| Trip Planner
Tips and Ideas to make your Travel Planning easy and Hassle Free
Today, travel can be a hectic, stressful, & tiresome experience – the opposite of why one decides to go on holiday. Here is a series of travel tips and insights intended to make your journey smoother and more trouble free. They’re organized in sections which explore the various aspects of travel ranging from choosing a destination, to planning an itinerary, booking flights and accommodations and navigating your way through airports.
Because many folks travel infrequently, they overlook some of the things one can do to make their travel less of a hassle. Hopefully you will find a tid-bit of two here which makes your own journey easier.
Planning your trip
· Establish a rough budget for your trip. Are you looking for a cheap/inexpensive trip or are you looking to splurge? Knowing approximately what you want to spend helps you to outline the scope & character of your trip.
· Take some time to research your destination. Your trip will be so much more meaningful if you know something about the place, the people, and the sights before you get there.
· Pick up a travel guidebook, which describes your destination and details the sights, activities, museums and dining opportunities. Better to know before you get there when the prime season begins & ends or which venues require special reservations.
· Surf the web for web sites, which have organized information, and message forums where you can post questions and read about the experiences and opinions of other travellers.
· If you’re visiting a foreign country, pick up a pocket-sized phrase book which gives you a few basic things to say (hello, thank you, where is … etc.). It might come in handy when shopping or dining. You don’t need to be an expert linguist, just someone who can say a few polite things, which might create some goodwill when you’re lost or hungry.
· It’s a hard call, now-a-days to say when the best time to book your travel is. Best advice is don’t wait too long searching for those “cheap seats”.
· Airfares are generally rising with each passing month. Don’t expect miracle prices with today’s airfares. Book a flight, which comes close to matching your budget.
· Keep in mind that fees and penalties apply for most airline tickets if you need to cancel or change an itinerary. Think and plan ahead carefully before booking that plane trip.
· Room accommodations may be booked 50 weeks in advance at most hotels. If you find a better deal later on, you can most usually cancel your hotel reservation at no cost.
· Be aware that some highly discounted accommodation rates do indeed have restrictions/limitations. Always read the terms and conditions of every reservation before confirming it.
· Balance the importance of cost versus location. Sometimes the best accommodation is not the cheapest, but rather the one, which situates you close to key attractions or has good proximity to public transit. Many booking sites help you find the best location for your needs.
· Some folks feel more comfortable purchasing trip insurance. Decide for yourself, but always read the T&C before purchasing.
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A few days before departure:
· Make a categorized list of every item you intend to bring with you. You may need to do this list a couple of times as you rethink things, but it makes you aware of what you do and do not need to bring with you – remember, you are the “mule” who is going to carry this stuff.
· Also make a “to do” list for tasks like cancelling the mail, letting the police or neighbours know you will away and when you will return.
· Make copies, of your passports, driver’s licenses, flight and hotel itineraries. Remember to safeguard your identity documents.
· Start to organize, and set aside some of the clothing and toiletries that you will bring along. This will help to make packing a less arduous task.
· Notify your credit card company if you’re travelling abroad so that when those charges start rolling in from Italy, your card is not denied in the store.
The night before
· Take out you check list and your “to do” list and move through them as you pack and organize your bags. Last minute changes always pop up.
· Be sure to set aside a change of underwear or a bathing suit etc. in your carry-on bag just in case the baggage gods are not very kind and your flight arrives, but your checked bags do not.
· Likewise if checking more than one bag, be sure to divide your clothing between them. This way if one bag turns up missing, everyone has something to wear while awaiting the missing bag.
· Think long and hard about what you are packing. This is the time to decide if you really need those extra shoes.
· If your bags seem too heavy, weigh them. Remember that airlines do have weight restrictions and they are rigorously enforcing them. A few European airlines are especially restrictive. If in doubt, weigh your bag and check with your airline.
· Use on-line check in (OLCI) to check in with your airline and to confirm seat assignments. This way you need only check your baggage at the airport.
