Holiday Planning

My Travel Must-Haves

Aside from the obvious stuff – like passports and a supply of clean underwear – there’s a collection of items I don’t dare travel without.

Here’s what makes my travel must-have list:

Fit-kit

Although (somewhat unfortunately) you can’t always tell by looking, I’m a bit of a fitness addict. The idea of going away for more than a few days and not being able to keep up some kind of fitness regime makes me sweat for all the wrong reasons.

I always pack my running trainers and several sets of kit. Not only is this useful when I fancy heading out for a morning jog to combat the let-lag, this kit lends itself to doing adventure-type actives on your trip because it’s so easy to wash and get dry in your hotel room. It’s much easier to dry off in your yoga pants and a gym vest than it is to dry off in jeans and a cotton cami when you’ve been on a high-speed jet boat ride or been caught in an Indonesian 2 minute downpour.

Camera

OK, so most phones have a camera in them capable of taking pretty reasonable snaps, but they’re still no match for an SLR. You simply don’t get the crisp detail you see on a photo from a good camera if you use your phone, however good the phone.

I don’t pretend to know much about cameras, and there’s no way I’d want to cart about a huge SLR with a massive lens when I’m exploring new landscapes and city spots. So what camera do I use?

My Dad bought us a Canon Eos M as part of our wedding gift two years ago. They still sell them, but the model has been superseded).

Labelled a ‘bridge camera’ it’s a good step between a compact point-and-shoot and a larger DSLR. It’s light, durable and small enough to be discreet (for those times when you feel like you need to cover your valuables)!

 

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The Canon Eos M – Small, but packs a punch in terms of features!

Make sure you take both a charger and a huge memory card so you can happily snap away! On my last 3 week trip, I took just over 3000 photos. Many of them were garbage, but lots of them made it into the holiday scrapbook and even into some photo frames!

if you really can’t be bothered carrying a camera, perhaps try a snap-on lens for your phone. I’ve had relative success using a fish eye lens which slid onto the corner of my iPhone. Don’t expect massive gains in photo quality but you can expect lots of fun snaps!

New York times square

The bright lights of Times Square at night, through a fish eye lens snapped onto my old iPhone 5

Journal

Even before I started blogging, I always carried a travel journal. I like to keep hold of tickets, receipts, maps and other bits and bobs so that I can make a holiday scrapbook when I get back. In my journal, which I tend to write daily during our evening meal, we bullet point what we did in that day.

it takes only a matter of a few minutes, but means we can tear out the page and stick it in the scrapbook when we get home, amongst the memorabilia we’ve gathered and the photos we’ve chosen to print!

It’s great looking back over the scrapbooks after a few months or years!

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Blank pages require adventures to fill them!

Teabags

Nowhere does tea like Great Britain. I tend to take a selection of teabags, but you still have to awkwardly seek out non-UHT milk to complement your Earl Grey, unless you’re one of those people who believes milk in Earl Grey is akin to Blasphemy.

Document Wallet

When you’re going on a multi-destination trip, you’ll probably have a lot of tickets and booking confirmations. I find that it’s well worth having them all printed off and tucked into an organised document wallet.

Why do that when you have electronic copies? When you arrive at the car hire office after travelling for 36 hours with very little sleep and your phone is flat, the last thing you’ll want to do is explain that you need to charge your phone before you can provide proof of payment and take the keys.

Flexible Luggage

Why anyone would take hard bodied luggage is beyond me! I always take a rucksack (like this Eastpak one) and this Eastpak suitcase / holdall.

Eastpak baggage

I tend to do multi-centre trips, so being able to easily stuff things back into the hold-all is essential. Hard bodied luggage doesn’t really lend itself to disorganised and last minute packing, so having the flexibility of the expandable and flexible case is essential for me!

Kindle

I like to read on holiday – especially if I’m going long-haul. The problem is, I could get through a good fiction book in one flight. Back in the olden days, that would mean carting 5-10 books in my hand luggage or buying books in the airport and leaving them in the hotel when I was done.

