CREATE YOUR OWN TRAVEL VACATION
LISTEN TO YOUR VOICE
Each of us has a travel destination that we want to experience. The world is filled with interesting places that will open your eyes and remain in your heart. Your own adventure starts with listening to the voice that tells you which destination is especially for you.
But how do you make it happen? A little planning before you leave home is all it takes. Planning and a few arrangements will enable you to go anywhere. Even the culture shocked chaos of foreign travel can be navigated with the help of a plan.
Your first step to creating your travel vacation is to build an itinerary. Begin by listing each date of your trip in a vertical column. Put the day of the week next to each date. You will need this information as your itinerary unfolds. This is the bare bones of your journey. It starts with your departure and ends with your return home on the last day of your trip.
Your itinerary will look like this:
May 13. Wednesday. Fly to London
May 14. Thursday. Arrive in London. Take the train from Heathrow Airport to central London. Take a taxi to your hotel. Sightseeing: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tate Britain Museum.
May 15. Friday. London. . . .
- - - - - - - -
May 23. Saturday. Go by bus from Salisbury to Windsor in the morning. Sightseeing: Windsor Castle. The Long Walk in Windsor Great Park.
Mat 24. Sunday. Take a taxi to Heathrow Airport. Fly to Minneapolis.
Remember, your plan is not a clipboard or a rigid schedule. It is a guide to lead you through your journey and provide you with interesting experiences.
THE JOURNEY BEFORE THE JOURNEY
Now that you have a beginning and an end to your vacation, you need to research the middle. Guidebooks such as Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommer's, and Fodor's provide in depth information on sightseeing, hotels, transportation, and cultural issues. They contain detailed maps, which are essential for finding your way. Guidebooks can open up the world to you, and the Lonely Planet Series has become something of a Bible for travelers and vacationers. Learn to read between the lines to find destinations that fit your personal needs.
In North America, state and provincial tourist bureaus provide useful information packets. Information on national parks can be found at www.npsgov/parks.
Begin your planning by finding out what there is to do and see along your vacation trail. Places that interest you will emerge from scouring the guidebooks, and you can arrange them into an itinerary.
THE REALITY ON THE GROUND
Your research will probably uncover a few surprises. You discover that the "must see" island where turtles lay their eggs is only reachable by ferry once a week; the Himalayan road you need to traverse will be washed out in the monsoon season; or an abundance of sightseeing is crowded into a certain city, demanding more of your time. Research enables you to adjust your plan to the reality on the ground, and your working itinerary will be different from what you first imagined. In the end, you will have the name of a town and intersting activities for each day on your itinerary.
Once your itinerary is complete, you can reserve your hotels. Having a reservation in hand is so much better than looking for a hotel on arrival. You get to choose the accommodations you want, and sometimes there are discounts for early booking. More important, hotels are often filled if you wait until your day of arrival. Try to pick a hotel located near to your sightseeing.
The internet is your best source for hotels. You can e-mail the hotel directly for a reservation or call on the telephone. Hotels can be difficult to contact in foreign countries, so make international reservations through a booking agent website for the country you are visiting. Larger agencies are more reliable.
Be sure to print out address and location information for each hotel and take this with you to show the taxi driver when you arrive at your foreign destination. It works like a charm, and is especially necessary in countries that do not use our Roman alphabet.
For vacations in North America, you will probably use the family car or a rental, but travel abroad usually involves public transportation. Bus systems around the world have experienced an upgrade over the years and are a pleasant way to travel. In some countries, train is the transport of choice. There are first and second class seats, as well as sleepers. More obscure places are reached by minivan, shared jeep, and ferry. Don't forget to plan for logistics, the all important travel time between your destinations.
THE ART OF TRAVEL PLANNING
Think of travel planning as an art. Your paints, brushes, and canvas are the elements of your trip; your itinerary, accommodations, and transportation. Like a bridge, your plan will provide an underpinning that spans your journey so that you can relax and enjoy the experience.
The magic of travel is within your reach, and whether your dream trip is a family vacation or a life changing jaunt down the Pan American Highway, your journey will be enhanced and empowered with a plan to guide you. Bon Voyage!