Here it is, detailed information on how I plan my backpacking trips !
Mine may be very different from how you would book a trip because of many factors. I keep my full time job and I travel the globe within my annual holiday leave… so I don’t really have the ability to travel for long periods of time (anymore… I did when I was younger), and getting lost, because to me that means missing my flight home, or missing out on something I really wanted to see while traveling.
Because I only have a few weeks holidays each year, I try to stick to one Country and completely travel that one place instead of jetting around trying to see everything.
I also like booking my holidays in advance because
- I am an organization freak… I love to know exactly when to show up, knowing someone will be there to pick me up, I like having all my bookings in order. I find that I spend tons of time before my trips booking and planning (which is actually super fun) and then when I arrive on my vacation I just go with the flow and I don’t have to be booking hotels or travel trains while on the fly..
- It is cheaper. It’s true that if you just “go with the flow” on traveling around you will be paying more money. I book my rooms and flights and travel well in advance so that I get the best seat, or bed on the night train, and I am not paying an arm and a leg for it. When these companies like hotels or trains see that you are wanting to travel today, they may jack the price up on you, which means less money to spend while there.
- I can just enjoy myself knowing I get to go to all the places on my list and see all the amazing things I wanted to see.
- I can pay for the trip slowly while I book everything and then by the time I go I just need spending money. I can come home with no debt and start saving for my next adventure.. cause nothing makes you want to travel more than coming home from an awesome trip
Where to go ?
The first thing I decide is, well, where to go !? If you are just getting into the backpacking world you may want to start where everyone goes… Thailand. My moto is that I want to see the entire world so it doesn’t matter if I go to this Country this year, or next, I will still be going… Because I am a young adult starting out in the world on an entry level pay cheque I tend to stick to South East Asia as it is really cheap (and because I also am in love with it !). I will keep the other more expensive Countries for when I am making more money, or more settled in my life.
Where to go within a Country is hard… What I do is I usually will look up travel companies online that go to that destination, so for example if I want to go to South Africa I would do tons of research on where to go, where to avoid, and then I will find a company that travels there and they usually have a brief itinerary of where they go on their website with a map. This is so I don’t just bounce North to South to back to the North and oh I missed that place in the South.. I go in a well thought out circle of places. These companies are also good beause they take you to places that you wouldn’t usually think about going, like a national park or a small town that has something amazing in it. I then decide how long I want to stay in each place depending on how much there is to do there, or how much other people in reviews said they liked it.
I will then create my itinerary with very basics:
When I am flying in.
Where I am going in order
How many days I want to stay in each place
different travel options between each place
Where I want to end up to fly back home
Paying for the trip
The thing that bothers me so much is when I invite someone to come traveling with me and they say “I can’t afford it”… I literally went to Thailand for 24 days, got veneers, blew my money away like I was Kylie Jenner and I ended up only spending 5000$ (that would be 2000$ if I didn’t get my teeth done, which you can read about HERE). YOU CAN AFFORD IT, you just don’t want to.
To make my life easier I don’t pay for the trip at once. Like I said above, I like to slowly book my holiday so that I can slowly pay for it so I don’t have debt. It is hard for most people to save up say 2000-3000$ without spending it, and then pay for the trip all at once.. why do you think that these travel companies let you make payments for their trips…
I will start planning like 6 months in advance (which is fun as well because that gives you something to look forward to), so this is most likely right after I return from a previous trip. I will give myself a budget per month, so I will say OK this month I will pay for my main flights, next month I will give myself 300$, and I will start booking until I hit my 300$ and then wait to continue booking till the next month. I also like paying for as much as I possibly can before arriving, so if a hostel tells me I only need to pay a deposit, or just for the first night, I will ask to pay the entire amount so that I don’t have to carry around as much cash when I arrive, and I know that all the cash I have is for me to spend freely… I don’t need to budget to pay for my next room.
I put everything I can on my master card because I get cashback. Also awesome if you get points or have a travel reward Credit Card because you can use your travel expenses to pay for your next trip! This also gives you a month to pay off this portion of your trip (so for me my MasterCard billing cycle ends on the 12th of the month, so I will spend my budget for that month up until the 11th, then I will continue with my next month budget on the 12th.. I do this because once you get into looking and finding cool places to stay you want to keep booking things, you don’t want to wait! )
After I have made my skeleton itinerary I will decide when I want to fly in. Flights are usually cheapest when you clear your computer history and cache cookies (no clue what that means but just clear your history) because once your computer catches onto you looking up flights the prices may go up… Booking flights during the week like a Tuesday afternoon are usually cheaper as well, who knows why. Flying days are also cheaper on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday as well because most people like to travel on the weekends.
