Five Vacation Planning to Save You Time & Money on Your Vacation

Vacation planning is fun and easy so you don’t need to get overwhelmed. The first thing I want you to do is to take a deep breath and don’t panic. If you’ve never done this before, relax. I am here to help you with some simple steps to plan a great vacation.

1. Determine Your Budget.

There are many ways to go about determining your budget, but I usually set a price of how much I want to spend (per person) and then go from there to determine how to find the best travel deals based on where I want to go on a cheap vacation. You need to be reasonable regarding what the budget will be for your vacation or getaway. A very realistic and reasonable budget for a cheap vacation is between $800-$1200 per person including airfare, hotel, car rental, food, tips, and airport parking. I’ve traveled all over the country on business and the average budget for a two-to-three day business trip is about the same amount so it’s a very reasonable for a cheap vacation for an entire week (especially when it involves air travel and a much longer stay).

2. Choose Your Destination.

Here’s a little insider travel secret. I’ve traveled to some amazing vacation destinations at amazing prices, but I don’t usually choose my destination. The destination chooses me. It can get a little frustrating but I can tell you that if destinations did not chose me, I would never have went to Jamaica and seen a live starfish swimming underwater when I was snorkeling off of a beach in Negril, climbed the Great Wall of China, traveled through the Panama Canal or met a baby sloth at a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica just for starters. I went to those vacation destinations not because I had a deep desire to travel to Montego Bay, Beijing, Panama City, or Puerto Limon, but because I was chasing a travel deal. Now, vacation planning via chasing a deal is a great way to get cheap vacations and save a lot of money. I have been on some incredible trips and gone to vacation destinations I never would have had at the top of my travel destinations “bucket list,” but I realize chasing the travel deal has prevented me so far from going to Tahiti’s island paradise of Bora, Bora (my life long travel dream) and I still want to do the “Sound of Music” tour in Salzburg, Austria. So you usually have a choice: chase the best travel deal or choose your travel dream.

3. Book Your Airfare, Hotel, and Car Rental.

When you’re vacation planning, the best way to save hundreds of dollars on your vacation is to book everything together as a complete travel package. I don’t have any technological reason as to why this saves you money, but it does. Feel free to experiment with your own online travel booking engine of choice with this concept by making queries separately and then as a package, but it’s been done before and proven to save you money. I do know that Rovia Travel has the best online price 68% of the time as compared to Travelocity and Expedia according to a recent independent survey by Topaz International so you may want to check them out.

4. Research Your Vacation Destination & Plan Your Travel Itinerary.

Researching my vacation destination and planning great itineraries is one of the things that I sort of excel at in vacation planning because I love researching the hot tourist attractions of the vacation destination I’m visiting. I know some people just like to “wing it,” but that lack of vacation planning can really add hundreds of dollars to your trip. There are two great ways to do your research. First, there are so many online tools at the local tourism offices of the areas your visiting that have all the main information at your fingertips, plus many have coupons or travel deals you may not have been able to find in other ways. The second thing I like to do is pick up a great guide book for the destination I’m going to. Frommer’s Travel Guide Books and Rick Steves’ Travel Guide Books for Europe are very well researched and written and these authors update their books almost yearly so you know you have up-to-date information.

5. Make Two Checklists.

Now you need to make two checklists for your vacation planning. One is a list of things to do before you go on vacation. This includes finding a pet sitter, getting a neighbor to pick up the mail, calling your mobile phone service to arrange for a text/email package while you’re away if you’re traveling internationally, secure a passport or visa (if you need them), get medical vaccinations if necessary, call your credit card companies to let them know you’ll be traveling and what cities or countries to expect charges to come up on, and things like that. The second list for your vacation planning is a list of things to pack.

Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? Now you see how simple vacation planning is even for an inexperienced traveler. These are the basics of vacation planning and now that you know how to plan your vacation, we have a lot of extra bonus my travel website (see below) to help you discover a world of ways to see the world. Bon Voyage and have a fabulous vacation.

China

Survival China and Tricks

These China , Survival Techniques, will help you get around and make your trip to China easier, so you will be able to experience the real China with a little less stress.

China is an odd beast that needs to be respected; the major cities, Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian, all have their own personalities.

Some complex situations that you think would be an organizational disaster turn out to be great and you wonder afterward what all the fuss and worry was about. Then the simplest of tasks can turn out to be a major calamity.

This is when you have what we call here a “China day”.

These days come and go and are part of the experience of everyday travel in China. One needs to have an open mind when travelling China. It is a place with thousands of years of history and culture that is trying overnight to adapt to Western ways of living.

You need to have a very open mind when you Travel in China.
I have listed below a few China that will make life that wee bit more bearable on your Travel China experience.

China – Be Toilet Wise

o Never expect a clean toilet 100% of the time.

o Be prepared; Carry some tissue.

o You may have to use a squat toilet, again if you know this before hand it is not a shock. If you don’t know how to use a squat toilet, try the following experiment at home.

