Mrs. Limestone's Inexpert Guide to: Planning a Trip

So as I’ve said, I don’t consider myself an expert by any means – just my own experiences to go on. So its with caution I humbly present my inexpert guide to: Planning a Trip.


Picking a Place
Naturally, the first step is deciding where to go. We go about this in an unusual way. Instead of selecting a single location and time to price out, we have a list of about 5-10 locales that are on our to-do list and go from there. That list changes all the time but having a long list isn't hard at all - the world is a big place. Being flexible is a great way of finding a trip that works with our time, budget and desires.

-Have several locations and times to price out – you’ll get a better deal and a better trip because of it. There is no one perfect place.

-Don’t be deterred by distance. Going far can sometimes reap big rewards in both exotic experiences, better value and an overall more exciting trip.

-Don’t be deterred by time. Ideally Id like to spend a month everywhere but better to have loved and lost than never loved at all.

Australia (308 of 308)

    Get There
    Airfare tends to be the most expensive part of traveling so all of our trips start with figuring this part out first. Mr. Limestone takes the reins and does lots of fare searches for the locations and dates until he finds a winning combination. Once again, we do this a little differently than most. Being mileage hounds, we only travel on a single airline or its alliance partners so that narrows down the search. Sometimes we do pay a little more to travel on a single alliance but its more than made up for by the free premium cabin tickets we have scored over the years. If one location is too expensive, we simply move to the next on the list (see above).

    -If you can commit to it, being loyal to one airline alliance can reap major rewards.


    Informed Spontaneity
    I like doing lots of research! I’ll pretty much read anything I can find about the location, what to do, where to stay, what to see, etc. I’m kind of insatiable when it comes to information. So you are probably wondering how detailed my itineraries are. And the answer is: I don’t have one. I make a general list of things I want to do but I don’t time them or plan them out exactly. Why? The weather, the timing, our moods, jet lag, the reality of the location, some other distraction all make for itinerary killers for me so there is no point in making one. I like being prepared but not being planned to the minute. This method is not foolproof – like when I missed the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne because I didn’t realize it closed early – but it also reaps rewards like when we stumbled into a food festival in Paris or spent the day exploring Bangkok via random tuk-tuk. I also buy at least one travel book to take with me. This might seem a bit old fashioned but having a book full of info is a great way to make plans on the go when you don’t have an internet connection.

    -Make sure you check the publication dates of a travel book. Older versions have outdated info – get the latest one you can find.

    -A list of things you would like to do and see is enough. You don’t have to schedule every minute.


    Find a Temporary Home
    I admit it, I don’t ‘rough it’ well. I have no desire to sleep somewhere of questionable safety, cleanliness or proximity. I definitely pay more for staying someplace that is up to snuff but there are a few ways to get your money’s worth. The first is simply asking the hotel for a better deal. It doesn’t always work but sometimes they might have a secret special or simply are feeling generous that day. Once you have found some rates to compare – make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Is breakfast included? Is the hotel located in a central location (which will save you time and money)? Think in terms of total cost, not just room rate. Another option is to rent an apartment – there are some fabulous pads available for rent in central locations for less than the price of a high end hotel. An added bonus is that apartments rarely have any hidden costs. Another tactic is to be loyal to a single hotel chain - they also have miles and deals for loyal customers just like the airlines do – which can get you some free nights in exchange for your stays.

    -Don’t be embarrassed to ask for a better rate when planning your stays.

    -Renting an apartment can save you money in more ways than one.

    That’s it! No big surprises, no secrets revealed, just our own recipe for travel. So what do you think? Anything else about planning a trip you would like me to answer?

    Do you have your own methods and tips you want to share? I'd love to hear them.


    1. Just tweeted this out. Thank you so much for this VERY timely post. Mr. Man and I are hoping to get away to Spain this fall and your advice is appreciated!

    2. I am the same way about information. I can spend weeks reading about a location. For instance, I've spent two weeks reading blogs about a weekend trip to New Orleans even though I've been there a handful of times. 

      Thanks for sharing your tips!

