Some may ask: do we need to prepare for a trip in a special way? Well, it depends of what kind of traveler you are and how much you can afford to spend. Being well organized saves money and time. Especially when photography is involved, preparing the trip is necessary for its success.
Not all of us have the ability to just jump on a plane and fly to a vacation destination without worrying about the impact of our absence from our daily responsibilities will mean. What will happen to our jobs? What if our family needs us? Who will take care of our bills and other financial obligations? Especially, in these times of job and financial market instability these questions are more pressing than ever.
One answer is to avoid vacations abroad all together. If this makes sense for your personal situation, just take some time off and enjoy it in your neighborhood, in your own home town or its surroundings. Some of us are blessed to live in great touristic areas that we tend to ignore just because we think we have all the time in the world to enjoy. This is a great subject to discuss in another series of postings.
Another option is to select a destination that we feel curios about and offers the right combination of entertainment and comfort we like without breaking the bank.
In any case, taking the time to do some research and planning is a great idea. What to plan for? Depending on the destination, you should look for: transportation (both long distance and local), accommodation, attractions, entertainment and ways to pay efficiently for everything. One special point of interest for us – those with some interest in photography – is the photo gear we need to bring with us in the trip. This will be the subject of a future post.
Some people say that you should start thinking of the next vacation when you just finished one. I consider this a good advice as long as it doesn’t turn you in a day dreamer incapable of operating efficiently in your normal daily activities. Many people take their vacation once a year. Having a whole year to think and plan ahead will reduce the pressure and will allow you to analyze more options, not to mention that you will be more aware of seasonal promotions, cheap flights and hotels, etc.
If you are the kind of person that feels comfortable of taking quick decisions and hate spending too much time on preparation, I still recommend a good three month period of planning and one month of preparation.
You can start with the place you want to visit and the budget you can afford for a vacation.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Europe is a great destination: a lot of history and culture, great entertainment opportunities, various places to visit from the crowded urban agglomerations to the peaceful landscapes of rural areas and many more.
Europe is generally expensive; especially the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the Euro zone (mostly the Western European countries like France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Belgium or Netherlands). However, parts of the Central and Eastern Europe are equally attractive and offering great vacation destinations for less (for example, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Hungary, Romania).
A good thing is to get familiar with the currencies used in Europe and to keep an eye on the exchange rates. Here is a link where you can find the list of European countries and their currencies and here is another link for the current exchange rates and a good currency converter.
Most of the European countries will accept payments in Euro even if they use a local currency. Europeans are much more used to pay in cash that the Americans (and I include here both US and Canadian citizens). Ideally, you will carry a small amount of cash for snacks, coffee, toilet entrance, public transportation tickets and tips. US or Canadian dollars are also welcome but, as I said before, don’t carry large amounts of cash with you. Otherwise, the plastic (i.e. credit card) is your friend. This way of paying is more secure but, sometimes, you will incur additional fees or you may not benefit of the best exchange rates.
The next thing to look for is a flight and accommodation. I will dedicate my next post for this subject. Stay tuned.