As I write this, I am still part way through an extended summer holiday with my family. We’ve explored new places, revisited old ones, tried some new activities and spent a lot of time relaxing together (and also apart). So, all in all, it’s been a great vacation. I’ve been asked, as a travel professional, how do I plan my own travels? The quick answer is “more or less, the same way I plan trips for clients”! Step by step, my planning strategy looks something like this:
The first thing to consider is where to go? The answer isn’t always obvious. My husband and I have two teenage daughters and the four of us can have very specific wants or needs. I could spend hours at markets, museums and galleries – the rest of my family, not so much. They could ski all day every day in the winter – but me? No thank you. We all like to go a little bit off the beaten path, but not so far off that interesting gems are completely hidden. The ideal locations will have a little something for everyone with weather that’s conducive to our desired activities, and of course, great restaurants. Importantly, I will check travel advisories, to see if there are any safety or security considerations or any areas to avoid entirely.
Next and very critically, I look at our budget. I have a strong preference for luxury but have the thriftiness of a backpacker. Luckily, as a travel professional, I know how to find good deals and have access to some fantastic added amenities (not just for myself, but for my clients too!). We may not always travel first class all the way, but we always manage to travel well for how much we are willing to spend.
Booking transportation and accommodations are my next steps. I have a large file on great accommodations as well as Google at my fingertips, but when in doubt, I cast my net wide in search of advice. I have found other travel professionals, family and friends to be a fount of wisdom when it comes to all things travel, (or even life) related, and I’m not shy to ask questions. I prefer organizing my travel reservations as soon as possible, not just to get the best deals (this is especially true with car rentals) but also to have the largest number of options.
One administrative step I never fail to miss is making certain everyone’s paperwork is in order. Are all our passports valid for travel? What about travel insurance? Do we need visas? How about vaccinations? Is there any special clothing or equipment we will need for our trip? What kind of baggage allowances do we have, and will we need to purchase additional check, in baggage?
When we travel as a family, we might have some sort of agenda, but we’re not big on super jam-packed itineraries. If there’s something that someone really wants to do, a can’t-miss experience, a restaurant we must go to or an event that requires pre-purchased tickets, we will book this in advance, otherwise, we often have a list of possibilities of things to do and play these things by ear.
Oftentimes, and in order to get even more excited about a trip than I usually am, I will read books set in places I’m about to visit and/or watch movies filmed there. I might also follow some local blogs and social media accounts for up-to-date insider knowledge. Just before a trip, I will take another look at the long-term weather forecast in case I need to make any packing adjustments and then off we go!
Also by Natasha: