HOW TO PLAN, PREPARE FOR, AND ENJOY YOUR DREAM VACATION
1. IDENTIFY WHAT YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF YOUR GETAWAY
Be specific. Take the time to articulate for yourself what needs you hope to fulfill with your trip.
Have you been so stressed out that you’re looking forward to unplugging and slowing down? — Pick a destination and prioritize activities that allow you to relax and recharge, whatever that looks like for you. Just don’t plan too much so that you end up running around like crazy and feeling as stressed by your time off as you did when you were on the clock. Give yourself permission to slow down — and then hold yourself to that promise!
Are you itching to get away, but hesitant to travel solo? Or are you craving connection as well as adventure? — Sounds like you should look into joining like-minded, curious and adventurous travelers on an Ananda Expeditions trip! Most Ananda Travelers report never before having traveled with a group of people they didn’t know prior to the trip…, but a full 100% of our Ananda Alums have said it was one of the best travel decisions they’ve made. Read their testimonials here, or get in touch if you’d like to speak to one of them to get a personal reflection on what made their experience special.
2. RESEARCH & PLAN (A BIT)
Follow your curiosity…, but be reasonable about how much you can do. You won’t — you can’t — do everything. So make sure that, as you research and learn about your destination, you cull the knowledge you gain for the sites, events, and activities that really excite you.
Apply this same, personalized lens as you get creative and harness the power of the Internet to search beyond the obvious sources (i.e. published travel guides). Use social media, for example, to crowdsource ideas for unique experiences and get feedback on the “must-see/-do” items on your list. Sift through the data and pull out the most appealing insights. Once again, whittle down — “less is more” is the best mantra for this phase of trip-planning.
Be open-minded. As you map out your rough itinerary, leave room for spontaneity, serendipity, and inspiration to strike.
3. FIND TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS & AWARD PROGRAMS THAT WORK FOR YOU
Earn points with your daily spending. If you’re a frequent traveler on a specific airline, get their branded credit card to rack up points for every dollar you spend.
Make a spreadsheet to track your cards, their rewards, and important dates — like at what point you earn the signing bonus. (Perhaps it goes without saying…, but I’m certainly not advocating that you exit your comfort-zone when it comes to your budget and spending; do what feels manageable for you and if you’re uncomfortable with spending invisible funds, ignore this point altogether!)
If you have a pretty stellar credit score (>700), you’re feeling ambitious, and you want to dabble in opening different cards, earning the signing bonuses, then closing them and moving on… get advice from some experts in the field: Mr. Money Mustache and Frugal Travel Guy.
Don’t lose free points. Make sure to bank the flight miles you earn when you fly.
While frequent flyer miles aren’t as valuable as they once were*, it doesn’t cost you anything to sign up for the airlines’/alliances’ award programs, so you might as well accrue points even if you may never cash them in. (For more on this devaluation of miles, read this short WIRED piece. The main takeaway here: redeem your award miles as soon as you have enough to do so.)
When it comes to the three major alliances — Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam — you can sign up for one airline’s frequent flyer program and still accrue miles when you fly on partner airlines within the alliance. However, restrictions apply when you redeem miles, so it’s best to sign up for the awards program associated with the airlines you fly most frequently. Here’s a helpful map showing which alliances/airlines are biggest where.
For a great run through of Frequent Flyer FAQs, check out Flystein’s comprehensive post. And for more guidance on how individual airlines and alliances work, check out this post at One Mile at a Time.
4. FLIGHT SEARCH INTELLIGENTLY
Go Incognito. Opinions conflict in the mysterious realm of flight-searching best practices. But I’ve noticed the price-increase effect myself — have you?
You search for an itinerary, but you’re not ready to book. Or you get distracted, and when you refresh the tab… the fare has gone up. Bummer! The fare must have sold out, right? Wrong. There’s a fair amount of evidence — both anecdotal and studied — that cookies in your web browser track frequent searches and result in increased fares for that itinerary. So, do all your flight searching in Incognito windows.
Use a flight search engine. I’m partial to Kayak, perhaps because I’ve used it for a long time. You can set “fare alerts” if you want to track a flight and aim to purchase when the fare’s lowest. People also like Momondo and Skyscanner, which searches all major and budget airlines alike.
Buy flights on Mondays — or at least don’t buy on a weekend. Again, “experts” disagree on how much when you buy your flights affects fare price. But it seems clear that airlines raise prices on the weekends, when most people have more time to search and buy, and that fares dip a bit on Mondays and Tuesdays. Skyscanner recently published findings based on three years of booking data that support these observations.
Book 6-8 weeks out. Unless you’re flying at a peak time (i.e. major holidays, June/August) when fares tend to rise steadily — then, it’s best to book approximately 3 months out.
Well, we hope these first 4 Travel Tips help you get started as you think forward to your next adventure. Stay tuned for the next two installments — Part 2 includes our favorite post-travel yoga sequence to get the kinks out!