By SUSAN FAREWELL
Fall is a great time of year to sit down and think about your travel future. Have you and your family been to the places you want to go? Do you tend to wait to the last minute and then find yourselves having to compromise on where you go or pay much more than you would have, had you planned earlier?
At Farewell Travels, we’re in the habit of thinking in terms of five year chunks of time. We’ve learned that it’s the best way to make sure you get to all the places you want to go. It also keeps you from making travel mistakes which can be costly—not just monetarily, but in terms of the lost time and the fact that you may not have the opportunities again. No matter what your age, travel time is precious and should not be left to happenstance.
Here are 10 steps we recommend our clients take to maximize their travel time and money.
Step One: Write a Family Travel Mission Statement. Have an informal meeting with your immediate family members and identify what everyone is looking for in terms of travel. Is it for the education? To relax? For multi-cultural experiences? Determine what role travel plays in your family’s life. Is it an occasional treat or are you trying to get to every continent before the kids go to college?
Step Two: Develop a Travel Wish List. Whether an individual traveler, a growing family, or a retired couple, it’s important to list the places you want to go. Think about the places you’ve always thought about visiting but also let yourself fantasize.
Step Three. Work up a Travel Budget. While it may be impossible to know from one year to the next how much you can afford to spend on travel, it’s important to do at least a rough budget. Think in terms of how much you can reasonably spend each year. And if you want to set your sights on a big trip—such as a family safari—you may want to spend less for a few years, taking shorter, road trips. If you know you’re going to have to paint the house next year, perhaps you can hold off on travel this year.
Step Four. Identify Time Constraints. School calendars. Work schedules. Sport commitments. Most people already know they have limited time to travel. But there are other time constraints that play a role in decision making such as the seasons and weather in the destinations you might be interested in. Sure, you may have the extra time to travel to Japan in the summer, but do you really want to be there when it’s in the 90s? And sometimes the season/weather costs a great deal more. For example, renting a villa in the Caribbean can be three times as expensive Christmas week as it is the rest of the year.
Step 5. Analyze Age/Interest Differences. While your 8-year-old son might be itching to go to Colonial Williamsburg, your 14-year-old has her eyes on Paris. It’s important to please everyone on every trip. Sometimes this can very simply be accomplished by waiting a year or two. Or choosing a destination that has something for everyone.
Step 6. Determine How Active To Be. While you and your husband might be runners and think nothing of hiking in the Alps, your tweens may want to have nothing to do with that kind of exertion. But…wait…that doesn’t mean you can’t do the trip. What about hiking to an alpine adventure center where the kids can shoot down the mountain on a summer toboggan or a mountain bike?
Step 7. Plan Second Honeymoon and Other Getaways as well as Family Trips. While it’s easy to get caught up in the family travel planning, don’t lose sight of the importance of setting aside romantic weekends away with your spouse, or seizing opportunities to go off solo or with college classmates (think girlfriend getaways, guys bonding trips…).
Step 8. Write it all down. Our experience says planning five years out (weekends, holidays, vacations) is the most effective way to make sure you go where you want to go. Once you commit it to a document, you are already on your way.
Step 9. Commit, but Be Flexible. While we think it’s important to have five-year travel plans, it’s also important to be flexible with them. Oftentimes when you come back from trips, you have a whole new list of places you want to go next.
Step 10. Revisit the Five-Year Plan Annually. Once a year, take a look at your five-year travel plan and factor in anything that might change it (a better job or lost job; new baby…what have you).
Lastly, don’t hesitate to seek out professional guidance. You use a financial professional to plan your financial future. Having a travel professional oversee your travel portfolio can not only save you money but also save you from having many travel regrets. Perhaps the most valuable take-away, however, is the time a travel professional can save you. Those of us in the field live, think and breathe travel. We can guide you to the best safari lodges and boutique hotels. We know when you should visit Morocco and where you should stay. We know which restaurant in Lausanne you absolutely have to go to. But most importantly, we can guide you in making sure you visit all the places on your list.
Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC, a Westport-based travel design firm.