While I love travelling and exploring new places, our recent trips have been requiring a lot more planning and deciding on places to visit. This curation of itineraries have now become as enjoyable as the travel itself.
Travelogues & Travel Vlogs:
There was a time when I read a lot of travelogues and travel blogs and imagined what each place would be like looking at the few photos added as part of that article/blog post.
But nowadays, with a lot of travel vloggers/ digital nomads / YouTube creators posting a lot of their personal travel videos, there is a wide variety of visual media about every other place. Not to forget all those aerial videos shot by a drone, which gives such a beautiful, extensive coverage of a place, that watching a drone shot only results in more and more places getting added to your wishlist. Depending on the destination of your choice, this amount of information can either be a boon or a bane.
Despite the huge amount of videos, I still prefer to read articles in several websites like The Cultutre Trip, Travel Triangle and Trip Savvy and Lakshmi Sharath’s and Arun Bhat’s blogs and, not to forget, all sorts of random articles shown as part of a ‘Google Search’. I also read books from ‘Lonely Planet’, ‘DK Eyewitness Travel’ and ‘Insight Guides’.
Any vacation planning always starts with the basic research of ‘things to do’ in that destination.
Being a family of heritage and nature lovers, we generally try to get information on whether a UNESCO World Heritage Site or a nature-related UNESCO spot like ‘Biosphere Reserve’ or ‘Global Geopark’ exists there. If it’s a destination within India, then we look for ‘Archaeological Survey of India’ (ASI) monuments too.
An adventure-seeker or a party-goer or a solo traveller or a foodie might look for a completely different set of things to do.
This list of ‘things to do’ generally determines the approximate number of days required to visit a place. I also like to glance through all those pieces like ‘24 hrs/48 hrs in a city’ to see if just that duration is enough for a place.
Of course, not always do we plan and book tickets. There are also times when we book the tickets and then do planning on the go. For instance, we had an absolutely wonderful vacation at Langkawi, Malaysia without any planning. In fact, since we hadn’t seen much of Malaysia, the only reason that we chose that destination was because of an offer from Scoot airlines. 🙂
For those residing in Singapore, you should check out those regular offers from Scoot (Jet Star & Air Asia too) to destinations in Southeast Asia (and India and Australia).
Advanced Booking for certain Attractions:
Once the travel dates are finalized, we generally check if any attraction requires pre-booking of tickets. For instance, if you want to go to the top of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur to get some nice city views, then you should definitely book the tickets in advance since it generally gets sold out fast.
Also, do check out Klook for any offers on the tickets for attractions in Southeast Asia.
Accommodation & Food:
The location is one of the main points which we generally consider when searching for a family-friendly accommodation.
When you are travelling with kids, food is an important thing which you have to consider. In the case of foreign countries, we prefer a place near an Indian restaurant (preferably a pure vegetarian one, if possible). We use Google Maps to find restaurants and read their reviews before zeroing on one.
If we are to reach a destination during the night time, we generally prefer a place near the airport/ railway station/ bus terminus (at least for the first day) and not in some remote location.
For city trips, we generally see where the majority of places of interest are located and try to find a hotel near that area. That way, we can either cover many places by foot or by just taking an auto or taxis from Grab / Gojek / Ola / Uber etc.
In hill stations, we give first preference to a place near the city centre, since that’s where you will have a lot of food options and easy availability of transportation too. Besides, walking long distances on hilly terrain isn’t really my cup of tea.
We generally book through Agoda or Booking.com and always look for the option for free cancellation before the check-in date. We again read the reviews on these platforms as well as on Google Maps before deciding on one. But, there have been times when the room which we finally got did not match the description or the reviews.
No itinerary planning is complete without deciding on the mode of transport in the destination.
Apart from the public transport buses and MRTs and, of course, the taxis – the usual full-day hired taxis or taxis from ride-hailing apps like Grab, Ola, Uber, Gojek, etc., each place also has its own unique transportation.
Tuk-tuks in Cambodia, autos in Myanmar & India, hop-on hop-off buses in Paris & Singapore, free shuttle buses in Kuala Lumpur & Penang, trams in Kolkata & Antwerp, tongas (horse cart) around Mysore Palace, train ride through Luxembourg, toy train in Ooty & Darjeeling, boat rides in Kolkata, Cambodia & Myanmar, funicular train in Penang, cable car access for some temples in Haridwar, Udaipur and Pavagadh and so on.
I haven’t tried some of the above-mentioned options, but we do plan our day based on the available transport options in a place.
Apart from all the above-mentioned points, to me, personally, this is the real culprit which spoils the wanderlust in me. 🙂 Checking out one place on the map shows some other place nearby and before you know it, you are seeing photos of it, reading about it, all within the Google Maps app itself, and before you know it, you either divert the car to that place on the way on a whim or end up adding one more day to your itinerary just to cover that one place!
Checking out a place in Google Maps gives me the feeling of a child let loose in a chocolate factory! It’s another fact that I cannot resist a chocolate factory even now! We decided to skip visiting an archaeological site and instead went to the Amul chocolate factory during our trip to Gujarat! I still remember the aroma of chocolate that wafted through the air as we neared the factory and the sight of Choco Poco (Amul’s very own Gems) that literally poured out of the machine!
Sorry for deviating from the topic, but now you know what my weakness other than travelling is.
Ultimately, irrespective of how much ever planning that you might have done, there will be days when things might not go as per your plan.
Something like changes in weather can change your travel plans or even cold, fever or tiredness can make you cut down on the places to visit or even something unbelievable like a pandemic can occur resulting in lockdowns of cities and countries and cancellations of flights and trains!
But, there will also be days when you unexpectedly visit a new place which will give you a most memorable experience.
Just like life in itself, travelling too is all about going in with the flow and experiencing every moment of it. If I appear to sound a bit philosophical here, as you experience discovering one place after another and meet all kinds of people, you continue to get reminded of how you are nothing but a mere speck in this vast universe!
P.S.: I love reading travelogues and travel planning articles as much as I love travelling itself. Having read so many articles like this, I really wanted to give writing something like this a try. 🙂