In comes the Kindle. Small, backlit and books are normally cheaper on it. The only downside is you lose the ‘feel’ of reading a paper book and you’re a bit screwed if you run out of power. I never travel without it.

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Phone (+ Data!)

We’re so attached to our phones now that you’d be forgiven for wanting to switch it off and leave it behind for a few weeks.

I would argue that the phone is actually one of the best tools you can have when travelling! I usually opt in to the roaming packages so I can use my data (cost effectively) and that allows me to message, blog, instagram, tweet and use google maps as much as I want!

I also use it to check ratings for restaurants I might be about to go into, or to see what’s going on in the area I’m in!

Google’s translation app (which uses the camera on your phone to read and translate text) is great for deciphering menus and making sure you’re ordering chicken breast and not chicken eyeballs. This came in handy in Barcelona, where the menu at Tapas24 was not available in English! If only we had used it back in Hong Kong, we might have avoided the chicken feet incident.

I also use apps to help me navigate public transport and use the sat-nav to make sure the taxi I’m in isn’t ripping me off by taking me around several blocks before we go back to the hotel.

There’s no excuse for not being a savvy traveller when you’ve got the immense power of the internet at your fingertips.

Macbook Air

Not everyone wants to take a laptop on holiday, but when you have a travel blog it’s par for the course! I like to start writing about my experiences whilst I’m still immersed in them, and have also been using travel time (long flights) to write my non-fiction book.

Whats essential is that it’s light, small and quiet to type on (for the sleeping travellers around me)! The Macbook covers all that and more.

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MacBook Air – Typing machine of choice!

First Aid Kit

Not because you might need to stitch yourself up, but because you’ll probably encounter blisters, insect bites and a jiffy belly at some point in the trip. Pack there usual first-aid-kit contents (or buy a travel first aid kit) then top it up with indigestion tablets, Immodium and UK-purchased pain killers and antihistamine tablets.

The last thing you want is your request for paracetamol getting lost in translation and ending up with a laxative.

Credit Card

Nobody wants to be in an emergency situation when you’re on holiday, but the fact of the matter is – it does happen sometimes.

Be it getting bitten my a monkey and needing a rabies shot, falling off a moped in Thailand and needing stitches or getting food poisoning on the last day and missing your flight because you’re on a drip in hospital in Barcelona – it happens. I know it happens, because those things have happened to my friends!

Not everyone is a fan of credit cards, but even if you’re ‘against’ them you would be a fool not to travel with one. If you’re in the back-end-of-nowhere and you need medical assistance then the chances are you’ll need to pledge a form of payment (even if you’re going to claim it back through your travel insurance later).

Not only that, if you’ve followed the principles in my guide on how to get the best hotel deals, then there’s a good chance you secured your booking with a credit card. Present this card on arrival for faster check-in.

What I Leave Behind

Obviously there’s loads of stuff I leave behind. This section is about pointing out the things that people tend to thing they should take, but that you never end up using!

The main thing you might be tempted to take, but should definitely leave behind is your travel guide book. Yes, you read that right.

If you’ve not read the guide books by the time you’re heading off on your trip, it’s probably a bit too late. Don’t send hours of your holiday with your head in a guide book. Leave it at home and just go and get lost in the culture and scenery of the place you’re actually in. That’s much more exciting that reading about it.

Do read travel guides, but make it part of your holiday planning process rather than an afterthought.

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For more tips on packing, read this!

 

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The Taboo That is… Travelling as a Couple

Sometimes people are surprised when I say I’ve only ever really travelled with my Husband. It’s almost as if it’s disappointing that I’ve not run off ‘travelling’ on my own and mingled with other single twenty-somethings on a beach getting wasted.

I recently stumbled across a blog post with the title “14 Breathtaking Countries to See Before Settling Down” and it made me wonder whether there is a general consensus that travelling (and other fun things in life) need to be done before you ‘settle down’.

