So you know what countries you are going to but do you know where you are actually going to visit when you get there or if there is anything you would like to see or do?
For some people, they like to just arrive at a country without any prior knowledge and just explore. I like the idea of this but I am also definitely a planner and enjoy looking at new places. I wanted us to have some idea of things to see and do in the countries we had chosen to head to. It makes it possible to then decide the cities and places that you want to visit. This can help you plan a bit more of a structured route around different countries giving you a rough itinerary. Having a rough itinerary can come in handy when it comes to looking at what Malaria prevention you need. You have to know what areas of countries you are likely to be in to see if you are going to be entering high-risk zones which require antimalarials.
Although we are travelling for 11 months which seems like a long time we plan to visit 10 countries within this time, giving us about a month in each place (two months in Thailand). Having a basic itinerary of places to visit allows us to experience as many of the sights and cities as possible within the time frame. Doing a bit of research to start with can help to narrow down places you think you might not be interested in and find places to go to that may not be as frequently travelled but well worth visiting.
People will have many different ways that they like to plan their trips. For me every time I saw or read something about a destination I was travelling to that I thought was interesting or something we would potentially want to do I wrote it on a post-it and added it to our world map. There are a wealth of sources we have used to get inspiration for planning our trip. Below I have outlined a few of these sources that we have found really useful for researching places in South East Asia.
Magazines and books
There are a few travel magazines and hundreds of books on the market to help you plan your travels.
In terms of magazines I had subscribed to Lonely Planet magazine a few years ago for travel inspiration so I still had a number of magazines laying about. I went through these to take out tips of places to visit and activities to do from any articles related to places in my trips. I found the Lonely Planet magazine to be very useful for insight into countries as they produce lots of different types of articles. Sometimes it may be a paragraph on something interesting that might be worth visiting or they also compile whole city and even country guides which provide you with the highlights of things to do, where to stay and where to eat. Some of this content may not always be as useful for backpackers as often recommended places to eat and stay are targetted towards holidaymakers willing to spend a lot more money than the average backpacker but they can still give you a good overview of places. I have also found National Geographics ‘Traveller’ magazine and the Sunday Times ‘Travel’ magazine have found helpful content and are available to buy easily in UK shops.
In terms of books Lonely Planet also do a huge range of guides; whether you require city, country or area guides, they will have ones for you. I have found them a very useful resource. You can also buy them as ebooks for cheaper and this also allows them to take them with you easier on a Kindle or smartphone. This also help keep the weight down you have to carry which is always a bonus! For this trip, I have used the Southeast Asia on a shoestring book and have also bought this as an e-book so I can use it as we change countries. This guide is great as it covers a range of countries in South East Asia. It provides general information about the area, festival lists as well as breakdowns of each country for places to visit, where to sleep and where to eat. Next to each of these places is usually a rough estimation of price so that you can use it to work out a rough budget or find places that will fit with your price range. Within the book, it also provides itineraries for travelling around if you are really stuck with where you should travel around to in Southeast Asia. Rough guides also have a huge range of books that are supposed to be very good but I have just always used Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet books/ ebooks and rough guides are all available on their respective websites or you can usually find them slightly cheaper on Amazon.
Books like the one above used to be the one reliable resource a traveller would rely on and you still probably could if you didn’t want to look at anything else. However, for this trip, I have found most of my research and inspiration has come from other sources where you can connect with the place visually and through other travellers. Saying that during my trip I will be reading my Lonely Planet guide to research each place as I get to it and to figure out how to get to the next place. I am sure it will also come in handy to find cheap but good eats and places to stay as well as cheap things to do.
These days you can type a location either a country or a city if you know major ones into YouTube and come up with hundreds of videos about them. These can be an amazing way to start planning your trip. You can actually get a sense of what these places are like- good parts and bad. There is a wide range of videos on travel destinations- lists of top places to visit in countries/ cities, food vlogs (a big one for us as we love our food), videos of people’s experiences and travels (either edited at the end of their trip or there are lots of daily vloggers too) and quite often destination guides too.
