I think you will agree with me on the fact that even though planning a trip, be it a weekend getaway or a month long expedition might seem an easy task, it is no easy task.
The profile or the method of travel, be it Luxury travel, road trips or backpacking journeys, none of that matters as everything boils down to one thing: you want it to be absolutely perfect.Planning and execution of any trip is impervious of the class or profile of travel. The tremendous efforts, the long hours put into building the impeccable itinerary and obviously, the money you thriftily invest, give you the perfect trip you wish for.This here is a basic guide for planning a trip to any destination on this planet.
Planning your Trip
The laborious work that goes on for more than a month or two seems quite mundane to others, but only you know the true struggle.
Adjusting the destinations to cover maximum distance, adjusting the budget multiple times to fit in as many destinations possible, the numerous cost-cuts you because you went a little overboard somewhere or the other, applying for leaves, squeezing the entire itinerary into them, all this is exhausting.
At the end, you sit there wondering if you should get an award for it! Here are some eccentric steps I follow while planning my trips for successful execution.
You should figure out the logistics ASAP
Nonchalantly waiting to build the itinerary till a week before your departure date is futile. You can do it for short trips lasting over a weekend, but a long-haul expedition spanning months requires thorough research of the destinations, routes, accessibility and transportation and don’t forget, Mobile Connectivity!
I would advise everyone to start planning at least a month, not more, prior to your departure. Hostels you’re planning to stay in or campsites you plan to pitch your tent require some research. If you plan to take the train between countries (in Europe) or states (like India or USA) or fly domestically in a country, sometimes pre-booking your seats is mandatory. Otherwise, you’ll be left stranded at the station or the airport.
Even though it’s quite paradoxical, unplanned trips do turn out to be the best ones of your life! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan your trips ever. I prefer to learn about the transportation to & from the destination beforehand.
Remaining well-informed about the means of transport inside the city or town is essential for a backpacker like me as I rarely opt to hail a cab. The distance between my hostel or homestay and local attractions or the bus/train station, obscure places hidden away near the city or town I am in or a nice bar where I can make new friends over some drinks is something I browse for on the internet; TripAdvisor is a really great website for that.
No Thinking is Too Much Thinking
It might be the case in general but travel and especially solo travel at that is an exception. Considering all probable scenarios is must while planning your journey. One aspect you don’t account for or a tiny possibility you don’t factor-in can put you in grave danger while you travel.
Listen to me!
I know what can happen & it ain't pretty.
Before traveling to the northern secluded parts of Sikkim in India on my bike, I deliberated every possibility but completely forgot about the day of my travel and the possibility of snowfall. This mistake led me to a near-death experience when my feet froze and I had a close-call with hypothermia. To further my misery, I was traveling on a Sunday, so even though it was a daily route for military vehicles, their activities were shut that day.
Always Pack Light
I can assure you packing for your trip is equally important as figuring out the logistics of transportation, visas and accommodation, whether it is a backpacking trip, a road trip or a luxurious getaway. Stuffing your backpack till it looks & feels like a sack of potatoes is the last thing you should do.
Lesser the luggage, lesser your troubles. It is best only to pack things of utmost importance and are a necessity. Excess clothing and toiletries top this list. I almost lost all my luggage just because I packed an extra pair of jeans and couple of t-shirts. If need be, you can always purchase your required items (the basic stuff) while traveling. (Read: 7 ways to pack like a minimalist)
One backpack and one carry-on to keep your valuable items- camera, laptop that sort of things is the perfect luggage for any trip.
Carry/Arrange enough funds for your trip
Based on the duration of your trip, you must either carry or arrange enough funds that will satiate your requirements. Cash, traveler’s cheques, credit cards i.e. Paper or Electronic currency any which is fine. But, do your research thoroughly before leaving or you might find yourself in a pickle like I did when I was on a bike ride in one of the most secluded places in India – North Sikkim.
There IS a story behind me stressing on this point.
Three weeks post the Indian Prime Minister’s announcement regarding demonetisation of INR 500 and INR 1000 bills, I was in the capital city of Gangtok in Sikkim which was booming with tourists.
At the time, only a mere INR 4000 could be withdrawn per day (24,000 per week) from the ATMs and most of the credit/debit card services stood suspended for days on end. I only had 783 bucks in my wallet and a very long journey ahead into the obscure mountains of North Sikkim.
I reached out to the Branch Manager of my bank in the city pleading to him to help me withdraw money using a withdrawal slip which at that point was not permitted by the banks. After hearing me out, he was actually surprised and a taken aback that I was traveling solo on my bike all the way from Mumbai.
He made some calls and told me “come around 4:30 pm; the transaction will be possible. Our servers are down at this moment”. I reached the bank at 4:30 sharp; he called me in, smiled and gave me a withdrawal slip which allowed me to withdraw enough cash for the next 3 weeks.
I would suggest you to consider every scenario and prepare accordingly, it’s not common that you meet kind people who will help you. Follow these simple steps while you budget:
· Always incorporate enough funds into budget under miscellaneous expenses that can keep food in your stomach & shelter over your head for at least a few days.
· Get a GOOD credit card that offers much more than simple benefits like miles. Some cards offer points that are redeemable at hotels, to purchase air tickets and get lounge access at airports.
· A traveler’s cheque for about US $500-1000 when traveling in Asia or Africa and US $1500-2000 when traveling in Europe or the Americas can definitely be a life saver in case of an emergency.
· Carrying some US paper currency (US$) is a suggestion I’ve received from quite a few world travelers.
VISA! VISA! VISA!
This is so straight forward: Check the Visa requirements before you depart for your destination. Please! Having to return or redirect to another place because the authorities won’t grant you the Visa is incredibly frustrating.
Being an Indian passport holder, applying for and then procuring a visa successfully is a daunting task. Especially to the countries in the Americas or Europe. So many guidelines, pre-requisites, I feel it is a curse being a navy blue passport holder. There are around only 56 countries that will grant me Visa on arrival or visa-free entry, and they’re spread so far across the globe, the travel alone is too expensive for my taste (LOL!).
Visa validity, fees and the entry points where the visa will be accepted by both the immigration as well as customs officers, these are essential points you ought to keep in mind while planning a trip to foreign nations.
Executing your Plans
All the efforts and work put into planning a trip will turn to dust without proper execution. Starting and proceeding on a positive yet cautious note is the best thing to do.
I might come off a bit confused, favouring either point of view, but the reality is, something always goes wrong (I promise I’m not trying to bum you out!); although the intensity might vary, sticky situations always come up and only spontaneous and discrete decisions can keep your perfect trip going.
Execution of the plans is a wee bit tedious; you have to stay alert and keep up everything in check as you travel, which can be a buzzkill. I possibly cannot stress on this enough. A perfect trip is only perfect if you travel safely and responsibly.