How to plan your dream trip (or any other trip, really!)
I have shared I am taking a trip this summer and at this point I am beyond excited. At the end of July, I will be going to China where I'll spend the following month traveling. THAT'S RIGHT!!ONE MONTH IN CHINA!!
Nearly 17 years later, I'll be walking in chinese grounds. You probably read around here somewhere that I was born in Macau, so this is a big deal and it is long overdue. I can't wait to be there *squeals*
Today marks the one month and a half milestone and it is feeling super real! So how am I preparing for this aventure? *cue The Lord of the Rings soundtrack*
1. Plane tickets
After deciding where you want to go, you should get the plane/train tickets. Given that I made the decision last year in August, there was a lot of time to scout for tickets. After searching and browsing sites and Pinterest, I found Hopper.
Hopper is a great app. It predicts the changes in airfares, compares websites and let's you know the best time to actually buy you ticket. If you search, you'll find websites with tips saying you should buy the tickets 60 or 90 days before flying. Truth is, I saved enough to purchase another ticket by doing it in december. I highly recommend you try out the app before your next trip, since it's free and can really save you some extra money.
Another tip: before searching for flights, clear your web browser's history, cache and cookies. Depending on the search, it can mean less 50€ on the price of the tickets.
I am a fan of Booking.com, huge fan! For my previous travels, I have searched and booked the hotels over at their website and got exactly what I paid for. I have no complaints and find the website trustworthy.
One thing I really like is their "book now, pay when you arrive" policy. Look carefully and you may find some establishments don't ask you for a credit card or deposit upon reservation. Another great feature is the "free cancelation" option. If you book your hotels in advance (mine were all booked by the time march came around), sometimes you find better deals along the way or change your mind, so it's good to have some choices and not waste any money.
Tip: register on booking.com and you get access to daily deals and secret discounts/offers. Shhh! :)
3. Guide book
A lot of the information can be found online, so why bother and spend the money on a book? Well, for the security it brings you. If the internet fails while you're out and about (or, in my case, is actually unavailable because of The Great Firewall) how do you get by? You need a guide and map. Could you use these in an app on your phone/tablet? Of course and I have done it. However, experience tells me I'll burn the batteries of my devices quicker while traveling because I'm constantly taking pictures and using apps to navigate in unfamiliar places.
So what do you do? You buy yourself a paper guide, an actual book and take it with you. Personally, I'm more of a budget traveler so it's no surprise I went and bought Lonely Planet's China guide. The information is presented in a clear way, the addresses are written in pinyin and chinese characters. Plus, there are so many restaurant suggestions, hmmmmm!!
4. Browse the wide web for informations and tips
And make good use of Pinterest. Browse whatever you can think of: what see, what to do, where to eat, how to pack, etiquette, proper attire, anything really, and create a board. Go back to it once the trip is closer, gather the information you think is most valuable and create a document (word, pdf). Print it and store somewhere you can access on your phone or tablet (hi there, Evernote).
Another way to prepare is to look at travel vlogs and read blog posts. Travelers often share their experiences as well as tips and mistakes. It's a great way to learn what not to do and how to avoid local scams.
Do you need a passport? Get it!
Already have one? Make sure it doesn't expire during your trip or that it is valid for at least 6 months (some destinations have this as a requirement).
Does the country you're visiting require a Visa? Do you have to apply for one before traveling? Check out that country's embassy website and their FAQ section. China's embassy lets you download the visa form from their website. That way, you can fill it at home and save time when you submit it at the local offices.
Depending on your destination, getting insurance and vaccines/medication is advised. Although Lonely Planet recommends World Nomads' insurance, online reviews show that it's not reliable and that people had very disappointing experiences with it. Try looking for local insurance options instead.
Vaccines are another thing you need to check. Talk to a doctor in advance to see which ones you need and if you need to buy or order any specific medication.
Well, these are my tips and my preparations.
Will you be traveling this summer? Share your plans and tips! :)