I love holidays. I dream of throwing in my job and spending my years holidaying around the world, travelling and doing cash-work from one place to the next, nothing to worry about except what exciting new location I'm going to see next. Unfortunately, probably much like yourself, that's not a possibility for me (although many, many blogs will have you believe it is.).
So like countless tens of thousands of other people. I dream and I scrimp and I save and, when I think I have enough money and have some leave saved up, I splurge and run off on a little junket.
Before you get all excited and book those flights though, there's a few little things you, and I, need to consider.
How much can you afford?
This is the big one. The question upon whose shoulders the entirety of your holiday rests. How much can you afford? This is why Asia is such a popular destination for Aussie travellers, it's cheap and easy to get to. As a general rule, the further you go, the higher you fly as it were, the more you pay.
You'll need to take into account such things as your preferred airline, accommodation (spoilers! I'm going to recommend hostels), and how and where you're going to eat.
So make sure you have enough money.
You'll want to draw yourself up a brief budget including total flight costs, accommodation, activities, entertainment, shopping and daily expenses. and use that as your basis.
As a general guide I would say allow around $100 per person for daily expenses, depending on where and how you eat. Hint: as at home, eating out will cost you more than if you pick up some cheap microwaveable meals and eat in your room. Although in many asian countries, street food is a great, cheap feed. Don't use the cheap airfares for your math either, assume more expensive fares, this will give you some fat in your cash. You can get rough guesstimates for your accommodation and flights via a quick search through Trip Advisor or Kayak.
And when looking at accommodation, remember, you're really only looking for somewhere you can lay your head at night. And you can often get into a good hostel for a lot less than you'd pay for a dodgy hotel.
NOW, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE AT LEAST THAT AMOUNT IN YOUR SAVINGS
If not, consider postponing your trip. I'm serious. Trust me, you don’t want a holiday with the shadow of credit card debt hanging over your head. Like everything else in life, if you don't have the money for it, don't buy it.
When are you going?
Remember, foreign countries have seasons too. You don't want to show up in Japan in the middle of their summer (like we did) and end up hiding out in your hotel room because it's too stinking hot to go outside. Seriously, people there carry around hand-towels to mop the sweat off themselves! Jump on Google and do a quick search on your destination to see what the weather's like, if your country of choice is in the middle of monsoons or bushfires - or both! You might want to consider going somewhere else.
Jump on a world weather site and search your destination, or even google "destination weather" for a current forecast.
Some sights and attractions can be seasonal and their availability may depend on what time of year you're visiting. For example, Japan's Mt Fuji is only open for climbing at set periods during the year (which is why we ended up sweating our way through 90% humidity in Japan); and if you're heading off to Norway to see the Northern Lights or go Reindeer Sledging you probably don't want to be travelling there during the period of the midnight sun.
We went to Norway at what was officially the end of their winter and the start of spring, a weird midway period when the days are getting longer but the snow hasn't quite started to melt. It was a little cheaper than peak season but there were some things we missed out on as a result such as Reindeer Sledding and a good showing of the Northern Lights. But, for me, it was still one of my favourite holidays and has led us to pencilling Canada in as a potential future destination.
In New York, we made the hour plus trek out to Coney Island to find out that in winter it was only open on certain days. And that day wasn't one of them.
Ideally, you should have a fair idea of WHAT you want to do before you start planning WHEN you want to go. Knowing what you want to do beforehand will also help when it comes to planning your itinerary and pre-booking attractions. Remember: some attractions have express entry or are discounted if you've pre-booked.
What do you want to do?
This will depend on whether you've already decided where you're going or not. (if not, see below for some tips)
I like a general mix of seeing the big ticket sights and hanging out with the locals, shopping and generally trying to blend in as much as I can. There's no better way to get to know a country than spending some time down on the street just wandering around. In Seoul we went bar-hopping one night and ended up spending the night with a group locals - who barely spoke English - drinking soju and singing karaoke with them. It still ranks as one of my top holiday memories. We also stopped ina at a street restaurant where I got blitzed on Korean wine with the owner. Sure, they overcharged us on our meals but it was worth it for the memories.
Maybe you want to go skiing; lots of people go to Japan or New Zealand for this specifically. Do you want to see New York in the snow, maybe you want to party under the midnight sun in Scandinavia or go to Oktoberfest.
Most countries have peak and off-peak seasons. Depending on your destination, there may be seasonal restrictions or black-out periods, or off-peak seasons when travel and accommodation is more affordable. As mentioned earlier, make sure the sites you want to see aren't seasonal as well.
To help guide your choices think about your interests. Do you want to go climb a mountain and hike through the country? Or would you rather float around a pool and get drunk at the pool bar? Are you interested in old buildings and art and museums? Crazy, foreign foods like tarantulas or baby duck eggs?
Ask yourself what the goal of your holiday is. Are you looking for a nice, relaxing chill-out holiday or do you want to experience something different? Have a bit of an adventure?
If you don't already have a firm destination in mind try this holiday quiz for some awesome travel ideas.
Where do you want to go?
Der, right? Who decides to go on holiday without knowing where they want to go?
Travellers do. People who like to get out there and experience the world. Sometimes you get that itching need for a holiday, that compulsion to go away but you don't know where you want to go, you just know you need to go.
Have you ever decided to go for a drive somewhere with no clear destination in mind? There you go. Same thing, just on a bigger scale. Think of it as an international aero-road trip.
Two places I've gone to the last few years I'd have never thought of are Seoul and Norway. In Norway we chased the Northern Lights, worked with reindeers and spent the night in a hotel made completely from ice. It was a holiday we decided to take, just because. And I loved every minute of it. In Seoul we got drunk with the locals.
If you're hard up for somewhere to go and you're tired of all the usual tourist-flooded destinations maybe you might like to try places like Romania, Tanzania, Iceland - all places I literally just found by googling "off the beaten track holiday destinations". You could try other variations such as "Top 10 holiday destinations" or "world's most adult holidays" or whatever you want. The world really is your oyster. Subscribe to some cheap flight and hotel websites such as Expedia, or your local travel agency or airline booking site, they often send through emails with great holiday offers. If you're not too locked in on your dates these can provide great savings or even just inspiration.
And if that doesn't help, try this cool little site, Trip Tuner.
Hopefully the tips above will guide you on your way to a holiday of your dreams. Do you have any other suggestions or factors you consider before taking holidays? If so, let me and others know in the comments. Otherwise, have a great holiday!