24.4.14

How to Plan a Perfect Overseas Holiday



I have recently returned from an amazing holiday to Tokyo and I would love to share some of my holiday planning tips with you to make sure you have the best overseas holiday ever!



Research
It is so important to do research on the country or city you are traveling to before you leave so that you don’t come across some unwelcome surprises when you arrive. The areas you should research include:

Local traditions and customs 
What may be polite in your culture may be rude in another. For example, in Japan it is considered polite to slurp your soup, it shows that you enjoy it while at home this would be considered rude.



Public holidays 
If you want to avoid the rush of holiday makers or if you would enjoy taking part in a cultural event that falls on a public holiday, make sure you look this up before choosing the days you wish to travel.

Weather 
The best time to travel is largely dependant on the weather. Maybe Summer is Typhoon season and you will be stuck inside away from torrential rain everyday or maybe the country you want to travel to is prone to sever snow storms in the middle of winter. I often find the best bet is to travel in Spring or Autumn where severe weather events are unlikely.

Hotel, Places of Interest & Tour Reviews 
This may be one of the most time consuming parts of your research. It is so important to make sure you book the right hotel because it is your home base for your trip. Look at what areas you will most likely want to visit and try to find a hotel that is easily accessible from all of these areas within your price range. 
Same goes for places of interest and tours. Come up with a must do list of things you have to see and do and make these things a base for your itinerary. Also check the opening days and times for attractions so that you are not disappointed to arrive and find it is closed on the day of your visit.



Book your holiday
Whether you want to book everything yourself or if you prefer to book through a travel agent, make sure that you know exactly what you want before you book. I find the best way is to find the best deals online for your hotel and flights, print them out and take them to your travel agent. Most of them will offer a price beat guarantee.


Please note however, never put complete trust in your travel agent to book exactly what you want and make sure you know exactly what you want for your trip. You must be the ultimate knowledge on your holiday. Double check everything and read everything given to you before you sign to make sure it is correct. 
Too many times I have corrected a travel agent who entered my name in wrong or tried to book me into the wrong hotel from the same chain of hotels but located in the wrong area. So I can’t stress enough that if you book through a travel agent, check and double check the details of your trip.



I also personally think it is best to book your holiday as far in advance as possible, because I have found you can get the best deals this way. The longer you leave it, the more expensive it could get so book the essentials like your flight and hotel now and work your itinerary around it as you go.

Make an itinerary
Now for the fun part, coming up with your itinerary! This is where you get to slot in all the fun stuff you want to do each day. When I do up an itinerary I make it as specific as I can so that there is less work for me to do while I am over there and I can just enjoy myself because I had done all of the planning before I left. 
There is nothing worse than wasting half of your holiday trying to figure out what you are going to do each day and how you are going to get there. You are going to pack much more into each day if you are organised. Here are my steps to creating a killer itinerary:



Make it efficient 
Pick sights and attractions that are close together and easy to get to for each day to make each day of your itinerary super efficient, otherwise you will be spending too long traveling between sights and possibly getting lost between attractions.

Make it specific 
Be as details as you can be by putting the estimated time you will spend in each attraction so you know how many attractions you are likely to fit into a day.

Make it flexible 
Make sure there is also room to switch the days around because you may plan to go to some gardens on Monday, but if it is raining, it may be better to swap it with your Thursday itinerary where you would be spending your day at some indoor attractions.

Have a backup plan 
Be sure to find more attractions and interests that you are likely to fit into your itinerary, because there is a good chance you may change your mind on what you want to see and do when you get there. You may have put yourself down to see a shrine on Friday but because you have already seen so many on your trip already, you may decide to head to a museum you noted instead because you have heard lots of good things about it from fellow travellers. 
Expect to not follow the itinerary exactly
 No matter how specific the itinerary is, you are most likely not going to follow it to a T. It is only to be used as a guide to make it as easy as possible for you to get around and get the most out of your trip.




