I love me an adventure. It wasn’t actually until I rocked up at the airport for our flight to San Francisco without a bloody ESTA, that I realised we have actually vacationed in the States for the last 3 years! (FYI I thought I got new ESTA’s for our trip last year, but actually the husband got them for the trip before that!) In fact, that’s 5 years of long haul trips… OMG 12 year old me would be like “who the hell is this person…I haven’t even left England!”
So 2012 saw us hit the dizzy heights of New York, as part of a trip to Washington DC and Boston, 2014 = lazy honeymoon days in Antigua, and in 2015 I was surprised with an anniversary trip back to New York. In April 2016 we hit the west coast in sunny southern California and I planned the shizz out of that trip. Fast forward to today and I am just about getting over the holiday blues since visiting San Francisco and Hawaii. Phahahaha get me, a holiday in HAWAII! Who even am I. Anyway, if anyone is interested in our exact plans and itineraries for these holidays just hit me up in the comments, and I will get to work. In this post, I thought I would share my top tips for planning a big holiday.
- Check flight times and dates
Be as flexible as you can with the time of year you want to travel in, it can make a huge difference to the flight prices. I like to think carefully about how long I will have to get over my jet lag when we get back before I have to drag my bum back into work. Flying to the States from the UK is generally great, because you win on time difference when you arrive, but I just like to get in with good time to check in to the hotel and grab some dinner. Try and stay awake!!
- Plan meals, especially breakfast!
On our first couple of holidays to New York, we made a rookie error by not planning breakfast stops. I’d been all yeah we’ll be fine, there will be loads of places to choose from. In reality, you need to have a plan, do some research and make sure you get the first meal of the day into your hangry little bodies. Many arguments have sparked in the Richards’ marriage out of morning hangriness. This might sound a bit much to some, but I like to plan breakfast, lunch and dinner. At least then I know there is a plan. Don’t worry, I’m not some crazy person that won’t hit up that awesome pizza joint we’ve just come across just because “there was a plan” (I’m looking at you Goldenboy Pizza). I also find this helps with budget, as you can look at menus in advance, which brings me onto my next point…
- Holiday budgeting
Gimme an excel spreadsheet and a budget to schedule and I’mma happy girl. I know, this is where the party’s at. Seriously though, we ain’t got endless pockets of cash and I need to know how much a holiday is going to cost, spends and all. Before I even book the trip, I will do some research into what activities we want to do and where we want to eat, to start to map out a budget and see if we can afford it. Once it’s booked I literally block out hours in my calendar to build daily itineraries and budget the trip. For San Francisco, girl got herself a credit card (which didn’t scare me at all…) for our spending money. The Halifax Clarity card ended up being such a godsend! We didn’t end up changing way more money than we needed pre-holiday, we got the best exchange rates going, and we didn’t have to pay any foreign exchange fees. As long as it is paid off in full on schedule, it will also be interest free.
- Mapping it out
I think my husband actually questioned what sort of human being he had married when I rocked up with a printed and bound holiday itinerary that I had lovingly created over the last couple of months. Was he laughing when I had every confirmation number, every timing, and even a printed Google map of everywhere we want to go? No he wasn’t. He was praising my organisation skills lol. It helps that I seem to have some creepy in built GPS, but I love to familiarise myself with the areas we will be visiting on Google maps before we go. One of my lovely friends has since recommended an app called “Map.me” which offers map access in airplane mode – super helpful when you want to avoid monumental data charges post holiday.
It is no secret that I LOVE me some insta. And yes, a little massive bit of me does want to strike gold with an insta-worthy hotel and breakfast spot, but genuinely Instagram is fast becoming one of my favourite ways to find out about a place before I visit it. As it is used more and more as a micro-blogging platform, and users are tagging locations, using hashtags and engaging with hotels and restaurants, it is a quick and easy way to uncover a few gems. The Surfjack hotel in Hawaii was an Instagram heaven, the attention to detail! I’ll also make to check out a few of my favourite blogs, YouTube, and always refer back to good old TripAdvisor.
If you have any other tips…share away in the comments.