Travel Planning: Where do I start?

Santorini, Greece

Trip planning can seem like a daunting task. Where do I begin? How much do I budget? How far in advance should I book reservations? I totally get it – I’ve been there! I wanted to share a few tips I’ve learned over the last 12 or so years of travelling – and a few of my favorite travel snap shots. These tricks have worked for me and definitely help simplify the process of getting started. I’ve also found a few ways over the years to save some extra $$ while booking and travelling – I’ll try and share all of my knowledge with you here – feel free to leave me a comment with any questions, I’m happy to help!

  • Step 1: Choose your location (pretty obvious, right?)
  • Step 2: Decide on the length of your trip & approximate travel dates. I try to be a little flexible here – sometimes you can save hundreds by adjusting what day you fly home by just a day sooner or later.
  • Step 3: Start budgeting, saving & booking. This always seems like the tricky part. How much do I really need? How much can I afford to spend? Once I’ve got an approximate idea of how much I’ll be spending and how many months I have until we leave I start stashing a bit of money away each pay day – for example, if I need $3000 and my trip is in March – it’s August now, I’ll put away about $200 a pay check until we leave.
  • Step 3.5 ish – if you don’t have one already – I’d recommend getting a travel rewards credit card before you start making bookings – most cards offer at least 50,000 rewards points when a minimum spending limit is met (ex: $1000 in 3 months) that’s enough for a free flight just about anywhere (PS: we travelled to Italy in 2015 and only paid $1200 in flights for TWO of us, using rewards points from our sign on bonus) – while also building your rewards when booking. I personally use the Chase Sapphire to book ALL of our travel expenses (it’s much safer than a debit card too!). A few others worth mentioning and looking into for your best options – Capital One Venture, Delta SkyMiles, CITI Prestige and Bank of America offer great rewards too.

Let’s dig a little more into Step 3 – here’s a few of my go to’s when planning my travel budget. Once I’ve decided on my location I set up several travel alerts on sites such a Google Flights & Expedia to alert me whenever flight prices drop to my specific location. I’ll also subscribe to travel sites such as Pomelo, Flights from Home and Scott’s Cheap Flights. (most of these have free subscription offers as well as a yearly subscription that you’ll pay for including emails anytime flights go on sale – check into what’s the best option for you!). I also like to follow these sites on social – IG & Facebook – make sure your notifications are turned on for these specific pages and you won’t miss any deals – usually when they are great – they go FAST! I’ve used the above sites to fly to Greece, London twice and have a trip booked to Germany in March for under $550 ROUND TRIP! These destinations alone are normally $1000+ . Also countless US cities! If you can be flexible on your dates – it’s pretty realistic to not need to spend full price on flights again. While watching these prices make sure to set up alerts for close airports too – I personally am closest to Salt Lake City, UT – but I make sure my alerts are set for Denver, Phoenix and San Francisco also. Sometimes hopping a quick 2 hour flight to one of those cities first is still cheaper than the full price round trip ticket out of Salt Lake City.

If you are able to find a great deal on flights – or even if your paying full price; once I’ve booked these I start looking for lodging. I actually like to decide how much I’m willing to spend per night – and adjust my filters on the search accordingly. I’ve personally used Air Bnb’s as well as hotels – both have their perks depending on the location. I prefer hotels for any of my US travels – and a mix of Air Bnb’s during my out of country trips. Often living like a local in those foreign countries is the most exciting part of travel – Air Bnb’s are great for this! I’ve found that the sooner the better on lodging prices and availability. And 6 weeks ahead of my trip out of country is the latest I like to book. US Travel is a bit different – and I’ve often booked just a couple of weeks ahead – but I do end up spending a bit more.

Positano, Italy

Once my flights and lodging are booked I’ll start on additional transportation – am I going to need a rental car? Train tickets? Using a taxi or Uber? Rental car, train tickets and shuttles can usually be booked in advance online – if you know what time you’d like to be where – I’d recommend doing this. You can also plug your locations into your Uber or Lyft app and get an estimated cost for your trips as well if needed. I like using this website if I’m trying to choose what’s the best way to get from the airport to our hotel etc .. for approximate taxi costs.

Depending on where your traveling or what type of traveler you are – you might need entry tickets to museums, attractions or tours. From experience – I book these as early as possible! Just a few months ago I ended up skipping a museum I’d really wanted to see in Amsterdam due to not having advance tickets – who knows when I’ll be there again to visit? Again – run a quick google search – you’ll be able to find the price of ticket and determine how far in advance your able to purchase. As far as tours go – I’ve personally used Viator for bookings (so many great tour options all over the world)- or even linking through Trip Advisor as well.

^ my handsome and beautiful cousins & travel buddies, enjoying the gorgeous views & good conversation in Santorini, Greece ❤

^^ backing up a little bit, Trip Advisor is a GREAT resource for all of the above – choosing a location, flight & lodging searching, popular things to do in the area, great places to eat by budget etc. It’s my GO TO for travel forums – you can actually search “3 Days in Munich” and find a forum of suggestions and tips for your location and the amount of time your spending. It’s amazing! I’ll also use forums to get a good idea of how much I’ll be spending on average per day on food. I make sure before booking anything to do a little research on Trip Advisor first. I’ve personally found their reviews & ratings spot on.

  • Step 4: Know before you GO. Especially when leaving the country – it’s important to be familiar with their culture and know a few basic phrases in the language spoken. If you need a passport – or need to renew – do this as soon as possible! It can take up to 6 to 8 weeks to receive. If you are a US citizen (like me!) you can find more information here.
  • Step 5: Switch to no fee ATM cards – check into your local branches for different options. Remember to let your card companies know your travelling before you go – most of the app’s now days let you set your own travel times too!
Carmel Beach, California
  • Step 6: Before leaving – I like to make sure I have screen shots of all my bookings and tickets on my phone just in case I’m not able to access the internet. If I’m travelling someplace super remote – I’ll even carry a print out hard copy in my travel notebook too!
  • Step 7: PACK! I don’t want to delve too much into packing here – I promise I’ll share my packing tips and how I’ve spent 16 days in Italy with just a carry on soon in another post. PS – I NEVER check luggage.
Pantheon, Rome Italy
  • Step 8: ENJOY! Be mindful. Stay in the present. Forget when your coming back and just enjoy your time (except don’t actually forget and miss your flight! 😉 – ). Travel is one of the most beautiful and grounding experiences ever! I truthfully believe it’s the only expense that actually makes you richer.
San Francisco, California

I’ve shared a couple travel guides in previous posts – you can find them here: Weekend Guide in San Francisco, Weekend in Amsterdam & 5 Favorite Spots in London.

I hope this helps in getting started & through your booking – keep wandering. Xoxo.

Big Sur HWY 1, California

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