I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list -Susan Sontag
Travelers either love or hate planning trips. Spending hours honing your research skills in front of a computer, popping into the Travel Agents to pass the planning and booking onto someone else or going away with friends who you know will take care of the plans for you.
I am one of the former who loves to plan my own travel, taking care of the flight, hotels and any excursions I might want to take.
You can never research your destination enough; luckily there are plenty of websites to help.
Lonely Planet is one of my favourites; it is an indispensable guide to most, if not all travel destinations, catering for all price ranges, from the cheap and cheerful to the more luxurious and expensive options. It also covers a list of must see and do sights and experiences.
Because most travel destinations we are likely to only visit once or maybe twice in a lifetime, it is almost compulsory to do certain things in certain places. It would be very difficult to visit New York for the first time and not see the Statue of Liberty. Lonely Planet is therefore my first port of call when planning my travels.
Lonely Planet can be accessed online, but I much prefer a hard copy to read at leisure. I also download a copy for my kindle (which can be read on both i-pad and i-phone) so that whilst away I have access to it whenever the need arises. I also subscribe to the Lonely Planet Magazine, which gives me lots of ideas to add to my bucket list (there’s an idea for another blog).
I also like to check with the local Tourist Information of the places we are visiting. This can be useful as it may include little known facts that previously you are unaware of. We spend a long weekend in Barcelona one year, over the weekend of my birthday. We found out from Tourist Information that my birthday fell on the festival of Le noche de San Juan, we headed for the beach late in the evening, not knowing what to expect. We could so easily have missed it all.
The beach was filled with families and friends celebrating around large beach bonfires. Children held fireworks and firecrackers which they lit and set of out of their hands. I’m sure you can imagine the consternation it caused my health and safety manager husband!
I am now very safety conscious when travelling. It is always worth checking with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) before you travel, this not only gives safety advice in the country you are visiting, but also will tell you if you need a visa, and the best place to obtain one.
You should also check with your Practice Nurse to see if you require any vaccinations before you travel. It is worth checking for every trip you make. You can be as much risk on a walking holiday through Austria or France as you can be backpacking through India or South America.
Make sure you have adequate travel insurance, and that it is valid. Family cover usually covers all family members if travelling together or individually, but not always the 18-25’s if travelling without parents. My 18 year old recently went abroad and her travel insurance cost 4.99. Believe me, never skimp on travel insurance
Writing a travel itinerary is beneficial when organizing your trip. Not only because it makes sure that all your must see and do experience are all included, but also so that a copy can be left at home with relatives, so if anything happens, some will know where you are meant to be. Also it is worth mentioning, you need to fill in your next of kin information at the back of your passport, fill it in as fully as you can and make sure it is not the names and contact of people you are travelling with.
Planning your travel excursion, experiences, shows etc. before you go, gives you the benefit of paying at the time of booking, spreading the cost over a few months depending how many you pre-book. We have use Viator several times and have had booth fantastic trips and service.
On a trip to Paris with my husband, we booked several excursions through viator. One was a jump the queue deal at the Moulin Rouge. Not only did it involve direct access to the venue, walking past the long queue to the front and being whisk straight in like a VIP. We had a table for two at the front of the balcony, unlimited wine or champagne, a three course meal and a souvenir package including gifts, macarons and chocolates. A photographer was taking pictures of couples or groups with the stage as the backdrop. Later we could see the photographers trying to sell the photos to the audience. They came up to the balcony and dropped the photos off at our table, they contained key rings, match-cards and photos, all included with the price we paid. It was worth every penny, especially when it had been paid for months before.
Another benefit to booking before you travel, is that it then gives you time to experience your destination rather than spending hour standing I a queue, on the trip above we also booked a tour of the Eiffel Tower, an afterhours tour of Notre Dame Cathedral and a visit to the catacombs. We had pre-booked and paid for a dinner up the Eiffel Tower and also on the Bateaux Rouge Dinner Cruise. Because this meant we could do everything we wanted, without spending hours queuing, we were left with plenty of free time; to wander through the streets of Paris, stopping at will for a glass of champagne or macaroons at the famous Laudree and people watching from pavement side bistros.
I would recommend copying passport details, travel visa details if needed and also copies of bank /visa account number and phone number for reporting lost cards, email a copy of this to yourself, then if you lose your documents or your purse, you will be able to access your email enabling you to stop bank cards and have your document details for when you visit the embassy.
When travelling, even if you prefer to leave your travel arrangements up to a friend or a travel agent you should still observe the tips on travel safety.
Stay safe, but make sure that you make the most of any destination you wish to visit. Have a fantastic holiday!