Travel planning around Christmas and holiday seasons

Let me start with my most recent trip first. I spent a very white Christmas in Romania, a very festive Croatia and had my 2017 countdown in Bulgaria! I will go into the details in the upcoming posts, but let me start with the planning process.

Before I decided going to these places, I actually know almost nothing about them! I just heard that they are beautiful and I haven’t been to Romania and Croatia yet, so it’s probably a good idea to spend my long Christmas holiday (where I only need to take 3 days off for a 10 days holiday) there.

So the first thing I did was to Google 「Romania」 and 「Croatia」, and look at the 「Top sights」 and 「Popular itineraries」 under the Travel Guide section. Then you will have some general ideas of which cities and sights you should put down in your list.

   

Once you have the list of cities you would like to visit, then I will look at the transportation next.

1. How should I get between the cities? (by train, plane, boat or car?)
2. What is the transport schedule like? (early arrival, evening departure etc)
3. The cost for each available transportation options

I usually prefer train to plane as it’s less of a hassle for all the immigration, security check and check-in time etc, and the train stations are always in the city center while the airports are further away. But if it’s taking too long to go by train, then I will pick the flight as I don’t have too much time. I also will look at some forums or blogs to check what is the best way to travel between the destinations.

You should be aware that during winter or some big holiday seasons like Christmas, the transportation schedule might change or some roads might be closed. And asking questions or researching on forums like TripAdvisor is a good way to check related information.

If you make it to this point, you should have your itinerary more or less ready. Next is the easiest task, booking the accommodation. I always go for hotels just because the security measure is better. For some popular Airbnb cities, I will use at platform too.

I always research and book my rooms through OnlineTravelsDiscount.com, as it shows all the available deals for a hotel from different sites so I can always book the lowest price. I always pick hotels in the city center (or near the airport if I have to catch an early flight), then filter by guest rating 4 or above, star rating 3 or above, then sort by price. Then I will look at the reviews, especially look for details like transportation from airport/train station, location, any elevator, neighbourhood safety etc. So far, all the hotels I booked using this method was decent and with a good price! And always contact the hotels after booking to ask about the transportation method to the hotel.

Lastly, I will look at the sights I must visit. Sometimes I will book free walking tour to see the city, as the guide would give you more information and local insights. If the sites are far from each other, I will book one day tour.I usually search and book through Viator, or just Google 「one day tour to XYZ」.

Again, you should be aware that due to holiday season, some sights or tours might not operate. So make sure you double check with the tour operator. Like this time, I was contacting a few tour operators in Romania to visit the castles and Sighisora. I got a reply from one operator saying nothing will be opened from Dec 24-26, so he strongly suggested us to move our dates, which was impossible for us. Luckily, in the end I found a really nice tour operator in Brasov, Active Travel, which gave us a nice Christmas tour.

Talking about tours, I always pick the ones that include hotel pick-up and drop-off, as the tours usually start early, and you never know how bad the traffic will be! Another good thing for hotel pick-up/drop-off is that you can then stay near the airport if you need to catch an early flight the next day, without worrying it will be too far to get to the city center or sights as you will be in a tour the whole day anyway.

So here are some high-level tips regarding itinerary planning. I will go into details of my white and freezing East Europe Chrsitmas trip in my next posts. Stay tuned!

How to travel the world while working full time

View from plane over Japan

I love traveling. (I bet you do as well!)

I used to travel a lot around Asia when I was still a student as it’s much cheaper and there were lots of school holidays. Being an exchange student in Tokyo for a year helped me travel around Japan too.

Now that I’m working, I have more money to travel outside of Asia, but the problem now is time. Having a full time office work doesn’t give me many vacation days (in Hong Kong, we have 14 days public holiday and average 10 paid vacation days at work).

Still, I set a goal for myself: every year I have to visit at least 1-2 new countries or cities. Because of this, I’ve been to around 35 countries and over 85 cities to date, and counting…

So I got these questions a lot: How could you travel so much? Do you even need to work? Are you a flight attendant?

Well, I’m not a flight attendant, and I do need to work of course. Here’s a few things I do to facilitate my travel plans while having an office work.

  1. I plan my travels around the long public holidays, like Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter etc. I always look at the calendar at the beginning of the year to lock in the dates of those long holidays, where you can take 3-4 days off and have 10 days to travel.
  2. Whenever I travel to Europe or South America, I will include 2-3 countries in my itinerary within 10-14 days.
  3. I tend not to stay in the same country or city for too long when I visit the first time. I always tru to visit all the main sites and major cities during my first visit and get some local experience. If I really like the place, I will plan to revisit and for longer time next. This way I can see more places and make sure I won’t be spending too much time in a place where I don’t enjoy as much.
  4. I don’t really take vacation days to travel within Asia now. I save all the vacation days for long haul travels. For Asia, a long weekend will do.
  5. I also applied for no pay leaves from work sometimes too. If you let your manager knows way ahead of time, and make sure you arrange all your work before your vacation, it’s not that hard to get approval.

I joined packaged tours during the early days, but now I plan all my trips. I know how difficult it is to plan everything, especially if you are going to cross out a new country from your list!

I hope by sharing some travel tips and insights from my experience through this blog, I can help answer some of your questions regarding your next adventure, and create your perfect vacation 🙂