Friday, November 07, 2014

5 Planning Essentials, International Edition

Hi guys!

Today I wanted to share a few basic tips in planning a trip. I made this especially for those planning to travel abroad and hopefully it will help making things easier and more organized. This is usually what I follow, and it has worked just fine especially when I was the one planning trips on my own.

1. Passport Renewal

Prior to travel, you need to make sure your passport is still valid! Most airlines will require that when you are booking tickets, your passport is still valid for more than six months prior to expiry. Some airlines do not allow tickets to another name or to be transferred at all, so it is best to renew your passport as soon as possible.

For Philippine passport holders living in the country, you are not limited to going to Manila just to renew your passport. The DFA has made it easier by setting up several different branches in malls such as SM Megamall and Robinsons Galleria. You just need to schedule your appointment online and show up with all your requirements.

2. Entry Requirements

I cannot stress this enough. You wouldn't want to go through all the trouble of arranging your transportation and lodging, only to be held up at the airport on the day of your departure! The most common entry requirement used is a visa.

It's important to note at this point that not all countries require a visa. While some countries don't require one at all, some countries that normally do offer visa exemptions depending on your citizenship. It would be best to check the website of the embassy of the country you wish to travel to in order to see if exemptions are offered.

Should you need a visa however, the embassy of the country you wish to visit has a list of the required documents needed to obtain a visa. Some may be as simple as five or so documents, or as complicated as needing an interview prior to approval. Take note also if they require a fee or not.

Granted that there is no guarantee to obtaining a visa, the key here is to be as complete with your requirements as possible. Of course if you are missing one or two documents, your visa cannot be processed. I'd recommend making a checklist to ensure all the needed documents are obtained prior to submission. Afterwards, you can only hope for the best! Don't be discouraged if you get rejected, though! You can always try again.

3. Transportation

At this point in time you need to ask yourself two things: 1. How will I get to the place? and 2. How will I get around? We're fortunate that at this day and age, most international destinations are accessible by plane; it's only a matter of which airline to take, depending on your budget. Personally, I wouldn't mind taking budget airlines, as long as the destination is only 5 hours away or even less. For long haul flights I definitely recommend investing as comfort will be one of your priorities. 

To get your money's worth for both types of air travel, it would be best to wait for seat sales. Most airlines have these at least six months before travel period so you should anticipate around this time. Another alternative, especially if you're a frequent flyer, is to make use of your miles. Granted you will still have to pay taxes and other fees, but it is usually much less than a plane ticket.

Note: I just happened to find some really old plane tickets lying around. Not being paid or compensated by Air Asia to do this!

For getting around a country by yourself, you would need to check their public transportation system. Ideally taxis would be the last resort since these are the most expensive, so you would need to at least be familiar with their bus or train system if they have one. Countries such as Seoul and Singapore have a very organized and tourist-friendly train system that takes just a few trial runs to understand. Also check if they offer a reloadable transport card such as Seoul's T-Money to save you the hassle of constantly buying a new ticket for every trip.

4. Accommodations

If you're not staying with anyone, this could easily be the most expensive out of all expenses. In general there are two options - a hostel and a hotel. Hostels come in the form of dormitories and guesthouses as well, which are very popular in Korea. Hostels are great because they are budget-friendly and give you the opportunity to meet more people from different parts of the world. This kind of accommodation is great if you're on your own and you want to meet new friends, or if you're a big group as hostels are able to accommodate more per room. A few downsides is that there are less facilities, few are in prime locations, and there is the obvious lack of privacy. The guesthouse I stayed in Korea had communal bathrooms, which I honestly wasn't too excited about. If you don't mind these however, then a hostel would be perfect for you.

On the other hand, if you have a little (or a lot of) money to spare, the hotel is another good option. It has more facilities, more privacy, and is usually in more prime locations, allowing easy access to places such as convenience stores, malls, shopping centres, etc. It is seemingly more comfortable versus a hostel, though this is on a case-to-case basis. The biggest downside to this is that it eats up a lot of your expenses.

I think the most important thing in choosing accommodations (other than your budget) is that it's safe. It's never worth it to pay for something budget-friendly but has a history of stolen things, or is located in a neighborhood that is known for crime. In traveling you should always consider your safety the top most priority to avoid spoiling the entire trip.

5. Itinerary

If you're the type of person who prefers to go on tours with everything set up for you, well and good! There's no problem with that, really. Sometimes it's just the more convenient option. If you do have the luxury of time however, or just prefer to go around on your own,

First, it helps to make a list of the places you have to go to. It may be a long list and you may have to narrow it down if you're not staying for long, but once you do have your final list, it'll be easier from there. Next is to group these places and see if any of them are near each other. In conjunction with this, it's best to note their opening and closing times, as well as the days they are open, to decide which days are best to go. It helps to put all of this in table form to make everything more organized.
Here's the itinerary I made for my trip to Korea last April. We didn't follow this strictly, but this served as our general guide for our activities then. Remember that if you're making the itinerary, whatever you want to happen on a particular day is up to you. If you don't feel like going to a certain place because you're tired, you don't have to. This is your trip, and your rules will be followed.
I also included a transportation guide that I used to get around as well. It's important to plan how you're going to get around to avoid being lost (or looking lost rather). The trick is to get all the maps, and picture how you're going to get from one place to another in your head. It also helps to search for other articles on how to get there from other people, to see what form of transportation they would recommend.

And there you go! I hope this article was useful and informative for any of you planning to go on their first trip anywhere, or for those who want a little more organization in planning their travels. If you guys have any questions or comments about anything I've talked about or anything travel-related, feel free to leave one below! :)

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  1. My family is going to Copenhagen this summer and I cannot wait! I will definitely keep these tips in mind!!

    XO, Erica