(Note: As I wrote this article, I realised it was more of a ‘how to’ rather than a commentary on experiences. So if it sounds like I’m telling you how to suck eggs, I sure am. Hopefully this adds some value to the process anyway. As always, enjoy!)
This may sound like a boring step for some holidays. Opening a crazy amount of websites, scanning for the best prices, constantly checking if all your dates line up and even making sure you got the right city is in the correct country (London, UK. Not Ontario..). This is not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s OK. My intention, for all my blog posts, is not to preach, but to share from experience and enrich the journey. Is planning your travel a bore to you? Or is it an opportunity to research and find out much more about where you’re going? I for example, love planning my travel. LOVE it. Maybe it’s the open-endedness and opportunity to create that is so inviting. I’ve had trips already planned out in my head take on a whole new life once I sat down in front of the laptop and got to work planning it.
Planning to plan
Ok, so I’ve got some time off and spending it overseas is how I want to do this. How much time do I have off? Ok, 2 weeks. To have get the most out of my trip, I think a flight time of 9 hours and less will leave me with the most time on the ground. Right, so what is in a 9 hour radius? Do I want to be hot or cold or somewhere in between? Being hot/cold, what else is there to do in that sort of weather. Is this a better place to go with friends or check out by myself? It’s these pre-questions that are the precursor to a lot of travel, especially when they are time sensitive. It’s these limiting factors that shape and mold the itinerary. One way tickets are a bit of a different beast. Once you’ve figured out what you want to get out of a holiday (whether it be a lounge lizard by the pool or riding waist deep powder), and what your flight radius is, it’s time to pick a destination. And what an awesome destination you’ve chosen!
It’s always handy to note what sort of layovers are offered with each destination as well. Extended layovers can be either a blessing or a curse. Sometimes you can come away with an extended layover that allows you to get out and take a look around at another destination. On the other end you’re left hugging your belongings as you try sleep your way through 24 hours in seats that only allow a rigid upright posture (WHY DO YOU DO THIS AIRPORTS!?!?!)
Booking your ticket
I haven’t been to a travel agent in a long time. I’m surprised the brick and mortar industry still exists. I remember my first world trip over a decade ago and what it took to book a ticket. It entailed several trips to a travel agent, in depth discussions on where I would like to go and for how much, and even having to walk across town with a couple of thousand dollars to pay the agent in cash. I was issued with a physical book of tickets, that when I think back, was just begging to be lost or destroyed by a leaking drink bottle. With nearly everything electronic and only several clicks away, booking your ticket is now easier than ever, and all that leaky drink bottle is going to do is wet your clothes.
I have a number of favourite websites that I consistently use when booking my flights, and I am never let down. These websites will search for the best tickets across multiple airlines using your personal filters, and generate an itinerary for you. To ensure you get the best price, it’s a good idea to cross reference these prices against the home website for the applicable airline to make sure you get the best deal and all the extras you want included. If you are unable to get the entire itinerary planned on one website, a little extra effort using 2 or more flight search engine websites can get you outstanding deals, as long as you pay close attention to dates and arrival/departure terminals. It’s happened more than once that I let my attention slip when booking a multi-leg trip, only to arrive at an airport with my connecting flight at different and significantly far away terminal. When you can’t speak or read the local language, this can get a little hairy if time is a factor. Sometimes this is half the fun, but coming off a long haul flight can leave you weary and in no mood to set PB’s while running to catch a terminal shuttle.
Assuming you’re familiar with the internet and the function of a mouse, you now have your e-ticket. I encourage you to print (just in case) and save the file to your phone or any other easily accessible electronic device. This ensures you can access your ticket at any time and the lack of an open Wi-Fi network will not send you into a panic attack if you need to get access to your flight information. I’m always a ‘better safe than sorry’ advocate and past mistakes have been excellent for improving my travel IQ.
This is something I’ve had to make serious efforts in relaxing on. In times gone by for a trip lasting up to a month, I would have every roof over my head planned for every leg of the journey. I knew exactly where I would be sleeping and when. I know what you’re thinking, boring! Where’s the opportunity for spontaneity? I’m slowly learning my lesson to take it easy on booking accommodation in order to increase the adventure factor per trip. I do think it is prudent however, to book the first couple of days at a new destination in a hostel or something similar that has anything 2 stars and above in their reviews. This ensures you have somewhere to rest from the outset, and maximum opportunity to meet new people and get a lay of the land. Some hostels and homestays offer free cancellation up to 24 hours beforehand, which is a great way to have security and freedom if and when a change of plans is needed. I use a variety of websites to help me find places to stay at the best prices as I love a bargain, just like any normal person.
Get in the taxi, make sure you take those metal objects out of your pocket at airport security, stow your luggage, buckle up and most importantly, keep that mind open.