The New Year brings resolutions of all kinds, from losing weight, to quitting smoking, to spending more time doing something. All of these things require one component, a PLAN.
As a travel agent I encourage all my clients to plan their vacations and travel experiences as much as possible, and yes allow for that spontaneous lets go away for the weekend trip.
Here is a basic outline for planning your trip
1) Pick a date- Try to avoid major holidays as everyone else is traveling then which means crowded venues, longer travel time and more money. Traveling around personal celebrations can be a plus as hotels and restaurants often offer bonuses for the celebrant.
2) Decide on a budget- When people ask me how much it costs for a cruise, my response is anywhere from $199 to $80,000. So decide how much money you feel comfortable spending and add 10%.
3) Pick the type of vacation you want. Would you like to cruise, relax at a resort, explore a city, scuba dive, ride a camel, etc. This is often the hardest part of the process and when a good travel agent can help. Let your travel agent help you narrow down the options and provide the guidance that will fit your date, budget and interests. Part of what is where. You may have dreamed of an African safari, but visiting Kenya during the rainy season will be a disappointment.
4) If your trip includes leaving the USA, get a passport. While you can get away without it on certain cruises, there is still the chance of needing it if you have to fly back. Your photo id will not be accepted when trying to get back to the USA at the airport without a passport. A passport is good for ten years, except for children under 16. Visit the State Department website for the info you need and plan about 3 months in advance to be sure you have it on time. On the same note, many countries require Visas so before you pay for that plane ticket make sure you have ALL the proper documentation. The easiest way to do this is check with your travel agent or visit the official government site for that country. Also, make sure you have all the vaccinations and preventive medications you need. The CDC and local health departments are good resources. Be careful of clinics that try to scare you into spending hundreds of dollars unnecessarily.
5) Now you know when and where you are going. Deciding what to do once you get there is a big step in the process. Check out travel guides like, Frommer’s and Fodor’s and again your travel agent should be able to help with this. Some excursions and activities sound great but the reality can leave you feeling like you wasted your time. For some people the major attractions are the highlight of a day and for others its the out of the way hidden spots that complete a great experience. Know yourself and your traveling companions well enough to make the decision what is better for your trip.
Image by Vanessa (EY) via Flickr
6) Travel Insurance- Just about every travel professional, agents, suppliers, writers etc will tell you to get travel insurance. There are many options a couple of the most highly rated are TravelSafe and Travel Insured. They offer a variety of services. Insurance can mean the difference between losing $2500 vs $100. Most importantly, you want to know that if you get sick, you are covered and that is the main reason for using travel insurance. Even the state department recommends travel insurance to cover your health needs.
7) Packing for your trip- It’s getting close now and you don’t want to have to buy basics on the road, it’s pricey and often not what you really want. There are many sites that give advice about packing, even the cruise lines will help with that. Travelers Point has some good ideas, as does Universal Packing. Remember your camera, memory cards, film and adapters for electrical outlets if you are traveling outside the USA.
8) Medications- If you are taking any kind of prescription medication make sure you have at least 2-3 days additional with you. Even things like aspirin and ibuprofen are good to keep in your suitcase.
9) Who to tell- Yes tell your trusted neighbors and friends that you will be out of town. A good neighbor will know if something unusual is happening at your house and should call authorities. DON’T ADVERTISE YOUR TRIP ON SOCIAL MEDIA until you get back. It is just asking for trouble unless someone is at your house while you are gone or at least visiting everyday. For example, if you have someone coming to take care of your pets or water your plants then potential thieves are more wary. This also means that you need to plan for the living things in your house that are not coming with you. If you bring your pet to the kennel, make sure they have room. During major holidays kennels fill up quickly.
10) Plan how you are getting to the airport or cruise port. If you are cruising arrive the day before (unless you can drive to your port in 4 hours or less) and stay at a hotel that offers free parking while you cruise or a shuttle to the port. Will you need a cab or private car to get you to airport from your house? How will you get to your destination after the flight arrives? Again this is where your travel agent can really be helpful.
The above is not a comprehensive list but a good guideline to keep your travel plan smooth and easy. I always hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Travel is medicine for the heart mind and soul. May your explorations fill you with wonder.
Unique Travel Events is a full service travel agency that specializes in custom trips and focuses on service.
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