Early travel planning: Phase 2!

We have now moved into phase two of our advance planning for winter travels to come.  As this past long, hot, summer weekend drew to a close, we checked our email and found that our travel agent, Angela, has been hard at work (as usual) trying to find us the perfect hotel accommodation to book-end our February 2013 cruise.  But, it needs to be said that discerning travelers will want to be flexible in their planning.

Art on board the Regent Seven Seas Mariner in Montenegro. It was a great trip, but not a ship we want to revisit this winter in the Caribbean.

When last we visited this topic, we had pre-booked a cruise from Rio to Buenos Aires.  Well…that’s now a memory.  When we began to drill down into the cost, and whether or not it was really going to fulfill our desires for a South American holiday, sadly, we had to conclude that it didn’t.  We had wanted to cruise on Crystal since we have yet to try it on our trip through the luxury cruise lines, but we weren’t able to come up with a single suite on the cruises we want even this far in advance.  Angela went right to the source, but to no avail.  That’s proof positive for us that advance planning is essential.  So we booked on the same itinerary on another line.  This time we were able to book the suite we wanted on Regent Seven Seas cruises.  Which we’ve already been on.  Twice.  And it was on the Mariner.  Which we’ve been on.  And it was OK, but not an experience we need to repeat yet.  So many cruise ships, so little time! So we moved on to plan B.

Plan A for cruise planning always starts with an itinerary we want, at a time when we can get away.  Plan B starts not with the itinerary, but with a cruise line.  Our second choice was Seabourn.  The February time frame when we need to take a dip south is a bit challenging if you’re trying to avoid the Caribbean as we originally were.  However, what we were really trying to avoid was repeating a series of islands that we’d already visited – either for a day on a cruise ship, or for a longer stay.  What we found was the Yachtsmen’s cruise in the Caribbean that takes in small ports that the larger ships can’t reach.  After all, the ship we’re now booked on, the Seabourn Spirit, has a grand total of 204 passengers.  A yacht, indeed! So, that and the airline booking was phase 1 – phase 2 is a bit more challenging at this time of year since it involves finding the perfect hotels in Barbados

We were considereing staying at The Crane in Barbados again – but at this time of year, the prices they’re offering for February are out of this world and not worth a return.

and St. Martin where the cruise begins and ends.  That might sound easy, but when you’re trying to be discerning and the hotels haven’t really formalized their winter season yet, you can easily fall into the trap of paying too much for those 5 and 6-star properties.  So, we’re going to wait.

From time to time people will ask us why we don’t just wait until the cruise lines start pushing the winter cruises that they start to discount later in the year.  “You’ll get more bang for your buck,” they tell us.  But they’re wrong – unless you think that something is of value just because it’s cheap.  We don’t happen to take that view.

There’s an analogy to shopping for clothes.  If you always wait until everything is on sale, you’ll never really get what you want – and you’ll always be ‘settling’ for what’s left.  If you don’t like something enough to have bought it at full price, most times, you shouldn’t buy it on sale either.  Buy something just because it’s on sale hardly demonstrates discernment – but if it’s n sale and you love it, then that’s great!  Sadly, that happens only once in a while.  So, for the big-ticket vacation planning, get out there early and start turning your dreams into reality!

Tips for early planning:

  • Start by figuring out where you want to go.
  • Then decide how you want to get there.
  • Determine your budget – and shop within it rather than lower.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Don’t book something just becasue it’s on sale!
  • Set a deadline for when you want all of the final bookings complete.
  • Be prepared to put Plan B into motion if necessary!