Summer is officially just a few weeks away. Expect to see a lot of advertisements for 3 to 5 days travel packages in newspapers, magazines, travel websites, and posters at the travel agencies.
Going on a package tour may not sound sophisticated, but they are the easiest, safest, and most convenient way to organize a trip, especially if you are not very familiar with the destination and do not have the luxury of time to research and make the arrangements piecemeal.
Many of these advertisements will look really attractive and cheap, but not all travel packages are the same so you must exercise caution before you commit and sign-up for anything. The most cost efficient package that will also deliver a great experience is a 4 days, 3 nights package. Basic inclusions are a roundtrip airline ticket and 3 nights hotel stay with complimentary airport transfers. City tours and other activities are usually extra.
The advertised price is typically for one person, but most packages require a minimum of two persons, so you will need a travel buddy.
To make sure that you’re getting what you pay for, discuss all the details with your travel agent and read the fine print so you understand what is included or not included in your package.
Also make sure to stretch and enjoy all the hours of your 4-day vacation as much as possible by following these tips:
Choose a flight that arrives at your destination in the early morning of Day 1 and departs late on Day 4. If you arrive near midnight on Day 1 and depart early morning of Day 4, you will have just 2 full days at your destination because you’ll be in transit on Day 1 and Day 4.
Always ask if your ticket has any flexibility: is it re-bookable and/or refundable? How much will it cost if you need to make changes? If your ticket is not refundable and/or not re-bookable, the ticket is forfeited if you need to reschedule your flight.
Rooming arrangements for these tour packages are usually for 2 persons per room. You have the choice of booking a room with 2 twin beds or one double.
Check-in time is at 2-3pm, but many hotels will accommodate an early check-in request at no extra charge if they have available rooms. If they cannot accommodate your request, you can always leave your luggage with the concierge and walk around to familiarize yourself with the hotel surroundings. Check whether your reservation includes free breakfast. If you are traveling with children, hotels usually allow up to 2 children at no extra charge if you don’t ask for extra beds. If your hotel booking includes free breakfast, it is usually for 2 adults plus 2 kids under 10 years old.
Hotels usually accommodate requests for non-smoking rooms, and it is more convenient to ask for a room near the elevator especially if you are staying in a big hotel.
The hotel booking also usually includes free airport transfer, but to avoid any misunderstandings, make sure that this service is clearly stated in your package. Also check if your hotel offers free Wi-Fi service.
Tours and activities
Joining group tours while at your destination could be a fun experience and allow you to make new friends, but if you wait to make the booking when you reach your hotel, it could be quite expensive. Ask your travel agent if they could make the booking for you. Or, you could book online via travel websites such as www.asiatravel.com. These tours and activities must be paid in advance. You will then receive a voucher with instructions on where you will be picked up and dropped off for each activity.
Check if the city you are visiting has a “Hop-on Hop-off” bus service. If it does, get the 2-day pass for the 2 full days you will be visiting. This way you not only get to see most of the tourist sites, you’ll also have unlimited access to transportation for the next 2 days.
If, on the other hand, you just want to wing it, or if you want to go sightseeing on your own, www.tripadvisor.com is the best source of information on the best guides, places to visit, where to eat, and other fun activities in the area. Because real travelers write the reviews, you’ll get an honest evaluation.
Devices and apps
You’ll be bringing your phone and probably a tablet anyway, so before you leave for your trip, make sure to load your devices with at least one offline map, travel guide app, and a transit app so you’ll be able to find your way even if you’re not connected online.
Having the following apps will also be beneficial: WiFi Finder will help you locate available wireless services in your vicinity. Viber or Skype will help you stay connected to your friends and family whenever you have wireless access.
Also make sure to bring along a power pack so you don’t run out of juice. Make sure your devices have enough free storage for all the photos you’ll be taking. And, don’t forget to pack all your power cords and chargers!
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE March 2015 Issue.
Reviewed by Presy Alba