If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you’ll have seen me mention the #Take12Trips Challenge around this time last year. As it’s a 12 month challenge, January feels like the perfect time of year to begin!
#Take12Trips is a challenge to take a ‘trip’ once a month for an entire year.
A trip can be anything from a week-long holiday to one night away or even a day out somewhere new.
The #Take12Trips Challenge was started by the lovely Clare, the blogger behind Need Another Holiday. Clare is a busy lady with a full time job, a baby boy and a great blog. She began the challenge as a way to motivate herself to keep travelling and make the most out of each weekend and day off from work.
I think it’s such a great challenge to encourage us all to travel and explore more and always have something to look forward to.
For me, there is nothing more exciting than travelling. And a lot of that excitement is in the planning, booking and researching stage and you get to do that 12 times!
Is the Take 12 Trips Challenge for me?
Are you wondering whether or not to take the challenge? OK, here are some questions to help you make up your mind.
- Do you ever wish you could travel more but these travel dreams never become a reality?
- Do you ever have annual leave left at the end of the year and you end up using wasting it by not really do anything?
- Do you ever read about a particular place or see it on TV and think, ‘I’d love to go there?’ but never actually do?
- Or do you ever get fed up of doing the same thing each weekend?
- Do you go into work on a Monday morning and feel like you didn’t have a break at all?
- Do you want a bit more excitement in your life?
- Is your job stressful or boring and you feel like you need a break to either relax, get back your work mojo or reassess what you’d really like to do?
Well this year is the year to do something about it and take up the challenge!
How to start the #Take12Trips Challenge
#1. Begin by making a list of all the places you’d like to go
Go wild and list every place you’ve dreamt of visiting. But, realistically, you’re going to have to balance far-flung destinations with places near to home to accommodate for budget and days off work.
If you’re struggling to think of 12 places then take to Facebook and ask your friends and family for recommendations. Those who live close by might even be able to recommend some hidden gems not far from home.
This is a good time to sit down with your travel buddies, have a cuppa and start plotting!
#2. Set you budget for transport and accommodation
These are usually your two biggest expenses and the things you’ll need to pay for in advance. I usually set a budget for spending money closer to the time and just think about these two biggies to begin with.
You might set a budget for all 12 trips in total or allocate a certain amount for each month.
It’s really important to set a budget when you’re doing the 12 trips challenge. You don’t want to blow all your money in the first few months and find you can’t afford any more holidays.
#3. Look for deals and special offers
Yes, you’ve got your travel wish list but special offers might influence your decisions. Return flights to Paris for £30? You can’t say no to that! BOGOF on nights at a swanky spa hotel just 20 miles down the road? Don’t mind if I do.
January is a great time of year to search for flight deals, cheap accommodation and special offers. This is when lots of people are booking their holidays so there’s a lot of competition.
I generally go directly to the websites of companies such as Eurostar, EasyJet or specific hotel chains to see what offers they have. Sometimes you’ll find super cheap flights to destinations you’d never considered visiting so be open-minded and be prepared to do some serious research. TravelZoo and Groupon are also really good for getting cheap package offers – they’re just annoying for flooding your inbox with emails.
Travel hack tip: Be careful when it comes to special offers because a lot of the time it’s not a special offer at all. A flashy banner advertising a hotel room for £50 per night makes you think you’re getting a great deal but it probably wasn’t much more expensive prior to the sale. I’ve seen a few ‘dinner, bed and breakfast’ packages at hotels that say it’s a bargain price but you actually wouldn’t have spent that amount if you’d have paid for things separately.
#4. Narrow your wish list down to 12 places and allocate them a month
If you’re in the UK, you’ll probably find the places closest to home are best saved for the summer months when you’ll get the best weather.
If your budget is tight then travel in the off-season as flights, accommodation and activities will all be cheaper.
Grab a calendar and start plotting!
#5. Check your transport options and select your dates
Transport can often be a major factor in selecting dates, times and destinations. Thankfully, most websites let you see all the price options available a few days before or after the ones you’ve selected. If you’re taking a long weekend, it’s often cheaper to travel Saturday-Monday rather than Friday-Sunday.
Use a flight comparison website such as Skyscanner, Kayak, Momondo or Expedia to check your flight options. Google Flights is a good option and this will also suggest other dates that are cheaper. You’ll need to do this to check that there are suitable flight options and each destination will be within budget.
You usually don’t need to book your flights more than three months in advance to get the best fares but I always think it’s a good idea to book as early as you possibly can. Once your flights are booked there’s no turning back. If you leave it until the last minute to book then something will always come up and you won’t be able to go.
If you’re going to be driving, use the AA Mileage Calculator. It tells you how long it will take to reach your destination and also how much it will cost you in fuel. Handy! If you’re in the UK, it’s almost always cheaper to drive rather than get the train but you also need to think about timing and parking costs – particularly if you’re going to a major city like London.
#6. Search for hotels
I find the hotel search to be the hardest part of booking a holiday, there are just so many options!
A few things to ask yourself before booking your accommodation are:
- Will I be spending much time my hotel? If yes, I’ll need somewhere nice. If no, a clean and comfortable room will do.
- Is location important?
- Do I need to be close to the airport or transport links?
- Do I want a traditional hotel, an apart-hotel, a B&B, Airbnb, a hostel or even something different like camping, glamping or coachsurfing?
- Will my accommodation be the reason for my holiday? This mostly applies to glamping, spas and countryside escapes.
- Do I need parking?
- How much do I want to spend?
This usually helps to narrow it down and make the search a little bit easier.
#7. Book the days off work
If you’re travelling over bank holidays then make sure you get in there early with your holiday requests!
#8. Start booking things!
Yey, the really exciting part begins!
#9. Start researching things to do
You’ve probably done a brief search for things to do when you decided to visit this place but now’s the time to start looking for restaurants and bars and sights beyond the main tourist attractions.
When it comes to research, my first port of call is always travel blogs. Blogs usually go into the details that magazines sweep over so it’s easier to book and replicate trips. I usually begin with overviews like ‘Top things to see and do in xxx’ before moving on to personal travel journals.
#10. Create your own personal itinerary
List all the things you’d like to see and do and set yourself an itinerary. This doesn’t need to be a strict itinerary as though you’re following a tour but some things will need to be booked in advance or may not be open on certain days. I think it’s important to have a rough itinerary on shorter breaks to avoid wasting time. I’ve had far too many trips where a ‘quick stroll around town’ has turned into an entire day getting lost and not seeing anything at all.