How to get travel smart in 2018

Here’s a checklist to help you plan your travels this year

05 January 2018 - 06:45
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Image: 123RF/senohrabek

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to travel more in 2018, you’ll want to get all your ducks in a row so that, unlike most resolutions, this one actually comes to fruition.

Whereas in the past South Africans would typically take only one holiday a year, the evolving trend is for shorter, more frequent breaks during the year.

“We are starting to see people travelling two or three times a year instead of taking just one main holiday,” says Sue Garrett, Flight Centre Travel Group product and marketing GM.

Garrett says South Africans will this year continue to look for destinations that offer value for money and don’t pose a threat to safety. “Destinations like Mauritius, Zanzibar and Thailand will continue to be firm favourites, and we also see the Middle East, Italy, the US and new destinations like Sri Lanka starting to spark more interest.

“Travelling South Africa will be a focus for Flight Centre in 2018 and we will be working closely with SA Tourism to showcase the beauty and affordability of the experiences within our own borders.”

So, if you’re thinking of dusting off your suitcase this year, here are some tried-and-tested tips from travel experts to turn that New Year’s resolution into a reality.

1. Get your dates sorted

Did you know you could get a full week off at the end of April by taking leave on April 30 and May 2 and 3? Or an extended long weekend in August if you take off the 10th?

Knowing when the school holidays are or when there’s a public holiday on a Friday, Monday, Thursday or Tuesday could mean the difference between sipping piña coladas on a beach somewhere exotic or sinking into your couch because you failed to prepare. Consider how many holidays you’d like to take in 2018, your budget and your desired destinations and investigate the options by talking to a travel professional.

2. Have your documents ready

Travelling with a minor? Check that you have an unabridged birth certificate at hand. Check the validity of your passport to ensure it is valid for at least another six months. Check the number of blank pages in your passport (you need at least two at all times). Scan all your documents and upload the collection to the cloud or email it to an email account (like Gmail) that can be accessed from anywhere.

3. Rack up those points

If you’re a member of a travel reward scheme or loyalty programme, check your status and what you need to achieve a higher level with better benefits. With so many opportunities to accrue points – even with non-travel suppliers – it makes sense to evaluate what you can do to climb your way up the tiers to enjoy greater benefits, including discounts and upgrades.

Consolidating your purchases with certain suppliers such as petrol stations or grocery stores can contribute to your points, which can be redeemed for flights, accommodation and car rental.

4. Make a list

Start making a checklist of everything that needs to be packed or taken care of prior to travelling. You can add to the list when you think of more things.

Who’s going to water your plants while you’re away? Do you need to notify your bank that you’ll be using your credit card overseas? What kind of travel insurance should you get? Will you need to switch off your geyser and water? Is it worth clearing your fridge of all perishables? Do you need to pay any bills before you go?

A checklist developed over time will ensure you don’t miss anything before you step out the door and you can travel with peace of mind.

5. Do your research

What visas and vaccinations will you need for your travels in 2018? What health considerations are there at your holiday destination? What is the safety profile of the country or city you’re visiting? What are some of the basic words, like “please” and “thank you”, in the language of your destination? Where can you find the best pizza in New York, sachertorte in Vienna or pavlova in Auckland?

Doing pre-travel research really does pay off. You don’t need to plan every detail, but forewarned is certainly forearmed so that you can make the most of your holiday experience. After all, it’s an investment in yourself and your loved ones.

So, if like many South Africans you’re kicking your post-holiday January blues to the curb by planning your next break, follow these tips and put your best foot forward towards your first holiday of 2018.

This article was paid for by Flight Centre.

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