    3. KELLY LOKEY9:25 AM

      I am definitely a planner! I also love travel books,  I can only get comfortable about leaving after I'v read every Foder's in every edition from cover to cover. Happy planning!

    4. Jenireni29:35 AM

      Thank you! We travel the exact same way and I always have people ask how we decide where to go or how we can afford it. I tried explaining we have a list and look for ways to use miles....but now I can send them a link to this. Thank you so much and happy travels!

    5. This was a great write-up! I love your laid-back approach to travel.  We haven't been able to travel as much as we used to due to our recent renovation, but we're starting to think of the next big trip. If you could recommend one destination (for a 2-3 week trip), where would it be? (we've already done South Africa and France)

    6. MrsLimestone9:51 AM

      Thanks. It really depends on what you like to do but with 3 weeks (which is longer than I have ever been away for) - I would suggest a few locations in Asia. You could do 10 days in Thailand and still have enough time to hop over to Cambodia and Hong kong for a few days each. Or you could easily spend that whole time in-depth on any one country.

    7. I've just started a new thing for planning small breaks - making my own guidebook out of the best bits of internet recommendations, friends' tips and guidebooks. I wrote about it here:
      But I still think it's worth having a guidebook at the hotel for random occurences (heavy rain would have negated most of the stuff we planned to do, for example).

    8. My biggest planning friend is  Between the recommendations and the forums, by the time I book anything I feel like I have a solid handle on what to expect from a location.

    9. Cassie {Hi Sugarplum}11:53 AM

      all great tips!!

    10. MrsLimestone12:16 PM

      Definitely - I read every review on there.

    11. After traveling with my very laid-back husband for the first time years ago (Disney World!) I learned that it's best to following the "informed spontaneity" way of vacationing. We're both a lot happier and more relaxed because of it. I also check with him to see if there's anything he wants to do that I don't (like golf) so I can plan my own spa day or morning by the pool while he golfs.

    12. Thanks for the suggestion! We talked about Thailand but hadn't thought about hitting up other nearby spots while there, but I really like that idea.  You are my travel hero!

    13. We have a lot of similarities, and huge differences, in the way we travel. First, I do all of the planning, research, and booking. Alan hates to do any of that. We know that every year we'll go to Hawaii and generally when so we use our timeshare for that. For the rest of our trips, it's a combination of b&b, mid-range, and luxury hotels (depending on where we're going). I also maximize our time in the location we're flying to by making sure that our flights don't really cut into the amount of time we're on the ground, especially if the trip is only going to be for 4-5 days. We also plan WAY in advance. Like you, I am insatiable when it comes to information about a destination. I used to do very detailed itineraries - especially if we planned on moving a lot during the trip - but the last few times we've gone anywhere I've been so stressed by other things that we kind of just went with the flow. I liked it, but I also wondered if maybe I was missing out because I hadn't as thoroughly planned as I normally would. On the airline front, we are FF members for American and I really enjoy their partner program since I fly one of the airlines a lot for work. We also have a Citibank ThankYou Network card which allows us to earn points for travel. We've had a lot of success with it in the past (tickets to Rome, hotel in Paris, multiple tickets to Hawaii), but they've switched partners and I'm less impressed than I have been. Still, it's been huge in getting us to the destinations we visit. My final tip would be to think about scheduling your trips at off times or in low season. We went to Ireland over Thanksgiving and while the weather wasn't sunshine & roses, we had most attractions to ourselves and the five star hotels were priced similarly to three star hotels during high season. Ashford Castle for $250/night is unheard of any other time of the year. Also, don't always rely on Saturday to Saturday trips. We wanted to go to an all-inclusive in Jamaica for our anniversary last year and it was expensive. Out of curiosity I checked Wednesday to Wednesday and it was $800 cheaper, which made a huge difference in getting the husband on board with that five star, adults only resort versus a three star all inclusive where kids would have been everywhere.

    14. TripAdvisor might be my favorite site on the entire Internets.

    15. MrsLimestone2:20 PM

      Great tips. Definitely true about traveling off season - we do that a lot.

