I’ve been actively traveling for over eight years now, and as I’ve explained in my “about me” page, it all began with three wonderful weeks in Bali in June 2009. For this first big trip, I of course had to call on the services of a travel agency, as I was definitely not ready to handle all of the details of such a long and far-off journey.
Over the years I’ve improved a lot (luckily, you might say!), but more than that, I now honestly enjoy the process of making travel plans. I’m not one of those people who will tell you never to go through a travel agency—on the contrary, there are several advantages to this technique, including saving yourself quite a bit of time. But for those of you who like to “build” your own trips as much as I do, here’s a short guide with my exclusive advice!
Select Your Travel Dates
This is the first thing you’ll have to decide before beginning anything else! You’ll need to choose your departure and return dates; of course, it’s best if you can be flexible by a few days with your dates, as this will help you find more convenient flights and better deals.
Choose Your Destination
This is obviously my favorite step of the process! Time to tap into your dreams and fantasies…
Book Your Flights
This, on the other hand, is the unpleasant part, the planning stage that I hate… but hey, there’s no getting around it. While flight comparison websites draw a lot of praise, I don’t think there’s a magic solution. More than anything, it’s a matter of tinkering! You search high and low, change the dates, change the stopovers… in short, it’s a huge headache! Your task is much easier if you have fixed dates, but that comes with a price!
More often than not I use Google Flights and Rome2Rio, both of which I think work well! As for choosing an airline, I consult websites like Seatguru (perfect for choosing a good seat on the plane), Flight Report (reports and ratings for flights and airlines), and of course I always remember to check the annual Skytrax rankings. If you have the choice between several airlines, you may as well select the best one!
Build Your Itinerary
If you’ve opted for a road trip, it’s time to build your itinerary! To start, I buy a good guidebook and pore over it for a few hours so as to have a big picture idea of the destination and its most interesting attractions. These guidebooks often come with defined itineraries which I use as a base, then adapt by adding or removing steps, a night here and a night there! For example, for our road trip through the American West, I built on an itinerary which originally took only three weeks. I made it four for a more relaxed pace by adding extra nights at various locations, as well as a four-day stop at a ranch (Sorrel River)!
Reserve Your Accommodation
Begin with the star hotels of your trip. When I went to Ireland a few years ago, I spent a night at Ashford Castle, and that was the first room that I reserved, knowing that the castle is often fully booked (something which happens to me frequently, as I always make my travel plans at the last minute!).
You can reserve directly on the hotel’s website, or use Booking.com, which I really like thanks to its simplicity and abundance of consumer reviews. I also consult Tripadvisor when I’m unsure which category of room to choose or want to see photos that aren’t curated.
Book Your Activities
Some activities fill up quickly, which was the case when I wanted to visit Alcatraz in San Francisco; if you haven’t reserved a spot several weeks in advance, there’s no way you’ll get a ticket at the door! Make a checklist of activities, restaurants, and shows that you don’t want to miss, and reserve wherever necessary.
I hope that my advice will help you in preparing your next trip! For me, making travel plans is always a delightful process, and it’s actually for this reason that I created Experiences Luxe a few years ago. I realized that I spent a tremendous amount of time researching travel, seeking out the best hotels and destinations. But I’ll admit that it takes up a lot of time (#fulltimejob) and that not everyone feels like spending hours on travel planning! If that’s the case, it’s best to employ the services of a good agency (careful, as some are better than others) that can take care of all of this for you!
How do you plan your trips ? Feel free to send me your comments or questions by posting them on social media.
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About Florence Consul
Editor of Experiences Luxe since 2015, I love discovering new exclusive and authentic experiences all over the world. I left my home country (France) 6 years ago to become a global citizen, traveling 365 days out of the year. I am a foodie person and I make a point of tasting local specialities.