Every trip is an experience worth planning
One of the implications of traveling on a budget is the considerable amount of time dedicated to planning a travel itinerary prior to the trip. While some will prefer to use their holidays to relax and enjoy a few places like a local, some others will prefer to hop from one place to the other, in order to discover as much as possible.
The first approach emphasizes ‘depth’ in traveling, while the second one emphasizes ‘range’. On the downside, too much depth can become boring at some point and you might want to see other places, and too much range will not allow you to taste and experience a place properly.
Being that said, we come down to questions like, how can we be sure that we will enjoy a destination that we have never been to? What if that mountain village was not what we expected and we want to move on to the next place on the list? What if the time on the beach was too short and we want to stick around for a few more days?
However, I believe there can be a balance between these two for the sake of a satisfying experience, as long as you have a clear idea of your priorities, time and budget. I have divided this exciting process of research and planning a trip in six steps in my attempt to help you on your next adventure.
1. Define the objectives of your trip, budget and your total travel time
Any landmark in your wishlist will be located in a city, town or their surroundings (duh). It could be the simplest or silliest personal desire to see with your own eyes what you saw in that movie, social media, a childhood dream, or just visiting friends. Or it could be a lifetime desire to discover Son Doong Cave, one of the largest caves in the world, located in Vietnam. It really does not matter, and you should not feel ashamed of it. Remember, it is about your own experience. The magnitude of the objective matters, though. Visiting that world-famous bubble tea shop in town will never require as many resources as trekking to the Annapurna Base Camp. Just make sure to make a well-defined list and put priorities to each objective.
2. Do your homework
Consult a travel guide, take a look at some photo galleries, ask your friends or visit the official (web)site to know how to get to the places you want to see and how much time and money you would need to see it. Also, this will provide information
3. Trace a reasonable route that covers your interests
Ok, now that we have a list of objectives and some detailed information about them, it is time to take a look at the map. You can decide where to start, that is, from north to south, from west to east, or the other way around. I usually check flight tickets and make my decision based on the best price among those possible starting points. From there, the general rule for efficiency is to travel in a straight line, without having to be at one place more than once. If this is unavoidable, try to book accommodations in different areas so you can get to see different sides of that same city or town.
4. Summarize the days spent in each place and compare with the total travel time
You need to set the number of days for each stop, giving some room for spontaneity (you know, a walk through those lovely little alleys, talks with locals, famous food, actually sleep and rest) or unexpected events (transport delay, bad weather, personal accidents, etc.). If you exceed the total time and budget, then this is when you need to prioritize and discard some secondary objectives that you might have included before, reducing your range. The commuting time between objectives also count. In some cases, commuting will take days. Do this until your route fits your total travel time.
5. Book your accommodations and transport
Once your wishlist is skimmed and tuned up, it is time to book a hostel online. With many decent online booking sites, the general rule here is to find an affordable price per night as well as a decent (walking) distance between your stay and the places of your list. If you have several choices, go for the one with most facilities offered, such as Wi-Fi, breakfast, lockers, washing machine, etc. As for transports, it is a good idea to get in touch with your hostel in advance to help you book a seat to your touristic attraction. Most hostels and hotels alike are connected with local tourist operators, and their prices are usually standardized. On the other side, if by any reason you want to move on to the next destination fast (in the same country), local airlines commonly offer affordable daily flights. You can always look for more scenic (but slower) means of transport such as train, bus or even boat.
Enjoying a trip is not exactly seeing things happen according to the plan, whether it is depth, range or a bit of both. Of course, that would be lovely! But sometimes the unexpected can be far better than the plan. Just remember that you will be in a new place, breathing a different air and living in a different reality for the time of your stay.