Planning to go on a holiday and don’t know where to start? Follow these easy steps and you are sure to have a great holiday 🙂 You will not need a tour operator ever again once you plan and realise how enjoyable planning your own holiday could be…
It is never too early to start planning your holiday. Knowing what to expect will give you a sense of relief and let you have fun when you travel. Start with a budget sheet.
Budget sheet: Make an excel sheet and keep updating the same throughout your planning. Share it with your co-travellers. A sample budget sheet will be like this:
Here are the steps to help you start:
Step 1: Booking flight tickets
- Start tracking the airfare as soon as decide on the destination. Set a fare alert for the flights. You can do this on kayak.com or skyscanner.com after logging in.
- If your dates are not fixed, search for flexible dates and check the box to search for nearby airports too.
- Weekday flights are usually cheaper than weekend flights. See if you can plan your vacation keeping that in mind.
- Avoid travelling in the peak season. The off-season rates are much cheaper than in-season. Assuming you have finalised the destination, do a “peak season for travelling to Switzerland” kind of search to know when to travel. If you cannot do a off-season holiday, try avoiding the very peak times like Christmas, New year etc.
- Late night flights are usually cheaper than daytime flights. Keep the timing as flexible to get the best airfare.
- Budget low cost airlines like airasia, tiger airways charge you separately for checked-in baggage. This can help if you travel light. Book 15/ 20 kg luggage on one person’s ticket and stick to hand baggage for rest. When packing, make sure you pack 2-3 kg less (crumpled and wet clothes would be heavier during return leg). Keep more room if you plan to shop at your destination 🙂
- It may be a good idea to travel with full service airline rather than budget airline if it involves transit. Low cost airlines are usually point to point; which means they are not responsible for any connecting flights even if its the same airline. For eg. if you book from Hyderabad to Bali via Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia; you would be issued 2 different PNRs – one for HYD-KUL leg and other for KUL-DPS. So you will have to take a transit visa for KUL (which costs around 3.2K INR per person). If you book with Malaysian airlines or any other full service airline, you will get a fly-through ticket which means one PNR for both the legs of your journey. In this case, you do not need transit visa at KUL. Check this before booking a ticket. Ticket in a full service may be cheaper than low cost airline ticket and visa included. Air Asia also has some fly-thru destinations now.
If you see a significant drop in the airfare on some day, go ahead and book your tickets. While getting a cheap airfare will be fantastic, it may not be possible all the time. This however forms a major part of your budget; and saving whatever you can will always ease your pocket. In our experience, if we have booked well in advance; we have got cheap airfares. We have got tickets at ~11K return Chennai-Port Blair, 45K return Hyd-Kuala Lumpur-Langkawi and back, 30K return Hyd-Singapore (all of these for 3 tickets : 2 adults + 1 child) which is a good bargain.
Step 2: Booking an accommodation
Next step would be to book a place to stay. This requires good thought and research. You want to enjoy your hard-earned holiday and do not want to ruin the memories with this one experience. Read this post on how to find the right accommodation during holiday.
Step 3: Attraction to visit & activities to do during holiday
This may seem like the most fun part of planning. In a way it is, but it also involves some due diligence. You need to see what activities fit in your budget & which attractions are worth visiting in the limited time that you will have. TripAdvisor’s things to do at your destination is a good place to start looking. Sort out the attractions by ranking and start reading their reviews. Do a search to find out how much it would cost, how much time would be required for that activity, how to go there etc. The budget sheet I have shared has a tab “Attractions”. Fill out the sheet as and when you research. If you have questions about a particular attraction, leave a question in TripAdvisor for attraction staff or previous visitors to answer. If the activity involves you getting in touch with their staff (like private tours, SCUBA diving etc); do that right away. Its never too early to do this. Some of the most sought after private tours can be booked well in advance.
Step 4: Visa
If you are travelling outside your country, passport and visa are must for every traveller. While passport is required before you get your ticket, visa will need to be taken a few days/ weeks in advance depending on where you are travelling.
While this need not be done well in advance, it usually needs to be dealt with a month or two in advance. Find out the visa rules for your destination country. Many countries issue visa on arrival for tourists or do not need a visa at all. If you cannot find specific details on internet, call up a travel agent as a prospective customer and ask them to mail in detail. Some countries like Singapore require you to go through a travel agent. Many require you to go through VFS. Tourist visa for many countries are valid from the date of issue; therefore make sure you do not apply too many days in advance too!
Step 5: Restaurants
Get a general overview of restaurants around the place you are staying and also at the attractions you are going to visit. Some attractions may not have restaurants around and you have to plan your visit accordingly; especially if you have food preferences like vegetarian/ Indian etc. Again, look for restaurants in the area (either on TripAdvisor or on Google Maps). Some cities also have zomato, justeat etc kind of websites that show menus online. Check them out along with their reviews. Many attractions allow you to take your own food. In Singapore, we packed some Indian food for kiddo when we went to zoo because we had a hectic schedule (had to visit river safari, zoo and night safari on the same day). We were not sure when we will get a lunch break and having quick bite helped kiddo get his energy back. Also, some attractions do not even allow water inside (like USS). You need to budget all these before you go.
Step 6: Look for deals
If you have started planning your trip well in advance, sign up for deals. Sign up for groupon in the city you are visiting (or similar sites). Check deals for attractions on klook.com, viator.com etc. Do a search like “discounted deals tickets in Dubai” to find more deals specific to the city/ attraction. Update the sheet with the deal on “Discounted deals” column.
Step 7: Travel at your destination
This is one important step which if handled well can reduce your budget quite a bit. Research the best ways to travel in the city/ country. Most developed countries have good public transport and one does not need to hire taxi everytime. Some places like Bali, Langkawi, Mauritius, Seychelles etc allow tourists to rent taxi/ bike for self-drive. This could be one of the cheapest mode of transport. If planning to hire a car/bike, check if your countries’ driving licence would do or you need an international driving licence. Getting an international driving licence is not very difficult in India (at least in Tier 1 cities). However, they are valid only for 1 month so make sure you do not take much in advance. Also, research for public transport tickets. Singapore has a tourist travel card that costs 10 SGD per person per day for unlimited rides on their metro/ buses. While this sounds very reasonable, it may not be the cheapest form of travel. Their regular EZ card that one can buy is better and more convinient. Kids get it for free. We spent around 80 SGD on EZ card for 8 days of stay (for 2 adults and 1 kid, we did not know kids get it for free 🙁 else would have saved more). Similarly, there is an Octopus card in Hong Kong and Knoll card in Dubai. Best part about these cards are they can be used in supermarkets like 7-11 too.
Step 8: Travel Insurance
We are now headed towards final step of planning. Travel insurance needs to be purchased before you travel. You can buy a day before also and carry a print. Compare quotes from all the insurance companies before you buy. Main things that you need to check are: baggage loss, delay of baggage, trip delay, missed connection (if you have connecting flights) and loss of passport.
Step 9: Download maps/ menus/ apps
If you are planning to drive in the city/ country you are visiting, having offline maps is a must. You may not have connectivity all through the day and offline maps are a boon. Download offline maps on all the smartphones you may have during travel. Always carry a power bank when on move.
Download any maps that you can find (of attractions, bus routes, metro routes etc) and have them in your phone/ tab. Also do a quick search like “best tourist apps for london” and install the apps you feel you will need.
If you are particular about the cuisine, download menus too if you find them.
Step 10: Before travelling
Now that you are all set, start packing 🙂 Check my post on things to take care of when travelling abroad to make sure you do not miss on anything.
Happy holidays to you!!