    16. Marnie2:37 PM

      I'm curious if you have ever rented a house or an apartment, if so how was your experience?

    17. Great tips....the advanced planning is key but I like to play it by ear a little when I arrive also. I like getting tips from locals....much of what I know about London is what the cabbies have told me! xv

    18. Frenklyorange3:31 PM

      My husband and I just got the Venture Card from Capital One... you can use your points for ANY travel expense. It doesn't have to be a particular airline or hotel chain, it's great! We just used our points to pay for all our excursions on our Southern Caribbean cruise. :)

    19. MrsLimestone3:41 PM

      Yes I've done it a few times - in buenos aires, Barcelona and Rome. All 3 were really positive experiences but I am very careful about finding apartments in good locations and with good reviews. I wouldn't chance it since you are stuck with whatever is there - more so than with a hotel that has multiply rooms.

    20. Kelly Langford4:31 PM

      Love your guide.  Especially the tip, "don't be deterred by time".  I find lots of people look at me like I"m crazy when I tell them I just got back from 5 short days in central america, but I'd rather GO than wait till when I have the time for a longer trip.  I never will.

    21. MrsLimestone4:47 PM

      Yes exactly. Lots of people seem to think a short trip is 'not worth it' - but if someplace is worth visiting for a longer period, how can it not be worth seeing the highlights?

    22. I think I just wrote the same post.  Only, being me, it was more of a faffling about navelgazing post, rather than practicalities.  I did take the same picture of stack o' travel books, though.  I think that staying too loyal to certain hotel chains does tend to make you miss a bit of character though.  A Hilton is a HHilton is a Hilton.    I like the review sites like Tripadvisor.  You do have to take the reviews with a grain of salt, but it's a good shorthand.

    23. MrsLimestone6:16 PM

      I'm with you about chain hotels but the economics of it make sense. This is a big disagreement here - the hubs always wants the Hilton while I insist elsewhere. I usually win but under protest.

      Where is your post? I don't see it on your blog.

    24. Michelle Scheibe7:46 PM

      I have a nosey much vacation time do you get from work? This is my husband and I's biggest challenge when planning trips!

    25. MrsLimestone8:06 PM

      4 weeks. It's a challenge for us too - I could easily use twice as much time.

    26. Imogen8:06 PM

      I agree with your suggestion of not being deterred by distance. I live in Australia, so everywhere in the world involves a long trip (even to the other side of Australia) but it is always worth it. I search the internet for good flight deals and also inquire with travel agents to see if they can offer me a better deal than what I have found, it often turns out they can save me even more. I have stayed in apartments before (Paris) and found it to be fantastic, 500m walking distance from the Louvre!! I spend time researching my destinations and like to do a tour on the first day i get there (bike/walking) to get a feel for the layout of the city and 'settle in'. I'm leaving for my first US trip in less than a week so i'm very excited!

    27. Jen_from_the_block8:28 PM

      We travel the same way. We've done apartments in Amsterdam & Paris, with great results. We also use Gate 1 Travel - they have truly fantastic deals and after a few trips with them, we check them first when thinking about any trip. Being flexible is the key to any good trip!

    28. lodi2k68:35 PM

      About how far in advance do you typically plan your trips?  I'm trying to get a feel for approximately how long it takes to shop for airfares (admitedly on a limited number of carriers), choose your lodging, and do your other research.  I like to plan about 3-4 months in advance, but I'm wondering if there would be advantages to planning further ahead.

      Do you have a limit on the number of trips you will be planning at any given moment?  I can't deal with planning more than one trip at a time.

      Lastly, I believe some of your trip recaps have mentioned going on tours in the cities you've visited--do you identify these tours and guides yourself through your preliminary trip research?  Are these custom tours where an expert takes you only to the places you want to see?  I'd love to hear more about this aspect of your travels, if you're so inclined. 

    29. MrsLimestone9:28 PM

      It depends. Sometimes we do a last minute jaunt when we find a good deal (like when we went to Moscow a few years ago with just a few weeks notice) and sometimes we plan way in advance (like when we used miles to fly first class to Australia, we had to plan ahead to get those tickets).

