Adoration 4 Adventure’s recommendations for achieving your travel goals in 4 easy stages.
Do you have a list of destinations in your mind but no idea where to start?
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated. That’s why I am breaking into down into 4 easy stages to get you from “dreaming” to “doing it” and living out your travel fantasies.
Even if you’ve traveled before, there are tips here that can help you get back on the road even faster. Start from the beginning or skip ahead to the stage that you are currently at.
Here are my recommendations for achieving your travel goals in 4 easy stages.
Thinking about traveling but don’t know where to start?
1. Set your goals
- Identify your travel goals and consider the level of time and comfort involved, e.g. two-week luxury vacation in Bali, or 6-month budget backpacking trip around South America. Will you be staying in budget hostels or 5-star accommodation?
- Calculate how much money you think you will need for the period of travel.
- In the A4A Travel Goals Template write down the list of your goals, estimated cost for each, and a target date to save that amount of money. Don’t worry if you are not completely sure, you can always come back and change them at a later time. This is just your starting point.
2. Review your budget
- In the A4A Budget Template write down a list of all your incoming payments and outgoing expenses.
- Review your expenses and identify unnecessary costs (e.g. eating out, buying specialty coffee, getting beauty treatments) that you could cut back on. This can be a tough transition, so maybe take it one step at a time.
- Before starting to save money for your trip, focus on paying off any smaller high-interest debts such as credit cards.
3. Set target dates
- After paying off any credit cards, calculate how long it will take you to reach the monetary target for your dream trip.
- Consider opening a flexible savings account that has a decent interest rate but won’t lock you in for a long period.
- Set target dates for each milestone e.g. pay off your credit card by the end of March, save $2,000 by mid-June, etc. Add them to the bottom of your A4A Travel Goals Template. It is better to aim higher than lower – push yourself to reach your goals but don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t make it each month.
- Schedule reminds in your calendar to signal when to make repayments, cancel direct debits, put money aside for the trip, and to review your progress (e.g. monthly).
4. Review your progress and adjust your targets
- Each month (or at whichever interval suits you) review your progress against the previous budget, goals and target dates. Are you on track to pay off your credit cards? Are you saving as much as you planned? Could you be cutting back or saving more?
- It’s okay to readjust your budget, goals, and target dates. Each time I review mine, I always find that plans have changed because I either can’t or no longer want to go to that destination at that time. If I still want to go there at some point, then I list it as a goal for a future date.
- For the goals that you have successfully completed, you can feel the satisfaction of ticking them off your list. Then reset your budget, goals, and target dates for the next period.
- Repeat this process until you accumulate the required funds for your dream trip. It is important that you have saved enough funds before you are fully committed to a trip and book non-refundable plane tickets.
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Researching and planning your trip.
1. Plan or don’t plan at all
Decide how much of your trip you want to plan in advance. For example, some people like to have absolutely everything booked ahead of time, while others prefer to “wing it”.
If you are the planning kind, I would recommend leaving some flexibility in your schedule. You never know what you might find or who you might meet on the trip and make you regret having such a rigid schedule. Big ticket items such as flights, as usually better booked in advanced, however, consider booking activities once you arrive. Unless it is something that needs to be booked months in advance, like the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Use accommodation booking platforms, like Booking.com, to reserve hotels or hostels that have a free cancellation policy so you can make last minute changes without any hassle.
For those who like to see what happens, I would recommend booking your first few nights accommodation and finding out how to get there from the airport. You will need to have an address to put on an entry card when arriving in a new country and even the most experienced traveler will appreciate not having to search for a bed after getting off an international flight.
A great planning tool is Google Sheets. Create a new sheet with column titles for the date, destination, transportation, accommodation, activities, and cost. I put my ideas down and then mark them in orange until I have booked it, then change the color to green. This makes it really easy to visually see what is on your itinerary and what still needs to be confirmed. Also, if you are planning a trip with other people, you can share the doc so you can all see and edit it.
2. Booking your flights
When searching for flights, I always use the travel search engine, Skyscanner. I love it so much, that I even became an ambassador.
By using their platform you are able to compare the flight prices for hundreds of airlines to find the best flight for you. Even better, Skyscanner doesn’t charge any additional fees. So when you find your flight, you can click through to be connected without worrying about paying more.
3. Visas and health
As part of your destination research, check to see if any visas or immunizations are required. Don’t leave these until the last minute as it can sometimes take a few months to organize.
