So you want to take a trip?
Even people that just “go with the flow” do some planning before an adventure. It’s always nice to have the hotel, transportation and basic tour plan in place before arriving. I am going to take you through the steps I use whenever I look at visiting a new city.. It doesn’t matter much whether you are traveling across the state or around the world.. except for transportation, the steps remain the same..
1. THE HOTEL
This is actually the easiest to do but it takes the most work to get the best
the rate.. I usually start with two hotel sites – Booking.com and Hotels.com . These
2 sites will generate some awesome deals and I use Booking.com almost exclusively. Still
there are 2 more steps I take, just to insure the best price.. I next check travel sites..
Orbitz and Expedia (for example) because they both have the lowest price guarantee.
I am not sure how they can BOTH have the lowest price but between these 4 sites, you will be able to find a hotel with the best price…or at least, you would think so. But
there is still ONE more step.. Once you pick a hotel or two, head over to the hotel’s
actual website and check the price again. You will often find that the hotel is offering
some promotion or deal that they haven’t passed on to the Search Engine sites.. When
searching for the hotel, look for acess to public transportation (or parking if you are driving), location to what you want to see and do, and breakfast… I always include breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day.
2. SIGHT SEEING
WHAT do you want to see and HOW are you going to get there? I had a friend of mine book me a hotel in Lviv for me.. This was before I decided to planmy own travel and one of the reasons I actually decided to start planning my owntravel. The hotel was awesome.. decent price .. yummy, if limited, breakfast. The problem was that I wanted to explore LVIV which was almost 40 km away.. so an hour there..and hour back.. by taxi. Not good. You need to have some basic plan of what you want to visit and dowhile on vacation.. Location doesn’t matter if you are going to lounge around the pool all day drinking MaiTais.. But If you want to explore a city, visit iconic landmarks, or check out thelocal flavor, you need to have a plan.Are you renting a car and driving? Are you taking public transportation (Metro, Buses)?Do you need a taxi? Are you going to walk (My favorite mode of exploration)?What are the 5 most important things you want to see and do? Landmarks? Museums?In the larger cities in Europe that I have visited, I have found that Hop On/Hop Off bus tours are an excellent and economical way to see the landmarks.. While they are not all the same, typically they stop at (or close) to the major attractions and come and go about every 10 minutes.. I use them for transportation purposes because it easier to read and decipher the schedules than local buses..and over a 3 or 4 day trip..less expensive. Of course, you can just get a city map and walk.. ultimately that is the least expensive and walking allows you to see things you might have otherwise missed.
3. THE FLIGHT
This is the next to last thing, I plan.. The reason for the last will be apparent momentarily. The flight is also the fastest to book.. Check Kayak and follow the recommendations.. or use Orbitz or Expedia to book hotel and flight together. If you do a bit of homework with the hotel search, it makes this stage much easier..
A couple of points about flying and flight searches.. Prices change constantly, but in my experience, it is best to buy the flight 14 – 21 days in advance and after midnight on Tuesday. I always find the best prices then.. And make sure that after you search on Kayak or Vayama or anywhere, always check the airline’s website. Just like hotels, airlines often have deals that they don’t share with the search engines.
4. AIRPORT TRANSFERS
The last thing I plan (and pay for in advance) is the transfer from the airport to the hotel.. I absolutely hate trying to get a decent price from a taxi at the airport. The reason that this is the last thing is because to pre-book a transfer you will need flight times and numbers. I have found a couple of sites that provide transfers for a reasonable price – City Discovery and Sun Transfers. Either one of these companies will have your driver waiting at the arrival gate with a nice placard with your name. He will take your luggage to the car, load it, and drop you off at the front door of the hotel. I have also found that the price is less than or equal to the same price as a taxi, and you don’t have to wait or haggle a price.
Don’t get me wrong, there are always options in every city. Stockholm, Vienna and Zurich all have direct trains from the airport to the center of the city that take 15 – 30 minutes.. Paris has some of the most amazing public transportation anywhere and their train system will take you either to CDG or ORLY or both.. Trains are a reasonbly priced, fast and comfortable (although sometimes crowded) option in alot the major cities. The biggest downside is rarely do they stop at your hotel.
Most airports have buses to the center of town and that is usually the cheapest option. frequently though, the buses are packed to capacity and slow in traffic. And, like the trains, they rarely stop at your hotel. If you don’t mind dragging, rolling, pulling, or carrying you luggage from the stop to the hotel, buses can save you a small fortune..
Happy and Safe Travels!