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Planning An Epic Holiday: My Top Tips

Pack your bags, cause we’re jetting off…

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Over the past Bank Holiday weekend, which feels like it was last year ago now, Mark and I found ourselves knee-deep in honeymoon planning. Part of the reason why we had a small and relatively budget-friendly wedding day (see all the details on it here) was because we wanted to go completely BALLS OUT with the honeymoon. Whilst we’ve travelled a bit together, often with friends and for short weekend breaks away, with the odd week-long vacation here and there, we’ve never done a longer stint abroad; plus Lily still holds the title of ‘My most travelled with person ever’. Love you LP. So it’s time to get some airmiles in with Mark and it didn’t take us long to realise that New Zealand would be our destination of choice. The natural  beauty, the food, the cycling trails (for Mark,not me), the spas (for me, although Mark is trying to elbow in on the action) – it covered all bases.

In the past I’ve been in charge of sorting out a seven-night long holidays with my girlfriends, but I’ve never been faced with the prospect of having to sort out flights, accommodation and an itinerary for 26 days. SAY WHUT!? How do you even start? Well today I’m breaking it down because we’re finally able to see the light after spending a solid 48 hours browsing airbnb – ‘oooh this one has a hot tub! Oh wait, it’s booked already‘ – and wondering why we decided to go away over the busiest/most expensive time of the year. So here’s how to plan the most (hopefully) epic holiday ever…

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STEP ONE: PEN AND PAPER AT THE READY

When it comes to booking flights or accommodation first, I’m always partial to getting the flights in the diary first because accommodation options are much easier to come by, even if you do have to spend two nights in NZ in their Butlins equivalent because everywhere else is booked up (it’s cool, who doesn’t want to spend Boxing Day in a cabin with a shared bathroom?). Once you’ve pinned them down write yourself up a little calendar so you can pencil in your travel plans and sleepover details each day. We found this really helpful to be able to see our trip in this visual way as we’ll be travelling around, so it made it easier to see how long we could spend in each spot, whilst it still being mildly relaxing.

Of course if your trip is just in one place or on the shorter side, it might not be necessary to make your own calendar, although I still like to because it almost acts as a travel diary after the trip (it’s one more thing to bore people with, along with your 1000 photos) and makes it simple to see what days you’re away for and what to do on each one. Come on, you know I love a good plan.

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STEP TWO: SET A BUDGET

Having never been on a long trip before, budgeting had always been an element of holiday planning but not something of the highest importance because we were never staying anywhere for that long and we weren’t exactly going to live like rockstars whilst we were there. However, when you go away for almost a month, it’s really bleedin’ expensive (yep, can you tell I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to travelling?). Of course we want to have an awesome trip as it’s a place that we probably won’t get the chance to visit again AND IT’S OUR HONEYMOON, but we also don’t want to fritter away an amount that would make a serious dent in our mortgage. #Adulting at it’s finest.

We want our visit to be relaxed. There’s a lot of travelling involved so if we want to spend the evening slobbing out on the sofa and seeing what delights New Zealand Netflix has to offer, then that’s cool. We’ll be driving ourselves around, would like the option to cook our own food if we fancy eating in one night and quite like the idea of playing cards out on the front porch because we’re in our eighties. We opted to spend our first night in a hotel because of the obvious connection between jet-lag and room service, but for the rest of the trip we went for airbnbs and motels. By doing that we’ve managed to keep the cost down and will be able to spend more on experiences and ridiculously large plates of sushi when we’re out there.

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STEP THREE: DO YOUR RESEARCH

You know I like to throw this tip into every advice post that I write, but I feel like here it’s real important. So important that I actually have a folder in my inbox that’s solely dedicated to NZ recommendations that I’ve been sent by you lot. We’re lucky that we have quite a few friends that have travelled there, some even lived and studied there for a year, so we’ve got suggestions by the bucket load. We found that the best method was to take our mate a map and watch as he stuck little stickers onto it, told us the BEST places he’d visited and basically planned our trip for us. This combined with the Lonely Planet guide was how we devised our initial itinerary. Matt and Lonely Planet, that’s all you need.

