Because I travel to Europe, some people might think that I must be either wealthy or in huge debt from the travel costs. Neither of those is the case. What I am, is an excellent planner! You may remember my post, If you plan it, you can go!, if not give it a quick read. I am going to provide links throughout this article as a refresher to a series of posts I wrote this year on travel planning. I really believe that if you plan it, you can do it!
The four steps to affording a major trip are just like the Tagline to my blog “Dream, Plan, Save, Adventure.” My daughter will tell you that I can plan anything if I just have a folder. Lol. So get yourself a folder, a notebook or make some notes on your computer.
Determine the 4 W’s.
- With Whom
The first step is deciding WHERE is the place you have always wanted to go? Make a list of the top 10 places to give you goals for the future. Write them down because it is the first stage of taking them from a dream to a reality. Rank them, pick one and move on to Planning. Think about WHO will travel with you on this vacation and will they enjoy visiting this place too?
For our first trip, I just knew Italy was the destination. I couldn’t decide on 1 specific area, which is why we devoted 2 solid weeks to touring the whole country. On our second trip, I wanted to see a lot of things and had a hard time pinning down just one place to visit. The solution there was taking a tour of 7 Countries in 14 days. It gave us a taste of many places on our wish list all in one trip, and let us revisit a few of our favorites from our trip to Italy. Perfect!
I say this so often in my posts, Do the Research! Research is everything when you are planning a big trip. Especially if you are doing it on a budget. Review my post Building Your Travel Toolbox for travel research tools and ideas.
Talk to people and really listen to their travel experiences. Take note of things that worked well for them and things that did not. I always find a helpful little nugget or two to save for later.
Review the post Choosing the Right Type of Travel where I go over choosing the best style of trip and tips on picking travel companies (if you will use one). Once you know what kind of trip you will be taking, you will need to decide on WHEN is the best time to go. There are a lot of things that can factor into WHY you make this decision. Will you be going to celebrate a holiday, a special event, or are you looking to save money by booking during a promotion or off season. All important considerations.
Set a budget. A realistic budget. I like to set an “Ideal budget” first, then add a little extra to it in case anything unexpected pops up along the way. The goal is always to come in at the Ideal budget, but if not to be prepared for the unexpected! I have managed to stay within my budget for both of our 2 week trips to Europe.
In my posts Ready, Set, Save and Let’s Make a Deal I offer ideas on how to save on the big travel costs and some great tips on stacking deals to stretch your travel dollars. In Show Me the Money! I show you how to save additional money to spend on your trip. My biggest tips are having a separate account for travel savings, and that even little things that will add up.
In Let me Tell you about My Travel Agent I explain why you may want to use a Travel Agent for some aspects of planning a big vacation. The right TA can be affordable, help you save on travel costs and assist you if you have any issues along the way. Travel insurance is also an item you don’t want to skip. If you book your trip using a Travel Rewards credit card, your travel insurance may be included at no extra cost. Take a look at what perks your credit card offers or if it is time to sign up for a new card that offers more robust features. In my post Is your Credit Card a Dinosaur? I explain a lot of features that are offered on credit cards that can really help to offset travel costs. Having at least 1 really good Travel Rewards credit card with all the right features is very important for saving money on your trip.
Your Mileage May Vary offers a lot of great information on Credit Card Rewards and Frequent Traveler Rewards programs you might want to sign up for.
If this is your big dream trip, make it amazing. Save money on the little things like up front travel costs so that you don’t have to skimp on the experiences during your trip. The one souvenir you don’t want to bring back, is regret! Don’t wish you had taken that side trip, just do it. As my husband likes to say, “We will make more money tomorrow.” That calm statement has been the deciding factor for us on several occasions while traveling. Whether it is buying an expensive local item, having a very expensive meal or taking an extra excursion we hadn’t planned on, it all works out in the end. I never go home having missed an opportunity that later fills me with regret. Seize the day!
I hope closing the loop by linking all these individual posts together helps you see the complete picture for planning your big Adventure.
Grab a notebook and start filling it with your dreams so that you can go on an amazing trip really soon. I hope that I gave you some good seeds to start your travel plan with!