5 planning tips I live by to be able to travel more
One time Shawn and I travelled 9 months out of 12. That year we visited Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia over the weekend, took my parents to South Korea, relaxed in Phnom Penh & Siem Reap, cruised Halong Bay in Hanoi, hit the beach in Bali, hiked Burma, and ended the year with a road trip through my favourite place in the world: South Africa. We both have a steady income to fall back on, but that doesn't mean we don't have to save. We like a little affordable luxury when we're travelling: good hotels, not having to scrimp on taxis when we want to, indulging in a lot of eating and drinking - so we're more careful of how we spend at home. Realistically, saving money alone doesn't allow you to travel more, it just gets you there. It's how you plan that gets you more travel out of life.
When it comes to travel planning my biggest setbacks are time, information and motivation. Work sucks up a lot of time and energy, and whatever time I have leftover is carved up into little pieces for family, exercise, running this blog, some semblance of a normal life involving groceries, AND having to plan for all the trips of the year. At the end of the day I find myself running out of motivation too when all I want to do is sit in front of the couch and binge Netflix (NOT a type A personality, as you can tell). This lifestyle takes some effort. BUT it's not so much of an effort when you know the payoff is exactly what you need down the line. I like to keep things manageable so when it comes to maximising travel I hold myself only to 5 tried and tested ways.
1. plan a year in advance and Lock your travel dates and deals first, not your destination
This difference actually allows us to travel the way we do. When I first started travelling alone I did so spontaneously, and bought plane tickets randomly on the fly a month before I wanted to travel. Random is expensive. Most ticket prices are cheapest within 2-3 months of your departure date. Later on I'd plan for a location first and then wait for ticket prices to drop, but that takes up a lot of time just waiting for one destination to happen.
Since we have a full work schedule to take into consideration, Shawn and I always plan 6 months up to a year in advance. We divvy up the annual leave days we each have (tip 3 below covers this) then lock down our travel dates first. Once our dates are locked down we keep a look out for deals that fly within that period. We've been able to travel to Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Turkey and the UK just on deals that came through months before we travelled. Unless you're working from project to project with flexible dates, I don't know of any role whereby you wouldn't be able to plan at least 6 months in advance. I tend to think most people would also appreciate a bit of careful long-term planning rather than taking leave last minute.
2. Don't harp on dream destinations, Go for lesser known places
Prices go up about 2 - 3 x over public holidays, even if you're booking in advance. From Singapore, places such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines are insanely expensive and extremely crowded over long holidays, so we sometimes decide on locations that aren't as well known or as popular. This is how we booked our tickets to visit Jaipur, India for the first time over a public holiday long weekend. I didn't plan on visiting India on such a short trip but it was a great idea that got me excited.
3. Don't squeeze all your leave dates into long hauls
Most people have a minimum of 14 days annual leave a year, or more commonly 21 days. The most I'd ever heard was someone who worked a corporate bank job in Dubai having 32 days of leave. If you plan smartly, you can fit all sorts of travel into however many days of leave you have. When I had 14 days of leave, I used 10 days for a long trip around Europe, and used the remaining 4 days across 4 months without public holidays for long weekend trips. Or in the months with public holidays that fell on a weekday I used an additional leave day to extend it even longer. Sometimes, to fill those gaps without using a leave day, you can ask for a "work from home" with your superior. I only ever recommend that option if you have a job that can be fairly mobile, allowing you to either work on deliverables remotely or follow up with clients over emails or Skype. You also have to be someone who's very responsible and have a good track record of delivering.
4. Look for neighbouring countries to visit on long hauls
We never stay in one country for the full duration of our trip. Since we don't have the luxury of travelling non-stop for years, our goal for the next few years is to visit as many new places as possible rather than stay in one country for the whole duration. On our last trip to the UK we hopped around Paris, London, Wales, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Lisbon. The last 5 destinations were new for us. Places like Paris and London are familiar haunts as we've visited at least 3-4 times over the last few years. If you're from the other side of the world flying to Asia, this is also the best way to explore many countries as travel within Asia is incredibly affordable and easy.
5. Use Pinterest to bookmark information on future destinations
Nowadays with all the content that's flooding Pinterest there's a good chance you can find almost anything there dropped by thousands of food and travel bloggers. I used to plan about 1-2 months before I travelled, where I'd suffer from information overload or feel panicked from the need to cram just about everything I'd ever heard of this place into my itinerary. Since I was on Pinterest quite a bit I started shuffling my pins into cities instead of chucking all randomly into one travel board. My board on Finland, for example, contains everything related to attractions, places to stay, and what to eat, a handy collection to refer to for my trip this year. Using pins as part of planning my next destination is also what keeps me motivated while on the train to work.
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