A family holiday should be the time when you get to relax and recharge with your loved ones, but more often than not, it may lead to headaches of a different kind! These tips will come in handy when planning that well-deserved year-end break.
1. Plan early & book when the deal suits you. If you did not get the chance to book during one of the many travel fairs earlier in the year, you can still get a good deal if you do some research and are prepared to standby for the occasional cancellation or postponement for tours to popular destinations.
2. Know your destination. You don’t need to be a walking travel guide, but check what are the local highlights and the best time to visit the destination. You wouldn’t want to go to a seaside resort in the midst of a monsoon; you would also miss out if you head to a city famous for its weekend markets during a weekday instead. If you are planning to try the cuisine at a famous restaurant, make reservations if possible, and ensure that it would not close for renovation or a private event during the period you are there.
3. Take good care of your belongings. If possible, have different family members take care of separate pieces of luggage, and keep track of where essential items such as a utility knife, mobile phone chargers, painkillers and emergency first aid kit are stored. School-going children can be encouraged to carry their own small trolley bag but do check that they pack appropriate items and do not stuff their bag with too many toys.
4. Plan your budget. When setting aside vacation funds, plan for the cost of meals (and tips) not covered by your tour package (if you’re joining a tour group), entrance fees to ticketed places of interest, transport, souvenirs and a buffer for emergencies. You may not need to bring all your credit cards, but having one along for emergencies can be useful. You may also wish to check which modes of payment should be used at different establishments, and take note of the places that prefer USD, credit cards or travellers’ cheques.
5. Remember your important documents. Ensure that passports, driving licence etc. are stored in a sturdy, secure bag that will not be easily misplaced or snatched away in a crowded place. If you are travelling with an elderly person, it may be good to bring along a doctor’s letter indicating the person’s medical condition and any regular medications needed, in case of emergencies.
6. Choose your accommodation carefully. Nowadays, Internet offers abound and it is easy to find bargain hotel offers in many cities. However, do check that in addition to the price, the other features of the place suit your needs as well. If you are travelling with small children, you may want to stay at a family-friendly destination with suitable activities to entertain them. If the key highlight of your destination is a beach, you may not want to stay at a place so far that you need to catch a train or drive for hours just to get there.
7. Tap on the experience of others. Check out travel magazines, online travel communities and friends and to find out more about your destination. From where to eat to where to find a money changer, you may get timely tips or inside knowledge about a hotel or resort
that you may not be able to find in ‘official’ websites and travel guides.
8. Take an interest in what’s happening on the ground. In particular, if you’re travelling free and easy, you may find yourself interacting with the locals quite a bit. It helps if you know a little of the local language and some key phrases – nowadays, you can find a lot of travellers’ language guides on the Internet, with no need for a phrasebook. Most locals will warm up to you if you appear genuinely interested in finding out more about local culture and happenings, and may offer useful information. Be discerning about all shopping tips though and when in doubt, check with the local tourism agency or your hotel’s concierge.
9. Make a ‘countdown’ checklist. Plan out when you need to do various tasks before, during and after the trip – such as confirming flight times, hotel and restaurant reservations, buying travel essentials and standby medication, stopping your daily newspaper subscription during your vacation period, getting someone to take care of the family pet and so on. If you stagger out the tasks rather than complete everything just before the trip, you won’t risk missing out important details or beginning your vacation all stressed out, wondering if you had forgotten anything.
10. Go ahead, enjoy yourself! Don’t waste precious time and energy lamenting about something you forgot to do or bring, and try to focus on the enjoyable things you’ve planned for the next few days or weeks. Remember that some experiences may be better or worse than what you expected, so most importantly, keep an open mind