Whilst I find the guide books really handy for area and activity recommendations, I find that they can be a little shoddy when it comes to food and accommodation recommendations so that’s where your pals – and you lot! – have come in. Over the coming months I’m planning on combing through all my emails and favourites tweets to write mini little guidebooks of our own for each place we’re visiting, so that when we’re there we can look to that, instead of browsing TripAdvisor for two hours whilst we try not to pass out with hunger. I’m sure I won’t look like a tourist AT ALL with my stickered map, pencilled out calendar and self-written guide book. Not at all.

Photos by Lauren Shipley

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Comments

  • Cathy Dunne

    Hi Anna! Loved the post

  • Cathy Dunne

    Hi Anna! Loved the post – was just wondering if you’d consider doing a review on your Away luggage? I’m seriously considering making a purchase and would love to hear your thoughts! x

  • Lizie Hagemeister

    Loved the post!

  • sazzles2310

    What’s this amazing sleep eye mask?? And those pink bubble wrap pouches??

  • I am so jealous! We went to New Zealand for seven weeks in 2015 and it was epic! I would love to go back again, there is still so much to see and do, but with two small kids (and a house to pay for) it won´t happen in the near future.

    Enjoy your honeymoon!

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

  • This week I’m leaving on a four week trip with my boyfriend for the second time! Both times I have done most of the planning and booking, because I’m travel planning obsessed… For planning things out on computer I find OneNote super useful! Got yourself an itinerary page, page with booking info, recommendations page,… (although the programs does get slower the more you put into it…)

  • Elle

    Perfect timing! I’m currently planning our honeymoon which we want to be multi destination, but it’s really overwhelming, there’s so much choice! Help a girl out and please keep the honeymoon posts coming 🙂 x

  • Aaishah

    😄 I loved the style of this post; informative yet still humorous.
    New Zealand has always been on the top of my travel destinations list. My dream is to go and live there for a few months…like a local!
    Hope you enjoy your trip! Please make a blogpost sharing what places your visiting, where you ate etc. That would be v helpful for all of us hoping to go there in the future 🙂 Xx

  • Laura Emilia

    Ohh this trip sounds SO exciting! I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand – the sceneries there look amaaazing. Hope you have a wonderful trip! Oh, and I really, REALLY, love that pink suitcase..! x

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

  • HarrisonBeach

    So jealous of how good your blog is! Incredible pics & post Anna!!
    http://www.byharrison.com

  • love the luggage Anna, the colour is fab

    Mel x mediamarmalade.com

  • This sounds like it’s going to be the most amazing trip Anna!

    Sara – Flemingo

  • Tracy Abbott

    As an NZ local all I will say is have an ammmazing time! Say Kia Ora where you can and people will think you are really cool 😜 my one tip is if you are going to drive yourself around, please, be very vigilant and careful! Way too many accidents involving tourists in NZ because the roads are do unpredictable, windy and narrow.
    I am from the middle of the North island, any recommendations you need, just Hola! Xx

  • Hey Anna! This is such a nice post, my favorite tip is the last one. Doing research is always key to have the most epic holiday ever. Love the suitcase on the pictures, it’s really cute,
    xx
    Ana
    Indie Suns | Bloglovin’ | Instagram

  • Julia Deutschen

    This is such a helpful post!
    Whenever I go on a trip, the first thing I book are the flights, because obviously, they are usually the most expensive and you want to save some money here and there.
    However, I never had to book and plan a month long trip, so I guess that’s a totally different level.

    xx Julia

    http://www.talesofjules.com/

  • Gracie Joosse

    I am planning a 21 day trip around Europe and SO appreciate any posts that help with such long trips away from home. If you decided to post a packing guide for 26 days, I would not be opposed 🙂

  • Ha, I went with the Violet from the Rashida Jones Away collection. But that Clay is so perf, too.

