How to plan a Trip without a Travel Agency

Ok! You’ve got your super flight deal (if not, you can learn about it here) and now you have to organise and plan your trip. Especially if you’re not travelling with a travel agency you will have to plan your trip carefully, in order to make sure that you won’t miss anything. So, let’s start with the basics and the most important.

Basically, If you have an answer to all the points and questions below: sit back, relax and start dreaming about it.

1. Start booking everything

Accommodation

Nowadays it’s pretty simple to book a room or an apartment online. Nevertheless I can recommend you booking.com and airbnb. For the first one, booking.com, I suggest to use incognito mode of your browser. They usually play with prices and visits to their websites.

City/airport shuttles and attractions

Regarding the shuttles and other tickets for attractions I can emphasise that most of the city/airport shuttles and some attractions are cheaper if bought in advance and online. So if you have an idea about what you want to visit and the possible connections between the city and the airport, book them in advance. It will save you time and money.

Check list: print, or download the electronic version of your boarding passes, accommodation reservation, tickets for attractions, city/airport shuttle.

2. I.D, Passport or visa. Which one do I need?

My first advice will be to check in your embassy’s website about this information, it’s common to find it here. After that, and in case you can’t find this information in an official website, I recommend you to call the embassy to confirm which documents you need.. You can also check travisa website to have an idea about what you need but you should always confirm that information with your embassy.

By the way, some people prefer to travel always with both, I.D. and passport, in case something happens to one of the documents you will have a back up plan. It’s up to you, but remember to keep them safe and in different places.

One last thing, in some countries, like in the U.S., it is required to have a travel authorisation before you go. Check those uncommon necessary documents with your embassy as well.

Passport and visa

If you’re travelling to a country which does only require a valid passport make sure that this one has at least a validity period of 6 months. On the other hand, if you’re travelling to a country which requires a visa make sure that you are aware about all the process a few months before your departure. Some visa’s can take some months to get.

Check list: Scan your passport and/or I.D and bring a copy with you.

EU Citizen travelling around Europe

If you are an EU national and you are travelling within the Schengen area you just have to carry your I.D card or passport in case some authority ask for it. Be aware that not all the countries that are part of the European Union are in the “border-free” Schengen Area, which means that in some countries it will be mandatory to show your I.D at the border control, like the U.K. for example.

Lesson of the day: Just a few days ago, a friend of mine lost his I.D. on the same day he was supposed to catch his flight. Fortunately it ended well. If something similar happens to you, my recommendation is to first contact your embassy and ask them about what to do, because I believe that might be some different procedures from country to country. If the general phone number from the embassy is not available for any reason check their website, they always have an emergency contact. Moreover, some embassies  even have a special section in their websites for theft/lost documents so have a look first. Nevertheless, besides contacting your embassy, I recommend you to contact your airline desk or the airline help centre to check their demands for you to be allowed to board. Last, but not the least, you must go to the police station and report the situation no matter what (and get a document from the police proving your statement).

3. Currency and credit cards

If you are travelling to a country that has a different currency than yours you will need to get some money somehow. I think that the best solution will depend on your currency versus the local currency of the country you are travelling to. Nonetheless, if you are going to a safari or elsewhere in the middle of nowhere you should bring some money with you before your travel. I will write a post soon explaining the best solutions and cheapest ways to get money at your destination – ATM’s vs. currency exchange offices, etc.

How much money will I need?

This should be in fact the first question when talking about costs and money. Well, in this case, I strongly recommend a website called Numbeo to help you making your travel budget. Numbeo is an online tool that allows you to compare prices between 2 cities. This way you just have to select the menu for “cities comparison” introduce your city, select the city you are travelling to and that’s it – you will have the differences of prices for a beer, taxi, MacDonald’s meal, etc. It’s really useful!

Example from Numbeo
Example from Numbeo

What about credit cards?

I recommend you to always carry a credit card with you while travelling. It might happen that your debit card will not work and if this happen, specially while travelling alone, it might be a problem. If you are travelling to Africa I will even recommend to have two credit cards – MasterCard and VISA – because most of the places only accept one of those. Another safe option is an American Express card.

Take also in mind that in case you did a reservation with your credit card, that some places ask for the same credit card to confirm this reservation at the place.

