Travel Diary #7- Travel Planning

This post might not be one we want to face but following on from my post about lockdown I thought I’d try and add some more positivity by talking about holidays! I know…it’s a sore subject. A lot of us had dream holidays planned this year for birthdays/weddings/anniversaries that had to be cancelled to keep us all safe but just remember that there is always next year! I just thought I’d talk about how I plan out holidays as I always have a 1-year time-scale for saving up and planning them out so I thought maybe we could put a positive spin on this and say we can start planning and saving from now and hopefully by October 2021 you’ll not only have the budget and plan but actually be able to go to the places we’re planning for, think of it like this…we can’t really go anywhere right now so we may as well start budgeting and see where the next 12 months leads us, let’s go! 

I’m gonna use my actual plan I’ve made for our trip to New York (which was supposed to be happening March 2021 for our anniversary but we’ve postponed it until October 2021)...never mind.

Oh! Also, I'm gonna put some pictures from our holiday to America in January just to break up the text and explain what I’m talking about so please don’t think I’m currently flouting rules and living it up in New York…because I’m really not.

So before we start off, when I’m saving for a holiday I’m PAINFULLY strict with myself about saving money throughout the month so I’ll have something to put away the day before payday, I usually work out (after bills) what I’ll have left to spend daily before the next payday, obviously some days I won’t spend anything so usually I’m able to put away between £100-£200 a month into the holiday account so by month 3-4 I have enough to at least book the flights but, if there’s more than one of you saving then you’ll either take half the time OR you can book first class and stay in fancy suites if you’re putting £400 a month away between you! 

The first thing I always plan for is the flights, considering this will be our MAIN holiday of the year, probably long-haul, the flights are one of the most expensive parts. I know there are some people (hi mum) who like to book flights a week before they go to grab the best deal they can but I’m not cut out for that stress, booking the flights is the first thing I do because on the flip-side you can get great deals for booking almost a year in advance too so I usually make sure we have our holiday time-off booked and approved through work then get straight on to booking the flights. 
For our holiday I’ve seen plenty of great priced flights from London to New York for 2 people return for just over £800; which is pretty damn good! I usually keep an eye on the flights for about 2-3 months before booking so I can get a ballpark figure, as the price goes move up and down a lot so by the time it comes to booking it I have a figure in my mind, alongside some backup cash in case the price is slightly more than I planned. So ideally we would be looking to have our flights booked no later than February. 

If you’re planning to hire a car or anything like that, best to book this now too, we got over £700 knocked off our holiday last time just for booking the flights and car hire together with British Airways! 


So now that the flights are booked (theoretically) I begin saving for the next part…accommodation.  
This part is less technical and more what suits you and your budget, personally, I keep a large amount of the budget for accommodation, usually I spend at most £100 a night on accommodation just so that we can have somewhere both lovely and unique, but it doesn’t always have to be expensive for instance in January we stayed in a tiny caravan just outside Vegas for a night, it was amazing! We had a campfire, ate marshmallows, one of the neighbours' dogs came and sat with us and the caravan was lovely and cosy even in the freezing winter desert, and all of that cost me £25 for the night. But, the next day we went to Vegas and stayed in a 22nd-floor apartment that was £105 a night; it was beautiful and incredibly luxurious with amazing views, so it really depends how you want your holiday to be but we like a bit of change so some places may be right at the top of the budget and others may be way way under. Speaking of change, we decided for America we would try Airbnb, I had never used it before but it was such an amazing experience! We stayed in so many different places and especially around California there are so many unique places to stay, we’ve been looking at AirBnB’s for New York too because they’re just so much fun and both of us agree we feel more part of the community, rather than just a “holiday-maker” staying in AirBnB’s. 
So anyway, budget-wise I’m usually looking at spending about £1200 on accommodation, obviously this takes a good few months to save for but don’t worry! With hundreds of pages of AirBnB’s or hotels to look through you’ll have plenty of time to save! 
Speaking of which, when it comes to choosing accommodation I like to make a huge list that I whittle down with my partner over the course of about a week, once we have our route planned I scour the site looking for anything and everything that suits our needs, is in our budget and is close to whatever we want to see (including the airport for the end of the holiday). This takes a really long time but it makes me feel better knowing I’ve seen pretty much every option that we could have a making a choice off of that…when choosing places for America last time my partner wasn’t so keen on sitting down and looking through 50 different properties but by the time he saw all the different types of places we could afford he was really excited to sit and choose them all too! 


