How We Get Ready to Travel

We're preparing for our trip to Italy so I thought I'd highlight some of the resources that we use as we prepare for our trips.

When it comes to flights, we're always looking for something that is as cheap and as short as possible.  We don't want to spend our entire trip in airports so the total flight time and layover time are important to us.  Direct flights out of Jeddah are almost unheard of so we can't avoid layovers unfortunately.  At this stage in our travel planning we try to be incredibly flexible because the tickets are usually the most expensive part of our trip.  By looking at many destinations, we can focus on finding a cheaper flight instead of having our hearts set on a very expensive destination.

We had been using Expedia and similar aggregators but then thanks to SocialWeasel we heard of SideStep.  Since we heard of it a few weeks ago, it was merged with Kayak, but all of the functionality that we liked is still there.  We haven't used it to buy tickets yet, but so far searching for flights seems easy and awesome!  It allows for flexible date searchs, which we haven't found to be very common when looking for international flights, and it allows you to search for more than one destination.  I think this will be a huge time saver when we start planning our trip in May since we can look at many different variations within one search, instead of having to run ten or more different searches.

For example, I used it to search for flight to Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome with departure and return dates spanning a week each.  That's 108 different prices with one easy search!

Naturally, after buying tickets we focus on a place to stay.  There are many hostel search engines out there but we prefer HostelBookers because we think it's easy to use and they don't have booking fees like some of the other sites do.  I especially like the map view feature because it's nice to see where the hostels are in relation to each other, the metro, and the city center.  One downside of this site is that we are dinged a small international purchase fee from our bank, since it processes through the UK.

Books are hard to get here and English books are even harder so we don't have the luxury of picking up some travel books and using those to guide our trips.  The library on campus does have a small travel section, but it’s woefully pathetic and focuses primarily on Middle Eastern destinations.  Instead, we make our own travel books by researching sites to see on Lonely Planet and Frommer's.  This could easily be a disorganized mess, but by using OneNote I can create a virtual notebook for each trip and maintain my need for order and structure in my life.  We get maps and details about the hours, cost, and description for each site we want to see.  We group them by location to come up with a rough plan for our days.  We also throw in any other information we might need, like hostel and flight reservations, metro maps, and a chart to keep track of expenses.

We try not to check luggage and focus instead on limiting ourselves to carry-ons only.  We don't have fancy travel packs, just a couple of rolling suitcases we got as a wedding gift.  Eventually it might be nice to get backpacks designed for travel as well as one of these beautiful SeV jackets, but for now we try not to be caught up in the desire for fancy and expensive travel gear.

There are many great articles out there focusing on what to pack and what to leave out, so I don’t think it’s necessary to try to delve into that.  I do wish that I had some lighter clothing that dried faster, but we have to make do with what we have.

So that's what it takes to get us on the road!  Travel planning can be a lot of work, but it's so much fun to read about all of the places that we'll get to see.