In my last two posts I’ve shared some of my favorite tips for planning an international trip: tips from staying organized, to scheduling vaccines, how to save hundreds with smart money tips, and how to keep those electronics working. Today we are moving away from the general travel advice and I’m sharing four simple tips to help you plan that trip. Let’s get started, shall we?
Step Seven: Grab a Calendar
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rearranged our schedule in Thailand. I had grand goals at first; goals that had us exploring the Gulf of Thailand, the coast of the Andaman Sea, and the temples and elephant sanctuary of Chiang Mai. My goal was to see as much as possible in two short weeks.
However, once I started plotting it on a calendar I could easily see that there was simply not enough time to do everything we wanted. Sure, we could have spent two-or-three days at each location and spent long-tail boatloads of money (did you catch the joke…?) 😉 on transportation, but in the end, we decided that we wanted a romantic vacation to celebrate our fourth anniversary.
I’ve narrowed down our itinerary to accommodate a much more relaxing schedule, and I have found some hidden gems that will give us a taste of the nixed destinations without having to travel cross-country to see them. (win-win!)
My point in this step is when you plot your days on a calendar you are able to clearly see how your vacation will flow. There may be areas that need to be adjusted in order to accommodate your specific travel preferences.
Step Eight: Fine Tuning–Break out the Books and Websites (again)
You may be able to skip this step, but I’m a little travel OCD (surprise!). 😉 I like to first read the travel guide from cover to cover to get a general feel for the destination; and afterwards, I go back and read about specific locations, excursions, and suggestions that I am most interested in. At this point in the process, I am adding specifics and detailed information to my itinerary in order to make sure there is enough time for all of our adventures.
Step Nine: Trip Advisor
Now that you’ve read ALL about your destination, it’s time to book a hotel room. Queue the choir and enter in Trip Advisor. My admiration for Trip Advisor knows no bounds, and if I can be embarrassingly honest here, I spend way too much time on this website.
Truth: I have probably read reviews on 85% of hotels located on Koh Samui. I always struggle with booking a hotel because… I want it to be right. I want it to be in the right area. At the right price point. And I want us to love it.
My advice to you is to understand your location thoroughly, and then narrow down the scope of your hotel search. There’s no reason to look for hotels on the south shore if you’re planning most of your activities on the north side. Oh and by the way, if you’re heading to Koh Samui and need some hotel/resort recommendations, I can help you out a little. 🙂
***And don’t forget to use Trip Advisor for your excursion reviews as well.***
Step Ten: Book It!
It should be so simple, right. You spent
days hours researching and have decided which resort to book, so you search your favorite travel engine and reserve. But wait! Before you book a room at the first website you visit, take a few minutes to browse competitor websites.
For our trip to Thailand, I browsed Hotels.com, TravelPony.com, Agoda.com, and Expedia.com, and surprisingly, these websites all had different prices for the same location (with the same amenities/room types/etc). Most of the time it was within $5-$10, but $5 a night can add up, and if you can save the money, why wouldn’t you want to?! Take an extra ten minutes to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.
Also, don’t forget step six in order to make sure you get the best currency conversion rates. 🙂
There you have it. Ten simple steps (and two bonus tips) to help you plan your next international trip.
Will you use any of these tips on your next trip?