You May Be Too Late To Plan Your Next Trip

It’s almost May. Wait a second, maybe you didn’t really hear that… I’ll say it again….

IT’S ALMOST MAYYYYYY!!!!!

WTF?! Yes that’s right, last time we checked the holidays were sneaking up, and then New Years happened, and then cha ching ching CHING! Suddenly, it’s almost Summer – already! How did it happen?

I don’t know, but more importantly, what are we going to do? Don’t we have a trip planned?

For me, up until now, my plans for the Summer have just been a random list of countries, and activities, with little to no structure or real time frames. The more I talk about it the longer the list gets. Between now and October I hope to do a lot of hiking, camping, exploration (hitch hiking), site seeing, and photography in the following places: Germany, Norway, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, and Finland, and that’s just in the north! There is probably not enough time, then again, if hiking, and exploring is all that I’m doing it is completely doable.

What is really the hard part though, is making the plan. Plans take time. They take research, and they are the proverbial onion that just gives layer after layer. The more you peel the more you see, the more you see, the more you want to peel. Pretty soon your head feels like a pitcher full of lemonade about to spill over, and you’ve barely scratched the surface – of what to do! AHHHHHHHH

Seriously though, you have to start somewhere, prices are usually a good place to begin. I’m assuming that if this post feels helpful for an upcoming trip, or is motivating you to starting thinking about your vacations this year, that flying is part of that plan. And so buying plane tickets will be a necessary step in your plans. And that’s what I’m going to talk about.

The bedrock of any trip is the budget. And your trip needs to fit into your budget right? What’s that you say? You have limitless money to spend, your budget can be anything? How dare you. I’m supremely jealous. Go away 🙂 Hehehe just kidding, keep reading, but for most of the 99%, there is a limit to what can be spent on a vacation, and knowing the largest costs (e.g. airplane tickets) in that vacation budget ahead of time is a strong determining factor for what said trip will be.

So let’s pretend it wasn’t already the end of April, let’s say it was February, it’s still cold, and even signs of Spring would be a welcomed blessing, let alone the long days of Summer. January and February are the best times to start booking travel for the Summer. Once people start losing their minds sitting inside during the long dark winter months, travel companies begin jacking up their prices for the high season (generally mid June – early September), so the sooner you plan and book, the lower your rates are going to be. The irony of all this planning and price raising stuff is that it’s usually hard to decide when you will want to go anywhere until you’ve seen all the options for what you can do while you’re there.

What that basically means is, while buying a plane ticket is the first actionable step to take in ensuring you have a vacation, before you can do that, you need to have a decent outline for where you’re going, how long you’ll stay, what your starting point and ending point will be, plus any connections in between. Other stuff to consider are what kinds of things you’ll do while you’re there; if you’ll need to rent a car or buy some train tickets, and what are the main sites to visit? You don’t have to go into so much detail, but it should be possible to put a rough estimate on the total cost of your trip, before you put down the plastic.

When I was planning for a trip to Norway last year, this entire process started with the idea of going to Norway, which really just happened because of a conversation at a supper club with some Norwegian guys who were vacationing in Berlin. Up until then, what was happening that Summer was a giant blur with even less ideas than now. But those guys had mentioned how beautiful the Fjords were, and how great it was to visit in the Summer, and that was enough I was sold I like them, I like the image they painted of their country.

I started to research what the airports were and how much a roundtrip flight was to Norway from Berlin. Next I went over to Tripadvisor.com and checked out the top 20 or so attractions people reviewed for the country – to have an idea of what kind of exploring could be done there and how long they take to visit. Along with the reviews on Tripadvisor.com are lots of photos from other travelers – these helped to give me an idea of what sites are worth visiting, and how the country looked from the eyes of a tourist, which provides reassurance when deciding if it’s time to get serious about investing in a trip somewhere.

Then it was time to check out hotel and other costs. I’d heard it was expensive in Norway so I started looking at restaurant menus, and hotel prices. Hotel’s were definitely too pricey in Oslo, but Airbnb’s and some budget places in the next smaller city Bergen seemed affordable. Seeing Bergen was affordable also built my confidence because some of the most talked about Fjords in Norway are near Bergen. So now I was looking into Fjords, and which are the best, and how far they are, if I was gonna get there by car or public transport, what were my options and what would they cost?

As I said, for each question there are ten other questions to follow. It’s daunting, but eventually you start seeing the light at the other side. And soon you know a lot about this place you’re dreaming of going to. All of that research really makes the trip feel more real, it warms up the feeling of committing to it and having an awesome experience. Even if you decide not to do any of the things you found in your research, having an overview is one of the important sub-steps in the process of taking the bigger leap of booking your travel.

The micro-matter details of a trip go far deeper than these high level steps; to choose a place, know the budget, find the sites, book the flight, is just the tip of the iceberg. But it’s the starting point, and at this time of year it’s still possible to figure it out and lock in some good prices. You know how much time you have, and you know your budget. Keep in mind, you want to give yourself plenty of time at your destination (I’ve talked about this in my Thailand post) if your trip is 5 days long, don’t spend 2 days on an airplane just sayin.

