Monday, September 30, 2013

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: 17 Easy Steps for Planning Your Next Trip

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: 17 Easy Steps for Planning Your Next Trip

17 Easy Steps for Planning Your Next Trip

Posted: 30 Sep 2013 10:43 AM PDT

planning a trip overseasI remember when I started planning my first trip. I had no idea what I was doing. When I decided to quit my job and travel the world, I walked into a bookstore and bought Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on Shoestring. It made the trip seem more real but it didn’t prepare me for planning a long world trip. Back then, there weren’t really blogs, guides, and apps like they have today. I was lost. I figured it out as I went; just hoping I didn’t miss anything.

Planning a long trip can be a daunting task. Where do you begin? What's step one? what's step two? what's step three? It's easy to get overwhelmed in the beginning, especially when you haven't done something like this before.

I’ve planned countless trips for myself (and even some for friends). Over the years, I’ve developed an efficient little check-list that ensures I don’t miss anything important (I like lists). I don’t want to get somewhere and then realize I forgot something.

There is a lot of information on this website (and even more information packed into my book), but one question that comes up frequently is "Matt, how do I put this all together? Tell me where to start."

In a continuing effort to get out the door and into the world, I've created this step-by-step guide to planning a trip that breaks so planning becomes easier and less overwhelming:

Step 1 – Decide Where You Want To Go

a map of the world
Defining where you want to go sets a goal to work towards. A lot of people talk vaguely about travel. They never say where they are going, just that they are going. Picking a destination is immensely important as it gives you a definite goal. It's a lot easier to mentally get behind "I am going to Paris" than "I'm going somewhere in Europe." Not only will your trip become more concrete for you and easier to commit to, but it will make planning easier as well.

Resources for picking your destination:

Step 2 – Decide the Length of Your Trip

How much does it cost to travel? I have no idea without knowing for how long you're going away. You can't figure out how much you need to save if you haven't decided on how long you'll be in your destination. After you say "I'm going to Paris," add "for 10 days."

Step 3 – Research Your Costs

So you know where you're going and how long you'll be there, but to really nail down how much money you need, your next task is to research the costs in your destination at the style of travel you want. Do you want to backpack, or would you rather stay in luxury hotels? How much are hostels, hotels, restaurants, and attractions? Knowing will allow you to estimate how much money you’ll need for your trip. You can begin with my travel guide section or simply buy a guidebook (which are really good for things like this).

If you are going to Paris for 10 days and need $75 a day (not including your flight), you know you need to save $750 (though round up to $800 since it's good to have extra) for your trip.

Now you have a concrete goal to work towards.

Step 4 – Start Saving Money

saving money for travel in your piggy bank
Time to start saving! Write down all your expenses so you can determine where you are spending money and how you can cut back. People bleed a lot of money every day through small purchases – that bottle of water, the dollar for that snack, that extra coffee. All of that adds up and creating this breakdown can let you know where you need to cut and save.

For example, if you need $2,000 USD for the trip you're taking in 8 months, that means you only have to save $8.33 per day. Couldn't you find a way to save $8 per day? Heck, your daily coffee is most of that! Here are three easy tips that produce big wins:

  • Cut the coffee – That daily coffee costs you $120 per month ($4 per coffee). An extra $1,440 per year pays for two months in Southeast Asia! What's more important – your daily cup of Joe or getting to spend two more months enjoying the beaches of Thailand or exploring the jungles of Borneo?
  • Learn to cook – I learned to cook while in college (a skill that has helped me ever since) and before I left on my big trip, I cut down on eating out to two times per week. I cooked a large dinner and then enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day, thus saving more money. Cook more, eat out less, and travel sooner.
  • Get rid of cable – In the age of Hulu and free (and legal) streaming TV, there's no reason for you to be spending $50 USD per month on cable television.

You can read this post for more in-depth and creative ways to cut your day-to-day expenses:
? 20 ways to Cut Your Expenses and Save for Travel

Step 5 – Get a Travels Rewards credit card

travel credit cards
While you're working to save money, get a travel credit card so you can earn sign-up bonuses to redeem miles and points for free flights and hotel stays. Most cards have bonuses of up to 50,000 points when you meet their minimum spending requirement (often $1,000 within a 3 month period). That's a lot of miles — enough for a free flight almost anywhere in the world.

If you want a free flight, use the cards that help with that. If you want free hotel rooms, get a hotel card. You don't need to sign up for very many cards; pick one or two and focus on those. Do this the moment you decide you want to travel. Don't wait – waiting equals lost miles, which means less free travel.

