We love travelling not only because we love the feeling when we are on a trip but also because we appreciate that we can fully take charge of every decision on what we want and where we go. After all we might have made too many compromises in the cruel reality, it will never be too greedy if we just want to live the way we want in our travel trip. Probably, that is also one of the reasons why an increasing number of people prefer free and easy tour instead of package tour. For me, the first thing to start a trip is to plan everything as much as I can regardless of how troublesome the process may be at times. Having travelled to more than 13 countries, i have come up with the below tips or guidelines to give you some useful insights and guidance to help you plan your next trip.

1. Choosing your destination

Sometimes, you may have seen a photo with amazing scenery and want to start a trip immediately; or you have been planning a sweet honeymoon on a paradise-like island for a long time; or you just want to relax yourself because of the dull and stressed work life; or after you watched a movie or read a literature, you want to go to the place and experience everything the main character has done. Regardless of the reason why you want to travel, you should know what type of destination you desire. We can always classify destinations into different categories. Below are yet complete list of destinations you may find useful.

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2. Learning more about history, customs and other aspects of the  destination

On the one hand, this helps to increase your knowledge on the destination; on the other hand, it prevents you from just casting a passing glance at the attractions you are visiting. ShinyVisa is created to provide you with the resources and information to help you plan your trip 🙂  In fact, there are also many online resources, books or documentations you can refer to. For example, Lonely Planet is one of the best-known ones.

3. Planning your itinerary

First, depending on your time availability, you need to decide on the duration of your trip. Normally, a 5-day trip is recommended. However, for some people, a 8-day trip is slightly energy-consuming. If the trip is less than 5 days, you might not enjoy yourself fully in the trip at all. So, set the right duration of your trip!

Second, decide on the tourists spots of a destination that you want to go. I will always browse through various travel blogs and list down all the attraction spots that I am interested in. Depending on the travel period or duration, sometimes I may need to eliminate some of them (but that’s fine, we can always revisit in future).

Finally, it comes to the question on where we should visit each day? Strictly speaking, when you plan your itinerary, you will also need to look at the transportation factors carefully. Sometimes your itinerary might be changed due to inconvenient commuting issues. For example, you might have decided to go place A –> place B –> place C. However, when you look at the three spots on the map, you may find that A to C is more convenient and C to B has shorter distance. So, going from place A –> place C –> place B will be a better plan. Therefore,  when planning an itinerary, it is really important to  familiarise yourself with the map to prevent wasting time and transport cost .

4. Planning your transportation

One of the challenges when planning a trip is the transportation. To put it simple, we need to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • How should we go (by bus, train, ship or airplane etc.)?
  • How long it takes?
  • How much it costs?

This information needs to be as accurate as possible as it may affect your following itinerary. Here are some important factors you may need to consider:

Purchasing air tickets
Search engine for flights: Skyscanner.com, Qunar.com, Kayak.com, Zuji.com
Budget airlines: Tigerair,  Jetstar,  Airasia, Flyscoot, West Airline, Nok Air
Starred airlines: Singapore Airline, SilkAir, Cathay Pacific, EVA air, Emirates

Here are some useful tips in buying your air tickets:

  1. Set a price alert and watch out for promotions.
  2. Follow and stay tuned to the airline’s official Facebook page. Most of the promotions will be first announced in Facebook.
  3. Book your aie tickets 3 months in advance.
  4. Avoid travelling during public holidays period.
  5. Compare ticket prices from different search engines and airline websites.
  6. Try transit flights if time allows.

Purchasing train tickets
Railway transfer might be a good choice as you can enjoy the beautiful sceneries along the journey. Normally,  you will need to book tickets for long distance journey in advance online. For shorter journey, you may just need to purchase at the ticket office. Also, be sure to take note of the sales information, some train ticket has discounts if you book in advance.

Airport transfer to hotel
There will always be public transportation from the airport to the city in any countries. Depending on the availability, you may choose to take train, coach or bus. But if you are travelling in large group, taxi fee may also be reasonable after split. Sometimes, your hotel may also provide service for airport transfer. Always be careful with those strangers who approach you for ‘private service’ which might sound too good to be true. To have easy airport transfer, you may consider booking a hotel near to a main bus/train station or location which is easily accessible.

Travelling between attractions:Train/Subway/Mrt and Bus
In many cities, there will be something like Ezlink (used widely in Singapore for public transportation) Search for special offers for tourists and see if one-day pass (or two-day pass etc.) can be more worthwhile.

5. Booking the accommodation

We do not recommend booking a very expensive hotel when travelling (exceptions are that when you are going to a resort). Think of this, how much time will you really spend in a hotel (probably just sleeping hours)? Besides, accommodation is one biggest overhead of travel cost (while the other biggest overhead is air tickets). If you really want to save money, then these are the two big factors you need to watch out for! To book your accommodation, you can try some of the popular online hotel booking websites such as: Booking.com, Agoda.com, and local ones such as Qunar.com in China.

Check out the comparison of some of the online hotel booking websites below.

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We suggest the below steps when you are searching for a stay:

  • Search by location (e.g. shopping mall, train station, airport)
  • Rank listing by ratings – consider the top 20% with plenty of reviews
  • Filter by price (e.g. your budget for one night is 100 SGD)
  • Read review comments and photos uploaded by customers
  • Compare all agencies and decide where to book from

You may also consider booking sites such as airbnb where you can book interesting accommodations provided by locals.

China house rental: Zizaike.com, Fishtrip.cn, Dujiake.com

Japan house rental:Japanican.com, Japan-experience.com

6. Researching in advance

Travel Visa – Check with embassy.
Mobile Plan – Compare with different mobile plan providers. You can consider buying just one mobile plan and sharing it via a hotspot.
Cash Exchange – Watch out for currency exchange rates. Seize the best time to do a good currency trade.
Maps –  Prepare the maps and print them out in advance. You can use Google Maps app as well.
Weather –  Keep note of the weather forecast in advance and check the local weather again 1 week before your journey.
Souvenir – Research the different souvenirs you can buy.
ATM card – Check with the local banks to understand more on the oversea transactions fee.
Local emergency numbers – Always make sure you know the emergency numbers.

7. Setting your budget

  • How much you pay in advance?
  • How much you need to carry?
  • How much you may spend in total?

If it exceeds your expected budget, look for places where you can have lower expenses. e.g. Can we book a cheaper hotel?

8. Preparing for your absence

  • If you are currently employed, remember to apply your annual leave. Remember to set up automatic email reply as well.
  • Arrange the care of pets/plants.
  • Cut off power if necessary.
  • Store your valuables in a safe place.
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