There was one aspect of growing up in a communist country that in retrospect I think was perhaps beneficial. Limited choice. You went to any given shop and let’s say there were only 2 types of shoes you could buy. You knew what to expect and you spent less time deciding. Fast forward 25 years. Recently I walked into Quiznos having a general idea of what kind of sandwich I wanted. Then I looked at their menu and got lost. My taste buds were choosing one thing, my eyes looking at the colorful pictures were choosing something else, my mind was still on the sandwich I was pondering 5 minutes ago and finally my wallet was telling me not to go over $5. Well, after standing there for a few minutes gazing at the menu and fending off the server to give me more time I finally came to an anticlimactic choice of a sandwich I did not want nor enjoyed.
What’s that got to do with travel, you might ask. Actually, a lot. But I will explain that in a moment.
Interestingly enough, few days ago I read a thought provoking article in Newsweek magazine entitled Brain Freeze by Sharon Begley. It is a fascinating read which I highly recommend. The article talks about the science of decision making. In short, how we deal with the vast amounts of data available, its incessant flow and a sense of urgency and how our brains pick out what to do with it to make a choice. One of the interesting aspects of deciding was the role of the subconscious. I guess you could call it the gut feeling or intuitive choice.
Now back to my point. With the amount of choices, data and companies offering travel online it can be truly overwhelming to sift through all of it and decide about your trip. So here are some points I thought of, that may be helpful in the process. Before you start your quest for that perfect trip, you may want to have some clearly defined attributes which are of most importance to you and stick to them as you go through the data.
1. Do-it-yourself vs. Hire a pro – Each of these has pros and cons. If you are do-it-yourself person then purchase a good guide such as Lonely Planet or Moon Travel Guides either online or at great travel bookstores such as Distant Lands or Traveler’s Bookcase. Once you have it then hit sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com where you can find some good individual deals or book directly from the recommended suppliers. However, expect a lot of time and effort to put it all together. Works well if you have a simple itinerary and time to put it together. If you are hire a pro type person then you should still get a guide to get an idea for the below points. Then you might contact a company such as Zicasso or Tripology and get a bid from different pros. Expect to pay more (a service fee) but what you get in return is the expert advise, hassle free booking and organization of your travel needs. It works great as your itinerary gets more complex. I always compare the two choices to doing your taxes by yourself vs. hiring an accountant. You get the point.
2. Destination – perhaps the most obvious one but if you’re dreaming all year about a week on a beach somewhere, you shouldn’t perhaps end up trekking in a jungle. Stick to the dream!
3. Budget – if you have $2000, allow yourself to be flexible to perhaps +/- $200 (roughly 10-15% of your total budget) but don’t get sucked in to upgrades and extensions doubling your expense and putting yourself in debt and guilt of overspending. If you can only afford a Chevy, don’t buy a Mercedes. You will get there either way:)
4. Activity – You want to kayak and camp in the South Pacific but your girlfriend or a spouse wants a spa and yoga on the beach. Well, there is that art of compromise but you need to agree on the type of the trip before going. This will assure you both come back happy and sitting next to each other on the plane back home.
This is of course a simplified list, but if you stick to your core trip values I believe you can make more intelligent decisions when navigating the deep space of internet travel options and end up with a trip of a lifetime!