Travel tips for planning your vacation
Here are some travel tips to help you to research, plan and book your next trip.
- Use a Good Travel Agent. It can take a while to find a good travel agent. You need somebody who understands your requirements. They should remember that because they had a great time at a particular hotel, it does not mean that you will. Be careful as some agents work to gain incentives. The recommended hotel may give the agent a free holiday.
- Brainstorm Your Trip Planning. You shouldn’t worry about the cost at first as this will only restrict you. Write down everything that you want to see, do, eat and drink. Of course, budgets are very important. It’s quicker to find a holiday that matches your requirements instead of finding one to match a price limit.
- Health. Vaccinations may be required when visiting certain countries or taking part in activities. Websites can be a good source of information. But you should always consult your GP or visit a good travel clinic. When using a GP, some jabs are free and some need a private prescription. A travel clinic will charge for all your jabs.
- Passports. Some countries have a rule that there is at least 6 months validity left. Others need a blank page for the on-arrival visa. Check that your passport meets all the requirements.
- Visas. For some countries it will be necessary for tourists get a visa. This check is not something to leave until the last minute. Some are easier to get than others. You will be sent back on the next available flight if you try to enter a country without a required visa. It is down to the traveller to get these and not the travel company, although they should tell you if you need one or not. Check using the relevant website.
Biggest travel tip is to be flexible
- Thursday, Friday or Saturday? If flying away for a long weekend it is cheaper to fly out on Saturday instead of Thursday or Friday.
- Ignore ‘Price From’ Ads. These rarely have any relationship to the final cost. They are usually based on low season and full room occupancy.
- Days or Nights? When you are comparing prices for holidays check to see if the duration is in days or nights. Days may include travelling time. Nights may include flying overnight and not nights in a hotel. An example is an ad for a trip to Boston. The headline said ‘6 days’ but the trip only included 4 nights at the hotel.
- Check your government’s travel advice. Here you will find advice on crime, safety and other useful tourist information. There may be warnings not to travel, which will mean that you won’t get travel insurance.
- Use Online Forums. People love to talk about their holidays and help others to enjoy their time away. Forums are websites where people offer their opinion and respond to cries for help. Questions may be from locals or tourists that have visited there.
- Always double check. If you are unsure of a source of information when researching your own trip, always double check.
Another travel tip: Don’t be surprised by the weather
- The Weather. You should always check the average weather conditions before booking. The information supplied by the travel company could be misleading. Use a detailed website to check. Also, look for seasons of adverse weather conditions, such as cyclones and hurricanes.
- Have an experience holiday as well as a relaxing one. Split your break to try something new. This could be a safari, mountain climbing, walking through the desert with goats. Try something out of the ordinary. You can still relax on the beach for a few days before you go home.
- Vary your Daily Plans. If you are touring or exploring, vary the itinerary so that you are not busy every day and that you have time to relax.
- Don’t Forget Your Own Needs. Travelling with others will mean compromise, especially if travelling with children. But, this is your break too, so get some ‘me time’.
- Use Tourist Offices. This could be their overseas offices and local ones. They will be able to give you up-to-date information on any events or occasions that may enhance your trip. Of course, this might also make you delay it if it’s going to be too busy.
- Choose the Hotel, not the Star Rating. Hotel stars or the local version are not always interchangeable around the world. Also, why stay in a 5 star hotel which may have loads of facilities if the 4 star next door has all you need. A 5 star hotel with a golf course does not mean better food or service than a 4 star hotel without a golf course.
- Use Hotel Review Websites. But READ every review and don’t go by the rating. Somebody may complain about something that you find acceptable.
Weird Travel Tip? Is that hairstyle really back in fashion?
- Use the hotel website. This will have far more information than a tour operator’s description. It may even include guides and suggestions for the local area, how to get there and special offers. When using a hotel website, check the pictures to see if you can get a rough idea when they were taken. It may have been when the hotel was built, or when it had its last makeover 20 years ago.
- Contact the Hotel Direct. This can be for examples of their menu or for suggestions for things to do. If the hotel has enough notice they may be able to cook your favourites. A slow response will let you know what level of service to expect if you book.
- Search for Adverse News Stories. By using search engines such as Google or Bing you may find news stories about the hotel. This will pick up complaints and problems that may not be on any review website. Such as investigations by TV shows such as BBC’s Watchdog. As an example use TripAdvisor to check ‘Holiday Village Turkey Sarigerme’. Then Google ‘Holiday Village Turkey Sarigerme Watchdog’…
Who will be your new neighbors?
- Use Google Maps. This can check the hotel’s neighbours. An overhead photo may show a quarry, business centre or a waste ground. The map option may show if a nightclub, police station, airport or hospital is next door
- Google Maps can also help to find restaurants, clubs and pubs, etc. in the area close to your hotel
- Book Before You Leave. When you have found restaurants book them before you leave to avoid disappointment. Remember to ask for special requests
- Protection. Check how your money is protected before paying. You need to know what will happen if the tour operator, travel agent or hotel goes bust before you’ve finished your vacation.
- Cancellation. Before booking ensure that you understand all the cancellation policies. This is very important if you put your own trip together. For example, if your flight is cancelled, you may still have to pay for your hotel if there is a 100% late cancellation fee.
Is it really worth saving a few dollars on your flight?
- Flight Research. There are review websites for flights as well as hotels. So check to see what previous passengers have thought about their flight. It may be worth choosing a more expensive carrier to ensure that your flight isn’t too stressful.
- Flight Times. Fly as early as possible as delays snowball throughout the day. The earlier the flight, the better the chance of missing delays or only having a minimal one. It follows on that you should avoid the last flight home if possible. If this one is cancelled it’ll be a day or two before you finally get to leave.
- Stopovers. If you are flying an indirect route, think about an extended stopover to explore somewhere new.
- Connecting Airport. Also if you will be flying indirect research the connecting airport. You may be able to take a quick city tour, book a hotel room for a few hours, use a gym or do some shopping.
- Private Transfer. If you are on a package holiday, book a private transfer to the hotel and back to the airport. This will save a lot of time hanging around for others and will speed up check-in at the hotel and at the airport.
- Travel Insurance. Always get travel insurance and use a broker. Get them to explain all the small print and what is and isn’t covered. A ‘one size fits all’ policy may be very expensive. A specific policy may work out a lot cheaper in the end.
Finally getting to book the vacation: A very important travel tip
Only book flights or package holidays when you have everybody’s passport in front of you. It can be very expensive to correct somebody’s name so that it matches the name on the passport. Is Sue ‘Sue’ or ‘Susan’ or ‘John’, ‘Jon’ or ‘Jonathon’?