When you only have a few weeks of vacation per year, you want them to be perfect. There can be a lot of pressure to have that “impeccable holiday.”
After all, according to a 2013 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, Canadian employees only enjoy, on average, 10 days of paid vacation per year, compared to 30 in France. Every little mistake can therefore reduce the little rest time we all have. Here are a few tips if you don’t want your vacation to turn into a disaster…
Google can give you an idea of the time it takes to get to the train station, but it cannot (yet) provide traffic or roadwork information. Jennifer Doré Dallas, blog editor for Moi, mes souliers, learned her lesson the hard way on one of her many trips to Southeast Asia. “My tuk-tuk driver in Cambodia decided he would take his sweet time getting me to the bus stop,” she stated. “I missed my bus and had to wait a good two and a half hours before being able to catch the next one.” Better to be safe than sorry, so leave yourself enough time between each move to deal with the unexpected.
Choosing where to go is one thing. Creating an Excel spreadsheet detailing every waking moment of the day does not leave much room for living in the moment. Yet, this is what Jennifer was doing when she began to travel, soon realizing she would have often stayed in the same place for one or two more nights had she not booked accommodations elsewhere.
If all of your activities require sun in order to be enjoyable, you better check the local weather before booking anything. “I once planned a trek in the Philippines not realizing it was the rainy season and impossible to be outside without getting completely soaked,” said Lydiane, author of the blog Lydiane autour du monde. Why not plan a few activities that can be enjoyed indoors in case the sun decides to hide for two or three days?
Passports, visas, photocopies in case of loss or theft… Essential paperwork which can help avoid turning your trip into a nightmare. “We stayed in China fewer days than expected, and took the train for Vietnam. After arriving at customs, we realized we were there several days before the allowed entry date on our Vietnamese visa,” said Jennifer Ethier, blogger at Yulair. “We had to leave the train station and sleep in a dark and dirty border town the entire time!”
Most travel connoisseurs will tell you not to book accommodations and activities to make room for momentary opportunities. “It is quite fine to book only three days before arrival, and it often costs much less,” states Lydiane. That is true, except for plane tickets. Marie-Julie Gagnon, blog editor for Taxi Brousse, knows what she’s talking about. “I paid almost $1,000 more waiting until the last minute to buy my airline ticket for Senegal during the holidays.”
When planning your vacation, it is wise to do your research and learn about the country’s customs, just to avoid disappointment. Lydiane went to the Gili islands in Indonesia during Ramadan. “Restaurants and bars closed early and there was no music past midnight,” she said.
Some rules are set in stone, and could have you staying behind. “While most airlines will allow women to fly up to 31 weeks pregnant, cruise lines could have a ’24 weeks’ policy,” said Tony Santelli, director of studies at Collège April-Fortier. He also stated that some countries may refuse access to people who have visible tattoos or piercings, such as Saudi Arabia.
Don’t we all want to share our travel photos with friends? What about reaching out to our children? Calls or texts from abroad can be very expensive. “I came back from Florida with an $800 phone bill,” stated Ethier. To avoid these astronomical costs, it’s important to either change your phone package before leaving, or to purchase a cellphone in the country you are visiting should you intend on staying longer.
With online booking sites like Expedia, people will often choose the cheapest ticket at the risk of forgetting to check the wait time between connections. “I once bought a plane ticket with a 13-hour layover. I had to book a hotel room at the airport,” said Gagnon. If you are going to add the price of a hotel room to the cost of your original ticket, it’s easy to see that a direct flight would have ended up being much cheaper.
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