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The Eco Trek

Planning your next trip

Travelling for pleasure or recreation is pretty much out of the question during the COVID-19 pandemic.   However, now is a good time to start planning your next trip for when things get back to normal.  Planning a trip and dreaming about it can be almost as much fun as actually taking the trip.
Travel is a real educational experience if you can experience it in a comfortable, enjoyable manner.  Take some time to do some planning and the trip will go smoother.
If you’ve never travelled much, signing up for a trip with a group is probably the best option, especially if you’re an older person.  There are lots of group trips designed for all possible interests:  history, birding, music, cultural contacts, and so on.  There are river cruises, land tours, and of course, just going to a new place and spending a week or two in one place.  Travel within your own country naturally gets you to places you haven’t been before , but going to a foreign country can be even more exciting.  Of course, you’ll need a passport, and be sure to apply for it at least six months ahead of your trip.  If you already have one, make sure you have at least six months left on it after you return.  Some countries require a Visa (not as many do as years ago), so investigate this also.  A travel bureau or a passport office at the nearest large airport can help you with this if you need it.
My favorite type of trip is a birding trip to a foreign country, especially in the tropics.  There are so many exotic and colorful birds, animals, and plants to be seen.  If you sign up for a group trip, this has the advantage of having a leader who can identify the birds, mammals, and plants you see, and tell you something about them.  The disadvantage is that you have to get up very early each morning and keep up with the pace of the group.  This can be stressful for older travelers, as  I have found out personally.  One alternative is to go to an ecolodge and stay there for a week or so.  You really get to know the environment there, and there can be help from the staff in identifying everything.  The best countries for this are Costa Rica, Brazil, and South Africa.  Costa Rica has 25% of its land in national parks or protected areas, it is a relatively safe country, and has a tremendous variety of scenery and wildlife.  River cruises on the Amazon can also provide a similar experience.  South Africa was a real surprise to me; in addition to the usual African “big game” animals, the birds were much more colorful and abundant than I expected.  I love Costa Rica so much, I’ve been there six times; several times with groups and twice on my own.
If you’re young and adventurous, solo travel can work out well with some advance planning.  The Internet and Google search engine have made it so much easier to reserve accommodations and travel itineraries.  The Eurailpass and Britrail pass can be really convenient for traveling in Europe, but be sure to investigate the various rates, whether advance reservations are required, and refund policies.  For accommodations, sites like Expedia.com, Kayak.com, and Hotels.com can make reserving a room so much easier, but if you make a reservation through one of these sites, you’re usually charged for one night’s stay with no refund.  Using the sites to see the variety and comparative price of accommodations, then making a reservation directly through the hotel or B&B will usually give you the option of cancelling in advance.
And, of course, Travel Insurance is a wise idea, if there’s any chance you might not be able to go.  In fact, it’s a MUST for older travelers.  I have been glad I had it on several occasions when the trip did not go as planned.  Compare the different rates and look at the age brackets.   If you have a birthday coming up which puts you in a more expensive bracket, buy the insurance before your birthday.  (I just did this earlier this year.)

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