Planning for vacation is stressful!
Now if I’m being completely honest, this is like the first proper vacation I’ve ever taken by myself. Before this all of my vacations were with family, so my parents handled all of the difficult stuff and I just tagged along for the fun. So I suppose there is the possibility that I just haven’t had enough experience to really get the hang of things.
I’m sure it also doesn’t help that I’m going out of country, which is something that is completely foreign – no pun intended – to me. I’ve never actually left the continental US before, but this March I’m flying out to spend two weeks in the UK. So I’m having to figure out a lot of this international stuff on my own.
These last few weeks – and the seven remaining weeks until I leave – have been a non-stop whirlwind of stress and planning. I’ve been scouring airline sites for the best deals on flights. I’ve been refreshing the page obsessively on hotels.com and cross-checking the locations of the cheaper hotels to find out if it’s worth the cost or if I’ll be paying that much in transport anyhow. I’ve been meticulously scratching out how much money I’m allowed to spend on food a day to stay within my budget and checking the costs of local transport to get around. I’ve been comparing international cell phone rentals to get one that works for what I need.
Sometimes the stress of it all makes me wonder if it’s going to be worth it in the end. I’m going to need the vacation just to relax from the exhausting ordeal of planning this vacation.
And then I remember that I’m finally going to be visiting my dream city and I feel better.
Along this tornado track of madness though, I’ve picked up a couple useful tips that I will definitely remember for the next international – or any, really – trip that I take.
1. Start early. Whatever you do, do not leave everything until the last minute. Not only will it save you a great deal of stress, but also a lot of money. Airlines and hotels will often give you discounts for booking early. (I just saved 150 dollars for booking my hotel so far in advance.)
2. Make a checklist. This has helped me keep my head on straight and make sure that I’ve not forgotten anything. It’s great for keeping track of costs as well, especially for those of us that are travelling on a tight budget. Not to mention, there’s something really satisfying about being able to scratch off each thing as you complete it.
3. Ask around. Have a friend or family member who’s visited there before? Don’t be afraid to check in with them. There are a lot of cultural and economic differences that you need to consider when travelling to another country, and the best place to get that information is from someone who’s been there. Having a friend who lives in the UK has been invaluable for me, not to mention he’s been coaching me so I don’t make social faux pas and get grouped in as one of “those Americans.” You know which ones I mean. And if you don’t know someone personally, check the travel sites forums. There are a lot of great people there willing to offer free advice.
4. Don’t forget the little things. This one bit me in the ass hard. When planning a trip it’s easy to remember the big stuff; the plane, teh hotel, packing your things. But don’t forget to think about the minor details too. Are there eating constraints to plan around? Have you looked into how the public transit works or rented a car? Do you know the basic driving laws? What about communication; does your cell work abroad or do you need to activate your international calling? They might seem like little things now but they can really ruin a trip if you’re unprepared.
5. Breathe. Seriously, remember this one. Don’t let yourself forget that you’re doing this for fun. When it gets stressful, step back and take a deep breath. Think about all the fun things you’ll do once this stressful planning part is over. Exhale and dive back in.
There’s a lot of work that goes into planning a trip, but if you remind yourself that this is something that you want to do it becomes that much easier. After all, isn’t every thing worth doing a little bit of work? It’s worth it in the end.
I’ll keep you all updated as my first international holiday draws closer and then I’ll share all my adventures once I’m home. Until then,