Is there even really a need to ‘settle down’ totally? What does that mean? When I got married two years ago it marked the start of a new adventure rather than the end of a life I loved and wouldn’t ever see again! If settling down isn’t to do with marriage, is it houses? I was a homeowner 10 days before graduation, so I don’t feel like I have impending mortgage doom looming on the horizon either.

Perhaps then, it is children? I don’t have children but if I do, then they’ll be coming on holiday with me, even if it’s a budget stay-cation to a random place in the UK that we’ve never laid eyes upon before.

I’m of the opinion that settling down need not be the prison sentence people think it is. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have wanted to travel with anyone other than the very person I’m settled down with – and here’s why:

Complete relaxation

When in the company of your partner, you know you can completely switch off. I don’t need to worry whether we’re doing something they want to be doing, or secretly wondering whether he’s having a good time because if he wasn’t, you know damned well they would have said so.

‘Extra’ space on the plane

You can almost guarantee that on a long haul flight, at some point I will have a claustrophobia related hissy fit. Queue husband offering for me to sprawl out into his personal space and get some shut-eye. He’s a good ‘un.

There Need Not Be Toilet Shame

Travelling brings out the worst in everyone’s gut, no matter how hardy you are. At least if the person you’re sharing your hotel room with is your husband then the chances are he’s seen it all (or smelt it all) before.

You can relax and try that local delicacy (whatever the hell it is) without having to concern yourself with seeking out Immodium later.

How very attractive.

There’s Always Someone to Hit the Ball Back

How would I play ping pong or table hockey on my own? If I was travelling with friends, they might not want to play, and there’s much less chance (and reason) for a friend to compromise than the other half!

Travelling with a partner can mean you occasionally have to compromise, but you know that when it comes to doing something only you want to do later – that same person with have your back!

You Already Know You Can Live With Them

I love my friends – of course I do – but I simply do not know whether we could travel together for three weeks. It’s unchartered territory.

Fuses can be short when you’re jet-lagged. When you’re having an adult tantrum in the isle of a plane because you’ve been sat still for 10 hours and you still can’t sleep, you need to know you’re with the one person in the world who can call you on your sh*t.

You Don’t Have to Narrow Down Food Choices (as Much)

It’s nice to be able to go halfsies on a hotel or to split the bill when you go out for your evening meal, but I imagine you could do that with a friend anyway.

The couple benefit is thus:

You order a meal each (on agreement of the other party) then mid way through, you switch. We went through most of the USA feeling like we’d had 6 courses for dinner rather than 3 because we applied this couples-eating logic, even to things you bite and not cut.

I’m sure some friends would be willing to do this, but it’s much less likely that you’ll get them to agree to ordering something you both like. We’re a couple who both eat anything and everything (except peas), so choosing two meals off a large menu is easy-peasy!

Death Valley Steak

Giant steak for two? Yes please. 

Ahem. Shared Experiences and Stuff.

It’s sort of soppy, but it’s actually quite nice to hop around the world making joint memories, right?!

hiking boots

Adventuring together. Awww.

You Can Still See Other People!

Not like that.

Just because you’re traveling as a couple doesn’t mean you’re excluded from being able to socialise like a human being. You are not mute or invisible due to your settled down status.

You might even find that you make friends, like our San Diego jacuzzi friends. We started chatting about beer, and 2 hours later we were still putting the world to rights (which somewhat oddly included a long conversation about the implications of fracking in Tulsa, Oklahoma)!

the 5 week wanderer barcelona

Why wouldn’t people want to talk to those friendly faces… Right?!

The Verdict:

Other than the fact that you (hopefully) get on pretty well with your partner, there are benefits to travelling together and I’d like to think  they outweigh the chance that I’m missing out on solo travel experiences. Besides, as ‘the group’ slowly couple off and settle down as well, there’s a whole raft of stag and hen parties to look forward to where I’m quite sure we’ll get our fill of travelling separately!

