Introduction: To-Do List Before You Travel

We love to travel but due to our busy schedule we do not often get enough time to do it. Consequently, we travel as much as possible with limited time & budget. I am writing this posts for travellers helping them to make a plan for their holidays more efficiently and budget friendly. This post is basically for all travellers who like to plan their holidays ahead efficiently to save both time and money. I would be really glad to know if any of my tips would be helpful for you.

There are a lot of things you need to do before travelling e.g. booking a hotel, buying a plane or a train ticket, buying entrée tickets, packaging etc. I will write down all the important to-do-things in couple of blog posts. Everyone loves to have stress-free, relaxing and smooth holidays (as a matter of fact, who doesn't?).

Personally, we tend to plan everything beforehand in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises. The best advice that I can give to you, especially to the beginners, is that ‘Plan everything as much as possible and plan it well’. Just keep in mind that planning your holidays is a very important task but don’t let it get on your nerves. The important thing is that you should be able to have a clear idea about how, where and with whom you want to spend your holidays and to enjoy your trip.

Here are a few things which we discuss (and I recommend you to do as well) while making our planning;

Step 1: Choosing a Destination for Holidays

How difficult can this be? I am pretty sure, like me, everyone has a list of places where they want to go before they die. The tricky part is to choose a destination to begin with. Well, it all depends on your personal interests. What do you prefer? Beaches or Mountains? Architecture or History of a city? What fascinates you? Discuss it with each other (if you are going with your partner/friends/family/colleagues) and may be you can have nice combination of each and everything in your planning (wouldn't that be great?).

For the beginners, I would advise you to start exploring the city you reside in and the cities around it. You can plan a weekend for such kind of trips, these trips will be of short periods but you will learn so much about your travelling habits like whether you like to travel by car or by public transport, which things are must to take with you all the time (like cell phone, camera etc.) etc. The best thing about these weekend trips is that it’s easy to go back to your place if you are not enjoying as it doesn't come up to your expectations. You can’t do that (well, you can but it still will be a difficult choice) if you are travelling to a faraway destination (as a beginner) and later discover that it’s not actually your ‘type’ of holiday destination. It will be such a waste of time and money and we don’t want that.

Other things that need your attention are; check whether you need a visa for your chosen destination? What vaccinations do you need (if you are in doubt, consult your doctor)? Please do research about the safety and security conditions in that particular city you are planning to visit.

Step 2: Timings

Who doesn't love to go on holidays in summer? Apparently, my husband doesn't because of several reasons like it’s too hot in summer, cities are too crowded, long waiting queue and what not. Therefore, going on a nice holiday in summer time (in months of June and July to be more specific) is just out of question (at least for us). April, May, August, September and October seems to be our ideal months to visit other cities/countries. In winter time, I usually like to stay at home in my cosy sofa and have a nice cup of tea/coffee while reading a book or surfing on internet (that sounds nice as well, doesn't it?).

Anyways, second thing which is also related to timings is the day planning. At what time should we leave hotel and at what time should we be back? Typically, we tend to leave hotel between 9:00-10:00 a.m. and we are back in hotel after dinner between 19:00-20:00. It’s because mostly the places we want to visit are open between 9:00 – 17:00 (e.g. museums, castles, entertainment parks etc.) which is just perfect for us. We don’t like to go out in the evening and prefer to stay at hotel and rest (unless we are in a city like Paris, then we don’t mind walking around till late night). So, if you are someone who likes to go out in the evening, go to the bars and clubs etc. then your schedule will look different than from ours. Just try to make sure that you get enough time to do the things you really want to do.

Step 3: Hotel or Bed & Breakfast

Choosing between hotel and a bed & breakfast option depends partially on your budget and on your comfort level about sharing a place with someone else along with some other important factors. What are the prices? What is the location of the place you are staying at? Is the public transportation easily accessible in that area? Which facilities are they offering (e.g. free Wi-Fi, air condition/heater, room service etc.)? Do they have enough (free) parking? If you have pets and/or children then you would also search for the information about their pet-friendliness and/or family-friendliness atmosphere.

I like to read reviews before confirming my reservations and for that I usually visit the following website; and mostly I reserve a room through the website. We have tried many different hotels and so far we think Ibis hotels (Ibis Hotel ) match our criteria the best. They offer nice facilities, rooms are small but clean, nice service, generally they are located near the city center and/or close to the airport/train stations and the prices are very reasonable.

Bed & Breakfast can be a good choice for overnight accommodation, at the begining of this year (January 2015) we gave a try (for a short weekend trip). I have booked our accommodation through Airbnb . The location of the house was close to the center, room looked nice and the price was really cheap. The only thing that bothered me was the privacy issue. I am someone who doesn't like the idea of sharing bathroom and lavatory and I like to spend the evening relaxing on a bed/couch without being disturbed by any outsiders. It was an OK experience for me but it can be a nice idea for you.

Step 4: Public Transportation or (Private) Car

Does travelling on trains fascinate you or you prefer to catch a plane instead? Or maybe you like adventures and like to travel in your car/bike. Also, take into account that all the means have different prices, comfort level and travelling time. Give a thought to all the possibilities and choose accordingly. I will suggest you to try different means of transportation. Each option has its own pros and cons. If you are going to a crowded city like Paris or Berlin, then if possible go there by train. This way you don’t have to worry at least about the parking costs (which are quite high in the city center areas) etc. There are few high speed trains in Europe to travel through Europe quickly and comfortably. Check out the following website for an overview of all the high speed trains of Europe; Eurail . Planes and cruises are also an option, suitable for long distance travelling.

