This is an article that I presented to my Traveling Friends a few months ago. This is a list that only I see of individuals who are interested in sharing global adventures with me. You can be part of this group if you contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My Prediction: Travel is interrupted but it will resume.
Are there going to be changes in your future travel plans? For example, will you swing away from a group travel experience and instead opt for more personal travel? Will you be increasing or decreasing your travel budget? This may depend on how you will travel:
- will you be moving away from cabin-level seating in airplanes and staying in the front of the aircraft in First or Business class?
- Will you design your own travel itinerary, seeing and experiencing just what you want to see?
- Can you manipulate the internet well enough to get just the itinerary that you want?
- Do you know enough about the area that you want to visit that you can have the time to explore in depth without a great deal of time and money wasted?
A viable alternative is to turn to a travel professional. As I see it, there are at least two directions you can move in with this track;
- go to a travel advisor with your intentions and let that person do the groundwork, putting together a specific itinerary, based on your broad outline. This would include the scope of your travel plans as to how far you want to move from your landing point. When I design a trip itinerary, I know the headache and time wasted of checking in to a new hotel every day and checking out the next morning. This includes the time spent unpacking and repacking. And how did that piece of clothing get moved to the bottom of the suitcase and you couldn’t find it when you needed it?
- Based on my travel experience, the checking in and checking out of a hotel every night can take up to two valuable hours a day when you could be doing something else like acquainting yourself with the hotel neighborhood and finding that perfect restaurant for the next day’s dinner or checking out some of the local stores for an ideal gift for your cousin back home.
- Not working with a travel advisor and Traveling on your own can lead to another great time-waster. I experienced this for the first time when I took a group to China in 1986. In Beijing on a rainy morning, I had scheduled my group to vist the tomb of Mao Zedong. When we got off the bus in the giant square early in the morning, there were at least 500 people already in line. Uniformed soldiers were passing along the line telling those waiting the procedure for entering and observing the preserved of the former Chinese leader. No cameras, no umbrellas, hands at your sides, no talking, hats off. Even though the line was moving relatively quickly, I knew that it would be at least 45 minutes before my group could enter the tomb. Our guide met us and told us to follow him. We walked to the head of the line and entered the tomb very quickly and I had the entire group through and ready for our next adventure in a matter of 10 minutes. Head of the line privileges for certain groups makes a lot of sense to many.
- What if you are on your own and you get to the hotel that you selected off the internet and find that you don’t like the location or something inside the hotel gives you bad feelings? To whom do you turn to find an alternative? Can you find another hotel on your own at that point? If you have pre-paid for the hotel you don’t like, can you get your money back?
- It is good to have a travel advisor who will stand behind you and be able to know the means by which costs can be reimbursed.
A second way to use a travel advisor is to sign up for a pre-arranged trip itinerary. When I design a trip, I go through a specific process. The first step is to determine where a group might like to go. I read a variety of on-line travel blogs and journals and have some idea of countries and areas that should be interesting to visit. Sometimes they are countries that have recently opened up to tourists (the China trip in 1986 is an example). It might be a country that had a change in administration and now encourages tourism by developing the infrastructure to make guests feel more welcome. I try to stay away from “hot” countries that will be overcrowded, because no pre-planning can overcome areas that are wall-to-wall tourists with long lines, insufficient transportation, overcrowded hotels, unhappy clerks, rushed restaurant staff serving poorly prepared food.
My next step after selecting a country is to determine what the theme of the visit will be. When I designed a trip to northern and eastern Spain a few years ago, I decided that I would concentrate on the unique architectural styles of those areas. Another trip in northern France looked at the Normandy invasion of 1944 and the many chateaux in the Loire Valley as the prime focus points. Note that I did not “do” all of Spain or all of France. Those countries are large enough that I can revisit other parts at a later time.
The third step is to lay out a possible itinerary lasting approximately two weeks. Longer than that is tiring and overwhelming to most tourists. It can become a blur of cathedrals, temples, castles, and long bus rides. Ideally, I can pick a city, find a hotel that is centrally located, and then do day trips from that hotel for two to four nights. Then move on to another city. The day trips should be in a loop format so that we don’t return on the same road we went out on. Not too much each day so that the guests have a better chance to digest what they saw before the next day’s activity. Then follow a similar pattern in the next city. Guests feel more comfortable in the evenings as they explore the neighborhood finding that neat café to have a late afternoon coffee or a drink. My guests share their dining experiences so that those little restaurants that were not on the internet but had that perfect meal that can be patronized by others in the group the next night.
The fourth step is to see how much of the itinerary I can do in two weeks’ time. I measure the distance between cities and check out the time it takes to get from point A to point B and what would be the best way of getting there. It might be on a luxury intercity motor coach or possibly a high-speed train. Long distances might be covered with an airplane ride or even a coastal steamer or river cruise boat. How far is the airport from the hotel? What is the best way to make that transfer? How long a wait in the airport or train terminal? If we are taking a motor coach, should there be “comfort” stops or even a lunch break? Does the coach have one or two doors? (This is important because if there are 25 people in the group, the time to get off and get back on can be shortened with two doors). If there is an interesting venue to visit while traveling between two hotels, obviously a motor coach makes more sense than an airplane or train trip. If I have an intermediate stop, can I arrange for a guide to take the group through that venue?
The fifth step is to share my potential itinerary with various suppliers. Their reason for existing is to have contacts in the country we will be visiting and I go through their proposals with my travel agent — yes, I can’t do it by myself but instead rely on the professionals who have access to these suppliers — and compare alternatives to the itinerary that I proposed and prices. These suppliers can assist with suggestions for the means of transportation, some alternative hotels that I had not considered, finding qualified guides, restaurants, and things to see along the way that might pique the interest of my guests.
My agent and I look at alternatives, narrowing the supplier list, and finally selecting one and then we put together the information to recruit fellow travelers. As you could guess, this takes a few months and I start the planning process approximately 18 months before the start of a trip. I also consider the time of year for a trip so that we are not overwhelmed with large numbers of fellow tourists in other groups, do not travel in “high season” with its inflated prices, yet the weather is friendly.
Then, and only then, do I put out a “save the date” and then start actively recruiting a group for the next foreign adventure.
After the tour is done, I write three journals. The first one is mine alone that includes all the details so that I have a total picture of what worked and what didn’t; the second one is a short one that I share with my selected supplier to make future trips better; the third one that includes photographs, maps, and other visuals, is inserted in my website: http://www.travelwithchardoul..com for the world to see.