Published on October 1, 2019
5 minute read
Travel guide, part zero – Booking
Tripophobia – The fear of not having any travel trips currently booked.
I really love to travel. I also get overly excited when I have an upcoming trip and I need to plan out every little detail of it.
If you were to ask my family, friends, colleagues and random acquaintances, they would all roll their eyes and nod in confirmation. Partly because I try to get involved if they are planning trips as well. But inappropriate reactions aside, when you're planning a trip there are many things to think about. As your travel frequency increases, you come to realise that things you thought you'd barely notice make an impact. If you like to play it casual and are an infrequent traveller, you might find the information here overbearing – there is nothing wrong with winging it. But I'm sure you'd still like to not overpay for your flight or your hotel.
Location, location, location
Sometimes you pick it, sometimes it picks you (if you get accepted to speak at a conference). If you are going on vacation, I assume you'll have sufficient time to explore and sightsee, and if you are attending a meeting or a conference, just a few additional days of padding go a long way.
Either way, this is the entry point of your planning. And your planning should start with getting acquainted with the location, people and their culture. It is impossible to cover all the reasons, but suffice to say that we are all different and as global guests we have the responsibility to show all the respect our hosts ask of us. If a trip to a particular location would cause you to compromise your beliefs, virtues, faith or any other relevant aspect, skip the trip. No harm no foul.
If you are intent on going, check whether you can chew that gum on the subway or if greetings include physical contact or if hugs are forbidden. It might seem minor, but what we might find normal, other cultures might find extremely rude and offensive. Luckily there is an overabundance of information online and this is usually not much of an effort.
Once you've read up on what is expected of you in terms of behaviour, you should get as much information on how your safety will be affected there. For a list of most common threats and issues, as well as recommendation on how to minimise them, review your destination on safearound.com. The best part of going on trips is reliving the memories, and for that you need to get back alive, so this is always your first priority.
Once you've know all you need to stay safe, you can compile a list of must-see things the location has to offer. It would be a shame not to seize the opportunity, right? There are so many services that offer top picks for any provided city in the world, so be prepared to spend some time perusing sites like getyourguide.com. You will either tailor your trip to what you want to see, or you will pick attractions you can fit in your busy schedule. Compiling a list will help you determine your budget as well, because while some attractions are free, other can have a fairly steep price.
All other steps of your planning depend on the length of your stay. From personal experience, I would always advise to plan to arrive at least one extra day before the event you plan to attend, because flight delays are a reality and you can only function so long without sufficient, quality rest.
All means of transportation have a certain charm, but among planes, trains and automobiles, planes are my personal favourite!
Again, a handful of sites offer you a comprehensive overview of all possible connections and prices, but my go-to choice is google.com/flights. Simple, intuitive and effective. Also, a calendar with prices per each date for your selection will be of great service to those who are a little more flexible with their dates and want to save some money. If you can't find what you like, you have your Expedia, Cheapair, CheapOair, etc.
When selecting flights, you should always aim to arrive at your destination as early in local time as possible, because you want to make use of the rest of the day as much as you can. This is especially important when you are going west (gaining time), because you want to be tired at the end of the day and sleep through the night, minimising the jet lag effects. If you're going east, which is less fun, aim for flights that will arrive at the destination sometime during the evening, or in the morning. In the first case stay awake during all your flights and you'll be ready for bed by the time you get there, and in the other case you can do your best to sleep through the night during the flight, but not all of us can do that.
Just like with flights, there are many sites providing great service when choosing the best lodging option for you, most prominent one being booking.com. Now there are plenty options to choose from depending on your personal preferences so I cannot be too specific here. But I will tell you this – if your selected booking has a rating below 8.5 and no pictures of the rooms, try to pick something better. There are exceptions, for instance a score of 8.2 in New York will most likely be much worse than 8.0 in Dubai, but both might be just fine. Also, if the number of stars of a hotel is in great disproportion to the score it has (four star hotel with a grade of 7.8) then this should be a red flag. By the way, "vintage and charming" sometimes means "decrepit and lifeless". This is somewhere you can rest and be comfortable far away from home, so it needs to be decent and comfortable. You typically want your hotel to be as close to the event venue as possible, or near the city centre if sightseeing is your priority. Sometimes prices do not allow this – in this case you should try to find lodging near any type of public transport, as it will make your movements much simpler.
Check whether your hotel has an included breakfast option, as it might be cheaper included than paid separately on site. If you need to rent a car, then check whether the hotel has free private parking, because if it doesn't the additional charge might be better spent on a more pricey but better equipped hotel. It should be considered as a default, but WI-FI is obviously a must.
My suggestion would be to remain flexible with lodging and select the option that has a free cancellation. One example where this comes in handy (other than being forced to cancel the whole trip due to unforeseen reasons) is that sometimes hotels drop prices for any given reason, and rechecking your hotel two weeks later might save you a lot of money if your rebook the same room.
Sometimes shifting your whole trip, or one of the points just a few days early or late can make a huge difference money-wise. If this is the case, and you can spare the time, check whether this unexpected monetary gain can be seamlessly spent on the same number of additional days in the hotel, so you have more time to explore and enjoy the city.
Once you've selected your flights and booked your lodging, you can sit back and relax until it's time to pack and go to the airport, but that will be covered in a different post.