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.
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.
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.