What do you like most about the internet? We bet instantly looking up any kind of information from domain experts for free is definitely on your list. This is almost like a superpower. When it comes to do-it-yourself, the Internet is KING. You can take up any daunting challenge and use free information from experienced members online and do it on your own. Planning a trip abroad is the ideal example of a do-it-yourself challenge with high rewards.
A lot of first-timers who decide to do it on their own come out with a newfound joy from a self-planned and executed trip. In fact, planning your trip abroad can enhance your anticipation and get you even more excited! Planning also prepares you and eases your anxiety for your worst imagined scenarios regarding abroad travel. It also gives you more control over each aspect of your experiences and saves you a ton of money!
There are 6 essential steps to planning a trip abroad. Using the insightful time-, money- and trouble-saving tips below for each step, we help you jump over planning hurdles you might not even be aware of.
Understanding Your Travel Personality and Setting a Travel Budget
Your style of travel depends on your personality, interests, experiences and budget. Figuring out which travel style fits in for each of these factors may reveal your preferences. Every style has its pros and cons. Below is a quick list with the most common travellers and their travel styles to help you discover which style appeals the most to you and what kind of traveller you are:
- Active traveller: this type of traveller likes to utilize every moment on their time abroad and they constantly want to move around exploring. They spend minimal time in their rooms and they choose more adventurous and thrilling options on their trips.
- Laidback traveller: this type of traveller likes to keep an easy-going pace for their time abroad and want to explore according to what they feel like at the moment. They are relaxed, go-with-the-flow types with and choose simpler and comfortable options on their trips.
- Budget traveller: this type of traveller likes to strictly minimize their spendings while abroad and they focus more on whatever the destination and its culture have to offer, stripped off the luxuries and amenities. They are explorers who choose every budget-friendly option on their trips.
- Leisure traveller: this type of traveller likes to prioritise their comfort. They like to use their funds to travel in comfort and style and they are focused on what the destination has to offer best. They are explorers who choose fancier options on their trips.
Once you understand what kind of traveller you are and your travel style, it will help you in setting a budget. Budgeting is the most crucial aspect of planning a 5-star trip for yourself. The budget you set for your trip will shape all the future trip decisions like accommodation, activities, eateries, etc. Everyone’s budget varies according to their situations and priorities. To decide the correct budget for yourself, we recommend calculating the amount of money you want to invest according to your travel style and preferences. Make sure you balance between setting an amount which allows you to make the most of your time but also doesn’t set you back too much or drain all your savings.
Finding Your Perfect Travel Destination
Combined with your travel style preference and budget, your choice of destination will become significantly easier. It will help you decide which places give you the best value for your preferences and enable you to shortlist some places. For example, if you are a budget traveller then you can choose a destination in Southeast Asia, as it is both affordable and rich in culture.
You can also prioritise what you look for in a destination like scenic landscapes, beaches, rich city life, resorts, cuisine, religious culture, ethnic diversity, etc, to filter and narrow down from the places you shortlist.
Choosing the Right Time to Travel
Choosing the right time to travel to a specific place can enhance your experience and make it more memorable. For example, the months from March to May and from September to November are generally considered the best times to visit Japan. This is because you can witness nature at its best, with enchanting autumnal leaves or the iconic cherry blossoms. Plus, the weather is very pleasant in these months due to low rainfall and mild temperatures. Although, travelling during popular times may surge prices in tourism activities. So before choosing a time to travel, browse your destination’s best travel time and how it affects prices and factor it into consideration.
Also, make sure your documentation is intact. The documentation required by governments to accept tourists in their countries is volatile. Make sure you check with the government websites for an updated list of documents required to enter their country at the time of your trip. For example, your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States, unless exempted by country-specific agreements.
Booking Cost-Effective Flights and Accommodation
Flight costs and accommodations can sum up to account for a large part of your total travel budget. Make sure you use every tool at your disposal to minimize the impact of bookings on your budget.
- Book in advance. The sooner you book, the better. Make sure you at least do your bookings three months before your plans.
- Keep checking booking comparison websites to find the cheapest deals.
- For cheaper flights, you can book connecting flights to your destination, note that saving money may come with longer flight hours.
- For cheaper accommodation, you can book hostels, or rent apartments or rooms.
- Look for package deals for flight+accommodation for discounted prices.
- Use the travel miles accumulated by your credit card points.
Preparing For Your Safety
When you are getting ready for an exploration journey to a foreign land you have never been to and whose language you may or may not speak, it is essential to best prepare yourself. Many destinations have a reputation for some frequent criminal activity which you must be aware of. For example, knowing Barcelona has the highest rate in the world for pickpocketing can help you keep an extra cautious eye on your belongings among large crowds.
Remember, preparing well is half the battle won.
- Check safety advisories posted by official government websites.
- Check the crime rate statistics for frequent criminal activities.
- Read about general safety tips from bloggers who either live where you are going or if they are frequent travellers to the place.
- Carry essentials -pepper spray, swiss knife, identity proof, handy cash and emergency contact numbers.
- Keep your electronics charged.
- Inform your banks before you travel so that your card transactions are not unknowingly marked as unidentified or fraudulent and blocked.
- Inform your embassy and family members about your travel plans and where you plan to stay to allow easy communication in case of any emergencies.
- Apply for travel insurance which has coverage for trip cancellations, medical emergencies, travel delays, and lost luggage.
- Learn some common words of the language which your destination speaks, like a hotel, taxi, phone, bathroom, food, emergency, money, etc. You may also download a translated dictionary of local language from google translate or carry a hardcopy translation dictionary.
Planning Activities and Moving Around The City
Your travel style will determine the choice of your activities. Active travellers tend to choose adventurous activities like hiking, rock climbing, scuba diving, etc, whereas laidback travellers choose relaxing activities like spas, picnics, visits to famous museums and art galleries, etc. While planning any kind of activities you prefer, make sure you plan out your days which give you space to breathe. Strike a balance between micro-planning and macro-planning. Do not plan for every minute of your itinerary nor keep the itinerary empty and to be filled only once you’ve reached there. If you are planning to do multiple activities in a day, make sure that they are in proximity to each other to save your time travelling. Also, while looking for activities to indulge in, ensure that you choose activities which give you a taste of culture for the country you are in.
To travel like a local and get a feel of multiple locations, research about intercity transport. Understand how you can use public transport and how much it costs. Public transport can save you a lot of money too. Also, avoid private transportation which does not have a standard rate as tourists are known to be exploited by opportunist locals.
Planning your own trips abroad can be a tradeoff where you have to do a lot of research and even worry about the details of your trip. However, the freedom to choose the places you want to live, where you want to eat, how long you want to stay in each city, what you want to do everyday, all makes it definitely worth the trade. On top of that, with each passing trip’s experience, you will develop your own intuition for finding the best possible solutions to your future travels abroad.
As the first time remains to be a challenge and even overwhelming, follow all the above tips at each step in your travel plan to make your planning experience manageable, straightforward and even interesting. In the end, successfully executing your self-planned trips will give you a sense of achievement and pin the badge of a true explorer on you.