Although your dream trip may still be a year, or two, or more in the future, there are several ways that you can think ahead and prepare to make the trip and future planning go easier. If you haven’t traveled recently or if this is your first major trip, these ideas can be extremely helpful. If you travel often, you may find ways to tweak your preparation strategy.
One of the most important parts of a trip is figuring out how to pay for it. You have a choice of traveling cheaply, lavishly, or anywhere in between. Look at your budget and determine how much you can set aside for travel. You can save a little each month or you can set aside bonuses and tax returns.
It makes a difference if you have just six months or more than a couple years to save, but with planning, either timeline can work. If you have a short timeline you may have to save more diligently and opt for a lower budget trip. If you have more time, you have more options – this is why planning far ahead is helpful.
Travelers’ checks are a thing of the past. Now, people use credit or debit cards. There are so many options that I’ve covered them in a separate post.
If you have and use credit cards, you may be set. Double check, though, that your cards do not charge a foreign transaction fee. If you are used to traveling in the States, you don’t have to think about this fee, but some cards charge an extra 3% on any foreign transaction. On a $3000 trip, that is $90 – enough for another hotel night or a couple nice dinners.
If you don’t use credit cards much now, you may want to start. However, be very careful that you do not overspend. If you are not used to using credit cards, start out slowly. Make sure you can pay off your entire bill each month.
One huge benefit of using credit cards is that you can earn points or cash to put toward your trip. (If you don’t pay your bill each month, you can easily negate this benefit). Some points cards charge an annual fee, while others don’t. If you are first starting out, look for a card with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. Capital One has a couple good options, but other companies may work for you, too.
By thinking ahead, you may be able to accumulate enough points or cash to have a huge impact on your travel budget.
Time Off Work
Make sure you are clear on your job’s paid time off (PTO) policy. Some businesses offer a set amount of PTO which can be used for illness, vacation, or other personal reasons. Other businesses separate the PTO days into categories for you. Although you could call in sick the first or last day of your vacation to use a day from a different category, this practice is usually frowned upon.
Check if your vacation days or PTO rolls over from one year to the next. Does your job have a “use it or lose it” policy? If you can roll over some days, are there any restrictions applied to them? Some policies say you can only roll over a portion or you have to use the rolled-over days withing the first three months of the year. Know what your options are.
If you do not have a passport, you should plan to get one at least six months before your trip. Many times it only takes a couple weeks to get your passport, but if there are any complications, it can be delayed. When my husband tried to renew his passport a few years ago, the picture he sent in was not acceptable, so he needed to get another one taken.
If you already have a passport, be sure you don’t delay in getting it renewed. Some countries require that the passport be valid for six months after your return date, so you may want to renew a year before it expires. Frequent travelers should opt for passports with extra pages (no extra charge). Some countries require two adjacent blank pages or have other unusual requirements – be sure your passport will be accepted.
Travelers usually don’t need an entirely new wardrobe. Wouldn’t you rather spend your money on the trip itself?
On the other hand, some clothing styles are better for travel. If you are planning a trip in the future, start thinking about your wardrobe now. The next time you need a couple new tops, try to get ones that will travel well.
Look at the colors in your wardrobe. It’s advantageous for a travel wardrobe to be able to “mix and match.” If you have several colors of pants that each go with only one top, your wardrobe is very limited. Think about buying neutral pants that will go with several tops. Buy neutral sweaters and jackets. If you like, you can even buy neutral tops, adding color through scarves. Add these items to your wardrobe over time, so you do not have a large expenditure right before your trip.
Get in Shape
This is a good goal for everyone in general, but it is especially important if you are traveling.
Many cities are known as being walkable. If you are going to a walkable city, plan to walk a lot. Some cities are not set up for walking, but you will still spend time on your feet – waiting for the bus or metro, walking from public transportation to tourist sites and attractions, and walking around at the site.
Even when traveling with an organized tour, you will walk more than you might expect. Although you are driven from site to site, there is walking and standing involved at each site. You will also be climbing on and off the bus.
Whatever kind of trip you plan, you will likely have to carry or pull your luggage from the car or bus to your room and then back when you leave. A trip with several stops involves a lot of luggage hauling.
Prepare yourself by exercising and losing weight before your trip, so you will be able to enjoy the trip more fully.
If you have “bad knees,” or another health problem, see a doctor well before your planned trip. Often, something can be done to alleviate your problem, and it is best to get it taken care of before the trip. A small problem can become much bigger with added physical activity.
Planning your Itinerary
If you have time to plan in advance, you can do more research on the places you will visit. I went on a couple small trips in the States this fall and was not able to research as much as I would have liked. When this happens to me, I am always worried that I will miss something.
Some travelers like to have every minute of their trip planned out, while others want to go with the flow. Think about your style – plan accordingly. Even if you want to go with the flow, though, make sure you do enough research to know what your opportunities are. If you decide not to do something, that’s fine, but I wouldn’t want you to miss something great because of poor planning.
Sometimes an opportunity comes up that was not in your plans. It’s exciting if you are able to take advantage of that opportunity.
A couple years ago, my daughter read about a cheap flight to Tokyo, Japan. My family and I were able to take advantage of the deal because we had
- Money in our budgets for travel,
- Credit cards with no foreign transaction fee,
- Travel friendly wardrobes,
- Valid passports, and
- Time that we could take off work.
By thinking ahead about travel, we were able to take this special trip.
If you were handed a great opportunity, would you be able to take advantage of it? Have you ever jumped on one of these deals?
If you think ahead about travel, the world can be yours!