I entered 2016 with the intention to get out of my comfort zone. I thoroughly and mindfully cultivated this seed within every fiber of my being and sought to travel more than I had in prior years. This year was an adventure! I frolicked in the snow in Colorado, cage-dived with sharks in the Central Pacific off the northern shore of Oahu, faced my fear of heights and ziplined on the Big Island of Hawaii, drove on the opposite side of the street and car in England, and experienced living in a real-life snowglobe in Iceland!
After being responsible for booking several of these affordable and SUPER fun trips, I've decided to compile what I've learned and share it with my fellow wanderlusters and aspiring travelers.
Be honest with yourself... and your wallet.
Know your limits and stick to them. I like to write it all out on paper or on excel—how much you want to spend in total while breaking down airfare, car rentals, gas, food, adventure, and miscellaneous expenses. Be mindful and know what is reasonable AND responsible for your financial situation.
To get the best deals, be flexible
with your destination, dates of travel, and times of departures and arrivals based on your budget. Nail this and everything else will fall into place. It's nice to have a ballpark idea of when you want to leave and return or even just knowing what month best suits your travel time. Using an incognito window or private browsing on your web browser, research flight deals via Skyscanner and Google Flights. To get the most within-my-budget flights, I choose "flexible dates" and sometimes even just base my searches off of the map/calendar and the featured lowest prices. *Tutorial on how to search for flight deals and how to be flexible with your plans coming soon.
Super important, especially if you're going to a very touristy place. This goes along with my next point, but research all the things you want to experience to give yourself a better sense of how much time you need to take off for your trip. You don't need to have a full itinerary set in stone, but get the most out of your trip, time, and money by booking activities (sightseeing, tours, excursions, hotel/AirBnB reservations, dinner reservations) ahead of time. For instance, on my most recent trip to Iceland, I didn't book the Blue Lagoon ahead of time. We happened to get lucky and were able to book just a few days before our scheduled appointment (a full post about the Blue Lagoon is in the making).
Do your research. It's realistic AND fun!
If you're traveling to another country, look up exchange rates and where the best rates can be found—post office, currency exchange centers, and airports. Check whether or not your credit/debits cards are accepted and/or get charged an international transaction fees. What's the weather like during the time of year you're traveling? Download apps that will make your life easier. See if your data plan covers international use. Prepare to unlock your phone and buy a pre-paid SIM card if not.
Be prepared with these little things that will make big differences
in your expenses, comfort and peace of mind. Save yourself time and money by researching what outlet adapters, clothes, gear, car rentals, medications, immunizations, and nutritional supplements you may need. It's also wise to look into travel insurance and emergency health options wherever you're headed, just in case, of course!
Be aware if you're traveling with a buddy
When planning a trip with a travel buddy, you enter an entirely new realm of your relationship with that person. And like any other relationship, it is vital to communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Be mindful and open with each other about your plans and preferences. Share what kinds of accommodations, activities, budget and weather you're comfortable and uncomfortable with (i.e. staying in hostels vs hotels, staying with family vs renting out an AirBnB, trying extreme sports vs relaxing and recharging, splurging vs budgeting). It goes without saying that it would be very helpful and make things run smoothly if you and your travel buddy are down for each other!
I saved the best for last! Make sure that at least 3 people who you trust and care about you (and your whereabouts) know all about your travel plans. I recommend sending all of your important travel documents—passport, ID, flight ticket(s), accommodations, car rental reservations, tour/adventure boookings—via email. Let them know if anything changes immediately. While we're on this, print out these documents, screenshot them, add them to your Wallet (iPhone), or have them readily available offline on iBooks (if in PDF form), in case you don't have internet when you need it.
I hope these quick tips help you stay wild, free, and happy while seeing the world! If you have any other questions, feel free to comment or connect with me!
Up Next: Reviews on England and Iceland! Stay tuned.
Growing up, I was an avid blogger on Xanga, Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress--you name it! Somewhere down the line, I felt like I lost my voice and stopped writing.