In exactly one month I leave for Greece, where I will stay for approximately 11 days; splitting my time between Athens and Santorini (more heavily toward the island). Given, I am a touch OCD about my arrangements, I thought it would be good to show the process I use planning for a trip. One month goes by quickly and if I want to maximize my time abroad, I need to work out the details. I hate to have one wasted moment in a tourist trap, fall for one scam that could be avoided, or put one piece of frozen seafood in my mouth. Planning for a trip is also part of the fun of travel. The buildup gives me something to look forward to during those long dark days in the office.
Minus a few minor details, the accommodations and the air travel are all in place. Using credit card points, I booked the flights, so that part was done inexpensively. I also picked the hotels months ago. The spots I chose were Athina Luxury Suites in Santorini and the Athens Status in Athens. My hotel choice usually has three variables, 1) Quality (No need to bring back international bedbugs!) 2) Price 3) Distance from places to stuff my face (and other things). Being 4 weeks out, I need to have a plan.
Documentation: The first thing I do when planning for a trip is to make sure I have all my documents in order. You would be surprised how many people I have heard of who couldn’t find their passport or ID the night before a trip. If for some reason something is missing you want to know as far out as possible, this way you may be able to replace it. This goes for credit card, visas (if needed) and any licenses you might need. Now is the time to put them all in a spot you’ll remember.
You may also want to take a picture of your passport in case of theft during your trip. Also if your passport expires in less than 6 months this can be an issue in some countries. Find out this information now, rather than later. Lastly, knowing where the local US embassy is ,(if you’re American of course) is a good idea in case you find yourself in trouble.
Currency: I just love money, in all shapes, sizes and forms. This is why I like to keep as much of it as possible. ATMs are the best way to get a good exchange rate while travelling. Hotels, currency exchange and exchanges at the airport are like doing business with the Bernie Madoff. They screw you worse than…well you get the point. The rate of exchange is terrible in these places. I always get a few hundred directly from my bank. This is just so I have some cash as soon as I land.The majority I get from is from ATM machines, although those can be tricky. In Istanbul the rate of exchange varied greatly at ATMs, so when you find an honest ATM machine stick with it.
Lastly, you will want to make sure all your credit cards have updated travel notices. Either by calling the bank or doing it yourself online, let them know where you will be travelling. I was in Panama and I forgot to do this, after an hour phone call I was able to get it back on, but I was very close to being broke. Lastly, find out if any of your cards have a conversion fee. It may be a little late to get one, but you may already have it. That has saved me a bundle throughout my trips. Obviously this is only needed if you are going overseas.
Other incidentals: You may or may not want a phone while you’re there, so now is a good time to check out your international plan options. I have Verizon and I always just bite the bullet and pay the $10 so my plan transfers over. Finally, when planning a trip, freezing your mail is another thing to consider if you’re going to be away for long. You don’t want your Victoria Secret catalogs pouring out of your mail box letting every criminal know you’re not home.
Prepping Myself for a Trip
Diet: The normal person gets on a plane, flies to the destination and enjoys themselves. I am not the normal person. Eating abroad is paramount to building a rocket ship for me. I dissect every detail, search the best spots, and plan it out. You would think I was going to the electric chair the next day with how hard I ponder what I am going to eat. I want the best the city can offer. To do this my body needs months of prep work. Already dieting hard for the last 60 days, I am going into overdrive. No alcohol, no bread, no fun, pretty much just eggs, vegetables and some lean meat. I must earn that 8000 calories a day. While away, I am going to be eating like Michael Phelps, minus the 10 hours of swimming.
Keeping Healthy: I don’t give a damn if I get sick when I am working, but I sure as hell don’t want to be sick while travelling. I do everything I can to avoid germs, even washing my hands once a week if they need it or not! In all seriousness I am like Monk with my hand washing. After every door I touch in public I run to a sink. Carrying around disinfectant is also an option. I also take vitamin D daily, and Zinc if needed. Look around at the people you come in contact with…do you really want to trust their hands are clean enough? Gross yes, but I am fanatical.
Packing: I’m not packing yet, but I am looking at things I might need. Shoes always seem to be a problem for me, we usually log about 30K steps (about 12 miles) so I need something good. In both Rome and Istanbul, I put holes in my shoes, I wore them out so badly. I am thinking about getting some Dr. Scholl’s Pain Relief Orthotics , for a little more comfort. I never tried them, but I need something, my dogs get tired. Besides this, I will just look over all the items I have and determine what is needed. I always pack way too much, but It is better to be looking at it then looking for it.
Getting to know the Area
Planning the first meal: What attractions am I going to see and when? How much time will I expect stay at a particular site? What areas shouldn’t I go into, because it may be unsafe? Most importantly, where will I eat? I need to do this to avoid running into hordes tourists squeezing together to get their selfie at the Acropolis. Or worse find myself eating a month-old squid off the tourist menu. Since I know which hotels I am staying in, I want something that is less than a 10-minute walk from my hotel, but is somewhat authentic. I have settled on Evgenie in Athens, many other sites agree it is the most authentic in the area I’m staying. if anyone knows of a different choice let me know!
As for Santorini, I am down to about four places. To find the best I usually employ multiple sources. I will use other travel blogs to get ideas, then cross check that with some of the popular travel sites. Even then I am disappointed about 25% of the time.
I also like to get a feel for the local flavors. What food is the country know for? What are the best wines/liquors? Are there customs on tipping? These are just a few of questions I answer. I am planner, when I travel I like to have everything in place. This is not to say there are no surprises, there always are. It is best to plan so you can avoid any hiccups that might occur.
Last minute details: Finally, I like to have all my car services (or at least a general idea of the taxi cost) set up. I emailed the hotel in Santorini, they are sending our car over…the 30 euro hurts my arms a bit, but it is better than being ripped off by a taxi. I even go as far as to find the airport clubs that will take my Priority Pass that I received with my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, it helps to be comfortable during those 2 hour layovers.
Final Words on Planning for a Trip
It may seem as if I have the whole trip planned, with no spontaneity, but opposite is true. The most enjoyable time for me when travelling is when I am just wandering. Sitting in a line to get into a museum, or trying to find a place to eat without a tourist menu eats away at that time. Planning for a trip helps me avoid this. I live to travel, so I need to extract the most enjoyment from each journey. Plus, all that research is a nice distraction for when I am at work. If you think I am obsessed at a month out, watch as I get closer…(but not in a creepy way).
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