Planning for Trips in 4 Steps

Hello everyone! ʕ·ᴥ·ʔ/

Recently, Bun and I went on a trip to Cameron Highland, Pahang, Malaysia and I think both of us came back wanting to write something about our trip. I’m not sure what Bun will be writing about, but what I wanna share our plans for the trip. For those of you who wanna travel but don’t know where to start, let this anal virgo bear teach you.

Disclaimer: I’m only teaching you how to organize your travel schedules. You decide on what’s important in your trip, not me.

Step one: When, and where

Decide where you want to go, and why. Wherever it is you want to go, you’ll need to check if you need a visa and how long applications take. As for why, this affects your decision on when to visit. This includes weather, and current events. For example, the Sakura season in Japan is considered peak season, which means that you probably have to book your tickets and accommodation in advance. Also, going to Thailand for a shopping spree during the King’s funeral will not work out because shops would be closed then.

The lesson is, when you choose to travel affects how you’ll be able to carry out whatever it is you’re doing there and if you realize that you might not fully utilise your time and/or money there, you may still choose a better time of the year to go.

Step two: Make a list of what you need to research on

Before you even purchase anything. Flight tickets, coach passes, train tickets, accommodations, or tour packages, etc, do your research, and always cross-reference. Here are a few aspects you’ll want to research on:

  • Activities
  • Accommodation
  • Flights and Visa
  • Transport

And for each of these, consider these factors:

  • Budget and costs (including taxes)
  • Access (How accessible is the place? Are they close to other sites you want to visit or the hotel? Is it local-only? What weather/season/time of the year can you do this? Can you enter by public transport? Will you have to walk a huge distance to the bus stop? Can you get help/wifi/data in case you get lost?)
  • Service ratings and reviews (Is it reliable? What have reviews been like? Are the reviews given reliable? What have bloggers who aren’t paid to market them said?)
  • Level of comfort (Will you be comfortable with a little bit of dirt, or drenched in seawater? Does this go against your values? Would it be too cold or too hot? Can you walk the distance?)
  • Time and duration (How long will these aspects/activity take, what time would be best to do them?
  • Terms and conditions (Okay, nobody reads this, but trust your guys. When you feel you should read it, read it.)

Step three: Do the actual research

It might look daunting because it seems like you’ll need to look into 4×5+ of everything. No cheat codes here, just do it. Grab a piece of paper, scribble them down.

It can be overwhelming to look at all of these at the same time, so look into them one by one. And what I like to do is for each aspects of the trip, I prioritize different factors and let go of some factors. For example, during my flight, I’m willing to forego service because I rarely ask of them on planes or coaches so I don’t look into reviews or ratings. However, I still do my bare minimum to ensure that it’s not a scam. (Fun story: When we looked into the Mossy Forest tour package we bought semi-impulsively, the guide on our coach told us it was extremely shady and had terrible reviews. It got us worried for the entire day until the tour guide came. Turns out, we thoroughly enjoyed it.)

dsc_9292
Fortunately, the only shady thing was the forest itself. Shady as in cool and shady. 

Start with activities you would like to do on your trip because that’s why you’re travelling in the first place. But when things cannot go exactly according to plan, scratch out activities you have come to realize you no longer want or are unable to go for.

Next, you look into accommodations, because that’s where you stay. There’ll be thousands of them so try to find one that’s convenient for you so you save time and money on transport. Look at maps if it can help narrow your list down because you’ll have an idea of where you might want to stay at are and where all your activities will be or can be at, all at the same time.

cameron-highlands-map
We actually printed out a map like this and referred to it on the way, so that we know roughly how far we are from destinations. 

Also, you need to know how you’ll be getting around to your activities.

I’ve saved travel tickets for second last because by the time you’ve decided on how many activities you want to do, you’d have an idea of what activities can be done in the same day and how many days you’ll need. As for tour packages, by now, you’d be able to look at tour packages, what they consist of, and how many activities in your personal list they can help you complete. And considering all the research you’ve done regarding each activity itself, you might even be able to consider whether the tour package is worthy.

Step four: Organize the trip, buy your tickets

Now that you’re done researching, you probably have a mass of information in your head or scribbled messily on some notebook or piece of paper. Now time to organize them. Here’s how Bun and I organized our trip:

Day/Time Activity Cost (if any) / Total: 467 MYR/150SGD
Friday/10:00am-10:30am Arrival 😄
10:30am-11:00am Walk to The T/Lord’s Cafe 800m
11:00am-12:30pm Brunch Estimate: 30RM
12:30pm-1:00pm Walk to Robinson falls 1.3km
1:00pm-3:00pm Robinson falls
2:30pm-3:45pm Cab to Heritage Hotel 5RM
3:00pm-3:15pm Check-in
3:15pm-6:15pm Ringlett, Tea/Snack @ Cameron Valley Cab: 50RM; Tea/Snack: 40RM; Spending: 20RM
6:15pm-7:30pm Room Service Dinner Assumed: 68RM
Saturday 7:45am-8:00am Walk to Jasmine Cafe 500m
8:00-8:30am Breakfast Estimate: 30RM
8:30-8.45am Walk back to Heritage Hotel 500m
9:00am-2:30pm Sungai Palas Tea Plantation;

Mossy forest; BOH Tea Cafe; Butterfly farm

Estimate: 20RM
2:30pm-3:00pm Cab/Walk 5RM/500m
3:00-4:30pm Lunch @ Restoran May Flower/Tringkap Estimate: 30RM
4:30pm-4:45pm Cab to Lavender Garden 8RM
4:45pm-6:00pm Lavender Garden @ Tringkap Entry: 10RM; Spending: 20RM
6:00pm-6:30pm Cab to Pasar Malam 8RM
6:00pm-7:30pm Shopping for sorbet & honeycomb Dinner: 20RM Souvenirs: 15RM
7:30-8:15pm Cab to Traveler’s Pub & Bistro 8RM
8:15pm-10:30pm Drink Estimate: 50RM
10:30pm-10:45pm Walk to Heritage Hotel 350m
Sunday 8:00am-8:15am Walk to Bunga Suria 500m
8:15am-9:15am Breakfast Estimate: 30RM
9:15am-9:30am Walk to Heritage Hotel 500m
9:30am-10:00am Check-out & Depart 😪

But as the days progressed, things did not always go the way we planned it, and in this trip, I made a couple of mistakes I don’t want to make again:

  • Underestimating transport rates (mainly taxi fares). This was fortunately balanced by my overestimation of our budget for eating.
  • Failing to allocate cost of meals during long flights/trips. I thought we weren’t going to spend a dime since we could have slept on the coach. But we had difficulty sleeping and the food stops was too tempting. Snacking/eating and drinking were almost inevitable. 😞
  • Underestimating the cost of drinking. We rarely drink out, and could not find the drinks menu or any blogs talking about the bars.

Because of these, we overshot our budget for the trip by quite a bit (about 100RM, ⅕ the total expected expenditure). Fortunately, it didn’t hurt our wallets too badly as the overall cost was still rather low (30SGD).

Now that you’re done reading this the first time, I reckon when you’re planning your trip, you’d probably refer to these again because your mind would be a mess to remember this. So here are some tips I’d like to remind you guys before you make your purchases:

  • Airbnb is a thing.
  • CLEAR YOUR CACHE (it’s been tested and proven that airlines and booking engines are using cookies to show potentially higher airfares on routes that you have searched often. In other words, if you have searched the route frequently in recent days or weeks, the site “knows” that you really want to make this trip, and “guesses” that you might be willing to pay a bit more for them.)
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