Some of my trips are relatively last-minute, others are booked more than six months in advance. If you have the luxury of time, here are some of the things to consider when planning an itinerary.
1. Do your homework on country entry requirements. Most countries require a passport to be valid for six months after arrival, so check your expiration date. Check travel.state.gov for the latest country entry and visa requirements (and great country-specific information). Planning your trip far in advance means you have plenty of time to get your passport renewed or obtain visas.
2. Know the national holidays. It can be disappointing to arrive at a destination only to find museums and attractions closed, roads crowded, and hotel prices triple the usual rate. Use this Wikipedia page to make sure your destination won’t be shut down, crowded, or extra expensive on your intended travel dates.
3. Vaccinations. Lack of the right ones can prevent you from being allowed into a country. Pay attention to having proof you received the yellow fever vaccine when visiting many parts of Africa and the Indian Ocean.
4. Check minimum connection times and count on schedule changes—you can prevent either missing a connection or having your luggage lost by allowing for plenty of time between connecting flights.
5. Are the seasons the same? Some friends arrived in New Zealand planning to ski over Christmas break, forgetting it’s summer then in the Southern Hemisphere. It happens more than you think! Be sure to check rainy seasons, too. Holiday-weather.com is my go-to site for monthly averages (sunshine, temperatures, rain- and snowfall) around the globe.
6. Will your hotel be undergoing renovation/construction? I attended a destination wedding in Aruba where the hotel and wedding venue were under heavy construction (empty pool, plywood sidewalks). If a hotel announces a construction completion date, I usually add a month to the end of it to make sure I’ll miss the chaos/ugliness.
7. How are the labor relations for your airline? Lufthansa’s strikes last year proved the importance of asking this question. A search of Google news should reveal when the next contract negotiations will happen for the airlines you are considering. Financial solvency is another concern. I booked our flights on two carriers in India because there was some question whether one was going to receive a much-needed infusion of cash to keep operating. (It did, but I didn’t mind having a back-up ticket!)
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