Since we have traveled quite a bit in the last 17 years (80 countries and all seven continents), people often ask us how we plan and book our trips. Here’s how it works:
- I keep a file on destinations and trips I think we might like to consider. In the file there are brochures and catalogue pages I get in the mail, as well as stuff I’ve picked up at travel shows or find on the internet.
- When I decide on what destinations to explore for next year, for example, I check out the internet, and I talk to with our travel agent and update dates and availability from my file sources.
- I usually then make up a simple spreadsheet to compare the two, four or six tours or sources I’m considering. This includes the dates, the stops, the hotels, the number of meals, extensions, total cost, and average daily cost.
- I try to work as far in advance as possible, because if you want to use award miles for air, you need to try making arrangements 331 days ahead of your trip. This is especially true if you’re trying to upgrade to business class.
- We generally try to arrive a day earlier than our tour starts to get over jetlag; or if the tour is short, we stop somewhere for two to three days first.
We have traveled in various ways.
Package tours where you get the best array of services. Yes, you can do it cheaper on your own, but not as good and you’ll waste a lot of time making decisions and trying to figure out how to get somewhere. They may move at a slower pace than you might like, but the overall package is usually worth it.
Here’s a sampling of package tours we’ve taken:
Good Value: OdysseysUnlimited.com
& Economical: VantageTravel.com
A little more: NationalGeographicExpeditions.com
(High priced): A&KAbercrombiekent.com
Bike Tours: Backroads
Vermont Bike Tours
Butterfield & Robinson
On our own if we’ve been there before – i.e., London, we just book a hotel and go from there. We use the hotel concierge to find on/off busses (we really enjoy) or other tours and sites.
Pre-arranged private tours working through our travel agent and a boutique tour operator. We’ve gone this route to Southern Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. It does cost a little more, but it makes for a great trip with lots of flexibility and seeing more of what you want on your schedule.
I use a travel agent to book all our trips; because (a) it costs us nothing; (b) she’s an excellent resource; (c) there are extra benefits at some hotels (free upgrades and breakfasts); (d) she’s bailed us out of a number of problems. Her name is Marlene Leitner. She can be reached at (800) 347-4447 if you’d like to call her about any of your travel plans.
Traveling has been a great joy in our retiring years. I hope you’ll enjoy it as well. Let me know if you want some advice or input.