A little over a month from now, I will be flying overseas with Mrs. Lite and a few other family members to fulfill a lifelong dream of seeing the Egyptian pyramids. This vacation was over a year in the making, so I thought it’d make for an interesting post to describe in detail everything that went into putting this trip together. For travel novices who haven’t been around much, this will give you some insight into how I plan a trip from start to finish, and for you more experienced readers, maybe you can find some things that you do slightly differently during your own planning.
The vacation will take place in October 2018, so let’s go all the way back and work forward.
Summer 2017: a little over a year prior to the departure date, the decision is made to go to Egypt. Potential dates are discussed and agreed upon by all travelers in the group.
November 2017 (11 months before): Research is performed and a tour company is selected. With all the political turmoil and occasional violence still going on in Egypt, it’s agreed that going on an escorted, organized tour is the way to go as opposed to arranging everything on our own. Plus with 4 people in our group, going with a tour company is logistically much easier.
The specific tour is picked, and the non-refundable deposits are paid.
Since the tour company provides lodging and transportation, there is no need to research rental cars or hotels. This is one of the reasons why I enjoy organized tours from time to time. For a busy person or someone who doesn’t like to do a lot of planning, these are great because all you need to do is show up on time with some money and some clothes, and everything else is taken care of for you.
The decision is made to fly into Cairo one day early so we can all catch up on sleep and adjust to the time change. One extra hotel night is booked directly with the hotel where the tour begins for $155 per room per night. This hotel booking is bookmarked on my web browser so I can periodically check it for price drops. Since the reservation can be cancelled or modified up until 24 hours before our arrival date, I’m not concerned about the current price since it will most likely change.
Flight research begins using Google Flights. There is a specific flight that I see that has ideal departure and landing times. The price at this point is around $1150 per ticket. Since it’s so early on (almost a year in advance), this is likely the baseline price for this flight, and it will probably drop at some point in the future. I bookmark this flight search in my web browser so I can check back periodically.
I also begin setting aside a small amount from each paycheck to pay for this trip. Since the balance isn’t due for 9 months, I have plenty of time to build a nice pile of cash.
December 2017 (10 months before): I personally double check each traveler’s passport, including my own, to make sure that it does not expire within 6 months of the day we leave Egypt. Each country has its own passport requirements. Be sure to check this carefully so you don’t end up cancelling your trip at the last minute due to a devastating oversight.
I also research Visa requirements. Fortunately, Egypt is straightforward and easy: we purchase them at the airport when we land in Cairo. Each visa is $25 US cash, so I set a reminder to set aside exact cash prior to the trip.
January 2018 (9 months before): I check flight prices on a daily basis. No luck yet. Other than the cost of the tour itself, this will be the most expensive part of the journey, so I want to get the tickets at a low price. Because I have my handy bookmark all set, all I have to do is click on it to see what current prices are. The entire process takes less than a minute as I sip my coffee each morning.
February 2018 (8 months before): Plane tickets drop to $850, which is $300 less than the initial price. I immediately buy our tickets right then and there. Stress level decreases noticeably.
March through May 2018: I still occasionally check flight prices out of curiosity. There is some fluctuation, but prices never drop to $850 again. I feel lucky to have gotten a good deal on the tickets when I did. There are now other reasonably priced flights in addition to the one I ended up buying in February, but the flights times are not ideal with either too long or too short layovers. I’m reminded that some flights are cheap for a reason.
During this time, I also research weather in Egypt around the time we’ll be there. It’s gonna be hot. Egyptian custom apparently frowns upon grown men wearing shorts when they’re out and about, so I buy a pair of Patagonia Quandary Pants and have the legs tailored so they fit properly. I normally prefer jeans to nylon travel pants, but with how hot it’s gonna be over there, jeans seem like a poor choice. I really do not like the idea of wearing any kind of pants in the hot daytime sun, so we’ll see how this goes. If i can swing shorts without people staring at me too much, I’m gonna do shorts. Otherwise, these new pants should be fine. They’re light and quick dry, so one set is all I require.
No other clothing purchases are made since I already have everything else I need.
June 2018 (4 months before): Hotel room prices have dropped from $155 to $135 per room per night, so I re-book the rooms and cancel the original reservations, saving us $20 per room. I plan on continuing to check hotel prices every couple of weeks to see if prices drop even more.
July 2018 (3 months before): I research transportation options to get us from the airport in Cairo to our first hotel. It turns out to be only 5 miles away, or whatever that is in kilometers. Looks like a taxi is the easiest solution. I briefly consider Uber, but that would require getting a SIM card at the airport which is not that expensive, but it is time consuming and a hassle. Plus, I love being on vacation overseas and having zero cell phone access so that for the span of a few weeks, I’m completely untethered to my phone and clowns can’t reach me. It’s a great feeling, and I don’t wish to deprive myself of it. Taxi it is.
August 2018 (2 months before): I pay the balance to the tour company and now owe nothing since I have been setting aside cash for this for the past year.
Travel notifications are set for my bank and credit cards so the accounts don’t get frozen when I use my cards overseas.
I make sure I have sufficient cash in my travel bank account.
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Which brings us to today. There isn’t really much left to do other than to pack my bag and make sure we get to the airport on time. I will keep checking hotel room prices, though they’ve gone back up again, so I doubt I’ll get a better deal this close to the trip. This type of vacation is really easy to pack for, so my typical packing list will be more than enough.