Travel Essentials – Everything for Planning the Perfect Trip
Planning the perfect trip, whether it’s a weekend getaway or a month-long adventure, requires careful preparation and consideration of necessary items. From the early stages of trip planning to the moment you step foot in your destination, having the right travel essentials can make a significant difference in your overall experience. How do you find the perfect destination? Where do you book the best flight? What do you pack? We don’t have all the answers, but we certainly have a few. Below you’ll find the tools to help you plan before you leave home, so you can focus on having the best time possible once you’re on the road.
Hamilton and I are the perfect opposites when it comes to the travel preparation. While he embodies the spirit of spontaneity and carefree travel, I, on the other hand, thrive on extensive research. Of course, I know it’s not possible to know everything or prepare for every possible outcome. However, I believe that not opting solely on chance while being on the road can ensure that you’ll have a great experience while away.
I was not always like this: on our very first trip together to Vietnam, I did only basic research. I planned a general 2 weeks itinerary and decided to leave the rest to spontaneous decisions. And even if we did have a wonderful trip (during which we fell in love with traveling), we ended up missing many impressive spots that were right next to- because we didn’t know they were there! Because I don’t want that happening to you, I’ll tell you exactly how I am planning and researching the perfect trip now:
When it comes to finding the travel destinations, there isn’t a better place. I follow many travel accounts that keep me dreaming throughout the year. Whenever I see a place I like, I either save it on the app, or directly type it in Google Maps and save it there. Some of my favourite inspirational travel accounts are: @travel, @condenasttraveller, @travelandleasure, @roamtheplanet.
Once I have my dream destination, the first thing I do is searching for it in Pinterest. I often type the name of the place and add ‘aesthetics’ to it, as it shows me the most beautiful pictures and vibe of the destination. I then create a new folder with all the pictures I like and save it. Now I have possible spots to visit during that trip. Planning the perfect trip starts by getting inspired by your future destination.
We need to dig deeper. I look for blog posts with informations of our future destination. At the beginning, I search for general ones like ‘best thing to visit…’. I choose the places I like the most and write them down. Usually, I check out 3-4 websites with similar articles to compare the lists and make sure I don’t miss some important spots. I cross reference them with my Pinterest research to see how much matches.
Once I have my list, I start digging even deeper. I look for local blogs and websites. I research each of the places I wrote down to evaluate if they are worth to be on MY LIST. Also, I google things like ‘name of the spot– best things in the area’ to see other potentially nice things to do or see.
Once I have the list of places we will see during our next trip I type each of them in google maps and save them. Thanks to this I can see on the map how close/far they are from each other. Like this, a first glimpse of the itinerary appears- the most logical one travel wise.
Once I have the initial draft of the dream itinerary, I start researching the transportation methods. This will be crucial and last step in creating the final travel plan for our trip. Basically you need to see if it’s easier to get from point A to point B then C. Or maybe you should start by point C then go to A, because there is a direct bus connecting those places, and visit B at the end as it’s the cheapest place to fly back home to.
Once you complete that step- CONGRATULATIONS. You have finalised a perfect itinerary for your trip.
You can also add few additional steps- check for the best food in your destination (save the restaurants on google maps), best souvenirs to buy etc.
What makes any adventure a reality? Clicking ‘confirm’ on that flight booking. All your planning becomes tangible, and this perfect trip a reality!
Our favourite site for finding cheap flights, or for getting inspiration for our next destinations, is Skyscanner .
Personally we use booking.com for 99% of our accommodations. It’s one of the most popular search and booking engines, with the ability to cancel your room reservation at no cost (until a certain time period) being a great feature. It also rewards you for being a loyal customer with perks like cheaper rates, free breakfast and late check outs.
For peace of mind, don’t forget to read the reviews of the place you plan to book. Don’t take each review as the absolute truth, but if there’s a trend amongst a number of different guests, it’s normally a good indication if somewhere is worth staying at or avoiding at all costs.
This excellent site allows you to rent an entire property (or just a room) from a local. Thanks to this you can experience a real home in every country in the world! It’s usually the best option if you travel with a larger group.
If you are our regular reader you probably know that we love road-trips. We will always choose an adventure by road over any other transportation method. To the extent of us self-driving in some of the craziest places in the world like Java and Sulawesi in Indonesia, Zanzibar in Tanzania or Cebu in the Philippines! And thanks to those different trips we learned a big tip: local car rentals are usually better and much cheaper than the big chains! I usually start the car rental research on a comparison website. My two favourite ones are expedia.com and rentalcars.com. If I don’t find a satisfying offer on those, I open google maps, go to our destination entry port (either the airport, or a ferry port) and search for ‘car rentals’ in the zone. This shows all available car rentals including the local ones. Of course I choose only those with good reviews. After that I check their websites and pick the one with the best deal.
