As a travel blogger I am often asked lots of questions when people are planning their travels. Some are easy to answer, but there are a whole pile that are really difficult. Here I have put together a few of the common questions. I explain why it is hard for me to answer them, and give you a way to get those answers you want.
What is Your Favourite Country/City?
I am hopeless at answering “favourite” questions! I’d be pushed to give you an answer to that over anything. Favourite book, favourite movie, favourite food – you would get a different answer every time you asked the question.
As for my favourite countries and cities, it really depends. Of course some places I like better than others, but there are so many aspects. Some countries are simply breathtaking in their beauty, some have amazing attractions that everyone should see. Some I just felt exceptionally comfortable from the minute I set foot on the soil. Others I have had amazing experiences in so I remember them fondly because of that. Some countries it’s about the food and people, others it’s the amazing history, and yet more it’s the nature. How do I choose a favourite from all these?
Where Should I Go?
No laughing, I’ve not been directly asked this (yet), but I see it on line ALL THE TIME! At least once a day. It’s normally worded something like – “Where should I go for my birthday?” or “What’s a good honeymoon location?”
Well, gosh, if you can’t answer this one, I seriously think you should be reconsidering travelling. Surely you have a desire to go SOMEWHERE? At the very least, you will need to give me a few more hints before I can come up with some suggestions. Do you plan on travelling internationally (do you have a passport?) or domestically? How long do you want to be away? Where do you NOT want to go to? Beaches or mountains or cities? Warm or cold? And where are you starting from?
If you want something more than a random answer then a little more information please!
How Much Money Do I Need to go to X?
Not only have I heard this one a few times, I see it everywhere online. And my answer will always be “it depends”. Firstly you would need to tell me your style of travel. Are you a cheapest-of-the-cheap backpacker? Or do you prefer 4 or even 5 star luxury? Do you like to spend your time walking the streets and people watching, or is every minute going to be filled up with museums, restaurants and other attractions? Will you take local buses between towns, or are you tight on time and prefer to fly?
I think a better way to plan is to choose your budget based on your research. To do this you will need to research your location a little, and at least decide on any “big” things you want to do. Come up with a realistic amount you can afford, AND that will cover where you are going and what you want to do. There is absolutely no point in travelling to Paris, say, if the one thing you really want to do is go to the top of the Eiffel Tower but you can’t afford to do it once you get there. Save up a bit more and then go.
Break the budget down into daily amounts, and consider how much you can allocate to accommodation, meals and attractions. Are these amounts acceptable? Or do you need more or less in your budget? These are things that only you can answer.
How Long Should I Spend in X?
This question is similar to the one above on how much money you need. Your own travel style dictates exactly how long you want to stay in a place. Perhaps you are a speedy traveller and can spend a whole day zipping all over the place to cover a lot of attractions, or perhaps you prefer to really take your time and thoroughly explore an attraction. Perhaps you love museums and want to go to every one in town, or perhaps you are not interested in a single one and that is all there is in town.
Some locations depend on your interests. Salzburg in Austria for example. If you are a Sound of Music fan, you may want to spend a few days here visiting many of the filming locations, but if you have no interest in the movie what so ever, then an afternoon might be enough.
Do you prefer to stay in one location for more nights and do long day trips, or do you like to have shorter stays and move around more? Think about these things and add them to you question and you will get a much better recommendation.
What are the Best Flights to go From A to B?
At the risk of sounding just the same as the above, this again depends on your preferences. Is “the best” for you the cheapest? Or the quickest? Perhaps you don’t want to fly on budget airlines, or perhaps you only want to fly on budget airlines. Are you happy at catching crazy 6am flights or is that just a recipe for you missing your flight? Do you have a fear of flying that means, like Rain Man, you only want to fly Qantas?
A better question is to ask how you can FIND the best flights. Then I can point you in the way of flight comparison websites such as Skyscanner, Google Flights and Momondo to begin your search.