I am always doing this so I can travel for as cheap as possible. This post will give you more information as well as a list of the latest deals:

Step 6 – Switch to No-Fee ATM Cards

Don't give banks any of your hard-earned money. Save every extra dollar you can by using a no-fee ATM card. I use Charles Schwab, but there are lots of other banks (don't forget to check your local banks) that don't charge ATM fees. Additionally, you can join a bank in the Global ATM Alliance.

Step 7 – Stay Focused and Inspired

Keep feeding your desire to travel. Here are some inspiring stories:

Step 8 – Check for Last-Minute Deals

Okay, you're inspired, prepared, and on your way to saving money for your trip. But before you go buy that flight or book that hotel, check for deals you might have missed. You may dream of Paris but maybe there are great deals to Berlin right now. Maybe you can get a 7 day cruise for 70% off, a package deal to Hawaii for the price of your flight to Paris, or 50% off sailing trips around Greece.

It's a big world, and there are lots of places I want to see so if I end up choosing B over A, I'm happy! If you're flexible too, make sure you look for any money-saving deals.

Step 9 – Book Your Flight

taking off into the sunset
After you've used your travel credit card and received your sign-up bonus, use your miles to book your flight. It is harder to use miles these days due to less availability, so you make sure to book early to insure you get your desired flight.

There are still many ways to avoid being the person on the flight who paid the most. For more tips that can reduce ticket prices even more, read this blog post.

My favorite sites for finding cheap fares:

For the best deals, book your flight about two months in advance.

Step 10 – Book Your Accommodation

luna's hostel in panama city
If you have a set schedule, feel free to book accommodation for the duration of your trip, but if you are going to be traveling long-term, book just the first few days. Once you know the dates you'll be in your destination, there is no real reason not to find a place to stay. My view is that waiting will just lead to you losing your top picks.

Love hotels? They won't save you money, but you can sign up for some hotel credit cards and get free rooms, too. Marriott has a great rewards card whose sign-up bonus is equal to one week's free stay. Starwood's AMEX card is wonderful too, but the spending threshold in order to get the points bonus is higher.

The following booking sites offer the best rates for accommodation:

Alternative: Contact people on hospitality websites like Couchsurfing or Be Welcome and ask if they would be willing to host you. You want to do this in advance so people have time to rearrange their schedule and plan for your visit. Moreover, you can also consider apartment rental sites like Airbnb or Wimdu.

Step 11 – Plan Your Activities

plan the perfect adventure overseas
Sketch out the major activities you want to enjoy and how much they cost. Make any last-minute adjustments to your savings so you can ensure you have enough money. This will also help you figure out if you need any reservations for your chosen tours or activities.

Step 12 – Sell your stuff

If you are going on a long-term trip (6 months or more), sell your stuff in order to earn extra money for your trip. Start doing this about 60 days before you leave. Sites to use:

If you aren't going to be gone that long, skip this step. If you are going away long-term but want to keep your stuff, move it to a friend's house or keep it in storage. A good storage company in the U.S. is Public Storage, which starts at $50 per month.

Step 13 – Automate your bills

Get rid of your mail, go paperless, and set up online bill payment for your recurring bills to ensure you won't miss any overseas. If you are still going to get paper mail, use a service like Earth Class Mail, which will collect and scan your mail for you. (If you are going on a two-week trip, you don't really need to worry about this, so you can skip this step, too.)

Step 14 – Tell your credit card companies you'll be traveling

No matter how long you'll be gone, it's a good idea to let your credit card companies know you will be overseas, that way any transactions that you make aren't flagged as fraudulent and your card is less likely to be blocked. There's nothing worse than having to sit on the phone with your credit card company instead of enjoying your vacation.

Step 15 – Pack

pack your bags
Time to pack for your trip! Here's a suggested packing list.

Step 16 – Buy Travel Insurance

While a lot of people think "I'm healthy, I don't need travel insurance. I won't get sick," travel insurance is much more than just medical protection. It covers you when your camera breaks, your flight is cancelled, a family member dies and you have to come home, or if something is stolen.

Travel insurance is something you will need on the road. You never know what might happen, and most health plans won't cover you overseas. I never thought I would pop my eardrum while I was scuba diving or break my camera in Italy. My friend never thought he would break his leg hiking or that another friend's father would die and she would have to fly back home.

Travel insurance is only a few dollars a day and only a doesn’t buy it. Here’s my ultimate guide to picking a good insurance company. (I use World Nomads for all my trips.)