      I definitely plan more than 1 trip at a time. Right now we are besting our personal record with 4.

      Using a private guide or one of the bigger tour group depends on the place. In some places like Bali and Bangkok, a private guide is cheap and well worth the cost. In larger, more expensive cities we might do a basic city tour to orient ourselves or do no tour at all. Generally it's a money thing - I would love to have a private guide on every trip. You see so much more when a local is showing you around.

    30. Kara Paslay8:00 AM

      Thanks so much for sharing your tips Stef!  They are certainly helpful!

    31. I 100% agree with your "find a temporary home" advice. is a fantastic resource, even worldwide. We used in both Sydney and Kauai with awesome results! It's a fantastic way to save money and feel more at home than you would in some hotels.  Great post!

    32. Guest1:30 PM

      Thanks for the tips!  We definitely have a different style as I would go crazy only staying somewhere for a few days!  I second the comments about renting an apartment.  We rented a fantastic bachelor apartment right in central Paris last year for a measly $550euros/week.  It was perfect.  I also recommend booking through a travel agent if you're going far and foreign.  We spent three weeks in Mauritius last year and it was very comforting knowing that if something went wrong there or at home we were only one call to our travel agent away from flights home.  I have a colleague who had a trip to Egypt booked earlier this year and all the violence broke out days before they were supposed to leave.  call to their travel agent and they were on their way to Greece instead.

    33. MrsLimestone7:51 PM

      You think so?  I've used travel agents before and I have rarely felt it was worth bothering.  I would feel differently if a travel agent had experience and a lot of knowledge with a location but most of them don't so they are just looking at the same info I am looking at online.  In those cases, I'd rather just make the decisions myself so I can find the best deals.  As far as I can tell, the days of travel agents having the inside scoop are long gone.  That said, if someone doesn't like to do their own research than by all means they should use a travel agent.  I'm just a control freak :)

    34. MrsLimestone7:52 PM

      Good tip.  We like to do a little city tour on our first day too.  Makes a real difference in being able to navigate for the remainder of the trip.

    35. lodi2k68:58 PM

      My experience with travel agents parallels Mrs. L's.  The ones I've used have had no more information about my travel destination than I did.  Further, the last agent I used seemed baffled by the requirements of my frequent flyer program (this is on a major carrier, and she's supposedly been in business for years?)  and also wasn't very communicative (my travel documents arrived later than promised, and I had to call and ask her to follow up with the tour company).  The last straw was when I asked her to recommend a hotel for me in Sydney. and I ended up finding a nicer, cheaper hotel on my own via Orbitz.  Overall, she didn't show much initiative and I believe the value she added to the proceedings was neglible.  Perhaps my expectations are just off base.

    36. lodi2k68:58 PM

      My experience with travel agents parallels Mrs. L's.  The ones I've used have had no more information about my travel destination than I did.  Further, the last agent I used seemed baffled by the requirements of my frequent flyer program (this is on a major carrier, and she's supposedly been in business for years?)  and also wasn't very communicative (my travel documents arrived later than promised, and I had to call and ask her to follow up with the tour company).  The last straw was when I asked her to recommend a hotel for me in Sydney. and I ended up finding a nicer, cheaper hotel on my own via Orbitz.  Overall, she didn't show much initiative and I believe the value she added to the proceedings was neglible.  Perhaps my expectations are just off base.

    37. MrsLimestone6:06 AM

      What is a molding an motif?

    38. SusieQ7:23 PM

      I always read comments on TripAdvisor, too - that can give you some good insight to location/lodging/etc.  I also leave comments here for our experiences when we travel.

    39. LOVE it, up to snuff, nuff said!  I love my home so much that I sometimes find staying at hotels isn't up to par, do you ever feel that way? I stayed a lovely hotel once, four stars, and I asked for the special but the room was tiny, and the floor was dirty... this happens to me often.  P.S. can you please share with me where you got your molding an motif for your house?


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