I wrote a long blog post which was very well received on planning a holiday when I had a blog on the Taste Magazine platform. Dave and I are very fortunate to travel overseas at least once a year. This has been made possible as we have taken the money we were spending on school fees and allocated it to holidays. This is the bonus of having children who are all grown up. The other bonus is that they can house sit!
The first step in planning a holiday is deciding where you want to go. We prefer to choose one region of a country and explore that. We do this as we are time constrained due to our businesses. Once we have decided where we want to go we can look at the logistics of making this happen. As we plan our trips so far in advance, the first thing we look for is accommodation. You will need to have accommodation booked in order to apply for a Visa but if you are at all concerned about not getting a Visa then using a booking site where there are no cancellation fees. We use booking.com and have never had a problem with them even when we have had to cancel bookings.
Once our accommodation is sorted out we book our flights. We believe in taking the shortest route to our destination so if we are flying to London we fly British Airways from Cape Town to Heathrow with no stop overs. We fly Air France to Paris and either Air France or Swiss to other European destinations other than Germany as SAA fly there directly. We have friends who fly via Dubai to get places but I personally would rather spend a little extra on the flight and get to my holiday as quickly as possible. If you do have layovers remember to allow yourself enough time to clear customs / change terminals / collect luggage / check in etc.
Now, we are nearly ready to go. All we need to do is sort out car hire if we are self driving – for this we use Europcar. You can register with them and so all of Dave’s information is stored in their data base. It means that the car is ready and waiting for us and all they need is a signature when we arrive. We take out full insurance which means that we can just drop the car off no matter what the condition, and we will not be charged. It costs extra but believe you me, it is much easier than having to worry about replacing tyres if you get a puncture! You will need an international driver’s license which you can get from the local AA shop. In Italy we often make use of the trains and in London we use our Oyster cards to get around on public transport.
As for foreign exchange (forex) we prefer to take cash notes with us! You can use your credit card quite safely overseas but many small vendors to not have card facilities. Take some small note denominations with you as even though we are used to paying for things with a R100 note, people in Europe don’t often see €100 notes! Also, in Germany you cannot use a debit card to buy groceries. You can only get your forex 60 days before you fly and as our accommodation is paid for before we leave SA we budget on €100 a day for food, petrol, going out and we always have change. We don’t skimp ever on anything as we have budgeted for this.
We prefer to self cater – we shop in the markets and local stores and cook for ourselves. We spend as much money overseas even with the horrific conversion as we do here on groceries. Each trip we will eat out at least once at a restaurant with a Michelin Star (or two) if possible. If you buy local, seasonable produce you can eat very well for very little! (this applies no matter where you are). If you are not going to self cater then in my opinion a B&B is far more pleasurable as you will feel like you are at home, and they make more of an effort with breakfast than most hotels will, no matter the grading of the hotel.
Remember before you go overseas to check the weather and make sure you pack enough clothes – it sounds silly, but you do not want to be looking for a laundromat when you are only away for 2 weeks. Pack smartly and you will not be overweight. Also check what public / religious holidays will be taking place while you are overseas. When we were on the barge, we went over Easter weekend and everything shut down for 3 days of our trip. Bank holidays in England can affect hotel bookings and Ramadan in Muslim countries will mean you cannot eat out during the day at many public places.
I turn my sim card off on my cell phone off when we travel as my MTN mobile does not work for some odd reason when we are out of the country, despite me having roaming. It is a software glitch. Dave leaves his turned on. But we both turn our data off. Roaming data costs are very high. We have a UK Vodafone simcard which cost us nothing and is pay as you go. We get data with each purchase of airtime and we use this all over the world. It is a bit pricey out of the UK, but much less pricey than using our South African phones. We send an SMS from the phone each month to keep it active. You can buy a sim card in each country you visit – just look to see which mobile provider offers the best coverage for the area you will be in. Wi-Fi is cheap in Europe and so many pubs, restaurants, hotels etc. offer free Wi-Fi. We sit down once a day at least to check emails while we are ‘on the go’ so we are never out of touch. I don’t bother travelling with my laptop – I use my tablet for emails but Dave has his laptop as we save our photos on it.
What ever you do and where ever you go, have fun! I hope you found this interesting and if you have any questions go ahead and ask, it will help me create new blog posts.
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