In May, I went on a multi country holiday. I went with my husband, because it was our honeymoon. Lol. We went to 6 countries and 7 cities in 3 weeks (Dubai, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Paris and Birmingham.) We got asked two questions again and again when we were on the trip:
how much was it?
what agent did you use?
There’s no point telling you how much the trip was because I feel like holiday budgets depend on so many factors that can affect the price in a million ways; where you go, when you go, the airlines or train companies you use, what class you fly, the hotels you stay in and the activities you choose to do on holiday. This post addresses the second question because we planned and booked the entire trip ourselves.
Because my husband and I had both been to Dubai before, we both knew exactly where we wanted to stay. He hadn’t done all the touristy stuff, so we decided to book tours and etc through Emirates holidays. Emirates Holidays ended up booking our tours and airport transfers and we paid for our hotel through them (they had a discount). If you are concerned about the quality of your tours and transfers, It is best to book yourself.
We booked everything else ourselves. We sat in a room on our laptops for 9 hours and booked flights, hotels, trains, tours and other transport. 7 flights, three trains, 5 hotels and 1 air bnb. We also applied for our visas ourselves.
I will go into a more detailed visa post when I review each country, but you should always check for up to date information on the official visa page of the country you’re travelling to. Visa regulations and requirements change so quickly, you may be bound by completely different rules when you’re applying for the same visa as someone else, 1 month apart.
The biggest consideration for hotels is what kind of trip you want to have. Do you plan to go out during the day, or more at night or both? What attractions do you absolutely HAVE To see. When you have that information, you have a starting point. If you want to go out mostly at night, obviously you want to be in a super bustling area that's safe to be around at night. If you're mostly going out during the day, then your tour attractions would be more important.
In Dubai, we wanted to stay on the JBR walk because we wanted to wake up and walk two minutes to the beach. Tour companies pick you up from your hotel, so it wasn't important to consider tours in hotel choice, plus the desert tour is far from everything anyway. It was Ramadan so we wanted to be somewhere that would come alive after lftar, as the city is very subdued in the daytime during Ramadan. 5 star hotels are also cheaper in Dubai than Europe, so it was worth staying in one just because.
We went to London twice. On the first trip, it was one night only and I needed to see my cousin, so we booked a hotel 1 mile or two tube stops away from her house.
In Rome, we booked a hotel that was walking distance to three of the main tourist attractions. I'm talking 6 minute walk to the trevi fountain. The hotel was meh but the location was excellent and there was a great restaurant downstairs. There is food everywhere in Rome so that wasn't a booking consideration.
In Amsterdam, we couldn't decide so we booked two different hotels (I wouldn't recommend this for a short trip, it was more annoying than we anticipated) We stayed like a few 100 metres from Anne Frank Huis the first time and stayed practically in the red light district the second night. The second hotel was also super close to the train station we were leaving from.
Paris was really confusing for us in terms of area and we just went for something close to Gare du Nord where we were leaving from. In the end, it was alright. We ended up taking the metro a few times and we were able to walk 20 minutes to the Louvre.
Our second trip in London, we wanted to be central but in a quiet area, so we chose Marylebone. Because it was the longest part of our trip we went for an Airbnb rather than a hotel.
Some more tips for accommodation:
If you try to weigh the value of accommodation by thinking 'I can buy this with that money', you're going to end up staying in shit places, because good accommodation is hardly ever cheap.
Many countries will 90% of the time, have a tourism tax which they never include in the cost of the hotel (or even highlight when you’re booking). It's never expensive but an unexpected cost is an unexpected expense.
Always pack toothpaste, a toothbrush and lotion. Every hotel will give you soap and towels but even 5 star hotels won’t always give you toothpaste unless you request it. Don't take the risk. Hotel lotion is NEVER moisturising enough, so avoid ashy skin and pack your own.
Don't be obsessed with picking a perfect place. You're bound to make some mistakes
Do research, even if it's googling 'best areas for tourists Paris 2019'
if you stay in an Airbnb, take a video of the place as soon as your arrive and everyday you’re there, to serve as evidence, if the host tries to blame you for breaking something.
Always always always pack a mini first aid kit with things like paracetamol (paracetamol is a safe painkiller to travel with) and Andrews liver salts because trust me, it’s not fun to walk around with luggage and cramps trying to find an open pharmacy at 7am or to not have anything to stop you from throwing up a million times if you get food poisoning (or are hungover)
The best way to figure out how to plan your trip is studying a map. If you have no map skills, you have to do a lot of googling and base it on price and ease of access between cities. We did not plan the trip in the most geographically sensible way, we had our own special (and random) set of considerations. Once you decide all the places you want to go, picking how you go from city to city isn’t really that difficult. We did a mixture of trains and planes because trains were our preferred travel choice but it wasn’t always practical (too long or too expensive)
Short haul low cost airlines like easyjet are not always as bad as you've heard. Pay for extra legroom if you can-sometimes it gives you priority boarding and sometimes, a little extra luggage allowance. Always check in online when you use them (for most of them, you can check in up to a month in advance) and get to the airport early because security queues can be very crazy. We had to pay for priority access in one airport because the queue was insane.
Confirm from the the transport service provider what your ticket includes. We booked 1st class tickets on a six hour train from Amsterdam to Germany, assuming it would include food and wifi. The tickets did not include food and the train did not have wifi. They didn’t accept debit cards as payment for their food cart. Luckily, I always carry a bottle of water and a snack when I’m travelling and i’m Nigerian and therefore used to not having wifi, so it was fine (but shocking).
Try Airbnb experiences. There are all sorts of things there that you wouldn’t normally know to look for in a new city.
Book a local photographer to follow you around and take your photo at popular tourist spots. This is really useful if you’re a solo traveller or a couple that wants photos that aren’t awkward selfies. There are a lot of photographers on Airbnb experiences and honestly, it’s not even that expensive. They can also serve as tour guides.
Research and make a list of things you would like to see and honestly it’s okay if some of the most popular things don’t even appeal to you.
Be flexible- the weather might be different to what you expected and invalidate 3/4 of your wardrobe, you might get food poisoning, the hotel might be shit when you get there. You need to be flexible or you won’t be able to find the joy when things go wrong.
Allow yourself downtime and just time to wander around- honestly, travelling is exhausting and it can often feel like you need to maximise your trip money by not doing something every minute of everyday. I like to think the hotel money is a waste if I don’t get in a few naps.
Always check before you make assumptions- i’ve repeated this so many times because we did this a lot. Sometimes, you can just call the hotel and ask for a hotel pick up- which is probably cheaper and safer than a lot of options especially when you don’t know the place. Ask, ask and ask again.
If there's a grocery store near you, use it first before anything else, so you can prioritise your food money on food experiences (like nice restaurants). In Paris, we ate the hotel breakfast the first day (not worth it) and then realised there was a grocery store close by where we could have bought breakfast at for a tiny fraction of the breakfast price.
Download a translation app that you can use offline especially in places like Paris where locals will pretend to not understand you. Also download offline maps and save local emergency numbers.
This post can go on forever, I’ve tried to keep it short. I will be putting up travel guides or tips for each country throughout the month. Comment or message me with any questions (apart from how much the trip cost) and I’d be happy to answer!