I’m a big fan of planning. In fact, I try to plan almost anything. Primarily because I wanted to somehow foresee things’ outcome and to save time. I can expound on this more, but this is not what my blog is about.
Travel plan is one of the most consuming plans I do (well, to be honest, it always takes time to make a good plan). Here are things I do when planning my travels. Please jab into consideration that I do solo without my own car:
1. Decide the destination. Actually, I listed all the places I want to visit. Take a peek (hidden cells in between):
- Excel sheet is my close friend (at the moment) in keeping track of my travel. I categorized the places to: Metro Manila, North-/South-bound, out of country, trekking, and even cafes/restaurants.
- How to decide:
- Money – look at your savings and see how much you can allot. The farther the destination, the more money you’ll most probably need (transportation, lodging, you know).
- Time/Leave – nearby travel costs less time. The farther the destination, the more you need time.
- Why is it important? Well, there are destinations, which can’t just be ambushed whenever you feel like going. For instance, I went to a park in South Korea, which is just opened every weekend for individuals. That’s why, you have to…
2. Read blogs. After blogs, after blogs, after blogs! Oh boy, I read all the blogs that come out of my google search. This is the part that takes the bulk of my planning. It’s like data gathering for your thesis.
- Start with recent blogs like one year ago as these are more accurate
- List all the valuable information such as:
- How to get there and how to go home (what to ride, signboards, travel time, travel cost)
- Specific spots to visit or events to attend to (sometimes, bloggers mention sidetrips)
- Where and what to eat, including costs
- Where to stay, including costs
- Recommended tour guide and their contact details
- Other costs such as entrance fees, tour guide fees, etc.
- Other tips such as which month to visit best, what to expect while travelling, etc.
- Information may vary per blog. Sometimes, they even contradict the others. That’s why I always note the details above per blog, then compare and contrast. Most of the time, I even take note of the blog address so I can refer back to it as necessary.
- Why is it important? If I need to book a ticket or reserve a hotel beforehand, need to know what other expenses awaits me as I go to my destination, these blogs would definitely tell me. They would even tell me what not to try based on my own capacity (well, like heights). Since I go solo, some things would be pretty expensive for me. For instance, Sand Dunes in Paoay costs P2500 per 4×4 ride. I didn’t want to try it because one, it’s too costly for me. Two, I saw videos and I got scared. In the end, I still tried it because sayang. And I paid P2000 only (I was the only customer on a non-peak day) because they took pity on me.
- Organize the information. So I got the places to visit, travel time, cost… It’s now time decide what time to leave, what to visit first, and so on…
This is how I plan (sample sheet is my Ilocos Trip):
- Day – is important for travels, which are more than one day. My Ilocos trip was 4 days
- Time – is important if you have many places to visit in one day. It keeps me on track
- The rest of the columns can be gathered from the blogs I’ve read
- Why is it important? Time-saving, primarily. If my destination is quite far from where I live, I would most likely want to maximize my stay there and visit as much as tourists spots as I can. I always think that that’s my only chance to get there so I’d make the most out of it.
So then… How to decide the sequencing of places?
4. Befriend Google Maps. If excel sheet is my close friend, Google Maps is my best friend. Since I’ve gone solo travelling, I’ve never been lost (I think) because GM kept me informed of my current location (of course with internet data). He’s the best!
So back to sequencing of places. I have the list of places I want to visit.
- I look it up in GM, each of them, then group them based on their nearness with each other. However, note that even if a place is near the other, travel route/time could affect your list. There could be a time that a place is just near another, but the only available route is to circle the whole town (just an example).
- Make use of From (insert place) To (insert place) and note the estimated travel time. It’s most of the time accurate and even shows the additional travel time if a traffic has been reported (during the actual travel).
When I planned my Manila Trip, I sequenced my destinations, which were walkable from each other. See, it saved me money as well.
Why is it important?
- I could compute the remaining time I have based on the travel time and intended stay per place.
- I could plot the time of the day and re-arrange my destinations if I find my next stop to be, maybe, too hot to visit during that hour.
- I could forecast what places could only be visited in a day considering the remaining time. Then I could prioritize where to go.
- I would already see which destination is far from the rest and then decide if I will still pursue it (given of course the time I’ve left).
5. Run through my plan as much as I can. When I’m done planning, that doesn’t end there. I would still read and re-read my plan to ensure its realism or if I’m pushing too far. Just like reading a book, the second read would give you different realizations and so is the third read, and so on.
These are the major steps I take when planning. Doesn’t look much for a five-step how-to, but believe me, it demands more per step. I would try and update this for other tips as I do my travels.