It wasn’t any special day nor did I had a revelation. I was tired, though. But that was common after my shifts. I was scrolling trough my social media and I came upon one post from Mochileando. Since I live in a island, tickets for going anywhere are rather expensive. However, this time the post announced the tickets to Italy at a special price. I read the post twice, I looked at my mother and I said to her “Let’s go to Italy”. She laughed. In fact, anyone would have laughed. For many people in my country, traveling without a guide and without a lot of money in their bank account seems almost impossible. It’s been a year and a month now. I made five trips already and I am planning the sixth one. Even tough with every trip I learn something new, there are four things I constantly repeat when planning a trip by myself. I will share them now.
Are you traveling alone or with someone else? Consider your partner
Do travel, with or without people. Not because you don’t have companionship, you must limit yourself from doing so. Nonetheless, a solo trip differs greatly from a group trip. This variable affects the budget, the destination and the attractions that you will visit. For instance, when traveling alone you will have to cover your expenses by yourself. On the contrary, when you travel with a partner, you will share one of the most important expenses: the stay.
On the other hand, if you are a solitary wanderer, there might be some countries where you’ll feel uncomfortable walking around. So, you will have to choose your destination keeping that in mind. Whereas, if you have company, you’ll be less timid to visit places that differ greatly from where you come from.
Lastly, when you travel with a partner, you must consult the different places of interest you would like to visit and agree on them. While one person might love museums and can spend the day hoping from one to another, the other might be more inclined to exterior activities. Keep all of the groups member’s tastes in mind when choosing your destination and attractions. That way, everyone will enjoy their times abroad.
Read, read, read
Countless people turn to a travel agency because they believe they don’t posses the tools to plan a trip. This is a wrong belief. There are millions of sites on the internet that will help with everything from booking a flight to finding a place to stay. Luckily, nowadays you can do most bookings in your smartphone. I use applications like Google Flights, Momondo, Hotels.com and Airbnb to book my flights and my stays. To learn about popular places to visit I use sites like Tripadvisor, The Crazy Tourist or the official tourism page of the country I’m visiting. Some of these pages will try to sell you guided tours. It is your decision to take them or not.
On the other hand, it is vital to read about the culture of the country you are going to. There are certain things considered rude or illegal in some places. For example, in many countries you are required to leave the seats of the public transportation to elders, kids and pregnant women. If you don’t, you might get unwanted stares.
Consequently, my best tip for anyone who is about to travel is to read; read everything about that country and learn as much information as you can. That will save you time, money and trouble.
This might sound obvious. Yet, some travelers do not plan an itinerary ahead of time. I believe you should always make the most out of your in time in a different country. For doing this, you should make an itinerary that includes the places you would like to visit each day. Study the map and look for the places that are close one to another and plan to visit them during the same day. Now that you have read everything, you will know the opening hours of the attractions and the best way to get to them. If possible, walk as much as you can between spots, so you can save yourself some time and money.
When preparing an itinerary, I consider not only the opening hours for each place, but the hours I believe I will spend at the attraction. Every person is different. For some, the Colosseum might take an hour to visit; for me it took two. Most of the times, you can buy entrance tickets and transportation tickets ahead of time on the internet. Usually, to prepare my itineraries, I use Sygic Travel or Word.
Leave some room for mistakes and spontaneity
Although I like to plan my trip as best as I can, I learned by now that the perfect vacation doesn’t exist. Therefore, prepare yourself. Count on a budget in case you have to buy an extra entrance ticket or another night at the hotel. While we were in Italy, my friend and I were supposed to part from Rome to Venice on the second day of our trip. However, when we arrived at the terminal, we noticed we had bought the tickets for the wrong date. Yet, we had already booked our hotel at Venice and the rest of the itinerary would have been affected if we didn’t leave Rome that day. As a consequence, we were forced to buy another train ticket. At first, I felt terrible. Nevertheless, I understood that in every trip, mistakes were unavoidable.
Also, when making your plans, you might want to keep a bit of flexibility in them. During our trip to Costa Rica, we fully booked our first two days. Nonetheless, we decided to book some activities while being there. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do, but we were also open to some recommendations from the locals. So, we had some unexpected adventures like running ATV’s close to the Arenal volcano, because we were open to suggestions. You can read more about it here.
Planning a trip can be overwhelming. Still, following these four tips will help you start your journey. The internet is full of resources that will enlighten your path. Taking into consideration our travel partners, the culture of the place to visit and our interests will help us set the foundations for our vacations. I believe anyone can do this without the help of an agency, yet, there is never harm in asking and informing ourselves. I started out with an crazy “week-day” idea that transformed from a simple dream into reality. Thus, I believe that you, who also came out from your shift and are sitting in the living room reading this can do the same. Just remember the most important thing while traveling: have fun!