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Tips for planning trips

tips for planning trips
Quite a few people requested a post on how we go about planning trips.  So here are all of my tips for planning trips (:  I’m not sure if any of it is groundbreaking but here’s what I usually do.

Now that the kids are almost 3 and 5,  JB and I have decided we will likely do one big family trip and one just us.   Which is what we’ve done except for the year we had wesley and the year we had tuck, and we did two week long family trips (disney cruise and riviera nayarit the year wes was born and riviera maya , rome, and  sicily with a little pop over in switzerland the year tuck was born).  Nevis was last summers fam trip and we loved it.  We do a couple long weekends away here and there, mostly based on seeing clients or friends weddings.  The week long trips have been — Punta Mita, Little Dix Bay, and Marrakech.  This year we were supposed to head to Bali but the trip was canceled due to the volcano.  So we are now choosing between a Danube River Cruise, Ireland, or Norway OR do another vacation with the kids along.  Pretty great picking between winners.  Later this month we will go to St. Lucia with my boys and parents this spring.  All of the ones I just mentioned  are earned by my husband through his company, and they are much nicer than if we were planning and paying for them ourselves.  I still tend to do a lot of research for which trip we pick, and then once we pick, what we do there. I hope mentioning all this doesn’t make me sound out of touch but wanted to share the reality of how we get to go on some of our trips.  Truly, when we go on these trips, I never stop pinching myself.  How did I get here?!  And I felt the same way when we lived in Europe, and were traveling on a waaaaay less glam scale too.

We do a lot of travel within Florida… Some of my favorites are Boca Grande, Scalloping on Crystal River, Amelia Island, Ocean Reef Club, St. Augustine and our beach – Anna Maria Island.  Oh and yep, Orlando is kinda our home away from home at the moment.

And visiting outside Florida too – New York City, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Our trip up to Spartanburg this fall, TorontoCharlottesville… I’m sure I’m leaving some places out.

If you want to see specific countries, this page will show you where all we’ve been by country.

Fun trip down memory lane aside… here are more resources:

For BOOKING FLIGHTS:  Even with JB’s  trips through work, I tend to make all of the flight arrangements.

Skyscanner.net – I used this all of the time in Europe.  I’d just put in Basel and for destination “everywhere” and sometimes we’d just go wherever was the least expensive option.  Sky scanner is also a great place to look in the states as well.

Google flights  –  Similar to skyscanner, but will also give you recommended/ popular destinations from your starting point.  You can also sign up for an email that shares deals they think you would like.  based on stalking your googling, I bet.

I’ve used Expedia, Priceline, Cheapoair to book flights as well.  Though sometimes its best to just book through the airlines site.  There have been times because I’ve booked through a third party that I can’t pick my seat until arrival due to my ticket not being in their system yet.  This kinda gives me anxiety, so the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve just booked through the airline.

I’ve heard of Dollar Flight Club, but haven’t used it yet.  If you have more flexibility, it may be a good one to sign up for!

If you have a long layover, there’s a site called Day Use.  You can grab a hotel for a fraction of the cost to get a shower, catch some zzzzs, etc.

FOR PLANNING WHERE TO STAY / WHAT TO DO / WHERE TO EAT 

Other bloggers.  I always search for those first to see what they did/stayed/ate while at the location I’m researching.  I add notes to a google doc of whatever sounds like our speed.

Tripadvisor has always been a great source for me, even for planning trips ten years ago.  I think it isn’t as easy to navigate as it once was, but I still look there for restaurants, things to do, and behind the scene pictures of hotels.

I have often looked at TravelZoo.  I’ve never booked anything through them but know people who have had a ton of luck.  I was so tempted to go back to the st. regis Punta Mita when I saw they had a special running through TravelZoo.  So it’s worth looking.  A lot of times the flight and hotel are all booked in one.

Viator is a great place for finding excursions.  I think you still have to do a lot of research even within the website, reading reviews and picking what’s right for you.  But we’ve never been disappointed by an excursion booked there.  If we are doing a fishing charter – I always get in touch with our guide and request that the actual boat in picture is used and also the guide.  We’ve learned that sometimes when you think you are getting Captain so and so on a certain boat, you actually have someone else and/or a different boat than advertised.  That can potentially make a big difference.

Use social media.  I’ll ask questions for what to do /where to stay / where to eat, on Instagram or FB

Some concierges are amazing, and some aren’t.  I feel like you still need to look up wherever they are recommending.  Sometimes they get a kickback, and they are sending you only to those places (that’s happened to us).  Of course this isn’t always true!

Airbnb (this is a referral link – you get $40 off through it as well) – we have stayed at airbnb’s in dubrovnik, toronto, san fran, panama, basel, napa valley, and boca grande.  We’ve had great experiences – but I always read reviews and check in with the host so I know what to expect.

Kid & Coe – I haven’t used this but have checked it out a bit.  It’s basically airbnb but the houses are all 100% kid friendly.

Both JB and I use TripIt – it’s an app that syncs to your calendar on your phone – all of your flights, bookings, excursions, reservations – as well as the gate info, the address of the hotel, etc.  it’s so nice to not have to look up that info in old emails.

 

I think that’s all of the info I’ve got. If you made it to the end, I’m impressed!

I’d love to know what travel resources you use?  Any apps that make it all easier?

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  • Reply Courtney Butcher

    highly recommend the Danube River cruise – I did it a few years ago with Viking and it was amazing!!

    February 8, 2018 at 11:34 am
    • Reply Sarah

      That’s so good to hear! It sounds so lovely. That’s most likely what we are going to pick. I love the idea that we can grab a bike from the ship and explore.

      February 12, 2018 at 9:01 am
  • Reply Victoria

    I love the Ulmon Pro CityMaps2Go app for maps. You can mark things on it or search for things. It is so handy and works even without WiFi or cell service!

    February 9, 2018 at 2:10 pm
    • Reply Sarah

      so handy! I am downloading this (:

      February 12, 2018 at 9:00 am
  • Reply Lisa

    I love to use blogger recs. Any tips for searching for bloggers (outside the network you currently read) who may have posted on the areas you are looking to travel to?

    February 11, 2018 at 7:47 pm
    • Reply Sarah

      I definitely use pinterest as a search engine for this. I think it’s better than Google for this type of stuff. I usually do the destination, and also search with … babymoon, with kids, honeymoon … that generally helps me the most. I also use google image search, to try to find what I’m looking for. I find the images are easier to comb through than the words. xo

      February 12, 2018 at 9:02 am

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