Today for our blog post, we are going to do something a bit different (to keep you on your toes!). We will be writing a post together every Wednesday. Today we will be detailing some tips on the first step to planning a big trip.
We are currently planning a huge trip to Japan next Summer (YAY), so we are actually in the midst of our basic preparations now. But do not fear, we still have plenty of experience to share with y’all - we just finished planning (and traveling to) Southeast Asia.
Google is your BEST friend.
Jackie: Alyssa’s favorite thing in the entire world is Google Drive. She lives on that thing (we are currently typing our first draft of this blog together on Google Docs). Every big trip that we have planned is accompanied with files on files of documents, spreadsheets, and links to websites, all conveniently held in a Google Drive folder.
Alyssa: Seriously, I don't think any trip we plan will be successful without a Drive. First document you should make? A wishlist of places you want to go, including how much you're willing to budget and how long you want to be there.
Jackie: God, I wish this post sponsored. Google - where you at?!.
Alyssa: Once you have settled on your destination, the true planning (and Google using) begins.
Working around each other’s schedules:
Jackie: The hardest part of planning a trip for me is maneuvering around my work schedule. I have a full time job, which means the 9-5 grind. I have found that planning trips over weekends is extremely important. This gives you a extra couple of days that you don’t have to take off work!
Alyssa: Picking the right time for the right destination isn't easy. Since Jackie needs to accumulate vacation days, our next large trip will have to wait until the summer. In the summer of 2017, two of our top destinations - India and Brazil will be too hot. And while Alaska and Iceland may be at a comfortable temperatures, we would be missing out on the Northern Lights.
Jackie: Don’t worry though, sis- we will definitely get to those places!
Alyssa: I might have to go without you!
Do we have time for everything?
Jackie: Another difficult part of planning is trying to fit everything that you want to do in the time frame you have. A piece of advice is to write everything that you want to do down, and prioritize.
Alyssa: Does the Robot Dinner Show go above or below Disneyland on the priority list? Don't answer that, we already know.
Jackie: Oddly enough, Disneyland in Japan is cheaper than the Robot Dinner Show (which is basically like a robot themed Medieval Times restaurant.)
Alyssa: Booking your dream activity/hotel/restaurant should be at the top of your list. If you have dreamt your whole life of visiting that super expensive hotel with the pool overlooking the city, then budget for it and make it your number one priority. Also, back to my Google obsession, check out My Maps on Google to make planning out where you need to go so much easier. You might find that something is further away than you thought.
Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra money on something you really want to do.
Jackie: One of the things Alyssa wanted to do in Singapore is to stay at the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel. (Hence the very excited picture below.)
Alyssa: You can't beat a view like that. And as someone with a degree in architecture, this was a special treat.
Jackie: Because of her background, it has been her dream to stay there. Although extremely expensive, it was a once in a lifetime experience - one that we will never forget!
Alyssa: Jackie’s dream was to ride elephants, and we made sure we fit that in our budget and our time frame. (Check back later for another post on how to find ethical activities with animals.)
Spending a little extra (time) also means saving a little extra (money) too.
Alyssa: Did you know that the difference between a flight to Japan from Washington DC and one from NY has a $300 difference?
Jackie: The Megabus from DC to NY is only $5 (depending on when you book it), so those savings not only cover the ticket to Disneyland in Japan, but also a couple nights in hotels and a couple days of meals too!
Alyssa: And while that bus does add an extra 8 hours to our planning, that $300 is worth a lot more than our time.
Jackie: Also, a 8 hour bus ride gives you time to catch up on Game of Thrones… :)
Which brings us to our next point - planning a trip requires compromise!
Jackie: Just like we mentioned before, a couple of hours of your time could save you hundreds of dollars, so compromising can be really worth it! Besides time and money, compromising can also come in the form of doing something that your travel buddy wants to do.
Alyssa: Jackie has been incredible about compromising. I like to do and see things a little out of the ordinary, and she has never complained about them, she simply nods her head when I rattle on about a building’s history or takes tiny bites of my favorite exotic foods.
Jackie: Although I would have never thought to stay at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore, by listening and agreeing to Alyssa’s wants, I got to have another out-of-my-comfort zone, unexpectedly awesome adventure!
Alyssa: Sometimes you just have to push (or pull) someone into the deep end, and they will end up loving swimming (or snorkeling)
It doesn't hurt to look at things in advance.
Alyssa: As we said before, we won't be going to Japan until next summer, but that hasn't put a damper on our planning (or our excitement).
Jackie: Alyssa actually said to me “I get as excited to plan trips as I do going on them.” (I don’t enjoy the process as much.)
Alyssa: I know it sounds weird, but looking up flights is a hobby of mine. Put a quick little spreadsheet together outlining the prices and times (Keep on the lookout for an upcoming post on how to best book multiple destinations).
Read other blogs (ahem, ours) to get a better understanding of other people’s experiences with the country that you are visiting.
Jackie: In order to help us start to plan our Japan trip, I have been scouring Pinterest for blog posts on what to do. And guess what I found?!!? AN OWL CAFE! Yes. You get to sit in a cafe for an hour, sipping your beverage of choice, surrounded by owls. (Cue the Harry Potter theme music).
Alyssa: Also, blogs are super helpful for trying to remember that one place you saw on a travel Instagram’s page 4 months ago. Like we totally forgot about there being a Disneyland in Tokyo until it popped up on a blog post (and then we were so ashamed).
Jackie: I don’t know what I’m more excited for - Disneyland or the Owl Cafe...
There is no shame in seeking help with planning!
Jackie: On top of consulting with other blogs and websites when planning, we would ask experienced travelers their advice and opinions.
Alyssa: Asking for travel advice is the same as asking for directions; if you do it earlier on, you won't waste as much time going in circles.