There is a lot that needs to be considered when planning a trip. Here are a few suggestions that will help the process go more smoothly, if you have these in mind before we start the planning process.
In short, you can think of these on the basis of who, where, when, what, how, and most importantly, why. And there is one question that I will wait until last.
Who will be travelling? What are their names as it appears on their legal identification? How old are they? Do they have any medical or dietary restrictions?
These are all important for several reasons. First, if you are traveling with a child, some tour and cruise operators have a different rate for children. The same can be true of older travelers. For example, many rail systems in Europe have a lower fare for travelers over the age of 60.
Second, many countries are particularly sensitive to Human Trafficking, and will require additional documentation to verify the child’s identity, especially if you are not the child’s parent.
Third, tour and cruise operators often want to be aware of any dietary restrictions or medical considerations. If the guest has difficulty walking on uneven terrain, they want to be aware of it. Some will even ask if the client has medical equipment that needs to be transported or set up.
Lastly, names on all airline bookings must match exactly with the traveler’s legal identification. For international travel, this is their passport.
So, when planning your trip, I will ask for the following information:
- Names of all travelers as it appears on their passport.
- Dates of Birth as it appears on the passports.
- Passport issue and expiration dates. Most countries require that the passport be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return date.
- Any medical or dietary restrictions. I will not ask you to tell me what health issues you may have, only what impact it may have on your mobility or well-being on the trip.
Where do you want to go? This may seem like an obvious question, but it really needs to be considered in depth. To simply say “I want to go to Germany” is a good start, but needs to be expanded. Do you want to go to Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg, or do you want to spend all of your time in Düsseldorf?
In order to cover all of the bases, I will ask you to list, in order of priority, all of the specific places you want to go. I realize that you may not know exactly everywhere you want to go, and I can definitely help you research those things. After all, that’s part of the fun and excitement of traveling, to discover and experience new things.
When do you want to go and for how long? Are your dates flexible? These are important for several reasons.
First, there may be local events that you need to be aware of. For example, if you want to go to Scotland in the summer, you will want to be aware of the festivals going on in Edinburgh in August. They are really worth seeing, but they make the city very crowded at that time.
Second, there are high demand, low demand, and “shoulder” periods. High demand time in Europe is from May through September. Prices during this time will be higher. The winter months are usually the low demand period. While the prices will be lower, there will also be a lot of points of interest that will not be open. The “shoulder” periods are those months between the high and low demand periods.
Third, we need to make sure that everything you want to do can be done in the time allotted. In a personal experience, I took a 2-week tour of Ireland and Scotland. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and we were constantly on the go. But, even with 2 weeks, there was a lot that we did not get to see. When planning the trip, I had to make a call as to whether we would see the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland or the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
What do you want to do on your trip? The general statistic is that over 80% of people travel for sightseeing. But what else do you want to do? Are you interested in museums? Throughout Europe and the UK, you have access to some of the finest art and historical museums in the world. Or are you looking for outdoor activities?
As an example, on my previous trip to England, I scheduled my trip so that I could attend the British Formula 1 Grand Prix. For my first trip to Scotland, I included a fly-fishing trip. Many people traveling to France and Italy will want a cooking class. You may want to go skiing or hiking. All of these are possible.
How do you want to travel? There are river cruises, ocean cruises, escorted tours and independent travel. But there are also options for chauffeured and self-drive tours. Or, you can have a combination of these.
Many people will immediately say they want to travel independently. Their reasons for doing so will vary. Perhaps they don’t want to be on a schedule. Or, they are concerned about being crammed on a bus with 60 strangers.
Independent travel does have a lot of advantages, and it is the way I prefer to travel. I can do things like go fly-fishing in Scotland, or book a dinner cruise on the Thames. But, it is also possible to miss things that an escorted tour would give me access.
And, with Independent Travel, do you want to drive or rely on other modes of transportation? Driving in Ireland and the UK requires you to drive on the left side of the road, and, in Ireland the roads can be extremely narrow. Traveling to another country does not require you to rent a car, if it is planned properly.
On the other end of the spectrum is an escorted tour. There are many benefits here. First, they will get you into exhibits that you may not be able to get to on your own. For example, Tauck’s Italy tour includes an after hours visit to the Sistine Chapel. And escorted tours come in different sizes. Some as small as 16 people. Others as large as 55 passengers.
Lastly is a chauffeured drive. It’s just you and a driver. This has a lot of benefits – flexibility, avoiding the crowds, but it comes at a price.
One thing that is becoming more popular is to combine a couple of modes of travel. For example, on the tour I took to Ireland and Scotland, several people extended their trip with a weekend in London or Manchester, on their own.
This is by far the most important question. Why do you want to make this trip? We all have a mental image of our ideal of a trip. That image may be sitting on a beach holding a drink with a tiny umbrella in it. Or, it may be sitting in the gardens of Schonbrunn Palace, listening to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Whatever your ideal is, that is what I want to create for you.
The Question I Didn't Ask Until Now
There is one question that you have been waiting for me to ask, and I haven’t asked it until now. That question is “What is your budget”?
The reason that this question is last, is because the answers to the other questions will have a large impact on the budget. An escorted tour can be the most economical way to travel. But if you really don’t want to be on a schedule, a tour may not be right for you.
Contrary to popular belief, independent travel is not the most economical. In fact, it can be quite expensive, based on what you want to do. For example, that day of fly fishing in Scotland cost me over $400. Attending the British Grand Prix was well over $1,000. The Grand Prix tickets were expense because I was sitting right at the Finish line, with a direct line of sight into the pit for Lewis Hamilton. It would be like having court-side seats at an NBA Basketball Championship Game, or tickets on the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl. The experience of both of those days was, to me, well worth the cost.
And that is our goal here. To make sure that the trip we plan for you is of the highest value.