When my neighbor hounded me last week to help her put together an itinerary for a trip to Cambodia and Bali, I got thinking if there is a simpler way teach her to build an itinerary without having to rely on a travel agent or look around for a travelratti like me.
Visiting a travel agent may be as easier way out, but then they tediously plan every minute from waking up, sight seeing, meals to hitting the sack; giving very little room for exploration. On the other hand, building your own itinerary can be exciting and if you have the skill to stretch limited resources (time and money) you can have unlimited fun and bring home amazing memories.
Here are 5 simple steps:
Say good-bye to Lonely Planet: If we all have to read Lonely Planet Guidebooks to plan a vacation, then we will never go on one. Let’s leave Lonely Planet for geeks and nerds and go with Google, our best friend. Search for top 5 travel itineraries from US, UK, and Asia to the destination of your choice. Highlight places that match your interest (culture, history, arts, nature, wildlife, etc). Also, compare itineraries from across the world to spot similarities and differences and how it is being marketed to various cultures and nationalities.
Consult Wikitravel page: Go on Wikitravel (Wikipedia) your online travel agent to read about the history, climate, best time to visit, currency, festivals and also look at a pictures to validate your choices.
Qualify with TripAdvisor: While Wikitravel may equip you with information, TripAdvisor helps you zero down on your choices using ratings shared by travelers. So use the available ratings and published comments to qualify your must visit places and decide on number of days you need to spend in a particular city or country. TripAdvisor also helps you to narrow down on places of stay and restaurants.
YouTube: Though travel sites, enthusiasts and bloggers share videos that give you an idea of what to expect, what to look out for, etc.. YouTube is a great place to further qualify your choices, get travel tips and viewpoints for great pictures, etc. There is just one last step before you finalize your itinerary.
Go a full circle with Google: While you began your search with Google, end with the same. Search for lesser known or offbeat travel experiences to add zing to your itinerary. Scan through blogs by travelers or NY Times travel section who magnanimously share their insights, learnings and tips and tricks. You can also go on Google Earth to further qualify your choices visually.
Without spending much time and no money, you can put together your travel itinerary like a pro and make your vacation memorable.