If first impressions are the most lasting, it stands to reason that creating an unforgettable travel experience begins with making the first day of vacation a memorable one.
The first day sets the tone for the rest of the holiday, said nearly half (46%) of the 18,000 travelers from 25 countries who responded to a recent Booking.com survey. One out of three (36%) said the first 24 hours "can make or break their trip."
In conversations with travelers about their holidays, "80% of their questions are about those first few steps," said Eric Wolf, CEO of Impeccable Journeys in St. Augustine, FL. Something as simple as a cruise entails transfers from the airport or an overnight hotel pre-departure, embarking on the ship, settling into your cabin.
"Most questions I get from my clients are about what do I do? How does ground transportation find me? So you want to make the first 24 hours as simple for them as possible."
Leila Coe, CTA, travel specialist and IC at World Class Travel in Kissimmee, FL, has a client who booked their own air and hotel for an upcoming trip to Italy.
"They had booked their flights into Milan and were planning to take a train to their first night's stay at a hotel in Florence. But I knew that they would not be happy having to take their stuff from the airport to the Milan central station and wait for a train for Florence. Instead, in order to provide them a smooth experience, I have arranged private transfers with an English speaking driver to pick them up from the airport and take them all the way to Florence."
"They'll have flexibility if they want to stop and get drinks or food en route, but also the comfort of not having to stress about missing their train or dealing with the hassle for when they first arrive. The rest of the day is at leisure in Florence so they can wander around, have a nice meal and get some rest that first day so that they are awake enough to appreciate the art that they will be seeing on their second day."
Wolf regularly recommends that travelers departing on a cruise out of London on a Saturday fly out on Thursday and arrive on Friday. That 24-hour buffer relieves any angst, even in case of a weather delay or mechanical issue.
According to Booking.com, 63% of travelers unpack their bags the first day and settle in, while 60% immediately want to explore their hotel and 53% plan for the next day's activities.
Travel agents say they strongly consider first-day activities, to ensure that clients use the first day to unwind from their work and family lives.
"I have some clients who like to have a day to recover from the flight and to take things a little slower, so I plan for them to have the first day 'off' to rest and relax - which is what I typically recommend. But for those clients who can rest on the plane, they like to do things right away," said Coe.
Even if he is booking an all-inclusive resort, Wolf tries to encourage at least one full morning of complete downtime. "The general consensus is, this is the day to relax, sip a pina colada, enjoy the sun, and then take off for something adventurous."
Asked what hotel features help ease them into the first day, 44% of travelers said a comfortable mattress. Also helpful were an amazing view (39%), a hearty breakfast (35%,) a spacious room (33%) and a strong Wi-Fi signal (32%).
A total of 18,496 travelers responded to the poll, including 1,000+ from the United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, India and Russia, and 500+ each from Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Croatia, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand and Taiwan). Respondents completed an online survey between April 27 and May 15, 2017.