While holding onto something for support with both hands, lower your body down into a low squat position, so that the cheeks of your bottom is almost touching your heels or the back of your calf. Now, let go with your hands. See if you stay in this position for at least 1 minute. If you fall backwards or you cannot get up, then a squat toilet could be a problem for you! Practice, you will be happy you did.

o If you see a clean toilet, Go… it may not come again for a while.

o There are many public toilets around the cities, usually the ones you pay for are OK, (RMB .5), the others best to stay away from if you can. You will soon notice them as you walk around the cities.

o Be warned that public areas like bus and train stations are usually what I class as “tough toilets”, however if gotta go you gotta go.

o Outside of the major cities, the toilet systems are old or have very narrow plumbing /pipes and get blocked easily. In these cases a small basket is usually beside the toilet, this is for your used toilet paper.

One of the best China Travel toilet Tips I can give you, is use hotel lobby toilets; these are everywhere and are always clean. Still they may not always have toilet paper. It depends on the class of hotel that you are using.

I do not wish to scare you. However, of all the China in all the other web sites I have read, this is a topic not often mentioned, but it is very important to us all.

So outside of the major cities conditions can be tough. But most of the time everything will be fine, especially if you book a tour; everything will have been checked out before hand. However even the best laid plans can go wrong, so be prepared, the toilets in the smaller cities, towns and villages can be scary.

China – The Food

o The food is great and the variety is overwhelming. Most of the time you get to choose what you eat, or you can recognize what you’re eating, however sometimes you do not get a choice. Carry a chocolate bar or something; this will keep you going until some food that you can recognize turns up. Drink bottled or boiled water, as the tap water is NOT safe to drink, this is for the whole of China. Even boiled water, while sterilised can contain a lot of minerals and iron deposits that you probably do not want in your system. The safest bet is to drink bottle water. Tap water in most big cities is OK for brushing teeth.

o Eating habits – Most Chinese people have a great habit of being very noisy when they eat and lunch and dinner times can be a wonderfully noisy celebration, food tends to go in all directions, its just part of being in China.

o People also smoke at the table while everyone is eating, so some restaurants get very loud and smoky.

o If you get stuck what to order as most of the menu’s are in Chinese just look at the table next to you and point to the dish you fancy and ask how much it is, this system works really well and know seems to mind.

o I have a basic menu that will help you order safe food, (no Cats or Dog) this will enable you to visit a larger selection of restaurants, not just the tourist ones with high prices. You can carry it with you and use it in the local restaurants where most will be able to serve what is on it. This way you will know what you are eating.

These local places are very cheap and the food it great. Contact me if you would like me to send it to you.

China – Taxis

o China – Taxis – Taxis are an experience that can have you griping the seat and gasping for breath; however you soon get used to it, after the first few rides, you’re an old hand.

o The taxis in Shanghai are, overall, quite good. Try to get the Blue, Blue’ish Turquoise, Gold and White taxis, these are the best… these are the four major taxi companies and are generally recognised by their single colour paintwork. The others are OK, just older and a rougher ride (the others also may have faulty metres). No drivers will speak English.

o Carry your hotel or accommodation business card with you, written in Chinese, this helps if you get lost walking around town.

o In all the taxis around the country you will see the drivers name and taxi registration number in plain sight. If you have any problem, or if you think you have been over charged etc, just take this number down, make a big fuss about it, and the driver then should wake up and fix whatever problem you have. Even better is to take the receipt. This has all the trip details on it and you can ring the taxi company if you want to take things further or if you’ve left something in the taxi.

o The government takes rip-off drivers in all cities, Beijing and Xian especially, very seriously and if you complain they will lose their license. This is their livelihood. So far I have had not one driver in 3 years that has not backed down and we have then agreed a price for the trip or solved our problem.

o In Shanghai, it is common practice for taxi fare increases after 11pm. However, one can usually bargain for a 20% discount, which will get the fare back to the pre-11pm rate.
Be strong with the taxi drivers, never-the-less, keep your cool, smile and negotiate.

China – Shopping

o China – Shopping – China is a shopper’s paradise, Markets, Bargains; Top labels… anything and everything if you have the time. With clothes, the larger (Western) sizes can be quite hard to find, however in the major cities where you get a lot of tourist traffic, you can find them.

o Electrical gear, DVD’s, Cameras, stuff like this is not worth buying in China, Hong Kong is still the best place for this.

o Store hours in the major cities are from 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week.

o Visa card is still the best card to carry, with ATM’s in good supply all with PLUS access etc.
There is usually a surcharge for use of VISA, MasterCard or other forms of credit card.

o Wait on purchasing if you can, look around to get a feel for the prices. The Chinese are VERY experienced at selling and know that we halve the opening price when bargaining.
In the markets go for 25% of what they first ask; go so low that they let you walk away. This will give you an idea of the bottom price. The resulting end-price will probably be around 40% to 50% of where they started.

