planning a dream vacation

5 Travel Secrets to Planning Your Dream Vacation

Admit it. You have Santorini as your laptop and phone background and you spend at least half an hour everyday scrolling through Instagram double tapping photos of your favourite bloggers walking through the streets of Milan–street style of course.

Most of us would rather be lying on a beach somewhere so let’s make that dream happen! Booking a trip can be intimidating and a lot of work actually. Where do you even start?

Since I’m in the middle of booking a fall trip to Europe, I thought I’d share some of my best travel booking secrets to planning your dream vacation to make your trip smoother (and won’t break the bank either).

travel tips
 

Secret 1: Fly Smart

When booking or searching for flights, I always use the Hopper app. You can “watch flights” and it will tell you to either wait or ‘book now’ depending on the anticipated price drops/spikes. I waited 2 weeks to book a flight to London and ended up saving over $100. The app sends you notifications to your phone to let you know when to book exactly and it doesn’t use cookies either so you know you’re getting the best possible deals.

Secret 2: Alternate Accommodation Styles

If you’re planning a trip that’s over a week or you’ll be travelling to multiple places (backpacking Europe for example), I always recommend alternating between different types of accommodations. Start off with a hostel from Hostel World where there’s tons of options for under $50 a night.

These days hostels are pretty nice and you can find great ones with high ratings (choose 8.5 and up if you can) so you can stop picturing a gross cot on the floor in a room full of strangers. You can select all female, male, or co-ed rooms and they’re usually only 4-8 beds per room. Since on the first few days of your trip you’ll be wanting to explore as much as possible, you won’t be spending a lot of time in the hostel so don’t waste your money on a fancy hotel yet. Plus, hostel staff tend to have great recommendations on where to eat and visit. And if you’re looking to meet new people? You’ll likely meet a bunch of new friends similar to your age from all around the world!

booking travel tips
 
After a couple days here, I usually book an Airbnb to catch up on some down time. By this point you’re probably feeling a little tired and it’s nice to have the option to spend a couple hours alone. Airbnbs give you the opportunity to experience living in the city you’re visiting more like a local rather than a tourist–especially if it’s a local apartment you’re renting. Another bonus is that you’ll  have the option to save some cash (and calories) by cooking a home cooked meal with the Airbnb kitchen!
 
I usually like to continue this pattern of alternating between hostels and Airbnbs throughout the trip and then if I’ve got a little extra saved up, I’ll splurge on a nice hotel for a night or two closer to the end!

Secret 3: Build an Ideal Itinerary With These Resources

Once you’ve got your flights and sleep accommodations booked, it’s time to start planning what you’ll actually do and see when you get there! I like to build a list of all the cool places I’d like to see from landmarks, to shops/stores, to restaurants, to activities. Start with the most famous ones you know (ex. Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, etc.) and then do a little more digging around. I love using Pinterest as a tool to find cool places in each city that other people (especially bloggers) recommend.
 
Another great resource is Instagram. I usually head to the accounts of my favourite bloggers and YouTubers who travel a lot and see where they’ve gone. Unfortunately Instagram took away the feature where you could click on the map and it would mark where every single photo an Instagrammer has geo-tagged but you can still scroll through people’s feeds to get some ideas. Once you’ve built up your list of places you’d like to see, I like to use Google Maps to create/save a personal map with colour coded markings of those places. This way I can see which spots are close to one another and I can plan my days accordingly. On this particular trip to London (map below) I covered all the purple places on one day, the red on another, pink and blue on another, and so on.

personal maps
 

Secret 4: Prepare for Any Situation

When you’re travelling things can go UN-according to plan sometimes. That’s why to ensure I have the best trip possible, I plan and pack in advance for any possible situation. Common sticky sitches you should always consider are: the possibility of getting sick, losing your luggage, running out of money, and staying safe. Some things you can do to prevent these from happening or dealing with it if it does include getting the right shots for the country you are travelling to (ex. Hepatitis, Japanese Encephalitis, etc.), bringing vitamins with you, ensuring you have travel medical insurance, and carrying an extra outfit and set of underwear with you in your carry on bag. If your bank requires it, notify them of any travel plans for credit card safety. Lastly, keep your emergency contacts well informed of where you will be going, when, and any contact numbers/emails they might need in case something happens.

travel planning
 

Secret 5: Use a Travel Visa Card

If travelling is something you’re really passionate about like me, you may want to consider getting a credit card that gives you travel points or benefits. Right now I use the TD Platinum Travel Visa card and everything I buy goes on it. After having it for a year now, I’ve racked up enough points to cover the cost of an entire flight to Europe! Even better? I used my visa card to purchase the plane tickets which means another bunch of travel points were added to my account that I can use for my next trip too (AKA free flights forever basically)!

What’s the dream vacation you’re planning? Let me know in the comments below!

Watch my travel vlogs to see great recommendations and where I’ve been!

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