People plan their vacations and trips in a variety of ways. Some are travel agent planners, who book flights, tours, accommodation and transport through a third-party agent who does all the hard work. This method is fantastic because it takes the stress away and means someone else does the grunt work hunting down the best deals. However you are often confined to certain airlines, hotels or tour itineraries that aren’t overly flexible. Also in my experience, travel agents cost more money than if you do it yourself. However I have been pleasantly surprised with this trip – my Mom recommended STA Travel as they do discounts on flights if you are a student and/or under 26 years old. Which means, thanks to my star agent Nicola, that I bought a round the world ticket, flying Chch-Singapore-London-Barcelona-LA-Christchurch all for under NZ$3,000, and on Star Alliance (which means I get airpoints and fingers crossed I will make it to gold status by the end!). However the only thing with STA is that they can’t book air asia or other budget airlines, which means that all the internal flights have to be booked outside a travel agent, to get the cheapest deals.
This leads me to another type of planner – the self-sufficient planner who takes booking into their own hands. This type of planner differs from the third type – the ‘wing-it’ planner (yes, a contradiction in terms!) who books things themselves, but doesn’t really truly “book”. The wing-it planner does exactly that – wings it. Checks into hotels when they arrive to a city, books flights on the day or a few days before once they decide what they want to do. Doesn’t look at or book tours before leaving home. Does things last-minute. Often things work out for wing-it planners, however things only work out if you are ok with winging it and taking things as they come.
I, am not a wing-it planner. I am an organiser. A micro-manager. I color coördinate and cross-reference my travel guide books. I print out all flight and hotel confirmations, have them in order, tabbed, ready for access. I print out maps, know how to get from the airport to the hotel, and what the check in and check out times are. Although I often book later than I should (when there are only one or two rooms left), I have narrowed my hotel down using Trip Advisor, blogs, lonely planet guides, a variety of booking websites and with knowledge of what the pros and cons of the place I decide to stay in. So although I have a friend who recently travelled South East Asia, and bought a tablet so they could book everything when they arrived and book bus tickets etc when there, they blatantly told me that they knew I could not survive like that. I am too much of an organiser. I would not be able to handle flying into a city without a place to stay, and venturing out to find accommodation. I protested, albeit weakly, but then came to the same conclusion that I would not be able to travel like that, no matter how much I think I could.
But is this a bad thing?
I justify my extreme organisation on the fact that when I am overseas, I have a limited amount of time, and I therefore want to take full advantage of my time there. I want a place to stay so I don’t waste time looking for hotels and bargaining to get a good rate. I want to know the attractions so I know a rough idea of what to do each day, and what is close to one another so I don’t miss out. I also want to know how to get around, so I am not taken advantage of, and know the best and most efficient way, especially when buses or trains are involved, and can truly enjoy the trip as stress-free as possible.
An example of when I tried being a wing-it planner ended fine, but only thanks to my travel companion calming me, telling me things would be fine, and pure luck. We were in Chamonix trying to get to Geneva for a flight that afternoon. We hadn’t booked shuttles in advance, because I figured we would book them when we arrived, and get the best price and best company. We forgot, and then the night before we went to happy hour at 3pm and by the time we left, the tourist office had shut. 7am the next morning, I called every single shuttle company. No one could take us in a shared shuttle. We were looking at 150 euro for a private taxi. But a lot of googling found that a bus did the same route, and whilst I had a bit of a meltdown, Andy got his cold-weather gear on, ventured into the snow and bought us two tickets at the train station 10 minutes walk away. Crisis averted.
The bus actually ended up being better – it was a double-decker bus, with about 10 travellers (taking up around 80 seats). We had a view, comfort, and were able to relax and take in the last of the snow before returning to summer in the southern hemisphere. And we arrived at the airport 4 hours early, plenty of time to check in and endure the chaos that is Easy Jet on a Sunday. But that is in itself another story.
But what about you? Are you one of the three travellers or planners I mention above? Do you organise like me, or are you more easy-going and casual when it comes to plans. Or are you a fourth type?