Our Personal Travel Specialists at Blue Ibex Travel have taken their combined years of experience to provide you with five tips on how to take the stress out of planning your next trip, fill out the travel assessment profile.
In our day and age, with an incredible amount of information readily available at your fingertips, planning your vacation has gotten more challenging and stress inducing, not less. And worse yet, as information about lodging and activities becomes more and more readily available (and subsequently more overwhelming) travelers plan their travel by starting in the middle, attempting to sifting through the mountains of lodging options, guides, tours, and destinations. Don’t get distracted by the bright shiny colors and loud, almost un-ignorable, banner ads and targeted marketing for big hotels with big marketing budgets. Planning your travel this way can leave you with a pricy but mediocre accommodations, average (or at worst below average) guides and tours, and worst of all, you still have to deal with the stress of finding, booking and managing this vacation!
1. START AT THE BEGINNING.
Don’t worry, our Personal Travel Planning Specialists at Blue Ibex Travel would like to share our knowledge and experience in five trips to starting your travel planning process to help you avoid the draw and distraction of starting with the overwhelming travel choices. Below are steps to take to develop a sort of framework for your own custom travel itinerary to keep you on track and let you push those big budget accommodation ads out of the way unless they fit you and your trip.
Sounds simple, right? You would be amazed at how easy it is to start planning a trip from the middle. Even if you are simply trying to gain information about a destination you might be interested in, there is almost inevitably some advertisement somewhere on the page offering you accommodations, tours, attractions in that place tempting you to click and explore. Before you know it you have a partial list of things that may or may not interest you in a destination you’re not 100% certain you want to go to yet!
So, what do our Personal Travel Planning Specialists here at Blue Ibex suggest? Stop what you are doing, close that webpage about scuba diving in Belize for $10 per day (they are scamming you anyways you should never scuba dive anywhere for $10 a day!), take a deep breath, and grab a pencil and paper. Always start planning your travel with the basic building blocks of opportunities and limitations like timing, budget, etc.
2. DEFINE YOUR TIME OPPORTUNITIES
The first question that our Personal Travel Planning Specialists ask when it is time to get down to travel planning is: Do you have dates or a date range for your trip? Again, seems straight forward at first glance, however, knowing when you want to travel versus when you are able to travel are two separate parts of finding the right dates for your travel. This is where that paper and pencil come in handy. Our specialists recommend writing down a few things to start. First, write down your desired time frame, for instance, summer, June, or June through August, and don’t forget the year if it is anything other than the year you are in when writing this list. Next, write down each person who is traveling with you, including yourself and list each the time each person cannot travel, dates such as school bread dates, work conferences that you can’t miss, family/friend weddings, even things like the week around a family member’s due date if there is an expected birth in the family. Yes, it seems tedious, but if you start here, you can be assured that when you find a trip that you are getting excited for, you won’t have your hopes crushed because you forgot about your favorite niece’s wedding right smack in the middle of the time you allotted for travel.
Great, now that you know when you cannot travel, look back at your idea time frame and find a date range with no conflicting plans or limitations. Congrats, you’ve taken your first big step in getting that next vacation locked down, only a few more nitty gritty before we move onto the fun part.
We love travel planning tools, here is a free tool to help you plan: Travel Date Planner.
3. FIND YOUR TRAVEL STYLE
Each trip you take will be different in the particulars like destination, specific accommodations, etc, however, we find that travelers each have their specific travel style or travel fingerprint that defines that individual’s unique way of traveling. Understanding your travel fingerprint helps define your underlying standard, expectations, and preferences for your and which carries over from trip to trip. Why is this understanding important? Remember those flashy banners ad and marketing tactics that various accommodations, tours, etc. bombard you with? Knowing your traveler fingerprint can help you define the search for the travel components, accommodations, tours, etc., that are right for you and enable you to sped less time looking at the wrong options, no matter how flashy and tempting they are.
For instance, one of o
ur defined traveler fingerprint is the Cultural Immersionists, these are people who travel to immerse themselves in a place, its people, culture, and traditions wherever that may be. These individuals tend to like family run B&B type accommodations, unique and authentic experiences that push the boundaries of a person’s comfort zone, and prefer off-the-beaten path places even if those places are in a well established tourist destination (like visiting a cork farm that has been managed by the same family in Basque country in Spain for many generations and spending a night with the farmer and his family). If a person identifies themselves as having a Cultural Immersionist fingerprint, then it can be safely assumed that, when searching for lodging, plugging in terms like B&B or family run Inns, are going to produce much better results than simply typing in hotels or lodging for a place. Of course these are not rules, but guidelines that can help you in your travel planning process.
