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Plan your holiday like a pro

Melissa Ironside
Friday, December 24, 2010

Organising a luscious holiday can be almost as much fun as actually going on one. But we've all had nightmares about booking "Club Paradise" only to arrive and find it's a caravan park in the middle of the desert.

Arranging a trip can also be pretty stressful when there's not just your enjoyment riding on it, but that of your partner, friends or family. So the number one tip to ensure you plan the perfect holiday is to start early!

Even if it's just a weekend away, leaving yourself some extra planning time can mean a better deal, a nicer room and a more organised you. Do that, as well as a few of our other tricks below, and you'll shoot to the top of the holiday planning class in no time.

How to… choose the right destination
"The key to finding the right holiday is understanding your body and what it needs to replenish," says Ricky Nowak, an executive trainer and consultant.

"Trips which provide anonymity, personal space, and time to rest and reflect are great for highly stressed people. Health spas, country retreats, cruises, resorts and places that combine gourmet food, entertainment, a relaxed atmosphere and the opportunity for lots of sleep are usually your best bet."

So to make sure you land somewhere that you're guaranteed to love, make a list of the answers to these questions:

  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What do I want from this holiday?
  • How long can I go for?
  • Do I like cold or warm weather?
  • Do I want to travel or stay in the one place?
  • Am I going with a group or alone?
  • What is my budget?

Now grab some brochures from your local travel agent, pick up a few guide books (make sure they're current) and use the Internet to do a bit of research. Keep your list handy and compare every suggestion back to it, so you can be sure that your holiday will meet your expectations. You may want to go and see a travel agent for their advice as well.

How to … organise your booking

  • Sign up to airline and travel e-newsletters so you're the first to see good deals.
  • Keep an eye out in newspaper, magazines and on TV for special holiday packages and prices.
  • Before you book remember that off-peak times will be cheaper and also check out what the weather will be like at your destination. Sightseeing in sweltering heat is not fun, but travelling in winter will mean less daylight to see the sights.
  • Reserve airline tickets and accommodation at least a month in advance and always ask people for their best price. Some hotels will knock a bit of the price if you book for a whole week or for a number of people.
  • Pre-book an airport van or a bus to and from the airport. They're usually cheaper than taxis and you'll be guaranteed an easy ride.

How to … make special arrangements

  • Get a map of the area you are planning to visit and mark down where you want to go.
  • Email yourself a copy of all important information: airline numbers, credit card phone numbers, driving licence numbers and your itinerary in case you lose anything.
  • Visit your GP for a check-up just to make sure you're not harbouring any latent bugs.
  • Arrange any special dietary requirements with your airline or hotel several weeks in advance.
  • Beat those homesick blues and stay in touch with loved ones the cheap way by setting up a free email account at www.hotmail.com.
  • Travel insurance is a must whether you're travelling six minutes or six hours away. Travel agents can help you with this.
  • Know thy camera. So you don't have to fiddle with thousands of buttons and miss the shot of your nearest and dearest catching a wave, read up on the ins and outs of your camera before you leave. Have a few practise goes as well.

How to … pack the right stuff

  • Keep all tickets and important paperwork together in a safe place.
  • Don't pack loads of clothes. You'll need the space for all the new things you buy.
  • Write down the phone numbers and addresses of close family on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet. In the event of an emergency, people always look through this first.
  • Remove old destination tags from bags to avoid confusion.
  • Find out how much luggage you are able to take. Most domestic flights allow two large bags and one carry-on bag per person with each piece weighing no more than seven kilograms.
  • Buy resealable food bags from the supermarket and use them to put toiletries. I'll save your clothes from any spillages.
  • Pack a medical kit with all necessary tablets — headache, flu and stomach.
  • If you're arriving at your destination late at night, pack your pyjamas on the top so you don't need to ransack your luggage to find them.
  • Don't forget an umbrella or a waterproof jacket. You can never control the weather!

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