Helicopter flight over the Great Barrier Reef in Australia: photo by Jason Holland of Travel SimplicityHOW TO PLAN TRAVEL LIKE A PROFESSIONAL

Travel Simplicity started as a passion of two travelers who loved seeing the world. Starting as amateurs, we bumbled along through Thailand, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand....(+ more) not having a clue about how to best plan amazing travel experiences. Somehow we ended up doing quite well and figuring out a lot along the way. We survived multiple 24-hour flights, took a helicopter over the Great Barrier Reef to land on a live-aboard yacht, and spent a day on our own private island in Honduras. We learned to Salsa in Japan and took a jet boat up across the glacier fed rivers of New Zealand on inches of water.

We want to share some of the tips and trick on how to plan travel like a professional that we have learned over the years. That way if you want to plan your next big adventure you will be better equipped to do so and can understand what is involved before getting started. If you choose to work with a travel professional to design your experience you will know why their services are so valuable. After all we want you to create some wonderful memories with your friends and families that make you smile just like we have done.

Early Birds Catch the Glow Worm: calendar iconTip 1: Early birds catch the glow worms.
Great vacations and honeymoons typically do not start overnight. Give yourself enough time so you can reduce stress to a minimum. Starting early in your planning process (6 months to 1 year in advance) allows you to save money on many components such as airfare and cruises. More importantly, intimate and unique experiences fill up quickly so by planning early you are less likely to miss out on something special.

Ask questions: speech bubble iconTip 2: Ask questions and stay curious.
This step cannot be downplayed. It is the most important part of the process. The destination should not be the primary focus, you should be! The more questions answered in the beginning of the process the better. Ask yourself WHY you want to travel, WHO you want to go with, WHEN you can or should go, WHERE you want to go (if you know), WHAT you want to do, and HOW will you get to and between your destinations. DREAM BIG.

Research is the key watson: magnifying glass iconTip 3: Research is the key, Watson.
Research will take the most time. Look to websites like TripAdvisor and Google searches for help, but use them as tools not your only source. Do not simply rely on reviews or photos to make your choice because what is right for someone else, may not be right for you. Use guidebooks by DK, Foders or Lonely Planet. Subscribe to travel magazines like Travel + Leisure and Afar or local destination magazines. Read blogs, talk with friends/family, travel professionals, and the local visitors bureau. If contact is difficult between a specific hotel or tour company, that is not a good sign, but do not automatically give up either. Email and call hotels. If the language barrier is an issue, email tends to be a better method of contact, but will also take longer than a phone call. Fortunately for us, most tourist destinations around the world and many that are off the beaten path have people who speak English. This step could easily take you 40 hours or more depending upon how in depth you get. Google claims that most people booking travel visit 22 different websites over 9.5 separate internet sessions!

Itinerary not to lazy not too busy: world globe iconTip 4: The importance of the itinerary: not too lazy, not too busy.
The tendency is either to plan too much or too little. In advance of traveling, book the things you would be upset to miss out on such as an intimate dinner at an exclusive restaurant, seats for a local performance or tickets to a sporting event plus your essentials like airfare, car rental or private transfers and lodging. Remember to also allow for plenty of free time for spontaneity - you do not want to have so much planned that you cannot relax. By carefully planning your itinerary and keeping a careful balance between free time and planned activities you will have a wonderfully exciting, relaxing and refreshing time on your vacation.

Booking is essentially important: handshake iconTip 5: Booking is essentially important.
Book the essential things first such as airfare and lodging. You do not want to book non-refundable airfare and find that the hotel is unavailable. After the essentials, add in the other transportation like airport transfers, rental cars, ferry tickets or motorcycle rentals. Finally book excursions, restaurant reservations and event tickets. If you want to attend a popular limited-access event like the Olympics, you may want to be sure to book these tickets first. Check and recheck your information such as your passport number and name before making your reservations or you could have problems later when you try to board the airplane or cruise ship. Be sure that you are covered by travel insurance and for medical evacuation in the event of an emergency. Be sure to choose a company that offers 24/7 assistance.

Preparation without it you could have pain in the: papers iconTip 6: Preparation. Without it you could have pain in the ... well there.
Print out your electronic confirmations and compile the data such as booking numbers and contact information into one single document for easy access during travel. Put them into a clear folder so that you can read the information without having to always take it out. Prepare you mind knowing that things may not go quite the way you envisioned and that it is OK. Contact your credit card companies to let them know you will be traveling. Be sure to get a card that does not charge a foreign transaction fee such as most Capitol One cards and the Chase Saffire card. If traveling internationally, be sure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months and that you have it with you.

How to plan travel like a professional: free downloadable guide by Travel SimplicityRecheck repetition breeds success or mental illness: checkbox iconTip 7: Recheck everything. Repetition breeds success or mental illness.
Just because you made a reservation does not mean everything is going to turn out the way you planned. Check and recheck via email and phone with the various companies before leaving to make sure your reservations are secure. This way you will help to reduce unwanted surprises. To cover yourself during unexpected emergencies, remember to purchase travel insurance.

Enjoy the smiles and warm fuzzies phase: smiley face iconTip 8: Enjoy yourself as you enter the smiles and warm fuzzies phase.
You have planned a wonderful vacation. Go enjoy it. Explore, listen, see with new eyes and appreciate a new experience with those you love. Take lots of pictures and leave your smart phone at home or in the hotel. This is time to relax, refresh and be rejuvenated.