“What? How?” These are the common reaction I get when I answer my friends questions about my budget on my travels. Most people think that traveling is expensive and luxury. Yes it is, but if you plan it carefully and prepare for it, you will save tons of money, time and can make travel smoothly. I am a planner ever since and I must say that not everything turns out how I want it to be but it works better for me than having no plan at all. If a sudden problem and changes occur at least I can call for a Plan B. For all the years I’ve been traveling whether a long weekend holiday or a month-long backpacking I always make sure to plan it right and set deadlines to make sure there’s progress on my planning. I am presenting to you my seven key steps on planning my trips both local and international.
Disclaimer: We all have our own travel style, not everyone is a planner or has time to plan. This post is made to showcase DIY budget traveling and for those who want to jumpstart their travels and backpacking but don’t know where to start.
- DOING MY RESEARCH
Researching about the target destination gives idea about what to expect, do’s and don’ts, itinerary, cultural practice and also expected budget. Some blogs mention what airlines you can take and recommended areas to book your accommodation. The web is a huge playground for useful information that can make traveling smooth. Depending on my type of travel it takes me three to six months before the target date of my travel I am gathering the data I need.
- BOOKING A FLIGHT
This serves as my stepping stone and my motivation in my upcoming travel. It convinces me that my travel is really happening. I start searching for available flights and routes that I can take. Since I am subscribed to social media accounts and websites of different airlines, it is easy for me to know if they have seat sales for my target destination. I also check fare compare apps like “skyscanner” and “cheapoair” to give me more airline options.
- I check and book flights in the middle of the night or dawn time as early as 4 a.m because they change like magic during these time.
- BOOKING FOR ACCOMMODATION
I’m done with my flight, I am all set to book my accommodation. I usually choose accommodation in the city center because all the essentials for my travels such as restaurants, convenient stores, banks, travel agencies (for day tour package), money changers, and even visiting sites is just few distance away. That way, I can save time and money for transportation. I am more of a hostel person than a hotel one because aside from being cheaper, some of them even have free breakfast. They also have everything you need from money changing, day tour packages and bus tickets to your next destinations. I use booking.com to book my accommodation since they offer book now pay later system. You can pay in the hostel when you arrive for either cash or card, depending on the hostel system.
P.S: If I transfer from one city or country to another through land travel, I always opt for a sleeper’s bus so I can save a night cost of accommodation.
- PLANNING MY ITINERARY
Since I already determine how long will I stay in my target destination then I list down the visiting sites that I want to go. I read and search about every visiting sites and cities I am going. That way I can estimate how long I will stay in one city or country especially for month long backpacking. I search how to get there, if there are entrance fees, how much would they cost and what is the appropriate attire for that site. I set my routes from the sites nearest to my hostel to the farthest. That way, I can determine which sites I can walk and which sites I can take with public transportation. If the site is quite far or outside the city I book for a day tour package with travel agencies or my hostel. As I mentioned before, hostels offer package tours. If there’s none, I do my Plan B which is to be friendly with my hostel mates, hoping they would tag along with me especially if they drive motorbikes and we can split the cost. For five years of traveling in Southeast Asia it always works for me.
- If you drive motorbikes, this is the best way to go around the city or take a day trip outside the city. Most countries in Southeast Asia offer motorbike rentals for only ₱ 300 a day. The cost of diesel is not so high plus one advantage is you can stop anytime to rest or enjoy a perfect view.
- SETTING MY BUDGET
Planning the itinerary helps me estimate my budget for the whole trip and set my daily allowance during the trip. In case that my budget for the day exceeds the settled amount, I must do free things the next day to balance it. In Southeast Asia I can live by ₱ 500- 1,000 ($10-20) a day depending on my activities.
- SAVING UP FOR THE TRIP
Although I already have my travel fund that I use for every trip, I still make sure to save up when I have remaining time. Since I already know my target budget, I set aside a percentage of my every paycheck so I don’t have to pull out much from my travel fund.
- PREPARING MY TRAVEL DOCUMENTS (For International Travel)
I usually do this a week before my trip for immigration purposes. For Filipino travelers there is a thing called “offload” where you cannot board your flight because you were not able to comply with guidelines on departure formalities for international travel. To avoid this, back up your immigration interview with travel documents such as return ticket and accommodation reservation also include employment certificate, company I.D and leave form plus itinerary.
P.S: I write my itinerary at the back if my leave form that way I can prove more about my travel to the immigration officer. It’s better to be over prepared than under prepared.