flights and hotel stays. Many offer sign-up bonuses, to boost your point's total, and offer a bonus for reaching a certain level of spending, within a given time-frame. Continue to use these cards as part of your everyday spending, and you can really gain a benefit from them. Just watch you do not go spending extra, just to gain an increase in points!
Booking the flight
Best advice is to book early, particularly if you are planning to utilise the aforementioned points. Search multiple websites to find the best deal, and if you can be flexible on dates, this will help save some of the cost. Choosing none-direct flights can be cheaper than going direct, however just be aware of the extra travelling involved, and weigh this against that cost saving, to determine the worth.
Take a look through some flight comparison websites - these can offer variations in pricing and it is worth checking a number of these to ensure you get the best deal. As a starting point, take a look at some of the below.
Booking where you will be staying in advance saves any hassle upon arrival, and allows you to effectively plan your trip around where you will be. Depending on how much you want to spend, it is worth reading some traveller reviews to minimise the chance you will arrive to something unexpected. When ready, take a look at the following booking sites for some of the best rates for accommodation.
Whilst the comparison sites above are good, the sales offered by going direct to a hotel brand, such as the current up to 25% off at Hilton, can work out as better value.
It is also worth mentioning that brands such as IHG (which encompasses 12 hotel brands, including: InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn) advertise that they offer their best rates to their reward club members. Check out our article on IHG Rewards Club, for more information.
Notify card companies
Whether away for a day, through to a month, it is highly worthwhile notifying your card companies when you will be gone, how long for, and where you will be going. By doing this, you reduce the risk of the card companies defining any transaction you complete abroad as fraudulent and result in a decreased chance of your card being blocked.
Whilst you will hopefully never need it, it would be foolish to travel without a good travel insurance policy. Knowing that you are covered for any eventuality is just an added peace-of-mind convenience - allowing you to enjoy your trip in the knowledge that if anything did go wrong, then you will not be financially out-of-pocket. Take a look at my Travel Insurance Tips for a complete overview of factors to consider.
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