Over the last two years, I've talked with a lot people about planning travel, and almost every person tells me that planning travel can be a bit overwhelming because there is just SO MUCH information out there!! I've noticed that people have distinct styles of how to research (and how much they want to research) and how they book a trip that works for them and their style. These different styles are exhibited by some of my friends and family...my apologies for calling them out, but I have such admiration for all my friends and how they get out there to GoSeeIt! So I've named the styles after them! See which style you are, and then see my suggestions for what kind of trip and the best way to book a trip based on that style!
Are You a Bill?: My brother Bill will climb Mt Washington- solo. He will travel to Belize and stay in a shack on the beach to find the best dive spot. He travels on a tight budget and doesn't see the need to pay for guides, fancy hotel rooms, or escorting when you can do it yourself!
What and How To Book: Anywhere you want! Nothing is off limits when nothing is out of your comfort zone. Some good resources for independent travelers are Lonely Planet or Rick Steeves guide books. I like Airtreks site for point to point air routing for "round the world" type trips, and Hipmunk for comparing airfares, comfort levels and routes. Check out Independent Traveler and Trip Advisor for researching destinations and rock bottom deals.
Are You A Dennis?: Our friend Dennis is a proud "Foodie". He likes to scour the markets and check out the local food scene. He will spend a lot of time researching, and he enjoys spending part of his vacations in a home or apartment with a real kitchen so he can source local ingredients and relax while making meals for his family. He's been known to bring along cooking equipment on his trips!
What and How To Book: Look for destinations with a great food scene, and consider spending part of the time in a rental home or apartment. Consider taking mass market mid size or luxury cruises that offer cooking classes and are well known for their food. Some to try: Celebrity Cruises, River Cruise lines offer beer, wine or food specialty departures, and Air BNB, Homeaway or VRBO for villa rentals in France or Italy where the food scene is renowned (or anywhere else in the world!)
Are you A Judy: Judy enjoys active adult adventures, she travels with her husband and likes to explore the culture of a place, but doesn't love bus tours or group tours. She enjoys traveling independently, but doesn't want the expense of a private guide.
What and How To Book: For a recent trip she planned to Italy, I suggested she try one of the companies that offers booking services to arrange hotel, tickets and tours, and in country transportation, but the touring is all done independently, with a concierge or pre-arranged itinerary. I suggested Judy try Monograms a division of Globus brands. She promises to give me a full report on how that works out after her trip! A good travel agent can also do a similar itinerary, and make all the arrangements, but allow you to travel independently. Be sure to look for a specialist in the destination, who has been there, and works planning trips in that area frequently!
Are You A Marianne?: Marianne likes to plan trips for her immediate family that are active, but like most families they are busy!! She doesn't mind spending some time researching the right trip for her family, but she wants all the details handled for her, so she can relax and enjoy her family! Her family wants incredible experiences and destinations, where they can have active adventures together. They don't want to spend a lot of time planning what to pack and traveling to get places, so a comprehensive itinerary and packing list for their destination is a big help.
What and How To Book: Look for full service luxury tours, where the itinerary is curated for your family. Lots of pre trip information is provided and all the highlights are covered in the destination, along with special one of a kind access, and superior guiding throughout. Busy families need short trips that fit their vacation periods and are willing to pay expenses like internal airfares to expedite travel in a short time. Some we've tried or friends have had great experiences with: Adventures By Disney (for younger families or multi generational) Tauck Tours, Natural Habitat (Natural history and wildlife focused) and Backroads (Active adventures)
Are you a Beverly?: My Aunt Beverly likes the social aspects of group tours with other retired travelers. She enjoys having all the logistics taken care of on her trips, and she likes to stick to her budget.
What and How To Book: Beverly enjoys mass market cruises, such as Holland America and fully escorted coach or river cruises with companies like Grand Circle, Viking or Cosmos. These tours cater to retired travelers with budgets that pack a lot of value into longer trips
Are you a Don?: Our neighbor Don is retired and travels for weeks at a time. He wants culturally authentic, small group travel with all the details managed, but lots of time for independent exploration. He likes connecting with a small group and expert guides, but he wants to stick to a good budget by using local transportation and staying in comfy, but not fancy places.
What and How To Book: Don and his wife have taken dozens of Overseas Adventures Trips (OAT), a division of Grand Circle. These trips usually run 3 weeks or longer and are geared for active retirees. Fully guided with accommodations and some meals included, the total prices can be steep, but broken down by cost per day, they are a very reasonable way to travel if you have the time and want a very authentic experience with the safety of a guide and small group.
Are You A Lisa?: Lisa is a solo traveler, but it never stops her from taking trips, and having made new friends on her many adventures, she sometimes travels with a small group. Lisa likes active adventures with excellent guiding and good cultural experiences.
What and How To Book: Small group tours are excellent choices since you'll have a dedicated guide who will work to include you in activities and ensure you have dining companions. And like Lisa, eventually, you may meet new best friends to travel with! Lisa has had great luck with Backroads for land adventures. Midsize cruise lines can be good choices because they sometimes have singles meet ups and so many activities that it's easy to get involved as a solo, and offer more opportunities to meet people since there are fewer passengers. Unfortunately, cruises often count on double occupancy in cabins, and can charge singles as much as twice to book the cabin. Norwegian Cruise Lines is well known for having many singles cabins on board (although it's a larger line, they make more effort to plan single events) River Cruising is another excellent choice for solo travelers. Most river cruise vessels have small single cabins available for a fraction of the cost of the double occupancy cabins, and with a small passenger load of less than 200 people, it's easy mingle and make friends. Solo cabins go quickly, so plan ahead!
Are You A Randy?: You have a big group to travel with, maybe a big family, or are the trip planner for your company or group, or maybe when you start planning a trip, and all your friends want to go because you are so good at it! In any case, everyone is counting on YOU to deliver a great trip!!
What and How to Book: Cruises and all inclusive resorts are popular choices since everyone knows where their meals are coming from, and there is no debating where to eat or trying to accommodate a large group at restaurants. With a group, you have some leverage, find a specialist travel agent in the destination who will throw in perks and discounts for your group! You can also contact the groups department of cruise lines or resorts. It's usually best to plan a trip that offers a variety of activities that will appeal to the many different interests of your group or family. Sometimes if your group is big enough, you can score deep discounts or free rooms for your own travel. After all all that hard work herding cats deserves a little pay off for the travel planner!
Are You a You?
Whatever your travel style, there is a trip to meet your style, try not to get overwhelmed by the info overload on the web! The trick is finding the right one...that's what we help with...keep reading our blog for inspiration and recommendations of trips and tour companies, and great travel agents that worked for our family and friends. And share with us if you have different travel style and great trips that worked for you!!
By Kathy Klofft
Photos By: Jeff Klofft (except where noted)
Opinions are independent, no compensation was given for mentions of any products or services