In case you haven’t understood this from reading my blog, I love traveling. I don’t know how it got started. As a child, I can only recall two vacations my family took. One was to the beach for a week and the other was to Disneyland. Both were amazing in different ways. Plus I was really lucky that my best friend’s family took me on two of their family vacations to Eastern Oregon. Oh and there was time driving to Nevada in a beat-up pickup truck… that’s a story in itself. I never even considered the possibility of traveling to another country.
So, what began my wanderlust? Maybe it was meeting my students from all over the world and wanting to experience something bigger. Maybe it was the spur of the moment timeshare purchase that allowed me to travel overseas for the first time (Aruba). Maybe it was simply just a need to escape. Whatever the reason, I have now vacationed in 10 States (Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, Maryland, and Florida) and 13 countries (Aruba, Mexico (x4), Canada, Jamaica, the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Vietnam).
I have started a collection of money in different currencies. I call it my “spy purse”. It contains envelopes with left over change from various countries – even countries that I haven’t officially vacationed in, like Bahrain and Qatar because of airport stopovers. I always joke that if I have to quickly run away to another country, at least I will have a few dollars worth of money to get started with.
Even with all this traveling, I feel like I haven’t traveled enough. There are more places I want to see. Nowhere specifically- I just want to go more places. I know once I return to “real” life in the States, my traveling adventures will have to be severely curtailed. It makes me feel like I have a limited amount of time in which I can explore more places. Which is why I convinced my husband that we HAD TO take a family vacation over Christmas. Although I must say, it didn’t take a lot of convincing as we were both eager to take our first family vacation together. I will share our adventure to Vietnam on my next posting.
Here are the steps I take when planning a trip:
- Make sure passport is valid for at least 6 months after travel date as some countries won’t let you travel if passport is near expiration.
- Plan how much money can be saved in time for the vacation. What is the budget?
- Pick the country, mostly based on budget constraints, but also keeping in mind flight length, weather conditions, visa requirements, and governmental advisory warnings.
- Think about the travel dates. If it is over a holiday (of the destination country), prices will be higher and things will book up faster. There may also be a lot of things closed during holidays. Also depending on the country, the time of year will drastically change the vacation; for example, traveling to a Muslim country during Eid.
- Research flights. Compare prices on the different travel websites as well as through the airline directly. Play with dates as even one day difference can make a huge difference. I remember one time that flying back on New Year’s Eve saved me hundreds of dollars versus just if I had flown the next day. Also take into consideration flight times, layovers, mileage plans, and baggage allowances.
- Choose area or areas of the country to visit. Beach? City? Mountains? Countryside? Is transport between areas available?
- Research and choose hotels. The hotel is a really important step. Is it in a good location with access to transportation and restaurants? Are there enough beds for the whole family? Can rooms be joined to accommodate all of us (this is a new factor I have had to deal with and it significantly restricts the number of hotels available). Other really important things to consider are if breakfast is included, if there is WiFi, if there is a Washer/Dryer in the room, if the hotel offers a shuttle service, and if there is a pool. It is always a balancing act of pro/cons when choosing a hotel. Perhaps it has all the amenities one could want but it is in an isolated location. Or it is in a great location but it’s pricey. Or maybe the price is right but it doesn’t include breakfast or WiFi which then doesn’t make it seem like as good of a deal.
- Get a visa if required. Depending on which country your passport is from this could be very easy or very time consuming. Most places I have traveled to have allowed me to just get a visa upon arrival in the country at the airport.
- Book the tickets for the flight and make hotel reservations.
- Find transportation for both locally near the hotel (taxi? metro? walking? tuk-tuk?) and also, if traveling to different parts of the country, long distance transportation (plane? train? bus?).
- Research major attractions, places of interests, things to do, and places to eat.
- Find out if money is better exchanged at home or upon arrival in the destination. What is the exchange rate? Before leaving, notify the bank so cards are not shut off because of concerns over fraud.
- Find transportation to the airport (and back) – not as difficult of a task when only traveling with 2 people, but significantly more of a challenge when traveling with 6 people and luggage.
- Pack the bags and get ready for an adventure!