A few months ago I was telling my hairdresser about our upcoming holiday plans. Visiting two countries and seven cities in just one month takes a lot of planning and he was amazed that we’d put the whole itinerary together on our own. On the way home I was thinking more about the steps you have to take to plan a multi centre holiday. So I decided to put together this blog post to share with you some tips for booking that dream holiday you can’t seem to nail down.
Decide where you want to go
This may seem like a really obvious step but you have to decide which countries you want to visit. For us Thailand was our key destination. Then (after not much thought) we decided to carry on to Australia as we had lots of friends to visit there.
Find the time to go
Booking a long period of time off of work can be a bit of a nightmare, especially if you have a limited amount of days to take for annual leave. When booking a holiday it’s always a good idea to go out of school holidays as the prices are a lot cheaper. However it’s also good to book them over a bank holiday or two. That way you get an extra few days annual leave for free!
When we first started looking at booking our holiday we were thinking about going October/November time. After having a few conversations with people at work I very quickly realised the best time to go on a long holiday was over Christmas. We were lucky because our office shuts for 10 days over the festive period, but even if your office stays open, there are still three bank holidays in a two week period.
Find out when is best to visit
Once you’ve decided on your countries you then need to look into when the best time to visit them is. A lot of tropical countries have rainy and hurricane seasons so of course it’s best to stay away from those times if you’re looking to do some sunbathing.
You also need to remember the season you’re in at home may not be the same season in the place you’re planning to visit. For example when it’s the winter here in England, it’s the hottest time of the year in Australia. Perfect if you want some winter sun!
List all the places you would like to see
Once you’ve decided your destinations and found the time to go, it’s time to start going into the finer details. Write a list of all the places you want to visit whilst you’re visiting each country. You can be as vague or as specific as you like. For example when we were planning our Thailand leg of the journey we knew we wanted to see the elephants but we also wanted to visit the islands like Phi Phi and Phang Nga Bay.
This list will influence the cities and regions you will visit during your stay. They will also determine how long you’ll stay there too. You don’t want to stay somewhere for two days if there’s a whole weeks’ worth of stuff to do there!
Find your starting point
This is where it can get a little tricky. Finding a start point for your journey is key because you then plan the rest of your route from that location. For us we knew we wanted to fly from London straight to Thailand without any stop overs, so naturally our starting location was Bangkok.
Decide your route
Once you have your starting point you then need to decide on your route. On our list of places to visit we had Chiang Mai and Phuket but it only seemed right to stay in Bangkok for a few days before flying to somewhere else. There’s no point flying all the way to a new city if you’re not going to find some time to explore it.
Work out flight paths/schedules
This is where you need to dedicate some time to research. If you’re travelling around the country by plane you’ll need to work out which planes fly to which airports on which day. Skyscanner is the best tool for this.
You’ll find in a lot of countries cheap internal flights will go via the main airport. However if you want to avoid going back on yourself it’s best to find a route that takes you straight from A to B.
You also need to take into consideration where you want to be at certain times of the month. For example, if you want to go to a famous full moon party in Thailand, it’s best to be in Phuket over a full moon. For us we wanted to depart before the school holidays (cheaper flights) but we also wanted to spend Christmas day in paradise. So it was obvious Phuket had to be last on our Thai itinerary.
When it came to adding on Australia to the trip we knew we needed to stop in Melbourne and Brisbane to see friends. We then decided if we were going to Australia over the Christmas period it would only be right to spend New Year in Sydney. There’s a lot to think about!
Research where to stay
If the countries you’re visiting are new to you, you’ll need to do as much research into where to stay as possible. They’re a lot bigger than you think! Travel guide books and agent websites like Asia-holiday.com and Thomson.co.uk are really good because they break down each location into regions and explain the differences between each of them. The Asia holiday website (ran by Hotels.com) was really helpful for booking our Thailand stays.
It’s also worth asking people you know who have been before. For example one of my colleagues told me the best place to stay in Chiang Mai was within the square ring road. If you’re visiting people over there always ask them where the best place to stay in town is. They’ll direct you to all the really good neighborhoods. Shout out to Emma at The Emasphere for sending me an amazing personal guide of Melbourne!
