I am always being asked how we can afford so many trips to exotic locations around the globe and not go broke doing it, so below I’m sharing a few do’s and don’ts and a few tips that help me plan spectacular trips without breaking the bank.
First and foremost: DO THE HEAVY LIFTING. Yes, plan your own trip and forget the travel agent. It’s a lot of work, but with the right tools in place you can save tons of money (and gain a sense of accomplishment) by planning your holiday on your own.
So… where to start? With a destination of course! Or even a general region or country will do. Use pinterest, google, and other blog sites to research sample iteneraries. Compare and contrast those iteneraries with the must see’s on your wish list and customize them to fit your needs. Once you’ve got some idea of a sample itenerary and how many days you want to spend, it’s time to look in to flights. I always always always look at google flights first. It’s a powerful tool that allows you to input several airports at once to find the ideal itenerary. Include both smaller airports near your home and final destination, but don’t rule out driving to a larger airport or taking a train from a larger airport near your final destination. Flying in and out of larger airports often saves a huge amount of money.
Don’t forget to reverse your itenerary to check out price differences and be sure to look at the full calendar schedule of prices! I’m in the midst of planning our 2017 trip to Europe. I was targeting end of August and discovered pushing back my take off date by 1 week would save us $300/ticket! Easy peasy. My ideal itenerary started in Nice and ended in Amalfi, but after changing my start to Amalfi and end point in Nice, we were able to trim another $160/person off our flights. That’s $460 savings per person just by being a bit flexible, and we didn’t have to sacrafice any stops or days!
Next– set up airline alerts. Download hopper and skyscanner and set up alerts based on your itenerary. Hopper will predict whether you’re getting the best price if you book now or if it thinks the price will drop. It also calculates how much tickets may drop by, the potential savings, and the date by which to book!
Once you’ve booked your flights you can start to book your stays at the various stops….or not! Often I book the first stop, and the ‘must stay’ list if there’s a hotel I just must stay at while we’re there and book the rest last minute as we’re heading there. Many times there are great deals on hotels trying to get rid of rooms last minute–but be careful with this strategy. Research high season and low season for your destination as sometimes this rule flips in high season. For instance–do NOT wait until the last minute to book a hotel anywhere in the french riviera or southern italy in August or you may find yourself homeless or paying dearly. DO take advantage of home away and airbnb. Many times you can find full flats on the cheap with unbeatable locations and bonus–full kitchens. That means not spending extra money eating out every meal. Double bonus–you get to choose how healthy you eat while away. I LOVE taking advantage of the kitchens (uhh well, I love that Keith takes advantage of the kitchen for me 😉), it helps us stay fit on the road which isn’t always an easy thing to do.
A couple closing tips:
- Check train schedules AND local airlines- sometimes local airlines have unbeatable rates for island hopping and short intercountry flights which save time and money.
- Use tools like skyscanner and hopper religiously, it’s never too early to start researching.
- Know what you’re willing to splurge on. Just because you’re on budget doesn’t mean you can’t splurge a little. I often have must stay hotels but only book one or two nights in them and move to a cheaper hotel or airbnb for the remainder. You can get a little taste, but aren’t blowing your budget by staying the whole time. Mix it up. Stay at a hostel one night and a luxury hotel the next–there are no rules.
- Pay attention to must have ammenities. We once made the mistake of booking an airbnb with no air conditioning in 90 degree 90% humidity–needless to say we booked a hotel that night and ate the losses.
- Be flexible. Plan on the go and be spontaneous. Often you don’t know what destinations you’ll fall in love with and which you could live without before you experience them. Love a stop? Stay a little longer. Hate one? Pick a new spot, take a train, and don’t look back. Life is an adventure!
Happy planning! 💋