Trip Planning: Tips, Tricks & Helpful Hints - B Loved Boston

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Trip Planning: Tips, Tricks & Helpful Hints

Since coming back from our European trip - I've gotten a few requests and questions regarding how we booked certain tours, hotels and other things. I thought it would be somewhat helpful (I hope) to share how we went about planning our vacation from start to finish and I'll make sure to tailor this to be more broad, which can be applied to any trip!! A lot of people asked if we had used a travel agent and we didn't! We both did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions of friends and family before finalizing any details, which we do for each trip!

Destination
Figure out where you want to go! When we sat down to talk about locations - we had both wanted to go to Greece - but the timing of Gary's master's program didn't lend itself to when we wanted to go - not to mention tickets to Greece for July were outrageously expensive. So we decided on Paris and London! Take into consideration time of year, weather & ticket prices before settling on your dream location. It's like trying on a wedding dress you know is out of your budget - dream crusher!!

Getting There
Start researching flights early! We didn't use Bing or anything like that  - I relied on Cheap Tickets and Orbitz and also checked to see if perhaps going directly with the airlines would be cheaper (it wasn't). With the flights - if possible book direct flights. I know everyone is not near an international airport so this may not be an option - but not having to worry about connections is really great.

Accommodations
Figuring out where you're going to stay is almost as important as where you're going to be travelling to. Since our trip was going to be a few days in one country and a few days in another country it didn't make sense for us to go the route of an apartment.  If that does work for you try AirBnB or VRBO (which we have used) to make those accommodations - and these can be domestic or international! Sadly we didn't have enough Marriott points to stay at those hotels in London or Paris - but it actually worked out in our favor because our hotels were insanely amazing
If you want to be in a higher end hotel but don't wan't to pay the crazy cost - check out JetSetter. I used their site for our hotel in London and it was absolutely perfect!! For Paris I'd heard (from family and friends) that it was actually cheaper to book with the hotel directly as they don't normally advertise discounted rates. Also, sites like Tablet Hotels or Secret Escapes are great for researching higher end hotels and then going directly to the hotel website for deals! For domestic travel - check sites like BookIt to save on hotel rooms as well. 
{get the free printable}
Make a list of everything you want to do and see on your trip. Then prioritize that list by importance. We didn't get to see everything on our must see list in London because there wasn't enough time - but we were okay with that since we had prioritized what we wanted to do. Once you've made decisions about what you want to do - buy your tickets to those attractions (if you can). 

Money Money Money
Pay for everything that you can ahead of time - it will make your trip that much better. What do I mean by that? Our hotels, train tickets and excursions that we knew we were going to take were paid for before we left - so we didn't need to worry about having enough money for those things or charging it.
Bank stuff!! Get this squared away before you leave. Call your bank and find out who their partners in other countries are so that you don't have to worry about foreign exchange rates. You may still have to pay a fee to withdraw money from the ATM, but it won't be as high if you are with a partner of your bank. To the same end - make sure your bank knows that you are travelling, what dates and when you plan to be back.  Even if you are travelling within the US it's a good idea to let your bank know what states you'll be visiting so they don't see charges as "suspicious." The worst thing is going out of the country and your card being declined...it didn't happen to us - but there were so many people we ran into in lines that it happened to! 
Come up with a number that you're both comfortable with and have that exchanged into the currency that you'll be using - just to get you started with transportation, small meals, etc. Also, shop around for currency rates, but whatever you do - don't exchange money at the airport - it's a ripoff! 

Print it Out
Yes we live in the day and age where everything is on our phones - but when you're phone is off because internationally roaming is going to cost you an arm and leg - you better be prepared. Print out your hotel reservations, flight information and any other pertinent information you can think of. One thing I wish we had printed was directions from the train stations to our hotels - that would have saved us a huge headache of having to try to speak in French!! If you're keeping your phone on...disregard this whole section :)
If you're travelling abroad, make copies of your passport, bank and credit cards. Keep a copy of your passport with you (leaving the original in the safe) and also send a digital copy to your parents...you never know and it's better to be safe than sorry!!

