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Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Benefits of Pre-Trip Planning

Since I am a planner and I am very well organized, I tend to do a lot of research before any trip. Also, I prefer to have this type of thing out of the way beforehand, rather than doing it after we have left home! I am sharing a few suggestions that have served me well. Feel free to share your ideas, too, and let me know if you have any questions.

Take a look at the online Visitor's Bureau 
I always search for the visitor's bureau online for the area I will be visiting. I search by city, state, county, or any other keyword specific to the area we are traveling to. For example, when we visited the Gulf Coast in Florida, I searched for "Florida panhandle visitors" along with the names of the towns we were going to visit.

I then fill out the online form for any free brochures, maps, discounts, etc. for things we are interested in. I prefer to have items mailed because I am not a total smartphone user, and we sometimes make notes on printed maps of the area. Sometimes, I opt-in for email notifications, and sometimes not. I usually unsubscribe after our trip. I have found that doing this often makes us aware of things we did not know about, and you can find discounts, coupons, promotions, and information about special events.

Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico
Before we visited Albuquerque, New Mexico, I submitted a request for a visitor's guide to be mailed to me (this always makes a good magazine for the plane ride, too). I found a coupon in the guide for Holiday Inn Express where we had planned to stay. The rate was $30 less than the AAA rate I had booked online! Amtrak often has coupons in their printed guides, which are not available online. Unfortunately, we have never found one for any of the routes we traveled, although I have seen them for other areas. We received many coupons when we visited Wisconsin Dells by subscribing to their emails and requesting a travel packet. These are just a few samples of things you can receive with a bit of research.

Look for social media pages, like Facebook
When we visited Pensacola Beach, Florida, I found a Facebook page for the Hilton Gulf Front, and "liked" their page. I posted a comment on their page during our stay and received a free tote bag.

I did the same thing when we visited Aruba. One of the resorts we stayed in was the Renaissance Marina Hotel, so I liked their Facebook page before our trip. When we returned to our guestroom the first evening, we found an iced bucket of bottled beers, and a bowl of deluxe mixed nuts. The card with the delivery thanked us for following them on Facebook!

Compliments of the Miami airport Crowne Plaza
We received a nice cheese plate and a bottle of wine from the Miami airport Crowne Plaza because of social media, too.

Prepare for the unexpected 
I always prepare for the unexpected or have a backup plan. I think that the more you are aware of when something does not turn out as planned, the better chance you have of finding a solution that meets your needs. 

When traveling by air, I am always aware of my current flight status, and the status of any connecting flights. I often look for other flights traveling to the same location before we leave home, in case we have a delay. In fact, before I made the reservation for an upcoming trip this winter, I made sure there was another flight to our destination from our connecting airport after the one we have booked. Our connection time will be less than one hour, and I have run into delays from Michigan and on the east coast in winter. If something does happen en route, I am not afraid to make a request if the solution offered does not meet our needs. I have asked for things like extra points, an alternate airport, first class seats, or seats on another carrier. This kind of thinking goes along with a previous blog post: You Don't Ask, You Don't Get! Yes, I am always a "Win, Win" thinker.

When traveling by car, I often make myself aware of alternate routes before we travel. I have encountered road closures from things like accidents and construction that did not show on my GPS or online maps program. 

I make sure I have printed maps and public transportation schedules, in case we miss the train or bus we were planning to take. I do have a smartphone; however, sometimes it is quicker and easier to look at something I already highlighted.

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