Probably the single biggest, and best piece of advice I can give to those wanting to travel, is that planning ahead will save the day. While it’s great to take advantage of a last minute vacation, it can also spell disaster for making the most of your travels. Of course one can over plan, more on that another day.
Essentially when it comes to traveling, especially internationally, planning can mean huge savings, better experiences, and a smoother journey than winging it on the last minute.
For example, if you are a foodie and you want to experience one of the best restaurants in the world, how likely do you think it will be that you can get a reservation at Central in Lima, Peru if you are leaving in two weeks, versus trying to make the reservation 45 days in advance? You guessed it, 45 days. This isn’t just the Michelin rated places, but Disney dining, and popular gems that bring in the crowds. If you know a place is a pinnacle of your journey, plan ahead, ask questions, and do your research.
Another example is accommodations. Unless it’s the off season, a lot of places book far in advance, meaning the crowds of people make finding a room hard. This also means that prices increase based on supply and demand (this is also true for flights). So unless you have cash to burn, booking a refundable rate well in advance secures your spot to sleep. If you get closer to the date and KNOW you are going come hell or high water, a non-refundable (if still available) can save money and secure your stay. Either way, it’s important to have something pinned and secured.
This also is true for excursions and activities. Did you know many places have a cap on how many visitors can come a day? This includes places like Machu Picchu and Yosemite. Beyond limits, many places have insane waits unless you book in advance (I’m looking at you Vatican and Uffizi). Meaning it’s almost vital to get a museum pass, book a tour, or work with a hotel concierge to get tickets in advance and this is especially true in high seasons.
I say all of this being the type A planner that I am, and being that I know from personal experience I have missed out by not planning ahead. However, if you are last minute taking off consider these tips to make it easier:
- Use tour aggregators like Viator to find the tours/activities you want
- Contact a tour guide or concierge service to see about getting help with details
- Visit the tourism board websites of where you are traveling
- Most importantly: check travel.state.gov to make sure that you don’t need a passport update or visa which could majorly foil your plans
- Ask stupid questions of people that have been where you are going. With endless Facebook groups you are sure to get some information
- Buy a travel guide! I can’t stress this enough for those trying to learn about a new place last minute. Lonely Planet, Rick Steves, and many others offer endlessly valuable information, not to be missed.
Also: Don’t Plan Too Much