Step 17 – Enjoy your trip

have a great time on your trip
Go on your trip and have fun! Head to the airport, board your plane (don't forget your passport!), and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

By using this post as a guideline, you can better organize and prepare for your trip (and if you are looking for more in-depth information about planning a trip, check out my book for next steps). You'll check all the boxes, not miss anything, and have plenty of money for your vacation. A can be as simple as booking a flight and packing or as complex as rearranging your entire life to go backpack the world forever.

But no matter your trip length, this list will help you stay organized as you prepare to step onto that plane and out into the world.

(P.S. – Yes, I did leave out visas and vaccinations because needing those isn’t as universal as the other stuff on this list but don’t forget to check if you need that too!)

The post 17 Easy Steps for Planning Your Next Trip appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Disney Blog

My Disney Blog

Epic 3 Hours in Disneyland.

Posted: 28 Sep 2013 10:04 PM PDT

What could you do in 3 hours at Disneyland? Recenlty, we were in the parks for less than three hours and we had a pretty fantastic time. 

Read all about our fantastic time in Disneyland


During our time in the parks we visited the exclusive Club 33, had a private stretching room elevator in the Haunted Mansion, and rode all of our favorite attractions. 

Read the entire article>>>>>

Friday, September 27, 2013

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Sharing the New York Festive Cheer With Home

Posted: 26 Sep 2013 04:39 PM PDT

by Carly Morson There is no finer city in the world to spend the Christmas holidays in than New York where you'll find a city which embraces the festivities like no other. Captured in iconic films such as Home Alone II and Miracle on 34th Street, New York manages to make everyone feel like a child again when it comes to Christmas. Even if it's far away from home, there are many ways of sharing...

Read the full story at

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Disney Blog

My Disney Blog

Club 33 in Disneyland is Changing

Posted: 25 Sep 2013 09:01 PM PDT

Club 33, the private Club that is only open to members in the New Orleans Square area of Disneyland is undergoing a huge renovation.

Walt-Photo-Club-33-088-620x417 has the full scoop on what the renovation of the club will include. 

Some of the biggest changes include closing the Court of Angels to the public, adding a Jazz Club that is inspired by Disney's the Princess and the Frog, and a newly designed loook for the main dining room. 

Read full information at>>>>>

The shift will make the club more handicap acessible and create a magical atmosphere for Club members and guests. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Photo of the Week: Trinkhalle (Baden-Baden, Germany)

Posted: 21 Sep 2013 03:54 PM PDT

Since Roman times, folks have been bathing and enjoying the uplifting mineral spa waters that flow from the Black Forest hills of Baden-Baden. The city has two superb Roman baths to choose from (Friedrichsbad and Caracella-Therme) but almost as relaxing is the elegant Trinkhalle (Pump Room) which houses an enticing cafe, offers free glasses of the magical mineral-rich waters and a superb long...

Read the full story at

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: I Didn’t Like Curacao (But I Didn’t Hate it Either)

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: I Didn’t Like Curacao (But I Didn’t Hate it Either)

I Didn’t Like Curacao (But I Didn’t Hate it Either)

Posted: 19 Sep 2013 07:22 AM PDT

curacaoSeeing the oil refinery as I drove to my apartment rental in Curacao was a harbinger of things to come.

The Caribbean conjures up images of white sand beaches, palm trees, coral reefs, and tropical drinks. This summer I planned to travel much of the Caribbean (spoiler alert: I didn't) and at the top of my list of places to visit was Curacao, located in the Dutch Antilles, a part of Holland, and famous for its casino, nightlife, and similarly named blue liqueur.

As I flew into Curacao, I dreamed of all the Caribbean offered and imagined myself relaxing on long white sand beaches with a Pina Colada in hand. The largest and most rugged of the ABC (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) islands, Curacao also held the promise of good hiking and non-beach activities.

But almost immediately after arriving I was disappointed.

What they don't show in the brochures is the oil refinery on the edge of town. You know this beautiful, multi-colored, waterfront photo that shows off the view Curacao is famous for:

willemstad's waterfront in curacao

Well, right near there is a not-so-wonderful oil refinery blowing black smoke into the air — and it's very visible from town.

willemstad's oil refinery in curacao

That refinery set the tone for the week.

Curacao was, as we say, "meh." It wasn't a bad place, but it didn't blow my mind. I left the country indifferent. Let's just begin with the beaches, which were nice but not that great. Those near the main town are all resort beaches, meaning you have to pay to enjoy them if you aren't already staying in one of the resorts. They are cluttered with people, lounge chairs, and artificial breakers to protect against the waves and create a calm swimming area. (Not that a calm swimming area is bad, but the breakers reduce the flow of water and since most resorts have docks, due to the boats, I didn't feel the water was the cleanest.)

