Travel Planning 101

Travel. We do it for work and we do it for play. Planning a holiday is something that typically takes a few months, and is something that we {Millennials} are willing to spend a pretty penny doing.  

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 Millennials, according to the Pew Research Center are defined as those born between 1981 and 1996. According to this article, Millennials are on track to spend $1.4 trillion on travel each year by 2020. It’s no surprise either that 72% of Millennials choose to spend money on experiences, rather than material items. I know I preach that motto.

When it comes down to planning that travel, it can be stressful. Google is a vast world, where you can endlessly search for places to stay, things to do and places to eat. When you’re visiting a new place, you tend to want a customised experience. There are times when it’s fine to join a tour group, but typically a DIY adventure is more suited.

So, while I’m not a travel agent, I do have some general planning tips that can apply to helping you plan for your next holiday.

Google Sheets

Google Sheets is your friend. If you’re going solo, with your partner or with a group. I like to create a few different tabs to help keep me organized. After all, I am a spreadsheet girl. On my main itinerary, I like to include a few different columns headers: day, date, location, accommodation, address, confirmation numbers, activity, cost and notes. It’s great to have a 1-page overview of your trip that you can print out when you’re on the road, or that you can look up on your google sheets app.

Sometimes I’ll create a few other tabs on my spreadsheet such as: flights, accommodations costs, and activities. That way when you’re in the beginning stages of planning, you can put all your links here. Once you narrow things down, you can move the links and information over to your itinerary tab.

Here's an example of what your spreadsheet could look like. 

 We used google docs to plan our 7-day holiday around Hamilton Island + Cairns. Two of us live in Australia, and the other in San Francisco, making it the perfect tool for us to communicate all of our details. 

We used google docs to plan our 7-day holiday around Hamilton Island + Cairns. Two of us live in Australia, and the other in San Francisco, making it the perfect tool for us to communicate all of our details. 

Download the Splitwise App

Planning a trip with some of your friends? Keeping track of costs is such a drag. Who bought what, who owes who – it’s annoying. Well, not with the Splitwise App! You’re able to add friends that you’re traveling with and keep track of costs. It does all the math for you, so at the end of your trip there is a total and you know exactly what’s left to settle-up.

You can thank me later.

NOTE: This is not a paid endorsement Splitwise is really just that awesome. 

Accommodations

First you have to decide what type of experience you’re looking for. Do you want a hotel? Are you more of an Airbnb type of person? Maybe you’re keen to try some glamping, or straight up camping. Do a little searching – but I’m really all about Airbnb. You can search around for exactly type of place you want – whether it’s eclectic, simplistic, rustic or modern. Make sure to take advantage of the filter options as well (dates, # of people, full house / just a room). Personal preference, but I only like staying somewhere where we can rent out the whole place. It feels weird to me when someone else is home.

 Our most recent Airbnb in Strahan, Tasmania - the Salt Box. Filled with lots of personal little touches such as Port wine for our night cap! 

Our most recent Airbnb in Strahan, Tasmania - the Salt Box. Filled with lots of personal little touches such as Port wine for our night cap! 

Other sites that are similar to Airbnb are Home Away – which recently acquired Stayz. And in the States another popular site is VRBO.

For more off the grid types of holidays – have a look at Glamping Hub or if you want to rent a camper/RV there is even a site to do that called RV share.

Make sure once you secure your accommodation(s) you add the links and all of the information to the itinerary on your google doc.

 The cutest camper we saw (didn't hire this for ourselves) - but wish we would have compared to the piece of junk Wicked Van we hired! (That's a whole other story).

The cutest camper we saw (didn't hire this for ourselves) - but wish we would have compared to the piece of junk Wicked Van we hired! (That's a whole other story).

Finding Transportation  

Many cities have great public transportation options that can get you around the city. And then there’s always Uber/Lyft when you don’t feel like public transport. However, if you want to see more than the city and all the tourist traps, you need another mode of transportation.

Which brings me to my next point of renting a car. In my opinion, this is the best way to see more sites in a condensed amount of time. It can add a cost to your trip, but if you book far enough in advance, usually you can find something quite affordable.

There are your main rental places such as: Enterprise, Avis, Budget, Hertz, etc. – but there are also sites now such as Turo or Getaround. I haven’t personally tried either of these sites, but if you’re looking to save a little money – it could be a great option.

 If you rent your own car, you can find hidden gem spots like this one! 

If you rent your own car, you can find hidden gem spots like this one! 