Holiday Packing Tips

The 5 Week Wanderer’s Packing Tips

Asking me to pack for a holiday is like instructing me to put an elephant into a locket. At any one time at home my clothes are distributed between my walk in wardrobe, my spare room (on the drying maiden), the washing pile and the washing machine.

When you put them all together (which is rare, because I’m never that on top of the laundry) I could probably fill 10-15 large suitcases despite the fact that I flogged a load on eBay and sent 6 black bin bags to the charity shop this year alone.

Having been on two three-week holidays in the last 2 years, I’ve had to learn to pack properly! This post contains my top tips for travel packing – based on my experiences and obsession with shoes, bags and shopping!

 

DO Underpack

It’s simple really. You’re probably going to go shopping when you’re on holiday. If it’s a city break, there’s a good chance there will be daily shopping involved! Take New York. What right-minded fashion-loving individual would travel to new York with a full suitcase?

If you have one beach bag, a clutch bag, a backpack and a medium-sized-tote-bag already in your case then it’s suddenly much harder to justify buying that Marc Jacobs black number.

Another bonus to under-packing is the obvious benefit of being able to bring back more goodies. Just don’t fall foul of the baggage weight limit like I did when we came back from Barcelona last week, or you’ll have to find a way to get the 10kg additional baggage onto the plane without it going on the scales. Queue wearing all the jewellery you own and layering so many items of clothing that you can barely get through security.

Packing in Airport

This is what happens when your Husband doesn’t leave room for his many in-holiday purchases. Your have to wear everything on the way home, abandon barely-used toiletries  and repack the case in the airport. Do I look impressed?!

DO Take Hold Luggage

I do understand why people take hand luggage only, but when you’re going away for a week and have to cram everything you own into a tiny suitcase for the sake of saving yourself a pocket-money-change amount, I question whether it’s really the best use of your energy. Dump the bags, pick up a cocktail and wait for your flight without heaving your belongings around the airport like a pack-horse.

Besides, if you think you’re getting one over on the airlines by foregoing your hairdryer, wearing your biggest heels to the airport and taking cabin baggage only for a week’s holiday, you’re wrong. As much as I like value for money (comes with territory when you work in finance), unless I’m only going away for a couple of nights my bag is getting checked into the hold!

DON’T Use Packing Lists Written by Backpackers

Unless you’re also going backpacking, travel packing lists are often not only irrelevant but tediously boring. “3 long sleeved tops and 3 vest tops for mix-and-match layering” will never be going in my suitcase, let alone on my body – It’s not 1992 and I’m not in a girl-band.

Yes, I pack sensible clothes (including sports clothes for trekking about in) but I draw the line at dressing like someone who’s been hitch-hiking for the last 35 years without making it to a shopping mall. Anyway, who goes away for 3 weeks and only expects to wear flip-flops and hiking boots?! That’s asking for blisters.

Do use a packing list written by someone like you who is going on a similar holiday. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure you’ll be either bringing back most of the case unworn or throwing it out to make space for your new purchases!

New balance trainers

No, you can’t pack all of those.

DO Pack Your Ludicrously High Heels

Holiday life isn’t the same as day-to-day life. If you can’t wear your most impractical stilettos in Vegas, where can you?

Pack for excitement and fun even if it means you can’t walk more than 100m without needing to sit down. Hell, treat yourself to a taxi – you are on holiday after all!

DON’T Sweat the Small Stuff

Unless you’re going to Siberia or the jungle you can probably buy most of what you need when you arrive at your destination, so there’s no need to have a hissy fit when you inevitably forget to pack a toothbrush.

The people of Hong Kong also need toothbrushes, so the corner shop will stock them and it’s not like shampoo is a rare commodity in a hotel.

DO Wet Your Swimsuit

How awkward is it when that bargain white and gold bikini that shows your tan so well also shows off your ass-crack and nipples as soon as it comes into contact with the sea?