The beaches up north are public, wider, and more natural, but even still, they aren't the long, white sand beaches we often imagine. Moreover, the shoreline is filled with dead coral and rocks. Were they pretty? Yes. Were they amazing? No, not really.

willemstad's waterfront in curacao

I was also disappointed in the lack of affordable and accessible public transportation. Buses only run every two hours and taxis are incredibly expensive ($50 USD for a fifteen minute cab ride). If you want to see the island, you really have to rent a car during your stay. Not having one really limits what you can see.

To top it off, even the towns aren't that pretty. Outside Willemstad's famous waterfront, I wasn't too impressed by the scenery, buildings, or homes. Even the resorts looked outdated. There's nothing like a little grime and wear and tear on a city to give it some charm. But here in Curacao, the grit only added a feeling of woeful neglect.

One thing that did make my trip, though, were the locals. I stayed in an Airbnb rental and the woman who ran it was super friendly and helpful. She even drove me some places so I wouldn't have to take a taxi.

I frequently ate at one local eatery where the family who ran it and I got to know each other over the course of my stay (I was probably the only non-local to eat there).

Jack from the restaurant in the central market kindly gave me his phone number if I needed anything and always remembered me when I walked by.

And then there were the bus drivers who helped guide me around town, as well as the locals who let me hitch a ride with them when the bus didn't come.

If I choose to go back, it would be for the people, not the place.

Curacao wasn't awful, but I've experienced better destinations. Maybe I didn't like it because I had high expectations — when you think of nearby Aruba and Bonaire you think Caribbean paradise, and I just lumped Curacao in with them. Expectations can often lead to disappointment when we build up locations in our head.

I walked away from Curacao with no burning desire to go back. I'm happy I went because I love going everywhere, but there was nothing in Curacao that you can't find elsewhere better and cheaper.

You can't love every destination. It's impossible. I can usually find the good in every place (even Vietnam!) but humans have opinions, emotions, and preferences — and mine don't favor Curacao.

You should go and explore the island for yourself; you just won't find me there.

The post I Didn’t Like Curacao (But I Didn’t Hate it Either) appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: 6 Ways to Avoid Staying in a Bad Hostel

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: 6 Ways to Avoid Staying in a Bad Hostel

6 Ways to Avoid Staying in a Bad Hostel

Posted: 18 Sep 2013 11:34 AM PDT

tips for staying in a good hostelWhat makes a good hostel? How do you avoid the bad ones? After staying in hundreds of hostels since I first started traveling the world, I’ve become quite adept at figuring out very quickly if the hostel owners know what they are doing or just randomly woke up one day and said “Let’s open a hostel. It sounds like fun.”

While hostels are all about the people, management can do a few things to make their hostel a lot less crappy and a lot more awesome. Certain features make a hostel memorable (common rooms, group activities, and kitchens) while others can make them suck (push button showers, general filth, and unknowledgeable staff).

All of my favorite hostels share common traits that make them some of the best in the world, which leads me into this week’s video.

In it, I talk about the six main things that I look for when I’m picking a hostel to stay in, features that every good hostel should have.

(Want more travel videos? I now update my YouTube channel each week with a new video. Subscribe here and get free videos!)

Additionally, here are some smaller things to look out for:

  • Breakfast – Look for a place with a decent breakfast (i.e., more than bread and cheese) or at least one that begins and ends when people are actually awake (breakfasts that start around 8:30 usually go late). Breakfast is also a great way to load up on snacks for the day, cutting down your food budget.
  • Check-out time – Never stay at a hostel with a check-out time before 10 A.M.; the best ones have won’t make you check out until 11 A.M. or later. Sleep is valuable on the road because you'll rarely get enough of it. Hostels with late check-out times understand this.
  • Lockers – It's surprising, but I've actually been in hostels that don't provide lockers or will charge you for them. In this day and age, lockers should be standard, and you should never pay for security. This is a deal breaker for me (especially since I travel with electronics).
  • Kitchen – Try to look for hostels with kitchens since you can then prepare your own food, lower your food budget, and share a meal with your new friends. Nothing binds people closer together than a shared meal (and a few glasses of wine).

What makes hostels great are the people. A top-rated hostel can be home to an unpleasant experience if the people are bad, while you can fondly remember the dirtiest, grossest, and most disgusting hostel in the world if you enjoy good company while you’re staying there.

But removing people from the equation, I look for hostels that have many of these qualities I’ve mentioned. Great, memorable hostels know what you want as a traveler and will enhance your travel experience.

What do you look for in a good hostel?

The post 6 Ways to Avoid Staying in a Bad Hostel appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.