As baby boomers we truly are the generation, expert in planning that special trip – or at least we think we are! I wish to challenge you, with the purpose to unveil those little known secrets that if applied, will transform your trip from just a typical travel- agent-planned itinerary into one that will exceed all expectations.
Too often the typical baby boomer when fully retired, will rely on so-called “experts” to plan their trip. There is a place for those travel-agent-planned trips such as bus and cruise lines tours – BUT – too often one is herded like sheep, going from one well planned itinerary, leaving flexibility and creativity behind. My experience is that baby boomers, just by our definition, are creative in spirit and already avid adventurers! Allow me to share what has inspired me in planning my trips.
There are two types of trips – the venturous and the R & R. The R & R trips are obvious – just a beautiful scene, relaxing in the sun or on a beach.
Pretty simple for after all – you are recuperating and to tackle climbing Kilimanjaro is truly not in the cards – at least not until your doctor gives the thumbs up! Those of us who are adventurers in spirit, let's gather around as we explore ways to make our travels unforgettable, and truly one of a kind.
• Destination Choice – once you decide on the country or area to travel, then it is an all out focus to learn everything about that country! Even if you are visiting Giza and the Pyramids – be sure you understand not only the ancient civilization, but also today's modern era. Understanding a culture's past often is as important in understanding their current form of government. Only though our understanding their past can we truly understand where they are today.
• A perfect example is when traveling to the Middle East. Understanding the tribal customs so inherent in this part of the world is paramount to understanding culture differences and beliefs. Tribe loyalty trumps any kind of territorial or country boundaries – something I often wonder if our own government officials are aware of these differing cultural subtleties.
• Value of Novels – historical, fiction and non-fiction. Understanding another culture through the written word, one gains incredible insight and further expands one's own perception. I discovered this technique when visiting Limerick, Ireland, after having read the heart - wrenching Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt. Through novels, one is able to identify with the culture, the people and also provides a platform wherein one is blessed to actually communicate and interact with locals.
• Making the Plan: In preparing your overall blueprint itinerary – always be sure to allow time for flexibility and change. After all, you just may want to take the train from Stockholm to Lapland and stay in the Ice Hotel, while taking in the Northern Lights! Only through your own planning can you switch itineraries “in the middle of the stream.”
• Visit and study those expensive travel sites and take notes of their itineraries – map it out yourself – this reinforces your own planning to be sure you are factoring in the most important places to see. Rick Steves' Travel site is the best in the industry – for gathering expert and up to date knowledge about any worldwide destination. You can create your own forum, ask any question and shortly will hear back from experts and others who recently traveled to where you are planning. A great resource as well as videos on U tube are available.
• Once you have your overall plan of country, city, and check list of things to see, you can easily plan out your days. Print out a calendar and note in pencil (as you may change) where you will be. Go on line to purchase your travel tickets (train, etc) as it is cheaper than buying directly from the ticket counter. Though you can save ticket purchases to your smart phone, I always print out a copy just in case my phone is not working properly. Also, for some high demand destinations, often you can purchase “skip the line” passes – which will save you many hours just waiting in line.
• Time is very important, so do whatever you can in advance to skip the lines or fast track your visit! Sometimes you may just have to be part of a “group” visit – to insure no lines and easy access. This is ok – as often you will get a general overview, as most fast track tours allow you to spend time by yourself exploring the site.
• Transportation/Currency: Seniors are pretty experienced when it comes to transportation and currency exchange (never get local funds at airport but rather at local bank or ATM exchanges as the rates are lower). Do factor in the benefit of Uber that is in most countries. Recently in the UK their may be some restrictions – but for just a few dollars more Uber is so simple, no stress in carting those pieces of luggage through the local train or bus stations!
• Eating – you do not always have to eat out – as many reserve their main eating celebrations for the evenings. This also opens up greater opportunities to interact with the local folks. It all depends on how one feels. If too tired, just grab a yogurt and sandwich from the hotel refrigerator and get needed rest. This is why having a refrigerator in your room is important and to ask the concierge directions to the the closest grocery store. Fill up with bottled water, snacks and things to eat, should you decide to tuck it in early. It saves money too! The key again is flexibility – you will be rested and able to continue on your planned itinerary, refreshed and ready to go!
The central theme for planning that great trip is to be totally FREE and to maintain flexibility – to do your homework well in advance and decide just exactly what you want to see. Study, study, study, is what I tell my grand children prior to any overseas adventure. Just to take off with no planning and study or to rely on some travel agent to explain everything, in the end maybe simple, but it does not fully engage your mind nor your spirit. At this stage in our lives, I think we want something more – more meaning for our lives. Study, engage and go! You're in control!