How to Plan the Perfect (and Safe!) Getaway: 5 Tips for Women

Finances & Savings, Health & Safety, Leaving & Coming Home, Passports & Visas — By on November 18, 2010 at 5:03 pm
When you start planning a trip, it’s easy to get excited.  Excitement and anticipation are a good thing. But, remember to keep your head–as well as your allotted time and budget–grounded in reality. Travel isn’t always easy, cheap, or the most feasible, but it’s doable if you weigh all your options and play well. To cover all of her bases, Lost Girls’ Michele Herrmann chatted with a few travel agents for practical advice on how to plan a trip to your ideal destination.

1) Start with an Idea
Many budding travelers dream of strolling along Champs-Elysées, laying beach-side in the Bahamas, or admiring Egypt’s majestic Sphinx and pyramids.  But what’s the best way to get there? “I always tell people who haven’t traveled much to visualize their trip as a personal journey…to think about places they’ve always wanted to go,” explains Nico Crisafulli, social media coordinator for Airtreks, a provider of multi-stop international air travel services.Begin a list of dream places. Sheryl Kayne, a travel writer and author, keeps a travel master list of places that she has read about and wants to visit. Kayne suggests considering these two major points: how much time would you have to go on a trip and what amount of time are you willing to put into traveling.

Women’s Travel Club founder Phyllis Stoller suggests asking yourself certain questions to best give you a better sense of what you’re looking for and what actually you can handle. For example, can you do well on little sleep and major jet lag? How far can you walk with either a backpack on your shoulder or lug along a  suitcase?

What’s overlooked in making plans? Well, unrealistic time expectations is up there–particularly with getting from place A to place B or attempting to crowd in five cities in 10 days.

“Don’t try to do too much and to give yourself time to recuperate every so often while on the road,” Crisafulli advises. After a few on-the-go days, take one off to chill out.

Consider the geographical distance between locations. Stoller advises mapping them out to get a good sense of how much time would be need to get between places. Learn as much as you can about the surrounding neighborhood you will be staying in or visiting.

Yeomans recommends purchasing travel insurance as, well, anything from a natural disaster to an airport strike to personal illness can alter your plans. Read the policy carefully. “The important thing is to make sure that your policy covers what you’re in need of.”

2) Determine What Interests You

Put your personal interests at the top of your decision-making process: attractions or museums, relaxation or recreation.

A beach person might not be too excited about a four-day trek along the Inca Trail, finds Nancy Yeomans, The Lost Girls’ air travel news editor and owner of Pangea Travel. “Travel should expand your horizons, but at the same time, it is a vacation.”

Kanye says trips “should be based on what you most want to do and your activity level rests on what you need.” Those who feel burnt out might want to look for an excursion that might provide motivation as well allow down time to veg out.

Voluntourism and philanthropic travel are options for those who want an alternative to sightseeing or shopping. Contact U.S.-based organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, and Oxfam as they also provide opportunities abroad. “Volunteering is a great way to see what a destination is really like,” says Yeomans. “You meet the real people of an area and get to feel good about being there.” Plus, she points out: it looks great on a resume.

3) Count Your Dollars and Keep your Sense

Yes, money is a big part of travel. But don’t fret about costs just yet. Dream locations such as Hawaii are now more affordable and countries such as Argentina also tend to be less expensive, according to Kayne.

Stay relaxed about currency exchange rates, as Crisafulli notes the difference in return from one day to the next can be minimal. “It is important however to consider where you can get the most from your dollar with respect to how long to spend there.”

Also, don’t let your dollars totally dictate your travel picks. If your heart is set on Europe or even Japan, then head there but perhaps don’t spend so much time there to maximize your budget, says Crisafulli. Countries where the U.S. dollar goes farther include South East Asia, Bolivia, or India.

Become your own weather forecaster by learning about the seasonal climate for your choice destination to know when to go. Just because “The Caribbean during hurricane season can be very cheap, but also a gamble,” says Yeomans.

Kayne learned a hard lesson: “My very first trip to Israel was in the middle of [a] rainy season! No wonder it was so cheap!”

4) Choose an Escort

Newbies or experienced, there are travelers who prefer putting their trust in packages or escorted/guided tours.

Crisafulli finds these tours can be excellent for different reasons. Your tour guide is often from the destination and is quite knowledgeable about it. The tour might be scheduled to go to a specific place that perhaps if you were going solo might have thought of or might not have stopped at otherwise. Solo travelers also can mingle with fellow tour guests (who even speak the same language as you do) and can blend in with them safely.

Escorted tours are especially good for locations that may have security issues. Ask a travel agent specializing in a specific country or region for certain recommendations. When Kayne went on a jaunt to Brazil, a local escort at the airport advised her on which areas she would be fine going by herself to and which ones she should have company.

Yet, these tours have setbacks. Guides can keep a tight schedule. The Louvre or Prado is a great scheduled stop, but the two hours you only have to visit can result in an impromptu decision on what collections are a must-see. As Crisafulli explains,  “You see the land in which your traveling but don’t often get to interact with it.”

Pay attention to the ages and demographics of the customers the tour company attracts. A young, single gal might prefer to be with those in her age range; no offense to the seniors and retired folk. Yeomans finds that each day of a tour might seem to go longer if unfortunately you don’t seem to mesh with your road companions.

5) Be Brave but Act Smart

Movies on female travelers going rogue exemplify these gals’ determination against all possible odds. But don’t let pride get in the way of personal safety.

If going abroad, go a step further in addition to reading travel warnings on the State Department’s website. Stoller recommends getting your hands on (or your web browser to) an English-speaking newspaper based in your foreign destination to learn directly about what’s being reported on there.

Load yourself up on guidebooks. Stoller’s suggestion: guidebooks published by non-American names such as Lonely Planet. She finds these specific sources are more in depth and insightful.

Be street smart, too, by packing light. Rolling along a heavy suitcase, notes Stoller, can make you stand out as a potential target.

On the days prior to your departure, Crisafulli suggests taking about 15 minutes each day to just relax so that your mind can be clear for getting your priorities in order. Stoller recommends to print out a list of “to-bring” items and double-check the list to be certain everything you will need is all in one place.

Make sure your passport and essential cards (credit/ATM) are secured in your wallet. “You can manage without everything else if you need to and can buy it at your destination,” says Yeomans.

With careful planning before you leave–and an open mind while en route–savor the moments and experiences you will encounter along your journey.



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