Some of our friends often asked us about how we manage to arrange our trips without tour guides nor travel agents. Well, all we can say that it is not rocket science. However, before getting our boarding passes, we do have a lot of things to cover. We, the Duliars, tend to sweat all the small stuffs when it comes to traveling to new places. Some call it, what to prepare before going or maybe a simple 7-day-guide-to-departure. We call it, 365-days counting before departure. 😀
We like to plan almost anything ahead in time, way ahead I’ll tell you; so we take our timeline and itinerary very seriously. You might find this article useful if you’re a control freak over your itinerary. At the end, we usually got most of the iconic point of interests in a timely manner without the use of tour-guides (well maybe that one time in Marrakesh, just to put hubby’s mind at ease). After seeing our pictures, friends usually asked for our printable itineraries and got inspired to go to these places. And yes, we’re gonna share these itineraries in our blog too. In the meantime, lets count the days before our next destination, shall we ?
365 – 91 days before : Get yourself that promo airfare !
This promo airfare means 20-40% off the usual airfare. You need to get used to browse regularly what is the ‘normal’ airfare to your desired destinations, so that you can get the feel of how much cheaper the promo fare relative to the normal one.
If you live in Jakarta, you could easily get these promo airfare when travel fair occurs every now and then. The regular organizers are usually big banks like BCA (held twice a year), CIMB Niaga, Bank Mandiri and BNI, airlines like Garuda Indonesia, Singapore Airlines, Air Asia and Kompas Gramedia group. I think if you live in other big cities in Indonesia like Bandung, Surabaya, Medan etc, you can also enjoy the same promotion, just call your nearby big travel agents like Panorama, Golden Rama, Dwi Daya, etc and ask them for the fare promotion.
Another way to know these promo fares is by subscribing to the airlines’ mailing list/newsletters. They usually blast the promo airfare a week in advance or even sometimes 24-hours before the promo started to their subscribers. Currently, we subscribe to Garuda Indonesia, Singapore Airlines, ANA, Emirates, Etihad, Turkish Airways and Cathay Pacific. Get the idea? If you stay true to one airline, you then can collect air mileage to cut down your ticket prices even lower for your next destination. Heck, we now have miles from few airlines already, since we rarely stay true to one ;D
If you stay in the US, there are more and merrier ways to get promo airfare even for Business seats. Check out our friend’s blog on how in the hell she can do it all, click here.
Save money in your piggy bank! You never know when these travel fairs happened. And when it happens, it is going to be held so short like for two or three days and you just need to act quickly. We don’t suggest you maxing out your credit cards for airfare, coz there are many more expense to follow. However if you could get those zero-percent instalment kinda payment, we suggest you to take them with a max 12-month period so that you be able to plan the next destination within the next-year’s budget. Neat ey?
Check and update your wishlist or bucketlist. Do list the cities or places or concerts or attractions you wanna go to. You may want to subscribe to Coldplay or Adele’s newsletters, just to know where they are going to play next time (guilty! yeap one of our long bucketlist). Or you may want to check when the cherry-blossom is going to bloom in Japan. Or you wanna be in New York when the fashion week is starting. Or maybe you wanna list Budapest and check out whether the visa is Schengen or not. Be absolutely free when listing, coz you never know where the promo airfare will be taking you to your next destination.
Read the Visa requirement before executing your promo tickets, at least take a glimpse. So you know what you will be needing after you got your tickets. The Visa rules and regulations often got adjusted from time to time; you don’t wanna be left hanging without visa or got rejected during the process. Hey, the airlines won’t give your money back, it’s a promo ticket afterall.
90 days before : Get your visa !
At this juncture, you’ve already gotten your desired tickets and have taken a glimpse of the visa requirements (including the passport expiry restriction). Unfortunately, as Indonesians who live in Jakarta, we need to obtain visa to enter a country except South-Asian region or countries listed here. You can easily go to travel agents to get your visas and pay a lil cash. Well, again we tend to sweat all the small stuffs and honestly we like getting thru the process by ourselves. You cannot trade the anxiety of filling out the application, answering the visa officers, or simply just experiencing the walk-in to the embassies; we like the adrenaline kick. And we can use the extra cash for paying better meals instead.
Countries that used their own embassies to conduct the visa processing are: USA, Japan, Egypt and Russia. The ones that use an independent agent called VFS are Schengen countries, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. For other countries, you just gotta google them. A serious reminder is for you to check the latest update on visa requirements and the length of the visa process. 90 days will give you ample time to submit your application, got answered and maybe re-submit if you got rejected on your first attempt.
Based on our experience, there are countries that do not require visa application in Indonesia but still need visa-on-arrival at the airport. For example, Turkey. You may want to check whether they require you to bring a copy of your return ticket or maybe a proof of your accommodation arrangement, etc.
DO : Check & double-check the nitty gritty such as your passport expiry date, your personal information on the application (ID card number, email address, things that can easily be a typo), the precise photo size required for the visa application, the exact outbound & inbound dates, etc.
75 days before : Get those nice rooms to stay !
