Tips – Planning Your Trip

The beauty of independent travel often lies in the flexibility of making up your itinerary as you go.  It’s also a great opportunity to support local tour operators in the countries you visit – usually a cheaper and sometimes better option than paying the ‘middleman’ for tours marketed and sold internationally.

The length of your trip and plans will determine how much you may need to book and schedule in advance.  A trip of only 2 weeks doesn’t usually a permit a day or 2 of ‘downtime’ if you can’t get the tour or transport you need at the last minute.  High season in popular places may also require some pre-booking to avoid disappointment.  It is still possible to arrive many places and secure accommodation without a prior booking – this allows the greatest opportunity to ‘go where the wind blows’. Another option is to book online or by telephone only a couple of days ahead, if you think a booking is required.

Planning Your Itinerary

I generally carry a destination-specific travel guide wherever I go – I favour the ‘travel bible’ Lonely Planet!  These guides can suggest itineraries and highlights to visit as well as giving you a framework to visit more remote places.  They usually list transport and accommodation options, recommended local tour operators & restaurants and include handy maps of cities and town centres.

Online research before you leave can also help to focus your plans. I start with the official tourism website of the country, but also use search engines to turn up more specific information and options about the regions, highlights or activities I’m interested in (including other people’s blogs!).

Most travellers also factor in word of mouth recommendations from other travellers when they arrive to help steer them to a region’s best-kept secrets.

Online Bookings

I haven’t used a travel agency for many years now with the ease and availability of online booking for travel, accommodation and often tour options.  A variety of websites (Expedia, Zuji, Webjet, Jetabroad) allow you to search and compare flight options including open-jaw and constructing multiple destinations or stopovers. An extensive range of accommodation can also be booked online.  I frequently use Expedia.com as I can pay online with a credit card (in my home currency & avoid currency conversion charges).  I often do this on the road from internet cafes to book a day or 2 in advance or when I want to shift some of the travel costs onto my credit card rather than paying in cash.

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