It’s the start of the year – and I bet most of us have made our New Year’s Resolutions to travel more! Spontaneous trips, of course, are always fun. But I realized that if you plan your holidays in advance, you can take out a lot of travel stress and just make the most out of your year. Plus – not forgetting to plan with a budget in mind (because you’re a smart traveller after all) 😉
So, where will your “travel itch” take you this year? Here are some of our tips on how to plan your holidays this 2019:
1. Decide your travel destinations by “season”
Some countries or cities are great to travel to during specific seasons. For example, Spring is a great time to visit the Netherlands if you want to see the biggest tulips garden, Keukenhof. During the European summer (June – August), most European cities will hold massive outdoor festivals to celebrate the good weather and longer days. Keep in mind though, that this is also the peak season for tourists to flock. I’d suggest planning your European holiday during the “Shoulder season” — generally April through mid-June, and September through October — as it combines the advantages of both peak- and off-season travel. Shoulder season, of course, varies by destination. But for example, if you plan to travel to Italy, Southern France, Spain, Croatia, and Greece, these destinations can actually come with near peak-season crowds and prices. If you want to jump out of the peak-season pig pile, consider a trip during the off-season — generally November through March (if you don’t mind the cold, and sometimes rainy days).
Planning a winter holiday is also an amazing idea if you’d love to Ski or just experience the snow! Traveling to Scandinavia countries such as Iceland, Finland, and Norway are also excellent destinations for winter if you want to see the Northern Lights.
2. Research safety & high-risk countries
Safety should always be the number one concern before planning to travel to a particular destination. Whether they are about security issues related to recent terrorist attacks, kidnapping of tourists, or current political turmoil, these need to be put into consideration before travelling. There are many sites out there that can give you advice on the specific travel advisory risks – but here’s a good example from the SafeTravel website.
Keep in mind also the recent natural disasters that might affect your travel plans – such as the possible eruption in Mt Fuji, the deadly tsunami in Indonesia, and Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcanic eruption. Research ahead of time possible typhoon seasons, snow storms, or other natural disasters before committing to your travel plans.
3. Plan estimated costs and budget
So you’ve shortlisted your dream travel destinations – Exciting! Before you even tell your boss about your planned holidays, make sure you’re able to afford them first. Especially if you’re travelling in near-peak season, prices for flights and accommodation may be more expensive than usual. Consider creating a spreadsheet (yes, I do this now when planning for holidays!) for the average costs to fly, getting around, stay, eat, and for other entertainment for every destination you go. You’d be surprised how much food prices may vary for every country. For example, average prices in Spain are cheaper compared to Paris and Amsterdam, but Denmark and other Scandinavian regions can be more expensive to travel to.
You can go to Skyscanner to check out the flights (and which months are cheaper to travel). Gather the estimated costs for each of the countries you’re visiting including visa costs if ever, and come up with a comfortable figure of how much you need to set aside to make it happen.
4. Stick to a plan
Once you’ve decided on a budget – stick to it and start saving! It might be wise to create a draft itinerary ahead of time so you know roughly how much you’ll be spending. If you’re travelling to countries which require a visa, schedule your appointment ahead of time so you won’t stress! As I mentioned earlier, spontaneous trips are fun but make sure you’ll have enough stashed for your pre-planned holiday. It pays off knowing you’ll have a well-organized travel plan rather than having to pay extra for last minute booking deals!
5. Book and Buy tickets in advance
Once you’ve committed to your holiday plans, make sure to grab booking deals as soon as you can. Whether you use Expedia, Agoda, or Booking.com, it’s good to compare the prices and hunt for better deals. Three to five months in advance is usually a good time to book your flights and accommodation, especially if travelling to a popular destination. I tried looking for accommodation for my holiday in Greece this July, and I saw some amazing properties already fully booked! If you don’t want an option to pay immediately for accommodation (esp if you’re still short on cash!) there are some properties or sites that accept reservations and no prepayment. The key is to just book them in advance!
A month or a few weeks before, it’s good to check out tour tickets you might want to get in advance. Popular tourist attractions might require you to book online such as the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam – so better do your research if you want to visit them. Making dinner reservations for upscale restaurants you want to try out is also ideal (and smart thing to do).
6. Be prepared to be…spontaneous!
So you’ve booked your flights, marked your holiday leaves, and stashed your travel budget. Exciting stuff! Of course, there are a lot more to prepare for your trip such as clothes to bring depending on the season, and maybe reaching out to a local friend for some additional tips. Either way, you’ll have a sense of fulfillment planning your holidays this year – but don’t forget to keep that spontaneity and an open mind when traveling. After all, the best travel experiences can sometimes be the unplanned ones.
Happy travels this 2019 from The Travelling Foxes!
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