PLANNING YOUR FIRST TRIP
There are few ways to approach planning a trip;
Based on the destination
Based on your budget
Based on your vacation window
Here’s how to do it, no matter what your situation is.
Based on the Destination
Your heart is set on a destination? Good! Now you’ll need to determine the duration of your trip and the amount of money required to fulfill your project. Find out what the most favourable month of the year is to visit this country. Travelling during the low season is tempting as prices are usually considerably reduced, but sometimes it comes with the caveat that certain services might temporarily not be available (ground transportation, restaurants, accommodation, touristic attractions, etc.) You might also have to consider the climate. Will rainy season make travelling from one place to another challenging? Will dry season mean unbearably hot weather? Once you determined the best moment to go, you’ll have to figure out the cost of living and start budgeting. What is the average cost of plane tickets? What lodging options are available and how expensive are they? How much are your favourite types of activity worth? Will you be able to cook or will you have to go out for every meal? Don’t forget to consider the cost transportation from the airport to your accommodation. If you already have savings, great. If you don’t, calculate how long it will take for you to gather the financial resources needed for this project and see if this works with the predetermined prime time of the year to visit this country.
Based on Your Budget
If you have limited resources, this will probably be at the core of your planning. You’ll have to pick a destination with affordable cost of living and transportation modes. Don’t forget to calculate the exchange rate when budgeting! Some websites like kayak.com/explore allow you to have a look at the cost of plane tickets around the world based on the month of the year and departure airport. Do not forget to check if immunization and visas are needed as it will largely influence your budget. Once you picked a destination, let the fun begin! You can start to plan your itinerary and the activities your budget will allow you to do. Don’t forget to check out the most hospitable time of the year to visit this country to prevent bad surprises.
Based on Your Vacation Window
Your schedule is not so flexible and you can only leave on specific dates? No worry! It’s a big world; there’s bound to be an appropriate destination for you. The website www.whereandwhen.net can help you plan your trip thanks to its search engine with tools allowing you to enter your travelling dates, the desired weather, the overall budget and the type of activities you are interested.
In Any Case
As far as possible, it is best to start planning your trip several weeks in advance to give you enough time to handle all the necessary logistical aspects. Here are a few points not to forget;
Passport; do you have one? Is it going to remain valid for a minimum of 6 months following your return date? If not, start the acquisition/renewal process now to avoid last-minute service fees.
Visa and entrance/exit requirements; will you need a visa to visit this country? What is the processing delay? How much will it cost? Does the government require a return ticket to grant the visa? Will there be exit fees when leaving the country?
Health; when did you last see your doctor? It’s good to get a checkup before leaving. Your doctor will also be able to help you understand the type of immunization you might need for your trip (some vaccines require multiple doses so try to set an appointment at least 6 weeks before you leave). This is something you’ll have to account for when budgeting as it can be a steep, but necessary expense.
Money; what is the local currency? Is it better to exchange money before you leave or upon arrival? Does your financial institution have outrageous international transaction fees? Don’t forget to give them your travel plans to avoid having your debit/credit card temporarily blocked.
Type of travel; what type of trip do you want to experience? Adventure, cultural, foodie-oriented, relaxing? This will influence your choice of activities, destination and budget.
Travel companion; will you try to find one? Travelling alone means no compromise, all doors will be open! Travelling with a partner means you’ll have to plan this trip together. However, you’ll probably save on transportation, food and accommodation.
·Travel insurances; are you covered thanks to your job, credit card or membership association? Is this coverage enough? If not, start shopping around for a good travel insurance company and ask for multiple quotes. We created a guide to assist you in this process.
Plane ticket; create an alarm to be notified if the price drops for your desired destination. Don’t wait until the last minute to buy your ticket because it is very unlikely that the price will be better than. Check your airline’s luggage policy to know the weight, size and amount allowed. If you’ll have a long connection, ask if it’s possible to go on a little field trip. Also ask if you have to go to claim your luggage in between flights and if you go on a day trip during your connection, ask for a storage service in the airport.
Accommodation; research the different lodging options in the area you’ll be visiting, as well as their cost and usual availability at that time of the year. It is recommended to make a reservation for your first night in the country to avoid being stuck with little or no option. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to book your whole trip in advance or just go with the flow.
Itinerary; are you hyper organized or more of a free spirit? No matter what your travel style is, it’s good to plan somewhat of an itinerary to know upfront the activities and route you have in mind. That being said, planning your whole trip minute by minute probably isn’t the best strategy because on the road, plans tend to change. You’ll meet people that will suggest new opportunities, an unexpected issue might change the course of your trip and some prepaid travel arrangements might not be refundable… just keep in mind that although preparation is the key to success, flexibility is one of the travellers’ greatest trait.
Government advisories; visit travel.gc.ca to check if your destination is currently safe. Certain conditions (disease outbreak, civil unrest, natural disaster) can have a negative impact on your travel experience and even void your insurance policy. If a warning has been declared on your destination, contact your airline and ask if it’s possible to reschedule your trip or pick another destination.
Luggage; once again, every traveller has a different style. Some have a tendency to over pack, others bring the bare minimum. Whether if you decide to start packing weeks ahead or the day before, just make sure you researched your destination enough to know make the right choices and bring the appropriate stuff.
Registration; sign the Registration of Canadians abroad on travel.gc.ca/travelling/registration to allow the government to contact you in case of an emergency abroad or at home.