Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How to prepare for Overseas Holiday

Travelling overseas gives every one great pleasure. Opportunities of exposure to a new culture, getting to know unusual local customs, tasting exotic food and bringing back scores of digital images that will form staple food for many future conversations with family and friends in the winter evenings are an irresistible temptation. But a lot of preparation is required before one actually undertakes the dream trip. Let us look at it in detail.

1.Choice of destination: This depends not only on one's interests but on the budget as well. You might like to travel to Scandinavia. But if you can not afford the expensive hotel accommodation in Stockholm , you will be forced to consider cheaper alternatives, say Spain or Malaysia or Egypt. Internet gives you more than enough information on the hotel room tariff.

2.Choice of package: There are group tour packages available from major tour operators such as Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings, Orbitz etc. These travel organizations offer individual packages as well. Both the packages have advantages as well as disadvantages. If you want to be in the midst of 'birds of the same feather' , then group tour is your cup of tea. But you should not mind the conflicting interests of the various members of the group. You might like to spend more time in a museum. But the majority might like to hang out in a theme park. A disgruntled minority might keep complaining about the insufficient time given for shopping. Individual packages do not have this problem. But you are on your own and every small detail is not meticulously taken care of, on your behalf. Another alternative is to do all the arrangements on one's own , either through the Internet or using your phone.

3.Choosing the Airline: When you do not go through any tour operator, you have the additional task of having to choose a good Airline. Almost all the Airlines offer a certain number of seats at concessional price. This could come with some strings attached, such as minimum or maximum number of days of stay, period of validity of ticket etc. But these conditions do not hurt the holiday-travellers. It is better to choose the Airline of the country one is travelling to. There are better chances of flying directly to the destination through such airlines . They will be cheaper too .

4.Applying for Visa: While the Citizens of the U.S. and some other countries are lucky to be exempted from Visa formalities by many destination countries, people who do not enjoy such exemption should act in time. Normally, besides an Application, Passport, Air Ticket, Hotel vouchers etc. must be submitted to the Consulate of the destination country. Citizens of developing countries have more headaches. They have to submit even a copy of their Bank Statement for the earlier 6 months to prove their financial well-being. While Consulates such as German Consulate are very efficient and give you the Visa in 24 hours , many Consulates take 3 to 7 days. Consulates of the former Communist Countries of Eastern Europe are much slower in issuing Visas. After Schengen Visa has been introduced, it is not necessary to apply separately to individual Consulates of Western European countries if your journey takes you to more than one country. Schengen Visa is valid for 14 countries and it is enough if you apply to the Consulate of the first country you visit.

5.Travel Insurance: It is advisable to buy travel insurance. In fact, Schengen Visa makes submission of Travel Insurance a pre-requisite to issue of Visa. Allianz, AIG and Lombard are some of the reputed insurance companies. There are suitable policies depending on the number of days of travel and age of the insured. All of them cover Hospitalisation, obviously. But some of them cover, in addition, loss of documents, travel delay, baggage loss , baggage delay etc.

6.Hotel Booking: There are various categories of hotels suiting different budgets. The travel agents may be more interested in promoting costlier hotels. You should put your foot down and stick to your specifications of overnight room rates. If you are booking through the Net, include Guesthouses in your search. You will get a wider choice and cheaper offers.

7.Packing: Remember the weight/dimension limits specified by the Airlines. Keep in mind the risk of losing some of the baggage and arrange to have part of the clothes packed in the cabin bags.

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