I’ve been planning trips since… forever? Back when I was in elementary school maps fascinated me. The world fascinated me, it always amazed me that at this same time there are people in another parts of the world having an absolutely different life, and we are all part of something bigger. I am In Love with travel, I am In Love with places I’ve never been. I want to see every single inch of earth available. I sat on my patio and looked at planes go by and wondered where they were coming from or who was in there.
I had a huge map on my bedroom wall and I could spend hours looking at it and planning where to go, I would create an itinerary in my mind.
If I ever met someone new and this person would tell me about the trips they did, I would ask every single thing about it and just been taken away. And still happens to me.
Travel is my life, my passion. Travel and writing are my vocation, and what I came to do to this world.
For the past few years I’ve been having a somehow stable life, just taking short trips here and there. But the passion burns inside me, and every day that past, every new month and new year that begins and I’m still in the same place I feel I’m wasting my life if I don’t get to travel. I know is a bit extreme, but that is how I feel about traveling.
Now I graduated from college (again) and I’m at a point in my life where I feel I’m not where I want to be (emotionally and physically). I love New Orleans with passion, but I cant wait to get away from it. Or maybe I want to get away from myself here, from who I am being here.
That is the thing… we have the chance to become whatever we want to be when we get to a new place, but it seems that with time we fall back into our old behaviors and patrons and we start being unhappy again. And that taught me that no matter where I go… I will go with myself, and I have to resolve what I need to within me in order to move on (emotionally and physically).
So during all these years I’ve been almost obsessed with travel blogs and travel webs, and everything that is related to travel and of course maps. So this is a little of what I have learned and what I’m doing before I leave overseas in less than 2 months.
For now you know where you are going… you kinda know when… You kinda know how much money you need. Save as much as you can, because you will probably go over your budget…
Remember that yet-another-pair of shoes won’t compare to see A GREAT NEW CITY ! So consider your everyday expenses when you are about to go on a trip. Is there some luxury you can live without for a few months? There is nothing new where you are, that is why you want to go see some other places, right? Then save that money because you will probably need it there.
You must know how much you will need. You know this by researching, how much the flights and accommodation will cost you? Can you save in any of those main travel expenses? (Couchsurfing, Airbnb, Hostels, friends of friends, miles for flights…?)
Write everything down. Do some research and have an idea of how much food would cost you per day. You can have a great fancy dinner once in a while when you travel, but you have to remember that if you want to see as many places as possible and have a real great experience you will try to make your money last. You don’t want to be worrying about money while traveling, so consider buying food at the grocery store and cooking it yourself. It will be a great different experience itself! (you will be in another country, buying another country’s food, in another country’s store, with another country’s currency!). This is valid for visits to another city… Anything that is not your normal daily routine will be exciting!
3 months before the trip
- Now that you know your budget and have a fairly idea of how much the basics will cost (transportation and accommodation), you can start making your mind up regarding dates, airlines and accommodation options.
- Set up a travel bank account, maybe with a bank that do not charge international ATM fees (like Schwab Bank).
- Start looking for flights – see all possible routes and check a couple of different web sites (Momondo, Skyscanner). Be open minded and flexible! The goal is to save money in flights so you have more money to spend at the destination, or more places to see! Choose a range of dates when you want to travel.
2 months before the trip
- Make a decision regarding the flight you want to buy and the length of your trip. If you are not sure of the length or have certain level of freedom regarding your return date, then buy a one way ticket. It could get slightly higher than buying a round trip, but if you buy one and then change your return date the fees are very expensive… in the long run, you would save money by buying a one way ticket.
- Buy the ticket within 4-6 weeks of the departure date. Airlines usually change the prices on a daily basis and depending on demand. Check on a regular basis for prices and delete the browsing history before doing this… Airlines’ webs check these and the prices get higher every time you access the web. The best days to buy flights are Tues – Wed and the cheapest days to flight are Tues-Wed-Sat.
- Make a list of the places you want to see in each country or city and consider rest time in between. You can’t rush from one place to another or from a city to the next one without catching a breath. I get it, I’m the most anxious person alive but if you don’t take a moment to enjoy and take in the environment and energy of the place and its people, is that really a full experience? or is just like seeing pictures of the place on Pinterest? When you go back home you will feel like you never been there.
- Plan how to get from one city to another and consider the time you need to get to the station. This is highly important, because you want to consider the time you need to see all those places when you are buying flight tickets, train rides or checking for schedules.
The more prepared you are the more you can enjoy the trip, however don’t go into extremely detailed and planned schedule, because that takes away the fun. Just know what your next step is and where are you heading, then be open to changes and let it go.
1 month before trip
Having your flights reserved gives you a sense of control and now you can focus on hotels or accommodation options. If you book to far in advance there is more possibilities that your dates would change (for example if you find a cheaper flight earlier or later from your original dates…).
