We’ve been doing a little planning the last few months, setting our travel priorities for the next few years. We both know that many things can get in the way of our “jet-setting” lifestyle. Things like new jobs, unexpected expenditures (new cars, new HVAC systems), or even political events (I’ve wanted to visit the ruins of Babylon for years but they’re in Iraq).
For the things we can control, like budgets, we find it’s best to start doing planning a couple of years out, like we did with our trip to Tanzania. I find it’s always easier to save the money if you have a specific goal in mind, much like a PBS telethon. We did a little talking during one of our coffee dates and decided that China is our next big trip. We have a European adventure in the planning stages for next year, but we’ll get to that another time.
We (I) start out planning a trip to a place we’ve never been like most people do, with research. I admit some of the fun has gone out of that research; which used to involve going to a bookstore and perusing book after book as you sipped a cup of coffee and got to know your traveling companion (my friend — now wife — Amanda and I did a lot of that planning our first trip). I now just hit the sterile internet for faster and more varied results (especially if you have a specific reason you are taking a trip somewhere, like something your wife wants to do more than anything in the world).
You often get the paid adds right off the top, my instinct tells me to ignore them and go straight to the top searched sites. I, like most consumers, start the clicking and weeding out the results that don’t fit my needs. I also take a look at travel sites like Frommers and Fodor’s to see what they suggest as the must-sees and best itineraries and compare them to what’s offered by the tour companies.
I took a look at Wendy Wu Tours, which has a top-notch China tour that includes a visit to the Panda breeding facility in Chengdu, though the prices were in British Pounds and a little steep. The trips from Beijing Holiday and China Tours both had packages running around $2,300 (excluding air form the US). All three of these tours offer trips to Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding where you can actually hold a panda and volunteer (for a fee) taking care of the cute balls of black and white fur.
One of the best things about the internet age is if a company offers a crappy tour, they can’t easily hide it. Our next search is through review sites like Trip Advisor. The Beijing Holiday, China Tour.com and Wendy Wu Tours all got good reviews, giving us a lot to think about as we plan. I’ve said it before, the planning of a trip is just as fun as taking it. We will keep you updated as we plan this next big adventure.