I wouldn’t know, because I always check my swimsuits for see-through-ness – especially the cheap ones!

Bikini Swimsuit

Don’t give people an eyeful at the pool. Test that swimsuit!

DO Pack a Darker Foundation

If you must wear foundation (personally I tend not to, especially on holiday) then make sure you account for the change in skin tone when you expose yourself to sunlight.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times where I’ve seen girls queuing up to get on the return flight looking like they bathed in gravy then dipped their face in flour. Not a good look, and easily avoided!

DO Carry on Valuables

Take your camera, best jewellery and posh handbags in your carry-on luggage. You don’t want to misshape your Mulberry in the hold or have your beloved Chanel* travelling around the world without you.

I know plenty of people who have had luggage delayed or lost, and although most of them eventually got them back they were often dirty, smelly, wet or torn.

If there’s something you can’t bear to lose but have to take with you on your trip, keep in close to you at all times!

If you must put bags in the hold (i.e. if you buy a few on holiday and need to get them home) then stuff them with clothes and put them back in the dust bag so they don’t lose their shape!

* If only… A girl can dream!

DO Pack Several Pairs of Sunglasses

Being mixed race, I tend to tan very easily, which means that when I return I typically have tanning stripes. As you can imagine, its also very easy for my to end up with terrible un-tanned areas around my eyes which looks ridiculous once you return to the less-than-sunny UK.

The effect of this is much worse if you’re a fan of big outrageous sunglasses like I am! Limit the damage by packing several different pairs and rotating throughout the holiday – the more different the shape the better!

sunglasses

DON’T Be Ignorant!

Always be mindful of differing fashion conventions and pack so you can observe cultural rules. High waisted denim Levi cut offs that show your underbum crease and a lace ‘bralette’ are probably not OK for a trip to the UAE.

DO Buy Quality Luggage

I don’t mean pretty luggages, or designer luggage or even the lightest ever luggage. Buy luggage which will last many miles of travelling, is flexible and expandable, water resistant and easy to live out of for weeks on end!

My luggage of choice is Eastpak – My Husband and I both have a backpack and a suitcase/holdall that my Dad bought us as wedding gifts before our honeymoon. Crap luggage is false economy, especially if you’re replacing them every few years! These bad boys have a 30 year guarantee, so it’s a worthwhile investment!

Eastpak baggage

Overall, Just don’t stress!

You’ll probably forget something, but it probably won’t even matter once you’ve arrived at your designation and begun to get into ‘holiday mode’.

Happy holidays!

If you wish, feel free to contact me @ the5weekwanderer@gmail.com or follow me on Instagram or twitter!

To Tour or Not to Tour?!

When is it worth booking a tour guide?

Visiting a new place can be daunting. You’re putting yourself in a foreign land, with only the knowledge acquired through Google, family, friends and your travel agent.

It’s easy to feel intimated or overwhelmed with the opportunities to explore. Just this morning I bobbed onto TripAdvisor to finalise my Barcelona 3 Night itinerary and  I was met with 558 things I could do as a tourist in Barcelona. That’s a lot to cram into a short city break – so how don we whittle it down?

One way to make sure you see the main sights is to book a tour, but with so many tour options covering so many different interests, it can be very difficult to decide whether to bother at all.

So when is it worth booking a tour? Let’s consider the pros and cons of organised tours… and the I’ll decide whether to bother booking one or not!

The benefits of a booking a guided tour

You don’t miss a thing

If you’re a bit lazy when it comes to pre-holiday research or you have serious FOMO, then booking a tour ensure you’ll see the main tourist hotspots and get an overview of the historical, artistic or natural significance of each site. Easy win!

The tour guides have geographical knowledge 

Being on a tour means you don’t need to concern yourself with the location of the places you’re going to visit. Be it a walking tour or a bus tour, if you’re a crappy navigator you could save yourself a lot of frustration by leaving directions to the experts.

