Thinking about travelling? Do you know your ideal destination? At what stage of your life are you at: how long can you afford to go for?
In the summer of 2012, I went travelling around the USA for two months. Not the cheapest of trips (costing in excess of £5000) but the most worthwhile. Why? I knew what I wanted to see and how to see each landmark, state and city. After securing a position with the NHS, I was able to afford to go on a longer holiday than the norm. I chose to go “bag packing” across the various states. I say bag packing, but in fact, I was travelling with a standard matching two-piece luggage that you would normally take for a two week beach holiday. I was teased quite rightly.
So how did I choose the destination? How did I travel (and why)? Is it better to travel alone or with a group?
My trip across the US is typically for a gap year student who has the time to see anything and everything on a continent. I choose to travel alone but with other travellers across the world. Some people normally go in two’s and three’s abroad but that did not appeal to me. Firstly, none of my friends had the time but secondly, I feel it would have hampered my experience. There are tendencies for friends to stick together, which is a natural response in a new situation, but as time goes on, you have to make sacrifices to support your friend (and vice versa). Now this is not the case every time, however, more likely than not. You may not get to see or experience things you wish to do as result of travelling with someone you know. I turned up to the meeting point on day one, and found myself travelling with eleven others. Everyone was wide eyed and raring to go despite staying up late the night before drinking. Luckily, the company that I travelled with allowed us to contact other travellers beforehand, so we decided to meet up and get to know each other.
I chose to travel with Trek America. They are a well renowned company who have done tours across the US for many years. However, this cannot be taken for granted. You have to do your research! Are they covered by tourist bodies? What is the feedback from previous travellers like? What is the emergency protocol? These are all important factors to consider. Try contacting any travel company directly and getting more information. The website is a good source of initial information, but you need assurances and the opportunity to ask any specific questions that you may have.
Closely look at the itinerary. Are the places the company visits, the ones that you want to see? What do you get to do there? What is included in the price, and what are the add-on/optional activities? This is where your budget comes in. All packages are different, and there are possibilities of doing custom tours. But how much are you willing to spend initially? Have you kept a contingency fund? What is your spending budget? It is always best to come up with some sort of rough cost before the start – it helps you curb spending when necessary. It may mean missing the odd bar here or there, but could mean doing more activities in the future.
Have I convinced you to travel abroad?
Take it from my experience; it was one of the best times of my life. I travelled across 28 states and over 10,000 miles. Spending time in 40C heat and visiting almost every major city. If I had the opportunity again, I would take it within a heartbeat.