Sounds like a bullshit term. It probably is, because I made it up and I’m not in marketing – I’m in Finance. In fact it sounds like something fraudulent and if it said anything other than ‘holiday’, I probably wouldn’t read it. And at this point I don’t know whether there will ever be a ‘2.0’…
So what the hell does it mean?
If I have unlimited time to complete a task, typically it will take me much longer to complete than it needed to because I am an excellent procrastinator. If I have a list of chores and a week to complete the tasks then it will take me a week. If you tell me I only have 10 hours then 9.5 hours later I will have finished my chores.
By no means am I likening the trip of a lifetime to household chores, but I am trying to explain how it is that I know I can plan a kick-ass trip and make sure I see everything I want to, despite my limited time-frame!
Of course, it would be great to have several months to spend wandering around, discovering new places – who wouldn’t like to have more time on holiday?! The point here is if – like me- you only have three weeks for each trip, then you need to connect with your inner Monica Geller and put on your organising hat. Holiday maximisation requires advanced planning. You need to become an expert vacation planner!
Aren’t all holidays planned in Advance?
Obviously holidays are planned in advance, but the difference for the 5 week wanderer type is that in order to be able to enjoy more of the things you want to see, the travel planning needs to be a little more involved.
It’s a nice idea to ‘wing it’. I find the idea of just arriving in a place and scoping it out quite romantic, but in reality it often ends up with half a day wasted, tickets being sold-out and a meal in a crap ‘restaurant’ because you simply don’t know that you’re round the corner from the best food in town.
Holiday Maximisation Steps
The below list is a summary of how I’ve planned my last two 3-week holidays. I’ll be writing some more detailed posts in the travel planning section of this site and the below is not a comprehensive guide on how to plan a trip, but for now consider the following a ‘blueprint’:
- Agree timings and budget with fellow travellers (if there are any!). Check whether there are events in the area that you might want to go to (Carnival anyone?!) or avoid (world cup?! No thanks) and be mindful that these events change the price by quite a bit!
- Obtain authorisation for annual leave from work (this bit can take a while!)
- Get all the brochures, maps and guidebooks you can. Browse them and make notes. Highlight, doodle and sticky-tab the shit out of them
- When you have an idea of where you want to go, visit an appropriate travel agent (an expert in your type of trip, regardless of the price) so you can benefit from their knowledge and expertise
- Take away the quote and draft a rough holiday itinerary – can you fit in everything you want based on the dates / flight times they suggested and still have some ‘down-time’?
- Consider travel blogs and the advice of people you know who have already visited the place you’re travelling to. Remind people that you only have a short time so that they recommend things in order of priority! Utilise TripAdvisor for travelling tips and reviews.
- Research online for price-competitiveness and select the best deal to save on travel. Don’t be afraid to book a trip in chunks, but understand the difference between packed holidays and non-packaged.
- BOOK IT! Tip – ask to purchase the flights and at least 2-3 nights accommodation together so it can be packaged so you only need to pay a deposit now instead of the full price for the flights.
- Sort out insurance, visas, passports, credit cards and the other boring stuff. You really do need these things to be a safe and legitimate tourist!
- Record everything in some kind of ‘trip planner’! I use a spreadsheet to record the total amount payable and what we have already paid, but you could doodle it on a napkin as long as you can refer to it later!
- Start booking your activities, especially the type which sell out (e.g. Alcatraz). Be mindful that things like sports events can actually be much cheaper on the day if you’re willing to take a gamble on them being available through a site like StubHub. If you are willing to wait until the day of the event, you could save money!
- Update your itinerary for the activities you have booked in advance.
- Become uncontrollably excited and begin the countdown to your trip!
Other ways to make the most of your limited time
You need to make sure that impact of the boring parts of the holiday is limited. Moving myself from place to place is the part of the holiday that I typical greet with much distain.
When I’m on the move, I want to make sure I spend the shortest amount of time possible in ‘joy-less transit’. By this I mean I want to take the most direct route possible to my destination (unless a scenic drive is part of the appeal of the trip).
An example is when we visited the Grand Canyon. We went from Vegas with two friends who were in Vegas at the same time we were. We had two options if we wanted to put our feet down in the canyon itself: a 12 hour round coach trip through the desert or a 3.5 hour round helicopter trip with champagne breakfast in the canyon.
The coach trip was around £150 cheaper but we would have seen much less (no aerial view) and would have been out for 1 of the 4 days we had in Vegas, as opposed to being back by noon ready for a day out-and-about!
It simply made sense to pay the additional £150 each to benefit from that view, the experience of being in a helicopter for the first time and to have the extra 8-10 hours that we then used to have a few drinks at the pool, visit the shopping malls, go out for food and have a nap before we hit the tables and ended the night in Hakkasan.
The underlying principle of holiday maximisation is therefore getting the best value for money but also the best value for time…