Travel Tales Private Limited

What is it that goes into planning the perfect vacation? Everyone has his or her personal take, so we speak to a bunch of passionate travellers to find out what it takes to enjoy your break

By Megha Pai

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Published: Fri 25 Nov 2011, 9:07 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 3:08 AM

When it comes to engineering a vacation, there is no one-size-fits-all formula. One has to plan, strategise and decide wisely. You may opt for holiday packages if you are on a restrained time and budget, but often these vertigo-inducing guided tours are rushed, making you feel like you’re on The Amazing Race. Plan your own vacation instead. You will find that your perfect getaway is just a few mouse-clicks away.

Get the ball rolling

If you do not have a specific place in mind, then deciding what you want out of a trip is a good place to start. From relaxation to cultural immersion, adventure to sightseeing and shopping — people travel for different reasons. Once you have picked your reason, decide on the destination that meets your expectations.

When children are involved, the trip needs to have enough to keep the tiny tots busy and happy. For Cameron and Martina McPherson, a holiday is all about their girls — Erinna (12) and twins, Emma and Arianna (8). “We prefer to do our own thing rather than going on guided tours, because with the kids it is so hard to go on a scheduled outing. So it’s best to take one day at a time,” says Martina.

Travelling for couples can be more flexible and spontaneous, as in the case of Vanya and Sudhir Vora, who have grown-up children working and studying abroad. “We watched the beautiful palatial locations of Udaipur (India) in [Indian movie] Mera Saaya and decided to go there on a whim. It was the same with Venice after we watched one of the Bond movies on television recently,” says Vanya, remembering their impulsiveness.

While travelling in a group, you need to have a consensus on the agenda, feels Stefan Apostolovic, an engineer by profession and globe-trotting adventurer by choice, who recently travelled to Greece with friends. “When we were in Athens, half of the group wanted to go out for the nightlife and the other half wanted to discover the city, causing a rift. So it is important to have a mutual understanding beforehand.”

Research, reviews and ratings

Once you have zeroed in on the destination, the next logical step is to research and read up on every aspect of the trip, starting with the visa requirement which needs to 
be looked into weeks, if not months, in advance, especially if you are 
the passport holder of a south 
Asian country.

Weather is very important. Remember the episode of Friends, in which everyone goes to Barbados, only to be stuck indoors due to torrential rain? Overlooking weather conditions happens more often than one might imagine.

Next, plan your itinerary. You will find all there is to know about your destination online. But don’t just rely on the Internet, says 26-year-old frequent traveller Aryeah Mohasses. “Online information can be very misleading sometimes. Talk to people who have already been there or are from there,” he advises. Talking to the locals will give you new insights and help you explore better.

Next step — booking: tickets, transfers and taverns

Between two months and two weeks before departure is the best time to pick up a bargain flight, advises the Lonely Planet website.

Transfers from the airport and between destinations can be pre-arranged online or can be done on arrival. Just be sure to ask someone you can trust about the costs.

While some travellers play it safe by sticking to the popular hotels, others, like Abu-Dhabi based businessman, Avinash Hareendran, chooses to get off the tourist trail. “I make it a point to never stay in places that are too popular with travellers, as they are crowded and one can never relax,” he says.

There are hosts of great advisory websites (see box) that not 
only have staff reviews of hotels in every budget, but also have forums where travellers can write reviews and give personal ratings. Choose from shoestring-budgeted hostels 
to lavish five-star hotels. Whatever your preference may be, the world is your oyster.

The Art of Packing — less is more

Before you decide to pack your whole world in the bag, remember to the check the list of banned articles and the domestic restrictions on the luggage weight. You don’t want to repack or pay extra at the airport. And remember to leave space for all the shopping you plan to do at your destination. A good rule of thumb is never travel with more than you can carry by yourself and still have at least one free hand, suggests Lonely Planet author, Ali Lemer.

“If I can find it on the road, I don’t need to pack it,” says Avinash, who calls himself a minimalist traveller. On the other hand, Martina McPherson can’t afford to travel light even if she wants. She can’t take the risk of being ill-prepared for any eventuality with her children. Her tip for families to survive the Survivor-like trial of travelling with younglings by plane? “Bring a change of clothes for yourself and the kids — just in case they spill juices or food — so that when you get to the other end you don’t look like you crawled out of a garbage bin!”

List of websites

Each month over five million travellers visit the website to plan travel, book vacations and seek advice from their professional authors as well as other users in the website’s online bulletin board, Thorn Tree, which The Guardian describes as “one of the best places to seek out advice on a wide range of travelling issues.”

A great travel website that assists customers in gathering travel information, posting reviews and opinions of travel-related content and engaging in interactive travel forums, enabling travellers to plan and enjoy the perfect trip.

Number one website for hostel bookings. With the largest number of customer ratings and reviews, this online portal provides great value accommodation.

One of the most famous travel journalists

in the world, Peter Greenberg provides travelling tips and advice on his website with a level of expertise and extensive experience that few can parallel.

One of the most comprehensive listings of worldwide electrical (such as what kind of plug-ins you need to charge your laptop in which country) and telephone information, available online. No matter where you go, you can remain connected.

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