Last week we talked about making your travel bucket list. This week we will talk about “travel types” that you can incorporate into your personal travel style. What do I mean by travel types? Well, this could really be as broad or detailed as you want to make it, but I want to simplify things by creating four main categories for now. Each category is judged based on ease of travel plans, cost, and flexibility to meet your needs.
Now that you have an idea of where you want to travel, think about what type(s) of travel will work best for you. This is the first step in finding your travel style and it is fine if you aren’t sure yet. You can learn as you go.
Group travel with a tour company or cruise line
In terms of planning, this is the easiest way to go. You don’t have to think about anything, you just book it and the details are taken care of for you. This is also the primary reason most people believe travel is expensive!
This type of travel is typically the most expensive option, depending on your preference for luxury versus budget accommodations. If you would like to explore your options for this type of travel, there are a ton. If you are on a budget, I recommend G Adventures.
These trips can be less flexible since you have to go by a predetermined schedule that you have no control over. If you find a place you want to stay for a few days before moving on, you won’t be able to do that. In fact, you may have very little time at each stop and will be limited to tourist attractions, with no opportunity to explore off the beaten path. You may be given the impression that you experienced a different culture, but in reality, these trips are highly performance-based. The same group of “locals” puts on the same “performance” for the tourists over and over again.
In addition, it may be difficult to have alone time on this type of trip, especially if you are a solo traveler. That may seem illogical, but most group tours require solo travelers to stay in a room with one or more other travelers and/or pay an additional fee for the trip. Of course, this is a challenge for those of us on the spectrum. Many of us have a difficult time sharing space even with people we know well.
If you are new to travel and aren’t sure how to plan a trip, tour companies and cruise lines can provide a great value. I recommend trying this if the idea of planning a trip on your own sounds too overwhelming. If you are worried about some of the cons I listed above, you can do a short trip of 2-3 days to see how you like it before committing to a week-long trip. If you have fun, great! There are pros and cons to every type of trip and the cons don’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Conversely, if you don’t enjoy it, that doesn’t mean that you don’t like to travel. It just means you don’t enjoy this TYPE of travel and you need to try something different next time.
Travel with friends
When you travel with a small group of close friends, you don’t have to do all the planning, but you do have to go along with what other people want to do a lot of the time. If you can let someone else do most of the planning, this could be as easy as the group tour option but be sure you travel with friends who understand your autism and accept you as you are.
It also helps to be clear about planning, paying, driving, and other roles and responsibilities in advance. Will one friend get upset if they feel they are doing all the planning and you are contributing nothing? Will your friends be angry if you aren’t willing to do any driving on a road trip? These are things that need to be clarified ahead of time to avoid conflict.
The cost of this type of travel can cover the entire spectrum from budget to luxury. It depends completely on what you and your friends like to do. If you are taking a road trip or camping trip that will cost way less than if you fly to Paris for a week and stay at the Four Seasons.
This may sound counterintuitive, but with a small group, it can be more difficult to find a safe place where you can be “invisible” when you need recovery time. It is important that your travel companions allow you the time and space you need.
This type of travel can be fun and rewarding. I’ve found these trips can be a wonderful bonding experience or a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. It depends almost completely on whether the friends I’m with understand and accept me and on clear communication from the beginning. This type of travel is ideal for someone with a small group of close friends who can share the responsibilities or don’t mind doing all the planning.
Work with a travel agent
Did you know it’s free to work with a travel agent? That’s right, a travel agent will help you plan your trip free of charge! The travel agent is paid by the agency, which gets its revenue from contracts with the tour companies.
This is not as easy as working with a tour company or cruise line, where everything is done for you, but easier than solo travel where you have to schedule and book all your transportation and accommodation and plan your itinerary. I worked with a travel agent for my first solo trip abroad to Sweden and Norway and it was so easy. I gave her my budget and date preferences and she got back to me with a reasonable set of options in just a few days. I got to stay on a yacht that was converted into a hotel for little more than I would pay for a Best Western in the states. My window was a porthole looking out to the Baltic Sea and the gentle swaying of the boat rocked me to sleep.
