“I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Anyone who has been bitten by the wanderlust bug would know for sure that the joy of travel does not commence once you reach the destination. It also does not begin once you start the actual leg of your journey. It starts the minute you dream about going somewhere & start working towards it. It starts the minute you fixate on a destination in your mind and let your heart do the planning thereafter.
How do I know this? Well, I can lay some claim to this as I love to travel. I am an avid traveller & amateur writer and I love capturing the essence of the journey’s and destinations in my articles. For me travel is not about going from point A to point B and doing all the touristy things. It is not about coming up with a list of recommended sights to see (although I confess some of the recommended things may be on my list too). NO! Travel for me is the unbound joy of experiencing local markets, cuisine, people and cultures. Travel for me is being on a budget and stretching it to fit in encounters that leave you breathless.
I always self plan my trips both in India and abroad. Not for me is the experience of embarking on an adventure that someone else has planned for me. I believe that when you self plan a trip you are able to squeeze in much more into your itinerary keeping in mind your interests and can budget that really well too. The most important thing to remember while planning a trip is to stick to the BDB (budget, destination & bookings) rule.
So how do I do it? What factors do I consider? What are the most important things to keep in mind when self planning a trip abroad? Well, here is how…
- Budget – topmost on my list of planning a trip is the budget. Now I know some of you would laugh at the absurdity of putting the budget before the destination. And indeed, if you have a dream destination in mind then by all means you should decide on that first and then save up enough to enjoy the trip. However, if you are someone like me who travels not for dream destinations but for new journey’s and experiences, then the budget always comes first. You need to allocate a set amount that you want to spend and then need to research the destinations that will fit into your budget.
Your budget should be decided keeping in mind the following costs – costs of flights to and fro, visa fees, local transportation like airport transfers & taxi’s etc, boarding & lodging arrangements (could be at B&B’s, Hotels, rented apartments via AirBnB etc), cost of food etc, cost for entry tickets to be bought for sightseeing, money for extra expenses like shopping or other contingencies etc. keeping all the above in mind should give you a fair idea of how much the trip is going to cost. It’s always advisable to inflate the figure that you arrive at by 15-20% and plan accordingly as air ticket prices fluctuate almost on a daily basis and also you may need money for contingencies.
- Destination – once the budget has been decided and capped off then you can start exploring destinations that will actually fit into the budget. Before you decide on one though, keep in mind the seasonal variations & actual travel time needed to reach the destination. In the summer months destinations in South East Asia literally swelter. They are hot and humid whereas destinations in Europe are relatively cooler. Hence, decide on a destination accordingly. Also do consider preferences of family members before deciding. For example, if you have kids who are young or pre-teens then destinations like Hong Kong Disney world, Sentosa Singapore etc are a good idea. The cities offer delights for all age groups and the children are quite entertained. Conversely if you are the kind who likes nature and beauty then stick to more scenic places.
Whatever you decide on make sure that the travel time is something that all would be able to adjust to as cramped flight seating, layovers and delays can make even the most genial mannered person irritable.
- Bookings – the next step in the process are the bookings – both travel and stay. For travel booking you can refer to virtually a plethora of websites now days. Be sure to check all the different sites like trip advisor, travel triangle, expedia, yatra, make my trip, mytrip etc to ensure that you are able to freeze on the best deals. You can book the tickets that suit your travel dates and paying by credit card will also earn you points that you may be able to redeem later on the next trip. Many countries now offer free visa on arrival or visa on arrival to Indians. However, if you are travelling to a destination that does not offer such a service then you will need to apply for the visa either online or at the consulate, in advance. Alternatively, the website via which you book your tickets may also offer this service and you can avail of the same by submitting your documents to them and paying the visa fee.
While booking flight tickets, it’s advisable to check for direct flights as that cuts down your travel time substantially. Layovers can be quite tiresome and may lead you to arrive at your destination, disgruntled. However, if a direct flight is not available or turning out to be too expensive then you can opt for a hopping flight but make sure that you are flying the same flight operator through and through and keep a decent time gap between both flights (min 2-3 hours). Why this is recommended is because in case one of your flights is delayed and you happen to miss your connecting flight then the travel operator would be able to adjust you onto a subsequently departing flight. The process is smoother if the connecting flights are operated by the same company.
Subsequent to the flight tickets booking, you can look for accommodation to stay in(I personally recommend doing this exercise side by side with the flight bookings in order to avoid any mess up of dates). You can either again peruse the various travel sites to look for hotels (trivago, expedia are excellent sites) or you may self book via AirBnB etc. I personally recommend coming up with a shortlist of places where you would like to stay and then personally calling up/ emailing each one to understand the benefits given. Yes, it is undoubtedly a very cumbersome exercise but I have often been able to knock off up to 20-25% of the offered price when I negotiated directly with the hotel/resort etc. when negotiating be sure to check about the following things – meals included, any possible upgrades, airport pick & drop facility, any free facilities included like a spa session etc.
As far as sight-seeing and other such bookings/entry tickets are concerned, I find it easier to purchase tickets directly at the venue. Sure, it means that you have to stand in a queue but it beats pre-purchasing the tickets and then not being able to make the journey on account of a contingency in your itinerary. If standing in queues is not for you then you can purchase the tickets a day in advance, online. All in all, just try to minimize your exposure to spending unless you are absolutely sure that you would be able to stick to the schedule.
To sum up, a vacation is about exploring new places and spending some quality time with your family, your friends or even just by yourself. So, plan it in advance and plan it well by being involved in every step of the process.