Whatever the market people say, they are used to pushing and haggling for best prices. Do not worry about being too hard, they are used to it and will not sell you an item unless they make a profit. Don’t be concerned with the apparently hurt body language when you go low – it is all part of the game. As soon as they have wrapped up your first purchase, they will try to sell you something more. Remember to keep smiling and having fun while bargaining.

China – Medical Treatment and Records

o Most hotels will have a doctor that you can see. In the major hotels English will be spoken.

o Always take a small first aid kit, cold remedy, headache tablets at the very least. WATSONS is a very large chain chemist. Most of the remedies, tablets etc, that you may require should be in these shops. These shops are all over China.

o There is a great network of pharmacy type shops; these are indicated by a Green Cross. There will always be a 24 hr Green Cross pharmacy in the city you are in. It is handy to carry a Phase book, as no one will speak English, however you will end up with something that will help.

o INPORTANT POINT – for most of the mass produced packet type medicines, the packaging will be written in Chinese on one side, English on the other. However in the shops you only see the Chinese side. Have a good look, turn the packs over, it gives you a lot more confidence knowing you can read the package.

o If you have a specific medical issue, take records, most of the Doctors will have OK written / reading English, even though their oral English will be poor.

China – Telephone

o Using the phone is as easy as at home. However the person picking it up will not speak English or have very broken English… the Major 4- or 5-Star Hotels will all be OK.

o What is worth doing is buying a Chinese Telecom SIM card, they are about RMB100 and with this you get RMB50 in calls, the other 50 is for the price of the SIM card; this SIM card will go into all major brand phones and work OK.

By doing this, people can reach you within and out of China if there is an emergency. If you have a couple of phones, you can short (txt) message each other (SMS). Also you are able to call your tourist guide, hotel etc if you have any major problems. It is a cheap way to keep in touch.

NB.Before you buy a Chinese SIM card, check that it will work in your Cell / Mobile phone. There are plenty of China Telecom shops that can help.

China on when NOT to move around China.

o Spring Festival, this would be the Chinese New Year time, around the end of January / Early February

o Early May; Labour day Holidays

o Early October; National Day Holidays

Of all the China National Day is the biggest one. Millions of Chinese travel at these holiday times of the year. Most are travelling back to home towns or visiting family. Hotels, trains, planes, cars, buses, and roads are all crowded to the maximum. Major congestion, everywhere.

Also travel fares are at their full price. No discounts are offered!
Stay in one place and enjoy where you are. It’s best and causes fewer hassles.

China – TV

o If you want to watch TV, most of the major hotels will have cable and if you are in the smaller places, the national channel, CCTV9 is in English. Over the last couple of years it has got a lot better, with some great China programs, news and views on people and places around China.

China – Airport Tax

o There is a “construction fee” at almost all airports.

Domestic flights RMB 50
International flights RMB 90 – which is to be paid in local currency.

Just recently, tickets are being tissued with the Construction Tax included; however make sure you have the Tax money with you just to make sure.

I hope some of these China will come in handy and will make your trip to China that little bit easier.

If you have been to China and wish to share your China , please feel free to contact me anytime.

John Mckenna

http://www.Travel-the-Real-China.com

Top Ten Safe

Traveling is one of the most enjoyable and interesting things we can do, but with traveling comes some risks. We all know that it’s not always safe to travel and that some of the things associated with it, such as money and hotel stays bring with them some additional risks as well. There are some top ten safe that you can use to make your travels more safe and enjoyable.

Everyone should take the time to learn the top ten safe for those who are traveling summer or winter.

1. Keep your self and your children seat belted at all times when the car is moving. Keep your young children or toddlers safely secured in a rear facing car seat. The reason this is a top ten safe travel tip is obvious. The kids are our number one concern when it comes to traveling.

2. Keep your cash stashed out of sight. When you stop don’t display large amounts of cash and don’t flash it in a store. When you can use travelers checks as opposed to carrying large amounts of strictly cash. When you do carry cash, keep some in the car, some on you and some on your spouse so that your trip is not dependent upon just one person. One of the top ten safe that can keep your trip safe if one of you is injured, or your car is stolen, is this one.

3. Keep a first aid kit in your car at all times.

4. Don’t visit an ATM machine at night or when alone.

5. If traveling with children, keep things to occupy them so that you can keep your attention focused on the driving, where your attention should be. This top ten safe travel tip is one of the most important.

6. Be aware of how is around you at all times. Make sure that you are paying attention to where you children are, and where others are located in relation to them and to you.

7. Keep your luggage or pda/palm pilot close to you. Don’t permit strangers to come near your luggage or ask them to watch it while you enter a restroom or other areas where you are not able to see the things you will be carrying onto an airline or train/automobile. Paying close attention to this one of the top ten safe will assure that you not only keep yourself and your family safe, but also others who will be traveling with you if you are using mass transportation.

8. Keep your regular medication handy and on your person as opposed to packaged all separate from you.

9. Don’t carry your most valued jewelry or your most expensive coat with you on vacation. Its in open invitation.

10. Don’t take your children with you or travel to parts of the country where advisories have been issued. If it is truly a vacation, then why put yourself into a position to be in danger.