I cannot remember how many times I have given up on planning my vacations and stayed at home to envy my friends’ travel pictures instead. I first brought up my courage to travel to beautiful Greece, for which I inversely recalled the sense of insecurity and unpreparedness. Thereby I realized the simple yet crucial information that I need to question beforehand. If you are about to plan your awaiting vacations but you do not know where to start, the six essential questions below will help you.
1) Why do I want to travel?
First, we need to define the reasons that motivate us to plan a trip. Have you been very interested in your travel ideas at first but eventually abandoned them? There are acceptable excuses such as insufficient budget, no travel partner, pandemic restrictions, or pop-up working plans which hinders your journey. However, a persuasive reason to travel will help you stay affirmative with your itinerary and find a way to make it happen.
The reasons may come from your current living situation to your impression of the destinations. You might have long exhausted months at work and a 1-week trip is your reward. You want a surprise for your beloved partner on a warm beach. You love observing the landscapes and the mountains from a different continent. In other cases, you want to find a new job opportunity in developed countries. In my case, I have a simple but strong interest in seeing the hundred-year-old monuments and meeting new people. Now it’s the part of researching and planning.
2) When and How long can I travel?
This second big question influences your next steps to decide the destinations, flight, and accommodation booking. Planning a weekend trip is a piece of cake but a month or a year-long trip is a whole different story. Moreover, the sooner you choose the travel period, the cheaper the prices of the booking will be.
You define at a break time in your school semester or working schedule then you probably want to ask about the spare time of your travel partner. When the time is fixed, you will know which destination should be preferred or avoided. If you love skiing then a vacation in Swiss winter is fantastic but if you like swimming, a Greek beach in winter is extremely freezing. However, off-season travel is also interesting as you will get closer to local activities other than crowding tourists.
The conditions which influence the duration of voyages are your budget, legal documents like your visa, and your experience. Be prepared for the expenses in the destination country and documents by doing Google research. “How much does it cost to stay in Budapest in 3 days?”. “Requirements to enter Iceland as a tourist”. Then you need to rely on your previous experience to decide how long to travel is sufficient. For me, 2 weeks of travelling in France was already physically exhaustive though there were a lot more places to discover.
3) Where do I want to travel?
It depends on your preferences. Even if other factors matter such as your budget, the season, legal documents, you still choose your most favourite places.
I do instead enlist the countries that are not suitable for tourists at the moment.
Though most European countries are open for tourists with Covid tests or certificates, certain countries are still in the red zone. It is not highly recommended to go to Ireland, Norway, Montenegro, and Romania unless you are fully vaccinated and you have a compulsory duty. The government website concerning travel regulations during the pandemic will provide you with accurate information.
Despite the incredible nature and friendly people, certain regions of these countries have social and political problems that are dangerous to tourists. The three countries Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan have been under the state of civil wars and rebellions while the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria have high crime rates. The borders between Ukraine and Russia are not at ease while North Korea has strict rules and a closed society. Besides, seasonal disasters occur such as the earthquake in Japan, hurricanes in Vietnam, in the Philippines, and the southeast of the United States.
4) Who will I travel with?
Are you fond of solo, pair. or in-group travel types? Do you like planning your trip by yourself or buying a tour?
If you have never gone on a solo trip before, I confirm that this is the best way to get acquainted with local people and explore your potential. Getting out of the comfort zone surrounded by close friends, you start communicating with the locals and making new friends from different countries. In my solo trip to Montenegro 2019, I met other solo travellers from Canada, Germany, Finland, Venezuela and Russia because we stayed in the same hostel by chance. We then visit the bars, restaurants, markets and museums together as well as we learn different perspectives and survival skills from each other.
Travelling within a group is a melange of advantages: fun, safety and a cheaper payment. You may feel more secure to go into the wild or a foreign club with your close friends and you will pay less as you share the rent and food. You must be so lucky to partner with the people who have similar free time to travel as long as they do not bomb you at the last minute.
Travelling with a boyfriend or girlfriend is slightly different from a group trip. During the vacation, you can develop a more romantic and close-knit relationship because of the shared experience and better understanding of the other half.
After considering the travel-mates, you may look for tour guide services that help you explore all the local essences of the destination. Besides the travel agency who fixes your every day’s schedule, I suggest you consider the free walking tour and events organized by locals. Open the search tools and type “Free walking tour in Warsaw, Poland” or “Events in November in Bordeaux, France”. You can also click on the Events section on Facebook and navigate the location. I am sure that you will find several occasional events and local tours introduced by the view of locals.
5) How do I get there? And How do I come back?
Some incredible travellers set the challenges to travel by foot, by bicycle or by hitchhiking only. I admire you if you are one of those. Otherwise, we can make use of the online application to search for the most suitable transportation. Skyscanner and Google search is helpful for international flights while Omio is specifically used in Europe. There appear all available flights, trains and buses of different companies depending on the dates. After comparing the options, you enter the company website directly where you may find some good deals.
Return tickets are commonly preferred if you spend a few-day trip to one destination. Otherwise, you can choose the second departure differently from the first arrival if you have in hand a detailed itinerary.
6) Where do I stay?
Online websites are the best accommodation brokers nowadays. With Booking.com,Airbnb and Agoda, you can filter the results with some clicks and quickly transfer payment. Besides, a tip that allows me to pay less for accommodation is to write a post on a Facebook group of local people. For example, I joined the “Vietnamese community in Nice, France” and asked if somebody had a room for two people. Then I received generous offers from Vietnamese people residing in Nice.
In addition to the questions above, there are certainly others that help prepare well for our journey like: What to have in your luggage? Which authority should you contact in an emergency? However, the six big questions stand for 70 % of our travel plan which motivates us to get this show on the road.
Written by: Ha Khuat, Public Relations Volunteer for Amunì Travel Forum