Again, this can be expensive or inexpensive depending on your travel preferences. I gave my travel agent a moderate budget and she kept the cost of the trip within my specified range and booked everything for me on the dates I gave her.
This can be more flexible, too, especially if you travel solo. You get to pick your activities and decide for yourself how much you want to do. Even if you travel with friends, you can choose to do separate activities on a trip like this (which is possible, but more difficult to do on a road trip!).
Working with a travel agent provides more freedom and flexibility for your budget, travel dates, and activities. This is perfect if you have a moderate budgets and luxury travel but can be more challenging for budget travel if your selected travel agency doesn’t have many contracts with budget travel companies.
Bias alert! This is my favorite type of travel, so the pro to con ratio may be high. 😊
This can be the most challenging (and most liberating) type of travel. There is a lot of planning involved, depending on where you go. For your first solo travel experience, it is wise to stay close to home, or at least in your home country. You need to set your budget and approximate dates. Based on the budget you created, you can research and book lodging and flight (or bus, train, etc.). You need to decide whether you will rent a car, use public transportation, or rely on taxis at your destination. If you go abroad, you will need to research safety and security in your destination country and make sure you have a passport, visa, and any required vaccinations.
The cost of your trip depends completely on your preference! You can do budget travel, using points for free flights and staying in hostels, or you can fly first class, stay at fancy hotels, and eat in five star restaurants. These are the ends of the spectrum and you can land anywhere in between. There are more options for travelers today than ever before, which maximizes your opportunity to see the world, but can make it somewhat overwhelming.
Solo travel provides the ultimate in travel freedom and flexibility. After living along in Uganda for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I can’t imagine giving this up. When you travel solo, you get to decide for yourself everything you want to do. If you want to take a day off to recover you can do it without judgment. You can stay in a hostel or Airbnb for awhile and save up your money for a weekend at a spa resort if that is your kind of thing. You can eat at the restaurants you like or choose to cook for yourself to save money. It’s all up to you.
You may get lonely sometimes, but if you stay in a touristy area sometimes, you can meet with other travelers. Hostels are especially good for meeting travelers, although I don’t stay in the dorm rooms anymore. Many hostels offer private rooms and while they usually aren’t a very good deal compared with local bed and breakfast or Airbnb options, it is good to book the first 2-3 nights of a long-term trip abroad at a hostel so you can talk to other travelers. They will be able to tell you about what is going on in the region, things to be aware of, common scams to avoid, good places to stay, restaurants to try, and fun activities. You can book activities right at the hostel and they may offer free guided walking tours (or be able to tell you who does).
Solo travel is the most stressful for planning and booking but offers the most freedom. This is best for experienced travelers on any budget. For your first solo travel experience, consider places closer to home. Remember, all types of travel have pros and cons. Just because solo travel has cons doesn’t mean you will not enjoy it and just because it has so many pros doesn’t mean you will definitely enjoy it. If you try it and don’t have fun, it doesn’t mean you don’t like to travel, and it may not even mean you don’t like solo travel. It just means you didn’t enjoy solo travel in the chosen destination and you need to try something different next time.
Now that you have all the information and have had time to think about it, decide each category that you would like to consider. Choose at least one category or as many as all four.
Using your travel bucket list, pick at least three of the destinations on your list and label them with the type of travel you want to try for that destination. Here are the categories for your reference.
- Group Tours and Cruise Lines
- Travel with Friends
- Work with a Travel Agent
- Solo Travel
There are many more types of travel to consider, but we will discuss those in a later post. Now you have your current travel bucket list and at least three destinations labeled with the type of travel you want to try. Next time we will go into more detail about transportation options.
If you need help finding your travel style or making travel plans, contact me at AutisticTravelCoach@gmail.com!
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