Clients often ask questions about the various planning phases of an African Safari. After all, this is a big trip, and there are some major steps involved in planning! So when do the major steps occur and in what sequence?
***6 to 11 months prior to travel (up to 2 years or more in some cases):
1) Initial Planning: Contact the friendly staff at Africa Dream Safaris! Our staff of expert consultants, based here in the US for your convenience, are well-traveled and happy to talk you through any questions you may have about getting started. We'll help you solidify your priorities for the trip, budget and time for travel. We'll develop a sample itinerary for you and, with your feedback, we'll customize it to your priorities, schedule and budget. This part may be the most fun step of all! With exception to when you depart for the trip, of course!
2) Safari booking: Once you have settled on a final itinerary and travel dates, the next step is to make it official! A $500 per person deposit is required to secure your safari reservations. All our safaris are individually customized, and lodging in these remote wilderness areas can and will sell out. So in order to guarantee securing your first choices in accommodations, the early planner has the advantage. Admittedly we do have much more flexibility than a large group package operator and we are often able to make last minute safaris work out too. We've had folks book their safari as close as 30 days out, while other folks book their safari over 2 years in advance. That being said, it seems the majority of folks book their safari 6-9 months ahead of time. As much advance notice as possible is always helpful for the holidays and other peak seasons such as summer when most families travel (July-Aug). Keep in mind, once you have finalized your desired safari itinerary with your consultant, it will take an additional 1 - 3 weeks to confirm all your reservations.
3) International Airfare: Most major airlines start selling tickets within 11 months of the proposed travel dates, and most people will book their plane tickets as soon as possible after their safari has been confirmed. Some people may ask, shouldn't I book my plane ticket first? Well, that's an option too. But keep in mind all of our safari packages are customized and can only be confirmed upon your booking. Once the airfare is purchased the travel dates are obviously set, and there is no shifting by a day or two to make the reservations at specific lodges work out. However, if a client's dates are already set for other reasons, and if they are flexible with regards to specific accommodations, many times clients will go ahead and purchase the airfare first. Especially if fares seem volatile or if they've snared a really good airfare deal. Then, if a specific lodge happens to be sold out on a certain date we'd just substitute in a different lodge or shift the order of the lodges to make it work out. As long as you are somewhat flexible, it always works out. Worth noting this is a long flight, so important to be as comfortable as possible. Do you prefer a window or aisle seat? Try to get your seats assigned at the time of booking your plane ticket. If it's not possible, find out when the earliest time is to get your seats assigned and mark that date on your calendar. It's a good idea to get your seats assigned as soon as they become available for the best selection.
4) Travel insurance: It's important to note that most travel insurance companies offer guests a more comprehensive policy (ie, coverage for pre-existing conditions) if the guests purchase their travel insurance within a 15 day window of the date they put down a deposit on the trip or purchase their airline ticket, whichever one comes first. Also, in order to qualify for some travel insurance policies, guests must purchase their insurance BEFORE making FINAL payment on the trip.
5) Passport: At the time you book your safari, be certain to obtain a passport or check your current passport and make sure the expiration date is at least 6 months beyond your travel date. Also, make sure you have at least 2 blank pages left in your passport for your Tanzania visa. If you are visiting other African countries on this trip, make sure your passport meets that specific country's requirements (for example, both Kenya and South Africa also require at least 2 blank pages for a visa, making for a total of 6 blank pages required for a trip that encompasses Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa). Unless you are willing to pay extra for expedited service, you may need several weeks to get your passport renewed.
***3 - 6 months prior to travel:
1) Dr. Appointment and Vaccinations: Although many vaccinations are still considered effective as long as they obtained within 10 days of travel, but we recommend you don't wait till the last minute! For a complete discussion about Vaccinations and other heath considerations, please review the information at the following link: Safari Health. Keep in mind your local family doctor may not be familiar with foreign travel, and may not stock some of these vaccinations should you choose to get them in which case we recommend also making an appointment with your local travel clinic. It's still a good idea to visit with your family doctor about your travel plans and make sure there aren't any concerns about vaccinations, conflicting medications or travel in general. If you are traveling with prescriptions, liquids or syringes, it is always a good idea to obtain a letter from your doctor showing his authorization that these items have been prescribed to you and are medically necessary.
2) Make any necessary arrangements for house/kid/pet-sitters. Some pet boarding facilities will book up months in advance for holidays! Don't be left high and dry at the last minute.
***3 months prior to travel:
1) Safari balance is due no less than 90 days prior to travel.
2) Make sure your international airline seats are assigned.
3) Start to think about what to pack! If you need to do some shopping for luggage, safari cloths or camera equipment, now is a good time. You can see a comprehensive packing list and suggestions here: What to Bring and here What's in My Day Pack If you are renting camera equipment, go ahead and make your reservations. We highly recommend Lens Pro To Go for your camera and lens rental needs - not only are they are experts and can assist with recommendations, but they are also fast, friendly, competitively priced and they can ship equipment hassle-free almost anywhere in the US.
***1 month to 2 weeks prior to travel:
1) Pack! Now is the time to find out if you've forgotten anything.
2) Call your safari consultant with any last minute questions!
3) Give a list of Emergency Contact Numbers out to family and/or friends back home (an up to date list will be given to you by your safari consultant approximately 1-2 weeks prior to your departure). You may also wish to give someone you trust a set of keys for your home and a copy of your other important travel documents.
4) Schedule to stop your mail with your local post office.
***1-2 days prior to travel
1) Call the airlines to reconfirm your flight or check-in online
2) Safari Njema! Relax; you are well prepared. Hopefully you've enjoyed the *journey* to get you to this point. Now it's time to enjoy the adventure!