Tor and I have been very fortunate to have gotten to travel to so many different cities and countries over the years, and something we are asked often is for advice and travel tips. Tor leaves all the planning to me, although he does like to make suggestions here and there. He jokes that he doesn’t care what I plan as long as I tell him which direction to drive the rental car.
Over the last 18 months, The A List has become more than just a fashion and style site. It became a travel site thanks to all the destinations we have visited due to Tor’s career, but then we began planning travels that didn’t revolve around wherever Tor and I were relocated to. With that said, there are 3 travel tips that we tend to abide by for our trips. From the initial start of the planning to actually traveling, there’s been some trial and error with our travels but here’s what we have learned:
1. Figure out the best places for that time of year
This is probably the hardest part of planning travel. We’ve come to learn that it’s not simple to just plan a trip anywhere, anytime. Some destinations are better than others at certain times, and some destinations need to be experienced at specific times of the year. For example, when we were based in Spain through November and December, we knew we wanted to go somewhere that was already into the Christmas spirit as we heard the Christmas villages in Europe are unlike anything else in North America. Germany and France are well known for their Christmas markets, but Austria had always been on our list. We did some research and saw that Austria also had some amazing Christmas markets, so we made plans to visit Salzburg a few weeks into the opening of the markets. It was the perfect time of year to go. But sometimes, there are some times and destinations where it is also cheaper and/or less crowded to visit. Another example was our first trip to Iceland. Most people think to go in the summer, where the temperatures are milder and the country experiences its midnight sun. But the best time to go is actually the winter. Even though the daylight hours are very short, it’s a once in a lifetime experience to see everything covered in snow as you sit in a natural geothermal spring. It’s also less crowded and much less expensive. Average rooms in Iceland in the summer can go for over $600 a night, whereas in winter the average is around $120 a night. BIG difference! However, for our upcoming trip to Finland, it’s the opposite. The country’s high season is winter, not summer. But the quietest month in winter is January, because it’s the darkest and coldest month. We are taking advantage of that. We don’t mind the cold and we don’t mind just a few hours of sun so long as we get to experience a Finnish winter. So our tip is to definitely research your ideal destination and consider the less popular time to visit for the most opportunities.
2. Don’t be afraid to read reviews
The second of my travel tips is where my husband likes to tease me. I THOROUGHLY read reviews on TripAdvisor or even blog posts of fellow travel bloggers about a destination I am interested in visiting, particularly reviews of hotels. I’ll admit that sometimes reviews can make me nervous or there have been plenty of times where we booked a spot with mixed reviews anyway. But I like to get a general sense of a place before I either book it or reach out. I began doing this while planning our honeymoon a year and a half ago. Naturally, I wanted to stay at the best for our first travels as husband and wife. Unfortunately, I didn’t read reviews on our first hotel in Florence because we changed up our itinerary slightly last minute. Needless to say, we ended up changing hotels within an hour but I found our next hotel thanks to quick review reading and it ended up being an amazing stay. I should also say do not let reviews scare you. I had actually read a lot of bad reviews about one of our favorite hotels in Iceland for our first trip back in January, but we ended up staying there anyway because we had one friend vouch for it. It turned out to be one of our favorite hotels in the world. So while you are reading reviews, weigh the pros and cons before being scared away from one.
3. Consider all methods of travel
Most people think to fly everywhere, but coming from a girl who actually has a flying fear, my last of my travel tips suggest to consider all methods of transportation. For example, while traveling through Europe, it’s actually easier and less painful to take the train than to fly between destinations. We never fly between Paris and London because there’s a train that takes you from city center to city center in less time than it would take to check in to the airport, board the plane, taxi the runway, flight time, land, taxi to gate, retrieve bags from baggage claim, etc. It also keeps me on the ground, which I greatly appreciate. We also do not fly between Paris and southern France. France has TGV high speed trains that can get you there in less than half a day. We also chose to take the train from Munich to Salzburg as well so that would be one less roundtrip flight to worry about. There are two trains that I am dying to try, and that’s the Belmond Orient Express between Austria and London as well as their Ireland highland train. What I am trying to say is if there is an option to take the train, I say try it as it’s definitely less of a hassle than flying. Plus, you get to see more of the countryside.
I know none of these trips are groundbreaking revelations, but these are what we go by whenever we begin to brainstorm our next destination to discover. What are some of your travel tips?