We all travel differently, different classes, different destinations and for different reasons but as long as you know your goals and objectives, you can ensure you’ll trip will be what you want it to be;
- PLANNING AND PREPARATION
- LOCATION AND BUDGET
- RESEARCH AND REACH
- VISAS AND VACCINATIONS
- BOOKING YOUR TRIP
- DO IT
The following is broken down into digestible areas so you can revisit at any point depending at what stage you’re at…
I find this element of the trip the hardest part, as unlike some I don’t like to just see what happens when I’m there, I like to plan which I hate to admit, and girlfriend loves to tease me about. As much as I love the spontaneity and know many things will happen that I didn’t plan or prepare for, which are usually the most exciting, I like to find out about where I’m going and what it offers to make sure I don’t miss out on anything.
However, the chances are I’ll get there, do my ‘cultural day’ meet some locals and check out the ‘local scene’ – that to me is the best culture to experience. Don’t get me the wrong, the history and their traditions, amongst the architecture and infrastructure, is usually fascinating but being a contemporary modern day man, that’s what I want to experience…the modern day!
The initial planning stage can be a bit of a catch 22, as do you start with the budget or the location? I would say start with the location and back track from there, as you can save and work towards your goal or if it’s beyond your financial reach, or timeframe, there are always good alternatives. Do what you can to stay within your budget, which I appreciate can be very tricky, as we all get excited and carried away when playing with ‘monopoly money’. The closer you stick to your budget the less you’ll worry on the trip, after trip and the better chance you have to save for the next one.
Whatever the reason for your trip is, whether its conservation, community, business, pleasure, backpacking or flashpacking and I’m sure many more, researching into the local area will ensure you know what the location has to offer. Check out review sites like www.tripadvisor.co.uk , as testimonials are obviously carefully selected, but these kinds of comments are from the consumer and offer a true reflection. Don’t forget to reach out to friends and ask if they know anyone there or anyone that has been, as recommendations from your friends and like minded people will hopefully offer a shared interest. I have met some of my closest friends this way and explored places like a true local.
As well as researching the area, you need to research the best way to get there. This can be done very easily today with so many online search engines and forums. I would always check a minimum of three, usually starting with www.makemytrip.com and then cross-referencing against the likes of www.expedia.com , www.lastminute.com and the airline directly. For accommodation this is easy as using your budget you can straight away refine your search and then use review sites to check them out. Don’t forget homestays and couch surfing, as it can be a great alternative and brilliant way to meet people. But, be careful and if possible thoroughly check reviews for these types of accommodation and ensure someone knows where you are at all times.
These can become quite a surprise if you haven’t done your research properly, as I recently discovered on a trip to Russia where my visa was double the cost of my flight and quite a stressful process. Hence the reason for this stage being before ‘BOOKING YOUR TRIP’. Ensure you check what your restrictions are and if travelling with passengers of different nationality their restrictions too, as duration and fees can vary drastically. If visa’s are on arrival make sure you always have spare passport photos, different sizes if possible, as well as local currency and dollars. Personally I like to always travel with some Dollars, local currency and home currency, for both transit and emergencies.
Vaccinations are a vital part of your research and cannot be looked at lightly, so please make sure you check with your local GP and seek professional advice from specialists such as www.masta.com. Certain vaccinations need to start their course three months before, such as Hep B, as the course is staggered over timed intervals whilst others will need boosters, such as Tetanus. Vaccinations will also vary depending on your health, and logistics, as it may not always be convenient to take your medication or you may not want to take them daily if they make you feel sick or dizzy etc.
Now you’ve done your research into the area and how to get there, you’re almost set. Paying for the trip is the most exciting part for me, obviously apart from the trip itself, as this is it…this is the commitment…the payment the confirmation…the realisation that you’re actually going…it doesn’t get much more exciting than that. So, make sure you enjoy it.
Ensure you’re paying at the best time, i.e. not too late for flights, or in some cases to early for accommodation, as they can often offer flash sales but this is hard to predict and can be a gamble. Check the fees associated with certain cards and that the card you are booking with will be with you during the trip as quite often they may want to see proof of the purchase card.
We always take more than we need, which is understandable with today’s obvious effects of climate change, but if you have the room it doesn’t really matter, as long as your bag is the right weight and dimensions, the only downside is you carrying it all. Depending on your activities make sure you have everything you need or can purchase/rent when there, which can save a lot of room and unnecessary weight, i.e. scuba diving equipment which is often included in the course or very cheap to borrow. Think through your itinerary as its usually the smallest things we forget that are essential, like plug adaptors, head torches, or bumbags (the small discrete type) – as not quite sure they’re back in fashion just yet.
Find out when you can check in online and try to get near a door to get off promptly, every person you walk past can save a significant amount of time at immigration. I like to think that every person I walk past saves me 5 mins, so apart from looking like one of those weird speed walkers, I’m out nice and quickly, getting to where I want to be.
Unnecessary fees for overweight bags or checking in without a boarding pass, such as www.ryanair.com charging £15 to print, which is ludicrous especially after you are already a paying customer, can be a horrible start to your trip, so make sure you have added your personal information online, checked in and printed all boarding passes.
We’re almost there: research is going well, more than likely a continuous process; you have a few jabs in your arms; less money in the bank; a bag full of stuff you probably don’t need, and overweight; a barcode on your phone to check you in and a passport full of funny writing and awful pictures… now enjoy it, be safe, do everything you want to do as you don’t know when or if you’ll be back, and open your mind to new cultures, new experiences and new people…DO IT