This post is in response to all those queries and emails that I get regarding ‘how to go about planning a trip’. Well, I do try to help and advice to the best of my ability, but I can’t really sit down and plan someone’s trip (unless they pay me for that). So, I thought why not answer all your questions in one post.
I couldn’t think of a better way of helping you than simply laying out my way of planning a trip. Yes, I am going to reveal to you all my secret tricks and tactics of planning my adventures on the road. I have learnt most of them with my own mistakes and experiences, while a few of them have come from my fellow travellers.
I decide on my destination first (of course).
Okay, first things first, decide where you want to go! What does your heart tell you? Consider the following factors before choosing where to go –
What’s the weather like?
What’s your budget?
How many days can you take off from work?
Who’s travelling with you or what kind of a trip is it going to be – solo, friends, family or just the two of you?
After you have asked yourself these questions, pick a destination that’s most suitable for you at that point in time.
My first step is ALWAYS booking my tickets.
Now, once you have decided on a destination, get your tickets in order. If you want to travel by plane, check whether there are direct flights from your city to your desired destination. If not, find out the alternatives and analyze if they are feasible. Take your time looking for good flight deals online. On the other hand, if you want to travel by train, make sure you reserve your tickets at least a month in advance.
Google is my best friend.
Before you go any further, research your destination a bit. Trust me, knowing your destination goes a long way. If you are planning to visit a touristic place, research isn’t too important, but if it’s an offbeat one, get on to Google! I have said this before and I am saying it again that ‘research a lot’ if you are planning a solo trip.
What should you research?
Get an idea of road distances, local transport, stay options, people and culture.
Then I book my accommodation.
After you have booked your plane/train tickets, start looking for a suitable place to stay. Now it’s very important to choose a good accommodation, as it may ruin or enhance the quality of your travel.
So what do you like?
Budget or luxury hotels, private apartments or home stays, small cottages or guest houses? Do you want meals included in your stay? Do you want to be near all touristic attractions or away in the solitude? Are you looking for a plain hotel room or an experiential stay?
Get onto Google and look for the kind of accommodation that would SUIT you. I personally go for experiential stays – home stays and guest houses.
How to decide on a good accommodation?
Get on to the hotel website and see the photo gallery. Check out the location and the facilities mentioned. You can also read tripadvisor reviews for the same.
I usually call up my hosts.
When you have found ‘an ideal place to stay’, pick up your phone and speak to the hotel manager or whoever is in charge. Inquire about the room tariff, ask if meals are included, and negotiate if needed. If everything works out well, confirm your dates and seal the deal.
I figure out the local transport options.
Last but not the least - educate yourself about the means of conveyance in your desired destination. Be aware of the touts who start hovering around you the moment you exit the airport/train station. As long as you know the best way to reach your hotel, you don’t need to worry about anything. Is there a bus or any other cheap mode of transport that goes straight to your hotel? Be sure to be aware of such little things.
I do a little bit of research on ‘sightseeing’ options as well.
If it’s a short trip – two to four days, it’s good to plan a rough itinerary, so that you don’t miss out on any nice place. On the contrary, if it’s a little longer trip – more than five days, you can choose to be spontaneous. In my case, I like to take recommendations from my host also. For instance, I let my host (at one of the home stays in Gangtok) know that I wanted to explore the lesser-known villages and monasteries in Sikkim, and he catered to my demands perfectly.
Any more questions? Feel free to ask in the comments section, or if you have a tip to share, add that too.
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