Want to take the stress out of holiday planning? Follow these easy tips and whether your dream holiday is the beach, a cosmopolitan city, or an epic road trip, you can even enjoy the research, booking and packing that will get you there. Imagine that!
1. Set your budget
Your budget will be the biggest influence on where you go, where you stay and what you do. Unfortunately that trip to Bora Bora won’t quite be possible on £500 – but a long weekend in Barcelona is looking very likely. It’s also worth breaking down your budget into big costs (your transport and accommodation) and your day-to-day costs (for meals, activities and souvenirs).
· Return flights – £120
· Hotel – £170 for two nights
· Local transport – £10
· Activities – £50
· Food and drink – £125
· Total cost = £475
*Based on a weekend in Barcelona for the 9–11 August 2019. Flying out of London and staying in a three-star hotel.
However, contrary to popular belief, a long-haul holiday doesn’t have to be expensive. Asia has a much lower cost of living; we’re talking meals for £3 and activities under a fiver. While the initial flight price will be higher, the cost once you arrive will even things out. Thailand, India and Laos are all dreamy destinations you can do on £25 a day.
2. Decide where you want to go
This is the hardest decision, when really, you want to go everywhere! Start by deciding what you want to get out of your holiday. Is it a beach break with scorching weather? Or will it be a cultural city-hopping trip? It’ll be a little disappointing if you turn up to a rocky beach in 10ºC so you need to choose wisely. Check out our travel inspiration blog and read up on the definitive guide on the best time to visit the most popular places – we’ve done all the research for you.
With your budget in mind, working out exactly where you can go doesn’t mean you have to manually search every destination in the world: we’ve done that for you too. Choose your departing airport, pick the month you want to travel in and use the Skyscanner map function. Here you’ll see a world map with every possible destination colour-coded by price – a green dot shows you that a direct flight is available while red is a flight including a stop, and is often a lot cheaper. Use the price bar to set your budget and then scroll across the map to pick a country that ticks all your boxes. If you’re still struggling for inspiration, pick your dates and search ‘Everywhere’. This handy function shows the cheapest flights for your preferred dates.
3. Set up price alerts
Once you’ve decided where to go, finding the best price for your flights is paramount. If you’ve chosen your destination and finalised your dates, you may find your perfect flights are pricey… This is where the best time to book search function comes in very handy. Using two years’ of research, we have predicted when flight prices tend to drop (and rise). You may save 5% by booking eight weeks before your departure date but booking 10 weeks beforehand could be 2% more expensive than average. It sounds confusing but stay with us, the search function will tell you everything you need to know, and it may help you grab a bargain.
Now that you know the best time to book, it’s time to set up a Skyscanner price alert. Look for the little bell icon labelled ‘Get price alerts’ in the top left corner of your flight search page. You’ll receive an email straight when there is a price drop for your preferred dates – easy peasy.
4. Be strict with yourself (and others)
Fluttering between six different beach destinations will only make you spend longer researching the countries, cultures and hundreds of hotels on offer. Picking two destinations e.g. Thailand or Indonesia will make narrowing down that final beachfront Insta-worthy hotel a quicker and less stressful process.
Likewise, if you’re travelling with a group, getting everyone to respond with their opinion is often the most stressful element of planning. Set clear deadlines as you go and be pretty brutal with them too. This way, you won’t have to foot the bill if someone (inevitably) drops out at the last minute.
5. Book more frequent, shorter breaks
A two-week American road trip will require more planning than a week in Chicago. For one thing, staying in the same place is more straightforward than moving around a country. Most cities, like Chicago, will have many must-see landmarks you’ll want to visit straight away making it pretty easier to build up an itinerary. Visiting multiple destinations in one trip can get complicated (and expensive) really quickly.
If you really want to minimise the stress of a mega vacation, you can divide your annual leave into shorter holidays: a city break, a beach holiday and an experience trip. Each trip could have a specific purpose to reduce the planning time. If it’s relaxing in the sun, you can’t go wrong with a beachfront hotel in Mexico. All you’d need to do is book your flights, find a hotel and practise a little bit of Spanish. Similarly, a hiking trip in a Canadian National Park will require flights, a hotel and a hire car. You’ll be able to find plenty of popular trails once you arrive and wherever you go, you’ll probably find that the locals will be eager to recommend their favourite spot.
6. Read Skyscanner’s travel guides
Skyscanner’s not only about the cheap flights and hotel deals, we also have detailed expert travel advice on everything from finding the most beautiful islands on a budget to discovering the best street food on the planet. Reading a few travel blogs will drastically reduce your holiday research time (and get you some great local insights too). Whether you want your first 24 hours in five popular cities planned for you or an in-depth New York travel guide, you can find hundreds of blogs for your wanderlust needs. Sign up to the Skyscanner weekly newsletter for travel inspo and weekly deals direct to your inbox.
7. Look for hotels with added extras
We all love a freebie and hotel extras are no exception. Aside from collecting the shampoo and slippers from your room, it’s also worth picking a hotel that has a few added extras. Starting your day with a hotel breakfast gives you one less meal to plan for (and avoids a morning of hangrily wandering around in search of croissants and coffee). A hotel pool may be your top priority but other amenities such as airport transfers and child-minding services will help you save time and reduce your pre-holiday stress level.
The hotel search function allows you to filter by price, customer rating and any extras you might need. You can also view the map to see exactly where each hotel is in relation to the locations you’ll be visiting. Oh and as a little extra, as soon as you book your flights through Skyscanner you’ll unlock a Fly, Stay, Save discount. This will give you access to special hotel discounts when you book your flights and hotels through Skyscanner.
8. Be organised…
While you don’t need a minute-by-minute itinerary, there are elements of any holiday that will need to be organised in advance. If you’re not already covered you should buy your travel insurance when you book your flights… just in case. If you’re going somewhere that requires travel injections (a quick Google and a visit to the NHS website will give you a rough idea) book yourself a travel appointment with you GP, ideally eight weeks before your departure.
You’ll also want to order your foreign currency and check the best credit and debit cards to use abroad. Make time to ensure your passport is valid (and with an extra six months on it after your return date) and apply for visas (if necessary, check with the Foreign Office for details). And, of course, check in online for your flight the day before.
9. …but don’t over plan
If you’ve got a must-see list longer than the Nile, your long weekend away is going to be far from relaxing. To ensure your holiday is as stress-free as possible, plan in some downtime alongside your must-do activities. Find a bar to grab a drink in, plan a picnic in the park or explore some unknown streets. Getting lost is also the best ways to stumble across those hidden gems. Leave time to be spontaneous, who knows what you’ll find when you actually get there. However hard you try, no travel book or well-researched itinerary can plan for every eventuality.
10. Before you travel
If your usual tactic is to throw everything into a suitcase the night before… you’ll probably end up buying an emergency something at the airport. This essential packing list will give keep you much more organised. Packing a week in advance may seem extreme, but it’ll allow you time to wash your favourite jeans and buy that non-essential-yet-super-essential new swimsuit. If you write a list, don’t forget to take it with you so that everything makes it safely home again.
Finally, you’ll need to get to the airport if you have any hopes of flying away. If you’re taking public transport have a look and see, and here’s the key part, IN ADVANCE, if there are any planned closures or diversions that may affect you. Or if you’re driving, see if you can pre-book an airport car park and save on those expensive parking fees.
Oh and don’t forget to pack your passport… don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Are you ready to plan your next trip? Search ‘Everywhere’ below:
All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 20 May 2019.