If you are Monica Geller, you will probably have an excel sheet ready with the entire itinerary including timings. If you are more like Phoebe, I’m not equipped to handle your problems. If you resonate with Rachel, I still have hope.

Planning a trip can be exhausting. Where do you start? How do you organise yourself… and others? Fear not! With 10 years of packing and unpacking experience, I am here to help. I assure you that after this article, you will be less clueless.

So, let’s begin!

Where and when to go

This is the first thing that pops into anyone’s mind. Some of you may have already decided on the “where” bit and now Google is telling you that the month of May is a horrible time to go to that place. Yes, I know… Google can be very frustrating at times.

Here is a simpler way of going about this –

First, select the time of the year or season that you would like to go during. This shouldn’t be too difficult unless you are an indecisive little pest.

Depending upon the season you like, see which places you can visit. You can now Google safely. For example:

 

This works even better if you have GPS enabled on your computer/smartphone/iPad/tablet (AR, VR or whatever the hell technology you are using now). In that case, Google also picks up getaways that are closer to your current location.

Based on your preference, you can now select the place. Congratulations!

Unsolicited Advice:

Let your boss know that you will be on holiday. You might as well gloat a bit. But ensure that your work is completed or handed over to someone else in your absence. We can still be professional whilst gloating.

 

Weather

 

weather check

The next important thing to consider is the weather. Why is this so important? Because you do not want to be wearing a sundress and flip flops at a place where it could potentially be snowing at the time of your arrival.

Make a list of all the things that you need to carry.

TIPS:

Check the temperature of the place. Do not go by what your friends or relatives say about the temperature.

Keep in mind that during summer (and monsoon), you will need more pieces of items as compared to (fall or) winter.

Wear the heaviest/biggest items on you instead of packing them. For example – if you need knee length boots or a trench coat, wear them on your way instead of packing them to save space.

Take items that you can mix and match to make more outfits instead of carrying more outfits. If you are completely clueless about what I just said – watch and learn from Chriselle Lim here.

You need to also remember to pack things based upon what activities you will be doing – adventure sports, shopping, sightseeing, beaching, walking, etc. Your outfits will have to be planned depending upon that as well.

 

Money

Now before you go ahead and book the most lavish flights and hotels, calculate your budget and stick to it. This is important not only because you wouldn’t want to spend all your money on just travelling from one place to another or on hotels. You will also need to keep aside some for expenses like food, local transport, shopping and emergency requirements. To know more about how to plan your travel finances for a particular place, Lonely Planet. You can search the name of your destination and then go to the “Money” tab at the left-hand sidebar. This section gives you the required information on how you would have to spend.

 

Visas & Travel Documents

Visas and travel documents are a much more complicated subject. If you are travelling abroad, ensure that you have a valid passport. Most countries require your passport to be valid 3 – 6 months beyond your return date. You can get more information on the required type of visa and other details here.

TIPS:

Do not take advice on visas from your friends and relatives.

If you do not understand the details mentioned in the website, call them up and clarify your doubts.

 

Flights & Hotels

Ensure that you book your flights and hotels at least 2 – 3 months ahead of your travel date. Prices also depend upon whether you are travelling during peak tourist seasons, in which case fares will be much higher. Try to select a period either before or after the peak season.

TIPS:

Flights – I like to book my flights through SkyScanner. It gives me a bunch of comparative prices from airlines across the world with the best offers that they are running. You can also set alerts on different flight options and the app sends you an email when fares change on those flights.

Hotels – Unless you are a luxury traveller, I find it best to book Airbnb these days. You have much better and cheaper options rather than booking a hotel. If not, thenSkyScanner, Agoda.com, Booking.com are really good sites that offer great deals to choose from.

For day tours from your base city, I find that the best app is Viator. Viator gives you multiple options to choose from with the best deals available along with reviews and ratings of the tours.

Use metros and trains where ever possible within the city to save money. Cabs/taxis are generally more expensive. You can get city maps from any hotel/hostel reception.

If you are on a tight schedule with too many things to do, make sure that your long-distance travels are overnight. This way, you can sleep on your way and you get an entire day for all that you want to do.

 

Travel agents& Conducted Tours

A lot of people have asked me whether they should go to a travel agent to get their travel planning sorted. Well, this depends upon you.

Personally, I like to plan my own travel because I basically want to avoid coordination with another person. The coordination ends up annoying me more than when I don’t get the flights of my choice.

But here’s the thing – if you do not have the bandwidth or time or patience to plan your travel, seek out a travel agent. If you like planning, then do it yourself.

Conducted tours (like SOTC) are something of a question mark for many people. Conducted tours have a set plan and itinerary which include flights, travel, hotels, food and sightseeing. If you go with these tours, you do not get the flexibility to explore a city on your own.

Whereas, if you plan your own trip, you can do whatever the hell you want. However, you would have to do the planning.

Here’s how I work it – If I am going to a foreign country with family (parents, kids and annoying aunties) I would prefer a conducted tour. This not only makes everything more systematic and organised, it also removes the chances of me getting blamed for every single goof up.

Too much information? Okay, let’s end of Part 1 and since I know that you have probably forgotten he first few paragraphs already, let’s summarise:

  • Select the time of the year before selecting the place.
  • Pack according to the weather and activities that you plan to do.
  • Do not listen to your relatives and/or friend’s rendition of the weather.
  • Stick to your budget.
  • Do not take visa advice from relatives and/or friends.
  • Book flights and hotels 2 – 3 months in advance.
  • Get a travel agent if you are lazy.
  • Book a tour if travelling with family and/or too many people.

 

Hope this article was helpful. If you have any questions or comments, mention them below!

Stay tuned for more on travel.

Coming up next – TRAVELLING FOR DUMMIES: PART 2 – PACKING

Deea is an Influencer Marketer, content creator, traveller, photographer and blogger.