4. What about health hazards? 

Never, but never, travel without checking which are the health risks. Independently of your destination search for health risks. I’m giving below an example for travelling around Europe and to Africa, but those are only examples.
Nevertheless, I recommend you to carry in your wallet (actually I recommend it independently of being travelling or not) a paper, which I call the SOS card, with your emergency contact, allergies, blood type and other that might be relevant in case something happens. Better safe than sorry!

Travelling around Europe

As you can imagine travelling to Africa will be slightly different than travelling around Europe. The thing, and in fact the problem, is that most of the times people don’t check the possible risks while travelling to a developed country. Well, this is wrong and I can give you an example: tap water is not drinkable in all countries around Europe and knowing about this before you go can save you from a stomach pain and a  special meeting with the W.C. while travelling, if you know what I mean 🙂 … Moreover, it might be important to know what are the medical facilities at your destination country, if they are good/bad/expensive/difficult for foreigners/etc.

Travelling to Africa

On the other hand, it is a different story if you’re travelling to Africa, South East Asia, among others. In that case you must go to visit a doctor before and make sure you will tell him all the places, and some special activities, like a safari. This way the doctor will be able to recommend you the best prevention program: vaccination, pills, ointments, etc. Check with your insurance company what are the available travel insurance packages as well (almost all the insurances companies have one for travelling). Depending on the place you are travelling to it might be important to consider to get an insurance. Last but not the least – I recommend you to do this appointment with the doctor at least one month before your departure because it is necessary to wait some time to check if your body reacts well to the prevention treatment .

Check list: SOS card, International vaccination certificate (if necessary).

5. What will be the weather conditions?

This one will be important to check the day before your trip, while packing. Don’t forget to check the forecast for the days you will be travelling. Pay special attention to the Atmospheric temperature range, since you can find huge differences between day and night. Make sure you will pack an umbrella or a waterproof jacket if necessary.

6. What are the official languages?

I can guarantee you that if you make an effort to learn a few words people will appreciate that. Those three sentences can generate some magic when talking with natives: “Good morning”, “thank you”, “please”.

7. Safety. What to do before? How safe is the city?

This one is pretty important. First thing is to guarantee that you give all the important addresses and contact information, such as hotels, to someone of your trust. Second thing is to save the embassy, police, and emergency phone numbers in your mobile.

Regarding safety at your destination. When travelling, especially to big cities, we usually forget about checking, for example, some particular neighbourhoods that should be avoided, even if only at night. So just make sure you google it before you go. If your planning to do a road trip check the roads or regions of the countries to be avoided.

Depending on the place you are travelling to I recommend you to notify the embassy/consulate that you are travelling there.

Last but not the least, let your neighbours know that you are travelling. They may save your house.

Check list: Leave all the addresses and contact information with someone; save important phone numbers on your mobile; Notify the embassy; notify the neighbours;

8. How can I go from one place to another at my destination?

Moving around the city

It can be useful to check how you will move to one place to another at your destination. If you are planning to visit only one city I recommend to check the available public transports before. There are plenty of forums online where you can find this info, once again use google. I bet it will be easy. Try to search for apps as well, most of the big cities usually have an user-friendly-app for public transports. Another option is to rent a bike, I still think it’s the best way to visit a city!

Moving around the country/cities nearby

In case you’re planning to visit several cities my recommendation is to use rome2rio or goeuro, they are quite useful to know the cheapest/fastest way from one city to another. I tried them several times and they worked pretty well. Those websites even consider bla bla car! By the way, and in case you’re planning to rent a car, make sure you download an offline GPS and that you bring a car charger. I will soon write about road trips, just stay tuned! 🙂

9. Do the mobile communications work well?

Last but not the least, just call your mobile network customer service, tell them where you’re travelling to and ask them if there will be any problems with communications, if they work well or not. You may also ask about the applied roaming fees. By the way… Speaking about cell phones, if you have a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 please don’t think twice before taking it with you because considering the latest news you might be putting you and others in danger. Just find another phone for your trip.

10. Failing to plan is planning to fail

Now that you have a list of questions that you must answer before travelling , in order to guarantee a safe and nice trip, it will be nice to have a complete and ready to use check list for packing, right? I’m working on it, to insure you won’t forget your charger or your toothpaste!

Enjoy your trip…

Diana

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