There’s no doubt that many of the tips from the original Guide to Travel Planning are still relevant in 2017, yet Mr Fletche and I have changed the way we travel a little, particularly when planning city breaks so here’s some of the other tips we’ve gathered over the past 18 months.
Original Source: The Brummie Home and Abroad Guide to Travel Planning…
Where to stay?
Booking.com is still our friend when it comes to initially sourcing accommodation in a certain area. It’s easy to filter for whatever criteria you’re looking for, view images and look at user reviews (although I still double check on Trip Advisor too). It’s also handy if you want to book something cancellable, should your plans change or if you just want to secure accommodation whilst you research other options. We do this A LOT.
And if you book using THIS LINK you can get £15 back from your booking too!
But Booking.com is just the first stage. It’s always worth checking hotel sites themselves to see how costs compare. It may not always be cheaper, but you may be able to get a special offer or a better room for the same price, making it better value for money.
AirBnB has increasingly become our go-to method of booking accommodation. In 2017 we have used AirBnB in London, Luxembourg, Spain, Scotland, Vancouver and Vienna, and so far (touch wood) there have been no horror stories to tell. I can wile away the hours on the AirBnB website, popping railway carriages, cabins, treehouses and glittering apartments on my wishlist, and it may increasingly influence our location choices in the future. And if you’re a new user to AirbnB, you can get £25 in travel credit if you sign up using this link!
Skyscanner is still a handy tool when it comes to sourcing flights, and for the first time in 2017 we booked an Air Canada flight found on Skyscanner through a third party, Netflights. It was significantly cheaper than booking directly through Air Canada – to the point whether we wondered if it was too good to be true. Review sites had largely positive feedback, only negatives seemed to be if you had any reason to contact customer services, so we took the risk. And everything went smoothly; definitely worth saving a couple of hundred pounds for.
With increasing add-on costs for flights we have also flown carry-on for the first time this year. You can see my blog here about becoming a carry-on convert here. This means that the airlines we pick are also important so that we can maximise our packing. For example, Ryanair have stopped their two free carry-on items allowance from November 2017 so this means that only Flybe out of our budget airline choices allow a free second personal item. Consider how much luggage you feasibly need, what you can fit in a single bag within the airline’s dimensions, and whether you’re willing to pay for checked luggage.
Finding your way around:
Gone are the days of standing around on a street corner with a large foldable map (although we’ve certainly done this – and even walked ourselves of the map on more than one occasion). There are a number of apps including Google Maps (my favourite) and Here We Go (Mr Fletche’s favourite) which allow you to download a map when you have WiFi, to then be used offline. These are also useful if you’re planning on driving abroad, but always make sure you have a printed route planner or similar in case of gadget failure.
On your phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app .
Make sure you’re connected to the Internet and signed in to Google Maps.
Search for a place, like San Francisco .
At the bottom, tap the name or address of the place tap More .
Select Download offline map.
And then there’s GPSmyCity, an app which allows you to follow in the steps of your favourite bloggers around some of the world’s most beautiful cities. The app is free with IOS and Android, but for a small fee you can also upgrade the article and have access to a handy offline map. You can even download A Brummie Home and Abroad guides to Dubrovnik, Copenhagen, Venice, York and Bristol.
Airport to accommodation, and vice versa:
In our earlier travel days we preferred the convenience – if extra cost – of booking a taxi or shuttle transfer. And it’s always nice to see your name on a cardboard placard when coming through arrivals. Shop around, ask for recommendations and do your research before booking; this worked particularly well for us in Krakow where we used the same company that we used for our airport transfer for an impromptu tour to Auschwitz.
But more often than not we will explore our public transport options to get from airport to accommodation. It is certainly cheaper to hop on a bus, train or metro but make sure you have carefully mapped out how to get to your accommodation the other end. Particularly if a metro or train station has multiple exits. This is where one of those handy GPS apps is extremely useful. And if you’re staying somewhere hilly and cobbled – Porto, I’m looking at you – make sure you factor in dragging your luggage up those hills. Sometimes a taxi is still the most convenient way to arrive.
Before you go (AKA: THE BORING STUFF)
Make sure you have travel insurance which covers you FROM THE MOMENT YOU BOOK, not from the date you travel. If something goes wrong beforehand which means you can’t travel you want to make sure you’re covered. Consider an annual insurance policy if you’re likely to travel more than once; it works out cheaper than paying every time. And finally if you have an all-singing, all-dancing bank account or credit card, check to see whether you have travel Insurance included and whether this will meet your needs.
Make sure that your passport is in date, and if it does run out shortly after your return, make sure that this is acceptable in the country you are travelling to. Some countries require you to have at least 6 months left on your passport until the expiry date. Also, make sure you check any visa requirements, and whether these need to be purchased in advance. Those for the USA and Canada can easily be purchased online but make sure that you use the legitimate site.
If you’re travelling in Europe, make sure you have an up-to-date EHIC Card. This is the one thing I always forget to take with me! This entitles the user to healthcare or treatment EQUIVALENT to those citizens of the country visited – it doesn’t mean free. At present, EHIC entitlement is not affected by the UK’s pending exit from the EU.
Plan what money you plan to take with you and whether you prefer to rely on cash or credit card. We usually get a small amount in local currency before we go, checking Money Saving Expert’s online currency checker for the best local deals. For meals, excursions, car hire, accommodation which is not pre-paid etc. we use a Halifax Clarity Credit Card, which is a specialist foreign travel credit card with no fees for use abroad. Most countries will have accessible ATMs, but if you are using a debit card to withdraw cash make sure you check withdrawal fees. It may be better to make a larger withdrawal and pay a one-off fee rather than lots of small transactions with that same fee.
If you’re planning on hiring a car and driving abroad, remember to check what documentation you need to take with you. If you drive abroad a lot then it’s worth looking at an annual policy, similar to an annual travel insurance policy. This still may not cover everything so always make sure you are prepared at the car rental bureau and any extras such as breakdown cover can be purchased if necessary.
So that’s an updated guide to travel planning, Brummie Home and Abroad style. What other planning tips can you share… let me know in the comments below! And let me know if you use any of these tips for the first time!