So, now that you have more or less selected the destinations (read Part 1 here), roughly plan which season to go where for Honeymoon etc, it is time for arduous research to take place.
Free and EasyIf you have decided to go free and easy, good luck to you as there's more research and planning to do. But it allows for more flexibility and adventures as well. Here are some of the things you might need to take into consideration:
1. Mode of travel
Is it a destination that requires flight? If yes, and if it's a long haul flight, it is worthwhile checking out the good flights so that during your 10-hour flight you can at least enjoy the ride or catch a proper wink.
How about mode of travel at your country of tour? Take note that certain train / ferry rides have fixed timing or only do a couple of rounds a day - missing one of these transports could mean screwing the rest of the hotel bookings etc.
You will be in charge of booking your accommodation - whether it's a five star luxurious hotel, a funky and affordable hostel, a cute capsule, romantic alpine log cabin, sea-scape villa, or even a caravan. Ensure that after booking online, give the hotel a call to double confirm that your lodging is secured - dont wanna be left stranded in a strange city without a roof over the head for the night.
If you are doing those couch-surfing or Airbnb, communicate with your hosts and ask lots of questions. If possible, do a research on them - reviews or otherwise.
Do extensive research on the cuisine and local restaurants / diners. Are you looking for exotic local food in the particular place you are visiting, or looking for familiar food there? If you are trying authentic local fare, I heard those little family-type diners do it best, and with their long-standing traditional recipes too. If you have a budget or special dietary requirements, make sure you also check to determine whether bringing some dry rations of your own is necessary.
Is the weather there going to be extremely hot or cold? Will you be in time for your Sakura or ski trip? Do you need to bring extra clothings or will shopping there make more sense? The types of activities you get to enjoy there also depend very much on the season you are travelling. Lastly, check if there is dress code required for certain spots you wish to visit.
Besides food and seasonal activities there, it is good to also pick up some local language and cultural practices so at least you can communicate with the locals there. It helps so that firstly you wont accidentally offend them, and secondly, they are friendlier if you need directions ever.
6. Accessibility and Safety
Is Wi-fi readily available in the places you are visiting? Do you need to activate international data usage (like for M1 we have the Data Passport in many countries). Do you need to get an extra phone or international adapter?
Of course, remember to check out the current socio-political situation in that country right now , so that you dont walk into a catastrophe or rioting zone and subject yourselves to danger.
Well, dont worry. If you get bored or have no idea what to do during the trip, you can always approach the concierge or local tour agencies for those short but enriching day tours, where they bring you to some signature tourist attractions with plenty to keep you entertained.
By Package Tours
For me, I chose package tours - it wasn't easy to reach this decision because it would mean long hours, planned meals, scheduled visits to places of interest and probably rude / fussy tour-mates. But we discussed long and hard and still went ahead for the following (more practical) reasons:
1. Pure laziness and I know we both won't have time to do planning on our own.
It would be tedious because we would have to book different hotels in one single country as we traverse from city to city. Missing one train ride might mean having to change all our hotel bookings etc (i.e. having to spend one more day in this city resulting in pushing back the other bookings by a day each).
2. We have approached travel agencies to assist with merely booking of flights, hotels and land transport, but not one of them (and I meant no one!) was able to assist - the most they could do was book flights. I believe I can manage that aspect myself.
3. It was going to be our first trip to Europe together, and we heard that the people in certain European cities aren't exactly friendly when tourists need to ask for directions. So we might as well sit back, relax and enjoy a guided tour when people drive us around.
4. Safety in numbers and convenience - heard from many different groups of friends and relatives that certain street and petty crimes are on the rise in Europe these days. I would prefer to play safe as there's safety in numbers and I don't need to haul my shopping bags around like asking to be targeted (go Europe must buy some stuff right!). Furthermore, understanding that their subway / metro (aka train) stations are not equipped with lifts or escalators, so no way am I hefting my baggages up and down the flights of steps!
5. Better understanding of the culture - hope that is the case, so that we can know more about the cities we visit and appreciate them more. Once we have toured European cities as a whole, when we revisit next time, we can always pick and choose just a city or two to explore as more leisurely annual vacations.
It doesnt mean that taking package tours doesnt require resarch. We chatted with many people, especially European friends and other friends who'd visited Europe for opinions and recommendations. I touched base with about 10 travel agencies comprising local big agencies (Chan Brothers, CTC, EU Holidays etc) as well as foreign ones such as Contiki, Insight and Trafalgar. Some decisions were harder, such as either forgo-ing a couple of places not included in the tour itineraries or doing your own extensions so you can take a breather. Then we also had to research on some of the places they include in their itineraries before committing to a suitable package and operator of choice.
Last but not leastFinally, research on the types of travel insurance you require - this is very important. Some insurance even cover "financial collapse of tour operator" now, as well as sports / adventures (if you are going for an adventuresome trip).
Have fun planning your Honeymoon! I am all set and excited to prepare for the trip - keep your eyes peeled for the Preparation Process in my upcoming entry.