Now that we are empty nesters, we hope to do a lot more travelling. Freedom to go and enjoy bucket list destinations and revisit some beautiful parts of our country. In order to make the most of our precious vacation time and money, a little planning time is a necessary task. How much time and how far in advance you do the planning varies depending on the destination, and your personality.
A well seasoned traveller will be comfortable with the process and travel in general, so may not need to plan every detail. Some people prefer organized tours. We like to travel on our own, but some destinations may require advanced bookings, or having a plan will allow you to make the most of your time away. I only discovered after arriving in Paris that we could have booked tickets for The Eiffel Tower in advance, saving time. I believe a balance of planning with freedom to adjust works best for us.
For me, travel is often about seeing new places and experiencing different cultures. Once you decide on a destination, the first step is to consider any special requirements, such as visas, and make sure your passport expiry date is adequate. It’s also a good idea to look into any travel advice or vaccine recommendations for your destination. A great reference for Canadians is Travel.gc.ca. Don’t leave vaccinations too late (my pharmacist advice).
Depending on the type of trip, the order of planning will vary. My upcoming trip is a Baltic cruise, which sells out quickly, sometimes over a year in advance. So this was booked, and paid for well in advance. You can use a travel agent, or book this on your own. A last minute vacation to a sunny destination may be booked last minute, but if your desire is to attend Oktoberfest in Germany, advance planning may be a good idea. I highly recommend cancellation insurance!
Flights should be booked about 3-4 months prior to travel for best price. Sometimes direct flights will get booked up, or if you are travelling during summer or Christmas break you may want to book earlier. On my upcoming trip, we are extending our cruise with a road trip in Norway. So before booking our flights, we needed to make some decisions, primarily the date we would return, and the airport we would depart from.
A road trip through Norway we decided was the perfect way to see as much of the country as possible. The details of travel planning a road trip is quite different than the cruise planning. My initial planning involved delving into travel blogs and tourism websites. Don’t hesitate to ask friends about tips, they will more than likely be happy to share. I like getting tips and recommendations from fellow travellers and hearing their stories. My friend supplied me with a lot of tips for this trip. So the more research the better, or not! This takes time, and can sometimes be overwhelming. Some people would be happier to rent the car and simply drive!
After much discussion, we opted for a 5-Day Road Trip from Bergen to Trondheim. This would offer us some great scenery, a hike or two, and cover 4 out of the 18 Scenic Routes of the country. We opted to skip Oslo, after all we are visiting Norway to see the fjords, and we will be seeing a number of Scandinavian cities on the cruise. The driving time as rated by Google Maps is over 20 hours. This should allow plenty of time to take our time and see the sites. I may or may not get to see the Northern Lights, but this will conclude 3 weeks away from home, and I will be ready for my own bed.
Since we would be travelling rural villages, and only 5 days to cover over 1000K, I decided to book accommodations ahead. I feel better having a nightly destination, hopefully avoiding sleeping in the rental car! (A fellow blogger told a story of sleeping in her rental car after missing the last ferry crossing – hopefully her tip of checking the ferry crossing times will prevent me from making the same mistake).
I use several websites when booking accommodation in foreign countries. The best options will vary from country to country. Some of my favourites are hotels.com and VRBO.com. My usual websites did not produce a lot of options in rural Norway, so I am relying on a new travel app, booking.com. The website was easy to navigate, and reserving was easy. So far it all looks good on the screen! I’m hoping it goes smoothly upon arrival.
Now that my driving routes are mapped out, accommodations booked, and even a hike planned, I am feeling like I could leave tomorrow and be adequately prepared. I have pre-booked our included tours on the Baltic Cruise, but I will continue to explore the possibilities in the ports. We enjoy doing cruise ports on our own, and I still have time to do a little research. If not, the cruise director will no doubt be providing us with information, one of the advantages of a tour guide!
What is your travel style? Are you a planner? Would love to hear how you travel!