In this series discussing the Art of Travel, I've covered what happens once you have been bitten by the travel bug, and then some ways you may go about selecting your destination of choice. The next piece in this segment is to begin planning your itinerary. A lot of travelers may feel they don't need the assistance of a travel professional and chose to go it alone. Other travelers may retain the assistance of a travel professional to assist in their itinerary selection, and then there are a few who may do a bit of their own research, and then turn over their selections to a travel professional in order to complete their travel plans.
Similar to the selection of your destination; planning your travels is drilling down to the nitty gritty of the who, what, when, where and how? These are some of the components you may want to take into consideration, whether you are working with a travel professional or doing it on your own:
- You've selected your destination and your dates of travel have been selected.
- If you are flying out the country you will need to have your passport.
- Depending on where you are traveling, you may also need a visa. I recommend checking out that countries embassy site, so that you can see what restrictions they may have for entering their country.
- Accommodations - If you are traveling alone, this may not be a big issue; however, if you are traveling with others, you may need larger accommodations. With that being said, your budget is crucial in this aspect, because this component is typically the most expensive part of your travels (next to international air tickets). There are low budget accommodations; moderate; boutique; upscale, and pure out and out decadence. I wrote about selecting hotels before, so I've included the link: http://chicksthattrip-lobbybarconfessions.blogspot.com/2009/12/hotels-are-like-shoes.html.
- Flights - This sounds easy, but it can be trickier than you can imagine. When I work with clients, I try to be cognizant of the number of plane changes; amount of time between their arrival into an airport and when their next flight leaves, and a host of other factors that may increase the overall price of the ticket, but will assist in retaining a bit of sanity. I know that there are some people who will change flights five or six times to shave off $50 to $100 dollars. I, personally think there are other areas to shave money, rather than having to deplane a half a dozen times to save $50, but that's each individuals personal decision.
- Depending on where you are visiting, you may need a rental car, or you may not. When traveling abroad, say to Europe (especially for first timers), I strongly discourage renting cars; however, for those brave souls who have dreamt about tooling around the Amalfi Coast, or the South of France - they will not be discouraged. Make sure to read the terms and conditions closely, because renting a car abroad is not like it is in the United States. For those who aren't renting transportation, it's imperative to have a good map of the buses, rail systems, metros, etc. Also, here is a little tip I learned. When you are traveling, always take a few of the hotels business cards with you, so if you are in a place where you don't speak the language well, you can give the taxi driver the card so they know where to take you.
- Proximity to everything may or may not be important. Some people go away to - go away. Others want to be in the middle of it all. This may be another item you factor into consideration when selecting your accommodations.
- Tours are important to consider, because some of the popular ones sell out fast, so it is wise to pre-purchase some tour packages that are "must sees" before you arrive. Also, when visiting certain countries, make sure to check the days and times that the museums, art galleries, etc, are open, because a lot of them are closed on certain days. I know a lot of people have images of being herded like cattle in and around a country, but a lot of the smaller tour operators prefer smaller, more intimate groups. I work with some who specialize in certain things, and they prefer to have groups at 4-10 people. This allows for more interaction, and easier navigation. Also, another little tip I recommend. If you are going to a city that has a Hop on / Hop off tour bus, you should do that on the first or second day of your arrival. It gives a great lay of the land, so you can scope out places at a leisurely pace and not feel rushed. It's not a guided tour, so you are on your own; yet, you have the benefit of the driver who is making recommendations and telling stories while he/she is driving.
- Food. Yes, you knew it was only a matter of time before I brought up this important component. I am one who researches the heck outta' where I'm going to eat, but, I also retain some spontaneity, in that, I will stop in to any place that looks clean, interesting and engaging.
*Photo taken by That Chick Té