I sometimes give the impression that my traveling is cavalier, something I do without proper respect for any sort of process or serious thought. And this is intentional, for my hope is that by making it look less daunting more people would be inclined to go somewhere. There is, however, a very thorough process I follow when planning any trip, and I’m going to capture it in the blog over the next two months as I prepare for a trip to Southeast Asia.
1. Timeframe – The very first thing I do, even before I have a destination picked or a budget for the trip, is look at the calendar. What holidays at the office are coming up? How long has it been since the last trip as well as any major expenses and what large expenses are on the horizon? Putting those two together makes it easier upfront to accomplish the rest of the steps.
2. Budget – I take a few moments to look over the finances and see whether I can even afford to go. If all looks good, I set aside a rough estimate of how much the trip will cost and move on to step 3.
3. Regional Selection – Now it’s time to scour the globe. I’ll be going away in February, so what destinations look attractive on my to-do list? For this trip, I want a place that’s warm, but not too wet. That rules out Europe this time of year as well as the northern regions of Asia. South of the Equator it’s now well in to summer. Either are options.
4. Destination Selection – With a rough sense of how much to spend and a set of regions to investigate, it’s time to move in to a more balanced cost/weather investigation. At this juncture I delve in to some details. What is the average temperatures and forecastss for places on weather.com. Beijing, Taipei, and Hong Kong are all colder than I’d like. Bangkok is nice, as is Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. All three are destinations I’d be interested in. Checking the guidebooks, it’s a good time of year to visit weather-wise. There are also some deals to be had on hotel rooms and airfare. They stay on the list. South America looks promising, but the guidebooks say it is more expensive this time of year. Better to wait until later in the year.
5. Risk Evaluation – With a narrow set of destinations in mind, I begin evaluating the risks. Are the people friendly? Is the location signed in English? What are the mass transit options? What about food? What kind of health risks exist? What about safety, especially as a solo traveler?
6. Entertainment/Cultural Value – Coinciding with the risk evaluation, I investgate what I hope to do. I don’t compile a specific itinerary or list of targets, but instead use this to address a few quesitons about whether I’ll be there too long and how far afield I’d need to travel from the city.
7. Bookings – After looking at the risks and the places I’d like to see, I investigate the specific costs with the intent to book. If I see some fair deals, they’re booked quickly. Otherwise, I wait it out to see if the price improves. If I have to move around during the trip, I make those arrangements where possible in advance.
Right now, I’m in the middle of steps five and six, as I decide between Thailand and a split Singapore/Kuala Lumpur trip.
Travel between Singapore and KL is relatively easy, and travel to Singapore is cheaper. Singapore I know and know it is a very safe city, while I have heard good things about KL. KL is also very inexpensive with some fantastic bargains to be had.
Thailand, on the other hand, is a popular destination. The hotel prices are between Singapore and KL, so on the net it’s a draw. The food options in Bangkok aren’t as clear to me, while the big overhanging question is how much traveling outside of Bangkok should I do to have the best experience possible. And how difficult/costly is it to do this?