Bring a GPS + Car Charger

Most people use Google Maps on their phones for a GPS. But, if you have access to an actual GPS – it’s really useful to be able to mount it on the dash of the car, especially when you’re in an unfamiliar city. This can also save on your cell phone battery when you’re out on all day excursions.

Which brings me to my next point – don’t forget a car charger and/or battery pack. That way you won’t ever be stuck with a dead phone.

Finding Experiences

So, now you’ve picked your location, secured your accommodation and vehicle – now it’s time to plan what you’re going to do while you’re there. I usually plan 1-2 main activities per day, because holidays also require a bit of down time – and that way you can enjoy what you’re actually doing, and not have to worry about rushing to the next activity.

Companies like Airbnb even have an “experiences” section that can help you find things to do in whatever place you’re traveling to, based on your personal preferences.

The other great place to find information is from personal blogs. A good way to locate these is on Pinterest, searching for keywords such as, “traveling to Thailand”. This way you can get a more personalized opinion from a real person, vs. a tourism website that’s trying to sell you on something. You can also comment on said person’s blog to ask questions, or they’ll likely have a “contact” link if you need even more info.

Another great resource can be your Airbnb host. Usually they’re happy to give you information about the general area and answer any questions about restaurants, hikes and experiences around where you’ll be staying.  

 Count me in for wine tasting experiences every time. 

Count me in for wine tasting experiences every time. 

Make Some Meals

Usually part of experiencing a new place, is trying their cuisine. I’m all about that. I prefer going somewhere for a breakfast/brunch or a late afternoon app vs. a fancy dinner (again, just personal preference). In order to find great coffee, brunch or bloody marys I’ll turn to Yelp, Google, or recommendations from locals.

After a long day exploring, it’s nice to have some wine in your Airbnb (especially when it’s a really cool one), and make dinner. I’ll usually pre-order my groceries online to pick them up in the city where we collect our car, or a city we pass through on the way to our accommodation. Many grocery stores have an online ordering / pick-up systems. This way you’re not wasting any time figuring out your meals when you really want to be enjoying your vacation. This can also be a great way to save a little money while you’re traveling, and a way to keep off the vacation lbs.  

We always travel with a small, soft-sided cooler / Esky. We’ll take it as part of our carry-on luggage, and that way we have a way to keep food cold if we’re out doing all day hikes and there’s nowhere around to get food. This is essential for a road trip-based holiday!

Note: Sometimes when you stay at an Airbnb, they'll have breakfast for you as part of the cost. Even better, there are some that have gardens/orchards/chucks where you can pick your own fresh produce! 

 At Bombah Point Eco Cottages in NSW, they had chucks, orchards and large gardens for us to select daily produce. Such a treat! 

At Bombah Point Eco Cottages in NSW, they had chucks, orchards and large gardens for us to select daily produce. Such a treat! 

Printed & Digital Documents

When you’re traveling, especially to a rural area – you can’t always rely on WiFi or cell service. Even in this digital age, it’s smart to bring along some print outs of your 1-page itinerary, and all your confirmations. That way if you’re stuck somewhere without your phone, you still know where to go and how to get there.

 Beware of the Unplanned

Whenever I go into a trip, I know that something is going to go not to plan. It’s best to go in with this mindset, so you aren’t upset when something comes up. This year I had planned a road trip from Airlie Beach in Queensland up to Cairns to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. My cousin and I decided to rent a Wicked Van, so we could get that real authentic Aussie experience. Long story short, our van was filthy on the inside, and vulgar on the outside. We hated it so much that when we got to our campsite on the first night, we rented a cabin instead of sleeping in the van, drove all the way to Cairns the next day, turned the van in and rented a car and Airbnb instead.

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Another time, we had been planning on staying at an Airbnb on Kangaroo Island when my in-laws from the States came to visit. Turned out the day we arrived, there were bush fires surrounding the Airbnb, and we could no longer stay there. So, we headed to a coffee shop with WiFi, found an Airbnb with an instant book option and off we went. (Luckily the home wasn’t burned).

 Our replacement Airbnb ended up being even more amazing than the original! 

Our replacement Airbnb ended up being even more amazing than the original! 

Things go wrong, plans change. Be ready to adapt and keep a good attitude. After all, you are on holiday.

The End

Hopefully some of these tips and tricks can help keep you organized when you’re planning your next holiday. But, if you’re at a total loss – I’d recommend contacting a travel agent to help you out. Or pawn all of the planning off on your partner or friend.

xo,

Katie