Search engine overload

search engine overload

These days there are a million websites to help you plan your perfect trip – sure it makes it cheaper than the days when we relied on travel agents but all that choice often comes at a price to our sanity! Reliability is becoming a  huge issue in the travel market – with many sites such as Tripadvisor now struggling against accusations of paid comment, knowing where to turn for trustworthy advice can seem daunting.

The way I approach things is as always common sense goes a long way – use sites with a grain of sand, if a place in Tripadvisor only has three reviews and they’re all positive, then maybe move on, look for a balance of reviews with plenty of pictures, not everyone will love the same thing as you, so a true review will have pluses and minuses. Find your favourite search engines and recommendation sites and focus on them – you could spend days planning and searching for that cheapest best holiday, but you’ll be exhausted, and it will probably have been snapped up!

When it comes to airline booking sites remember they each have pluses and minuses – some are great at looking for the cheapest day to fly, some will find flights using non-direct paths while some will let you build in a stop-over easily. My favourite recommendation is to set up a secondary email account, then sign up for the most relevant websites you use (last minute, rental cars etc.), you’ll get their current offers emailed regularly without bothering you until your actually interested.

What to pack; what not to pack.

Over loaded backpack a travellers nightmare

How my backpacks look

Do you struggle to pack? Doesn’t seem to matter if I am backpacking, travelling by air, sea or car. I always over pack. I start off being very organized. I pick a colour code so I can mix and match. I don’t pack bulk, unless I’m skiing, I never take more than one pair of shoes and buy toiletries when I arrive where I am going. I still seem to be ramming something in at the last minute. I was in the T.A’s for a time and there I learnt to back my bag and it also had space over, so where am I going wrong? As a bloke it should be relatively easy for me so why is it so hard?

I decided to look through the internet for tips and came up with a few websites, trying not to be sexist and to be aware we do pack different items I’ve kept the sites fairly generic. The first site is a host of tips from seasoned travellers and some I think I might be able to take on board, especially like the pack a small bag, then put everything from there into a slightly bigger one, then you have everything and space.

The second site I found was interesting and he certainly knew what he was talking about and again the tips seem applicable and doable but was maybe just a bit too ‘light’ for me. I also liked this post from a non travel blog .

The third site was focused more on what not to pack and here I hit one of my main problems. I am gadget person and when I think about it I do pack a lot of stuff I don’t really need , “just in case” I really need to alter that mantra and then maybe packing light would not be so much of a hassle.

I found a couple of packing videos but the one I like the best was this one, done by lady who has been travelling for while and reviews her backpack online and explains why she carries what she does.

Advice on where to pack things in a backpack

So, now I know what to pack and how, but somehow I am not confident that mine will be any lighter but we shall see!

Neatly packed backpacks ready fro travel

How I would like my packing to look.

 

Travelling to Thailand – What’s there to do?

I’ve been looking recently at potential things to do in Thailand and all the interesting sites to visit. There is so much history in this country and the surrounding South Asian countries that you could spend years visiting everything while living there and still come up short. It’s so cheap as well to travel around there I had a friend who was living there and took 2 weeks to travel to 3 other surrounding countries for site seeing. He only ended up spending around 200 bucks for the travel and staying in some beautiful places. I was reading an article in Forbes. It is a good idea to go soon to this country as it is a blooming tourism industry with some great deals on really upscale hotels.

southern beaches in thailand

If you go south you can hit some pretty nice beaches and serious party life down near Phuket. If you go north you can also find great night life but it’s a little cooler and along the way up to Chiang Mai you can see some ruins from ancient cities lining the bus routes up to the north. If you go even further north there are some wonderful little places not as touched by the tourism industry. I urge you to check out some of the great deals coming up for flights to Thailand and just go.

