I have recently rejoined Instagram and have been going through thousands of photos. This has also meant rediscovering photos and memories of our fabulous travels – and realising I haven’t written about them much at all. Or how we make decisions about when and where to go places. Travel planning is something I really enjoy – so this post combines my love for travel planning with how we decide where we go for our mid winter holiday.
One of the great things about trawling through all these photos is that it has reenergised my travel bug (hmm not sure that was really necessary – it doesn’t seem to stray very far at all). Aside from the general comment of ‘are you going on another holiday’, we are often asked by friends and family how we choose what to do or where to go, how we know what the ‘right’ place to stay is and how do we make up our minds.
Planning our next trip
Here we share some of our travel planning tools.
To kick of our travel planning I will generally always start with a basic table or spreadsheet that lays out days/accommodation options/travel options and costs. This way I can load things up as I do my research and compare and contrast. I know there are much more sophisticated tools out there but I am happy with simple and easy – we are a bit old school like that.
How we decide?
Every year by July, Andy and I are looking for a break in the sun. Regardless of when we are travelling our criteria for choosing places to go are:
flights – we live in New Zealand so that short flights (3 – 4 hours) pretty much puts us in the Pacific Islands or Australia. Anything longer and we want to be there exploring for at least 3 – 4 weeks. We are both Air New Zealand frequent fliers and Koru members, so prefer to fly with them or (at a push) code share. We aim for maximum status points so we can get upgrades or pay for flights at later dates. Anything over six hours we try to fly Premium Economy (with an upgrade to business if we are very lucky).
budget friendly – we enjoy a touch of luxury but we won’t pay through the nose for it.
Good quality accommodation – we use several sites to narrow down accommodation options – Booking.com, airbnb, Travelfish (for SE Asia), Priceline, and Agoda. I have also recently started using Rome2Rio to compare fares, routes and prices – I can’t believe I haven’t been using this already!
Sometimes I will check out things on TripAdvisor, but really only use that to see photos that guests have posted. We also have some basic criteria for accommodation, these aren’t set in concrete but give us a good starting point:
clean and tidy
outdoor area (summer)/comfy spot (winter) for me to park up and sit and read or watch a movie
breakfast included or kitchen facilities to make our own
coffee/tea making facilities
good cancellation policy (sometimes plans change)
not too far from a local town with a supermarket or good local transport
museums/galleries/cultural experiences – I like to find out about where I am visiting, who the people are, their history and their own views of their place. Ideally this would be from a local. Because I am also a museum geek, I also like checking out musuems or galleries.
meeting locals – see above. We like to get out and about and meet the locals. In January, during our last trip to Saigon, we walked through the narrow alleys in District 3 and stumbled upon a couple of old blokes having a beer and enjoying a shady spot. Next thing you know our big western bottoms are parked up on teeny tiny stools enjoying a brew! Andy is much better at this than me, he has a great ear for languages so always learns enough to surprise the locals. We will often walk for miles every day exploring around where we are staying. Fortunately I have been blessed with a homing pigeon’s sense of direction – so can generally always find our way back to where we started.
food – Andy is a chef and an active relaxer (unlike me). He likes to explore local food – usually on foot – and discover places we can enjoy together.
Over the last few years we seem to have focused primarily on summer vacations so there are of course a few added extras:
warm – consistently warm and sunny and preferably not monsoon season
swimming – access to a pool or clean ocean (this narrows things down quite a bit) where I can lounge, read and swim for hours on end
Gosh, these lists make us look like we are very particular and fussy. But they are our guide – these are our starting points for travel planning – they may not work for everyone but they work for us. The reality is, travel planning and vacations are what you make of them. Sometimes the strangest little adventure can turn into the best one. All you really need is an open mind, a bit of courage to get out there and have a go, and get stuck in. Oh and put travel planning on the top of your list! How do you plan your vacations?
LAX to London – slightly frazzled. One 12 hour leg of flying down, one to go! Air New Zealand Premium Economy, LA to London