Choose your destination

1.Where

Mountains, ocean, beaches, deserts, forests, city, country side, you need to choose where you want to go.
Choose the country or city you wish to visit. Your choice should be meticulous. If you already have a bucket list of places to visit, then go for it.

Advice: Do not just blindly follow advice from friends, each person has its now taste and what someone may like, may not be of interest to you. Instead follow your instinct and go for a place where you can really enjoy.


If you have calling of the mountains, go for some place with mountains and valleys. If you like beaches, search for most interesting beaches on this planet. Always go for the best places. Most recommended places (in magazine and websites) may not be the best place always. The road less travelled, often leads to beautiful destination.




Do your homework

2.When

It does not matter, if this is your first trip or you are going to hit century, doing a good research on the place you are going is very crucial. While on the spot travellers and last minute decision making, may sound exciting, it is good if you are visiting a place for the first time that you should plan as much as possible. Refer to blogs about the place or visit travel websites.

Some of the popular travel websites are listed below:

    4. The Government website on tourism for the destination country


There will be more destination specific websites which you can easily google.
Try to know the following points

    1. When to visit (peak and off-peak season)
    2. What are the key attractions (which cannot be missed). List them in 3 categories, should visit (the one you cannot miss), would visit (takes 2nd priority), could visit (can opt for this place if there is nothing better to do)


3. Make detailed itinerary

3.What

Now you know where to go and when to go.
Next, you need to make a detailed travel itinerary for the trip.
Steps to create an itinerary:

1. List down the placed you want to visit
2. Put them in order of visit. (Refer map to locate the places and decide on the travel plan)
3. Decide on the time you would spend at each place (some may take couple of hours and others may take couple of days)


4. List the places and then put the date and time of visit against each place.

Reference
Here is a sample travel planner which I use to plan my travel.
Download



Plan your budget and start saving

4.HowMuch



Budget is most critical part of planning. You need to first decide on how much you can spend. Needless to say that the destination needs to be selected as per the budget.



The key aspect of budget are:
1. Flight tickets:
While options will be very less on flight tickets, apparently it is the most expensive part of the trip. All other expense can be worked upon. Try to book the flight tickets as early as possible. The tickets prices sky rockets as the tourist season approaches. Check with various airlines and airline booking sites before booking the tickets. The state run airlines of the country of visit is usually the cheapest, however there can be cheaper airlines operating in the sector. Note that it is advisable to go for renowned names if the flight is too long. Arriving in your destination in good mood and spirit is important and some cheap airlines may spoil the start of your journey. So do not try to save too much, it may have consequences.

2. Expense on stay / lodging
Explained in detail in below sections

3. Expense on food
Explained in detail in below sections

4. Travel expense (local)
Explained in detail in below sections

5. Expense on attractions
List down the main attractions you want to visit, include the should visit and would visit ones, and then check the price of tickets etc for those attractions. Calculate the total amount and include in your travel budget. Always take 20% extra budget for attractions for anything that comes up which is not planned.

Advice: It is ok to set aside some part of your saving for a holiday.


Do not go for travel agency

5.Dont

While it is easy to hire a travel agency to plan your trip and do all the bookings. You will miss the real thrill of travel. With travel agency, it will be more of a guided tour with no or very limited opportunity to explore. They are expensive as well. They will charge commission and try to make best out of the deal. Hotels and flights are not guaranteed to be best in class, even If you are shelling out like anything. I strongly recommend never to use these agency. Instead of that, use internet to explore. Go through blogs and travel websites. Read blogs from fellow travellers, contact them on TripAdvisor.com and ask them for tips on travel to the location.



6. Book a place to stay

6.Stay


When it come to stay, I am very choosy and comfort is the ket criteria.
Hotels are the last options.
I always prefer rented apartment or house.
It gives you the feeling of living like a local and not a tourists.
Since the inception of AirBnb, the hotel industry was kicked in the gut and there is a reason behind it.


The reason is experience. While living in your own apartment, the experience of travel gets enhanced. You start living like a local. You have better control on your travel. No unnecessary rules, no extra payments for services you do not need, no one will baby sit you. You are on your own and that is the real deal. You experience more than a tourist. The popular sites to book a house are

AirBnb
HomeStay

Lets take an example of Airbnb. You need to sign up at AirBnb website. They will ask for some government id and some basic questions to validate your identity. After registration is complete, you can start searching for home in any city and book it. You can go for instant book, where the homes are pre-approved for booking by the hosts. Or you can start booking by sending a request to the host which the host will approve and then you will be charged and booked. The money can be payed using various methods of payments which AirBnb offers and are specific for each country. For example, you can pay suing Credit card, Paypal and PayU (in India), Alipay (in China) and so on. For more details, you can go though the help section on Airbnb


Go for public transport

7.Travel


Most of the countries (except a few), public transport is the best way to travel. Its cheap and convenient. Look for options like Bus (may be hop-in hop-out), or Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) also known as heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, U-Bahn or underground, which is common is most big cities. If you are going outside city, then look for train or bus.


If you are in some western country (like somewhere in Europe, US, Canada) or in Australia or New-zealand, hiring a self driven car is also a good idea. I would suggest this, especially for Europe. You can get a car from one of the many dealers. Cost will vary as per the car you choose and you have a rate of car to choose from. Starting from Volkswagen to BMW Convertible to Mercedes Benz, it is all available.

Some of the famous car rental agencies are:

EuropeCar
Auto Euroe
Hertz
Sixt
Kayak



Look for food options

8.Eat


Food, I feel is very personal and may vary is taste from individuals. However it is better to look for some restaurant near the place you are planning to stay. Look for restaurant which serves food which you like to eat. If you are from India, then it will be easy to find Indian restaurants in Asian countries. The Indian restaurants in Europe are pretty costly (In Switzerland, the rates of Indian Restaurants are comparable to Masala Kraft at Taja Mahal Palace, Mumbai). It is important to look for online menus and prices and then decide if you would like to dine or not.


If you are resting out a house with kitchen, best option is to carry some stuff like masalas etc and purchase, rice, flour, vegetables etc and do your own cooking whenever you feel like having home cooked food. Short list few places to dine near the areas which you are targeting to visit so that you do not waste time in hunting restaurants (bet, you will not have enough time after a day long outing). Keep the list handy.


Smart phone kit for travellers

9.Phone


Every one has a smart phone. Trust me, your phone is the greatest guide for travel. Here are some of the must have apps on the phone for travellers


a. Google Maps - Best map app, download the offline map for the area you will be in.



b. Uber - Uber is almost everywhere. Get this app and you will never be stranded in a place. There is a facility to register your credit card for instant payment without any hassle.
c. Google Translate - Language should not become a barrier while you are in foreign land. Use the Google translate app to instantly translate the sign boards, directions, dialogues etc. Very helpful app and a must have.
d. XE Currency - Keep a tap on the currency exchange rate.
e. TripAdvisor - Know about the place you are visiting, the key attractions in the area, what hot and whats not.
f. Triposo - Get reviews from fellow travellers. Personalize your trip by picking your favorite hotels, sights, activities and restaurants and book them seamlessly using this app.