But if you decide to travel by private or rental car then before leaving your home search online for a Park & Ride facility nearby a train/subway/tram/bus station. The charges are extremely reasonable; you can just park your car in that parking lot, grab a train/subway/tram/bus and can go to the city center easily. If you are visiting relatively small towns/cities like Gent and Bruges then I would suggest you to go there by car. Moreover, if you take a lot of luggage with you (like me) then a car is the best option to go with, you can take anything and everything in a car – literally! If you don’t own a car then you can rent a car. There are a lot of companies who rent the cars on affordable prices. While searching for it, I came across the following website; Europcar (I thought to mention it just to give you an example).

In Europe, travelling in buses with groups is also very famous. The prices are extremely low and most of the companies offer a combination of bus ticket and a nice accommodation. They have their own fixed routes and planning. We have never tried any bus service so far because we like to plan our trip according to our own requirements. Though, I won’t mind trying a day-out trip but for the longer duration bus trips would be the least favorite option.

Whichever means of transportation you choose, it all depends on your personal preferences! Just consider all the aspects that are significant for you and decide which choice you feel most comfortable with.

Step 5: Tourist Attractions and Sightseeing

What are the most important places which we don’t want to miss at all? Do some online research, read as many as possible reviews and suggestions of other people who have already visited the city. Also, check the website of local information center of the particular city we are planning to visit. They provide all the important information about the city and you can purchase ‘city card’ that offers a lot of benefits including unlimited travelling through public transportation and entrance tickets for attractions mentioned in the booklet.

I would recommend you to read reviews and suggestions of other travellers on Tripadvisor. It helps you to decide the locations easily. We also take care of each other’s preferences. For example, my husband loves to visits castles, palaces, historic buildings, cathedrals/churches etc. while I love visiting botanic gardens, museums (mostly art ones), famous landmarks of the cities, amusement parks/entertaining attractions etc. and we both love boat trips.

Our day planning usually consists of trip to a castle or a palace, boat trip, visit to a famous landmark and if we get some extra time then we go to a cathedral/church. It’s a good combination of our favorite places and at the end of the day we both are happy and satisfied and excited for the next adventure.

Step 6: Restaurants/Food

For all the foodies out there, this must be the number one priority on your list. To search the best restaurants in the city and to taste the new, different and unique cuisines must be something really exciting thing to do. Unfortunately, neither I nor my husband are foodies but we do enjoy nice food. So, we look superficially about the possibilities. I do like to mention here that we try to avoid the breakfast in the hotels. In the morning, all we need is a nice cup of a tea with biscuits or brownies (during holidays). The hotels offers breakfast for an average price of € 10 - € 15 per person which I think is a lot especially if you don’t eat that much. What I do is, bring my nice small-sized electric kettle, biscuits, paper-cups, tea-bags, sugar, etc. with me. This way we don’t have to even leave our room to have a nice breakfast. We also like to drink a cup of tea before hitting our bed and it makes it so much easier for us to have everything available in our room. It is an extremely handy thing to have and it saves you a lot of money! You can buy nice souvenirs with that money.

In the center area of any city, you will find a lot of restaurants and cafeteria’s along with famous food chain’s branches like Subway, McDonalds, Pizza Hut etc. If you are a foodie then you can try some local cuisines at local restaurants. It would be a good idea to have a look on internet to see beforehand which cuisines are the traditional ones and read the reviews of the restaurants on Tripadvisor . Visit the (local) supermarkets to buy mineral water and snacks.

Step 7: Travel Checklist (for Europe Mainly)

This might look crazily long list but I have created this travel checklist for myself and I always double check it before leaving my home. Of course, I don’t take all these items with me on every trip (depends on the duration of vacation) but it’s really handy to have written all the necessary items on a list. When you are in a hurry, you forget things easily and honestly who got the time to remember to pack all those things at the last moment? Hence, the idea of making a travel checklist!

Some of these items like towels and mini toiletries are available in the hotels but I always take my own towel and toiletries with me.

Here are the items of my checklist;

1. Documents

- Passport

- Tickets (Plane/train tickets, hotel reservations, entrance tickets etc.)

- Travel Insurance

- Health Insurance

- Credit Cards/Debit Cards (Also bring some cash with you!

2. The Mini Travel Size Toiletries

3. Travel Sized First Aid Kit & Medicines (you can buy the kit from any drugstore)

4. Towels (small and medium sized)

5. Universal Travel Plug Adapter Kit

6. Electronic Gadget

- Mobile phone, ear phones and adapter

- Camera, SD card(s), and adapter

- iPad (or any other tablet) and adapter

- Mini speaker(s) and charger

- Noise cancelling headphone

7. Extra

- Travel Iron

- Travel Water Boiler (also tea bags, sugar, biscuits/muffins, dried fruit - anything you have for your breakfast)

- Vacuum Flask

- Water Bottles

I haven't mentioned the make-up products and clothing as I am sure all the ladies knows very well which make-up products and clothes are 'must' to pack. For the guys, pack a couple of jeans, few t-shirts/shirts, undergarments and nightwear and you are ready to go!

This was my list! Feel free to add more items to your list that I haven't mentioned but you like to take them with you.

Step 8: ​General Things That Need Your Attention

A few boring but important things that you need to check before travelling are; get the visa (if required), be vaccinated (contact your GP if you need extra information), arrange a credit card, scan all of your important documents and save them online, make a packing list (I will write about it in detail in my upcoming post) and double check everything before you leave.

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