I will google : Destination to Destination (ex: Calgary to Bangkok) and I will look through sites like cheapflights.com or kayak.com, while deleting my history every once in a while. I will keep a list of how long the flights are and how much they cost in a spreadsheet. I will keep watching these flights for quite some time before actually booking them. Flights are usually cheapest about 40 days before you want to depart but I have watched flights before and got killer prices like months in advance. When I see a really low price for a flight that has the least amount of fly time I will book it. No waiting when you want a good price !
Inner flights or other travel
Once I have my main flights booked I am good to start booking the rest of my trip ! I will go back to my skeleton itinerary and fill in my new flight information, I will then start booking my trip in the order I will be traveling. I do this so that if a train doesn’t go on a certain day of the week that I need to travel to the next place, I can just adjust my itinerary and not have to cancel or extend previous rooms.
When traveling larger or more spread out Countries like Thailand or Vietnam I like to look at trains, buses and flights. With such a short period of time for me to be traveling around I might pay the extra few dollars (literally like 5$ difference sometimes in Asia) to take a flight instead of sitting on a train for 18 hours. The inner flights in these Countries range from 40-150$ CAD which is super cheap ! The only thing with this is you need to be prepared with your luggage on what to check under the plane and what to bring on, you have to keep your bag flight ready during your holiday.
I do enjoy taking the night train in these places as well, they range from 50-100$ CAD and are a lot of fun. I enjoy these because you travel while you sleep instead of losing an entire day you could be enjoying sitting on a train. They are also very luxurious trains if you buy the beds instead of the chairs and its a great way to see a ton of the Country instead of just flying everywhere. I also really like the trains because if I want to travel to one destination to go Scuba Diving but I only want to be there for 1-2 days, I might fly in and then take the train out (to avoid the decompression chamber!)
The local buses are also a good way to get around. They are super cheap sometimes less than 1$ to get from one end of town to the other. The locals on the trains are also very helpful if you are not sure what bus to get on or when to get off. I tend to carry around a card of my hotel or hostel with me so I can easily ask anyone while pointing to the address, in case they don’t speak English.
When to go
I always book my vacations around the same time every year because that’s when school is done (for my traveling partners) and that’s when there is a lull in my job. But I would check where you want to go and what the weather is there before booking a trip. You may end up traveling in typhoon season, or rainy season which might put a damper in your plans.
Once I have my main flights booked, and most of my inner travel like my trains, buses, and flights, I will start going through the places I want to stay. In areas like Asia where the cabs or getting around is cheap I don’t really care where I stay. In other Countries where the cabs might be expensive I would either stay close to the train station or airport, or I would find a place in the heart of the action so I could explore around without paying for expensive cabs.
I google “Ho chi Minh hotel or hostel” and just start looking at prices, reviews, and what is included (breakfast, free shuttle pickup). I also ask the people I am traveling with to look as well and usually we book the places they choose.
Things to do
In my itinerary I will also leave a section for “things to do”.When I am researching I may find this museum is amazing, or this is the best beach in this town, I can then write this down in that City spot and when we arrive there we are not looking for things to do, we already have a list of possible adventures to go on. I also write down the hours of operation for some things such as “Asia Park” in Vietnam is only open from 3 pm – 10 pm, so we don’t plan to wake up early on day to go and find out it is closed. I also put down how much something costs so we can budget our money, or know how much to take out at the ATM.
Visa are different for every Country so I would just google whether the Country you live in needs a visa for the Country you want to visit. Most of the time you can just buy the visa online or upon arrival. This is something I would absolutely look into for every Country you go to as you might be denied entry if you didn’t get an approval letter or a stamp in your passport. The prices for each visa are different so again, just google it or read other people’s online threads.
Booking vacations for yourself is actually super fun, I don’t see it as work. I get the joy of booking places and flights and putting together my itinerary for months prior to my trip and then I get to go and enjoy myself.