By Donna Manz
A former newspaper reporter, Donna Manz now creates luxury European vacations and river cruises for clients who prize “value” over “price.” Donna works with Ireland and Europe specialists, Caddie Tours of Vienna, Virginia.
Every traveler sets out for the first time. If this is your first, you’re likely excited. And you should be – you’ve got a world of enjoyment ahead. You’ll soon be learning the tricks of veteran travelers, travelers both young and mature.
But before you set that budget, let me share a travel secret with you: “price is what you pay, value is what you receive.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
But if you want to know the truth, even many seasoned travelers don’t understand it.
Price vs. Value
While each of us can pay the same for a vacation – a plane ticket, a hotel room, or a cruise – it can be more valuable to one traveler than another.
For example, one flight may leave you closer to your hotel than another, saving you both time and the cost of a taxi. And the use of a good travel agent – who doesn’t cost any more than if you had booked your trip yourself – may get you an upgrade on your hotel room or cruise cabin at no additional cost.
Think about this: with a fixed number of days to enjoy your vacation, what is your time worth? For many travelers, a gratuity to a hotel concierge to keep you from standing for an hour on the museum line (or, perhaps, get you in for a sneak preview before the crowds arrive), is well worth it.
Of course, a budget is often a factor for anyone contemplating a vacation. But good planning can pay dividends. And it has nothing to do with the size of your bank account.
Regardless of whether your budget is $500, $5,000 or $50,000, you can almost always get extra value for your vacation dollar and vacation time. And multi-millionaires are frequently as value-driven as those on shoestring budgets.
It all comes down to good planning, which is quite simple: just ask yourself what are your real interests. Then research and plan to do things that appeal to those interests.
Do you enjoy wine? Why not visit a famous vineyard?
Crave good food? Take a cooking class.
Hate to pack and unpack all the time? Don’t move around; stay put and immerse yourself in the culture of a single city or region.
Love museums? Bookshops? Classic cars? You get the idea. And even if you’re on a group tour there is often free time for you to pursue your personal interests.
It really is that simple. Build your vacation around your interests and you’ll build plenty of memories for years to come.
Other Points to Consider
Airfares are affected by supply and demand just like other purchases. As available seat inventory goes down, fares go up. If you are flexible and can pick a different flight time or date, you may be able to book a cheaper flight.
Hotels vs. Apartments – which should you choose? That depends on your priorities. If you’re a family or small group and want to cut costs, you may find it less expensive to stay in an apartment. Also check to see where you are going has any safety issues.
When I travel for work or pleasure, however, I stay in a centrally located hotel because I need access to resources – from personal help to dining – that I would not have in an apartment.
Travel Insurance can be a lifesaver since nothing goes right all the time, at home or while you’re traveling, so be prepared for those inevitable rough moments. When medical conditions arise – your own or a family member who requires your presence – and you need to get home ASAP, travel insurers are often the first call you make. When there’s bad weather that grounds flights, civil unrest, or even a lost passport, a good travel policy can protect your interests.
Speaking of passports…whether it’s lost or stolen when you’re out of the country, you need it replaced immediately. Your travel insurance provider should know the address of the closest consulate.
I have a system I use for my own frequent international travels. A photocopy of my passport, my Global Entry card, and my driver’s license is taped to my filing cabinet home where my husband can readily see it. Another photocopy of all three is tucked away in my carry-on bag; my passport stays in my handbag.
The photocopy isn’t valid for anything, but it will facilitate getting a replacement at the nearest embassy or consulate.
Travel as light as you can for your plans. Whether you’re male or female, three tops (be it sweaters or shirts) and three bottoms (a dress counts as a bottom if there is something you can wear over it), all of which match each other, give you nine complete outfits, in addition to the clothes you wear on the aircraft. You’ll soon develop a list of things to pack for every trip and you’ll be packing lighter, smarter and faster.
And finally, remember that learning a few words in the local language can also pay dividends. Walk into a shop or restaurant with a bonjour, buen día or guten tag and you’ll ingratiate yourself. And a merci, gracias, or vielen dank goes a long way to express sincere gratitude.