Following last edition’s feature on gap years, this week we are sharing some tips and necessary checkpoints to organise your first holiday out of school.
So, you’ve decided that 2020’s the year: you’re finally organising that holiday. Whether you are planning a road trip with mates, laying down the foundations for your gap year or finally bringing to life that trip to New York you have been dreaming of since forever, there is some travel admin to be done first. You might not know where to start. While all the work of setting up your holiday can seem daunting, keep the end goal in sight. We all need a good rest sometimes. Don’t forget even God took the day off once!
LET'S KEEP THINGS PLANE AND SIMPLE
Flight comparison websites, like Webjet or Skyscanner, let you search across multiple airlines and travel dates to find the best option. However, the cheapest way to purchase is usually direct from the airlines. The same rules apply to coach hires, ferries, and other transport options; look up the companies directly in case they have sales or deals.
You can also go through a travel agent but remember that agents get paid a commission to push certain products. Before you book, search online to check you are getting a good deal.
In general, the earlier you book your flights, the cheaper they will be.
If you are landing in a foreign country, a location with limited public transport or somewhere you have never visited before, avoid flying in late at night.
Put a ribbon on your suitcase so it is easier to spot at the baggage claim.
You will get the worst currency exchange rates at the airport.
HOW ACCOMMODATING OF YOU
With websites like Airbnb and Stayz entering the fray, you have far more accommodation options up your sleeve to choose from. If going through these sites, look for verified hosts or good reviews as a general indicator of safe, enjoyable places to stay. If you have the budget, you can stay in a hotel. If you are on a budget, hostels might be a great option (especially when travelling within a group).
While websites like booking.com and trivago are great for comparing hotel deals, check hotel websites directly for special offers before you book.
Set aside rest days when booking accommodation. If you are zipping across towns, regions or countries, you need to have some days to just chill in one place and catch your breath.
Also factor in jetlag for your first few nights.
GETTING TO AND FRO
If you are under-21, most countries won’t let you behind the wheel of a hire car, and under-25s will probably be charged a young driver surcharge. Unless you travel with an adult driver, options for getting around are walking, hiring bikes or scooters, using public transport (remember some places are better resourced than others) or taxis/ride-share apps.
Another option is to join a tour. There is a lot of middle ground between Contiki and Seniors Cruises—such as day trips, active tours and mission trips. While they may incur a greater cost, your transport is organised for you and the decision-making is passed into someone else’s hands, leaving you to relax and go with the flow. However, if you prefer to explore without a schedule, it might not be for you.
Take photographs of any scratches, dents or markings when you rent a hire care, as proof of the condition the car was in.
Tours can help solo travellers link up with people and stay safe (it might keep your parents’ fears at bay too!).
You don’t have to be part of a tour for your whole holiday—consider short-term options.
Keeping yourself safe during your travels includes everything from staying physically healthy to protecting yourself and your valuables. Make sure to research location-specific tips ahead of time for staying on the good side of the locals and check with your GP about any vaccinations you might need to enter certain countries.
Eat healthy. Veggies, fruit, and protein will fuel your travels and reduce your chances of falling sick.
Pack a small first aid kit, and don’t forget about sunscreen!
Scan copies of important documents and email them to yourself. Also, take extra passport photographs with you for visas.
Give someone a copy of your travel itinerary before you leave. Then, someone knows where you are supposed to be at every stage.
Only post social media updates once you have left a place—that way no one can track you online.
Separate your sources of money in case one gets lost or stolen. In some countries, it can pay (#punintended) to take a ‘dummy wallet’ with you—containing an expired card and some small notes—to distract thieves.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TRIP
While it is important to plan, try to approach travel with a sense of flexibility. Things are bound to deviate from the plan at times. Remember, Proverbs 16:9, says ‘In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.’ Take this to heart, wherever travel leads you. Look out for what God is trying to say to you; you might go out to see and do certain things, and find he directs you down an entirely different path.
It helps to learn a few important phrases, but you don’t need to be fluent in the language of the country you’re visiting.
Check whether you need an international adapter plug.
As you travel, add your most-played songs to a playlist. When you get home, you can listen back and be reminded of your time away. Keeping a journal is another great idea.
Remember, you can’t see everything. Fact. Don’t go somewhere just because it’s a tourist destination … but at the same time, don’t avoid places because they are a tourist destination. Go to the places you most want to visit.
What if you’re the person staying home while your friends are all abroad, scrolling through your Instagram feed, seeing all the updates from their travels and feeling completely left out? If you are struggling with travel envy, here’s some tips to keep your mood up.
Take a social media #vacay. Living vicariously through your friends is no good if it makes you feel jealous.
Keep the future in mind; think about how you can earn money or work in a position which will allow you to travel one day.
Try to keep perspective, be grateful for what you have and stay busy.
Be a tourist in your own town and try some new things. If you would prefer to stay indoors, plan a good ol’ staycation.