Let’s Go Somewhere

Brett and I are in the beginning stages of planning for next year’s BIG Mystery Adventure,™ even though our departure date is months away, more than a year really. Right now we’re primarily in saving mode, as well as losing-weight-and-getting-in-shape mode, but we’ve got a basic itinerary in place, and I’ve begun the research process, which of course has me in my happy place. As always, my ultimate goal will be to put a solid foundation in place for our trip without choreographing every minute we’re on the road, all while staying within our budget.

The steps the planning is taking are the ones we’ve honed over the years:

  1. Where do we want to go? You might think it’s easy to pick a travel destination, but not always. There are lots of places Brett and I want to visit, in the U.S. and all over the world, and we have our family in Japan that we want to see (fairly) regularly. So, we usually start with a list of places to go, talk about them, both pros and cons, and then whittle down the list until we have a destination. Sometimes we can agree and decide quickly, other times it takes us a while longer. Then, once we know where we want to go, and when, we can start figuring out how much we need to save. We always come up with a Plan B too.
  2. How much will it cost to get there (and back)? The next step is to start figuring out how much it will cost us to get to our destination. Even if a trip is more than a year away, I start checking out airfares to get a general idea of what I can expect in the way of prices. I also spend a bit of time reviewing airlines to make sure they have a good reputation for service and safety. Right now there’s just about no amount of savings that would get me to book with United (which I’ve always tried to avoid anyway). If possible, we always try to add an additional amount to our budget to upgrade seats.
  3. How much will it cost to stay there? At the same time I’m looking at transportation, I start thinking about lodging. Do we want to stay in a hotel? A B&B? An Airbnb or VRBO rental? Where we’ll stay will depend on how long we’ll be at a particular location, or whether we’ll be moving around. It usually costs much less to stay at a vacation rental than paying for a hotel room every night, but sometimes the hotel amenities and location can make it worth it to pay more. The New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo was more affordable, and in a better location for us than a Tokyo Airbnb, and a stay at the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, so that’s where I booked for our trip there last year. The El Tovar cost more than other lodging there, but was worth every penny for the location and the amenities. I love looking through Airbnb though, imagining what it would be like to stay in the different homes.
  4. How much will it cost to eat while we’re there? This is one of the most difficult parts of planning, at least when it comes to figuring out our budget. Will we be able to prepare some meals on our own or will we need to have all of them prepared for us? Are there menus we can check ahead of time? Restaurants and dishes we might want to try while we’re at our destination are included in this part of the planning, and help us eventually come up with a reasonable daily amount for meals.
  5. What do we want to do while we’re there? This is an area of the planning where Brett and I work together. We have different interests, but plan together what to do while we’re someplace. Are there unique or special activities at our destination (like our mule ride at the Grand Canyon)? Are there must-see sights or museums? Are there activities we might want to do on our own or will we do everything together? Are there tours we might want to take? Do we need to make plans for our “down time” or does it look like we will head to our lodging every evening and fall right into bed? We read guidebooks, travelogues and blogs, and eventually come up with a list of things we might want to see and do while we’re at our destination (as well as what they might cost, if anything).
  6. How will we get around at our destination? All things considered, this part of the planning is fairly easy, but still needs to be figured out for the budget. Will we need a rental car? For how long? The Costco Travel site has car rental prices a fairly long way into the future so that I can get an idea of how much we will need to set aside for that expense. For some places, Japan for example, we have to get ourselves from the airport to our lodging by train or bus, but will otherwise be walking or using public transportation, and those expenses need to be considered as well. There are loads of sites now where you can find out exactly how much public transportation will cost, no matter where you’re going (or if there even is any public transportation).

Also, I always try to remember to:

  • Stay flexible, and adjust plans as necessary. Our first choice isn’t always the best choice, and we don’t have to see or try to do everything.
  • Read and find out as much as I can about our destination. Knowledge is power.
  • Keep looking for ways to save while we’re there.
  • Figure out exactly what we will need. This includes luggage, clothing and shoes, camera, and electronics, as well as whether or not we’ll need travel insurance, how we’ll access funds while we’re on the road, and how we’ll communicate with other family members.

Planning travel can be exciting, but also can feel overwhelming at times. I know though that eventually everything falls into place, and a good foundation, along with knowledge about our destination and a sense of adventure, means we’re going to have a terrific trip!

12 thoughts on “Let’s Go Somewhere

  1. You guys do a bit more planning than I do. When I’m traveling internationally for fun, I simply book where I’m staying, transportation from each location to the next, and then I check local city guides for any “once-in-a-lifetime” events that may be happening. I keep it at about that amount of planning, and just decided what I want to do each day when I wake. Some days, I feel like being a tourist, somedays I’ll hang with locals, and somedays it’s perfect to just wander and explore on my own. 🙂


    1. The amount of planning we do is because a) we work on a very, very tight budget – we usually need to know where we’re going and what we’re doing more than a year in advance so that we can save enough to make it happen; and b) I love researching and that folds into planning. We’re really not at rigid as this sounds, and tend to take each day as it comes unless there’s something that has to be reserved in advance. My husband and I are looking forward to doing more “slow travel’ once it’s just the two of us, and taking each day as it comes.

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  2. Over 35 years ago when I made my trip to Hawaii, I decided on Wednesday that I was going and left on Saturday for a two week trip. Once I got there I found out places I wanted to see including day trips to Hawaii, Maui and Kauai. Each one cost $99. I was picked up from my hotel by limousine, flown to the island where I met my day long tour group and returned to the airport for my return flight to Oahu and delivered back to my hotel. I still have great memories of that trip. When I went to England it was tour group all the way with a planned itinerary. When I drove across the country during a 3 week vacation I stopped whenever I saw something that struck my fancy. Planned or unplanned, all travel is fun but cost constraints would lead me to plan, plan, plan as you are doing and it is fun to put destinations on expedia and imagine the possibilities.


    1. We used to be able to be more spontaneous, but these days our budget requires us to do more planning. I try to keep my planning pretty basic though – once we’re at our destination nothing is really scheduled, unless it’s something we’ve had to make reservations for, the the mule ride at the Grand Canyon.


  3. This is a great list. I really want to visit Italy next, but I’m feeling overwhelmed by the options and have kind of shut down. I have Rick Steves’ book on my desk and haven’t looked at it in weeks, although I’ve been busy, so I have that excuse. I don’t think we have the time or money to do a month there, so I have to dial back all my ‘have to sees’. I will use this list and give it another go. 🙂


    1. Italy is on our bucket list . . . sigh. But, there’s so much to see and do there, so it’s hard to choose. The Cinque Terra is high on my list, but now they’re discouraging tourists from visiting because it’s so crowded. Venice, Rome, Florence, Sicily, the Amalfi Coast, Naples . . . where to go? It overwhelms me just to write them all.


      1. It took Brett and I several days and lots of discussion to come up with where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. There’s just so many wonderful places to visit!


  4. I like your new blog design. I’m doing some basic planning for where I’d like to go this year, too. If I could visit Spain again and see the sights in Budapest and Prague, I’ll be very happy.


    1. Thanks, Natalie – I like the previous theme, but it kept changing on me, with the column getting narrower and narrower. If it’s doing that on my computer, I can only imagine what was possibly happening for others. So many of the WordPress themes now can only be gotten for a price, but this one was free (it’s our no-spend year) and had all the features I wanted.

      Prague is on my bucket list. Brett has been to Spain (Barcelona) courtesy of the navy and enjoyed it. He’d like to go back, but it’s not at the top of his list.


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