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Develop A Travel Strategy

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.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina

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.  

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Argentina
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Argentina

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?

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