Odds & Ends

Once you land you're going to be tired - unless you traveled first class in which case you are well rested!! Don't go to sleep until night..you're going to seriously mess with your internal clock if you go to "just take a nap!" FYI this will not be a nap and you'll wake up 6 hours later and be ready to take on the day...only to find out it's night!! 
{via}
If it's your honeymoon - MILK IT!! If it's an anniversary trip - pretend it's your honeymoon!! No, but seriously hotels don't love to make upgrades but if you mention a special event that you're celebrating or the reason for your trip - they are more likely to comp you a few things here and there! 
Take public transportation when you can for a few reasons. Cabs can get expensive and when you don't know your way around the city they are more likely to take you for a ride than to get your where you need to be in a timely and cost effective manner. Don't be weary of public transportation - it's designed to be easy to navigate and get day passes when you can.
{via}
If it's an attraction that will likely have you waiting in line all day - do yourself the biggest favor and buy "skip the line passes" ahead of time. This is a little bit more expensive than a normal ticket - but when you think of waiting in line for 3+ hours or scooting to the front and getting on with your day - it should be a no-brainer! 
via
Buy a book! When we travel someplace new we buy a little pocket book with map that we can mark off things that are important to know and highlight things we want to do. When we went to Maui - we knew we wanted to do the Road to Hanna - the book we had also included a great audio guide for the car! 

 I honestly could keep writing and writing on this topic - but I've probably lost some of you already!! If you have any specific questions about travelling outside the US or planning please let me know!! 

 If you take anything away from this post - I hope it's that you don't need a travel agent to plan an international or even cross country trip!! With a little research you can plan a much better trip for yourselves than anyone else can! 
What was the one thing you wish you would have done before leaving for a big trip?
P.S. We are going to keep the Blog Sale going until Friday!! Stop by and see if there is anything you'd like!! 

xo,
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42 comments

  1. This is a really great informative guide. Bookmarking this! You did an awesome job. XO

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  2. This makes me want to plan a trip to Europe! Maybe next year! Great tips!

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  3. Love this!!! Now you're totally making me want to go on vacation! Definitely great ideas for planning a trip. I wish I would have bought the skip the line passes!

    <3, Pamela
    sequinsandseabreezes.blogspot.com

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  4. This is an amazing post - kudos to you girl! All very helpful tips when planning a trip. I remember how overwhelmed my husband and I were while trying to plan our honeymoon since that was the first vacation we'd ever been on together, let alone planned without parents. I think you continue to learn more as you do it more!

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  5. Wow! These are awesome tips! Thanks for this :)

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  6. Great post! I love to travel! So much fun! Too many places, not enough money :(

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  7. Love it! These are all great tips and reminders! I'd forgotten about a few things. Thanks for answering all of my endless questions lady! I appreciate it!

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  8. Planning a vacation is so stressful but so worth it at the end! Love all these tips though! I agree booking early is key!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeatsoles.blogspot.com

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  9. these are such great tips! picking a destination or two is so hard, especially when it's Europe and so many amazing places are so 'close' together. Greece is on my list as well, and if I had unlimited time and money, it would be apart of our next trip but it was way too expensive to add it. It sucks we have to go in summer but thats when KC is on vacation, so it has to be, and it's super expensive. One of the best tips I ever learned was absolutely 100000% pay for as much as you can beforehand. Its so stressful paying for things there, like tours or hotels, that you could have prepaid, your money seems to disappear so much faster!

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  10. Great tips, Girl. I had never heard of jetsetter until you mentioned it.

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  11. Fantastic post!! You give really great advice. The only thing I would add is I think it's important to take some cash with you. Sadly, my ATM card was eaten by the ATM because of the expiration date on it.
    Lucky, I had some cash on me so I was able to change it over. Not everywhere takes credit cards and in Europe, they are on the pin and chip cards which we don't use in the US. Some cards do have them now, however, they are not the same type of card. American credit cards do not always work at the airport and train station kiosks.
    I think you should also change over some money (just a little) before you leave as well.

    Prepaying things is the way to go. It also means you don't have to wait in ticket lines which can be very long.
    Planning is key!!

    Best, Mree

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  12. These are all such great tips! Jetsetter has great deals!