With flights, like everything else, if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. The cheapest flight is not always the best, particularly if that cheap price is courtesy of a third party website. I will always book direct with with an airline. Then, if something goes wrong, there is no middle-man to deal with.
What Exactly Should I Pack?
I can tell you what I pack, but then it is up to you to decide for yourself what to take. Again, research is the answer here. For example, one thing that I commonly see people list on packing lists is common medications, such as paracetamol, antibiotics and gastro medications. You won’t find them on my packing list though, because I’ve never taken them with me. If you think you are likely to get sick from the plane or food, then by all means, include these in your luggage. I prefer to lessen the risk of customs issues when entering countries, and purchase them when I need them.
I really feel the cold, so I will be taking warm clothes with me almost everywhere. My jeans and a light cardigan even go to the tropics with me. I’m not a shoe person either. I believe in two pairs of shoes or three, maximum! The heaviest go on my feet for travel (depending on location it might be black leather boots or hiking boots or, if hot, something like Sketchers), and my flip flops. Sometimes I will have boots, Sketchers and flip flops if going to both hot and cold locations. There is also no straightener or hair dryer in my luggage!
I absolutely must have my sarong though. It lives in my carry on and can be used for a whole pile of things. I also swear by my packing cubes. They are perfect for organising all my bits and pieces and keeping my luggage tidy.
Is X Safe?
I find this one hard to answer because I’m an eternal optimist and the way I see it, people live in these locations, and they’re still okay, so it can’t be too bad. Oh, there are some locations that clearly are not safe. Perhaps they are war torn, or there has been a natural disaster, but on the whole, most people are good, and a bit of common sense will get you far.
Now what I have come to realise over the last couple of years is that this is likely a result of my upbringing and homeland. Australia is a fairly safe country. I rarely consider my personal safety! Oh, maybe I will be a little more aware as I walk through dark city streets alone, but I still do it if I have to.
During my travels we have been to some places at times that other people have deemed to be unsafe. Turkey is one example. We had the best time there, only a couple of weeks after one of the terrorist attacks, and did not for a minute feel unsafe.
So, in my opinion, the media and the instant communication systems we have now, have a lot to answer for. When people ask if a place is safe, I believe it’s more a reflection on how safe they feel at home, as well as perception and lack of knowledge of the rest of the world. If all the media is telling them is the bad things, then that is what people believe.
There is probably a higher chance of being hit by a bus in a local city than having a major issue in another country if you do your research and common sense is used.
Do I REALLY need Travel Insurance?
This one I can answer – Yes! If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Simple really!
So, What’s the Point of This Post?
Glad you have asked that question! There is something that can answer almost all of these questions. I’ve said it a few times in this post already. It’s RESEARCH! I absolutely, one hundred percent, believe that you will have a better holiday if YOU do all the research you can beforehand. And here’s why!
- More excitement – I get a lot more excited once I have done some research and feel like I know a place better. I can now picture exactly the things we are going to do, it’s no longer just a vague idea in my head. It’s also when digging deeper that I find the more off the beaten track things to do that I enjoy the best.
- More personal – As I research more and more, I find it easier to decide if things are for me or not. When we are in a rush, I’m likely just to do the same “ten best things” that everyone else does. With more research, I can narrow it down, and find other things that I know I will enjoy more
- More prepared when things go wrong – If something does not go to plan during your trip, because you have done all of the research yourself, then you will already know what some of the alternatives are. If an activity gets cancelled, then you will know other things that are around that you can do. If the trains go on strike (and from personal experience this seems to happen a lot!) then you will already have some idea what other transport methods are available to get to where you are going.
- Better for the budget – I find that if I haven’t done the research, I just book the first thing that seems suitable. Often a bit more digging will find a better deal or information to help me save more money.
Once you have done a whole pile of research, then you can come back and ask questions similar to above, but much more specific. You will find you now will get more valuable answers that will actually help with your decision making and lead to a much better travel experience.
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.