How to organize a self-trip

8 TIP IF YOU WERE TOOLING TO A Vacation WITHOUT TOUR OPPORTUNITY

For those who have always flown on vacation with the help of a tour operator, independent travel - a terrible beast that is ready at any opportunity to catch its sharp fangs in the neck and drag somewhere in the woods. In my opinion, this trip is more like a fairy tale unicorn, ready to set his back and show you the most beautiful and interesting places on the planet. Believe, tour operators can hardly tell you about such places, and they are much more interesting than shops and markets where they are only waiting that you will lay out a considerable sum for a souvenir from "the last mammoth tusk in the world".

To organize a self-trip is not difficult, but it takes much more efforts than to come to a travel agency, to poke a finger at a picture with a snow-white beach and to say: "I'll take it". And of course it is much more responsible.

I will try in this article as much detail as possible to describe how to organize your own vacation on their own and finally forget about the travel agencies.

1. CHOOSING A DESTINATION

- language barrier
If you have never been on vacation without a travel agency, choose for the first trip something of ours, Russia - Sochi, the Krasnodar Territory, it is even possible in Georgia. There will definitely be no language barrier.
If you do not have problems with English, or at least you are not afraid to communicate in sign language, then the choice of destinations for you expands by 100 times. For the first time, try to choose the most touristy places. If it's Europe - then the capitals (from them you can always go to neighboring cities, if you want). If Asia, the popular resorts, where there are many of the same "unsociable" as you: Bali (Indonesia), Phuket, Krabi (Thailand), Nha Trang, Mui Ne (Vietnam), Goa (India). You can go to the Maldives, the Seychelles, Dominican Republic, or Turkey. But they are unlikely to speak to you in Russian (although in Turkey, they will).

- visas
For the first independent travel abroad is better to choose a destination where a visa is not required, or set directly at the airport. In Europe it may be Montenegro. In Asia - Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Seychelles, Philippines. Visa is also not required for Georgia, Turkey, Tunisia, Dominica, and some other popular destinations. Now there is a lot of information on visas on the internet. You can always find a convenient website and clarify whether or not you need a visa to travel.

- budget
If you already have a desired destination or you can not choose between the two favorite, I recommend a service Numbeo. It is in English, but easy enough to understand. Here you can find out how much food, transport, clothing will cost in a particular country. In this way, you can roughly estimate how much money you need to bring with you, or you can compare two destinations and choose the most suitable one for your budget.



2. ARRANGE YOUR VISA

On his first trip, as I wrote above, I still recommend to go to a visa-free country. But if you really want to fly to where you need a visa, then contact a specialized agency that takes care of issuing visas (in this case you will need to pay a little extra for their work), or get your act together, study all the visa details and submit the documents yourself. In the latter case, the level of your independent planning will increase several times.

3. BUYING TICKETS
So, we have decided on a destination, now you need to buy tickets and here there are a few important nuances or how to save money on them

- advance booking
If there is enough time before departure, begin to monitor the prices in advance. A travel agent should buy tickets about 45 days before departure. If you are flexible on dates, check "what is on sale now", to get the best price! It is also possible to buy 2-3-6 months in advance if you are sure that the price is not inflated. How do you know that you are not overpriced? If you are flexible on dates, check "what is on sale now", to get the best price!

- no specific dates
If you are flexible on dates, check "what is on sale now", to get the best price! A good way to do this is to use services like Skyscanner or Aviasales, where you can select the desired destination, search through the entire month, and get the dates with the lowest prices.

Here is an example of February prices for Moscow - Pisa. I think it is clear here that it is cheaper to fly on the 3rd of February than on the 6th or the 15th.

- not popular days of the week
If you're not tied to specific dates, I recommend choosing flights that depart Tuesday through Thursday. More often than not, they fly half-empty and prices can be discounted. If you don't book your trip well in advance (2-3 months beforehand) you may notice, for example, that Thursday flights are cheaper than Sunday flights.

- special offers, promotional tickets and subscriptions
Need a specific date? Get notifications on aggregator sites (Skyscanner, Aviasales, Momondo, OnetwoTrip, and others) about price changes for your destination. Want to fly with a specific airline - sign up for their newsletter and catch promotions and sales.

- low-cost flights
Low-cost airlines are airlines that sell tickets for their flights at very low prices. These low-cost airlines usually have no baggage allowance, and all "extras" like checking in and choosing your seat must be done online, as these airlines usually don't have check-in counters at the airport. You can read more information about low-cost airlines here.

- incognito mode
If you don't book your trip well in advance, you may notice, for example, that Thursday flights are cheaper than Sunday flights. These low cost airlines will also not charge you a higher price for flying on low-cost flights.

4. BOOKING A HOTEL

The second most important stage of independent travel planning after buying a ticket is finding a hotel. There are many aggregators to search for hotels and hotels. The most famous are Booking.com, Agoda.com (works well in Asia, more offers than on Bookings), Hotels.com, Ostrovok.ru and many others. What you need to pay attention to here:

- the area of the room is more important than its photo
Many have been convinced of the power of perspective (and it doesn't just work with selfies). Even the smallest room can be photographed from such an angle that a room of 10 sq.m. turn into all 30 sq.m. That's why we look at the area first, and then we look at the photo.