To insure or not? That is the question.

travel insurance to suit all needs

Given the prolific choice of insurance these days it is so easy to find just what suits your needs. This is one thing I have always been firm on; I have always taken health insurance seriously. I know it seems to ‘cap’ the adventure somewhat but given the far flung places I have visited and some of the nonexistent medical care there; it has always seemed a sensible approach. I do not want to have huge debts from having to be flown home without insurance or large hospital bills that I might not have the funds to pay. I know some people do not agree with this approach, but in my experience it is a necessity of travelling. In the 90’s I tore my medial ligament on a skiing trip in Bulgaria; I was with some college mates and our first time abroad. Bulgaria at that time was still behind the “iron curtain” and hospital care was 5hrs away in the capital.  Everyone was demanding cash payments – we where students and on holiday, no reserve cash. Even the hotel lady who wrapped my knee in onions and brandy – do not ask me why, wanted money for the brandy 50p if I recall correctly. My mates thought it hilarious but I was in pain and had not got a clue as to why. (No proper diagnosis until I was x-rayed in the UK) Fortunately my parents had insisted on insurance (they paid!) and eventually after contacting them, which took 24 very long hours, they called the insurance company and everything was taken care of. It did involve consular phone calls and extra seats on the plane and I experienced a learning curve that some things are worthwhile, for me it is a false economy to not be insured. I do not always take out luggage or delay insurance but always health insurance. I recommend you do to. This is a good guide to what insurances are available. Another piece of advice is to have a back up fund, if you can’t save enough then you can always  loan some money. Obviously don’t carry it all with you, but put your loan on a pre paid card, a little godsend, you know how much you have, easy to carry and hide. I tuck mine away for  those totally unexpected emergencies.

Vagabonding

Although I’ve traveled extensively and amassed my own wealth of travel advice (usually hard-won or learned the hard way, through bitter experience) I am still always looking out for good sources of information and advice. This week I think I’ve found what I consider to be the bible of shoestring traveling advice.

Rolf Potts is a writer who’s traveled the world and then some. His bio reminds me of my own father in his restless, curious, insatiable appetite to explore, discover and experience. It’s a yearning that not all people are born with but, as his book Vagabonding shows, all people have the ability to act upon and satisfy should they find themselves subject to it. The book is slender and won’t have much of an impact on even the most stringent of luggage allowances and I’d urge any world-seeking wanderers to invest in a copy and study it religiously.

vagabonding4

The accompanying website also harbours a vast wealth of information and well-researched resources and if I can’t convince you I stumbled across a well-written review of the book detailing just exactly what lies at the heart of it – the fact that a bit of planning, the short-term sacrificing of a few needless indulgences and some smart, honest bargaining with your employer can allow almost any of us in the Western world to go explore and experience things on the other side.

How to survive in any city

When I first started travelling on my own, I made a lot of rookie mistakes. I would forget to pack a map, or I’d end up in a city without having any clue about the local transportation. After erring, and erring again, I came up with a checklist of things I should know and learn about every city/country I’m going to. It hasn’t just made my life easier, it has saved me from a trip to the jail a number of times too.

529632-travel

1. Carry a hard copy of the map of the city you’re visiting. You never know when your phone is going to run out of coverage, or battery.

2. Keep a scan of your passport, visa and other important documents. You might not have them on your person- but you might need it.

3. Find out where your country’s embassy is.

4. Learn about the local laws before you go (not knowing the laws got me into quite a bit of trouble in Singapore, to be honest).

5. Seek advice from the locals- they will have a better idea about where you should visit, and where you should eat than tour guides.

6. Be aware of tourist scams in the cities/countries you are visiting.

7. Certain countries have high concentrations of certain diseases. Make sure you get all the right vaccinations before you visit these countries.

Pack light, or don’t pack at all

One of the biggest minus points of being a seasoned traveler is the fact that you’ll start getting annoyed by people who travel with what seems like a dozen bags. Of course, when I say pack light, I don’t mean pack little. You don’t need to carry only one pair of pants and two shirts when on a holiday. You can carry as much as you want- you just need to know how to pack.

First of all, you should invest in a good, solid backpack. There are many travel backpacks that put little to no stress on your back and can store enough clothes and miscellaneous items to last you an entire week. You should always roll your clothes into a cylindrical shape while packing- not only will you save a lot of space, you will also be able to keep your clothes wrinkle-free!

Rolled-Clothes-Pack-Tight-And-Fit-Snugly-Into-Any-Size-Or-Shape-Luggage

When picking clothes, try picking items of clothing that can be repeated without grabbing the attention of your friends or co-travelers. This way, you can wear the same pair of pants at least twice during the trip- saving you some more luggage space. Unless you are using something medicated, do not carry any daily-use items such as soaps, moisturizers, lotions, etc. You will be able to find these in any supermarket in the town you’re visiting.