I’m slowly but surely unpacking our trip to New Zealand! Today on the blog, I wanted to share a little about why we chose New Zealand for our most recent family vacation and how I go about creating an itinerary.
Over Thanksgiving, the entire Bailey Bunch got together…Great Grandparents, Grandparents, Brothers + Sister-In-Laws, and Cousins all under one roof! I’m talking 20 people total! We’ve traveled together to the Bahamas and Canada in the past, and have had a wonderful time (I seriously married into the most laid back, drama-free family! Such a beautiful blessing!!!) When we chatted about a new destination to visit together, it was clear we weren’t going to be able to get everyone together at the same time, any time soon, so we decided to focus on traveling with those who seemed the most serious about it, Patrick’s brother, James, his wife, Drew, and their two sons, Theo and Calvin, who are close in age to Greta and Lilybelle 🙂 Drew was a flight attendant before having children, and has seen much of the world. Her only considerable option was traveling to New Zealand, which made deciding on a destination with them simple – haha! The only issue was the high cost of travel to New Zealand. Patrick and I were clearly the most serious about planning a trip, and decided to look into just traveling solo to Ireland, Germany or the Netherlands. Patrick told me to look into the cost to New Zealand just for fun. We were shocked to find it was the cheapest option of the bunch! Black Friday was nearly over and it was too hard to coordinate with both parties traveling back to their homes. We decided to wait for Travel Tuesday to see if prices would be even better then. We were seriously kicking ourselves for not just booking ourselves because the prices went up! Patrick must have talked about it at work and a co-worker tipped him off to try booking a flight on a Wednesday night before a holiday, so on a Wednesday night, prior to Christmas, Patrick searched and we found an even better deal than the Black Friday deal!!! No second guessing it, we booked it before Patrick could even ask for the time off from work – haha!
We booked this trip less than three months out, so planning it is still somewhat fresh in my mind. I wanted to share my formula for creating an itinerary, because I found ours to be pretty darn solid! Below you’ll find my best tips, and a sample day from our itinerary. Enjoy 🙂
1.) Choose a destination…
- Decide upon transportation to that destination.
2.) Do your research!
- Search nearby cities as well as the city you are going to. Decide if you’d like to see multiple cities, or just the one you are going to.
- Decide if a rental car would be in your best interest if flying to your destination.
- Scour Trip Adviser for top rated things to do in the area you’ll be visiting. Read the good and the bad reviews then decide for yourself if you’d be interested in visiting that place. I love Trip Advisor because the reviews come from real people!
- Google search photos and videos for further confirmation. Sometimes a photo can make something look better than it actually is. Make sure it’s the real deal!
- Read blog posts by different bloggers to find hidden gems. Bloggers are usually pretty good at finding unique things and presenting them to the public. The sole purpose of their writing it to inform 🙂
3.) Utilize Google Maps!
- Plug in each address of your places of interest – be sure to save them! This is so super helpful!
- Group together multiple things you can do in a day by mapping out the distances that you just plugged in.
4.) Create Your Itinerary
- Pay attention to the days and times that places you’d like to go to are open…make note of these in case you need to switch your days around. (This is something I learned this trip as we showed up to a restaurant that was closed one day!) Plan your days hitting up the places that open and close the earliest, first.
- Always include the addresses you are going to! I was shocked when a cabbie in Israel didn’t know where the Garden of Gethsemane was! From then on, I’ve always jotted down addresses and it’s helpful to have it on hand and not have to look them up.
- I find it helpful to colorize my itinerary! I color anything I have booked, green, and anything I still need to book, red. I also color anything that is free another color…when you are spending a lot of money on something you aren’t going to get to do for some time, it feels good to look and see you are saving some money too 😉
5.) Book In Advance
- You can often find better deals by booking in advance, but do pay attention to cancelation policies…book ahead wisely!
- Search for discount sites that would be similar to GroupOn in the area you’ll be visiting. You can also utilize discount sites like Expedia, Priceline or Kayak for a better deal. Compare the prices to find the best deal! When booking through these sites, they offer free memberships. Take them up upon it! Each thing booked, whether flights, hotels, rental cars, or activities, offer points, and these points build up over time to provide free travel! Some even offer special member discounts! While planning this trip, I realized that we have used Expedia a lot over the years, and we weren’t signed up for the free membership…I don’t like to think about the free perks we missed out on!! Our 2019 travel goes towards our 2020 membership, so it’s nice to be able to look ahead knowing we will have some freebies coming our way next year!
- Print out a hard copy of your tickets and payment confirmations. Put these in a file folder. It may seem like a pain to lug a file of papers when packing, especially in our digital world, but hard copies of confirmations and tickets really do come in so handy when traveling, especially to places where you just don’t know what the internet is going to be like. I can’t tell you how many times I was so thankful to have our hard copies on hand!
6.) Meal Plan
- You’ll want to research foods that are unique to the area and make note of them! I make it my mission to try as many things as possible that I can’t get anywhere else in the world!
- Search for child friendly restaurants if you have kids, then compare them to the Trip Advisor reviews to decide which ones you’d like to visit.
- I know this is “extra”, but check out the menus if you get the chance to. Make sure there is something everyone in your family can eat.
- Plug the addresses of the restaurants you want to go to into Google Maps so you can plan your meals out according to the locations you’ll already be in 😉
- Color your food options a different color on your itinerary.
7.) Go The Extra Mile!
- Once my itinerary is set and our activities are booked, I map out the driving and/or walking distances from place to place. This is helpful to keep on a timely schedule! We are able to fit much more into our day when we have it all mapped out!
- Color the distances a different color on your itinerary.
8.) Print + Pack Your Itinerary 🙂
- I like to take a few copies, just in case! I carry one in my purse, and leave one in the car. I also have another packed in the file folder of papers just in case something happens to one of those ones. I also email it to myself for further confirmation that all of my work done in creating it won’t be in vain!
9.) Accept Over Expect!
- Don’t expect to do every single thing you plan for. My mantra when traveling is accept over expect! Be thankful for the things you do get to see and do! Try not to dwell on the things you have to miss. The fact of the matter is, you can’t do it all! Additionally, weather, traffic, flight delays or cancelations, and a plethora of other variables all make traveling so unpredictable! Create an iron-clad itinerary with an elastic mind set, and you will be on your way to your most action-packed adventure yet!
Below you’ll find an example of one of our days in New Zealand 🙂
Be Blessed + Be A Blessing