Fellow travelers, with your hardly-earned vacation right around the corner, how many times these thoughts have crossed your mind?:
"Let me go with the flow and leave the planning of daily activities once I get there."
Well, this might have been the right approach in your 20s, but today's savvy travelers know that a bit of pre-planning is essential to be able to actually relax on a vacation. Of course, the variety of tricky experiences in my own travel adventures have served to reinforce this idea, and we generally pre-book the main points of interest ahead of time (while still leaving some free time for exploration), and would like to share a few key points learned from the process.
Pre-planning will optimize your vacation time
In the today's busy world, time is money -- and time at your vacation destination is especially valuable -- so leaving that to the last minute to "go with the flow", will mostly result in last-minute stress, missed opportunities, and an unsatisfactory experience generally. Picture this: After one or two typical international flight connections, you finally have arrived in the destination. The last thing you'd like to do at that point, is to start exploring ideas what to do and not to do and when/where to go. Yes, most likely there will be an excursion desk in the hotel or nearby ready to book you on a tour for the "best rate" according to them. The chances are, that's just another tourist trap. ...Just to cite a recent an "eye-opening" example from my last family vacation in Malta, we reserved the one of the popular Captain Morgan Cruises for a day tour to the Blue Lagoon and the island of Gozo (you can see Captain Morgan booths almost at every corner of the sea promenade in Sliema, where is the main foot traffic). The total tour was 8 hours, out of it, we've spent 1 hour "beach time" at the Blue Lagoon and 1 hour touring Gozo (including the bus transfers). We ended up with 6 hours on the boat "cruising" between the islands, considering the fact that the distance between Malta and Gozo is less than 14 miles!). What a time-waster!
Special interest activities typically require -- or benefit from -- an advance booking.
Did you know? Exclusive museum/ special interest entrance tickets require an advance registration (the Tomb of the Pharaoh Seti I in Valley of the Kings in Egypt is one of the best-preserved tombs just recently opened to the general public and allows only 150 ppl per day with a special permit), or Scuba Diving Trips (limited number of divers in a group, in addition, most dive shops require reservation at least one day ahead).
Tip: Using a travel specialist to assist you with special interest tours will save your time and will enhance your vacation experience by leveraging relationships with local tour operators.
Save $ reserving in advance online Did you know? Many local tour operators offer two type of rates- An online rate and a walk-in rate. Sometimes the price difference is significant.
Skip the long lines to must-see sites Did you know? Majority of Europe's must-see historical sites are notorious for their long wait lines (the walk-in entrance to the Vatican museum can easily be a couple of hours). However, a travel expert will tell you that there is two type of travelers in Europe: those that wait in lines, and the other ones, who don't. Many museums offer a skip-the-line pass for an upcharge which is totally worth it in terms of a value and time-saver.
Pre-planning helps to reduce your stress
Unfortunately, stressful situations do occur when you are on vacation, especially due to a lack of coordination and planning to stay ahead of the game. Quite often, nailing-down a couple or a few key, high-value, items can work wonders in helping to create the best, most-optimized experience for you and/or friends and family.
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Thanks for reading & Travel Wisely!