Do you dream about travelling, but think you’re too broke to take an overseas holiday? Think an overseas holiday is beyond your financial reach? Maybe not!
The first decision you have to make is… do you REALLY want to take that trip? If the answer is, “Hell yes”, you’re already on your way! Making the commitment to travel, rather than simply daydreaming about it, is the first step you need to take if you want to make those dreams come true. My motto is, “Find a way to make it happen!”
A few years ago, I was working part-time while also running a business from home, our children were young and every waking moment was jam-packed with activities and commitments. I had neither the time nor the money to even think I could possibly travel overseas – the bills and commitments came first. At the time, I would have said there was no way I could go overseas.
Then came the death of my beloved father. In his final months, we had a number of conversations about his achievements in life. He had few regrets, as he lived a VERY full life. However, he did implore me follow through and achieve some more of my goals, to make sure I live the rest of my life without regret, just as he had done.
Selecting a travel partner
I pondered Dad’s advice and decided that, among other things, I really wanted to explore more of the world. I know most people would want to share a fabulous trip with their spouse, and rightfully so. My husband did a lot of international travelling in his younger days and wasn’t so keen on the idea, however, my best friend certainly was. We were both approaching our 50th birthdays, so instead of having a party, we decided to travel instead.
Who you travel with is really important, particularly when you’re taking an overseas holiday. Your travel partner needs to have the same approach to the trip as you do. It’s great if you share similar interests, or you may end up frustrated and unhappy with each other. Luckily, the bestie and I share a lot of interests. We’ve known each other for over 35 years and we’re pretty good at communicating by now.
So, after much talking and consultation with our husbands, we started to plan our dream overseas holiday – to Italy. It took four years of planning and saving, but we finally made the trip – and it was so AWESOME!!
How I made it happen
I’m a visual person, so I cut out photos of the places I want to travel to and pasted them on a “dream board” which I put on the wall in my office. Every time I sat down at my desk, I was looking straight at this poster, and in the centre it said, “Find a way to make it happen”. I love a goal to keep me focused.
I got online and started looking at various destinations we may like to visit. Next, I visited a travel agent to check on flight prices (Yes, they were cheaper through an agent than online – believe me!), and I also attended a Travel Show, just to get a few more ideas. I had a swag of brochures and potential itineraries.
I also purchased an Italy guide book, which was an invaluable resource. Lonely Planet, DK Eyewitness Travel or Rick Steves publish wonderful guide books. These guides provide a wealth of knowledge and are written by people who’ve visited the destination many times or are locals. You’ll find all the information you’ll ever need on: How to get there, where to stay, attractions, getting around, where to eat and any precautions you may need to take. They are certainly worth the investment, in my humble opinion.
Determine your travel style
Would you prefer to travel independently or in a group? If you’ve never been overseas before, you’re short on time or you’re not confident in travelling independently, then a group tour is the way to go. For those who are pretty resourceful, those who are prepared to do their homework, those who don’t like being part of a group or just want the flexibility to stay longer if you like a place, you might want to travel independently.
If you’re joining a group tour, do your research on the tour company before you commit. Ask people who’ve travelled on a group tour about the company they used and whether they were happy with the organisation. You can also Google and read online reviews on the company and see what travellers are saying. Most group tours in Europe are up in the thousands of dollars. It’s a big investment, so you want to be comfortable that you’re making the right choice before you pay your money.
For our Italy trip, we decided to combine the two, travelling independently for a week, then joining a group tour for 9 days, then travelling independently for the next 10 days. We managed the independent travel very well. We probably wouldn’t join a group tour on our next trip, but it was great to have an Italian local to show us around some of the most incredible sites in her country (and to pick her brains!).
Planning the itinerary
We got our ideas/inspiration from travel brochures, travel websites and by talking to people who had previously visited the areas we wanted to go to.
We found the site – www.TripAdvisor.com invaluable when checking out potential accommodation. To enjoy a more authentic experience of Italy, we stayed in a lot of B&Bs, and some hotel booking sites don’t cover them. They also have an excellent forum, where you can research your destination and ask questions of locals and frequent visitors. We certainly made the most of this resource when planning our trip. It was especially helpful for things like travel connections, where local knowledge was helpful.
With regard to accommodation – there’s often a broad range of choices, such as hotels, apartments, B&Bs, homestays, farm stays, etc. If you like your luxuries and having staff on call, a hotel may be the way to go. If you’d prefer to get to know some of the locals, then staying in a B&B, homestay or farm stay is a great choice. Personally, the B&Bs we stayed at in Italy were excellent and we enjoyed those stays much more than the hotels we stayed in.
Getting the budget right
Ah yes, the budget. You were wondering when that ugly word would appear, weren’t you? If only we all had unlimited funds… sigh! #HopingForALottoWin
Time to open up an Excel spreadsheet and start listing the things you need to pay for. Some of these might be:
- Attraction entrance fees
- Local tour guides
- Public transport
- Car hire
- Travel insurance
- Tips, etc.
Once again, I found the TripAdvisor forums to be very helpful when planning the budget for our trip, especially for items such how much to budget each day for food. An overseas holiday will often cost more than you think. I always budget at least 10% more than expected.
Next, I calculated how much money I could save each fortnight and started putting money aside. I opened a separate account with a bank I don’t normally use. That way, the money was basically out of sight and out of mind. In addition, every time I received any extra money for any reason, such as a tax refund or any kind of bonus, at least a portion of it went into the trip account.
In keeping with my “Find a way to make it happen” commitment to the trip, I had to sacrifice buying new clothes, going out or spending any more unnecessarily.
Every time I put money into my trip account, I thought, “There’s $50 more. That will pay my food for another day in Italy”. Every dollar I deposited to the trip account stayed there. In fact, I thought of it as money already spent, rather than money in the bank.
A friend who is an ex-travel agent told me that certain times of the year are cheaper to book airfares to Europe. You can also get early bird discounts with some airlines. It pays to do your research and find out whether you can save money this way. Our trip was in April and we booked in late September, saving around $600 per airfare! As with many things in life, timing is everything.
What the trip did for me
While I was planning the trip, whenever I had a bad day, I just thought about all the wonderful places I planned to go. At times, this was a godsend and may well have saved my sanity. Personally, I think it’s really important to have something to look forward to – it doesn’t have to be an overseas holiday, it can be anything you’ll enjoy.
While we were away, my friend and I really enjoyed each other’s company and the shared experience of the holiday. While we are both happily married and have children who we adore, we did enjoy the absolute freedom of just being us, rather than someone’s Mum, wife, housekeeper, bill payer, etc. etc. It was really refreshing to have that break and to find our sense of self again. Having said that, we were both more than happy to return home and hug our families after a month without them. Our husbands were very happy to see us return home too!
So tell me, where in the world do you plan to go on your next overseas holiday? How will you make it happen?
The Besties Do Italy series details how Seize The Day Project’s Lyndall and her long-time best friend ventured to Italy to celebrate a significant birthday – sans husbands and children. Read more posts in this fascinating series here:
Positano, you stole a little piece of my heart – Exploring Lake Como: The Greenway Walk – Eternal Rome: I only just met you, but I think I love you – Some Enchanted Evening in Venice – The journey to Cinque Terre: When things didn’t go according to plan – A trip to Villa San Michele, Anacapri – Cooking up an Italian storm in Roma
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