I like to travel, but before I can go anywhere I have to plan the journey. In this LIVE video I share my method for travel planning and tips to hopefully make it easier for you.
Big trip: 3-12 months out
Little trip: 3 weeks prior
First thing: Decide on the destination and roughly the timeframe.
I usually have a "set" of destinations in mind.
Flight considerations:: Flight cost, Flight duration (connections), Airline, Alliance, Class of Service, Revenue or Award
If an award ticket always the saver ticket, usually business class. Make sure to check other airlines website for availability and CALL. Partner airlines almost always have the best availability.
Award tickets: Think of creative routings, look at an airline route map, SAN to NRT on JAL, LAX to VIE on Austrian
United miles: At least 3 cents per mile
If booking on short notice what seats are available? Exit row economy plus?
What are the ontime statistics for the flight? Tip: Early morning flights are the most ontime. High revenue flights also most ontime.
Might I be changing the flights quite a bit? Then Southwest -- no change fees.
Tools I use: Kayak, Google Flights, ITA Matrix, Airline Websites (actual and partner), and calling the airline.
Use month long views, flexible dates, pick some random specific dates and write down the best ones.
Picking a hotel:
Start with TripAdvisor
Read FlyerTalk threads
Look for blog reviews on the hotel
I like Marriott&Sheraton, Hyatt, Hilton (in that order). Best Western and Holiday Inn basically don't exist for me. Radisson nice internationally.
I tend towards large business hotels, but also like the boutique mini chains, Autograph Collection and Andaz.
I avoid domestic Courtyards like the plague.
Factors for hotel decision: Cost, Quiet rooms, Good AC, Good Location (public transport), Good and cheap (free?) Breakfast, Lounge access, close to restaurants & grocery store.
For big chain hotels I always book thru the hotel website. For international trips often Expedia. For Japan: Rakuten.
Tip:. Check special hotel rates: AAA, Senior, other?
Some hotels have bizarre minimum stay requirements (Andaz Maui I'm talking about you!)
I almost always book refundable and changeable hotel reservations.
If I don't know specific cities yet, I'll start with a full booking at arrival airport city and shorten reservation later.
Buy a few travel books -- Rick Steves for Europe. Select from the most popular on Amazon.
Watch YouTube videos. Read wikitravel,
Look for other people's itinerary for similar trip length.
Develop general itinerary in Google Docs. Also Google keep. Detailed down to what city per day and where we sleep. What mode of transport? Car, train, plane?
Generally at least 2 nights in a hotel, prefer 3. Generally prefer trains, then car, then planes
Make new hotel bookings or change if new destinations. Check prices of existing reservations.
A month out: Book train tickets or buy rail passes. Print out ideal train times. Determine airport to hotel transportation. Print out major attraction info.
Right before I go: Check the weather -- Make sure I've packed appropriately. Also be on the lookout for possible weather delays. Change flights if Weather Advisory allows. Check hotel prices again, change to non refundable if available. Make sure I have enough money in my ATM card account. Download Google maps offline.
Night before: Decide which travel buddies are going.. Finish final packing of luggage.
Missed my last live stream? Watch how I pack my luggage here: https://youtu.be/X7SL1BXWEOI?list=PLOVadUHX1B-JGLMwqvLbS9kkgAlhNWTp2
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Easy Lemon Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)