The world is one big classroom and traveling is one of the best education. Exploring and gaining experiences can’t be learned in school. Travel widens our horizons as we learn different cultures first hand. The memories gained from it is priceless and we will always have stories to tell.
How does one plan for a trip? The first step is to research on the places that interest you. The internet has a treasure chest of images and information to help you. Know what are the attractions and things to do. When is the best time to go? Each destination varies. Check the reviews of travelers in sites like https://www.tripadvisor.com. Read travel magazines and blogs.
If you are from the Philippines, visit the travel and tour expos of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association. Organized tours and vacation packages abound. This is a good way to scout for destinations. There can also be very good deals. Patience is needed though because there are long queues for everything.
Once you have chosen on where to go, decide whether to join a group tour or you travel on your own.
Joining A Group Tour
For international travel, there are tour operators like Globus Journeys, Trafalgar Tours and Insight Vacations that offer a wide range of travel programs worldwide covering Africa, Asia, Australia & New Zealand, Canada, Cuba, Europe, Middle East, South & Central America and United States & Mexico. You can go to your favorite or trusted travel agency to inquire and book. These tour operators have brochures/magazines of all the travel programs that they offer with detailed descriptions of the day to day itineraries and activities. The travel dates with their corresponding prices are listed. On top of the included tours, optional excursions are also mentioned. Research on these. During the course of the tour, the tour director will offer these optional excursions. Reservations should be made no later than two months before the travel date because of limited slots. Processing of visas, if needed, also takes time.
Joining a group tour is hassle-free. You are spared of the detailed planning. The tour operator does this for you. Hotels and sightseeing are already mapped out. You don’t have to worry on where or what to eat because most meals are included except for lunch. If there are scheduled optional excursions at night, dinners are not included. You don’t need to queue to buy tickets and tour groups skip the lines to get in. Checking-in at hotels and handling of luggages are done for you. In each city visited, there is a local tour guide. All throughout the tour, a tour director takes care of all your needs. The coaches are nice and comfortable. Finally, you get to meet new friends since your tour mates are of different nationalities.
The disadvantage of a group tour is that there is a fixed schedule and you can’t spend more time in excursions that interest you. If you are one who likes to take pictures or go shopping, you have limited time for these. Mostly, only the major attractions are covered and free time is limited for you to thoroughly explore the city on your own.
Globus Travels has been operating since 1928. For affordable touring, Globus has its Cosmos. The big difference between Globus and Cosmos is the hotels used. Globus not only has nicer hotels, they are also in city centers unlike Cosmos where you need to take the train, taxi or bus to go to the city center during your limited free time. For my first trip to Europe which was a 23 days trip covering nine countries, I joined Cosmos. I got to experience Globus with my Scandinavia and Russia tour. I was happy with both.
Trafalgar Tours has been creating tours for almost 70 years. I haven’t tried Trafalgar but some family members did and they have very good reviews. For budget travel, Trafalgar has its Costsaver.
Insight Vacations has been in operation for 35 years. I had a nice experience with Insight Vacations for my Turkey and Greece tour.
For the travelers aging 18 to 35 years old, you can join Contiki and Topdeck. Both cater to younger free spirited travelers.
Contiki has been operating since 1962 covering Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, New Zealand and USA & Canada. A nephew joined Contiki for his honeymoon and he tremendously enjoyed it.
Topdeck was started by friends in 1973. Its programs span Africa, Asia & North Africa, Australia & New Zealand, Europe, Middle East and North America.
Travel On Your Own
The advantage of traveling on your own is that you can do your activities at your own pace. You get to spend more time on your interests and explore the places that most tour operators do not include in their travel programs. There are more opportunities to blend in with the locals and observe their way of life thus giving more depth to your journey. Most importantly, it is cheaper than arranged travel.
Traveling on your own takes a lot of hard work on the detailed planning of everything. Searching for hotels could be confusing with all the numerous results in search engines. Itineraries should be carefully mapped out and study on how to get there. You can also take small tours. In major cities, the Hop On Hop Off Buses is very effective. I tried it in Paris, London and New York City. Looking for places to eat could also be difficult especially if there are no English translations and the service crew could barely speak English. Sometimes you have to wait in long queues to get inside attractions. It takes time to commute from your hotel to places of interests. If it is a multiple cities trip, it is also very inconvenient managing your big luggages. If you are an adventurous person, traveling on your own can be enjoyable.
In recently years, more options have been available for accommodations other than the hotels. Travelers can stay in a house, apartment or room of a local. Airbnb became very popular. I tried it in Seoul, South Korea in 2015 and in Italy and Switzerland in 2016. It is more comfortable and felt like home. Aside from Airbnb, Homestay is getting popular too.
Whichever way you travel, enjoy the journey as the world unfolds before you.