Plan before you pull out those travel suitcases

Are you a frequent traveler? Have you been reading a lot of articles on traveling? Are you planning to visit the same place the third time? Well, if you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you need not read this article. But, if you are shifting through the pages of a travel magazine trying to decide the destination of your long awaited vacation, then this article will be really helpful for you.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep…and miles to go before I sleep”! How true this statement and how less we are able to apply it in our lives. We spend time doing everything else except that which we want to do – relax! It is essential for us – for our minds, our bodies, our soul, our relationships. But we wait for that one golden moment when we have the “time” and “money”.

While “time” and “money” is key, with a little bit of planning in advance, these factors don’t act as obstacles anymore. You have your holiday calendar at the beginning of the year, you know your leave balance, you know your spouse’, you know about your child’s school calendar; so even if you are planning to take a Christmas break, plan in January itself. That gives you “time”. As far as money is concerned, a holiday during the “holiday season” might be a pinch in the pocket but if you are booking hotels and flights so much in advance, you can always get it a bit cheaper.

Now, what? Are you still thinking about other hurdles? Well, there will be till you roll your sleeves and get down to work. When I say “work”, I mean “plan”. A good, hassle-free vacation requires a lot of intelligent planning. I love to travel and thankfully, so does my husband. But he leaves this “planning” part for me and I leave the “money” part for him! Just joking!

But truly speaking, no matter how exotic the place maybe, you can enjoy a vacation only if you are not in distress due to your unpreparedness. Ofcourse, if you decide to travel along with a travel company, then you may be relieved from half your stress, but not all. A travel company will definitely take care of the itinerary, visa and flight tickets (in some cases), and hotels and charge a hefty amount in lieu of it (obviously, what were you thinking?) But these are just the structural part of your travel, what about the other things?

Also, to me, I like to travel independently, because it is more economical, it is absolutely my discretion to choose the itinerary. For example, a Europe tour by a famous travel company lets you spend a day in Italy and an evening in Frankfurt. Are you kidding me? Do you plan to “cover” Italy in one day? Forget “Italy”, you won’t even be able to see the whole of Sistine Chapel in one day, leave Vatican City, leave Rome, leave Italy. What about Naples, Pisa, Venice? Do you want to pay another visit to Italy? Most likely never!

So, what must you do? “Plan” as I told you and plan in advance. It’s a lot of fun to do this planning, you know. It’s not at all a hassle. Involve your fellow travelers in this planning and you will see that your vacation has begun much before the travel date. What are the things that you should plan for? Here’s a list of 5 things to help you with this process:

Flight

When we are booking our flight tickets, obviously we tend to choose the one that is least expensive. But is that all we should look at? For domestic flights, you should also check out for things like whether the carrier allows check-in luggage or not. Some tickets are cheaper but watch out for the crossed baggage sign. It means you can’t carry check in bags with you. Even if you like to travel light, there maybe some essential items which cannot be carried in the hand luggage. So it’s better to buy a ticket which allows checking in luggage. Is it refundable? Some flight tickets are nonrefundable. Although a refund involves a lot of cancellation fees, still you can get back some amount as compared to non-refundable tickets where you have to forego the entire amount in case of any changes. In international flights, you should also check out for things like where is the layover. Would you require a transit visa for the country where there would be a stopover? What time will you reach the destination? It is better to start at an uncomfortable time from your homeland rather than reaching a new place at an unearthly hour.

Hotels

What kind of hotel do you want to stay? Most of the travelers such as me are constrained on budget. So, instead of spending money on a five-star hotel, we choose a 3-star one. The remaining amount can always be used for extra shopping or additional sightseeing. But more than the star-label there are certain aspects you need to consider. The primary one being the location of the hotel. The hotel maybe situated near the airport but you need to access the airport only once more while leaving. Would it be better if you chose a hotel near the city center? If your return flight is very early, will the hotel provide an airport transfer? Do you need a complimentary breakfast? Do they have WiFi? If the hotel is charging a hefty amount for its proximity to the seaside, can it provide you with a room with a view? Weigh these options while booking.

Itinerary

Even if you travel with a tour company, there would be some days when you will be on your own. So have a mental list of all the things that you may want to see on your trip. Consider the amount of travel that would be involved. Plan your day so that you see the important things first (remember the “importance” is as per your scale only) so that should there be any turn of events like a downpour or you get tired, you don’t miss out on seeing what you wanted to see the most. Be aware of timings when monuments get closed to visitors. If possible book tickets are online so that you don’t spend hours in the queue trying to book the entry ticket.

Climate

What time of the year is it and what is the climate of the place at that time. November maybe cooler in the northern part of India, but do you know that Chennai is warm but it rains at that time? Have you packed your umbrella? While you are maybe familiar with the climate in India, international locations require a good deal of study before you decide. I was told that May is warm in France so I had packed some light jackets but the “warm” turned out to be 12 degrees and nine when it rained. So instead of sightseeing, I first went to buy a jacket for myself in Paris.

Food

Are you a foodie? Well most of us call ourselves foodie when we are surrounded by the food we are comfortable with. What happens in an exotic locale with out-of-the-way food? Have you visited Nagaland and tried Akini Chokibo(snail meat and Perilla seeds? You may not only need to be a foodie but also be a braveheart and adventurous enough to be ready to explore local cuisines. Sometimes we may not even be prepared for some tastes. Or our digestive system may not be prepared for accepting certain foods. All my life I have believed that I love seafood. When I was in Greece, I was served Octopus. My thrill lasted till I took a look at the plate. Believe me, it was just the octopus tentacles sliced like cucumber and seasoned with wine! Eww!! My husband had a good laugh and promptly removed the badge of being a “foodie” from my lapel. I was disheartened. But these are once-in-a-while kind of situations. What you need to be prepared for is that you should be aware of the local cuisines and availability of lifesavers such as McDonald’s (if you are not such a braveheart). Pack things like cookies, crackers, energy bars with you so that you don’t miss your carbohydrate requirements. Travelling requires energy too, remember? Also, sometimes the itinerary can be so packed that it doesn’t allow you time for lunch. In such situations also, these munchies can save you.

Keep your luggage minimal. You don’t need a matching pair of shoes with every dress nor do you need to show off your new playsuit in the freezing Alps. Be rational, think about the above five broad aspects when you are planning your tour. In some places, it is better not to look too touristy to avoid drawing unnecessary attention.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Don’t be Jack. Do play and play safe. Vacation is important for rejuvenating your senses. Don’t let any situation spoil the fun. Hence the preparedness. Hope this helps you. Have fun.

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