On March 1st, I wrote an article called “An impressive site and the ugly American” where I detailed how we used Points and Miles to get to Asia. It has a lot of detail (839 words) and covers a lot of ground. Let’s really “dumb it down” and focus on just starting with an idea of “Where do I begin?”. This, thanks to technology, is really the easy part.
First things, I will rate each step with a scale using 1-10. It’s called the “Pain in the Ass Scale (we’ll call it PASS for short), with 10 being a real PASS to complete and 1 being easy. Let’s Begin.
Where do you want to go? Pick a City. PASS 1
Go to Google or Apple Maps on your device and find your City. PASS 1
Think about what you want to see while you are there, zoom in on your map and begin finding the sites. For example, if you chose Rome, look for Vatican City or the Roman Colosseum. Zoom in and out to become somewhat familiar with the area. PASS 2-3
Start noticing that the names of things are in different colors, for example, Hotels are Purple, Museums/Sites in Blues and Restaurants in Reds. (Your colors could be different). PASS 1 (unless your colorblind, then PASS 8).
Look for Hotels central to what you would like to see. Look for the big Chains (Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, Hyatt…) as they are generally fussy on where they locate and are usually in “good” areas. Write down the names. PASS 3
Zoom out and find the closest “Main” Airport and write it down. For example, Rome is Fiumicino and it’s symbol is (FCO). PASS 1
Great Job! From the comfort of your couch, you’ve picked somewhere to go, gathered ideas on what to see, located some great Hotels and found where to fly in to. Let’s keep going.
Going forward, the process becomes somewhat mechanical. We need to get you there, book a Hotel and then get you home. PASS 5-7
Do you need a Passport? If so, https://www.usps.com/international/passports.htm This process can take 2-3 months so plan accordingly, it’s a pain but you’ll be glad you did it. PASS 5-6
Does your Passport expire with the next year? If so, see #2 above.
Does your Country of choice require a Visa to visit? Check www.cibtvisas.com This process can take 1-2 months, it’s a pain, but it will look pretty in your passport (which you need to have first before you can apply for a visa) PASS 5-6
Breathe…I’ve been to a lot of places with Asia being the only place that I’ve had to obtain a visa. Email me at email@example.com and I’ll walk you through the process.
Now that you have a Passport or are in the process of getting one, you probably need a flight. Go to www.google.com/flights Once there, I flip mine back to “classic flights” which seems to work better on my IPhone. Play with this. Choose different airports, check different days of the week to depart or return, get creative! This gives you an idea of the costs. Don’t buy yet though. Do you have any credit cards with Points and/or Miles you can use? If you have questions, call your credit card company or email me. PASS 3-10 (For some crazy reason, flights frustrate me)
Hotel time, go to www.tripadvisor.com and enter your desired city. Read up and look for what you recognize. Don’t buy yet. You’re just checking and getting an idea of possible costs. Same thoughts as above (bottom of #6, except Hotels are easy to deal with) PASS 3
Now you have lots of information! Where to go, what to see, flight and Hotel cost estimates and Passport/Visa requirements. You’ve checked your credit cards and you’ve emailed me. Now we need a Date! Commitment time… PASS 10! (For many, this is the hardest part).
Now we have 4 scenarios.
You chicken out…It was fun anyways, maybe next time.
You pick your dates and just want to pay for the trip. Good for you! Buy the Plane tickets first, then book the Hotel second and go shopping for new clothes…why not?! PASS 3
You pick your dates, but want to use Points/Miles for part and pay for the rest. See #2 and email me. Let’s be somewhat efficient. PASS 4
You pick your dates but are swinging for the fences! Let’s use all Points/Miles and only use money when absolutely necessary. Email me first, we need to build a plan. PASS 6 but fun.
My opinion, traveling to Rome is just like traveling to Buffalo, with just with a longer plane ride…and different currency, food, culture, sites and that language thing. Other than things like that, it’s almost identical….hmmm?
This has been a macro view of planning a big trip. It is amazing how “real” it becomes when you choose a date, book Plane tickets and reserve a Hotel. It’s not hard to do and it feels really awesome to see it all come together.
In future articles, we’ll get into the details. Topics like how do I get local currency (ATMs), getting around (Taxi, Uber, Lyft, Bus or Subway), packing ideas and other “I’m getting close to actually doing this” tips.