Organise your transport
This is one area that is overly underestimated when it comes to travel planning. So much time can be wasted finding out how to get to and from different attractions or even figuring out the basics of how to use the country’s public transport system. Save yourself the hassle and do your research before you go.



Even the simplest task of buying a train ticket can be vastly different in a foreign country. Save the hassle for yourself and other train commuters by looking up how to buy a ticket and use the ticket machine before you arrive at your destination.

Because I love being super organised, I also prefer to look up train timetables and routes for each day of my itinerary before I leave and add these details onto my itinerary. For example, if I plan to go to Harajuku on Tuesday, after looking up the train timetables, I know that the train station is a 5 minute walk from my hotel, and I need to catch the red line which leaves every 10 minutes, and I will need to get off at Harajuku station. The travel time is 15 minutes. 


It is so much easier to know this before you leave rather than figure it out when you get there. It really is amazing how much time simple research like this can save you on your trip.


Despite all of the pre organising and researching of the public transport system you do, I can guarantee you will still get confused and lost, but you have a much better chance of conquering the transport system with planning in place.


The Benefits of Google Maps
Google maps is my best friend when planning a trip. I love using Google street view so I can get a real look at the hotel I could be potentially booking, or having a peek at one of the attractions I was looking at visiting to make sure it is really worthwhile including in my itinerary.



If you want to be excessively particular, you could even use google places to create your own walking map for each day of your itinerary. Just like pre planning your public transport saves you time getting between places, a walking map does the same thing. By creating a walking map, you find the most efficient route to walk between different attractions, saving your feet a lot of heart ache as well as saving yourself from endlessly getting lost.

Also it may be hard to find maps of local areas in the country you are visiting and often it can be too expensive to use maps on your phone because of international roaming charges, so having some print outs of your walking maps in the different local areas can really be a huge help.


The most important thing to remember is to enjoy yourself and have fun! It is a holiday after all and there is no need to stress over the details once you are on your holiday. Let the days unfold before you and I hope that this advice will help all of you get more bang out of your trip and make it more amazing than you could ever imagine. 

23.4.14

The Art of Creative Writing


Creative writing is a great hobby of mine that I am developing and growing into, but it is not easy. It is one thing to think up a unique and creative story in your mind and quite another thing to put pen to paper and express it fully though words that capture the imaginations of those who read it. It truly is a talent and an art that you have to learn and practice a lot.

The biggest demon behind the failure to finish writing a story is lack of motivation and belief in yourself and your writing. I have fallen victim to this many times and it can be hard to bring yourself back to the computer screen and keep writing away without constantly critiquing yourself or facing a creative block that holds you back from moving forward with a story. Just keep writing is what everyone says, but at times, life gets in the way as well as negative thoughts which slowly forces the creative writing process to be pushed further and further back on the list of priorities.
But you know what, that is ok. Writing should be a fun and enjoyable experience and you should not have to force yourself into it. I find the best material comes when I am relaxed and ready to put my thoughts, feelings, emotions and stories on paper. Sure I don’t have a completed novel or anything of the sort, but I have many little magical pieces that I flick between and add to bit by bit as inspiration comes to me. Will I ever finish any of these stories? I don’t know but I hope so. It seems as soon as I begin moving forward with one story, a brand new story, plot and characters pop in my head which I must take note of and begin creating a whole new world yet again.
I guess I like to flick between one form of writing to another. I put everything into my blog for a period of time and all of my passion of writing is focused on the real and tangible world and interest that surround me, until I am then pulled into the fantasy world where imagination and stories are created and take hold of me.  
I know my writing could be better, but I enjoy it as long as I have a story to tell or something to express and I know I am still learning and growing. Whether I am blogging, and sharing my everyday interests and fascinations with the world or focusing on a story I am writing, the act of expressing myself through writing will always be part of my life. 

Do you enjoy writing creative stories, writing sensible blog posts or both? 
What is your technique and how do you like to keep motivated and inspired?
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