The art of pre-travel fun

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The fun starts well before take off!

It is an art I definitely master well, if I may say so. The joy of any journey starts well before take off. At least for me. I get excited about our next destination from the moment we bought our tickets. It starts with buying travel guides. I am the kind of person who does not stick with one. In my opinion, there isn’t really a perfect travel guide, so I usually end up buying two (and in few cases, even more). I head off to the bookstore (there aren’t many English book stores in Paris and I find WH Smith has the best collection of English travel guides in the city), walk straight to the travel section (ok that’s a lie. I frequently lose myself on the way and end up flipping through a few novels at first), and look at what Mr (or Ms?) Smith has on offer. I genuinely like looking through guidebooks and picking the one (or two) I believe suits our travel style best. I still prefer physical books over digital ones. Call me old-fashioned, call me cray for dragging all that along, but there is nothing better than turning actual pages.

Next is the internet. It contains a plethora of travel information on blogs and review sites, and can give you some visual ideas on what spot X looks like. Sure enough, tons of trash can be found on the worldwide web but if you spend some time (read: days, or when I am in travel psycho mood: weeks) surfing the internet waves, you can find some very useful information as well. Think: what is worth seeing, where to stay, must-eat-there-places, don’t-ever-stay-in-this-hotel recommendations, cost-saving tips, and some real fun adventures for a good laugh. While you may or may not use this bulk of information is your own choice, but it adds to my pre-fun pleasure for sure. My favourite websites are Tripadvisor (yes, some fake reviews can be found but in general it can give you a good impression of what is worth paying or going for), Frommer’s (some very good expert recommendations), Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum, and travel blogs from people who recently traveled to our destination.

Of course, the ‘what-to-pack-lists’ are part of the deal as well – as are ‘what do need and we don’t have and we should really buy before departure’-lists. Oh yes, I am a list-maker. I wasn’t always. I used to not make any lists. At all. The result was that I either under-packed (how will I manage with two sets of underwear for 4 weeks? Where is the charger of my camera?) or over-packed (four pair of shoes is never handy. NEVER). Got rid of that habit by making lists. And it definitely helps!

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Love the puzzle of planning the perfect itinerary

The biggest fun though is planning the actual itinerary. Where to go, what to skip, how long do we stay, where do we sleep, and what can we eat (food is an important part of my travels. You can discover a country or region in such a pleasurable way through their food specialities!)? How much beach should be included (not too much for us, we’re pretty active animals), what about hikes, some adventure thrilling plans (shark diving is on our to-do-list for this summer trip!), and nature-admiring routes? A combination of city trips, some wildlife (we heart beasts, as in wild cats, ellies and any animals not in a zoo), a few days of trekking,  a little crazy local transport, and some cultural sight-seeing with a little bit of relaxing with our bums in a beautiful spot nicely sums up our ideal holiday. No, that ain’t easy to see in one country (but why not travel to two if you have the time?), and definitely not easy to pack in a few weeks (at least, not in most places). But I love working on this puzzle. It energizes me and gets me pumped for the journey.

In just a few weeks (a little over one month to be more precise) we’ll be taking off on our next road trip – which will take place in South Africa (while taking in a part of Swaziland as well). We’ll start in Cape Town and fly back from Jo’burg. The country is not the size of the Netherlands (my teeny tiny home country), and therefore packing in all our wishes in just under four weeks (which is not bad considering we are both full-time working maniacs) isn’t an easy task. But a task I love doing. I got our itinerary almost ready, started doing some pre-booking (necessary for some safari destinations) and looking around for hotel-hot-spots and other fine gems. While we won’t be up in the air until August 24, my pre-travel fun has definitely already begun.

What adds to your pre-travel fun? Or you just go wherever the wind blows without any real planning beforehand? Would love to hear your inspirational ideas.

Happy travels and blue skies!

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