Stunning views of The Temple Of Poseidon

So you now have a shorter list of destinations you want to visit. No?? You DONT?? Well, go back to my previous post (How to Plan The Perfect Holiday – Part 1) and check out the tips I gave on selecting the ideal holiday destination for you.

So NOW that you have an inkling of where you want to go, here’s the next step.

Research, Research and more Research!

Holidays are a way to escape your daily routine. It’s a way to explore the unexplored and do things you never would on a normal day. And planning the right Holiday sometimes is a long process, but the process itself is quite exciting and de-stressing if you do it right!

There have been many instances where while I plan my holiday, I feel as if I’m already there and I know the place inside out before I’ve even been there. So my holiday actually begins 6 months before I’ve even started the trip.

So let’s get to what exactly you should be researching for your big trip.

Air Fare & Hotels

I like to use a variety of apps and websites to help me find the best online deals on Air Fares & Hotels. Here are a few of them –

Skyscanner has the feature to check the airfare for a particular month – this helps tremendously as you can now plan your start and end date by whatever is the cheapest and work your way around it.

Hopper also shows a month by month pricing, which helps you lock in on the best dates to visit that particular destination. I’ve noticed that for India, the pricing hasn’t always been the best, but it’s been pretty damn close. I use Hopper more as an indicator to get an idea of what the cheapest ticket could cost and when.

Google Flights is also a good option, as it shows some flights that are not listed on Skyscanner and Hopper. It is also great for multi-city tickets and you can set alerts and track the pricing.

I also tend to get a lot of offers & discounts via promotional emails. While most of them have a catch or some sort, it doesn’t hurt to check them out. You never know when you might get a good deal.

I like to start tracking or looking at airfares from about 6 months in advance, and finalize/book them around 4 months in advance. This gives me enough time to do my research, plan other things, and it isn’t too close to my travel dates, so the fares aren’t skyrocketing yet.

Booking.com and Airbnb are my go-to websites for hotels. I prefer Airbnb for bigger cities, where I can find a place that is close to the city centre so that I can walk around or have access to public transport easily. Also, I don’t have to worry about breakfast – as there would be plenty of cafes around or I could pick up basic groceries from a supermarket and make my own meal.

But for a smaller town, I avoid taking the stress and settle for either a hotel from booking.com or for local B&B’s that have a good rating online.

Click here to get INR 1000/- off on your first booking from booking.com

I’ve never stayed in a Hostel before (don’t judge me!) but I definitely want to cos they are super cheap and a great way to meet other fellow travellers! I plan to do this in my upcoming trip in June – keeping my fingers crossed everything works out! So more about hostels, in my later posts!

Through Booking.com I usually book those hotels that give me full refund up to 7 days prior to my stay. I start my research from about 4 months in advance, once my flight tickets are booked. I tend to book multiple hotels for the same dates as newer hotels keep opening up closer to the date of my travel. 20-30 days before my travel date, I usually finalize this, so that I’m at peace.

Sight Seeing

I like to start by checking out the UNESCO sites that the country/city has to offer. This information is available here.

Then, I move onto sites like Trip Advisor or other Blogs that talk about Top Things To Do in <enter place name here>. I consolidate all my findings from about 10-15 websites and then decide which ones I want to actually see, depending on my own preferences.

I like to do a lot of things and sometimes I keep the schedule pretty tight. So my holidays typically include UNESCO sites, Beaches, National Parks, Architectural Sites, Museums, Shopping Streets, Monuments, City Squares and my nightlife would revolve around great food and live music.

A lovely site you can use to plan your itinerary is inspirock.com. It’s got an easy drag & drop interface that helps you schedule your day-to-day activities. It also tells you the distance between 2 places.

You could also do it the old fashioned way on an excel sheet with the help of google maps to tell you the best route, distance & duration, visiting hours etc.

I start researching this immediately, as this also helps me narrow down my destination. I freeze on the itinerary (or at least most of it) before I book my air tickets, as its important to know exactly how many days I want to travel for. I may edit a day’s plan closer to my travel, but if I’m visiting many cities, then I need to finalise everything about 3-4 months in advance to be able to book the hotels.

Getting Around

This is extremely important to ensure a smooth holiday. I personally prefer hiring a car with a driver, so that the stress of driving (on the other side of the road sometimes) and digging deep into google maps, is out of the way.

I’ve seen enough of The Amazing Race to know that finding a simple location, can be stressful between 2 people and I have no intention of getting into fights with my travel partner – who is usually my Aunt and we can both be hotheads!

But hiring a car with a driver can get expensive. So choose what is right for you! If you do rent a car and drive it yourself, don’t forget to check up on how easy or difficult the drive would be… is it uphill? or very long? or difficult due to uneven roads? Just some basic research on this subject would prepare you for what’s to come.

Public Transport is also a great way to travel- especially if its a big city. When we were travelling around Ireland, we hired a car for most of the way, but in Belfast & Dublin , we used their Public Transport systems – buses in this particular case – and it was easy breezy. They had excellent connectivity to all important spots within the city and they also had the Hop On Hop Off bus which is always a great way to get an overview of the city.

I also like to experiment using different public transport systems while travelling from one city to the next… just to experience the local way of travelling. Taking the same example of my Ireland trip, we travelled by Car, Bus, Train, Plane and Ferry all in one awesome trip!

If I’m hiring a car with a driver, my itinerary (or most of it) has to be ready before I can do this. I like to do this via local travel agencies (local to the place I’m going) as they know their country best. Sometimes I get them to create a customised package for me (including hotels) based on my own itinerary. This is finalised about 3-4 months prior. Any internal flight/ferry tickets need to be bought is cheaper during this period.

Now that you’ve researched what to do, how to get there and where to stay, most of your work is taken care of and you just have to finalise all your choices. So now, do you think you’re ready? Na-ah! Wait for Part 3!