When it comes time for you to start booking your trip, simply make a list of what MUST be booked ahead of time (ex. airline tickets, accommodations for the first few days, rental cars, etc). And then take another piece of paper and list out all of the other things that you COULD book prior to your travels. Now throw that list away. It’s important not to tie yourself down too much. Don’t hard-book TOO many things, especially if the prices are roughly the same, whether you were to book early or the day of. Most of the time, you can go from place to place, at random and at will, and still find your way there, easily and affordably. But when you book too many things ahead of time, you’re basically locked into a commitment, which if you were to decide to cancel in the future, could be costing you a lot more than if you were to simply wait and see where your trip takes you.
If you’re on a tight budget and you need to find the best possible prices for each and every thing, it’s important to take some time and research what you should be spending and how to get that price. You may need to adjust your financial management outlook in the long run. When it comes to airfare, there are several useful things to keep in mind. The term ‘travel hacking’ has been coined for such techniques – I wrote a guide to finding the best airfare prices. Purchasing train ticket passes (especially in Europe) make it easy to go as you will, however they’re typically not the cheapest way to get around. Trains and buses can be competitively priced depending where you are in the world – so always keep that in mind. I’ve found that in Europe, it’s cheaper to go to the train station that I’ll be leaving from and then purchase the tickets that I’ll be needing only a few days prior. And even more, I often purchase my tickets the same day that I wish to travel. I’ve even had luck in less busier areas of the world, buying the ticket an hour or so before its departure (but that’s at your own risk, of course). Car rentals are similar to airline tickets, in that you will want to search around a bit and purchase online, ahead of time. I rented a car in Ireland for $12/day, which only took me an hour or so of research to find the right deal. You can also try services like eRideShare.com and other car pool websites.
There are several options when it comes to finding accommodations. You always have your typical choice between hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, etc. The general pricing for each of these options range (on a scale from $ for inexpensive to $$$$$ for very expensive) from hostels and campgrounds being lower priced around the $-$$ range, with bed and breakfasts and average hotels being priced around $$-$$$, and of course you can stay in higher-end hotels and resorts for $$$$-$$$$$. You can always pay as much as you want for accommodations, but in most parts of the world, you can find grungy hostels boasting prices below the $ average. Keep in mind that there are many ‘free’ options as well – websites like CouchSurfing.com and BeWelcome.org are full of locals offering accommodations to travelers, and then there are other various alternatives like HospitalityClub.org, GlobalFreeloaders.com, and WWOOF.org. Personally, I like to book a hostel for a few nights in each place that I visit before I go down the free accommodation path, because it’s also a wonderful experience to find other travelers who share your mindset, journey and goals, yet who are also in your shoes – you know, you both may be in a strange place, where you don’t speak the language, and it’d be nice to have a travel buddy (especially if you’re traveling alone). It’s so ridiculously easy to meet other travelers, like yourself in hostels – you never know, they may end up becoming your trusted travel partner, or may possibly become one of your best friends (I’ve had this happen often).
A few other things that are important to think about before you travel is the fact that you NEED insurance. Health insurance is super important, as well as coverage for the ‘things’ you’re bringing with you. As you may know from reading my blog, I’ve been robbed on road before and if it weren’t for the coverage of insurance companies, I would have lost nearly everything I had owned. I tend to make sure that I keep myself covered twice – I have a renter’s policy for when I leave home, which insures what I leave behind as well as what I take with me (most renter’s policies do this – if yours doesn’t, change companies), and I also purchase a specialty policy for my trip through World Nomads Insurance. World Nomads covers your stuff up to a certain amount, but more important covers a WIDE RANGE of health and adventure sports. I quite literally can do just about ANYTHING my little heart desires and they will cover it – ex. deep sea fishing, parachuting, base jumping, mountaineering, elephant riding, skydiving, trekking in Antarctica, etc.
(Photo by Trey Ratcliff)
Travel planning (Step FOUR) – Final preparations
Travel planning (Step THREE) – Packing
Travel planning (Step ONE) – Travel RIGHT!