Travel Easy - Simple Planning for your itinerary
——— Booking everything and things to consider ———
1. Opting for Group Tours
The easy way to plan is to book tours. Group tours usually include transportation, accommodations, entertainment, and even some food. That is why this option appeals to so many people who find travel planning to be a royal pain. Making sure that your group tours aren’t going to double your costs is a difficult task because it then requires you to do all of the research that you would have done if you wanted to plan it yourself - so, it almost defeats the purpose of checking. You generally decide that the price is reasonable or not and then book so that the process is simple.
Well, we have your back! We’ve looked up a number of group tours and did the research ourselves. There are some that we absolutely know charge a premium over the others. However, most of these ones give you a much higher standard of pampering and care, and they pride themselves on delivering on your expectations. It is a comfort decision that needs to be made. If these are the types of tours that you are looking for, then we highly recommend G-Adventures for the best experience. You’ll even get to filter through their tours on what type of travel-style you enjoy most, including: Classic Tours, Active Tours, Wellness Tours, Local Living Tours, and even National Geographic Journeys!
Alternatively, there are a few other tour companies that leave us wondering just how they are making any money at all - because the self-guided versions that we put together end up costing only about 10% less than theirs and yet they do everything for us and even throw in a few other things that we didn’t factor in for seemingly no additional cost. So, it turns out that these tours are occasionally even cheaper than doing it ourselves and a lot less of a burden to figure out! If these are the type of tours that you are looking for, we highly recommend TourRadar or Isango!. Our most recent booking with TourRadar was their Explore Egypt tour and we are definitely looking forward to it!
2. Consider an “All-Inclusive” Resort or Cruise
Certain resorts, such as the Sandals & Beach Resorts located in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, offer “all-inclusive” package deals where you pay one price and everything that you need is provided to you. You get luxury suites, 5-star gourmet dining, unlimited premium spirits, scuba diving, unlimited land activities, state of the art fitness centers, golf course green-fees included, offshore island retreats, captivating pools, entertainment & live shows, tips are included, lounges, WiFi, transfers, and even your wedding is free when you book a honeymoon for 3+ nights! These type of places go on sale a few times a year and you can get Sandals & Beach Resorts for 65% off of their regular prices - so, it makes sense to keep an eye on them if you don’t want to have to plan everything out! If you’re looking for other all inclusive resorts around the world, we suggest checking out Booking.com’s Resorts page.
Another “all-inclusive” option would be to take a cruise. Meals, entertainment, and activities are included and you can visit various ports of call depending on the ship’s itinerary. There are usually optional tours and adventures available for booking at additional fees, and you can increase or decrease your costs based upon the type of room you book. If you book through a travel agent, they should be able to also get you onboard credits. Alternatively, using bookingbuddy.com allows you to compare prices and usually includes onboard credits and sometimes discounts on excursion fees. Coming from the UK? TUI cruise packages sometimes include airfare, and they all include tips and service charges. If you end up enjoying your cruise so much you can’t wait to do another one–you may want to book your next cruise while still on the ship. There are usually significant discounts on your next voyage if you book while still on board.
3. Pay attention to transportation/logistics costs
If you prefer to skip the tours and resorts, you will need to put together a travel plan by yourself. One of the first things to consider - even before considering what place you would like to stay at - is how you will be able to get around. We have found this to be more important because of mistakes we have made in the past. For example, we opted for a hotel that was $25 cheaper for a one-night stay in Rome to save a little money. We thought that was a good deal until it turned out that the 40 minute Uber to get to get there was over $75, each way! We could have searched for a different way to get to where we needed to go - like the Metro (which would have cost less than $12), but - because we couldn’t log into a local WiFi without confirming our email and also didn’t have a cellular data plan yet to confirm the email - we ended up having to take the Uber as we were limited on time. We were quite distraught, as you can imagine!
We have learned that in some countries the Ubers and Taxis are quite cheap, like in Egypt, while other countries, like Italy and France, are quite expensive! The Metro subways and buses seem to be fairly affordable, trains seem to be rather pricey, and cars are relatively cheap if you know how to rent them.
4. Booking transportation, hotel, car, and activities
Before you book your hotel or other accommodation, make sure you check on how much it is going to cost you to travel to that hotel and then to each of the places you plan to travel to while you are there. If everything seems acceptable, book the hotel and the transportation at the same time. This is why sites like hotels.com have “Package” deals with flights.
Alternatively, you can look for great airfare deals to book separately (we flew from the USA to Paris for $210 including food, bags, and seat choices). Interested in how we did this? Open up norwegianair.com and use their search system. This one is a bit different. Just under the main title screen that says “Destinations” in bold, you will see “Prices are from [Chicago] for [both direct and transit] flights in [USD] and include taxes and charges”. You will have to select one of their starting locations - and you may alter the other settings as well. The list below will show every location that they fly to, and the lowest cost for those flights in each month. Keeping your travel dates flexible is a great way to save a lot of money.
Our tips when it comes to renting cars: 1. Make sure you use a credit card that has auto insurance coverage to rent your vehicle (some countries require a formal letter from the credit card company), 2. Make sure you have enough money for a security deposit on the vehicle (if not, ask your credit card company for an extension for this type of hold), 3. Opt to rent a manual “stick-shift” vehicle if you know how to drive them (they are usually cheaper by about $10 per day!), 4. Make sure you fill the tank up before you return the vehicle (we paid $85 for less than 10 gallons of gasoline once because we forgot), and 5. Pay attention to gasoline prices in the location that you are visiting.
We also recommend that you book your activities well in advance. We had thought that we would visit the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but this was completely booked up over two months in advance. The same situation occurred when we wanted to visit Warner Bros Studios outside of London, England. Unfortunately, if you don’t book ahead of time, you may not end up getting to go. A great place to search for an book activities is Isango! - we’ve found their prices to be reasonable and their website to be easy to navigate.
5. Searching for places to eat & drink
Regardless of where we go, we have been able to find a few affordable meals. In some places, this is just about everywhere we go, but in others we really need to do the research to find them. It is good to do a Google search on “how much does a meal cost in [your destination]”. The costs in your home country may be quite different than the costs in your destination location. This search will at least give you a decent idea of what to expect when you get there.
You can also do a Google search for “Cheap places to eat in [your destination]”. We typically skip the TripAdvisor links at this point and look for local links (that appear to be from your destination location) or ones from Culture Trip or Lonely Planet. Unfortunately, our experience with TripAdvisor is that they always pop up near the top of the search results with headlines that seem like they would be helpful, but then once we click on the link they end up giving us something completely different with reviews that have turned out to be less honest than the other ones we mentioned - so you might end up with a more expensive meal at a lower quality than you were expecting.
Consider the exchange rate for between your country and the one you are visiting. That exchange rate may end up costing you more than you think (or, depending on the country, saving you quite a bit!).