As many of you may already know, I AM GOING TO EUROPE for my graduation trip (I just got done with my Masters) in three days. I can proudly say that I planned the trip from beginning to end – from travel to accommodation to the itinerary ! Of course my parents were there to give in their inputs, approval and have funded it as well but this was my first international trip that I booked all on my own. Haha. The little joys. You can check out my little itinerary calendar that I made here.
So , now when it comes to planning the perfect trip, for any budget, there are a couple of steps that I follow and I thought I would share them with you. I think the first thing you need to come in mind is to be absolutely calm and collected. Organizing a trip is not easy by any means and it requires a lot of patience and time. But, all that said, it’s important to have FUN while you do so. I will take a second here to quote what my favorite letter note products say “ one life. keep it simple. Follow your dreams. Be curious. learn new things.”
The whole point about traveling is to widen your experience and to learn and see. So without further ado, brew your self a cup of tea, take out your notebook, and lets BEGIN!
1. What is the Purpose and Budget of the trip?
The first question you need to ask your self before organizing any trip or holiday is WHY do you want to go? Do you want to relax and maybe hit the beach? Do you want to explore and learn about cultures? Do you want to go on a treck? It is really important to narrow down the purpose of the location. Once that is done, figure out an approximate budget. Yes, it is not easy to do so before fixing a location and making bookings, but how will you fix a location if you don’t have a budget in hand? For example, if your budget for an accomodation is Rs.5000 per night- multiply it by the number of days you want to go for along with chalking down an approximate amount you would want to shell out on flights/train tickets. You may end up with a huge number which might be intimidating and hence the primary question of WHY you want to go comes into play.
2. Shortlist a location/multiple locations
Once you have a very vague idea about a budget and the type of trip you are looking for, shortlist the locations you want to visit. For example, we were sure that we want to do a trip that has a lot of good food, exploring cities, culture, history and so on. Hence, my family and I chose Turkey and Italy. I then realised that since I am going to be Europe, I could go ahead and visit my best friend in London post the family trip. Now, what is important to remember is that if you want a convenient budget friendly trip, keep a political map of the continent you want to visit and see what locations make sense together. There are certain combinations that usually workout well in terms of logistics – For example: Italy and Spain, France and UK or Germany , Austria and Belgium. It really doesn’t make since picking up locations like Mexico and Egypt in one trip. The amount of time and money you will spend on traveling would be ridiculous, to put it simply.
3. Travel Logistics
Now that you have the locations shortlisted, it’s time to figure out the travel plan. Take out your pen and notebook or open and excel sheet and begin jotting down combinations. Yes, this sounds painful but it can be fun too! I use the following websites to check out various flight trips and combinations
a) Clear trip
b) Make my trip
c) Individual airline companies
Two things you should keep in mind while figuring out the tickets:
a) Theorder in which you visit the locations. This will affect the entire round trip price which is why its important to check out different flight combinations. For example: I am going to Turkey- Italy-UK- India as it most sense economically. The first leg of the trip, ie: INDIA- TURKEY- ITALY is via turkish airlines and the second leg, ie – ITALY-UK-INDIA is via British Airways. b) Rather than looking at individual flights from one destination to the other, it worked out MUCH cheaper to book “multi-location flights”
I wont go into too much detail when it comes to this step since to be very honest, my dad handled this part of the planning. Certain places have visa on arrival and others require an appointment. Make sure you give a good month to plan and get your visa sorted. Also ensure that you figure in the visa cost while estimating a budget since they can be expensive.
I really enjoy this part of vacation planning : So now you have two options: You can either do some research online before going and be VERY adventurous and find those/any other accommodations that work for you when you arrive in that partiular city OR do all bookings in advance. I must admit that my family and I are definitely not a very adventurous lot when it comes to accommodation and I personally cannot imagine not having a room reserved before han; but then whatever works for you! The whole hotel/apartment/hostel hunting can be lots of fun too if youre a group of friends who would be okay and in high spirits if you all don’t find a place that reaches your expectations last minute. Here too, the first question comes in to play- WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR TRIP? If the idea is to relax in a beach resort across the ocean, you would obviously want to book your self a lovely room with all the facilities you are looking for before hand. On the other hand, if youre camping or backpacking, last minute hunting can work perfectly as well!
