Top 10 Tips
The Nitty Gritty of Putting Your Trip Together
You have chosen your destination, read up on the ‘must see’ highlights and the special things that interest you, which could be as simple as visiting a neighborhood in a particular town and having sufficient time to wander, observe and soak up the atmosphere. Resources: Footprint, Frommer, Foddor, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Eyewitness Travel Guides, Insight Guides, National Geographic Travel Guides, Rick Stevels Europe, and of course blogs and articles found on the internet travel sites and newspapers like the Huffington Post. For trip planning purposes, I still like to have a hard copy of a book and print articles off the internet so that I can tab and mark up pages, and highlight important items, which helps me with my planning.
Get a map of the area that you plan to visit, so that you can plan the flow of your trip to avoid back tracking which can be a time waster and add to the costs. Also, consult a world map to see what countries and islands are in the general area that you’ll be visiting. You may be able to arrange a stop there for little or no extra cost to the purchase price of your airline ticket.
I plan our trips with the most strenuous and active touring, hiking etc. first, and the chilling out and relaxing on a beach, a boat, or in the mountains, at the end. I find relaxing the mind first and then the body works the best for us. Give some thought to the order that will work best for you.
Take a calendar and photocopy the pages of the days/weeks you plan to travel or get a sheet of poster board and make your own calendar.
Using the information you have gleaned from points 1 and 2 above, fill in where you plan to spend each day and night.
Decide how you will get from one country or city to another. Fly, train, boat, bus, rent a car or hire a driver.
Fill that in on your calendar: Red pen=Fly; Blue pen=Bus; Yellow pen=Train; Green pen=Drive; Turquoise pen=Boat.
Research online the approximate amount of time needed to travel between places. Research road conditions (very important if you plan to drive). Driving yourself in Italy is one thing – whereas driving in India is suicidal. Trains in Japan are the most efficient means of transport, whereas in South Africa they’re virtually non-existent. Fill time needed to travel from one destination to another into your calendar flow sheet.
Allow for ‘buffer’ time (sometimes an entire day), to recuperate from many hours of travel the prior day. Buffer days are perfect for getting to know a city, wandering and discovering on your own, sitting at a café and people watching, getting laundry done etc.
IMPORTANT: Don’t plan to go on a major tour the day you arrive or the following day. Flights, weather conditions, strikes can mean that you could land up missing a tour for which you have prepaid a substantial amount.
Book hotels ahead of time or at least decide where you’d like to stay, if you want to save time and money. Remember that unique inns, boutique hotels and the most charming B and Bs, often have limited accommodation
Agoda, Bookings.com, Expedia, Bed and Breakfast.com, Airbnb.com, Trip Advisor – are all sites where one can make online bookings. One can also try the hotels website. Check and compare rates.
Fill in the name and the contact information of your hotel on your calendar flow sheet.
Certain tours must be booked well in advance if you don’t want to be faced with disappointment. Example: Hiking the Inca Trail; traveling to remote parts of the Amazon; trekking to the hill tribes in Vietnam; African safaris etc.
I either use tour companies that have highly favorable reports, and for private day tours and drivers, I contact the hotel where we’ll be staying and ask them to arrange a high quality, reliable, safe driver and English speaking guide. We’ve never yet been disappointed.