Tips for planning your travels

So, after working out that I have been on TWENTY TWO different flights over the past eight months (Holymoly!), I decided it was time to do a blog around tips for travelling. I’ve learnt so much over the last while, from being more resourceful during the planning stages, to making my flight as comfortable as possible. I wanted to share all the little tips and trick I’ve picked up along the way.

I’m going to divide this post into two parts so as not to give you information overload!! I really hope it will help you with planning future trips!

Part one: Planning

Booking flights

  • BE FLEXIBILE! – My NO. 1 tip for getting the best deal on flights is to be open to travelling to places you may never have even thought about before. Nearly every one of my trips this year has been a result of the best deal around the time I wanted to travel.  There are so many amazing places to visit, try not to limit yourself when you don’t have to.

 

  • Use Skyscanner as your starting point – Recently I helped my brother to plan a 12 day trip around Europe in September, and it is the perfect example of how it is possible to travel without having to take out a mortgage to do so. He wasn’t fussy about where he went, which made it much easier for me to get him the most bang for his buck. The total cost for all five of his flights was €142!

 

Dublin – Stockholm (€29)

Stockholm – Budapest (€45)

Budapest – Berlin (€17)

Berlin – Milan (€17)

Milan – Dublin (€34)

 

Have a look at my info graph to see how:

Travel tips infographicv

And VOLAH! Cheap flights. Obviously the earlier you book the better the deal. Last minute flights aren’t as cheap as they used to be, so get planning as soon as you can.

  • Don’t be afraid of newsletters – Ryanair and Aer Lingus do a weekly newsletter which give you info on upcoming sales and deals etc. It’s an easy way to stay in the loop of what’s on offer. I also like to follow airlines and travel sites on social media, they are always posting promo codes which can really help to save money if you get them at the right time.

 

  • Sign up to google alerts – Set up an alert for “New flight route from Dublin airport”. This puts you ahead of the trend as new routes often mean there will be an introduction sale on the way. Google will email you every time a news article goes online with that phrase in it. I get an email about once a week so it’s not too invasive.

 

  • Go incognito! – If you have been toying over a trip, visiting and revisiting the site to book your flights, you may notice prices going up. This can be down to cookies so make sure you set your browser to private/incognito before you book so that you know you are getting the cheapest price (How to do that is a whole other type of blog post, so if you’re not sure give it a google).

 

  • Lastly; Pay for your seat – Unfortunately, airlines are now charging for you to select your seat on the plane. My advice is if you are not travelling alone and you want to sit with your travel partner – pay for your seat. You will almost definitely be seated separately if you don’t, even if you are checking in on the same booking. If you don’t want to pay extra, then you need to make peace with the fact you will probably be sitting apart for the duration of your flight and try not to let it stress you out.

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Finding the right location for you – Google maps

Once you have locked in your travel dates and flights you need to figure out where’s best to stay in your chosen city.

Use google maps save feature – One thing I do while I’m travelling, is to save (or Star!) any cool places I find to my Google Maps account. That way, if I go back to the city again I’ll know where to find my favourite spots.

I have started to do this in advance of trips now too, it really helps to understand the layout of a city and with picking an area to stay. I simply do a little bit of research and save key places I would like to visit to my account. Once I have a few places saved I look at the map and by the stars I get a general idea of which area will best suit. Here’s an example of one of my maps:

image2

If you do decide to use this idea, be sure to include some restaurants and bars that have good reviews online, that way at night time you won’t have far to walk and end up spending loads on taxis while there.

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Choosing your accommodation

There are lots of accommodation options when travelling, but one thing I will say is to be open to staying in hostels. They are cheap, funky and a great way to meet likeminded people. And honestly, hostels are not just for solo travellers or groups of friends either. They are perfect for couples and families too, private rooms are always an option if you don’t fancy staying in a dorm with lots of people.

Paul, a colleague of mine, stayed in a hostel in Madrid last month with his wife and two sons (8 & 12 years old). What an awesome thing to do as a family! I chatted to Paul about it and what he had to say speaks for itself;

“For the first time ever we stayed in a hostel. The thoughts of a hostel never crossed our mind before but having heard super reports from friends and family we decided to give it a go. Overall the experience was fantastic, we were greeted by staff who couldn’t do enough for us and were given an extremely comfortable private family room that put many hotels we had stayed in to shame. The experience changed our views of hostels and on leaving we all agreed that on our next city break the first search for accommodation would be a hostel”

So, with all that said, I wanted to share my top three websites for booking accommodation online, these sites have been the back bone of my travelling this year:

The great thing about this site is they only recommend one hostel per city. If you stay at one of their recommended properties, then you know you will be somewhere that has every possible amenity you would need (the one in Milan even has portable Wi-Fi modems you can take out in to the city during the day if you don’t have internet). They are extremely clean, safe, have great organised activities, gorgeous common areas, and are just all round funky places to stay!

I am sure most people are familiar with this site but it is worth a mention none the less. I would use this more for hotels but it can be good for hostels if you want the option of free cancellation.

The things I love about it are:

  • The free cancellation
  • The map on the site is useful for picking a hotel/hostel in a specific location
  • You can filter right down to the nitty gritty details of where and what you want
  • It is really easy to stay within your budget on this site
  • The reviews and ratings tend to be super reliable

 

This is the best site for variety, there are lots of hostels listed on this site that aren’t on booking.com so if you are dead set on a hostel you will find lots of options here. The only downside is you need to pay a deposit when you are booking. They do have a flexi feature where you can pay an extra €2, meaning if you need to cancel for some reason your deposit will be saved to your account where you can use it on a future booking – so all is not lost.

 

I won’t go into too much detail for my last part of the planning tips as they pretty much explain themselves.

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Learn just enough so you don’t end up wasting time or missing out when you get there.

Certain museums are cheaper online AND need to be booked in advance or else you may have to que for up to 3 or 4 hours – for example Ann Franks house in Amsterdam. Planning a few key things to do in advance will save you time and money when you get there.

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Have a look at the metro before you go

If you are visiting a city with a metro it will only stand to you to have a quick look at the maps and how it all works before you go. Youtube is full of 5 minute videos basically called “How to use the metro in……. wherever”. Honestly, if I hadn’t done that bit of research before New York I would have spent so much more money on the Metro and I most definitely would have gotten lost.

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Watch some vlogs

Vloggers are a really great source of travel info. They will show things that are off the beaten track and give you great ideas for where to eat and go out. If I watch a good vlog about a place Im planning to vist and they talk about somewhere I’d like to see, Ill go in and add it to my google map for down the line.

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So that’s it for part one, I really hope my planning tips help with your next trip if you are about to start planning. I love talking to people about this stuff so if you have any questions feel free to get in touch. Equally if you have any extra tips of your own I would love to hear them, I’m always open to new travel ideas and ways to improve my journeys.

 

The next post will be about making the flight part of a trip comfortable, as well as how to make the most of your time in a new city – I always try to squeeze every last second out of my time away!

 

Written with love,

R

x

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