A view of the spectacular Indian Ocean off the Zanzibar coast.
Develop a travel strategy
Developing a travel strategy can save you a ton of time, whether you’re planning your first trip or your 25th. If this is your first trip, you may start with a very basic strategy, like just getting out of the country. Or, deciding you’ll go to Europe, backpack and stay in hostels on your trip. The more often you travel, you’ll find it easy to refine your strategy making future trip planning easier.
Here’s our basic travel strategy
“We will travel to one remote or “threatened” destination each year. We want to stay in the nicest places at our destination for the least cost. We prefer non-chain hotels, eating locally and getting out amongst the locals. We will travel to maximize our “off-work” time.”
That’s pretty much it. Not complex. Not difficult. Do we ever deviate from the strategy. Sure, but this fits our trips most of the time. So, I’m sure you’re asking yourself, so how does this make it easier to plan your travel? Let’s take a look.
Travel to one remote or threatened destination each year
No one knows what will happen tomorrow, let alone next month or next year. You could be in a car accident. You could come down with a long term illness. Your planned destinations government may be overthrown.
We try to go to those places that are far away or may be difficult to get to. It’s always easier to go places close to home. Why not make those places a priority that are hard to get to? It’s a lot easier and enjoyable to go to hike in Nepal or Tibet while you’re young. Or what about changes in government? You may have always wanted to go to Myanmar. Currently it’s politically stable, but what about two years from now? How about the Maldives? It sits only 12″ above sea level. With global warming, they expect the Maldives to be “gone” in about 70 years.
For us, this helps us shorten a list of destinations where we know we’ll take at least one trip to each year for the next couple of years. Some trips like that require advance planning anyway. We planned for Antarctica 18 months before we left.
We want to stay in the nicest places at our destination for the least cost
We always want to stay in the nicest places possible for the least amount of money. Sometimes to do that, youto be flexible. Maybe its your dates of travel. Maybe its the destination. Either way, this strategy has helped us find great places to stay at great discounts.
We subscribe to just about every deal email list and monitor every deal website out there. We’ve stayed at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai in a 2BR suite for $1600 a night vs the $8000 night regular rate. How? Four of us split the cost and we went during July, the hottest month in Dubai with temperatures near 114 degrees. To us, it didn’t matter. We know we’d be by the pool anyway and we wanted to visit the sites in the area. So why not go when we could have a once in a lifetime chance to stay in a “7-star” iconic hotel for almost 80% off the regular rate? Sure it was expensive, but what in Dubai isn’t? We wanted to go there eventually, we did things that few other people will do and we saved a boat load of money as to what it would cost us otherwise.
We prefer non-chain hotels, eating locally and getting out amongst the locals
We usually stay in non-chain hotels. Many of these places are much smaller than chain hotels and means that rooms are limited. We have to plan farther in advance and we may have to alter our travel dates to “off-peak” times. As for eating, we usually worry about that when we get there. We go on recommendations from hotel staff or people we meet throughout the day. Sometimes, we just pop into a local restaurant whose menu looks good.
When we go to places where we know we don’t speak the language or a higher risk area, we always hire a reputable local guide. Our Vietnamese language skills are almost non-existent, so when we went to remote areas of Vietnam we hired a guide. Not only did it make the most of our trip by being able to go places other’s wouldn’t know about, but things went without a hitch since we had someone who could speak the language. When we went to Rio, there was no way we were venturing far off the beaten path without a guide. Rio is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The guide we used was highly recommended in several popular travel guides, so we had to make sure our dates of travel coincided with his availability. Festivals or special events are another thing we take into consideration. If we want to be somewhere for a once a year event, we’d much rather visit during that time than any other.
We will travel to maximize our “off-work” time
Unless you’re independently wealthy, are self-employed or aren’t working at all, you probably have a limited amount of time you can be away from work.
We try to maximize that time by planning our larger or longer trips around holidays. For example, if we go during the week of Memorial Day, we only have to take 4 days vacation. That leaves us an extra day to make a long weekend trip somewhere else during the year. Or if we go the week before Memorial Day, we can stay an extra day or two, because we can actually take 6 days of work and only use 5 vacation days, plus maximize our time at our destination. Another advantage of this is that if you’re traveling abroad, there are very few holidays other than Christmas and New Year’s that are celebrated in other countries on those exact days. That means you won’t necessarily be fighting holiday crowds in other countries.
If you choose to travel with your friends, a travel strategy can help you see if you’ll be compatible during your trip. Sure, you may be best of friends, but when you’re traveling together, that doesn’t mean it’s going to go well. Making sure your goals are aligned, will make things much easier. If you want to stay at five star hotels and they want to stay at a hostel, you’re going to have problems. If they want to go clubbing at night and you want to kick back in a hammock and relax, you may have an issue.
No matter what you decide, start thinking about a travel strategy. Think about what you would do to plan the best possible trip ever and start there. Investing a few minutes in thinking about what works for you, will make planning travel much easier and make your trip much more enjoyable and stress-free. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Over the weekend, we were making last minute preparations for our upcoming trip to Spain at the end of the week. We were searching the iTunes App Store for an iPhone/iPad app that had subway and city maps for Madrid. In the past, we’ve pretty much stuck to Lonely Planet apps, but this time around we wanted to try something different. We were also looking for something that gave us offline map and GPS capability. Enter, mTrip. After reading a few reviews, we’re going to give it a try and see how well it works. mTrip has guides for many different cities in Europe, America and Asia. Plus, they can be updated daily with the latest information. Very handy. We took a look at the app after we downloaded it and I must say it’s very impressive. Very easy to use and does a good job of suggesting things to see and mapping them for you. We’re anxious to try out their “augmented reality” feature, which allows you to point your iPhone at a location and find things nearby in a live video format. Check back here the week of the 12th and we’ll let you know if mTrip’s app can cut the mustard.
A few of our favorite summertime photos
We take a ton of photos when we travel. We wanted to some of them with you right here. We use a variety of Canon cameras, including the G12, Rebel XTI and 5D MarkII. Take a look around and see what you think. If you find a photo you’d like to have for yourself, visit our Photo Store, by clicking on “Buy Photos” on the right.
Welcome to our video page. Here’s where you’ll find short video clips from our past trips. You can also see them on either of our two video channels, visit our YouTube version here or our Vimeo version here. Most of our videos are in HD, however, some older videos are shot in regular definition. We currently use a Canon Vixia HFS100 to capture video and then edit it with Apple iMovie or Final Cut Pro.
During our trips, we try to capture most of the highlights on video, however, in certain situations, we aren’t able to always take videos of certain places or things. Where we can’t, we’ve put in still images where possible. Enjoy!
A few of over the 225 photos from our recent trip to the Maldives. The Maldives is truly a tropical paradise unlike any other. With almost every resort on an isolated island of it’s own, the Maldives makes for a very unique vacation destination. You can check out all of our Maldives photos by clicking here.