Deciding where we are going on our holiday can be more than half the battle with so much to see and so little time. Travelling with kids makes for even less time as they are only under your wing for so long. Fro this exercise I have made the assumption the inspiration of where to go and deciding where to go have been made as is the length of travel or how long you will be away – roughly.
Start. Step One.
What are you going there for? Are you travelling with your husband whilst he is on business or did you pick this as a destination of choice? What is in your head that you imagine it to be? I have made the assumption you have already made the choice of the length of you stay in conjunction with your choice of destination.
Write that down – the head part. This is important. You only really need 5 points but it could be 10. No more! Limit it to 10 things.
Okay, now we do some research. For the time poor you might place a call to a trusted travel agent or like an ever increasing number you may use my friend ‘Google’ (I’m sure he is your friend to? Who says he is male? I digress….) So let’s start with the research.
Next, Step Two. How safe is it to travel there? Visit your own countries travel alerts by country and read through any alerts that refer to the area you are travelling to. You will need to make an assessment based on your countries travel recommendation as to whether this particular destination you have chosen is appropriate for family travel. The Australian Government provide travel tips to nearly everywhere. Click here for information. They have had an alert to reconsider your travel if you are planning to visit the coastal region of Eastern Sabah inclusive of the islands areas. As of February 2016 there is an additional note to avoid Kuala Lumpur. At the time I travelled 6 months ago there was a bombing in a popular tourist area. The latest note states intelligence stated terrorists may have plans to attack tourist areas in the city again.
Step Three. I started with firstly working out how long it would take to get there and what was the travel route? I was specifically interested in the island of Borneo so rather than visit or research islands beyond that I worked out how to get to Borneo. Now that I have already checked where I can and cannot go on the advice of my government. I planned my flight to go through Singapore rather than through Kuala Lumpur. I planned my trip in Borneo to exclude the Eastern Coast. Given there was some degree of danger I planned a tour group for the majority of the time in Malaysia. This is not to say a tour group will not be targeted but they visit the areas each all the time and will have better local information than I. What is more they will make sure that we would not get lost and put ourselves in danger at any point? I use an app called Travelmath that helps calculate travel time. Click here for further information. I use Expedia to calculate flights by airline and route to work out the best way to get there. I chose a stopover in Singapore as we were flying through there anyway. I just felt it was easier travelling alone with a child than pushing ourselves.
Step Four – what vaccinations do you need for this area? As an example, I will point out that giving young children a tablet to swallow is very difficult if you don’t hide it in something, so swallowing a malaria tablet daily could be difficult. But remember malaria is usually only an issue in areas that are unclean and lacking in hygiene, so whilst it is recommended you take malaria tablets for Borneo, do you need them if you plan to spend your whole time in a five star resort in Kota Kinabalu? As I was visiting both river areas and rural areas I felt it would be crazy not to have tablets. Dengue Fever is prevalent in Borneo but there is no vaccination for it. I booked an appointment with my Doctor and explained where we were going so he could do some research and advise what injections we would need before we left. A family we travelled with chose to have no injections and were taking no tablets for malaria. Their daughter was getting very badly bitten by mozzies and I am not sure if that had been me if I could relax and enjoy my holiday. Don’t make your decision based on cost only. Think about the various scenarios before making your decision. You may also wish to reconsider after booking travel insurance. Does it cover you if you were to catch one of these preventable illnesses?
Step Five – visa requirements. These can change. Don’t make the assumption that the requirements remain what they were last time you visited. Check with your booking agent and check with the embassy. This is the point you need to check you have greater than 6 months valid in your passport.
Step Six – this is now the point at which you can start deciding what there is to see and where to stay. You may already have some ideas of this as you may have made your decision to go to this particular destination based on this. For example the one reason I went to Borneo was to see Orangutans in the wild. One of the popular sanctuaries we were going to was in the ‘recommended not travel’ list. Being part of tour group gave me some comfort around visiting this area. The soldiers with AK47’s once we were there did not comfort me at all, but I kept my son close and we stayed with our group.
I use Pinterest for research. Photography is one of the main inspirations around my travel. But as an Australian and having to travel so far to get anywhere. I am not going to fly 12 hours for one beach. There needs to be more than that to get me there.
I read a lot of travel magazines and travel blogs. Interesting articles and blog stories about a particular experience or attraction are collated into a file. I donate my magazines to the doctor surgery once I have read them or take them into school for the kids to cut up. I scan any articles that are of interest and I file under Travel Inspiration on my computer. I have a similar filing system on Pinterest by which I save links and photos to folders. I gather a mass of information and then sort through. The reason for visiting places could be the activity – in Borneo the Orangutan. It could be the dining experience. In the Napa Valley my whole purpose of being there would be to go to French Laundry. It could be the accommodation. I fund this cool place in Santa Barbara that has slipstream caravans for hire. I had no interest in Santa Barbara beyond these cool vans. Regardless the trigger, you now need to collect other information such as dining for multiple night’s stay. Activities beyond your initial one.
It is at this point I create a simple spreadsheet (I only collate here so I can sort) and I label the data in a number of ways
Accommodation/ Dining / Activities
I then rate each one into three columns must do/ nice to do/ save for the next trip.
I add an estimated time frame next to each activity. For accommodation it is important you read fine print. Some accommodation requires minimum booking of 2 days. Some longer. You may not have time to stay all this time on short trips.
Step Seven Now… go back to your list of dreams or what you imagine the destination to be like. Are these included in your must do or nice to do lists? If you had imagined pool time and gentle strolls have you allowed time for that or have you created a list that can’t possibly be achieved in the timeframe you have. When you are travelling with kids it is important to allow downtime. Have you allowed for just time to sit? If you are planning two full days at Disney it is possibly wise to plan the next day as lower key with very little on for kids under 7. Perhaps your kids can’t stay up late and any activities in the evening would not be possible. You need to remember that when planning flights etc.
By now you should have a fairly good idea of what you are doing and when. This is the point I usually enlist the help of a travel agent. I get everyone wants to book online and save save save. I do use Skyscanner for airline costs and I do use Agoda for hotel rooms. Regardless, a travel agent will have information about location – how far away can you stay and how close do you need to be. Yes, you can use TripAdvisor to make choices and work out where to go and what service to use. This takes a lot of time. My preference is to use a travel agent and then add some research of my own. For example the travel agent we are using to book our trip to Hawaii recommended we arrive and drive straight to the north shore rather than a few days in Waikiki before off to the North Shore. As we are then travelling on to the mainland we would need to be in Waikiki first thing in the morning for the flights out. Yes, I could possible work this all out but her knowledge and the fact she has booked 10 US trips in the last week possibly give her an advantage.
At this point you should consider what is nearby. You would hate to be in Istanbul and not go to Budapest if its a dream location of yours to visit. I’m not going to Hawaii without reliving all those Gidget goes Hawaiian moments and think I’m one of the girls in Blue Crush (for at least a small wave)
Now that you have created an itinerary you will have the confidence to go ahead and make more concrete plans. Enjoy it. Planning is half the fun. Most importantly remember the step about what you dream or expect a place to be and ensure that the reality meets that where it can.
Disclaimer – I’ve made the assumption that you are not out of touch with reality and you are not expecting shopping malls in the middle of the dessert but have realistic expectation as to what is possible. This exercise is based on you dreaming it will be days by the pool and ensuring you get days by the pool. It is about the dream of romantic dinners and making sure that the itinerary has time for romantic dinners.