Going anywhere this year?
This is a great open ended question I like to discuss with my friends, co-workers, relatives…really anyone! We all have careers to handle, and some have kids, but we all get excited about the prospect of getting away. If you’re like me, you probably start planning your next vacation, while you are actually on your current vacation. Or at least, you are talking to the locals, meeting new traveling buddies, taking notes and gaining inspiration for where you want to go next. Now that we’ve all gotten over the haze of the holidays, and spent the majority of dry January helping our livers recuperate, let’s talk about where we want to go and how we are getting there!
In our lives, we personally have limited vacation, and we have to start budgeting the time for next year’s travel plans very early in the year, or we risk front loading all of our vacations in the first half of the year (to get away for the winter), eventually running out of vacation before the year is out. Can’t complain though, corporate life gives us a paycheck! We have just started the process of planning our journeys for 2019, and we’re at a point in our lives where we are attempting a minimalist lifestyle in order to hoard more travel (and yes, I realize the irony of minimizing to hoard). We would rather do without just to take that extra vacation day. If that means limiting coffee and restaurants visits for that extra $500 for a trip, we’ll do just that. Here’s a few of my favorite tools for satiating the wanderlust. What do you use?
Don’t know where you want to go or what dates? Try:
Kayak is one of my favorite sites when it comes to trip planning, and their Explore tool tool is so fun! I’ve spent many a lunch break (and then some) looking at the different options and date combos, daydreaming about my next trip. If you’re just browsing and not committed to any dates or locations, this is for you. Just put in your origin, and you can see all the options among all dates on destinations of where to go. You can search by anytime, any destination, and cast a wide net if you don’t know the time or date that you want to go. Or you can search by month, season, or exact dates. You can also specify budget and duration, which is helpful if you only have a 4 day weekend and don’t want to spend too much time getting there. This is perfect if you don’t know where you want to go, but have dates and/or a budget in mind.
Google Explore Maps
Google flights works much in the same way that Kayak Explore does. You can put in your dates or month range, and you’ll find a host of flight prices to help you search. Google Explore does not link directly to the airfare unfortunately, but it will show you where to go to buy the ticket. You can also search by number of stops, or airlines (if you are privy to a certain loyalty program).
What about road trips?
When the journey is calling me, but don’t have the time or budget for airfare, I start researching road trips. We budget road trips when we don’t have the money to go on a big trip, but we have the time and want to get away for maybe a 2 to 3 day weekend. For us, the limit to driving on a road trip is about 6 hours to the destination. Any more than that, and we feel it’s just torture to be in the car that long just to get there and turn right back around. The plus about driving is you are in control of your own destination, how to get there and how fast you want to get there, although traffic can throw a wrench. I know in BC, a province that only has about 5 million people, a lot of the areas are remote and we wouldn’t get out to see a lot of the beautiful scenery unless we were in our car. Here’s some tools that help me plan:
This website and accompanying app helps map out your journey from start to finish. You can save your journey and use the app on your phone to help navigate your way. It helps by pointing out major points of interests on your drive for an easy detour, should you want to stop and check them out. The points of interests and restaurants also show reviews from fellow users.
Google Maps is my go to app for mapping road trips because of the ease of use, and real time traffic reporting. It can also help locate nearby attractions, although it’s less automatic than Roadtrippers. For instance, If you use google maps to map out a 6 hour road trip, you may want to stop at about the 3 hour mark for a break and food. You can map to the 3 hour point, and use the ‘nearby’ search option to find restaurants, gas, or convenience stores for your pit stop. Google maps accumulates material from both their partners as well as users, and it’s large user base offers comprehensive reviews.
Now, where to stay?
Airbnb and Couchsurfing.com were the disrupters every frugal (aka savvy) traveler was looking for, and if you plan in advance, these are a great options. But if you are going for spontaneity, I find that Airbnb hosts can be booked up or don’t respond in time for a last minute reservation. In that case, I prefer hotels. Sites like Hotwire, Priceline and Hotelstonight can help you find a great hotel in the perfect area at a fraction of the going rate. On recent stays in bank breaking NYC, I was able to find an in demand, boutique hotel for one third of the price! Of course, if you are monitoring the hotels in advance, you’ll notice prices don’t really drop until a few days before, which may fray the nerves while you wait and refresh the results every minute. But persistence can pay off when you find that deal.
What to do?
This is where the travel blog community comes in handy! Maybe you already know what you want to do in a location, it might be famous for museums, or the beach. You might have a list from in-the-know friends, or travel shows you have watched. But if you need ideas, Instagram is a great place to muse and find the pictures you can imagine yourself in. Can you see yourself in that scenery, then yeah, go there. Leaving room for a little spontaneity is always good practice as well. Maybe there’s a festival or event you found on Eventbrite, or concert you found on Ticketmaster. I usually travel somewhere with a loose idea of what I want to do, while always leaving time to talk to the locals to find the recommended places to dine, shop and see.
I hope some of these will help you plan! Where are you going this year, and do you use a trip planning tool that I missed? Let me know!