Since my family and I prefer doing bookings in advance: I use the following websites for thorough research and bookings:
a) Trip Advisor – I use this for anything and everything. Trip Adivisor can be very helpful if you feed in all the filters (Budget, location, preferences) and it will sort out the hotels for you according to those filters. I find this very, very helpful since the ranking is done not according the number of stars, but according to YOU
b) Booking.com – Booking.com is great for deals! It works exactly like trip advisor where you can find hotels using particular filters. It offers really good deals! It’s always best to check out deals on these sits and go out to the official website of the hotel and cross check the tarrif to ensure you are getting the best rate possible.
c) Air Bnb : I knew about Airbnb for a wile now but never really used it for a long time! It’s finally time since for my upcoming trip, I would be staying in Airbnb accommodations in Rome, Florence and London! The apartments are absolutely STUNNING and I am positive there is everything for every budget. One can get an entire apartment, a private room within an apartment or a shared room with other travelers!
6. Internal Logistics
This step may often be neglected though it is very, very important!. By internal logistics, I mean things like taking trains from one city to another. For example- taking a train from Rome to Florence. One has booked a flight from the home destination to Italy and it obviously doesn’t make sense taking internal flights within Italy, so what about the train tickets? Contrary to belief, these tickets do get sold out!! I didn’t consider buying these tickets earlier untill a day or two ago when I thought I should simply check them out to get an estimate and I was shocked to see that quite a few tickets for the peak hours were sold out! Keep in mind the season that youre going in. If you’re going to Europe, for example in June- IT IS PEAK TOURIST SEASON and hence booking internal transportation makes a lot of sense before hand! I would also suggest getting your self Oyster cards (For UK) that work for metro and buses or the Euro rail passes, incase that thats medium of transport you will be choosing (if in europe). It’s definitely more economical to have these passes in hand for local travel rather than constantly spending on individual tickets.
7. Day trips and Miscellaneous Tickets
If there is something that I truly hate, it has got to be ques. Most touristy places with historical sites, monuments and museums have ques that can be upto 2-3 hours long sometimes! Waiting in those ques is such waste of time when one could have chugging down a beer or a having a lovely glass of wine instead 😛 Hence, I prefer booking all these miscellanous entry tickets in advance. Ofcourse this leaves less scope for random plans since the tickets are booked in advanced. However, in my opinion, if your accommodation is booked, and your travel tickets are booked, you don’t really have any escape from that city right? So why not make the most of it and chalk down a rough itinerary? Let me give you an example- I am in Rome for 3 days so it makes more sense to book my ticket for the Colosseum for any of the three days. I chose any random day and took a morning slot for 10 am to get it out of the way. That will save me so much time and maybe even money! You can take these guided tours using Viator.com and I SWEAR by it! Viator also does day trips- So if you had a location or city in mind and you know you cannot stay there- why not arrange a day trip to that city? I am doing a day trip to Cinque Terre in Italy from Florence since I know staying there would be impossible. Using Viator, I have my transport to the location sorted! Best part? Unlike most group “tours” this company lets you be alone for a good 2-3 hours or whatever time stipulated. So if you’re the type who hates group tours and likes being alone/with your family- this is for you!
8. Baggage and Clothing
This step is fairly obvious and yet again, comes down to the type of trip you are going for. If you’re going to one single destination, you get a huge leevway on the luggage youre carrying since you wouldn’t drag it along with you wherever you go. On the other hand, if you’re doing a multiple location trip like me, carrying more than a small/medium bag + little sling/backback doesnt make sense! Also, check your tickets to see how much baggage you are allowed in the first place. This differs from flight to flight. For example. I am allowed 23 kgs (1 bag) from India to Turkey but only 15 kgs (1 bag) from Rome to London!
Think about carrying that bags from airports, stations, cabs and so on! Also, if you would taking a cab from airports to the hotel- just cause you have too many bags, you may have to take a bigger car (more expensive) even if you are just 2-3 passengers. LOOK UP THE WEATHER, and pack in layers. I am going for 19 days but I am packing for 7 days since I know, I will get my clothes to the laundrey atleast once. The idea is to enjoy your self and be comfertable. If wearing heels and dolling up makes you happy – go for it! Just be prepared and always in keep in mind that you should be comfy no matter what!
I really hope this post has inspired you to pick up your bags and just go!
Letter Note kindly sent me these products and I am ever so thankful. I have ALWAYS been a fan of their stationary and honestly sometimes we need a little reminder in our lives to just have fun and live each day as it comes. All these products are simply tokens to remind us that. I truly LOVE the quotes on the products and if you know me, you know I have stuff from there DO EPIC SHIT collection as well! If you’re in Delhi, check out their store in Hauz Khas Village and we can be besties 🙂