I love travel. New places, new people… journeys inspire me! There’s a world out there of which each of us is a small but significant part, and I’d love nothing more than to get out there and see as much of it as I can in this lifetime.
I’ve found that the best travel experiences have come when I’ve stretched my boundaries a little further, dreamed a bit bigger and made it happen my way. Creating your dream travel experience doesn’t have to be outlandishly expensive or complicated. With careful travel planning, a bit of research and legwork you might be surprised at what what you can cook up.
This is Part 1 of a 3 part guide to planning a bigger trip. We’ll cover how to get started, setting your intention, help with deciding your destination, what to include in your budget, and how you’re going to get there. This can be the most daunting stage. Its easy to feel overwhelmed with all of the information you need to accumulate, and end up deciding to take the easy option and book that all inclusive to the Med again. Let’s be honest, with kids involved that can be the easiest option. But why should a big or more adventurous trip have to wait until the kids are grown up, or until your financial or work situation is ideal, or even until you are retired? Honestly, there’s not much stopping you from having a go at making it happen now, so throw those limitations out of the window and get planning!
Making a travel plan
Firstly, recognise that you will need to be flexible. You can plan everything to the nth degree, but often the best stories happen when we go off plan! However it’s a good idea to get a solid framework in place, covering the important stuff such as visas, insurance, vaccinations, budget etc. Once that is sorted you can afford to be more flexible in your destination and route decisions.
Where do you want to go? One way to help you choose which I find fun and engaging is to start a Pinterest board. If you’ve not used it before, they have plenty of info to help you get started. Search for pins of countries you like the thought of visiting. You will find lots of ideas for unmissable locations, activities, places to stay and so on. Pin whatever tickles your fancy. Don’t be afraid to think big at this stage; you are putting positive energy into creating your dream trip, and that alone will bring it closer to you. Creative energy can be powerful stuff! Invite your partner and kids to contribute to the board with their own ideas, so that it becomes a collective intention. Or if you prefer getting crafty over going online, try creating a vision board. Make it a fun family project! Lonely Planet and Wikitravel are also great places to research countries and destinations.
Once you have a head full of inspiring ideas, begin to hone it down by researching your shortlisted destinations. Ask questions, such as: What is the cost of living like there? When are you planning to take your trip and what is the weather like at that time of year? Would it be particularly busy or quiet at that time? Will you need vaccinations or anti-malarial medication and are you happy for your children to have those? What is the country’s infrastructure like and how will you get around? Are the flight lengths workable for your family, or could you stopover for a few nights somewhere amazing, to break up the journey and add to your experiences? Also think about what activities there might be for your family to enjoy. All of these things are worth considering in the early stages, and will help you narrow down your choices.
Not forgetting the essential stuff
Once you’ve pencilled in a destination (or several), start getting practical in your approach. Firstly consider your budget. As a rough guide you need to break it down into:
• Return travel costs (usually your flights but could be ferry or rail travel costs)
• Overland travel costs or internal flights
• Unmissable activities
• A daily food and entertainment budget
Also consider pre-trip costs such as insurance, vaccinations and visas. Insurance is ESSENTIAL for long distance family travel! I personally would recommend World Nomads who are well established and highly rated. You should always check the small print and make sure whatever insurance you choose will adequately protect you and your family in a worst case scenario. Plus don’t forget to check your passports up to date for well beyond your return travel dates. Some countries require a 6 months buffer on your passport.
Think about the unmissable parts of your chosen location and factor in time and travel/activity costs for those. You might not want to go to Egypt and miss the Pyramids, for example. Maybe a Bedouin adventure in the dessert, or a trip down the Nile would factor in your essentials. Bear in mind that some activities might not be suitable for the ages and stages of your kids. In some cases it might be better to wait for a particular destination until they are a little older, so you are all able to make the most of your time there.
Travel to your destination
Now you can begin to research your flights. I would recommend starting with Kayak or Skyscanner. Both have excellent tools to help you find the most affordable routes and times to travel to destinations around the world. Do some searches and get an idea of what costs might be involved. If you are planning to travel to several destinations, you might find a Round-the-World type ticket is your best option. You could talk to an agent who will be able to advise you about the best budget friendly routes, stopover options and so on. It’s worth getting a quote at least, it will give you a benchmark to work from in your research. I have used both Round the World Experts and STA Travel for multi-stop air tickets. I’ve been happy with both and it does save some legwork.
I would recommend trying to resist the temptation to pack in too much or too many destinations on your travels. Bear in mind your kids will most likely get tired and unsettled travelling and that can make life difficult for everyone. Give them time at each stopover to properly unwind and absorb the rhythms of a location before you plan to move on. That way you will all feel more relaxed, plus when you stay longer you really get the feel of a place from a local perspective, rather than as a transient tourist. You’re more likely to meet and interact with local people on a longer stay. There’s a lot to be said for slow travel, I’d certainly like to do more of it! Whatever you choose to do, think about how it will work for the whole of your family. We’re all different and it can be hard to please everyone, but with careful thought you can make sure that there are destinations and activities included that will satisfy every expectation.
In Part 2 which will be coming next month, we’ll look at finding budget friendly accommodation, overland travel and activities. Places for finding the best deals and how to experience a destination like a local. In the meantime, what are you waiting for… start pinning and planning!
Trip Planning and Inspiration Resources
Travel Planning and Reseach:
Article originally posted in March 2017