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Time to make final plans for festive season

The holiday break is here once again. Most schools have closed for the long recess and it’s not too late to make last-minute plans for your dream vacation destination, or is it? 

Harriet James @harriet86jim

As much as it’s only a month remaining, Christmas is here with us again and most people are already planning  where they desire to spend their vacations.

While it was the norm way back to wake up,  pack and go upcountry for family reunions, presently, more and more families and couples are drawn to spending vacations in exotic locations.

Unknown to most people, planning a vacation is not just for those with fat wallets, but for everyone keen to travel.

If you have been fantasizing about your ideal getaway, then November, as most travel experts would advise, is the best time to book, buy those tickets and even pay a deposit —lipa pole pole till you finish. Now is the time to start planning unless you need to get into debt.

However, just before you book that hotel there are few questions, which you must ask yourself. First, where and what’s available in your dream destination?

Play time in the swimming pool at a Mombasa hotel. Note the elderly lady playing defence at the back. BELOW: International tourists in a game drive in Nakuru National Park.
Photo/RAPHAEL MUNGE

While this may seem like an odd question, imagining your ideal destination will help make your dream achievable and also help you research on what what’s available.

According to the General Manager for Hospitality and Development at Maiyan Resort in Nanyuki town, Omar Ikram, one of the greatest mistakes couples make when planning a vacation is not knowing what’s available at their preferred destination.

“It is good to know what is on offer in terms of activities such as a spa, nature walks and surroundings so you’re able to plan yourself better. Travelling with a group of friends or family could be more exciting and fun when you know what’s available based on who you are travelling with,” he advises.

This means also clearing with your workplace early such as being granted leave days or arranging replacements while you are away. Arrange for someone to take care of your house when you are away and sort out pending doctors or official appointments.    

If you are spending your Christmas in Kenya, there are plenty of destinations where you can enjoy your peace and quiet with your family.

While most people are usually keen on the Coast for the beach experience or even the Masai Mara for wildlife safari, it is worthwhile exploring new places such as the Eastern Rift Valley- Naivasha, Elementeita, Nakuru where you have not visited.

Why not venture to beautiful destinations such as Mt Kenya region, Naru Moro, Nanyuki or Laikipia that will give a different adventure experience?  For instance, while in Nanyuki, one can visit Lolldaiga Hills, Ol Pejeta, Lewa Downs and Oljogi conservancies to view the Big Five, similar to Mara.

Moreover, there are spectacular views of Mt Kenya, Aberdare Ranges and historic sites such the Mau Mau caves, Ngare Ndare Forest and the famous Equator marker. This will be good for families, especially for children to learn and enjoy various cultures. 

Another advantage is that you can easily save on costs. Hotels and resorts at the Coast tend to be expensive during the festive season than others in upcountry regions such as Lake Victoria.

This brings us to the other question, which you must ask yourself: How much will it cost me? Ensure that you tally carefully all the costs involved—airfare, food, car rentals, hotels or house rentals, attractions as well as activities, souvenirs, pocket money for emergencies and other expenses.

Christmas airfares could tipple

Establish your transport means whether by air, car, bus or the SGR and book your tickets early. Sujal Raja-Haria, Fly 540 Aviation’s Commercial Director, advises early bookings for flights.

“The only last-minute Christmas deal one can get is when people cancel tickets shortly before their trips, but this is rare. And you still pay three times as much for a ticket!” she warns.

She says the mistake most people make is last-minute bookings.  “Christmas and New Year holidays should be booked two months or more in advance,” she recommends. 

It’s also best to book through a travel agent as they will guide you, give you a proper itinerary and also you have someone to call whenever you encounter a challenge. “Always book with a travel agent because you transfer your logistics and planning risks to the agent.

In addition, agent booking carry preferential treatments in hotels because of the relationship the hotels build over time with agents,” advises Brian Nyatera, Safari Operations and Logistics Manager at Oribi Expeditions. 

Having worked in operational and managerial position with high-ranking hotel brands in and outside Kenya, Brian understands this business well. He says many people assume that knowing where they are going is all they need to have a wonderful vacation.

He recommends that vacationers should ask for quotes from three to five agents and compare the offers to get the best deal.

He further advises travellers to explore the pre-Christmas offers, a trend now emerging where Kenyans travel from October to about December 22.

“Few Kenyans are adapting to this discounted rates. More people should explore this as you get to have an experience at half or less the price you would pay from December 22,” he advises.

If a family is still undecided, holiday exhibitions such as happening this weekend at Westands in Nairobi offers a good learning experience.

The Sarit Centre’s Getaway 2018 Tourism Fair opens tomorrow November 2 and closes on Sunday November 4.  It hosts several hotels from across the country, airlines and tour operators.

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