If the places you’re visiting are quite spread out then a tour can actually be a cost effective way to transport yourself between them, so it’s still worth considering a tour even if you got your orienteering badge from the guides when you were 10.

History and Narrative

You get more from being guided by someone who has in depth knowledge of the cultural significance of a tourist attraction than by simply walking to it, looking and snapping pictures.

If you’re less inclined to read tourist information or buy a paper guide, then booking on a tour is a great way to get some background whilst you snap away on your camera and upload pictures to Instagram. Multitasking. Boom.

Exclusive access & Special treatment

Sometimes the tour companies have a deal with the attractions so you can effectively cut the queue and therefore see the attractions faster. Similarly, they might have access ‘behind the scenes’ so you might be able to get closer to some art, artefacts or simply a better view.

Security and safety

I’m not encouraging anyone to visit somewhere which is ‘unsafe’ but there are certainly places I would like to visit where there is economic deprivation and a higher risk of criminal activity. If I wanted to explore these areas I would book a tour because local knowledge and security would be important to my experience and would let me relax a little bit more (which is what I want from a holiday)!

guided tour

Some tours simply need a guide for safety reasons!

It’s efficient, and requires little to no planning!

Book a tour in a few clicks, turn up and let someone else do that hard work for you. It certainly sounds attractive!

When is it best to go it alone?

Irritating People

There are some really annoying people in the world and it’s very possible that you’ll be stuck on a bus with at least one of them for the duration of the tour. I’m a sociable person, but being forced to socialise with random people in a confined space is not everyone’s cup of tea!

Price

There are some tours which are ‘free’ or request only a small donation at the end of the tour. Others are pre-bookable with varying fees depending on the inclusive activities and the size of the group.

Either way,the decision to book a tour is obviously swayed by budget.

Sometimes you don’t want to see everything in the tour

If you only really want to see 50-75% of the places and attractions in the tour, is it really worth it?

When we visited Hong Kong, we took a half day tour and there were some things we weren’t that bothered about seeing (such as a jade showroom). Lesson learned? Only book tours which contain everything you want to see, but not much else.

Want to hang around somewhere longer?

When on a guided tour, you’ll typical jump off the bus and then spend a limited time at each ‘destination’ or ‘hotspot’ meaning you have to whizz round or at least be selective in what you do at each place.

Need a toilet visit? Might want to hold it in, or you could miss a priceless art exhibit.

When you want to ditch the watch

Spontaneity is something we often crave and cannot establish in our day to day lives. The constraints of our work schedules, workout schedules, meal times and fitting in family and friends lends itself to routine.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but when on holiday it can be nice to dance to your own tune. A tour is sort of more like a line dance than a freestyle twerk-in-the-kitchen whilst you’re emptying the dishwasher. I’m much more inclined to do the latter!

Ditching the tour and wandering around a city yourself means you can leave the watch in the hotel room and just wing it, which can be quite liberating in itself!

So what’s the verdict?

For Barcelona, I’ve studied the content of the top 10 tours (per TripAdvisor) and plan to visit them in my own time. The city is small enough to navigate easily myself and I want this break to be leisurely!

That’s not to say I wouldn’t book a tour again – just not this week!

Planning a trip? Head to the holiday planning page for more tips and tricks – or check out what I got up to in the places I’ve visited!

 

Holiday Maximisation Part 1.0

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 Planning Bali

That time in Bali when we ‘winged it’ and got in a taxi to a random place for the day, got a Starbucks and went back to the hotel. See confused face.

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’:

  1. 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!
  2. Obtain authorisation for annual leave from work (this bit can take a while!)
  3. Get all the brochures, maps and guidebooks you can. Browse them and make notes. Highlight, doodle and sticky-tab the shit out of them
  4. 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
  5. 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’?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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!
  11. 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!
  12. Update your itinerary for the activities you have booked in advance.
  13. 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!

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This was the view as we dropped down into the Grand Canyon in the Helicopter – Yes, the tiny red dots are the other helicopters!

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…