First thing you need to do after you got your visa: find the best deals for the best rooms you can find. You might think that rooms are simply places to sleep for a few hours since you’re gonna be out in the city most of the time. But we beg to differ. We like our rooms be super cozy, functional and strategically located (so we just need to walk to the nearest transportation hub or primary attractions) and most importantly still within our budget. Trust me, you will have a quality time during your stay.
Best rooms to book: best view, great location, nice interiors, got all the essentials (wifi internet, shampoo, towels, etc). But why so early to book ? Early bird gets the worm. The notion does apply here. Most of the hotel rooms or B&Bs offer special rates or deals if you book way ahead from your check-in date. Don’t worry, at this time you can even get the free cancellation rate that can give you time to find other potential rooms or better deals. Our go-to booking agents are Booking.com and AirBnB. The first one have the free cancellation option, breakfast option, ratings even promo deals. The second one sometimes offer free cancellation after payment and usually have promo rates for weekly booking, plus you would have had the chance of staying in a nice apartment or house and feels like home by paying within your budget.
DO : See what other people saying. We take ratings and reviews very seriously just like our itineraries. Do not book a place that has more negative reviews than the positive ones. For hotels and B&Bs you easily find their reviews in Trip Advisors. For AirBnB, just scroll down the Listing page and find the one that has more reviews; less than 5 reviews is a no-no, eventhough all are good reviews.
60 days before : List your detailed wishlist !
This one is pretty easy, you can even go wild and free when listing. Be it a must-go culinary experience like eating cockroaches in Bangkok, a must-see point of interest like the Shibuya junction, or simply building your own sand-castle in a quite beach called Coogee Beach in Sydney.
Again, see what other people saying. Ask your friends what were their favorites things to do/see if they had gone to your destination. We recommend you to check Trip Advisors site. And you can also looked up your wishlist on Instagram or Pinterest, using them as hashtags.
List them all in one excel sheet and put in useful details like address, contact number, opening hours, how much does it cost, etc. Sounds like homework but trust me it will help you get thru the next step easier.
45 days before : Start lining-up your itinerary
Lining-up your wishlist into a proper itinerary can sometimes give you headaches. It is a pretty hard task to do. Where should I start? How do I get there? Do I need to go in? Is an hour enough to explore? Should I take a group tour? These are the questions frequently asked by our friends to us when we just finished our trip, and we still often ask ourselves when making itineraries. Well here are the principal things we usually keep in mind when we make our itinerary.
Group together your wishlists when they are located in the same area/neighborhood. Put them in chronological order, from the time you start the day til dinner time; when you do this, take opening hours details into consideration.
Browse what mode of transportation suits your needs based on your go-to list locations; is it gonna be the subway, train, bus, rent-a-car or maybe simply by foot. Download the transportation map and the city map and save them in your phones or other smart devices (you never know when one battery would run out).
Again and again, see what other people saying. Trip Advisors would still be our number one place to check. However you can get creative by googling the topic to hear other people’s experiences, what’s good and what’s not.
30 days before : Buy your additional trips online
A month away and you need to get into a more detailed itinerary. This include booking your tickets online, i.e museum/attractions, intercity-train, football game, concerts, opera, tv/ballet show, amusement parks, and anything you would want to do or see in your detailed itinerary. So get that plastic card ready.
Set a maximum budget before arranging these trips. You don’t wanna break the bank. Better yet, set a moderate budget since you will most likely would want to do/see something else on the spot spontaneously, so you have spare budget.
Set a priority list of which items you wanna do/see first because you would never done the whole list without killing your feet in the process (and yes we’ve done this, killing our feet).
15 days before : Check & re-check the essentials
We are such control-freak travelers, we like to sit down and go over the detailed itinerary once more. Based on experience, there are always things that have not yet covered properly. For example, some train providers & museum office will only publish their online rates 2 weeks prior the departure date, or maybe after a handful research, you decided to book a guide for a non-english country, etc.
7 days before : Visualize your trip
Visualizing by means of weather forecast, time differences (if any) and last but not least wardrobe appropriateness. We like to make good pictures, thus the last one is probably the most important thing for us. 😀
Wardrobe malfunction is a big no-no because it can give a negative tone for the rest of the day. You don’t want to wear light outerwear when the temperature drops or you don’t want to feel under-dressed when you go to an opera show. Therefore weather forecast plays an important role when determining your wardrobe choices; start checking the forecast regularly and decide what you want to wear accordingly. Dry-clean some of your essential wardrobe (like that leather overcoat) so you will have a fresh scented wardrobe to keep you in a good mood.
To know the time difference will help you a lot when you need to take care of hometown matters when you’re on the trip. We do not have the luxury of having full-time laid-back vacations so every now and then we need to reply those important messages/emails, make few calls, etc. It’d be a smart move to get yourself a portable wireless internet or the local SIM card, so then you can do these things plus access Google Maps on-the-go whilst not breaking the bank.
One other thing: do prepare the relevant currency, print the necessary documents and pre-booked tickets, plus make copies of your passport.
48 hours counting :
Flight online check-in; it will save you some extra minutes if you caught traffic jams when going to the airport.
Pack everything up, including those personal care and necessary medical items like multivitamin or cold/fever remedy, etc.
Bring your own headset and travel-pillows for long haul flights.
Pray to God you’ll have an amazing trip and come back home in one piece, namaste.