Summer is full blast upon us, bringing with it all the incipient fantasies of escaping to cooler climes, whether in #India or #abroad.
Now ‘foreign travel’ is always the ‘neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’ kinda thing with us, and why not? Its not something most of us can traipse off to on a whim. Frankly, not unless you are a Mallya type or our own Priyanka Chopra who seems to live in a First Class cabin on assorted jet planes!
I am a self confessed Travel planning junkie! My holiday planning starts well, well in advance, so that by this time I am swimming in an absolutely delish sea of secret anticipation for D(eparture ) Day! I love my annual jaunt abroad, and gamely take the friendly & not so friendly jibes about it. Its not easy or very affordable to do as a Govt officer, but I make my hard earned rupee go as far as possible, with meticulous research. You could say i’m a dogged bloodhound when scouring for the best, the most value for money vacation deal! In any case a recent study by Cornell University has proved what I, in my zen wisdom have known and practiced so religiously for years. That travel and experiences bring you more happiness, and more lasting happiness than spending money on material objects.
So here are some tips .. just to ignite your inner TRAVEL GOD/DESS … and get you started!
Like everything in life, timing is everything. Last Minute Deals are in my opinion not for us middle class Indians, atleast for travel abroad. Why? Because we usually have a ton of paperwork to put together before those damn visa applications. In my case, govt permission, leave sanction, forms to fill with past travel history, NOC’s from two different Colleges ( where the offspring are apparently getting an education) plus the usual air tickets, insurance, bank statements, Income tax returns, proof of bookings.. phew.. did miss something? Also, each visa needs atleast One month to come through ( doesn’t matter what the vfs site says!)
So if we can’t make it for the last minute deals why not go for the early bird discounts? Thats what I invariably do.. my planning for a summer holiday usually starts in September of the year before! 😊 And it usually gets me amazing deals..Like some years ago, i booked a 7 night cruise to Alaska on a premium cruise line for my family of 4 for all of ₹150000 ( about $2400). And for which the comparable quote from a tour company was ₹150000 per person. Yeah!
2. Timing Again
When you travel has a huge impact on costs too. High season is more expensive & low season might not suit our holidays. But, Every place has a ‘shoulder’ season. Basically just before or just after the main or high season. If we talk about that Alaska cruise, just by way of illustration, May and September would be the shoulder. Prices would start to climb from June and peak in July and August.
So if you book for May or even early June you will get prices that are far cheaper than the high season ones. Thats what we did.
This is true of practically every place in the world. And every type of travel.Check it out.
Its now fashionable to call everything you want to do a Bucket List but seriously, Wishlist is good enough. Dream a bit. Where, above all, would you want to visit. If you had just enough money for One trip? Dont let fund crisis kill your dream even before it gleams in your eyes & imagination.
Ideally, give yourself 2-3 options. I know- thats in total contradiction to the One trip stuff above.. but we got to be pragmatic. Pragmatic Dreamers. To make it happen.
4. Your Travel Style
Do you prefer the ease of an escorted group holiday or the satisfaction of a DIY holiday?
Both have their positives & negatives and what you decide to do really does depend on your travel style. Some can’t bear the thought of being marshalled each morning and fast tracked through myriad sights each day. While others find it makes their vacation seamless & without a care since it involves no logistical management on their part.
So before you do ANY planning you and your family need to discuss and decide which is the way for you.
5. Goood Internet Connection
This is a key requirement. ( bad pun alert!) Because New Age Ninjas are all about keyboards & data plans & chasing dreams online.
You can only find travel treasure troves if you spend time trawling the internet high seas. And #Google is a fair pier to start cruising with..😊
6. Bookmarks & Apps
Make a #Travel folder on your smartphone or home computer or both.
You will need to visit certain sites repeatedly. For example I highly recommend the following ( in no particular order, and No, none of these have paid me a dime or a Rupee- though i wouldn’t mind if they did! Anybody listening?)
#Tripadvisor.com -for reviews of Things to Do, Hotels, Restaurants etc in practically every place on earth by real travellers. Great resource to get the lowdown on anything & also to get valuable tips from those who have been there.
#Skyscanner.com -for finding and comparing air fares globally
#Booking.com- for hotel rates & easy bookings.
#CruiseCritic.com – if you are looking to cruise this is a pretty fantastic site with ship reviews, itineraries and port info.
#Xe.com – for all trip planning abroad this gives you instant currency conversion so you know what fits in your budget. Super convenient.
#GoogleMaps- for figuring what is where and how you can get there so that it all ties up!
#RometoRio.com – for a rough & quick connectivity guide- it gives you reasonably accurate train/bus/taxi options with prices between places.
#Airbnb.com -has caught everyone’s fancy lately-for non hotel stays that are often cheaper and more fun. But, there are other sites- equally good, and even better. Check out these –
#vrbo.com, #homeaway.com #holidaylettings.com
Also make a town or place specific search-Rome flat rentals for example- it will throw up a wealth of local providers.
7. Get a Credit Card
You cannot even think of travelling abroad or before that, planning your travel without an internationally valid and acceptable credit card. Not only will you require it for a host of bookings beforehand but you will also need the comfort of plastic money as large parts of the world really do prefer its use. It also saves you the hassle of buying a ton of foreign currency, which if it is not #Dollar, #Euro or #Pound,can be difficult to procure. Its worthwhile to compare the costs and benefits that various banks offer, and you can actually take a card with a bank even if its not your regular/main bank. Just open a new account with the bank in question if they have- 1.low joining fees,
2. low annual recurring fees ( for both of these zero fees is the ideal of course!),
3. multiple associate rewards/ discounts -whether its for fuel spends, or air tickets or even fashion or grocery shopping, and
4. a generous reward points programme.
There are also dedicated airlines credit cards- like JET-HDFC etc but you need to see if the potentially higher fees are worth it to you.
8. Don’t be Afraid
In India we tend to be suspicious of online deals. And paying in advance for an offer. And its fair to be wary and careful. Generally, you can safely make a 100% advance payment to well known airlines, train and bus companies, hotel chains and cruise lines.In fact that is the only way to get the benefit of great advance fares. As far as independent transport and tour services are concerned, you should never pay 100% in advance. and do not trust any service provider that asks for the same.Either an email confirmation is enough or at best 25-50% advance.
In all bookings read the cancellation policy very carefully. Do not hesitate to ask for clarifications if you have any doubts. Do not be afraid of trying politely to ask for a discount for advance online booking. (the thrill of bargaining transcends the limitations of virtual reality!) Do keep a receipt of all payments and the entire trail mail in your mailbox. I create a NEW Folder each year with a short label ( Baltics 2015 for example) where I move all correspondence and booking info regarding that trip so I don’t have to ferret OR SCAN my ENTIRE email every time.
This really is a beginners list.. and you will quickly find many of your own resources. However, in general I do find that traveller reviews, blogs as well as the official tourist site for most cities and countries are a good starting point. The more you read the more it will excite your imagination and clarify what it is that is that you YOU want to discover on your trip!
So what are you waiting for? Do it now!
#Travel #Planning #Abroad #worldtravel #bucketlist #cheaptravel #Budgettrips #Europe #Alaska #US #India #Wishlists