We have watched a wide range and variety of this sort of content on Youtube related to South East Asia. Often when we would sit down to watch a video that looked of interest we would end up watching lots of related videos or lots more videos from YouTubers we had enjoyed. Below are a few channels we have enjoyed watching content on but there is something on Youtube for everyone relating to travel.
- Christian LeBlanc’s channel- Lost LeBlanc is very interesting for those who wish to travel places in South East Asia. He is a daily vlogger who shares his experiences when he is travelling, therefore, you get to see the places he visits, what the food is like and we have got some good recommendations for activities to do in places such as Thailand, Philippines, Japan and Bali.
- Karl Watson’s travel documentaries channel is worth checking out. He has done a variety of trips now and he produces episodic travel documentaries that are well edited and very interesting when he returns from his trips.
- The Budgeteers also have a channel on Youtube where they break their trips into episodes, documenting how they travel around countries with a budget of $1000 at a time per person. Their first series was based in South East Asia and demonstrated how you could travel around cheaply using hitch-hiking and couch surfing. Their second series is currently being released which sees them have the same budget but travelling around Central America.
- Mark Wiens of migrationology.com also does some very delicious videos where he travels around Asia tasting and showing the best cities have to offer in terms of cuisine.
- Jelly Journeys videos are a couple from th UK documenting their adventures around the world as well as their photographic skills. So far they have been to Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and parts of the Philippines.
Blogs and websites
There are thousands of blogs and travel websites available to help with inspiration for your trip. They are also very useful for helping to plan travel to different cities or across borders to other countries. Whatever you want to look for these days you can just google it and a number of websites, blogs and forums will come up for you to sift through. It can be a bit overwhelming if you are not quite sure where to start, though; knowing what information is going to be accurate as well. Here are a few websites and blogs I have found useful to research things to do and where to go on our trip.
- Lonely planet has destination guides for hundreds of countries, certainly all the ones we plan to visit in Asia. I used their website first to gain basic information about each country such as money, visas, vaccination information, festivals, climate/ weather when I plan to travel, how to get to/ leave each country. Within each destination guide, there is also information on the top places to visit and the top attractions which acted as a basic starting point for our trip. Within their website, you can click through to more information for each place to visit as well as the attraction information. You can also independently search for an activity or a smaller village/ town you want to know more about.
- Travelfish is an independent travel guide for Southeast Asia. Whatever you want to know about relating to Southeast Asia they always seem to have information. It is broken into country guides however within these there are links to cities, towns, small villages, activities, hostel guides, visa information, money and transport/ border crossing information. They cover Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. When I have been researching individual places within countries or particular activities I have always found travel fish to be very useful.
- Nomadic Matt‘s website is full of blog posts of his travels, however, it is also full of helpful city guides that he has produced from his own travels and tips and tricks for generally planning for your big trip. He has free copies of some basic destination guide blogs on his website but he also has links to buy some of the more comprehensive guides his travels have allowed him to write.
Travel apps and planners
Travel apps and planners are something that I have only really discovered since planning this trip. I have found some apps very helpful as you can use them on your laptop as well as installing them to your phone so you can use them when you are away. Many provide you with destination guides, places to visit or places to eat/ drink. Some I have found will also provide you with basic itineraries for cities if you are unsure what to see or the best way to use your time effectively when you are there. Here is a couple I have found and will be using for my trip.
- Lonely planet city guides– the Lonely planet has a number of city guides on their free app. You are able to choose and download various city apps to your phone. Currently, there are only the majorly travelled cities on the app, however, they are constantly updating it with new guides. These provide you with tips, advice, must sees, top experiences as well as the best places to eat, sleep, shop, drink and play. Each guide also provides you with an overview of the city, a breakdown of the neighbourhoods and a phrasebook. Anything you find you like the look of you can save in your favourites to find easily for your trip. Within each destination, you can also download offline maps for when you aren’t connected to the internet.
