How to book the perfect Holiday

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list – Susan Sontag

Ready for holidays

Travellers either love or hate planning holidays. Spending hours honing your research skills in front of a computer, popping into the Travel Agents to pass the planning and booking onto someone else or going away with friends, who you know will take care of the plans for you.

I am one of the former who love to plan my own travel, taking care of the flights, hotels, restaurants or any excursions I might want to take.

You can never research your destination enough; luckily there are plenty of websites to help.

Lonely Planet is one of my favourites; it is an indispensable guide to most, if not all travel destinations. It caters for all price ranges, the cheap and cheerful to the more luxurious, expensive options. It also covers a list of must see and do sights and experiences.

Because some travel destinations are likely to be visited only once or maybe twice in a lifetime, it is almost compulsory to do certain things. It would be very difficult to visit New York and not see the Statue of Liberty. Lonely Planet is therefore one of my first port of calls when planning my travels.

Lonely Planet can be accessed online, but I much prefer a hard copy to read at leisure. I also download a copy to my kindle (which I can read on kindle and both i-pad and i-phone) which means that when I’m away, I can have access to it whenever the need arises. I also subscribe to Lonely Planet magazine, which gives me lots of ideas to add to my bucket list. (There’s an idea for another blog)

it is also worth checking with the local Tourist Information Office for the places you are visiting. This can be useful as it may include little known information or facts you were previously unaware of. One year we spent a long weekend in Barcelona. We were there for my birthday.we found out from the tourist information that my birthday fell on the festival of Le Noche de San Juan. We headed for the beach late in the evening not knowing what to expect. We could so easily have missed it.

The beach was filled with families and friends celebrating around large bonfires. Children held fireworks and firecrackers, which they lit and set off from their hands. It was a shock to us having been brought up with “the firework code”

It is well worth being a little safety conscious when travelling. Check with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) before you travel, this not only gives safety advice for the country you are visiting, but will also tell about visa requirements and the best place to obtain them.

You should also check with your Practice Nurse to see if you require any travel vaccinations. It is worth checking for every trip you make. You can be as much risk walking in Austria, as you are backpacking through India or South America.

Make sure you have adequate travel insurance, and that is valid. Family cover usually covers all family members if travelling together or individually, but not always 18-25 year olds if travelling without parents. My 18-year-old recently went abroad and her travel insurance cost £4.99. Believe me, never skimp on travel insurance.

Writing a travel itinerary is beneficial when organising a trip. Not only because it makes sure that all your must see and do places are included, but also so that a copy can be left at home with relatives or friends, then, if anything happens, someone will know where you are meant to be. It is worth mentioning that you should always fill in your next of kin details in the back of your passport, make sure that there is at least one name and contact details that you unlikely to be travelling with.

I would recommend copying passport details, travel visas and also copies of bank / Visa card numbers and the phone number to report lost or stolen cards, e-mail a copy to yourself then if you lose your documents, purse or phone, you can access your e-mail enabling you to stop bank cards and have document details when speaking to the embassy.

Planning your travel excursions, experiences, shows etc. Before you go, gives you the benefit of paying at the time of booking, spreading the cost before your holiday. We have used Viator in the past and have had both fantastic trips and service.

On a trip to Paris with my husband, we booked several excertions through Viator. One was a jump the queue deal at The Moulin Rouge. Not only did it include direct access to the venue, walking past the long queue to the front and been whisked straight in like a VIP.we had a table for two at the front of the balcony, unlimited wine or champagne (no prices for guessing which I went for), a three course meal and a souvenir package including programme, gifts, macaroons and chocolates. A photographer came and took photos of couples or groups with the stage as the backdrop. Later we could see him trying to sell the photo packages to the audience. They came up to the balcony and dropped the photo at our table, they contained key rings, cards of matches, postcard and the photos, all included in the price. It was worth every penny.

Another benefit to booking before you travel, is that you get time to spend at your destination rather than standing for hours in queues. On the same trip to Paris we also booked, a tour of the Eiffel Tower, an after hours tour of Notre Dame cathedral and a visit to the catacombs. We had pre booked and prepaid, dinner up the Eiffel Tower and also the Bateaux Rouge Dinner Cruise. Because we had pre booked everything we wanted to see, we had plenty of spare time; to wander through the streets of Paris, stopping at will for a glass of Champagne, eating macaroons at the famous Laudree and people watching from pavement side bistros.

When travelling, even if you prefer to leave your Travel arrangements to a friend or Travel Agent, you will still benefit by observing the tips on safety.

Stay safe, but make sure that you make the most of any destination you wish to visit. Have a fantastic holiday.

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