The Big Day arrives
· Go on-line and check your airline’s flight status prior to leaving the house. This is especially necessary if there’s already bad weather, which may be affecting arrivals and departures.
· It’s your last chance to be sure that you have your wallet, money, and passport before you leave the house.
· Also run through the house to make sure you’ve turned off computers, irons, faucets and anything else the kids can touch & leave on or open and that you’ve got all doors and windows locked (don’t laugh, crazy stuff happens – Viajeguy once had to deal with a leaking water heater on the way out the door, so it was worth the look).
· Leave for the airport with plenty of time to spare. This means that you want to present yourself at the check-in counter 3 hours in advance for an international flight and 2 hours prior for domestic or internal flights.
· Keep in mind that airlines have their own policy about how late you can check in for your flight. Restrictions are tighter for international travel, especially in Europe. Also be aware that airlines accept checked luggage up to a certain time before departure. If you present your self with too little time prior to your flight departure, you may still make your flight, but your checked baggage may not (and the airline is not responsible for delivering it to you gratis).
At the Airport
· Keep your essential documents (passport, ID, record locater numbers) within easy reach for check-in and security. If you’re a family, have one individual hold these documents and dole them out when needed.
· Hopefully you used OLCI to ease your burden at the airline kiosks.
· Don’t get caught up in the confusion at the counter. Be sure that you get your passport/ID back, that you have your boarding passes, and that you have your checked baggage receipts (I like to immediately place my baggage receipt in my wallet).
· Gather your party and get organized with boarding passes etc before you head over to security screening where you will need your boarding pass and ID to join the queue.
· Remember that you may not carry any liquids (soda, water, juice) through security, so this is the time to have the kids drink up as you hit the security queues.
· As you wait in the queue, remove loose change, cell phones, & any metal objects from your pockets. Slip them into your carry on bag. Fewer objects to worry about during the security walk through means less stress and less distraction for you.
· Remember that strict limits exist for liquids/gels in carry-on baggage. Place these toiletry items in a zip lock bag, which can be removed during x-ray screening.
· If you’re carrying a lap top computer, remove it from its case and place it into a tray at the screening queue.
· Keep your eyes open to see if folks are required to remove their shoes before passing through security. In the United States, this is common practice, but it varies in other countries. In Spain for example, you most usually keep your shoes on, but they want you to remove your cinturón (belt).
· Keep your wits about you after walking through security screening. Keep an eye on bags, lap tops etc. as you retrieve your belongings and repack laptops etc. Make sure that you have your wallet, boarding passes and passports when you leave security
· Find a seat and relax as you wait for boarding to be called. Now is the time to purchase a water bottle, a magazine, or a sandwich.
· OK, you got to the airport, made it through check-in and security, and you’ve endured sitting and waiting as airport chaos moves around you.
· Many people will use this time to pick up a bottle of water to carry on. Not a bad idea since the cabins have dry air, which can be dehydrating on a longer flight.
· Usually the airline begins the boarding process some 30 to 40 minutes to posted departure time (you can find boarding time printed on your boarding pass)
· Organize yourself one last time before preparing to join the boarding queues.
· If you brought an I-Pod or a book, now is the time to remove it from your bag and slip them into a pocket. The idea here is that you want to get onto the plane, find your seat, and quickly hoist your carry-on into the overhead bin and take your seat all in one motion. (Nothing makes Viajeguy madder than the knuckle-head who walks into the cabin and decides to go rooting through his bag for all of the things he should have out and in hand prior to boarding while folks wait in the aisle to get past).
· Most airlines board by zones or seat numbers. Don’t push the queue. Check your zone/seat number and wait until you hear your zone called out. If the folks in your party have different boarding zones, they are allowed to board together as a group.
That’ it! You’ve made it through the process and you’re finally on your way. Hopefully some of these hints have proven helpful to you and make your journey just a bit easier.
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