Vacation 101: Plan your trip
Hey folks, it’s that time of the year when the temperatures turn to all time highs, hair turns frizzy, moods decline before 9am and you feel that your face and the inner thoughts you are masking underneath, will be awash with a tidal wave of perspiration.
With schools shutting down for the annual break and the office conversation turning to “so where are you headed off this year?” it is time to plan your escape to a brief sojourn in to a land unknown!
Sounds exotic and exciting but most of us are guilty of having our holidays on repeat - same trip to Nathiagali or for the fancy ones, Dubai or London, with the yuppies having made a slight deviation to far eastern locations such as Bangkok, Malaysia or Singapore in the past five years.
But this year do something different. Plan and take a memorable trip instead of the 100th lap around the Mall of Dubai. So, take out your calculators, maybe even a copy of the world map, and let’s start planning a trip that will leave your mind, body and soul refreshed.
1. Know thy traveller
Your mission in life might be to see the Machu Pichu but if you are a 40 something travelling with wife, three kids and cranky mothers-in-law in tow, aim for something comfortable. We all have a list of the 100 places we would like to see before dying but dear friend know your audience and their interests. A six month old will not remember Disney World and nor will you be allowed to climb aboard a roller coaster with a baby in tow. I will also be callous enough to recommend that you leave children under five behind with loving grandparents – idea being they will not remember the trip but you will always remember how painful it was getting on to buses with a pushchairs.
However if you cannot bear to be parted from your heir, then do look into child friendly destinations such as Dubai (malls have great play areas and are air-conditioned) and the far east resorts where you can partake in water activities and the beach fun without busting the bank.
In an ideal world we would take breaks every three months but in reality, most of us scrimp and save for that one annual getaway. And more often than not we leave looking our shiny best and return with barely enough money to pay for the cab fare home. Most of my friends spend the next six months weeping over their credit card statements.
Planning is my favourite sport and if you want to have your holiday and not be reduced to living on stale bread upon your return, then allocate a certain percentage of your monthly earnings into a holiday fund. I would recommend 20 per cent for the singletons and DINKs (Dual income no kids) as this is their chance to see the world before responsibilities cut their wings and 10-15 per cent for the familywallahs.
3. Air miles!
I must admit I am obsessive above collecting them. When you can get free tickets and hotel stays, being loyal to a brand does not hurt and most airlines and hotels go through low seasons where tickets can be redeemed at half the miles and hotel rooms cost a fraction of their rack rates.
Essential to this is researching and finding a good plan. I love the Etihad frequent flier system - it offers good value to families and SMEs alike. And even more important is a good travel agent who can come up with cost effective tickets and good all inclusive packages. The folks at Bonds Travel Bureau are quite good at it and have decent summer 2011 offers running, so do look them up.
Imagine taking the love of your life - your newly married wife - to Paris and finding out that she hates Europe in December. Or, imagine embarking on a group holiday with ten of your best friends only to find out that the trip organiser that is your former best friend, has forgotten to include meal costs and taxi fares.
So, be sure to order in a take out, in honour of your prospective destination, sit down with the family or group you are taking off with and go over their expectations, wants and demands of this break. And be fair, because I do know of a group who went on a cruise a decade ago and are still not talking to each other till date.
I advise being careful with money but nothing is more valuable than memories, and special occasions such as graduation, anniversaries and milestones, demand a special trip, so even if you are making do with Islamabad and Murree this year, start saving and take on a side job for a trip to Italy for your 40th birthday!
P.S. Every trip deserves a highlight that is something special so even if you are planning on spending 10 days eating subway, do plan a special dinner or a spa trip or something utterly luxurious and decadent to pamper yourselves. After all it is a break. Go treat yourself!