But most importantly, think of all the vacations you’ve wanted to do, but still haven’t done, don’t slouch back and simply go to the same place again, the world is huge, and if you have a desire to see as much of it as possible, like me, there isn’t much time for going to the same place twice (I don’t plan on doing the same things in Norway this year FYI ;)).  Start looking deeper into those ideas feel free to message me if you want some suggestions.

 

Figure out a way to make it happen!

Happy Tripping!

 

 

Planning Your Trip to Thailand, How Long?

I recently finished a 7 week trip around Thailand and Vietnam. The experience was phenomenal; something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was in my early twenties. I wish I’d gone, back then, so I’d have some history to compare to, as Thailand and Southeast Asia are clearly a tourist destination that becomes more and more popular every year, and with that growth in tourism, the cultural experiences, adventures in a far off land, and super inexpensive travel, all diminish a little more. Still even as of 2015, I can say there’s plenty of all of those to enjoy.

While I can’t claim to be an expert, that is, I’m not nearly as well informed as some folks I met there, or those I know generally who have spent months if not more than a year living in and hopping around the area. I say with confidence, even a few weeks is enough to see a lot of Thailand, and get a pretty good idea of how to have a great time, and also to discover the pitfalls others should avoid.

Since in my own circle of friends, I have some knowledge to share, I have started to get asked about others’ plans to go there. The question I’ve heard the most is, “where should I go?”. And my first response is no different from any travel blogger’s. That is – how much time do you have?

Unfortunately, most people only plan for a couple weeks, or less. And that’s where I’m lost.

Here’s why:

Whether traveling from the east coast or west coast of the US, or Europe (sorry I’m assuming my readers are from one of the two, if you’re from Australia you probably don’t care too much for a post like this!), flying to Thailand is a long journey and no matter where you arrive, you’re going to need a decompression chamber.

Even though the adventure really starts the moment you leave home, once your plane lands, you should really have a 24 hour period to drop off your stuff and become acclimated. A period to take it easy with some walks in the area around your hotel/guesthouse/or hostel, and be able to shower or take a nap as needed.

Food isn’t hard to find, but searching for it for your first time is a little over whelming, no one wants to get sick during their trip let alone the first day of it! Also prices are new upon just arriving – and unless money isn’t an object, you’ll want to look around a little before you start spending your baht, you should because while most of the food is good in Thailand, sometimes the most expensive is also the worst!

It’s very likely you’ll begin your trip in Bangkok, this just seems to be how most people do it, which is quite ironic because it is the most demanding from a sensory perspective of any destination in Thailand (it’s a huge loud, crazy city much crazier than any in the US or Europe easily), and that simply makes the whole first part of your trip more crazy.

So back to the original point, you don’t need a week or anything in your arrival city, but definitely a day, I suggest two as a bare minimum. So you can get your head back on (and your sleep schedule working for you, instead of against you). Then you can move along to the next spot in your journey, chances are you wont desire to stay in Bangkok for very long, if that’s where you do begin. All that said, your flight is a minimum of 16 hours, and you need 1-2 days to adjust. Since you’ll probably want to spend the night in your departing city at the end of your flight, the day before your return home is also a travel day. Which means there is a day and a half on both sides of your trip (3 days) that you will be just in transit. Now add back in your flight time, 16 x 2, or 32 hours, we’re up to 4.5 days flight, decompression, and travel in your trip. Which means, you’ll have 9.5 days to do other stuff. Since you’ll probably want to hop around from island to island, do a slow boat on the Mehkong (2-3 days long), or a ferry to / from mainland in the Andaman Sea area (which typically take 3-6 hours). Now you have less than a week of actual time to just chill. How did two weeks vacation just become one? WTF?!? That’s what I’m saying… Don’t get me wrong, those ferry rides are fun and beautiful, a great chance to have a beer and watch the islands pass by. It’s all part of the adventure which is very much in the spirit of the backpacker experience of Southeast Asia. But when nearly half of your trip is spent connecting from various places, you begin to realize, it’s not actually so cheap, because traveling from one town to another is just as expensive as paying for one night in a guest house. And you realize you’re not getting enough time to just stay in any one place.

If I was you, and two weeks was all I had, I’d choose a different destination. Somewhere that doesn’t offset my head so much with time zone differences. Something that requires <10 hours of flights, instead of 16. And the destination should have 1 – 2 places to stay, not 4-6 as Thailand travelers tend to aim for. This way, you only lose maximum 2 days getting in and leaving, and 1 day of connecting between places in your destination country. Now you still have 11 days to relax and forget about everything except when to go back in the sea for a swim, or where to go for a hike next. And thats how travel should be.

If you are really serious about going to Thailand or Southeast Asia, consider taking more time off. If that’s not a possibility, just try to limit the number of places you go while in Thailand, and realize you’re not planning a trip for relaxation, you’re planning a trip that will take a lot of energy, and likely leave you needing a more relaxing trip shortly after the one where you run around a crazy third world country for two weeks straight.

And for your planning – one site I highly recommend to do research is Travelfish.org. They have great one page write ups on all the best destinations and make a point to help you understand which will be a waste of time, pricey, touristy, or super relaxed and totally new experience. I’m sure more thoughts and tips will bubble up as time passes and I think back on all the great food, and fun I had there. But this is definitely my number one suggestion to start with.