If you take medication, make sure that you won’t have any problems taking it into your countries of travel or purchasing it over the counter with your existing prescription. In cases where it might be difficult to purchase abroad, you might need to pack extra.
4. Protect yourself
No matter which what you go, don’t take the risk of traveling without travel insurance. Start by googling “travel insurance comparison” to find a local platform that compares several different travel insurance companies. Try a few different websites to compare. Keep in mind that if you are making bookings with your credit card, that it might include travel insurance. Check with your bank first to see if you have coverage and what it includes.
Once you have found a good policy that meets your needs, open a new browser tab and go directly to the website to purchase the policy. I have used both World Nomads Insurance and Downunder Insurance (Allianz Insurance) because they were the cheapest at the time. Although I have made successful claims through both, the process with DU Insurance was extremely stressful. Both had an excess of AUD $100 to make a claim (as at 2016).
Sign up with Allianz Travel Insurance with affordable Plans As Low As $17 for US residents. Or, if you choose to go with World Nomads, use the promotion code “WNLOVE” for a discount.
5. Consider mobile and internet connections
Do you want to travel completely off the grid or would rather be connected everywhere you go? Staying off the grid can be a lot harder now with so many businesses (and even public spaces) providing free wifi.
Research the destination where you are going to check how freely available wifi is then decide if you need or want more connectivity. Your existing phone provider most likely offers packages for traveling overseas. Just make sure to compare this to other options as they can range greatly in price. Never use data roaming, unless you know for certain what the costs are ahead of time. I have heard of people coming back to bills of hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
While taking smaller trips (e.g. less than 3 months), I have don’t worry about data or international calls and just rely on wifi connections. For longer stints in one country, I have purchased a local SIM card with prepaid data upon arrival. If you are traveling to various countries, it is a good idea to get a SIM that will work in each, without incurring extra costs. I currently use a Freedompop SIM which gives me data in 24 European countries, as well as the United States, for no extra cost.
6. Set up access to your funds
Don’t be like my brother who traveled to Vietnam and was shocked to find that his Australian debit card didn’t work in the ATM. Do the research before you go and review which option is best for you. Personally, I avoid travel cards and exchanging money as they can incur costly fees. These days I just have a Citibank Visa Debit Card which gives me free withdrawals from any Citibank (and partner) ATM around the world.
Fees will vary depending on your home country and can change from day to day, so it is always best to do your own research.
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Packing lists and last-minute information.
1. Register with your travel destination and dates
Most countries will have a way for travelers to register their travel destinations and dates with their government in order to be notified of any high alerts or risks for the places that they are traveling to. For example, in Australia, there is Smartraveller through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Once In the case of an emergency, DFAT will attempt to contact you and/or your family.
2. Make copies of all your travel documents
For my first trip abroad, I made 2 paper copies of all my travel documents and put one in each bag that I was carrying. I also sent scanned copies to my parents along with a copy of my itinerary. This might sound intense, but it has definitely helped me on a few occasions.
At the very least, I would recommend that you have a paper copy of the following documents:
- Insurance documents
- Bank statement showing available funds and the account name.
Also, make sure that you can access these easily electronically. Thanks to technology, you can easily share these with your family as well either by email, Dropbox, or Google Drive.
3. Pack and then pack again with less
The biggest mistake that most travelers make is to over pack. We have all done it but in the case of packing for a trip – more does not equal better. In fact, once you are out on the road, you are going to appreciate having a lighter load. And if you do feel the fear set in that you won’t have everything you need, then rest assured that you can buy almost anything in most destinations.
I always find it helpful to pack once and then go through my stuff, removing anything that isn’t totally necessary. A good rule of thumb is to only pack to 7-10 days worth of clothing because after that you can just wash. I also don’t pack any piece of clothing that I can’t wear with at least 4 other items in my bag.
The only things I would recommend packing a lot of, is socks and underwear, as you can re-wear your other items more than once. Although, I happen to know a few people that will only travel with a few of those and hand wash them each night.
Traveling and dealing with changes on the road.
Congratulations! You made it. You are living out your travel dreams.
Now the focus is on having fun and enjoying the adventure… without totally blowing the budget. But don’t worry, I have included a few resources below to help you keep your costs low and avoid making any major travel mistakes.
Be sure to come back here when you are ready to start thinking about your next travel goal.
- 10 travel mistakes and how to avoid them
- 10 simple ways to save money on food while traveling
- Top 5 tips for traveling with a food allergy or preference
Pin it for the next adventure!
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