4. THE BUDGET
Figuring out your travel budget can be a little tricky, some people know right off the bat what they want to spend for the time they want to travel, but they are the exception, not the rule. If you are like most people, you have no idea what to expect when it comes to budgeting for your trip, but without a budget or at least a budget range, you might miss out on great opportunities or become disheartened when you realize that some travel component you found doesn’t fit your budget. If you are the rare and fortunate traveler who does not have to set budgets because the sky is the limit, congrats, and skip down to the next step!
The Travel Planning Specialists at Blue Ibex suggest you write down what the maximum amount that you could possibly spend on a trip without incurring any negative financial impacts in your life, then subtract 15-20% of that total amount to set at your ideal budget This will allow you to enjoy your trip with a little wiggle room for incidentals or unexpected costs. Great, now, if you know it, subtract airfare from your total amount. Take the remainder and divide by the number of days you plan to travel. This gives you a convenient daily budget to find great hotels, tours, etc. that fall within your budget!
The alternative to this method is creating a budget based on a level of luxury or comfort**. For instance, if you know that you’ll probably want to stay at large hotel chains like Hilton Hotels or the like, budget between $250 and $350 per day. If you know you like high-end hotels and services, then you’ll want to budget $350 to $600 per day into your budget. And if you are searching for the crème de la crème, full services accommodations with private butlers and plunge pools in your room then budget $800 and up per day.
**The amounts given for this kind of budgeting can vary greatly from place to place. $250 per day in the private Sabi Sands game reserve in South Africa might get you a lean-to in the bush with no food, but $250 per day in Nicaragua might get you a 4 or 5 star hotel with exquisite food. If you take this budget approach, we recommend speaking to a specialist about your travel dreams before getting your heart set on a specific budget.
5. FRAMEWORK IS BUILT, FIGURING OUT THE NEXT STEP
Congrats, the nitty gritty, not fun part of your travel planning is over! Now you need to fill in the rest of the information about where to go, what to do, lodging, transportation, tours and all the stuff that makes traveling so incredible. You have two options, start sifting and filling in the holes yourself, or find help.
Now that you have your framework to narrow down your search for the right travel components for you, you do have the opportunity to start searching on your own. However, even with experience and your tools at hand you’ll still find a large number of options available to you and little by way of assessing the actual quality of a place. Some of our favorite places have terrible websites but offer unparalleled experiences on the ground and other places we wouldn’t sent our enemies to but have incredibly well done websites. And the reviews aren’t much help unless you are good interpreting between the lines of a review to get the real information (Really? was the staff at an accommodation that bad or did that person book a $100 a night hotel in the heart of Manhattan and expect a butler to be at their beck and call and a gin and tonic delivered gratis to their room each night).
We recommend, and I’m certain you’re not surprised, using a travel specialist to help you dream, plan, book, and manage your trip. That being said, you should find the right travel specialist for you, someone you trust and who understands you as a traveler. The search for the right travel specialist is much narrower and once you find the right one for you, let them take the reins and surprise you with ideas and travel components designed for you that you might not have thought of.
Let us take this opportunity to dispel the myth that all travel specialists are too expensive for the average traveler. Most travel specialists, whether they call themselves personal travel planners, custom travel specialists, or simply vacation planners, can arrange your travel at or near the price you would pay if you booked on your own but take out all the headache and stress-inducing part for you. Good travel specialists should make you feel excited about your planning your trip, they will manage all the bookings and take care of the tiny details to make sure that you have the trip you dreamed of. But, don’t take our word for it, Condé Nast Traveler Magazine published a much more eloquent article about what travel specialists are and why we matter more in today’s digital world in their May 2015 issue. You can find the article online: Why New Generation of Travel Agents Matters More Than Ever.
In summary, planning your next vacation shouldn’t be a hair-pulling, stress-inducing experience. Follow our five steps to trip start your trip planning and you’ll find it much easier to get your travel planning under control for your next trip.