Holidays are fast approaching and you are met with a blank canvas – you could go anywhere! You are spoilt for choice, but inundated with information. And by the time you have sorted through the information and made a decision, is there even any time left to actually go for the holiday? And that’s without considering the time needed for work commitments or things to be done around the home (spring cleaning, renovations, etc).
Holidays are not supposed to be stressful, but somehow the planning and preparation can leave us frazzled and wondering if it’s really worth it. This article offers step-by-step guidance for smooth travel planning and you will be sipping cocktails on the beach before you know it.
- Start thinking about where to go at least five months in advance
Leaving things to the last-minute always results in higher stress levels so start planning early. Choosing a destination can be tough but having this window of time can help you decide. You can set up flight alerts and look out for other special offers to help you get the best deals. If you have a short-list of destinations, set up flight alerts for each of them and the best prices might help you with the final decision.
- Use a travel agent
There are rumours that these professionals are going out of fashion, but do not underestimate their value. If you have some ideas about the types of activities you want to do on your holiday (i.e. mountain climbing, safari, water sports) but cannot figure out where to do it, then your travel agent is the person who can match you to your ideal destination. But the real value of the travel agent is that they take all the stress out of the planning – they are the one to wait on hold to make bookings, to do the research for the best hotel and flight deals, and to look for the activities. And if something goes wrong on your holiday, it’s the travel agent who deals with it. You only have to make one phone call to your agent and the rest is sorted out for you. Booking on-line may be cheaper but it can also leave you stranded when things don’t work out.
- Set mini-deadlines for travel planning
In another article I’ve set out a preparing for travel timeline outlining a checklist for the eight weeks before you depart (http://ezinearticles.com/?Seven-Easy-Steps-to-Planning-Your-Dream-Holiday&id=7206060). Some vaccinations require a series of doses over several weeks, so it is recommended you visit a travel doctor at least six weeks before departure. Visas can take time to obtain so check with the relevant embassy and put that time into your calendar. Pet care, house sitting and letterbox collection are also things you want to have time for – you need time to vet the house sitters for example. Put these deadlines in your diary or calendar and stick to them to avoid the last-minute panic.
- Keep a packing list
As you think of things you will need on your holiday jot them down somewhere so that when you are packing (at the last minute!) you don’t have to think too much. You might read some travel blogs of people who have been to the same place and advise to take certain items – you can add that to your list without worrying that you might forget in a couple of months. Also your travel agent or tour operator may give you a suggested packing list for your specific activities so add that to your personal list as well.
- Sort out your work commitments
Pretend your last day at work before your holiday is one week before your actual last day. That way, you can ensure you get your work finished in plenty of time (even if you don’t make that deadline, you still have time to complete it in the final week). There have been studies showing that it takes people a few days to wind down from work and half your holiday might be wasted by the time you relax into it. So why not start the wind-down process before you leave? You can also spend the last week handing over to your co-workers, giving plenty of time to ensure all loose ends are tied up before you go.
Starting early and writing out a plan (and sticking to it!) will ensure your holiday is stress-free both in the preparation stage and enjoying it while you are there. And if a safari is on your holiday list, OTA provides clear step-by-step guidance to assist you with preparing for travel to Africa (www.ota-responsibletravel.com).