- Visitacity– Makes it easy to plan itineraries for your trip. They have a large number of destinations on their app- countries, cities and popular area destinations that you can view on their app. Within these, they provide itineraries based on the number of days you have to spend in that city and the type of itinerary you want: top attractions, family itinerary, easy going or packed itinerary. On these apps, you can also explore and learn about things to do and top sights. They provide maps you can see when offline and you can also save your preferred itineraries in ‘my plans’ if you are going to multiple places so that you can see them when offline. I have found these particularly useful to look at sights/ places and we plan to use a few of them particularly when there are a lot of sights to see and we have a limited amount of time. Currently, I have ones downloaded ones for days in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Osaka, Ho Chi Minh City and Kyoto. There are also more destinations for itineraries on their website.
- Odigo– is a dedicated platform for planning your time exploring Japan. Users are able to create itineraries in a very easy format. You can set the amount of time you are planning to be in Japan, and then arrange places, areas, sites and restaurants per day. The app will then optimise your route per day- allocating an amount of time at each place, working out the time between sites and it will then work out the best route for you to explore those places in that day. Users can also contribute articles and there are lots of these- listing top tens, the best places to buy or see certain things as well as people sharing their suggested itineraries for certain areas. We are very excited about visiting Japan and we want to experience as much of it as possible in the month we have there. We plan to use the bullet trains to get around which are very fast. We have planned our trip out on Odigo so it is very jam-packed at the moment, but hopefully, this will help us make the most of our time there rather than having to spend more money on a much more expensive tour to see the highlights. It may not be possible to go to all the places planned at the moment due to us not being able to travel everywhere or being limited with the train timetables, however, we cannot see these until we buy our Japan Rail pass (can only buy these 3 months prior to using it). You can see our itinerary for Japan on Odigo here, we are spending a month there in October 2017: https://www.odigo.jp/itineraries/34927. If you are thinking about joining Odigo please sign up through our referral link: https://www.odigo.jp/?i=alexfarthing to get Odigold.
At the end of doing all this research I ended up with lots of notes for each country about things we could see and do. We went through and decided what we did actually want to see and do. Then we sorted these into areas for each country- various cities. We had a rough country itinerary of where we wanted to go so then we had to sort out each individual country- just using the places we had found and putting them in a rough geographical order that fit in with the basic country plan (often using google maps to work out where places were). Once we had a basic itinerary I then set up a Travellers Point page and inputted the places in order to their planner.
- Travellers point– Once you set up a page their planner allows you to input destinations and add dates you are travelling to these. You can then send these dates around for people to see where you are roughly going to be going and you can also see each point as a map. By inputting these it gave us estimated dates that we can potentially use for family/ friends of family who we may meet out in certain locations. It also helped to us to realise that we were potentially planning way too much in some destinations and it has lead us to rethinking some countries like Indonesia where we are going to focus on Bali, Gili, Lombok, Flores and the Komodo Islands rather than trying to fit in locations in Java as well which would have meant we would have been on the go the whole time. This is just a rough guide for us for dates as well as places we might want to visit. It is unlikely that we will try to visit all of the places listed as we will probably want to stay in some places longer and sacrifice other places instead. But is has been very useful website for helping us plan our trip and if you want a clearly structured trip is likely to be a great tool for you. You can also add in notes, bookmarked pages related to each destination, search for accommodation/ tours in each place and add in transport you will be taking. Within the website there are also blog posting features if you want to have everything in one place. We have not taken full advantage of these features though so cannot comment on their quality.
See our planned our itinerary below: http://www.travellerspoint.com/member_map.cfm?tripid=934176
Hope you enjoyed hearing about ways we planned our trip and I hope it was helpful for your own travels. We are on the countdown to our trip now! Please subscribe to get more tips about planning your trip as well as for an update on our travels when we are out there.
P.S see previous blogs for tips on planning your trip: