As a frequent traveller, I spend a lot of time thinking about travel – I find myself constantly researching places and have planned enough trips to last several lifetimes – some of which I am sure I will do. But you know, I don’t mind if I don’t do them all, as I find that learning about places is almost as much fun as going there.
On the practical side though, while I dream of aimlessly travelling the world, going wherever I like on a whim, from year to year, at around this time (for reasons that will become clear) what I end up doing is planning and putting down deposits on tours and airfares for the following year. This means that there are some months (usually around 7 or 8) of waiting, during which time I think about other places I could also cram into the same trip, or maybe even (as I did twice, in 2016), adding in some ‘extras’ because waiting all that time is painful.
Let’s forget about the ‘extras’ for now, and focus on the main game. I know many other travellers do the same, for obvious reasons. A lot of airlines offer specials for people who are happy to book and pay for fights in October, and tour companies like to have bums on seats fully paid for by the end of the year – this helps them to work out their own budgets and to book hotels, individual activities etc. It makes sense. So they offer discounts at around this time.
Of course, there are many deviations. I got a great last-minute deal this year on a South-East Asian trip – by booking and paying five weeks before departure I got a 20% discount on the land content ( I did pay full price for the air component, but it was still a great deal).. If travelling alone, this is often a good way to go, as they might just have that last spot available that you can get for a good price. However I don’t bank on this for every trip, because some tours fill up so quickly that I know I would end up missing out. Some cruises, especially on the small ships, and many of the more niche tours (like Antarctica, Galapagos, and the ‘Stans’ for instance) need to be booked in 18 – 24 months in order to avoid disappointment.
At this stage, on the whole, because I like to escape the Melbourne winter my vacation cycle goes something like this:
June- September: My main travel period. I’d love to be away for this entire time (I was just about in 2015), but it is usually around 6 weeks of this period. I usually go to Europe or the USA/Canada where it is warmer, either on my own or with my husband or a friend, for at least some of the time, but more and more I am looking at solo travel as it is hard to coordinate with others (and I have big FOMO when it comes to travel).
September: After I return from the year’s trip, I review all my tour ideas, and maybe add some new ones that I have thought about during my recent travels.
October: This is crunch-time. I meet up with my travel agent and we decide on some tours, and take advantage of the discounts that are available. This is also the best time to lock in some cheap airfares (but these need to be paid for immediately).
November to January: Payments are usually due, and life gets busy so travel thoughts and plans tend to go into a hiatus.
February-March: this is the time I start thinking about extra things I want to do before, during and after the tours. I go into research mode again, start dreaming big about all the other things I can do.
April-May: Reality check time. I realise that I have a finite time period and need to make some decisions about my full itinerary, start booking hotels and flights/train trips between places.
In June I am either off, or making last minute plans.
One year, I hope to be completely spontaneous, although the way accommodation and flights fill up, this is becoming more and more problematic.
So, what are my plans for the coming year?
I’m about to lock in tours in these countries (can you guess?).
And later on in the year I hope to also go here:
And maybe here:
But then, this looks good too …
And maybe this?
All will be revealed, in the fullness of time …