In 2015 and 2016 I planned the two biggest overseas trips I’ve even been on – 6 weeks in Europe 2015 and 4 weeks in Asia 2016. Both trips took months of planning, from choosing countries visit, cities to visit within those countries, accommodation, flights, trains, activities and (of course) right down to restaurants we wanted to eat at. Hours of research went into planning each trip and I wanted to share some of the knowledge I learnt by giving you guys some of my top travel planning tips for planning a big holiday with multiple destinations.
- Shop around deal websites for the latest deals on cheap flights:
The Boyf is an avid Ozbargainer which covers deals on almost anything you can imagine – food, flights, accommodation, cars, credit card deals… the list is endless. He always keeps an eye out for cheap flights to countries on our ‘hit list’. Back in September 2014 there was a Royal Brunei deal for $1250 return flights to London, on a whim we booked those and then started planning our Europe 2015 adventure. The same for our Asia trip in 2016. I think it was about August 2015, not long after returning from our European holiday when Air Asia had a sale that was posted on Oz Bargain. We jumped on board and got $300 return flights to Kuala Lumpur for April 2016.
- Use Sky Scanner to compare flight prices
Sky Scanner is a great tool to compare flight prices around the world. We didn’t use it when initially booking our Europe or Asia flights because our dates were flexible but once we locked in Melb to London and Melb to KL we shopped around on Sky Scanner for all of our internal flights.
- Save money on accommodation
In Europe 80% of the places we stayed were booked through AirBnB. We’d never used the service before but had heard good reviews from friends and it turned out to be one the best decisions we made both socially and financially. We booked mostly 1 bedroom apartments so we had our own privacy but occasionally stayed in Bed and Breakfast style set ups. In both scenarios we met the host at the start of the booking and they always gave us the best local tips like where to eat and places off the beaten track to visit. Other bonuses of staying in people apartments were that there was always good wifi (unlike patchy wifi in hotels) and most of them had washing machine facilities which definitely beat waiting at a laundromat for 2 hours each time we needed to wash our clothes! Financially AirBnB is CHEAP. Sure you can still pay top dollar but there are so many affordable places that we averaged $90AUD per night for the 42 nights we were in Europe. One of the cheapest places we stayed at was only $50 per night, a one bedroom apartment in Aix-en-Provence just off the main boulevard. The location couldn’t have been more perfect and the apartment was beautifully presented, neat, tidy and had a washing machine and dryer. The most expensive place we stayed was a BnB in Venice we paid $200 AUD per night but the place was beautiful and still cheaper than main stream hotels.
- Book your activities online
So important if you’re travelling around Europe!! Booking the main attractions online will save your HOURS waiting in a queue and make sure you don’t miss out. Some of the attractions we booked online were the Colosseum, The Vatican, The Eiffel Tower, Blenheim Palace, Versailles, Leaning Tower of Pisa stair climb. Book them as soon as you know the date you’ll be in the city as online tickets sell out really quickly. I remember vividly walking to the Vatican with our 9am entrance tickets in hand and passing hundreds of people already queuing to buy tickets. The same happened at the Colosseum too. The one attraction we couldn’t buy tickets online for was the Catacombs in Paris and we waited a very long 2 hours in 30 degree temperature to get to the front!
- Organise Visas before you depart
This wasn’t an issue for us in Europe but on our Asia trip I needed a Visa for Vietnam. I could have landed in Hanoi and applied for one there but the queues would have been longer and the process would have taken more time. Instead, I paid $15 online to have a visa pre-issued and all the paperwork filled out for me. I still had to queue on arrival into Hanoi and pay the $25 fee but all the paperwork was already done.
- Cash or Card?
Gone are the days of ordering travellers cheques and carrying around large sums of foreign currency. We travel with a Citibank Visa Debit card and use ATMs to withdraw money in each country we visit, just enough for a few days at a time. Our particular Citibank account has no international ATM fees (most banks charge $5 per withdrawal), currency conversion fees (most banks charge 3%) and no monthly account maintenance fee.
- Travel Insurance
ALWAYS, always, always get it no matter what. This is non-negotiable. I’ve been using the same travel insurance company for the last few years and I’ve only ever claimed once when myself and my ipad slipped on the edge of the pool and went for a swim. This particular trip was the first time I’d used them and they were so great to deal with even though I was the one at fault. They replaced my ipad with no hassles and great customer service. I could probably get cheaper travel insurance but I know this company will look after me if I ever need it.
Now with those tips go ahead and start planning your own holiday adventure!
I’d love to know what your best travel tips are, leave a comment below or get in touch via my contact page here.