As I sit at home during the time of Covid, it’s given me plenty of time to think about where I would like to travel to once safe travel picks up again. However, as I also have time to think about this blog’s origins, I thought it’d be neat to kind of walk people through the process in order to plan a trip.
The first order of business for me is to have a general idea of what I’m looking for. Obviously on vacation, you want to relax, so I try to think of what opportunities I’d have regarding the chance to enjoy myself. With a list of places I’d like to go to, and it depends whether I’m looking at a (rare) winter trip or spring and summer travel, I look at the places I’m interested in going to and delve more into what they offer in regards to attractions. As you may have read many times before in the past, I’m not a fan of lying on a beach doing absolutely nothing, so part of my strategy is looking up all the museums, sites, and outdoor activities; basically, I want to see how I can keep fairly occupied during the week or so I’m there. I don’t mind walking around a ton, so I try to look up the general locations for the sites in order to know if I’d have to take public transportation or plan to spend a certain amount of time getting to and from there. One tip I’d offer is to plan that if a few destinations are located relatively close to each other, spend a day hitting them up instead of making several trips. When I was in Kaliningrad, for example, I was able to cross off several places from my to-do list because on the map, they were in a ring. I conserved my energy for the next days, and nothing was left behind once I had to fly back to Moscow.
Another aspect is obviously the budget. As I’m based in sunny Moscow and get paid a fairly paltry salary in rubles, I want to make sure I don’t break the bank. Most places in Europe use the Euro, so I do have to delve a bit deeper to see that if I do have to blow through a ton of money thanks to the shoddy exchange rates, I at least can minimize the pennypinching once I return. Montenegro is a good example of this, as the Euros I had lasted me a lot longer given the country is relatively cheap. In Kotor, I mostly avoided big restaurants in favor of smaller street food vendors, and doing so saved me valuable money that allowed me to go longer without having to trudge over to the nearest ATM. This was aided by a decent amount of research-you know what to generally expect for a week, including tempting excursions. Staying on the topic of Montenegro, aside from my hostel, the most I spent was an excursion through their famous hills. This is relevant because I knew that okay, if I go for this (and because it was a chance to hike around and drink with locals, it was a no-brainer), I still included that into my overall spending plan for that entire week. Now, I’m not saying that you should partake in extreme budgeting on vacation, but having some sort of plan does bring about a certain peace of mind, and that mentality has gotten me through many a trip. Oh and, don’t be afraid to go to McDonald’s or any other familiar fast food chain to eat, because not only will you have a nice taste of home to keep you grounded, but you will absolutely save precious cash.
Given the nature of travel, plans do change, and they can morph into happy coincidences if you allow them to. While these don’t really happen a lot, my trip to Amsterdam for New Year 2016 was essentially unplanned. See, I have long wanted to visit Slovenia and I’d been told that winter there is especially spectacular. When I was looking up information/flights, I played around but couldn’t get a slightly better price than I’d hoped for. I do remember mentioning this fact to my best friend Katie, who loves all things Dutch. She said that I should check out Amsterdam, to which I said “ha, sure, but I’m still dead set on Slovenia”. Long story short is that I checked flights from Moscow to there and voila! I found a flight that was significantly cheaper to go experience the Netherlands. From there, my normal planing (good, quality hostels + fun stuff to see and do + decent enough dining options) kicked in and I got to enjoy a fantastic start to 2016! Who wouldn’t want to arrive on New Year’s Eve and have their hostel make a nice dinner for them? Never would’ve happened if I wasn’t flexible in my plans.
Speaking of hostels, there’s been a massive increase in quality over the years, and it pays to do the research. Now, some people back home would argue that hostels are inferior to hotels, but I’d argue the opposite. I’ve stayed in some pretty fantastic hostels simply because I did my due diligence, and for six nights I generally spend about $100. Seriously, they’re good options, and taking some time to look into what fellow travelers have to say will give you that extra special boost your trip needs! They’re usually located in very central locations and they offer lots of nice amenities, and of course, you’ll always meet fantastic fellow travelers! Oh, and did I mention the staff can point out hidden gems? I’ve gone drinking with off duty staff at local dive bars because I asked them about their favorite places. Because of these factors, I sometimes put the cart before the horse and look into hostels before I’ve booked anything. Unorthodox method? Not really. Sometimes you want to see how much you’d spend on lodging before you commit to flying; this was especially true for my Amsterdam trip. Knowing that I’d spend more than intended on lodging actually nixed certain trips for me! As my World Cup trip to Volgograd proved, having a hostel in the middle of nowhere adds up in terms of taxi rides and time and energy. In short, looking up hostels comprises a serious part of my travel planning.
Hopefully my somewhat rambling thoughts make a bit more sense, so thank you all for allowing me to metaphorically put pen to paper with this post. If this helped, I’m glad to hear that! And, as always, I’d more more than happy to answer or clarify anything else that you all might want to know about.
Springfield, Virginia, USA is a pretty fab place to visit this time of year, …and in spring…summer…and Fall!! The hostel staff is very accommodating also I hear!!