It’s time to cozy up and plan for all of the travel that 2018 and your fresh new set of vacation days has to offer. Deciding where to go, however, is tougher than ever; travel bucket lists get longer with each wanderlust-provoking Instagram photo liked, travel article read, and YouTube video watched.
Naturally, when vacation planning, there are many moving parts to consider – from price (travel budgets aren’t usually as limitless as we wish they were), to flight length and weather. Then there’s deciding where you’ll stay, play, and explore once you get there. In short, there’s no room for error. It’s therefore important to know your travel hacks – the tricks, tips, and tools of the trade – so you can save time, money, and stress when planning a vacation…
7 Travel Hacks That Will Make Trip Planning Easier
1. Set A Purpose For Your Trip
Deciding how to allocate those precious vacation days can get overwhelming – choosing between the slopes vs. the beach, an all-inclusive resort vs. a boutique hotel, and all of the sights and tastes offered in a destination is basically a job in itself. Simplify the process from the start by deciding first on a goal for your trip. This could be something as simple as completely disconnecting on a beach with a stack of books, to exploring a new city one street-food stand at a time, or challenging yourself on a yoga-filled wellness retreat. Setting the purpose and moving forward from there will make it a lot easier and ensure you stay on track (life is distracting enough).
2. Compare Hotel Prices
Once you decide on a destination, finding the best hotel to stay at isn’t always as simple as it sounds – it involves strategy. Make it easy on yourself (and on your credit card) by comparing hotel prices on sites like KAYAK where you can instantly search and compare hundreds of travel sites at once. Here, the process is simplified through filters which allow you to search hotels within a specific price range. Remember, where you stay can make or break a trip.
3. Let Instagram Inspire
Replacing the historic travel brochure, Instagram has become the hottest travel app as of late, offering up-to-the-minute snaps of what dream vacations and excursions are made of in a way that a Google search can’t. The curated inspiration offered via a search of the Instagram “places” tab can send you deep into the dreamy itinerary-making zone. Just remember that a glossy, perfectly filtered photo can – and often does – look better than the reality. Once a photo catches your eye, don’t forget to accompany the shot with ample online research to avoid disappointment.
4. Start With A Modest Budget
While setting a vacation budget is a no-brainer, I find that it’s always smart to start with a planning budget that’s significantly less than what you’re actually working with. That way, you have more to spend when you’re there, should opportunities like an unexpected hot air balloon trip or lobster-filled catamaran tour present themselves. It’s never a good feeling to drop so much on flight and accommodations that you’re counting every dollar spent once you’re (finally) miles away from home and theoretically in “vacation mode.”
5. Set Price Alerts
You don’t have to settle for the first price you see – I never do. Nor do you have to risk getting called out for being distracted in the board meeting or at the dinner table because you’re busy checking in on travel deals every half hour. KAYAK spares you the anxiety of a potential missed deal with price alerts that keep you up-to-date with price changes on the flight or hotel you want. The feature delivers customized notifications to your inbox or phone – perfect for those great last-minute deals.
6. Know The Best Time To Book
When you travel can make a major difference on the price of your flight. Airlines usually reduce their fares on Tuesday afternoons when they know if their weekend flights are fully booked. You may also consider travelling in the low season (i.e. June to November for the Caribbean) and on “off” days of the week. For example, for the best last-minute deals – say, for a weekend in New York or Miami – avoid flying on Friday evenings and Monday mornings, when the premium rate-paying business set are regular flyers. I almost always find lower rates on flights that hit the sky on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday (admittedly, I do have the luxury of a flexible job).
7. Determine Your “Must-Hit” Spots
When it comes to planning your itinerary, definitely narrow down your “must-hit” restaurants, sights, and excursions in advance. Features like KAYAK’s Hotel Heat Maps shows you which hotels are near restaurants, nightlife, sightseeing, and shopping, allowing you to decide how close you want to be to the action and what to do. Before you leave, choose your definite destinations and activities and, like your travel goal, work from there. The key is not to pack your schedule so tightly that it leaves little leeway for unexpected changes (i.e. the discovery of a hidden gem of a restaurant or a sudden desire to try surfing) – keep it loose and flexible to avoid stress.
Nothing can kill a travel vibe faster than realizing that you missed a major step in the planning process – whether that means booking a hotel that, in reality, defines the concept of false advertising, or a flight that breaks the bank. A bit of research is bound to save you time, money and stress: start your 2018 travel planning at KAYAK.com.
A huge thanks to KAYAK for sponsoring this post so we could share our 7 travel hacks that will make trip planning easier! Check out their site as they also have some great hacks to help you with where, when and how to travel.