Alright folks I have a surprise for you. We all know that there are travel companies that specialize in planning your vacation just for you. Wait there is a new trend on the rise. You provide details on travel dates, duration, type of trip, budget and interests. The travel company will choose your destination to include booking your flights and accommodations. This all sounds familiar but did you catch the part that is missing. They choose the destination and do not tell you where you will be going! It will be a total surprise until the day you leave!
This appears to be a new option trending in the travel industry. As we recently discussed in the last few weeks it takes some effort to determine your location and sketch out an itinerary. Then of course once you have your destination you need to consider all the detailed plans before you take off for your dream trip. Wouldn’t it be nice to let someone else do all the work?
From reviewing most of the companies that offer these packages you will be provided the weather forecast 1 week prior to your trip so that you can pack appropriately. However you need to wait until the day of departure and sometimes wait until when standing at the check in to find out your destination.
It sounds so exciting!
pack up + go is a US based company that seems to have become very popular with such high volumes that they are no longer accepting April 2016 departure applications. Wow!
This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting on my old college roommates for a weekend visit. I love having visitors as it is always a good reminder to enjoy all that Chicago has to offer. Every town regardless of how big or small has something unique to offer that is worth a visit. Trust me I grew up in a very small town yet we always managed to entertain our visitors.
So when you are leaving the O’Hare airport you can find several signs that say “Welcome to Chicago. We are glad you are here”. You could feel the midwestern love embracing you to hit the town. While my visitor has been to Chicago before there is also something you might have missed or new exhibit to check out.
We found just the perfect thing for a Saturday afternoon. A classic The Field Museum which had just opened a special exhibit a few weeks ago on China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors. It was spectacular! Although be warned; you might leave the museum anxious to book that flight to China you have been dreaming about.
It was a perfect itinerary for our day and all of the places we visited were amazing. Yet all destinations had a common problem. Waiting in long lines! We waited for over 2.5 hours in total on Saturday; regardless of our advance planning to pre-order museum tickets and establish dinner reservations. Chicago disappointed me with it’s inability to accommodate basic tourism obligations. Come on Chicago get yourself together and show the world who you truly are…you are better than that! After all; you are my kind of town Chicago.
Check your passport expiration date as most countries require it is valid 6 months from your arrival date. In addition confirm that you have at least 2-3 blank pages for immigration stamps which is required in most countries. Don’t be that guy who gets put on the first flight home because you don’t have a valid passport; this is sadly a true story.
Check state.gov for any travel visa requirements or entry/exit taxes.
Review the CDC website for any potential vaccinations or immunization requirements. If you are uncertain of anything call your local travel clinic.
Review the exchange rate trends for the last 3 months for any foreign currency needs. I utilize xe.com website or download their app. Unless the exchange rate is drastically changing daily or weekly I generally never pre-order foreign currency before my trip. The best exchange rate you will get is to utilize your credit card but first confirm the credit card has no foreign transaction fees. The second best rate is withdrawing cash from a local ATM once you arrive. Unless you are desperate never purchase currency at the airport because they give you a crappy rate and usually charge an additional fee. Don’t even ask me about traveller’s check; we have moved on from the 1970’s folks.
Is there anything you can book in advance? For example: Pearl Harbor tickets are free to all visitors but there is a limited quantity and generally should be booked 30+ days in advance. I waited too late so I ended up on a tour in order to get transport and admission ticket.
Review your wardrobe for key essentials travel items: walking shoes, swim suit, etc. Go shopping to update essential items if necessary or perhaps treat yourself to something new.
Two weeks before the trip:
Review your selected assigned seat
Review hotel reservations and search to see if prices dropped if necessary make a new reservation/cancel previous. For example just before my trip last November my hotel and car rental combination package dropped over $200; that is a lot of pina coladas!
Do you know how you are getting from the airport to the hotel?
Check the weather forecast before you start pulling out the items pack your suitcase
So here I am in the final stages of getting ready for my trip in 5-6 weeks to Romania and Bulgaria. We have already booked our international flights, local flights, all hotels, and several private day tours. Yet somehow I feel like I am missing something?
How do you plan for a big trip?
Book your domestic flights minimum 57 days advance and international flights minimum 171 days advance for the best price; here is my detailed process for booking a flight then immediately after I select a seat.
Reserve hotels within 1-2 weeks after flights are booked. Now keep in mind this may not be the place I end up staying at but I do want to ensure I have a place to sleep that meets most of my hotel requirements for this journey.
Now for the fun of trying to short list all the amazing places I want to visit on this trip. I love this part of travel planning when you get down to the details of roughed out daily itinerary. There will always be more places to visit than time allows.
So let me be clear about my general approach; I want to get a general idea of major highlights for the trip so that I can appropriately prioritize and arrange necessary transport. I generally assume one morning event and 1 – 2 afternoon events. I will never be militant about the schedule planning down to the minute of at 8:00 breakfast and at 8:35 leave to visit the castle. No way dude we are on vacation after all : ) However I also don’t want to get home and a week later find out that I was 5 miles away from the most amazing historic UNESCO village. UGH!
So the key word here folks is balance a little organized structure and plenty of time to sit in the cafe to watch the world go by.
Get your travel guide book of choice and start reading about where you are going.
Check out the country, state or city local website for major attractions or upcoming events
Look at tour company travel itineraries to get an idea of what might be possible in your timeline.
Get inspired by the UNESCO heritage list. There are some amazing places on their list!
Hurray you have finished the majority of your trip planning! You have a sketched out travel itinerary and hopefully identified a place to sleep each night. Update your calendar and set a countdown to your travel date with any of the free apps available.
In the next post we will review a detailed planning checklist for weekly count down to the travel date!
This past weekend I had my first visit to South Carolina in the lovely historic city of Charleston. While James Taylor wrote the song “Carolina In My Mind” dreaming of his years growing up in North Carolina this week I find myself singing the tune in my head.
Charleston provides the quintessential historic city in the South. In 1860 Charleston had the 4th busiest port in the country, some of wealthiest people in the US and host to the Democratic Convention. The gorgeous Georgian houses including the largest cluster in the country with Rainbow Row. One of the oldest plantations Magnolia Plantation established in 1676 with single family ownership. In addition Magnolia Plantation is proudly the oldest public gardens in the country.
Admire the scenery of the historic architecture with sweeping live oak trees yet be mindful to:
Appreciate a simpler time with slower pace of life
Enjoy a walk down the old stone cobbled streets.
Taste the delicious southern dishes in many of the gourmet restaurants.
Breathe in the fresh air and listen to the peaceful melody from the morning birds.
Savor the charm of southern hospitality.
Take a moment to stop and smell the magnolias.
Cherish the memories.
For anyone who has been to Charleston this may remind of your visit and may suddenly get the urge to sing the tune along with me. “Can’t you see the sunshine?….”