Who, what, when, where, why, how?
Travel planning your first trip can be a little stressful and a million questions can start coming to mind…
Where do I go?
When should I go?
Where do I stay?
Who should I go with?
How should I book flights?
What else do I need to know?
I remember organising my first ‘big girl’ trip. I didn’t know where to go or when to go, but after some research and probably what was a little too much planning, I had the trip figured out. I was off to travel through Vietnam for one month and knew when I wanted to go, where I wanted to stay, what I wanted to see and do, and how I was going to do it all… Needless to say, a typhoon hit Vietnam seven days into the trip and messed up most of my planning. So as a forewarning, you can plan as much as you like but you can never control everything, especially when it comes to travel. Expect the unexpected.
On that note, in this post I’ll share some useful tips on how to plan a trip for those that don’t know where to begin!
TRAVEL PLANNING FOR BEGINNERS
What kind of trip do I want?
This should be the first question you ask yourself. Are you looking for luxury? Relaxation? Adventure? Maybe somewhere on the beach? Perhaps a hideaway in the mountain? Or maybe you want a bit of it all! You will first need to understand what you want out of your trip before knowing where you should go.
How do I decide where to go?
Once you know what kind of trip you would prefer, the research then begins. Which countries offer you what you want? South East Asia offers amazing luxury, nice beaches, and rich culture for affordable prices. Europe might satisfy your appetite for history and architecture. India could give you the adventure of your lifetime. Find the travel blogs which specialise in the kind of travel you want to do. World of Wanderlust and The Blonde Abroad are good for luxury travel; Adventurous Kate is handy for solo female travellers and budget travellers; The Hungry Partier will be perfect for those after an all round good time. Youtube videos, Google Images, and Pinterest are another three sites I find useful.
When do I go?
So now you have your destination locked down, it’s time to decide when to go. With this it’s important to think of the seasons in terms of both weather and popularity/tourism. While you can’t control the weather, you don’t want it to be horrible conditions for your trip if it could have been avoided by some simple research. Find out when is the best time to visit your destination and work around those dates. Chances are, most people will go during those dates too, in which case it will be high season resulting in increased prices for accommodation etc. I’ve found that by going just outside of those high season dates you will get normal prices and everything isn’t too busy.
Another way to decide when to go is to simply see when any flight deals are on for that specific destination (more info further down).
Who do I go with?
This shouldn’t be taken lightly… Friendships and relationships can end over not being compatible travel buddies… So choose your companion wisely.
The answer for this question will be in direct correlation with what kind of trip you want. If it was a romantic getaway, then the answer would be your spouse/partner. If it was a trip to ‘find yourself’, then perhaps going alone would be best. If it’s a trip for a fun time, a group of your closest friends. After an epic adventure? Then maybe just one or two equally adventurous friends will do the trick.
It’s all about who you can share a lot of time with before wanting to punch them in the face.
How should I book my flights?
There’s two options: Through a travel agent/broker or do it yourself.
If cost isn’t really an issue for you, then using a travel agent will definitely save you time; However, if you’re looking for the best bargain, then the DIY option may be best for you.
Again, this will take time and research. As soon as you lock in your destination, sign up for email newsletters from airline websites and travel agency websites so you can be up to date with their newly released sales.
Here’s a few of my trusted and favourite sites for finding and booking flights:
www.skyscanner.com (Though, never book through travelgenio… Their customer service is appalling)
Note: Airlines’ websites sometimes have better prices and deals than these sites, so be sure to always check the websites’ of the airlines you wish to fly with before booking anything.
For more info on booking flights, read my post on 3 Travel Hacks To Making Travel More Affordable. The know-how on booking flights can be an awesome travel hack.
How do I book accommodation?
Again, this can fall under personal preference or what kind of trip you want. If it’s luxury you’re looking for, booking in advance with a flight package could be the way to go. Luxury packages are released regularly with travel agents. If it’s a longer trip, it is not wise to book all your accommodation far in advance. You never know when your plans might change… Maybe a typhoon will interrupt your journey too!
If I travel intensively and arrive at new destinations every few days, I will book my accommodation the day before arriving; sometimes as late as the day of arriving… There’s something exciting about not knowing where you’ll be sleeping that night.
But here’s a warning for you, do research of any events or special holidays that might be going on in the area you intend to visit. We made the mistake of going to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica during Semana Santa (Easter) without booking accommodation far in advance. Apparently it was the hot spot for the holiday making it near impossible to find anywhere to stay and accommodation prices went through the roof.
When booking accommodation the sites I always use are:
www.agoda.com (especially for Asia)
www.airbnb.com Practically everywhere has Airbnb now and it’s the first place I look for accommodation. We found amazing apartments and houses in Thailand, Bali, Canada, New Zealand, USA etc all for reasonable prices. It’s much better value than overpriced hotel rooms where you don’t even get a kitchen.
What do I pack?
All the organising is done and now its time to pack your bags and take off! But depending on where you’re going, it might be beneficial to know what you’ll need to pack in advance so you won’t have a last minute rush. Youtube has many ‘what to pack when traveling to….’ videos and are probably the most straightforward and helpful out of all the information you’ll come across when researching what to pack.
Note: Be sure to research if any visas are required well in advance… The last thing you want is to be denied entry!
Is there anything else I need to know?
Not really, but here’s a few handy resources and apps to help with your travels:
I use this app everywhere I go. If I’m not sure of what there is to do or where to go to eat, I’ll always look at the ‘near me’ option on the Trip Advisor app.
Girls Love Travel Facebook page:
Sorry boys, it’s girls only! A page of thousands of girls who love to travel and come together online to share their experiences, ask for travel advice, and even meet up. A great group for travel inspiration and to make friends near and far. Join the group here!
A quick and easy way to convert currencies and see how much you’re paying during your trip.
Currency Conversion Printout:
If you have trouble remembering the conversion rate, it can be handy to print out a basic table of the currency conversions in the popular amounts.
20 Thai Baht = $.50USD
50 Thai Baht= $1.40USD
100 Thai Baht = $2.80USD
500 Thai Baht = $14.03USD
1000 Thai Baht = $28.07USD
And so on…
Print it to your wallet size to easily carry with you.
Uber has become a worldwide phenomenon… Even Bali has Uber, and it’s much less than a taxi!
If you’re photos just don’t do the moment justice, use Snapseed to quickly edit your photos, no experience required!