Planning a sightseeing trip
By B. Crane
I have been to over 100 cities and hamlets. Technically 84 when you consider some repeat trips. I have been to 20 states and 7 countries.
[I say I have been lost in all of them. I say to all like me in most situations to not worry because it is only for a minute].
I have an associate degree in travel and tourism. I have been an air courier and auto shipper and all that means is I have to keep refreshing to stay up with the changes.
You will get a lot of discounts as a college student and under age 25. Find a student travel agency. There are less today and you have to search for them. Some discounts: Amtrak, Greyhound, British Rail, museums…
Amtrak college discount is 15% if you buy a $20 yearly pass and book 3 days prior. greyhound may be similar.
The first thing to do is see a travel book and list all the sights you want to see.
Then plan how many days it will take. Pick lodging’s in your price range and transportation and you should be ready to book. Not exactly.
If you stay in a city only a few days you will be surprised to find out the venue or tour is closed the day you are there. There are many jokes of a city closed for the month. There is a high, low and shoulder season. Some reservations you have to book a year in advance. An example is restaurants in Mardi Gras. I went to Ireland and discovered the trains were on strike. If it rains will you be in mud and have few things to do? Check the weather if it is just days prior to leaving and booking. To avoid all this that read the areas newspapers online.
If going international consider checking out the US government restricted advisories country lists. If you need help narrowing down the 200 countries of the world and many domestic areas ask a travel agent for some suggestions.
When you plan an itinerary consider you walk, stand and climb steps maybe double or triple what you normally would. Popular sights are museums and observatory or mountain views. See that you don’t have morning and night events wear out your legs and all fast paced. A day of museums, hiking and dancing is not for everyone physically if you can avoid it.
To help your pacing, consider an afternoon on a bus tour or cruise. Consider adding an extra half day or day unplanned to give you flexibility to make changes. You don’t want to return home and then need a vacation.
The most travel books are in the Mid Manhattan Library opposite the 2 lions and Grand Army Plaza Library. Barnes and Noble may have newer editions. The college library last time I checked had none.
The best books for decades were the Let’s Go series which covered many country and cities. It was written by the Harvard students to find the cheapest places. If they couldn’t they slept in a cemetery.
There are not many Lets Go books around now. The best now for budget or college students might be the Lonely Planet or Blue Moon series.
The trip planning pages are invaluable especially internationally.
To acquire information see the sites of the Visitor and Convention Center, Chamber of Commerce, hotel sites supply attraction links and when there the mail men and cabbies.
See the calendar of events of the town. Look for toll free numbers to call. Call or e-mail your questions.
To book, kayak.com covers flights and hotels and compares other sites. Booking online is cheaper.
Try to answer all questions before you go because the information bureaus are crowded and you want to relax on your vacation.
Check when the city buses and trains stop running or you will have trouble getting back to your room. Try to get the bus maps of the city prior to going. Subways maps are usually more abundant because most are in a rush but tourists should use buses to see more sights when commuting to attractions verse seeing subway walls. A subway is an experience in some subways with rubber wheels and murals.
Find out the crime areas from the police or information centers.
When you get home you will print your photos and read brochures you acquired. Many tend to glorify it reading only the highlights. I have a survey rating my trip or tour as I do it. Everyone’s individual survey questions would be different.
Rooms: hostels, bed and breakfasts, guest houses, camp grounds YMCA, motels to hotels. Look for ones that have been rated by travel books or AAA (automobile club).
The cheapest way to lodge is a hostel but not for everyone. Details at the bottom and at ayiah.org. Many hotels say or write they’re a short walk from the sights. I have found that to be blocks to miles away. The best way to check is map it on mapquest.com.
Sometimes it pays to call long distance to directly talk to the lodging proprietor verse a toll free number with an operator not on the location. Ask about all the hotel taxes not initially in the price.
If you don’t want to make all the detailed decisions and navigating transfers, consider a tour. Consider how much you want to pay extra for that. There are tours with a guide nonstop and some giving you many hours to be on your own. I spend a lot of time planning the sights and realize it is usually the top tourist sights on tours. Many discover more by getting lost and feel accomplishment finding civilization. They meet more people on their own. For many meeting the residents is the experience. You will appreciate your city more when you return. Many tours have many New Yorkers and you have less of a cultural experience.
A top hosteling organization is Hostelling International. http://www.hihostels.com
Ask airlines the cheapest days and times to fly (usually mid week). If you call right after midnight they have more time to talk to you and cancelled reservations are open by phone but wouldn’t be seen in the computer for a while.
With planes you have less chance of cancelling and getting refunds. With trains and buses you can change plans a lot easier. If your destination is not that far, consider the time getting to and from an airport and the time you have to get there early and get screened. It may easier by train or bus. Bus is usually cheaper. International flights are cheapest 4 to 6 weeks prior.
For everything ask if there is a discount.
TRAVEL GROUPED BY CATEGORY:
Architectural Sites, Arts / Performance Venues, Beaches, Bridges / Tunnels, Cemeteries, Educational Institutions, Financial Institutions, Gardens / Arboretums, Government Buildings, Historic Districts / Sites, Hospitals, Houses / Mansions, Information Centers, Libraries, Marinas / Piers, Markets / Bazaars, Memorials / Monuments, Military Sites, Museums / Galleries, Nautical Sites, Neighborhoods / Streets, Parks, Promenades / Boardwalks, Public Art (Mural / Sculpture / Statue), Religious Sites, Restaurants, Sports Venues, Squares
Stores / Malls, Tours, Transportation Sites, Zoos / Aquariums
Consider traveler insurance but most have to be bought months in advance.
I have my own list what to do weeks prior to the last days so the last day I’m not busy nonstop and tired starting the trip. I build up my walking in advance. Don’t try out anything new like eye glasses, shoes, clothes or a backpack.
Internationally it pays to exchange money in the country you are visiting for the best rates. An International Student ID gets it for free.
Write all you’re planning in one memo book and take it with you. If you miss a train or they lost your lodging reservation you have your own list of the next choices.
It is common to misplace items. I use different color pens, paper clips, folders and bags to color identify items.
On a good map I plot the room, attractions, restaurants and night life in different colors.
Ask the Visitor and Convention Bureau for coupons. Have numbers and locations to call for an emergency like the police, hospital and poison control. If stumped planning call the weekend travel radio shows.
Hostelling: If you are fussy than you have to pay $200 a night for a room you only sleep in and are paying for the convention/business areas and lobby you won’t use. Usually there are 3 roommates and some can come in while you are sleeping. Some go to sleep early or wake up late and may want the lights out. Generally lights are supposed to go out 11pm to 7am. There is 24 hour access. Some places you can’t be in the room in the day because they are cleaning it. They are in central locations.
Sometimes you can get a private room. You probably won’t have a dresser. Usually you have a locker near the bed. There are usually bunk beds and washing machine access. It is communal living in rooms and in some refrigerators. Some have a refrigerator for everyone to write their name on items and one to share food. Some have an occasional free meal.
Hostelworld.com rates by security, location, character, cleanliness, staff and fun.
Rating a trip
Sights- historic, sky scraper, museum, park, tour (bus, cruise), market,
festival, zoo, aquarium, concert, sports, play, dance club
Pace—rushed, relaxed, crowds
Confusion: lost directions, money
Bored-lines, long commutes