There is always a first time for everything and how do you travel like a pro when you’ve never done it before. Here are my suggestions and tips:
TO TOUR OR NOT TO TOUR?
Whatever age bracket you belong to, if you have not travelled long haul up until this point and if you are a single traveller, book a tour through a travel agent. There are a great range of tour companies offering you a number of styles and budgets so it is a no brainer trying to do it yourself. Tours with single night stays are a killer and you are better off doing something with two or three night stays in each place.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
While you take on board the information given by the travel agent, please do your own research to identify your interests and travel wish list. I often used to tell my customers that there is a lot of pleasure to be had in the planning phase. If you are doing a tour there are a number of optional extras the tour company offers. It is good to study these in the comfort of your own home prior to your trip and circle the ones you may be interested in doing. This will also help you narrow down additional expenses for experiences while on holiday.
Once you have decided on your trip and paid for your tour, decide if you wish to have a two or three day city stop over enroute or fly straight through. A two or three day city stopover is great because it is only the cost of your accommodation which is the expense part, to see if you like this city as a potential holiday destination in the future or not.
READ THE FINE PRINT
Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of your airfares and tours prior to making a deposit or any payment. Changes can be costly! Once you have deposited for your tour, I recommend getting adequate comprehensive travel insurance too at the same time. You cannot afford to travel if you cannot afford travel insurance.
PASSPORTS & VISAS
Once the elements of your holiday are falling into place, make sure your passport is in order. Check if any visas or vaccinations are needed. Budget on how much money you wish to spend and start saving your spending money if you don’t already have saved up.
DON’T PACK THE KITCHEN SINK
Pack light – even if you are going away for four weeks and just because the airline gives you generous baggage allowance, try to keep your suitcase under 20 kilos. You should be able to lift your suitcase a few times without dislocating your shoulder!! Please note that hotel rooms particularly in Europe are tiny and you want to be able to open your suitcase and walk around in your room. Make a copy of the photo page of your passport and put it at the bottom of your suitcase – comes in handy just in case you lose it!
Take layers (T shirts, cardigans and jackets) and just in case you need to attend a formal function /event, take one good dressy outfit or something you can mix and match to create a dressy going out look.
JUST IN CASE
Continuing with the theme of what else to pack – I like to take a small pocket torch, some spare shopping bags to put your unwashed laundry, an empty drink bottle (I normally boil the electric kettle the night before and let water cool overnight before filling my drink bottle) and also adequate supplies of dried fruit and nut (so I don’t get hangry!)
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
If you are changing money, do that at an authorised money exchanger. Be discrete and do not advertise you have cash on you. When you withdraw cash from an ATM, make sure the ATM is well lit preferably in a secure building. Be fully present and while most are honest, there could just be one baddie to ruin your well planned holiday.
Leave your precious jewellery including watch at home. Think about whether you are going to use the free Wi-Fi or pre-pay for roaming. Don’t be caught unawares.
Finally, this is your holiday. The more effort you put into planning, the more success you will have as you are prepared for every contingent. Don’t fret about things you can’t change and tell yourself if you didn’t experience you were not to know whether you like it or not. Enjoy.