Discover what it takes to start planning a trip and find out how to use technologies to help you make important decisions.
Even if you’re the most frugal traveler who invests a lot of time seeking out the very best travel deals, taking a trip can be costly. There are a lot of expenses and fees to consider. For example, it’s important to determine
How much you have to spend, and how you’ll pay for the trip
Where you want to travel, when you want to go, and how you’ll get there
How much transportation will cost
Where you’ll be staying, and the cost of accommodations
What you want to experience during the trip, and what those activities will cost
How much you need to budget for additional trip-related expenses, such as travel insurance, care for your pet while you’re away, meals, and the cost associated with using your smartphone or tablet abroad (if applicable)
By making important decisions early during the trip-planning process, you can better cater to the wants, needs, and expectations of everyone you’ll be traveling with (including yourself), and then use the technology that’s at your disposal to research various aspects of your trip, which lets you make intelligent choices that will ultimately save you money without compromising your travel experience.
Making the Important Decisions
Planning any travel requires making some decisions. Throughout this decision-making process, you can use your computer, smartphone, or tablet to help you research answers and make more educated, and potentially money-saving, choices.
For example, the first few decisions you need to make while planning any trip include
Where do you want to travel?
What do you and your fellow travelers want to get out of the trip?
When do you want to travel?
How will you get there?
How long will your trip last?
Where will you stay?
How will you get around?
If you don’t already have an answer to where you want to travel, using any of the online travel services that offer travel guides and travel-related articles can be very helpful.
After you determine where you’re headed, you might then use the same travel guides and articles to help you develop realistic expectations about what that destination offers, so you can begin planning an itinerary based around the types of activities you and your fellow travelers will enjoy. For example, you can seek out adventurous activities, informative tours, details about spas, restaurant reviews, information about local attractions and historical sites you’d like to visit, facts about the local culture, and the weather forecast at your chosen destination.
Deciding when you want to travel is also an important decision, and one that affects cost. In general, you’ll find lower airfares if you depart and return on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday and if you travel during the destination’s off-peak or shoulder season.
Next, determine how you’ll get to your destination and how long you’d like to stay. For domestic travel, you can drive, fly, or take a train (Amtrak) or a bus. Based on the distance and cost, which you can easily determine through online research, it’s possible to find the fastest or most economical way to travel. For most international travel (unless you’re going to Canada or Mexico from the United States or traveling around Europe), you’ll probably need to fly or take a cruise ship, both of which offer their own benefits and perks, based on how you like to travel and what you want to experience during your trip.
The length of your trip is often based on your budget and the cost of travel, accommodations, meals, activities, and other travel expenses. Once again, by using some of the travel tools you’ll soon be reading about, you can seek out low airfares, discounted accommodations, and/or complete package deals that allow you to save money and potentially extend the length of your trip while still staying within your budget.
When deciding where you’ll stay when you reach your destination, you also typically have a wide range of options so you can pick one that best suits your personal preferences and budget. Each option offers advantages based on the services and amenities you’re looking for. As described in Chapter 7, “Finding and Booking Accommodations,” the following are some of your accommodation options:
Bed & breakfast
Home or apartment rental
Another factor to consider is how you’ll get around after you reach your travel destination. Many people immediately think they need a rental car. In some cases, though, a rental car is a costly nuisance. In addition to the daily cost of a rental car and frustration at navigating unfamiliar territory, you have to pay for gas and often rental car insurance and parking. In major cities, overnight parking at a hotel can cost an additional $30.00 to $75.00 per night. Plus, each time you arrive at a tourist destination, nearby parking often costs an additional $10.00 to $25.00 (or more).
Many cities offer public transportation systems, which are much easier to navigate when you use your smartphone with the Google Maps app (Android and iOS devices) or Maps app (iOS devices) or a specialized mobile app, which is covered in Chapter 10, “Mobile Apps to Use at Your Destination.”
You might also discover it’s less expensive to rely on taxis, Lyft, or Uber for transportation. The focus of Chapter 6, “Finding Ground Transportation,” is using technology to discover and manage your local transportation options after you reach your destination.