This post covers everything that goes into planning a trip in detail. A plan will only guide you, because in reality, sometimes things don’t work out or something better comes along – like that time I took the wrong bus (it was the right one but went in the opposite direction lol), so I had to change my plans.
This is the longest post of the Solo Travel Series, so I made a little table of contents. 🙂
- Why an itinerary is important
- The best time to go
- Spots to visit
- Creating a day-to-day schedule
Why an itinerary is important
An itinerary is important because:
- It is a requirement for visa applications. (more on this later in the series)
- The immigration officer in the Philippine airport of your departure might ask for this. (more on this later in the series)
- For your peace of mind. You’ll know what to do when you get there.
- This will make you efficient. You will not spend time planning while on the trip, only exploring and resting.
But remember: you are allowed to change your mind on the trip. Nothing is set in stone. This is just a guide for you.
The best time to go
The best time to go to a specific destination depends on a number of things:
- Flight prices. Transportation is one of the biggest expense on a trip. This usually ranges from Php5,000-Php10,000 but sometimes, we can get lucky and snag some flights during seat sales. I booked flights to Japan (Cebu to Tokyo) for November 2017 for Php1,600.00 roundtrip. The same roundtrip flights for March 2018 set me back more than Php15,000. That is almost 10x more! This is because:
- March-April is the cherry blossom season. I was there during peak cherry blossom season, which is the roughly 7-day window when the trees are at their peak (PINK EVERYWHERE!!! MY FAVORITE COLOR!!!). This does not last long and a lot of tourists try to fit their trip to these dates, hence the high prices.
- I booked the March tickets very close to the travel date, while I booked the November tickets 7 months prior.
- November tickets = promo. March tickets = regular price (probably even a surge)
- Weather/season. The weather can make or break your trip.
- When it’s too hot. I went to Thailand during its hottest season, and it really affected my mood. While in the city, I would usually only go out starting late afternoon and night time. Even at night, the weather felt like day time in the Philippines. It felt so uncomfortable.
- When it’s too cold. I went to Korea during winter (February). The temperature ranged from -10 °C to 4°C. We started our day at noon time when it was just around 0 °C, because the mornings were too cold. Even at 0°C, I felt like dying. I was happy to experience 4°C, hahaha. And also, buying proper winter clothes is really expensive. I’d rather spend that money on samgyupsal and some skin care products in Myeongdong. Haha 😛
- When it’s just right. Ahhh, how I love spring and autumn. It’s like aircon everywhere. It’s cold enough to wear coats. You can walk around all day without sweating. It’s so comfortable, and there is a lot of sunshine! The trees burst into colors and it’s just such a magical experience! For my trips, it was around 12°C to 23°C. <3
- Taking time off. We all have responsibilities here at home. Most of us have to plan our time off in advance.
- National holidays. To minimize the number of days off you take from work, make use of national holidays. But it is usually hard to find cheap flights during this time.
- Local holidays. Holidays that are specific to your city or province do not usually go up in flight prices. Example: Sinulog, Cebu charter day.
- Birthday leave. If your company offers a birthday leave, then you can make this your birthday trip. 🙂 Lucky for me, my birthday falls on August along with Mandaue/Cebu Charter Day, National Heroes Day and Ninoy Aquino Day. #VirgoPerks #ButIDontHaveBdayLeaveAnymore #Iyak
Spots to visit
What is it about this destination? Why did you choose it? What are some things you would like to experience? This could be a million things but it differs from person to person. Think about what excites you, even if it’s not a usual tourist spot/activity. Just listen to what you like.
A general search
To start, do a simple internet search (Google, Facebook groups, Reddit):
- “Things to do in <place>“
- “Things to do in <place> in <season/month>“
- “Best photo spots in <place>“
- “Hidden spots in <place>” (let’s face it, this is not really “hidden” LOL)
- “7 day itinerary in <place>“
Touristy vs. “hidden” spots
I have visited some overrated spots before like:
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
- Krabi, Thailand
- Namsan Seoul Tower
- Kinkakuji (Golden) Temple
View this post on Instagram
These places were so popular, but when I got there, it got me thinking… that’s it? And the influx of tourists just made it worse. But then again, that’s just me. Some people go there and they are happy, so keep an open mind! On a positive note, there were some places that did NOT disappoint despite their popularity, like:
- Nusa Penida, Indonesia
- Just Kyoto in general is really touristy but really fucking awesome!
- Marina Bay (that Singapore skyline is stunning af)
- Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Some “hidden” spots that I loved:
Tip: just mix up your itinerary with some popular and hidden spots.
What are your interests?
Some general ideas of what you might be interested in:
- Food (food markets, themed restaurants)
- Nice views
- Gardens (especially for autumn and spring)
- Skyline/city view
- Parties, events, or concerts
- Museums and historical sites
- Theme parks
- Things/places specific to that country (anime in Japan, K-drama film locations in Korea, cheap clothing in Bangkok, massage in Bali)
- Cafe hopping
A more specific search based on your interests
Once you have an idea of what you are interested in, do some searches on Google, Facebook groups and Reddit like:
- Best cheap shopping outlets in Bangkok
- Best clubs in Taipei
- Photography locations in Japan
- Best cherry blossom spots in Kyoto
- Best ramen in Tokyo
- Night markets in Taipei
- K-drama film locations in Seoul
- Must-try dishes in Thailand
View this post on Instagram
A hassle-free tour
Creating a day-to-day schedule
Your day-to-day schedule should be planned according to the locations of each of the places you want to visit, so that your travel time is minimized.
Save locations on Google Maps.
Every time you find a spot you’d like to visit, save it on Google Maps. Let’s go through each of the steps below.
- Open Google Maps app.
- Select Your Places.
- Add new trip.
- Name your trip. Example: Taiwan (October 2019)
- Search for the spot you like and click “Save”. Example: Jiufen Old Street
- Save spot in the map you created.
- Add more spots.
- View location pins on map by going back to “Your Places” > “Taiwan (October 2019” and clicking “View map”.
- Zoom more. You will see how each place is close to the next.
Create a schedule table.
|1||Flight CEBU -> TAIPEI|
|2||Tiger Sugar Milk Tea
Ximending Youth Shopping DIstrict
Ximen Night Market
|3||Jiufen Old Street
Shifen Old Street
|4||Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
|5||Flight TAIPEI -> CEBU|
There you have it, guys! This is how I created my itineraries. 🙂
- The best time to go depends on the flight prices, weather/season and the most convenient time for you to take time off.
- Think about why you picked a specific country. Think about what excites you and follow it.
- Remember, the internet is a great resource. Use Google, Facebook groups and Reddit. There are sooo many posts and sooo many people who can answer your questions online.
- A tour can be good for you, to make things less overwhelming. I swear by Klook. I used it in all my international travels!
- Plan your itinerary according to locations. Use Google Maps for this.
- Create a table for your schedule.
On the next part of the series, I’ll tell you all the websites and apps that I use for booking everything, Philippine immigration and visa applications! Make sure not to miss it by subscribing to my newsletter. 🙂