Online travel planning tips for independent travelers
packaged tours and niche tours which have itineraries planned down to the last
detail, planning an independent trip requires you, the traveler, to look into
all the nitty gritty before you haul that backpack over your shoulder and set
Then again, unlike
packaged tours and niche tours, you can tailor the entire trip to your
own idea of how you would like your experience to be, to visit places you
choose, to do the activities you want to. Independent travelers derive great
satisfaction from having their trips conform completely to what they have in
mind (with room for pleasant surprises along the way, of course) and skip the
stress of having to follow tight schedules that leaves you little room to even
think back of what you have done the entire day. With the abundance of travel planning
resources online these days, there is no reason why you cannot join the ranks
of independent travelers and make your next trip truly your own.
Though this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of what you should look out for when doing your own travel planning, here are, nonetheless, some of the important things that should be kept in mind when you start on your planning:
1. Know the situation
Before you do anything, check out the news
online about the destination to make sure it is safe to go there. Check the
news for any political unrest, border tensions, really prohibitive weather
conditions, or any decrees that would make things really hard for tourists. Other
good sources of information are the countries’ tourism board websites,
government websites, or even embassy websites. You don’t want to go all the way
to your dream holiday just to have it turn into a nightmare.
Also, as far as possible, try to register your
trip with your ministry of foreign affairs or embassy. These days, emergency
situations can erupt from anywhere. If your embassy can identify you, they can
render you the fastest and most efficient assistance in times of need.
2. Flight and other transportation booking
Once you are certain it is safe to go to your
chosen destination, the next step is to book a flight, or your chosen mode of
transportation if not flight, like bus or train. For flight booking, there are
many choices online. You can book via independent aggregators that search the
best deals for you, like Zuji, or direct from the airline’s website. Make sure
to spend time surfing and explore both options, though, to make sure you don’t
miss out on the latest deals that can save you a lot of money with the huge
discounts offered on promotions.
Overland transports, unlike flights, are usually local and used only for crossing borders, but that is not to say that online bookings are not available. Do a simple Google search and you’ll find many websites available that offer this service. The advantage of booking bus seats online is a little like booking cinema tickets. You can avoid the disappointment of the seats being sold out at your chosen time, causing delay to your schedule and throwing things off balance. This goes the same for train bookings.
Make sure that you are aware of peak travel seasons at your destination, though. Usually, when there are periods of long holidays, many locals tend to either head home in the suburbs or go out of town for a short vacation, causing a surge in bus ticket sales. If you have to stick to a schedule, make sure you book in advance.
3. Hotels/accommodation booking
Just like flight booking, advanced booking of
hotel or guesthouse rooms can spare you of any unpleasant surprises – read:
rooms are fully booked, and you either go somewhere else, which can be pretty
far away, or hang out overnight in the streets.
This is especially true in peak traveling seasons. And it need not be a holiday season. Anytime there is a major event, like an international conference with President Obama showing up, or a major trade show, hotels in the surrounding areas can be quickly snapped up. In countries with many states and provinces, domestic travel is common, and you’ll be vying for rooms not only with other foreigners, but locals as well. So, with online hotel reservation websites available, there is no reason why you should skip this step.
4. Currency exchange
This can be unexpectedly cumbersome in some
places. For example, when you are in Laos, hotels charge in US dollars, while
street vendors take their local currency, kip (You can pay them in USD, but
most of the time they can’t give you change in the same currency. You end up
losing out on the exchange rate. Better not do Forex on the streets). When you
go to the shops or markets, they take Thai baht in addition to two
As you can see, therefore, it is wiser to find
out the currency or currencies accepted in the destination before you go. Do
not make any assumptions on this. Always have cash in hand because many things
can happen to plastics and travelers cheques, such as identity theft on credit
cards, or that some places simply do not accept any of these forms of
Though we have not entered an age where we can
change currencies online, we can always use online currency converters like
XE.com to help us with our budgeting. While money changers will trade at
different rates from online converters, it gives us a good ballpark figure to
work on. And, bring extra money for emergency.
Keep the above tips in mind when you prepare for your trip, and you’ll travel with a peace of mind and set your mind free to enjoy what is most important – your vacation.