2. Research - what are the good, the bad and the ugly? Surprises are for birthdays and are only welcome if they're good surprises.
3. Calendar is your best friend. Plot your day. From the time you arrive at the airport to bed time. Possible activities, restaurant you've heard off where you want to dine at, the whole nine yards. It's your drawing board, make it as messy as you want. It's easy to trim it down later.
4. Mix and match. Weigh what activities are possible. Mixing high involvement to low so you maximise your day but keeping it real, you're only human who needs to rest. And accept it... you don't have 48 hours in a day. Selfies alone takes 5 minutes ;)
5. Plan the payments. They are all booked, now get back in there and make your first review. Time to pay for the ones you're dead set on. Either you pay it in advance or you pay them later, you want the experience or the food? either way, you will pay. Pay them in advance if you can, that way you don't have to worry about it in your trip, you can just enjoy.
Booking and paying in advance means you're locking in the amount. Fees become expensive the closer you are to the date. So pay/book early and save money.
6. Pay according to capacity. You should have a payment schedule along with your calendar. Set aside the usual monthly cost and the savings then use 75% of the surplus. That way you have 25% buffer for any incidentals or sudden urge to splurge. Then carry forward the remaining amount to your next month's surplus.
Make it fun. Look forward to it every month. Make a colourful chart, reward yourself every time you're able to stick to it and settle an amount, give yourself a free pat on the back or a lollipop or a bucket of ice cream,,, GET YOURSELF REWARDED, DAMN IT! YOU DESERVE IT!
7. A month before the trip. List your "what to bring". Our challenge is to carry one knapsack each. So check the weather, change of clothes for 3 days, laundry day on the third (that's why we preferred renting houses than hotels), who will carry what? One set of smart casual (for those dinner dates). Go simple... solid coloured tank tops and a cool looking jacket sounds like good options. Tank top with shorts and walking shoes are ideal for day out, add a jacket, change shorts to slacks and smart casual shoes and you can dine in anywhere in town. We ladies can just add heels and a chic jacket or a shawl and they'll let us in.
8. You have forgotten your favourite shampoo or your toothbrush? Don't fret,,, wherever you are going, chances are, those people also brush their teeth and shampoo their hair. Duh? Get out of the house and buy it from the local shop,,, be a local for a few days, it's a good excuse to chat the small shop owner or talk to him in sign language.. that can work too.
If you think those are essentials, other people in other part of the world also think they are. BEAUTY OF GLOBALISATION, eh?
9. Plan some more. Because you have lots of time to spare before the trip, (that's for doing your homework early), if you want to splurge on some areas of your trip, do it but don't overdo it. You still need to live the real life after your vacation.
10. Download an audio tour app. If you are going to Europe? Hands down, Rick Steves. A friend of mine who hated me for talking about the guy non stop (RS said this, RS said that), went to Amsterdam and is on her way to Belgium and Antwerp messaged me and said "sorry, I am marrying your boyfriend RS! I am in love with him!!!! our trip was amazing because of his app!" mind you she's been going to Europe for the last 10 years, 2x a year.
11. Dry run your packing strategy, your walking shoes (try them a day in the mall, if your toes don't turn black and you have no sprain after 10 hours, they're good walking shoes), your clothes. Dry run everything possible.
12. Don't be shock if nothing goes into plan. This is life. If it goes according to plan, fabulous! If some or all goes haywire, it's an adventure! A story to tell and a darn good memory to last all of ya a lifetime. So what if you left your son up to the next train station ala home alone? Hope not :P
13. Enjoy! When you set eyes on a trip, you are already in one heck of a journey. From planning to budgeting to the actual trip including the jet lag and the wanting for another vacation after the vacation. They are all priceless time of your life, non-refundable, one time only. So enjoy and live your life!
Let's discover the world!