- Do not blindly believe in signs like "the last room left"
In some cases it is true that this is the last room (especially when there is only one room in the hotel), but in 80% of cases it is just an advertising trick to encourage a tourist to book this very room.

- pay attention to the final price of the reservation
Be sure to check what is included in the quoted room rate. Very often, especially for European and American destinations, you can meet a story like this (see figure below). It would seem that our room costs 4961 RUB per night, but on top of that we would have to pay another 2393 RUB for taxes and fees. In total the price per night will be 7354 rubles. Already not as attractive as 4961 rubles, right?
Also pay attention to the second box at the bottom of the picture. There you may also see the percentages or the sum you'll have to pay in addition to the indicated price.

- reviews
While many of us know that reviews can be written by "specially trained" people and have no truth behind them, there are still real reviews and ratings. Read what people write about, what they like and don't like. And if out of 15 reviews in 10 wrote that in the evenings you hear the neighbors watching TV next door, it means that the noise isolation in the hotel is not okay and you're unlikely to get a good night's sleep there.

- check the rates on different sites
In many cases, if you liked the hotel you found on one hotel search website, you will likely find it on another such resource. Compare the proposed prices, they may differ from each other simply because the hotel has different agency terms with these sites. Buy where it is cheaper.

- Look at the category of rooms
A suite at one hotel and a superior room at another may turn out to be exactly the same. So before you rush for a suite, look at all the other rooms and their conditions. Maybe a standard room at a large hotel will be no worse than a suite at a small hotel?

- What's behind the window?
In my travels in Asia, the view from the windows of the hostels and hotels I had to stay in was a sore subject. Sleeping in a room with no window was a mockery (for me personally). If you have the same problem, then be sure to check whether your room has a window: it may not exist, or it can face the corridor, where people are constantly walking (very common in Asia and budget hotels). You can check this by looking at photos, phoning the hotel or searching for "sea view", "view of the city" etc. Important note: If the photo window is curtained, none of the above captions, then most likely you will not see the daylight. Here the choice is yours: take your chance or find a room with open curtains.

- Check cancellation and return policies
On Booking.com you can often see stickers like "Free cancellation of booking", "Booking without credit card", "No prepayment" and so on. But for some reason at the stage of booking you are asked to enter your bank card details. Leaving your card number be prepared for a blocking of funds a couple of days before check-in, as a guarantee that you will not give up the room on the last day. And in some cases, a small amount may be withdrawn from the card after booking to confirm its relevance. This amount is then refunded back to you.

- look at services offered
The hotels with low prices usually cost this way not because the owner of the hotel is a generous person but because WiFi is only near the reception desk, there is one toilet for 30 rooms, and the sheets are covered with greasy Chinese noodles. So get excited about the cheapest room and see what you can get for that price. Otherwise, the long-awaited vacation of two weeks will fail because of the daily queue in a battle for a warm and clean shower.

- incognito mode

Incognito mode search also works here. Don't forget about it.


*IMPORTANT!When booking a flight or hotel, be sure to bring your bank card, from which you made the payment. Sometimes abroad your booking may be cancelled if you can not provide the card you used to make the payment, and you will have to pay again.


5. CHOOSE YOUR INSURANCE

When applying for a Schengen visa the presence of an insurance policy is a mandatory condition and document. Many other countries do not require it, but I still recommend it (especially if you travel with small children). A huge plus of travel insurance is the ability to arrange them online in 10-15 minutes. In my opinion, the most convenient website is Cherehapa.

You specify the required destination, set the travel period, add additional options (if necessary), choose the cost of insurance and the website shows all available options at your request. All you need to do is to compare all offers and choose the one that suits you.

6. PLANNING THE ROUTE FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE HOTEL

This is the first time you will come face to face with your fears. You won't have a bus waiting for you and a loudly shouting girl in a uniform urging you to get on that very bus and not to be delayed. Here you are on your own and therefore it is better to find out in advance how you can get from the airport to the hotel. You can, of course, use a taxi and show the driver your hotel on the map or give him the address but it is much more interesting to take a public transport with your eyes wide open and sweaty palms anxious not to miss your stop. Isn't it?

7. DOWNLOADING APPLICATIONS INTO THE PHONE

The phone is our everything. It's no longer about making phone calls, but about not getting lost in a foreign (or your own) city. That is why I recommend downloading the offline maps of Maps.me into your phone before you go on an independent travel. And be sure to download the city you want, or better, several cities, put there the location of the hotel you plan to stay in, as well as all the attractions you plan to see. The coolest thing about this application is the ability to work offline. That is, even if you don't have internet or WIFI, you can always find your way to the hotel.

8. PLANNING FUN THINGS TO DO

I'm a fan of preparing for a trip in advance. Research websites with information on where to eat good food, what to see, where to be sure to visit. I always recommend dedicating a minimum of time to super touristy places. It is better to explore the trails going from the central road. After all, the real life of the country is there, not on the tourist trails. But this is my personal opinion.

Travel independently and do not be afraid to get lost in another city! After all, only by getting lost, you will know a foreign country in its real, not at all touristy appearance.

  • The author of the article:
    Olga Melnikova, onlineexpo expert, creator of the travel diary "Manyways_book"

https://www.instagram.com/manyways_project/

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