I have always planned our trips myself. Doing this allows us to travel at our own pace, see the sites that interest us the most, have lots of free time to explore on our own, eat at hole in the wall restaurants when they call to us, and not waste precious time hanging around waiting for members of a group who have gone astray or overslept.
Choose your destination
Research the weather.
Weather can either make or spoil a trip. Examples of the latter: Hiking the Inca Trail in Peru in the rainy season; visiting India during monsoon season; going on Safari in Africa during the hot summer months; visiting Patagonia in October when the winds are at their most fierce.
Research dates of festivals and major holidays in the destination you are considering. Example: You may want to be in a particular place specifically because you’d like to witness and participate in a celebration. On the other hand, locals are on the move during these times. Transport and accommodation costs can go up significantly, as can the crowds.
Research high season, low season, and the best season.
Check the exchange rate against your currency. If budget is a concern and you’re on vacation it can make a big difference to how much you can see, shop, do and experience, if your money goes farther.
Check on visa requirements. Visas for some countries can take a while to get. You can use a company that specializes in obtaining foreign visas to expedite the process, however, their services are costly.
Decide on how many days you can take for your upcoming trip.
Remember that travel days can be completely lost days, so schedule your flights, train rides, etc. accordingly. To save time and accommodation costs, travel at night when feasible if you need to stretch your budget.
Check on health requirements and vaccinations. Make sure you have a copy of your inoculations with you as you may very well be required to present proof to enter a country.
Remember if your flight makes a stop on the way to your destination you can stop there for no extra cost for a week, 4 weeks, whatever. Don’t overlook this. We have visited untold destinations at no extra cost. Ireland, Dubai, Hong-Kong, Japan, Spain, Holland, England and many many more. Check with the carrier and shop carriers.
Make sure that you select a card that gives you the most favorable redemption options for earned miles. Also choose a card that allows you to use any airline.