Get travel smart this 2018

3 January 2018

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to travel more in 2018, you’ll want to get all your ducks in a row so that unlike most resolutions, this one actually comes to fruition.

Whereas in the past South Africans would typically take only one holiday a year, the evolving trend is for more frequent, shorter breaks during the year. “We are starting to see people travelling two or three times a year instead of taking just one main holiday,” explains Sue Garrett, Flight Centre Travel Group Product and Marketing GM.

Garrett says in 2018 South Africans will continue to look for destinations that offer value for money and don’t pose a threat to safety. “Destinations like Mauritius, Zanzibar and Thailand will continue to be firm favourites and we also see the Middle East, Italy, USA and new destinations like Sri Lanka are starting to spark more interest.

“Travelling South Africa will be a focus for Flight Centre in 2018 and we will be working closely with SA Tourism to showcase the beauty and affordability of the experiences within our own borders.”

So, if you’re thinking of dusting off your suitcase this year, here are some tried and tested tips from travel experts to turn that New Year’s resolution into a reality.

1. Get your dates sorted

Did you know you could get a full week off at the end of April by taking 30th April and 2nd and 3rd May? Or an extended long weekend in August if you take the 10th off? Knowing when the school holidays are or when there’s a public holiday on a Friday or a Monday, a Thursday or a Tuesday could mean the difference between you sipping piña coladas on a beach somewhere exotic or sinking into your couch because you failed to prepare. Consider how many holidays you’d like to take in 2018, your budget and desired destinations and start investigating the options available to you by talking to a travel professional.

2. Have your docs ready

Travelling with a minor? Check that you have an Unabridged Birth Certificate on hand. Check the validity of your passport to ensure it has more than six months’ validity. Check how many blank pages are available in your passport (you need at least two at all times). Scan all your documentation and upload it to the cloud or email it to a Gmail or similar account that can be accessed from anywhere.

3. Rack up those points

If you’re a member of any travel reward scheme or loyalty programme, check what your status is and what you need to do to achieve a higher level with better benefits. With so many opportunities to accrue points – even with non-travel suppliers – it makes sense to evaluate what you can do to climb your way up the tiers to enjoy greater benefits, including discounts and upgrades. Consolidating your purchases with certain suppliers like petrol stations or even grocery stores can contribute to your points, which can be redeemed for flights, accommodation and car rental.

4. Make a list

Start making a checklist of everything that needs to be packed or taken care of prior to travel. You can add to the list as and when you think of things. Who’s going to water your plants while you’re away? Do you need to notify your bank that you’ll be overseas using your credit card? What kind of travel insurance should you get? Will you need to switch off your geyser and water while you’re away? Is it worth clearing your fridge of all perishables? Do you need to pay any bills before you go? A check-list developed over time will ensure that you don’t miss anything before you step out the door and you can travel with peace of mind that you’ve forgotten nothing.

5. Do your research

What visas and vaccinations are going to be required for your travel in 2018? What health considerations are there in your holiday destination? What is the safety profile of the country or city you’re visiting? What are some of the basic words like please and thank you? Where can you find the best pizza in New York, sachertorte in Vienna and pavlova in Auckland? Doing some pre-travel research really does pay off. You don’t need to have planned every minute detail, but forewarned is certainly forearmed so that you make the best of your holiday experience. After all, it’s an investment in yourself and your loved ones.

So, if like many South Africans you’re kicking your post-holiday January blues to the curb by planning your next break, follow these tips and put your best foot forward towards your first 2018 holiday.