Now you’ve booked your flights and you’ve booked your accommodation, it's time to start saving up for your excursions! Because we’re headed to New York, we have a lot of ideas for things to do! I’ll leave my list here for you in case you need any inspiration but honestly, I don’t even think seeing all of this will barely scratch the surface of the whole city! We always try and book things to suit the both of us as well as things we enjoy singularly, so wherever we go I HAVE to go to either a nature reserve, park or zoo and luckily,there's plenty of those things in New York, and my partner always likes to go to either an iconic bar/pub or book tickets to see something at an iconic music venue, so our plan is for a music tour and then potentially grab some tickets to watch one of the many sports teams (probably basketball). All of this takes a lot of time and planning but if you sit down and work out what you want to do (and are ABLE to do) each day it’ll be much easier to budget for your trips out. 
For this part of the holiday I have no fixed budget, I usually just look at some of the most popular attractions and then those personal ones I was talking about and then save from there. 
If like me you’re looking to go to New York next year then I hope this list might start some ideas going for you too!

Things to do 
  • 9/11 museum- £22
  • Statue of Liberty- $47 pick tickets up from Battery Park, NY
  • Empire State Building- sunrise view $230 (esbnyc.com
  • Central Park 
  • New York aquarium ($52)
  • New York natural history museum ($46)
  • New York City harbour lights cruise (£66) 
  • Walk down Broadway and Times Square 
  • Grand central station 
  • East village rock n punk tour 
  • The Bronx zoo ($80) 
  • Jamaica bay wildlife refuge 
  • Rockefeller and attractions 

Maybe: 

  • New York catacombs 
  • MOMA 

Now you’ve planned out where you’re gonna go and saved up for it all it should be pretty close to you going away, by this point its usually about 4 months before the holiday which again, sounds really far away but if you’re constantly putting money away then you might have a little backlog of cash to start this next bit anyway. The dreaded spending money! This bit can be difficult for some as they don’t know how much to take or aren’t sure how much they’ll need for each day. Obviously, I’m not here to tell you how much you should be spending but just realistically think how much you’ll want to spend on your three meals, souvenirs and fuel/parking (if needed) each day, this can require a bit of research to see how much things generally cost in the area you’re staying in but pretty quickly you’ll come to a figure that seems right. Please don’t leave yourself short! It’s always better to take slightly too much and have a good time trying to spend it all than scrimping on a holiday you’ve saved a whole year for!

Also, I’m gonna give you a word of advice, unless you plan to use the same currency in the next three months, spend it all while you’re there! You lose money exchanging it back so you may as well treat yourself to an extra fancy meal, special souvenir or something else you didn't even plan for, you bought the money to spend it so please don’t worry about having nothing left when you get back on the plane! For the first time in January, we used our Monzo cards, it’s a really good card as they don’t charge you for spending money abroad so you can spend in the local currency (always use local currency NEVER pay with GBP abroad on the card) without having to pay ridiculous fees! This felt a lot safer for us too, as we obviously didn't have a small amount of money for a big holiday so it was good to split it 50/50 between card and cash for that reason too. If you don't own something like that it’s definitely worth looking it up.)

And that’s pretty much all the main budgeting done! Woohoo!! There’s only little bits now like booking the car into the airport parking (I always go for the option where they take your car otherwise you’ll be driving around looking for a space, wasting time when you don't even know how long the queues are inside the airport. 

About a month before leaving we book our travel insurance too (NEVER EVER GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE), last year we booked an annual one and it was about £30 each for the year which is really reasonably priced and it meant anywhere we went we were covered…but obviously after March, we couldn’t go anywhere anyway! But nevertheless, we’ll be booking annual travel insurance for when we go away next year, I know it sounds boring but it’s so important, you just never know what’s gonna happen (not even to you personally the insurance covers loss of luggage and passports) so you know you’re covered if pretty much anything happens and you can enjoy your hard-earned time away without worrying about a thing. 

Finally, the week before we go we choose our plane seats to get the best we possibly can (as well as pre-booking any meals) and then the day before we go away I always print out copies of our flight confirmations, Airbnb locations/confirmations as well as the plane tickets and then put them safely away in a folder in my bag. It sounds like such a dreary thing to do but the last thing I want to be doing at customs is digging around my bag for one silly piece of paper. 

And that is it! I wasn’t sure if this was going to be boring or not but I’m guessing if you made it all the way to the end it can’t have been that bad. Personally, stuff like this is really helpful to sort your brain out throughout the madness and excitement of planning a holiday, I just wrote it to maybe help out if you’re a bit stuck on where to start or if you’ve never planned a big holiday before! Also, please don’t think I'm saying this is how you SHOULD do this, everyone is different, some enjoy last minute and seeing what happens but I’ve done that before and it just stressed me out throughout the whole holiday so this calm and methodical approach is what works for me and it might work for you too! 

Thinking positively, we have a year from today to try and save what we can so that hopefully if the borders open by the middle of next year we’ll have enough saved to go out booking flights and accommodation straight away! Who knows what could happen in a year! 

H x 

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