Outdoor bath at Olly's River Retreat

Turning your travel dreams into a reality

What I’m doing to travel more in 2021 and how you can too

Go somewhere new, see something different, come back home with a piece of where you’ve been in your heart forever. Every time I travel, this is how I feel, I return feeling refreshed and inspired. I want more of that feeling in my life, so in 2021 I’m going to focus on making travel dreams a reality.

I love to travel, but I’ve never been smart and organised about deciding when or where I’m going to go (once I’ve chosen, a different story). The trip’s timing is based on an arbitrary savings goal; the place by matching up where I would like to go with what I can afford.

This year I want to be more considered when making my travel plans. And I wanted to share the steps I’m taking to make sure my travel dreams become a reality.

1. Decided your travel dreams

When deciding on places, I recommend not worrying about things like cost or how you will get there. Look for places that make you feel happy and excited.

With all the global travel restrictions going on, I decided to keep things local and focus on New Zealand travel. I kept an eye on travel blogs, Instagram and TikTok, and whenever I saw somewhere unique or memorable in NZ, I added it to a list. Doing this helped me create my New Zealand 2021 Bucket list.

Next, make things visual. Save photos of the places to your phone, create a Pinterest board or print the pictures out a stick them on the wall. Make sure you have them somewhere you can quickly look at so that if you get frustrated by saving or planning, you can look at them and remember the hard work is to make your travel dreams a reality.

2. Figure out the budget

Step two is to get a rough idea of how much everything is going to cost. I created a spreadsheet and for each activity started to list out the approximate cost of

  • The core activity
  • Accommodation
  • Travels cost
  • Food

I suggest rounding up, so you don’t underestimate. During this process, I saved the links for any sites related to the trips such as hotels I liked or sites offering deals. With all the stuff saved, it will save you time when it comes to actually booking things.

At this point, I think it’s important to remind you not to panic, give up or get freaked out. I had seven trips on my list, and after I added everything up, there was a massive scary final total staring back at me.

If you want you can go back through and see where you might be able to cut costs, e.g. staying in a hostel instead of a hotel. I decided to keep the scary total; I knew I hadn’t been super budget-conscious when choosing the places, so could always adjust later. However, this process is about making travel dreams a reality, not making travel compromises.

3. Decide how long you want to go for

After the research for the budget section, you should have a pretty good idea of how long you’ll need in each location to do all you want to do. You should also have a good idea if any of the places are close to each other and could be combined into a single trip.

You should also make sure you account for travel time. One of the trips I want to do involves a five hour drive from the nearest airport, and there are two days worth of activities. I know I don’t want to rush, so I added some buffer days to account for that.

4. Plan when each trip should be

Figure out if any the trips are season dependent. For example, I want to do the Tongariro Crossing which you can only do in winter if you are an experienced mountain climber (which I am not) so summer it is. Some activities might be perfect all year round, but there will be some places where the season will affect the overall experience.

Remember, travel dreams, not compromises. 

The final part of this step is to block out when you want theses trips to happen. I designed my own year planner with all the weekends and public holidays marked to maximise my annual leave. I also have a spreadsheet which lets me know how much annual leave I’ll have at the end of each trip.

Mark the trips on your calendar. Even though they’re not booked yet having them written out will make you more likely to keep working towards making them happen.

5. Figure out when you need to book each component

Somethings you can leave till the last minute; other things book up fast. Somethings are cheaper the closer to the time you book; others get more expensive. In NZ, things like flights tend to get very expensive last minute and if you are relying on public holidays things like accommodation are also likely to get snapped up.

I also recommended checking the cancellation policy of each thing you intend to book. Some are super flexible and others you are 100% locked in as soon as you hand over your money. If something has a strict cancellation policy, hold off until you are confident the trip will happen.

Mark the ‘book by’ dates on the calendar and wen those dates come around, go for it.

6. Set goals to turn your travel dreams into a reality

From your budget and your booking calendar you should be able to work out how much you need to save and by when. Break these amounts down to monthly and weekly savings goals.

If your savings goals seem too big, there are three things you can do

  1. Think about ways to make extra money. 
  2. Reduce your expenses
  3. Cut some stuff off your travel list.

Number one can be hard to do. It takes time you might not have, and you are relying on other people to buy what you are selling (whether it’s stuff or your skills). Number three doesn’t align with the goal of making travel dreams a reality. Let’s look at number two.

Reducing your expenses is a great way to “make” extra money without doing more work. I recently cancelled three streaming services and a subscription to something I forgot I was even paying for. I now have extra money to put towards my travels.

7. Keep an eye out for deals.

Deals are a great way to shave cost off your trip. Sign up for mailing lists, keep an eye on deal sites and check the company website for special offers. The Kayaking trip I want to go on in the Abel Tasman was recently on Grab One for 50% off, that’s an $800 saving.

I still think it’s important to budget without deals in mind just in case you can’t get your hands on one. If you do score a deal, consider that extra money you’ve saved to put towards another trip.

Your plan to make your travel dreams a reality

You now have:

  1. A vision of where you want to go
  2. Budget
  3. How long you’re going for
  4. When you’re going
  5. When you have to book
  6. Saving goals
  7. Your eyes on the lookout for deals

This your plan, something you can work towards; a blueprint to take those trips off Instagram and experience them in real life. It’s your plan to experience new things, go to beautiful places and come home filled with a heart full of wonderful moments.

More New Zealand travel

Comments (1)

  • PedroL

    February 6, 2021 at 6:26 am

    Wonderful collection of links to discover New Zealand, a country I really want to visit someday 🙂 stay safe Emily and cheers from Lisbon, PedroL

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