    • Lauren

      I missed out on the Clay color by just a few days. I was so bummed! I emailed them and asked if there would be a restock and told likely not 🙁 🙁

  • Riley Stewart

    Great post Anna. A month in New Zealand sounds amazing! I did a three months trip to America a few years back and one of my favourite parts was just going with the flow and booking hotels etc depending on where you want to be, say if you like a place and want to stay longer. Every trip since I have just booked the first night or the first few nights and the last, And then just played it by ear. I love moving to different places in a trip, my favourite is the west coast of America and Canada.
    I did the same for both my honeymoon trips to Canada and it was wonderful.
    As for money, it often goes a little further than you think but a budget is a great idea.

  • Chelsea L

    Anna, have you always used Away luggage? I’m dying to know what you think of their suitcases!

  • New Zealand sounds like an incredible Honeymoon. Kate la Vie would probably have good suggestions

  • Sian Yates

    New Zealand is fantastic! If you get the chance to drive to Cathedral Cove, I couldn’t recommend it enough. Can’t wait to see your amazing photos!

    • StingrayGirl

      STUPID busy over this time of year but totes worth it! Go early morning to actually get a parking space, but def check the tides! Needs to be low-tideish to be able to get through the cave 🙂

  • Lisa Autumn

    You are the queen of organisation girl!

    xx Lisa | lisaautumn.com

  • These were really good tips! New Zealand sounds like the trip of a lifetime, I’m sure you and Mark are going to have the best time!

    Lynnsay x
    http://www.sartorialscot.com

  • Such great tips! We hope you and Mark have the best time in New Zealand! It is a place that we are dying to travel to! Will you be doing any blog posts on the trip after?
    -Ash & Shelbs xx
    http://www.astoldbyashandshelbs.com

  • catherine ♡

    Ooo can’t wait to see all your pictures and tips from NZ when you go! Ps. how Instagrammable is that suitcase?! So pretty! x
    http://www.cocoamay.co.uk

  • Great post! The pink suitcase is lovely and chic. Cant wait to hear about your trip to NZ.

    whoisvelouria.blogspot.co.uk

  • Veronika

    Oooooh I absolutely love this pink suitcase ♥♥♥ I hope you will enjoy your trip 🙂

    dotsandglitters.blogspot.com

  • cant wait to hear about your trip!

    http://www.sonias-style.blogspot.co.uk

  • You’re going to have the best honeymoon ever! NZ is the most incredible country I’ve ever visited and driving yourself around is the best thing you can do. One tip I’d say, if you haven’t heard it enough already, is to spend more time on the South Island – it is stunning. Enjoy! xxxx

  • Ailsa Crawley

    Hey Anna! I absolutely love your videos and dare I say it, your blog even more so! You write so beautifully and make any topic fascinating thanks to your fantastic writing skills. I also very much appreciate the perfect grammar at all times- for a languages teacher like me this makes me very, very happy 🙂 I currently live in NZ (I’m from Scotland) and have written a blog throughout my year here- I think you might find it useful for your honeymoon planning and also if you would like a couple of local or off-the-beaten track recommendations, especially for the North Island which people often wrongly (in my opinion) dismiss! Thanks for keeping me so entertained always, I’d love to give something back to you with some NZ ideas! Have a click below –>
    http://www.salutlemonde.com

  • Make sure you check out my Wellington blog http://www.theresidents.co.nz – it has all the best places when you come here!

  • Sarah Tomlinson

    I’m a New Zealand local and it is such a beautiful place! I currently live in Christchurch, which is finally recovering from the earthquake, and there are some seriously cool cafes, hikes and an amazing saturday market at Riccarton Bush inn.
    Im sure you would have been told to go to Queenstown, but, growing up spending all of my holidays in Wanaka (a 45 minute drive from there), i would seriously recommend setting a few days aside on your itinerary for Wanaka. The beaches are amazing, it has a much more relaxed vibe than Queenstown, and the hikes are STUNNING. Also, i was a road cyclist up until a few years ago, and Wanaka has some of my favourite road and mountain bike tracks to date, that im sure Mark will appreciate.
    Please let me know if you need any insider recommendations for the South Island of New Zealand, i would love to help out