Visualise your time
Once you’ve decided on your locations, regions and timings it’s best to map everything out on a calendar. I printed off a two month calendar from google images so I could plot each part of the trip on a timeline. It’s ok writing it all down as a list, but I found with a holiday this big, with so many destinations, it’s easier to have a visual representation of it.
My biggest tip for this is to write everything out first in PENCIL. You will find your trip will change a lot as you go about booking it because of flight times and prices so you don’t want anything set in stone.
Book it in steps
It’s time to take the plunge. A holiday like this can be extremely daunting to book hence why a lot of people go to travel agents to do so. However this way it can be expensive and they can only work with the flights and hotels they have on their database.
We booked our holiday in a number of steps. First we took the biggest plunge and got ourselves to Thailand. That way we knew there was no going back! After that we booked our flights from Phuket to Melbourne. That way we knew we were 100% going to Australia.
Once we had the main flights booked we then booked everything else over the course of the year. Starting with internal flights and finally going onto the hotels. By booking the holiday a year in advance we then had about ten months of pay cheques to pay for the rest. One month we would book an internal flight and the next we’d book a hotel (and so on).
Keep track of your spendings
Its crucial to keep track of your spendings when you’re booking a holiday with multiple destinations. During our holiday we’re taking ten flights, staying in five hotels and renting two AirBnb’s so it’s important to keep track of where all the money is going. It’s all good to splash out on luxury hotels when you’re paying for it on a month by month basis but you need to remember it all adds up. You don’t want a holiday costing more than you’d spend on your honeymoon!
Book it all on a credit card
Now I am in NO WAY suggesting you pay for it all on a credit card. Only commit to a holiday like this if you know you can afford it. However most credit cards have payment protection on them. This means if any of the companies you make your bookings with go bust before your holiday, you’re more likely to be able to claim the money back. Another benefit of using a credit card is when you’re booking flights or hotels via international websites you’ll incur a lot less charges on a credit card than you do using a debit card. Just watch out as a lot of airline companies add a 3% charge on for paying with a credit card.
Create a folder with everything in it
The first holiday I went on with my boyfriend I laughed at him when he turned up with a plastic folder full of documents in it. However I very quickly learned how important it is to have all your documents printed off and in one place. With a holiday like this, having a folder with all your boarding passes, flight confirmations and hotel bookings in it is crucial. If you have any problems with your bookings whilst you’re away you have instant proof of all your confirmations. Helpful when you’re without wifi and unable to get to your emails.
Write a ‘to-do before you go’ list
When visiting multiple countries there are lots of things to think about before you go.
- Make sure you check your passport has the minimum amount of time on it when you fly home. When entering a lot of countries you are required to have a minimum of six months left on your passport.
- Find out if you need a visa or not. Most places will let you stay in the country for 15 days without a visa. If you’re planning on staying longer you may need to pay for a visa.
- Ask your doctor if you need any vaccinations to visit your chosen countries.
- Get the right travel insurance. It’s extremely important to have the correct type of travel insurance for your trip. Make sure you’re covered for all your countries. It’s better be safe than sorry!
Book with Hotels.com
We booked the majority of our hotels through Hotels.com. On the website they have a reward scheme where if you book ten nights you get an extra night free. You only get the night free after your stays but if you travel a lot it’s a good way to save money in the future. If you sign up on the website you also get ‘Secret Prices’ which can be a lot cheaper than the price the general public can see.
Don’t plan too much
Finally, don’t plan too much. There will be lots of places you want to visit and see whilst you’re on your holiday. But once you get there, there will be lots of new places you also want to visit. You don’t want to map out every day of your holiday because your plans are bound to change! Once you have your foundations, go with the flow, you don’t want to limit yourself.
So there you have it! A step by step guide to booking a multi centre holiday. I hope this post has helped you have a clearer understanding of all the steps you need to take for booking your dream holiday. And maybe it’s even inspired you to take the plunge and book it…
Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below! Happy holidaying!