Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Planning my first vacation

Like I said yesterday, to celebrate our last summer with no responsibilities Doug and I took a vacation to the UK and Ireland.  It was really exciting for me because I never got to travel as a kid.  I also paid for the entirety of it with my own money, which was a really satisfying feeling.  Not to mention it was on my 101 in 1001.
Planning this was kind of stressful, because we didn't have a plan.  I'm one of those people who needs to plan everything to the detail in order to move ahead with something, but for this we decided to just wing it.  We flew into London on August 10, and out of London August 24.  Between those days we had nearly no plans. 
Right now I'll give you the lowdown on how we structured our trip.

Before we left: We did plan a few things, just to make sure our trip went smoothly.  We bought a guide book for every area we visited, so one for the UK and one for Ireland.  These were probably the best thing we did.  We went with guides by the Lonely Planet (Doug had had luck with them before).  They were awesome!  They had tear out maps of the major cities, great suggestions on tourist activities and all of the prices and hours of operation listed.  We carried them around with us during the day and they were priceless.  I can't see traveling without them now.
Worth it's weight in gold

We also got BritRail passes.  This is essential to order ahead of time, because you can only have them shipped to a non-UK address.  As a non-resident, you can get a unlimited ride 15-day pass for around $500.  It sounds like a lot, but it's well worth it if you'll be traveling every day.  We did about 1 city per day, so we definitely got our money's worth on this.  It's also nice to not worry about buying tickets and making your train on time (we had a few close calls).  The rail system in the UK is wonderful.  The trains covered by the pass really go everywhere and they are so comfortable and convenient (It only takes 6 hours to get from London to Edinburgh).  If you're in the country for more than a weekend, definitely think about the pass.  The national rail also has an app so you can plan your trip and see when the next train is arriving.

The last thing we did before we left was get plane tickets.  After tracking the prices for months (literally months. crazy right?) they dipped below our budget cap in March.  The best way we could think to get the tickets was to set a bar for what we were willing to pay (for us it was $850 each) and then as soon as it hits that, just buy it.  After a but of research we found that usually trans-atlantic flights are cheapest around 6 months ahead of time.  Kayak actually has a nifty setting where you can put in a price alert for a max price and when it goes below that, they tell you.  We ordered our tickets directly from Aer Lingus, but it was nice to have Kayak help us.

Believe it or not, that's all we did before we left.  It drove me nuts, but it's true!  Look at me being all spontaneous, like a crazy person.

Ok this post got long, I'll put deets on my time in the UK in the next post.  Cheers!

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