INITIAL TRIP PLANNING
Now there’s some debate around how much you should plan whilst traveling, whilst some prefer to have a solid itinerary and set details other travellers prefer more flexibility and freedom. Either way there are some basics that you’ll need to set before you embark on your adventure!
1. Decide if you’re going as a group or traveling alone
Both modes of travel have advantages and drawbacks, neither will be perfect 100% of the time. For example, traveling with friends means you have people to share lifelong memories and experiences with whilst traveling alone means you can tailor your trip to only the things that interest you.
Check these articles out for further info:
Benefits and Drawbacks of Solo Travel – https://lonypamito.com/2015/06/13/the-benefits-and-drawbacks-of-solo-travel/
How to Decide – http://gadling.com/2012/05/07/solo-travel-vs-group-travel-how-to-decide-whats-right-for-you/
Difference Between Solo and Group Travel – http://maphappy.org/2015/02/the-difference-between-solo-and-group-travel/
2. Choose Seasons
When you want to travel will have a big effect on your budget and experience. I used to prefer traveling in summer but having now lived in a year-long tropical climate I like the idea of going to a wintry wonderland, it does mean I can’t get into a bikini and tan on the beach but instead I can snuggle up with a cup of mulled wine and watch the snow fall. So work out the high, low and shoulder seasons.
To understand what I mean check out these resources:
Incredible Guide – http://www.travelindependent.info/countries.htm
Europe – http://thesavvybackpacker.com/choosing-when-to-travel-high-low-and-shoulder-season-in-europe/
South East Asia – http://www.global-gallivanting.com/rainy-season-travel-south-east-asia/
Australia – http://www.aboutaustralia.com/travel-tips/best-time-to-travel-to-australia/
USA – http://www.journeymart.com/de/united-states-of-america-best-time-to-visit.aspx
3. Travel Dates and Set Plans
Before you start thinking about where you want to go you should figure out how long you will have to travel. For example a two-week work break will is completely different from traveling for 6 months. Your travel dates will also be heavily influenced by your budget as well as any “set” dates you may have. I.e. you plan on attending Tomorrowland and have purchased tickets so around that date you’ll definitely need to be in Belgium. So write down all those set activities so you have something to work around.
4. Destination Destination Destination
The fun bit, where do you want to go?! Sit down, pull out Google Maps and start working out where you’d like to go. If you’re really not sure at all then Tripzard is a fun website where you can take a quiz and based on your preferences are given a list of destinations. It’s an easy way to learn about what could suit your personal interests. For example whether you prefer big cities or small towns, history museums or adventure sports etc may determine where you’d like to travel to. Other places to get information include:
- Book stores and guidebooks
- Tripadvisor and travel websites
- Travel blogs
- Pinterest boards
Need more help? Check out:
Quiz – http://www.tripzard.com/
Lonely Planet – https://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel
Travel & Leisure – http://www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/best-places-to-travel-in-2015
NY Times – http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/01/11/travel/52-places-to-go-in-2015.html?_r=0
5. Research Costs and Exchange Rates
You’ll want to start researching costs by checking:
- Transportation costs (buses, planes, ferries, camel etc)
- Transfer costs – how much will it cost you to get from the hostel to the actual transportation, no one ever factors this in but it does add up!
- Accommodation costs – where will you stay and how much is it going to cost?
- Activities – are you planning on going to museums, nightclubs, city tours?
- Food – will you eat out or make your own food, and how much is this going to cost?
Now this is just a basic start before we dive into the actual budgeting and expense calculations. We need to have a rough idea before we get started! We’ll also go through the best options and deals for moving your money around!
Use this as a starting point:
Price of Travel – http://www.priceoftravel.com/
6. Political Conditions, Local Customs and Visas
Most destinations we want to travel to are often safe, however being aware of the political climate in a country is incredibly important and shouldn’t be overlooked. Smartraveller is an Australian government website that provides the latest travel advice and warnings to Australians abroad. It covers information on: safety and security, local travel, laws, health, entry and exit (relevant to Australians) and where to get help. It’s a really fantastic resource to glimpse over!
Another tidbit that is essential is being aware of local customs. Not only will having an understanding enable you to enjoy your experience much more but it may also prevent you from breaking any locals laws! For example certain gestures may be interpreted much differently from what your understanding is, the way you dress may be illegal or offensive in some places, is holding hands okay in the country you travel to? It may seem strange to think of the everyday things we do as being crude or insulting so gaging the local culture will help clarify this!
The best way to find out visa information is to visit your local embassy website, it will have information about procedures, requirements and documentation.
Smartraveller – http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/
Gestures – http://www.globalbusinessleadership.com/gestures_mid_af.asp
Tipping – http://www.etiquettescholar.com/dining_etiquette/restaurant_etiquette/international_tipping_guidelines.html
Protocol Guides – http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/country-profiles.html
Clothing Advice – http://www.journeywoman.com/ccc/
Cultural Awareness – http://geert-hofstede.com/
Basics – http://www.swissotel.com/promo/etiquette-map/
Global Visa Database – http://www.iatatravelcentre.com/travelinformation.php
7. Travel Insurance
It might seem like a waste of money to get travel insurance because you think you won’t need it, or you’ll be fine or you’ll be careful but in reality this is pretty essential. Medical costs vary from country to country and if anything is stolen you really want to make sure you have a way of replacing it. So read the FINE PRINT, please read the fine print. I have worked in financial services organisations and the amount of times people don’t bother to read the fine print yet agree to the terms and conditions is scary. And at the end of the day the only person responsible for this is you. So make sure you know:
- Your excess amount – so this is how much you’ll have to pay before you can claim anything
- Your cover – what are you covered for and how much is that cover? For example many insurance companies have removed coverage for mobile phones due to the sheer amount of theft that occurs with them
- Date of activation and expiry – when is your insurance valid till?
- Documentation – what documentation will you need to claim?
Be aware and be prepared. Also remember that some companies will not allow you to purchase insurance if you’re not in your home country, so use the guide below if you’re traveling and would like to purchase insurance.
Check this out to get an idea of different insurance providers:
8. Organise Important Documents
Send a PDF to yourself of the important documents you’ll need. This includes travel insurance policies, visas, passport information and anything else that’s relevant. Be careful and lock these away if you’ve printed them out because sensitive information can be misused in a variety of ways.
There are some good checklists here:
Document Checklist – http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/go/checklist.html
Rick Steves List – https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/trip-planning/travel-documents