Friends have often expressed to me their disdain for preparing for a trip. Whether it’s solo travel or independent travel (with friends or family but not through an organized tour), the details can be overwhelming. Some fear booking the wrong dates for plane tickets with no recourse once they’ve hit the submit button online, while others don’t have the time it takes to do the research to find the deals.
For me, however, I LOVE planning for my adventures. And, I believe that this enthusiasm can be learned. It’s simply a matter of getting organized and knowing what steps are involved. Following these tips will help relieve the stress and doubt that comes with trip preparation for your solo or independent travel. You can then really enjoy the process!
Make your list and check it twice!
1. Make a list of all the reservations you’ll need in advance including plane tickets, car rental, hotel(s) and restaurants.
2. Do a little research. Find out which airlines provide the lowest fares. Keep your eyes open for deals advertised in the travel section of major newspapers. Sign up for alerts from the airlines so you’ll know when tickets go on sale.
3. Don’t wait until the last minute to book. Not only are you almost guaranteed a better price if you book early (regardless of whether it’s a car rental or a plane ticket) but there will be more available options and less stress if you can get organized and confirmed in advance. Many airlines, car rental agencies and hotels will honor a lower price if you book and then the price drops. It will be up to you, however, to check back and request a refund or lower rate.
4. Use an online comparison site like Farecast which provides a trend analysis of airline fares over time. No guarantees, but when you’re in the planning stages you can determine if and when the prices might drop on your flights.
5. Book your first night’s hotel stay in each city. This can usually be done in-country at an internet cafÃ© if you don’t know your full schedule ahead of time.
6. Make arrangements to have a taxi, shuttle or private driver pick you up from the airport, train station, etc. You won’t have to haggle with local touts clamoring for your business.
7. Pay for large expenses on a credit card that gives you mileage.
8. Sign up for a partner program or two so that you can get benefits from your hotel or car rental stay.
9. At least a week prior to your departure, let the packing begin. Start putting items aside that will end up in your luggage. Pack light and use compression bags to save space or organizers to keep like-items packed together.
10. During the days leading up to your trip, start gathering together and printing out your reservation confirmations and directions to all of your destinations. If you’re traveling where English is not the first language, write down a few phrases that will help your taxi or bus driver help you locate your first night’s accommodation (which you have wisely pre-booked). Keep these all together in one folder.
Most importantly, relax! Don’t expect the rest of the world to run on your schedule. Enjoy yourself, soak up your surroundings and make plenty of memories by meeting the locals and enjoying their food!