I always think it’s really fun to try to see how cheap I can get things – plane tickets, lodging, food, clothes, shoes, everything. Just last month I found round-trip flights to Denver from Minneapolis for $39! Crazy, right? And don’t get me started on Gap clearance. I have a problem.
So last summer, Todd had some future PTO and we weren’t exactly sure what we were going to do, so I just started browsing flights to just about everywhere. Somehow I managed to stumble upon round-trip tickets to Copenhagen from Minneapolis for less than $400 each! So we had to take the opportunity. For us, financially, that meant taking extra on-call shifts and sub jobs, eating tons of rice and beans, and living frugally for awhile, but we knew it would be worth it. Years ago, we bonded over the fact that experiences have way more value than money or material things – so the choice to just go for it and get the tickets was an obvious decision.
There we were, sitting at breakfast, purchasing our tickets with absolutely no expectation and nothing in mind about where we were going – “I guess we’re going to Denmark!”
Months went by and then we realized “wow! it’s only a month away.” We had to start getting things together and organizing our trip. So here’s a guide on how to plan any big trip or expedition in and out of the country.
Get a planner
. I use Passion Planner,
and I love it. It works perfectly for everything in my life – especially organizing adventures. or make one yourself (with a good ole straight edge, a blank piece of paper, and a good pen) – or print off a free and freshly googled weekly & monthly template (there are millions). You’ll need this to organize goal-oriented to-do’s and help you out on your trip, too. I prefer having an hard, paper planner because I like writing things down, personalizing, drawing, and adding photos – but I’m sure there’s some sort of trip organizer app or calendar you can get on your phone, too (not as special FYI!)
IDENTIFICATION: Do you have/need a passport for your trip? If so, this is something you should actually get right after you make plans to get out of the cunch. You don’t want to put this off – for some reason government offices always have a way of making things take way longer than you anticipate. For instance, it took us 3 trips in a day to our city building because (1: initial visit 2: no additional picture ID, 3: no checkbook). Make sure you read regulations and things you’ll need to bring.
MONEY: If you’re smart and want to have your sh*t together on your trip, you might want to consider creating an estimated budget and ordering currency ahead of time from your bank. We did this – and it was really awesome. Paying to exchange in Denmark would have been really pricey and it would have made it hard to adequately keep track of our finances there.
Here’s an example budget for traveling. (tip – do some research about average costs in USD for things you’ll want, like coffee, public transportation, alcohol, street food, museums, etc.)
This example budget is for 1 person for 1 day.
Keep in mind – I exaggerated spending on everything. This was by no means how much I spent every day. Copy, paste, and edit according to your trip!
Breakfast : $7
$66 x 1 person x 4 days = $264 round up to $300 (or tack on $50 extra worth for souvenirs, etc).
So, we called up our bank and ordered our budget’s worth of currency for Denmark (the trusty Danish Kroner). They called us about a week later, and we went and picked it up! Easy enough! When we traveled, we split our currency into 2 – half for each of our carry-ons, just in case.
Tips for spending during trip: grocery shop, farmer’s markets, street food, stay somewhere with a kitchen.
LODGING: Figure out where you want to stay! We used Airbnb because it was the cheapest option for us. It was a lot of fun – and it opened a lot of doors for our experiences abroad. If you are considering using it, use this $40 credit towards your first booking! Pretty sweet, right?
Right Before the trip:
Go to the library and see if they have guidebooks for traveling to ______. We did this and it was a complete game changer and lifesaver. They include must-sees in all of the different areas, how to get around, public transportation maps, and other information, like important phone numbers. Also, consider downloading Google Maps – you can download maps offline (great if your phone is out of service and you don’t have wifi).
During the Trip:
- During your stay, plan each day as it comes. Don’t have tight agendas and/or schedules. We simply made a rough to-do list throughout our time before the trip and we added to it as we thought of / discovered more things to do. Make sure you bring your list on your trip, though! Your Passion Planner is a great spot to write all of this.
- Daily Rituals. At the end of every day, we made sure to do a few things.
- Write down all expenses (it helps to keep it as an email draft or as notes in your phone throughout the day). Compare to daily budget, count remaining money, record.
- Write down everything you did and all of your activities. Have a keepsake bag or designated pocket somewhere to hold tickets, stubs, postcards, receipts, etc.
- Plan out the next day & check the weather. Every day, we were discovering new things to do and we were always able to do them!
- Get up early, don’t go to bed too late, and don’t drink. That last one… I know, but really – it’s a lot of money and it alters your wonderful memories of your adventures! We tried buying alcohol a few times, and we realized we just weren’t into it there! Just consider it 😉
- Take a nap if you want to. It’s vacation, right? Don’t feel the need to stuff 5 million things into each day. And don’t over-exhaust yourself. Give your body and mind time to recover and prepare for your next adventures.
That’s all I’ve got for you! Hope these are helpful. Please don’t hesitate to email me or contact me for questions or comments about all of this.