Philippines Coron island

For those, who are planning their first vacation without travel agent, I'd like to offer my own advice on planning a vacation in far away destinations.



How to plan your trip


Choosing a country and dates

It is wise to choose an easy destination for your first trip. I would recommend Thailand, Bali, or Sri Lanka. Travelling in these countries is very easy and cheap for the independent traveler. It is also important to research the weather patterns in the desired destination and choose the dates for the trip accordingly. Knowing how the seasons change at your selected destination is essential to the success of your trip. Surely, nobody wants to have a rained-out vacation!



Actual situation in your desired destination you can verify on the website of your Ministry of  Foreign Affairs, if available. When you decide on your destination, you can obtain a guidebook - such as Lonely Planet or Rough Guide - to be your source of integrated information and help you get oriented, see “Travel guidebooks - essential sidekick on a journey”. Quality travelogues on the internet are another great sources of information: the experience of travelers who have visited your desired destination are priceless. They help you imagine the rhythm of life and environment and help you decide which places to visit and which places to skip. They help you to avoid their mistakes and plan a better trip for yourself. You can follow your planned journey in Google maps and find pictures and tourist maps there too.



It is easy to find places on photos and travelogues that appeal to your taste and that you want to visit. After choosing the right places you can create a timetable that will include chosen places and travel times between them.


Work leave

Before purchasing tickets, visas and accommodation, it is important to have work leave approved by your employer. If an employer cancels a work leave previously negotiated, he is obligated to reimburse the employee for any expenses incurred by cancelling your vacation. (At least this is how it works in my country; find out if it applies in the country of your employment.)


Purchasing airplane tickets

The most expensive item on your list is airfare, therefore it pays to spend some time searching on flight ticket servers or contacting individual airline websites, see “How to get flight tickets”.


Check visa requirements and your passport expiration date

It is necessary to check your passport and its expiration date. If a visa is required, you need to apply for it.



Travelling to most exotic destinations requires additional vaccinations including possibly tetanus, hepatitis A and typhoid, among possible others. To find out which vaccinations are needed, visit the travel medicine webpage, see “Useful links for planning your trip”.


Travel insurance

You need to buy travel insurance before your trip. There are different kinds of travel insurance. Some credit card companies include travel insurance in their services, or you can purchase classical travel insurance on the internet.


Booking accommodation

It is wise to book your accommodation at the destination at least for the first few days after your arrival. You will avoid unnecessary stress and will be able to rejuvenate after a long flight. You will also have time to acclimatize and have time to look around for a new place. You can find accommodations on the web pages of accommodation providers, or on web pages of reservation agencies. There is a lot to choose from and often you will find very good deals, see “How to get accommodation while travelling on your own”.


Booking local transportation

If you have a complicated travel itinerary and/or limited vacation time, it is recommended to book ahead for airline or train tickets between stops on your travel plan. If you wait until the last minute to purchase a ticket for an overnight train on the same day of the train's departure, for example, you may not be able to leave on that train.


Currency exchange

When you plan your trip, it is recommended to estimate your expenses and divide them into several parts. You should bring enough cash with you to cover incidental purchases; and the rest of the money you can withdraw from ATM machines while travelling. It is useful to have more debit cards and one credit card specially when you plan rent a car. The cash you are bringing with you should be divided and stored in several different places. Before your trip, depending on the destination you are going to, you can exchange currency at a bank in your country and bring with you either US Dollars or Euro, depending on the destination you are going to visit (to some countries is better to bring US dollars and some prefer Euro). You can find current exchange rates on financial web pages, see “Useful links for planning your trip”.


Packing for the journey

While traveling you may discover you don’t really need most of the things you’ve brought. Carrying a large backpack can make things unnecessarily difficult for you, whether walking around a city or backcountry trails, using public transportation, catching a ride on a motorcycle taxi, or riding a bike. With a large backpack you might not be able to board a bus, bring it with you on a plane as a carry-on, or put it next to your bed on an overnight train. If you pack wisely and lightly, you will feel more free and you will be able to enjoy your journey much more. Advice, how to pack all you need for a trip in a bag which weighs less than 6 kilos, I share in an article “What to bring on a trip, or how pack your backpack under 6 kg”.



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