Guys! I’m going on a holiday that lasts longer than 4 days! And I don’t have to change out of a bikini! Can you tell I’m excited/in dire need?
Last week Allyn and I booked our ten-day trip to Thailand (11 weeks and counting) for some much, much needed time off. We didn’t know exactly where we wanted to go apart from somewhere with sea, sunshine and someone to continuously keep my cocktail glass filled to the brim.
As I opened my laptop to begin the holiday booking process, I came to realise something. As a twenty something girl with a London salary and limited annual leave, I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur at booking adventures. From the moment I decide on my next destination to the moment I board the plane, I’ve got a sturdy little routine that ensures I make the most out of each trip… and lucky you, today I’m sharing my secrets 😉
Choosing the destination
If I haven’t chosen on a place then I’ll start by jotting down what I have in mind (and when I say jot down I mean create a spreadsheet of necessities) including weather, distance from home, type of holiday and budget.
If I’m looking for inspiration then I’ll start with checking out some of my favourite travel blogs, a scroll on Instagram or reading my latest issue of Sunday Times Travel. Conde Naste Traveller also has a great month by month feature of the best places to go.
A couple of other great places to start are Time Out Escapes and Holiday Pirates, both of which I check out year-round for incredible deals for top hotels and inclusive destinations. I might not book directly through them but it’s worth subscribing for a list of places that offer luxurious value.
Then it’s research time, starting with a gander on Accuweather. This little gem tells you the year-round temperatures and rain levels (among other things to watch out for like hurricane seasons) for every destination.
It’s going to be sunny? Excellent.
Now the big question. Can I afford it? I’ll add to my spreadsheet the average cost of flights found on Skyscanner, rough cost for food and what’s left for accommodation.
If I’m not booking directly through my favourite deal sites, it’s time to get creative.
Flights come first and this is a relatively lengthy process of viewing the availability on the Skyscanner app using the calendar feature, where you can easily compare prices by moving from day to day.
Once I’ve got a few date options I’ll move onto accommodation. My preference depends on the type of trip; apartments for groups, hotels and villas for beach, apartment or hotel for city break. Always scan AirBnb just in case you find a gem and when it comes to hotels I go straight to Trivago. Here I’ll find the site offering the cheapest deal and compare it with the hotel’s website. Some offer perks for booking directly at the same cost so always check it out.
Before you book, I highly recommend signing up to a cashback site such as Quidco where you can easily build up a fair amount of money in the easiest way. I use it for everything from hotels to clothes shopping. If you want to give it a go, click here to get £5 when signing up!
Then the final click! Book! (On my Lloyds Avios Mastercard of course – if you’re looking for a credit card perfect for travel then I couldn’t recommend this enough. You receive a Mastercard and American Express earning up to 5 Avios points for every £1 spent, with both cards connected to one account that can be used anywhere in the world).
Flights and accommodation booked, it’s time to relax and let the countdown commence! This is when I’ll start spending the majority of my time reading up on the destination on every blog and Instagram post I can find, allowing myself a budget to purchase that perfect holiday wardrobe in the form of numerous ASOS orders.
Always, always read blogs before you go anywhere. Travel bloggers offer up personal experience when it comes to what to pack, do, see and eat in every destination. These guys and my trusty Lonely Planet, Conde Naste and Sunday Times subscriptions have me covered when it comes to restaurant and activity recommendations.
My best tip when it comes to the pre-trip countdown is to create a Google Map in ‘My Maps’ where you can save all the best places to eat and see in one place along with your accommodation and save it offline onto your phone. I can’t tell you how many times it’s come in handy when we’re either hunting down somewhere good to eat or find ourselves suddenly deciding to go to a certain landmark.
Next is creating a rough itinerary (ok when I say rough I mean… today we are going here then here… yeah). I don’t like wasting time when I’m away and not knowing where you’re going and if you can then fit it all in stresses me right out. I don’t mean that people watching with a bottle of wine is wasting time by the way… I’ll just have it loosely planned for 😉 Of course this mostly applies to shorter trips where time is more precious… on our trip to Thailand our itinerary pretty much says… walk 5 steps to the beach, sunbathe, swim, sip on a mojito.
Obviously, a few days (ok the night) before the trip, I’ll begin the laborious task of packing, always forgetting to charge my cameras and empty my memory cards until the last minute. If there’s anything I can’t live without these days, it’s my portable phone charger. Do not go without one.
At the airport
It’s here! It’s time!
If I’m going light then it’s hand luggage all the way, especially on old trusty RyanAir. It’s just been announced that our love-to-hate airline has brought in a new rule that non-priority boarders will have to check in their second bag/suitcase… but to be honest I’m not complaining. Why on earth people complain about handing over their suitcase free of charge to be picked up on the other side 5 minutes later is beyond me… unless it’s purely packed with duty free wine of course.
Airport shopping. Now here is my favourite hack. Did you know that you can shop till your hearts content, enjoy the 20% discount and just pick it up when you return back to rainy England? Did you also know that some shops such as FatFace will even post it to your house FOR FREE so that a lovely parcel is awaiting you when you walk in the door? Good times for you, bad times for your bank account.
Food. If I’m on a short haul flight than I can guarantee that you’ll find me in Pret, munching on a croissant/cheesy pasta dependant on the time of day. Snacks wise, I’ve already taken them through security saving money and time.
When it comes to boarding, I’m the casual laidback lass who slowly meanders to the lounge, giving confused looks to the queue of keenos as I sit until the last minute.
Honestly, guys… stop rushing to board. You have a seat number. Being the last on the plane means three wonderful things – your luggage is whisked off for you, you can sit in that squished seat for minimal amount of time… and if there’s a spare row, you get dibs. Trust me on this.
So there you have it! My complete travel hacks and habits from booking to boarding. If you’re interested in finding out how everyone else explores, you can check out this post all about the UK’s travel habits.
How do you go about choosing a destination and getting it booked? I’d love to hear your ideas and hacks too!
This post was sponsored by Barcelo Hotels and Resorts.