Planning the perfect trip also means planning a stress free adventure. Most travellers never purchase a travel insurance which we believe to be a huge mistake. Sure, you won’t need it on most of your trips, but if you do need it- it really could save your life. Yes, the cost of a travel insurance can be costly, especially to those traveling on a budget. However, you can find great insurances that won’t take up a huge chunk of your budget- even if you are traveling year round. Each year, I renew a yearly insurance with Aviva that costs roughly 200 EUR (for the whole year!). It covers everything, from lost luggage to sickness in every country in the world.
What a lot of people also don’t pay attention to, is the fact that good credit cards have some insurance policies included. For example our gold American Express insures us during our trips too.
If you choose to travel within Europe- you can disregard this post. However, any further trips might involve a need to get a vaccinations, or other preventive medications. We recommend that you visit specialist doctor at least a few weeks before you intend to travel. They will be able to inform you if any injections are required. And will give you medications that you can take with you. In case anything goes wrong during the trip, you’ll have first help.
We visited a tropical doctor before our trip to South Africa. We got the malaria pills and other medicines for most common health issues like infections.
If you are traveling to a remote destination, you will most likely have to carry some cash with you. We learned that it’s always cheaper to exchange the money in the country of our destination. However – never at the airport. I usually look for money exchange places on google maps somewhere close to our first accommodation. Often, I choose the accommodation based on the proximity of the exchange place. Thanks to this we can save even up to a few hundred euros. For example: In Jakarta I found this money exchange place with great reviews and great exchange rate. So I booked a lovely hotel just across the street from it. We would have lost 120 EUR on the exchange alone if we did it at the airport compared the small local exchange place I found.
↬ TIP: Never keep all your cash in one place. We always split it into 3-4 envelopes and hide it in different spots in our luggage.
Another option is to withdraw money from ATM upon your arrival. This will require you to swallow the withdrawal fees of the bank and your credit card provider. And exchange rate if your account is in a different currency. Personally, we never use our European bank cards when we travel abroad. First of all- it’s safer, secondly it’s way too expensive.
We each have a Revolut card (which is completely free to apply for) and use solely this card for our payments and withdrawals abroad. The Revolut card is a prepaid debit card that you can top up with your regular credit card. You can use it in the same way as any other credit card. It’s very easy to use as you operate it via an app on your phone. And the best part is ? There little to ZERO exchange fees on most foreign currencies!! It’s also great to manage your budget while traveling. We think Revolut is one of the best traveler tips ever. It’s a must-have for any traveler.
APPS AND MAPS
Nowadays, you will never see a traveler holding a physical map and trying to navigate with it. Today we rely (sometimes a little too much) on our phones while out on adventures. Different apps made traveling much easier and better organised. A smartphone can be a helpful and securing tool in a new and strange place. But it can also be a distraction that won’t allow you to truly enjoy your trip.
↬ READ: The Best Apps for Travelers
Without sounding to cliché, remember that a really nice part of going somewhere different is the possibility to disconnect from your social media or the daily news. Even if your phone is crucial for safe and comfortable travelling, we recommend that you try to use it as little as possible during your trips. Change up that routine and watch the sunrise as the first thing in the morning, not the Instagram feed.
REDUCING PLASTIC + SAVING MONEY
For the last four years of our travels across Africa, Europe and Asia we have carried a piece of travel kit which now we do not travel without.
It has given us instant access to safe, clean, purified drinking water everywhere, cut our single-use plastic bottle waste to practically zero, AND saved us a lot of money.
The Grayl bottle should be part of every travellers essentials. It’s a small way to help us all reduce our plastic footprint in places where the drinking water is not safe.
While planning your perfect trip, you’ll want to visit cultural spots which sometimes involve tours and guides. We travel independently whenever and wherever possible. Getting a guide is always the last option for us. We are those weird people that will rather read the history of the place from the leaflet during the visit, rather than have a guide show us around. We have a very unique pace and way of visiting places- we take a lot of pictures and get distracted by random things like bugs walking on the statues heads. Also- we do not do well in crowds (especially me, Martyna) and tours usually mean people. However, there are some experiences which can only be seen with a tour or which aren’t possible or affordable on our own.
Each country has hundreds and hundreds of tour operators but, unfortunately, not all tour companies are created equal and some over-charge by a high margin or offer poor service to travellers. That’s why we recommend doing enough research and checking out on-line reviews.
There are several excellent companies out there who bring a lot of the tour options together in one place, which offer a convenient and reliable way of booking.
↬ IMPORTANT: If you would like to take part in a tour or experience that involves wild animals we strongly encourage you to do a throughout research. Activities like swimming with dolphins in closed spaces, tiger sanctuaries, elephant rides should be avoided at all cost. Wild animals are not our entertainment and should never be used for such reason. That being said there are ways you can encounter wild animals in a safe and ethical environment. Please do your research ahead of booking any tour involving animals.
A trip is never fully prepared until you have stuffed that last pair of shoes and added yet another shirt into your suitcase, until there is quite simply no more room left. Packing is an art form. We still haven’t mastered it completely, but we have picked up a lot of tips and tricks along the way and it helps alot while planning the perfect trip.