- Consider options like Airbnb and Hostels. These give you a sense of local environment, and hostels could be a fun place to meet new friends. Always read the reviews and go for what has a good location. If you are in an absolute budget then you should consider the big mixed rooms. If you have a little more budget to invest you can pick a more comfortable option like all female/male rooms with less beds and en suite bathroom. Airbnb is not the cheapest option, but is like being at home. ALWAYS read the reviews and see how the host answered to critics and compliments. Find a good location. You can get a cheaper apartment far from the city center or the places you want to see, but then you will be spending more in transportation and specially… your more valuable asset: TIME. Consider that when choosing accommodation. TAKE YOUR TIME.
- Order the things you need for your trip online… do all the Amazon shopping you need to at least 1 month before… you don’t want to be biting your nails wondering where your stuff are one day before departure.
- Decide if you are getting travel insurance and purchase it. It is a personal decision and it completely up to you, some people recommend it. I never had it before but I will get some for my two-month long backpack trip to Europe.
2 weeks before trip
- With the reservations made and everything coming together… You need to make sure everything back at home is taken care of. Have enough money in your bank account to cover the bills with auto-pay and that your landlord/ friend/ trusted neighbor knows you will be out of town so they can keep an eye on your place.
- Have a second set of your house keys and leave it by a trusted friend. Before you leave unplug all your electronics and keep valuables away. You never know… and you want to keep the worries away while traveling.
- Let your bank know you will be out of the country or the city. This is highly important… you don’t want your CC to be declined while you are in another part of the world.
- Have some money in cash and some in the checking account. But dont take all your money in cash nor all your money in your debit card. Have a little cash and if you need more use the ATM when you arrive to destination. Keep in mind some places in this world do not take cards for payment. Also, if possible have an emergency CC.
- Make copies of your important documents and leave them with a trusted person, or scan them and send it to yourself by email. You can also try Dropbox, great app that allows you to keep all your documents online and in a safe way.
- Leave your house clean, take out the trash… duh! I know is redundant but once I had to feed a friend’s cats and it seems the trash has been seating there for weeks… not nice smell to come home to.
- Cancel all utilities that can be cancelled and you won’t be using, like Netflix or your Gym membership. Please! Don’t get charge for things you are not using… when you can use that money to buy yourself some more gelato in Rome!
- Get an universal adapter if you are traveling overseas.
1 week before trip
- Research how’s the weather in the place you will visit, to pack accordingly…
- Start packing up – AND BE SMART ABOUT IT. We all know this… if you don’t wear certain stuff at home… you wont be wearing them somewhere else. Take the essential, take what you know you will wear, do not take too much. It will just hold you back and be a liability. You are trying to enjoy yourself! You can always buy something is you necessarily need it wherever you go…
- Be aware of airport restrictions about the carry on, if you can buy travel sized amenities so you won’t even have to check in luggage. This will mean… you don’t have to wait for it at the airport, and you don’t have to worry about your supposed lost luggage after the 3 first bags came out AND YOURS IS STILL NOT THERE!!!
- Have transportation to the airport arranged. And research about transportation from the airport you are arriving to.
- Have a folder with all the important documents and copies of reservations (hotel, train, flights, Airbnb contacts, etc).
- Write down your friends and family phone numbers…. Do not depend on a cellphone when you leave. You don’t know what can happen to it, or if you can even use it.
- Have your comfy flight outfit ready.
- Grab a journal if you like to write or express in that way. You will see so many things but most importantly you will see yourself in another environment and you can discover a new part of you. You can take advantage of your creativity and write, then share the memories on your blog, or with your grand kids someday.
- Consider if is a good idea to bring a laptop. I mean… if you write or work with it then obviously… yes. If not, it may become a liability or heavy weight on your back.
And…. YES!!! You made it 🙂
Remember to arrive (when possible) to a new place for the first time during the day. Even if is not the first time or a new place, try to arrive early. This will be much safer and it will be easier to find your hotel/restaurant/taxi etc…
Get some rest. You will get there and be so excited that want to drop your bags in the lobby of your hostel and run out looking for adventures and take every picture you can possibly take.
BUT, after maybe one hour of hectic sightseeing you will feel miserably tired and won’t have a bit of energy left to see or appreciate this amazing place you are visiting. So, take it easy and take a nap or a shower to refresh yourself and then go out to enjoy the city.
Be friendly, but do keep your guard up. You probably are new to this place, and if you are traveling alone you are an easy target for scams, robbery or AN AMAZING TIME! but… either way always take care of yourself.
Get a sim card (if you have an unblocked cell) or get a pay as you go phone. You need one to look up maps, places, call your Couchsurfing host, call the hotels, let your family know you are fine! (because you will be) and let all them know how amazing you are because you are traveling!
(More travel preparation post to come)
Wish you many happy travels!