IT All BEGINS WITH A DREAM AND A PLAN
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. - Confucius
As young girl, I spent hours perched in a mimosa tree outside my bedroom window, day dreaming about all the places I would go someday. Doing homework, I would spin the old classroom globe and pinpoint all the places I wanted to see. And, I developed my first travel plan. I would become an airline stewardess…that way I could see world and get paid for it!
Over 45 years later, I’m still twirling a globe. It’s a beautiful onyx globe with all the countries inlaid in semi-precious stones. It’s my travel dream globe, a special gift from Hank, to remember the wonderful places we have been and find new adventures.
Six Steps to Getting Started
1. Dream a little. Spin your own globe or use a good world atlas. Start a list of everywhere you dream of going. At one time my travel dream list had over 100 places on it. Today, it still has thirty-five and continues to grow as fast as it diminishes.
2. Build a travel resource file. Use a three-ring notebook with tabs for Trips to Take Someday, Upcoming Trips, Travel Resources and Past Trips. When you encounter an article that tickles your travel fancy or a website that piques your travel interest, copy it and place it in your travel file under Trips to Take Someday.
For Upcoming Trips, include a pocket folder to hold travel documents. Get serious about upcoming trips. Research and file articles on sights to see, restaurants to try, a currency exchange calculator, a key phrases cheatsheet, and a running list of essentials to take along. File copies of your itinerary and your travel insurance certificate.
For Travel Resources, create a list of travel information websites. File copies of your credit cards and passport. File an address book of key travel related phone numbers. Last, under the heading of Past Trips, keep records of past itineraries, trip costs, notes on likes and dislikes, local favorites and resources.
3. Narrow your travel choices and begin your research. Once you decide on a destination, or maybe a couple of options, learn as much as possible about your choice/s. What are the main attractions? Make a list of “must-sees.” What are your options for getting there? Where will you stay? Will you take a tour or go independent with your travel plans? What will the weather be like? Are there safety and health considerations? And, of course, how much will it cost?
If you’re computer savvy, the Internet brings the world to your fingertips. But, there is a downside to Internet research. There is so much information unless you know how to search; you may quickly become confused and overwhelmed. The Favorite Resources section of this book includes dozens of our personal favorite travel websites and other travel resources you may find helpful.
If you don’t have access to a computer, visit the library or a good bookstore and buy several books about your destination. Both Frommers and Fodors have excellent guidebooks for virtually anywhere in the world. Visit a travel agent and collect a pile of brochures. Call the local Chamber of Commerce or Visitor’s Bureau at your destination and ask for information. Don’t forget to organize your information in your Travel Resource File!
4. If your trip includes foreign travel, get your passport early! Allow at least 90 days before your departure…six months is even better. If you already have a passport, check the expiration date. Many countries won’t allow you in the country if your passport expires within 6 months!
As of this date, there are 13 cities with passport agencies. In other areas, the Clerk of the Courts Office or Post Office usually has applications. You will need two 2” by 2” recent photos (available at many photo development locations), a copy of your birth certificate with a raised state seal, a form of official photo identification, a completed passport application and a check for the passport fee. Check out www.travel.state.gov for the most current passport details. Don’t put this off. With heightened worldwide security, entry documentation is much tighter.
5. Choose your travel companions carefully. Share research and planning.
While we don’t have much choice about our family members (unless we opt to go solo), select your travel companions carefully. A compatible and congenial travel mate can make a trip more pleasurable. The wrong travel mate can destroy the pleasures of the best trip.
Know each other’s “hot buttons” and any personal prejudices or personal habits that could create problems along the way. If you are a light sleeper, traveling with a companion who snores like a chainsaw, you will have sleepless nights and smoldering resentment. A constant complainer can find something wrong with the best situations, and their pessimistic attitude is contagious. Know before you go!
Ask each member of your family or travel friends come up with travel ideas. Travel research is a great way to involve older children. Ask them to “handle” some of the aspects of research and cost comparisons, encourage their buy-in to the trip, and provide a great learning tool.
6. Get to know an experienced travel agent…or two. Although the Internet is great for gathering information and travel prices, a good travel agent is important. He or she will help you sort through the multitude of information, discover the pitfalls in your plan, come up with options when needed, help with problems that arise before and during travel, and provide the personal-service touch that Internet sources lack.
We research what we want in the way of cruises, accommodations, tours, etc. We find the best prices and give them to our travel agent to match as closely as possible. It’s our travel policy to book through a local travel agent if they can come within $100.00 to $150.00 of the trip prices we are considering. Invariably they do and are able to secure additional perks not available through the Internet sources, such as shipboard credits or upgrades.
Purchase Travel Wisdom and continue on. Next up…The Pleasures and Pitfalls for Internet Research