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Tools You Need for Planning a Holiday

Tools You Need for Planning a Holiday

The websites and applications recommended in this article can help you plan your travel, from finding low-cost flights to planning your budget, booking excellent accommodation and, most importantly, having fun on the road.

1. Kayak
Benefit: Allows you to compare flexible dates very easily so you can find the best days to fly.
Description: Kayak is a standard flight search engine where you enter your destination and preferred travel dates. If you tick “Flexible date” it will present an easy-to-understand layout to show the cheapest dates to fly.
Tip: Once you have used Kayak to find the cheapest flight, go to that airline’s site and see if it’s cheaper to book directly. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

2. Hipmunk
Benefit: Their agony scale balances cost with layovers, plane changes, etc so you can weigh up your time versus your money.
Description: Hipmunk is another flight search engine where you enter your destination and travel dates. It present the flights on a time line so you can compare the length of the journey with the prices. It has an algorithm to judge the “agony factor” and ranks the flights accordingly. But it presents the information so you can also decide for yourself the level of agony you are willing to put up with for a lower price.
Tip: You can also choose to rank the flights on price alone or any other factor. But the agony scale puts it all in perspective.

3. Seat Guru
Benefit: Helps you pick the best seat for your flight (or at least avoid the worst!)
Description: Enter the airline and/or flight number and it will present a colour-coded chart showing good seats, bad seats, mixed review seats and ordinary seats. You can use this chart to select seats for your flight when you book or check in.
Tip: Select your seats when you book so you have maximum choice, but keep checking back from time to time in case better seats become available.

4. Trip Advisor
Benefit: Read reviews from other travellers about accommodation and attractions. The site also ranks accommodation and attractions according to category and location to enable easy comparison.
Description: Simply enter your destination and what you are looking for there (i.e. hotel, tour, restaurant, etc) and it will give you a list.
Tip: Check the dates of the reviews. A change of management can make a dramatic difference so if there is an overall four star rating but the reviews from the past six months have been terrible, you might think twice. Of course, it also works the other way – a low star rating might have excellent recent reviews.

5. Universal Packing List
Benefit: UPL puts together a packing list and a preparation list according to the parameters of your trip.
Description: Go to http://upl.codeq.info/ and enter all the details of your trip – dates, climate (it has a handy link to get that information), activities, mode of travel, accommodation style, size of bag, etc. It will give you a packing list and preparation list specific to your journey.
Tip: Don’t do this at the last minute. You will be surprised, especially for an international trip, at all the little things you need to do and get that you might forget. For example, do you have enough sockets to charge all your electronics (and nowadays we seem to travel with more and more!) the night before?

6. Sworkit
Benefit: An app with no-equipment workouts to help you keep fit while you travel.
Description: Choose the type of workout (strength, cardio, yoga, stretching) and the amount of time you want to exercise for. It provides a circuit-style session with exercises that can be done in a small space with no equipment (i.e. a hotel room).
Tip: In a new city sometimes even going for a run can be a bit daunting. But a quick workout in your room is a cost-free way to stay in shape on the road.
Price: A free plan is enough to keep you going, but there are paid options as well.

7. XE.com
Benefit: Provides easy access to foreign exchange rates
Description: The app is easy to use – simply plug in the amount, the currency you have and the currency you want to convert to and it will give you the conversion. You can set up a number of different currencies if you are travelling to several countries and enter the amount of one currency and see the conversion into all the currencies you have in the list. It can be useful when you are crossing a border and need to change money to decide if you want to change at the border or wait for a better rate further down the line. Or if you are carrying say US Dollars and Euros and need to get some Kenyan shillings, you can see which currency will be more beneficial.
Tip: It’s such a handy tool to have on your phone for quickly converting grocery items, accommodation prices, tour quotes, etc on the fly.

8. Foursquare
Benefit: Share hidden gems with fellow travellers and get their secrets as well.
Description: It uses your smart phone’s GPS signal to determine where you are so you can do quick and easy check-ins. You can read other travellers’ tips, leave reviews, photos and your own tips.
Tip: Link Foursquare to your Facebook account so your check-in automatically shows up as a status update to share with friends and family.

These tools will help you get the most out of your journey, from saving you money on the flight, to helping you pack, getting the best seat, finding great accommodation and at last sharing it all with your loved ones back home. What are your favourite apps or websites that you use to plan or enjoy travel?

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Holiday Stress Be Gone!

Holiday Stress Be Gone!

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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).

OTA Kenya Safaris www.ota-responsibletravel.com

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