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  13. Great post lady! Soo, can you help me and Chris plan a trip to Singapore? Haha. My mom is also great at this stuff. You guys should meet and start a business! Haha.

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  14. Haha, I especially love the honeymoon/anniversary bit! So true, I'm sure!

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  15. Great post! I use hotels.com for all of my hotel booking now because the reward system is great, that is what I plan on using for our honeymoon outside of our cruise.

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  16. Such great tips for staying organized. Most I haven't even thought of before!

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  17. These sound like great tips! I have never been outside the country (other than Canada, and that hardly counts) but I would love to travel Europe someday!

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  18. Traveling is one of the best things! These are some great tips! xo

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  19. Love this extensive tutorial!! I truly love planning a trip and it's definitely worth starting way ahead of time! They can take a lot of time and work to put together but you learn so much along the way doing it yourself!

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  20. Great tips! Lord knows I love traveling but you can never be too prepared. I'll have to check out your website recommendations to find cheap hotels. I'm not familiar with any of them and tend to just use Expedia or Travelocity for flights and hotel.

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  21. can you just be my life coach?? these are awesome points of advice for traveling! paying for everything ahead of time, & airbnb... i loved the service! and good tip about talking to your bank!

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  22. Great post! I love all of these tips!!

    Anna
    alilyloveaffair.com

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  23. Love this! The part about calling your bank is SO true. I had my card cut off in London because I forgot to let 1 of my banks know I would be out of the country. Not a good feeling!

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  24. These are great tips! I also print out everything in advance. I am always afraid my phone will die or something. This post definitely gave me some wanderlust!

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  25. Very informative, great tips! I can't wait to start planning our next trip :)

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  26. Great post B! I wish hubs and I took more trips but his railroad schedule is like a doctor mixed with a trucker (haha) so hard to plan! Saving this for future reference! xoxo

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  27. This is so perfect!! We are planning a trip to Seattle and I was wondering how you planned everything!! Wonderful tips - thank you for sharing! :)

    Maggie
    www.PolishedClosets.com

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  28. Thanks for sharing such great advice!! And I LOVE that quote at the top, I think I pinned it a few months back and definitely plan to live by it for the rest of my life! {Or as long as I reasonably can, of course haha}

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  29. OH such great advice! I didn't know about jetsetter- definitely looking into that!

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  30. great tips! i'll have to check out jetsetter in the future! also i love taking trains in other cities, it's such a fun way to see new things :) xo jillian - cornflake dreams

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  31. So need to look into these links before we head to MEX. Great post!

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  32. So many great tips!! Saving this for when we start to plan our Euro trip! Glad you guys had such a good time!

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  33. Ahh bookmarking this for the day I finally pull the trigger on an international trip! The last time I traveled out of the country was years ago for a school trip. I wouldn't even know where to begin now!

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  34. We haven't been on a 'real' vacation in 14 years... this made me really want to go somewhere!

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  35. Seriously nothing better than good vacation advice. Love this post!! Definitely saving for the future. Thanks love and happy Wednesday :)

    xx 365hangers

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  36. These are really really great tips, Biana! Probably the best post I've seen on this! I so agree with you on all of it. I'm definitely going to check out Jetsetter the next time we plan a trip!

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  37. This is so great and helpful! Bookmarking for later!!

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  38. dude i am so saving this post! i am working on a bloggy vacation and some of these tips are so good!

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  39. You know I totally bookmarked this post but then I realized I could just call you for all these amazing details! I really need to zero in on this honeymoon so you can help me plan everything!!!

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  40. Traveling the world can give you a whole new perspective on life. Traveling can provide new experiences and adventure. There are enough places to travel to to make everyone can find a destination they like. Keep written notes of all important documents when you are traveling abroad. You will need their assistance should you are abroad. They will be able to help you with any problems that arise.


    mapdestinations.org

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  41. These are such great tips! I haven't ever heard of a few of the sites, so I'll definitely check them out for future travel! Did you find it difficult to not be able to use your phones while you were over there, or did it end up not being a big deal? I rely on my phone so much for maps and directions, I think that's the only thing that would make me nervous!

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  42. Yes! All really good tips! I love the Rick S. guides. They are great!

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