Once you have decided that DIY travel is your travel style, you may start planning your trip. One question most people always wonder about is how much travel planning should take place before a trip begins? The idea of being spontaneous while travelling may appeal to you, but do you want to use your precious time in a new city planning what you will do next?
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Why is travel planning essential?
DIY travel requires some planning ahead of time. This type of planning does take time, but it helps improve your travels as you can maximise the time and money you spend on your destination. And, if you do your travel planning before the start of your trip, you are not wasting your time on holiday!
In reality, travel planning gives you knowledge about the options available to you, meaning you have increased flexibility for sightseeing and activities you do not want to miss out on. Travel planning also helps you decide which portion of your trip you can do entirely on your own or if you need a travel guide or short tour for specific aspects of your journey.
Factors that influence how much travel planning is required
Several factors determine how much travel planning is needed.
The level of economic development in your destination
It is much easier to make bookings ahead of time in more developed countries. In less developed countries this is not always possible. The culture in these countries are much less formalised, opening hours are not fixed and many of the tour companies, restaurants or spas do not have a website or online presence. For example, when we visited Penang, we could not book a day tour ahead of time, we just booked the morning before. Bear in mind, that even if you cannot make the bookings ahead of time, you can still make a list of what you would like to see and do in your destination, which should make it easier when you discuss your needs with a tour guide in your chosen destination.
The amount of time and money you have available on your trip
If you have a tight budget to stick to while travelling, planning is essential as this would give you an indication of how much every meal, sight and your total daily costs will be. It also allows you to make choices that will influence your budget, such as booking your tickets in advance since it costs less ahead of time. You may also look for websites that offer special deals which could stretch your budget further without you having to sacrifice your goals for visiting your destination.
The number of resources you use in your travel planning process
In the olden days, people had to rely on guidebooks to plan the details of their trips. Nowadays we have the internet and plenty of information available to us. Although this is very helpful, there is also the risk of being overwhelmed with a large number of sites providing information on a specific destination. To avoid this overwhelming feeling, choose one or two websites to focus on during your travel planning process and stick to it. Make sure you select reliable, authentic sites that you can trust. You can always consult additional sources of information if your chosen sites do not provide sufficient information on a specific activity or sight.
The amount of planning time you have available before your trip
It is vital to also place a limit on the amount of planning you do. Give yourself a specific number of hours for travel planning. Once you have reached this time limit, stop your planning. Just make sure you have covered the main aspects of your trip.
I used to plan every day of my trip in the finest details, which resulted in me feeling under pressure to see everything I had listed. It also meant travelling was not that much fun as it was utterly exhausting.
Nowadays I have taken a more flexible approach where I decide on the 3-5 main sights or experiences I would not want to miss (the number depends on how long I am visiting a place) and list a few other restaurants, sights or activities if there is spare time available on a trip. Apart from booking my flights, my accommodation and identifying the 3-5 main sights or activities (plus extras) I want to see in a destination, I plan very little as I like having the flexibility to determine my final schedule once I am in the city I plan to visit.
How much time do you spend on planning an overseas trip? Any additional tips you can add about how much travel planning one should do?