How to Plan Travelling ~ FYI: These tips are based on my personal experience. I can’t claim that I’m a travel expert or anything, but I can say that I do travel more than the average person, I would say. I’ve been to 27 countries so far and I travel multiple times a year. I’ve been doing this for eight or nine years, or so.
So let’s get to it. My favorite website to check for flight prices is called Skyscanner. And the reason why I love Skyscanner so much is because they have this monthly view of flight prices.
I personally like non-stop flights only, so I’m gonna check that. You can leave it unchecked and you see the prices are cheaper.
So what I love about this is that, say you want to book for December. It might get pretty pricey.
Oh, it’s not that pricey. And so here, it says $196 if you leave on this Sunday and it’s $196 to return on this date.
So the total would be $392, and then … I mean you can play around with other dates, as you can see. Just look at whatever is the cheapest option, if that matters to you, which I think it does.
Oh, no it went up. So this is $190 and this is $246. So you just play around with the prices here and just figure out what’s the best option for you.
One thing I do have to say is: This is usually not the final price. For some reason, when you click “Show flights”, you’re gonna see prices that are more expensive.
But looking at the monthly view just gives you a good idea of when the price range is usually cheaper for yourself. But you always have to check the final price, as well. So here you can see the best option they recommend is this one because it’s a non-stop flight. And this is the cheapest, but it has a huge layover. I mean, 26 hours to travel. I don’t think anybody wants to do that. I mean, if you do, then great.
But mostly, I like to travel non-stop, one stop at the minimum. So you can adjust your options here. Usually, I feel free to book directly through Skyscanner.
As you can see, it takes you to this other website where the total is what it said on Skyscanner. If you don’t feel comfortable booking through these random budget websites, then another thing I’ll do is:
Sometimes I’ll just use Skyscanner to check prices, and then I will go to something like Expedia where I’m more comfortable booking tickets from there.
As you can see, this flight that’s on Skyscanner, ANA operated by United, is $722. But if you go to Expedia, the same flight–this is basically that same flight, the ANA one operated by United, is $775. So you can see that sometimes other websites are more expensive.
So that’s why I like to check Skyscanner. It basically scans the entire web for the cheapest price. Another thing that’s really important to note is: Whenever you’re looking up flight prices, use an incognito window.
That way your browser doesn’t track what you’re researching, because these websites, they put cookies–I don’t know how cookies work, but basically, they track your searches and they can tell when you’re searching for the specific flight.
They’re like, “Oh, this person wants to go on this specific flight,” so they will raise the price just for you, just because they know you want it so badly.
There have been times where I noticed that my price on my computer is a lot higher than the price on my friend’s computer because my browser was being tracked.
Another app that’s helpful is called Hopper, and Hopper is an app that helps predict future airfare prices. And basically, you can input whatever flights you’re interested in, and then it will send you a notification when the price drops to its lowest point.
So that’s something to check out if you’re interested. And if you’re super flexible, you don’t really care where you’re going, you just want to get a cheap flight to get to anywhere, something fun you can do on Skyscanner is you can click here and then “Can’t decide where?”
So basically, you search everywhere and you can search for the whole month of say, January. And what it will do is it will give you the lowest prices ever, from your airport.
As you can see, there are a lot of cheap flights in the United States. Mexico’s cheap, Canada, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Cuba, Iceland. $300 for a flight to Iceland from LA. That’s pretty cheap! Nonstop? Whoa!
So then you click into it and kind of just play around with this and this. And you see how this says $341. Wow! It’s actually operated by Wow Airlines.
I’ve taken that airline before. It’s a budget airline. Let me just say that. Another website worth looking into is scottscheapflights.com. And basically, you enter your email and they will send you flight deals to your email, and that’s just something, if you guys are interested in that sort of thing.
My next tip is to familiarize yourself with the language. At least learn the basics because that can get you pretty far.
So depending on where you’re going, maybe it’s a place that speaks another language that you do not understand, it’s important to remember that, even though English is spoken by a lot of people around the world, you shouldn’t expect everyone to know English when you travel.
I feel like a lot of Americans, they travel and they expect a lot of people to be able to understand or speak English, where it’s like …
Why would you expect that of people when you don’t speak their language? Anyway, I think it’s important to always be culturally sensitive and to do your best.
Learn how to say the basics, like hello, thank you, excuse me, where’s the bathroom, or where can I get food.
These are really important questions that will get you far, and people like you better for trying to speak their language.
So think of all the phrases that might come in handy when you’re travelling, maybe when you’re lost or you need to find a bathroom or water.
Whatever it may be, write down a list of phrases that you will translate. And here, I’m using the HelloTalk app to translate phrases because what that app does is it can read back those phrases to you so you could practice just copying and following along with that language.
It also saves those phrases for you in the app, and you can favorite those phrases so that you could always have them on your phone when you’re on the go.
I know a lot of you are interested in learning new languages, so this is actually a really cool app that can do so much more than just translating.
HelloTalk is actually a language and cultural app that has over 7 million users where you can basically practice a language by chatting with a native speaker who wants to learn your language.
It’s kind of like a language swap where you’re practicing this language with a native speaker, but they also want to know your native language so you correct them, and they correct you.
First you set your native language, then you set the language that you want to learn. And then the app will suggest a bunch of language partners that you can practice with. And you can also browse Moments, which is kind of like a social news feed of other people’s posts on the app.
So that’s a really easy way to get your feet wet in this app without having to directly chat with people.
What you can do is you just browse people’s Moments and you can correct people’s English, and you can post things in your language or another language and people can correct you. And as you’re reading people’s moments, if you don’t understand what they’re saying, there are options to translate it and also do transliteration, which is kind of like pronunciation for these words in your language. And the app can also read out the post for you so you can practice speaking out this language.
By the way: if the thought of connecting to random strangers is kind of nerve-wracking, there are options to filter out people who can find you.
I personally set the filter to “Same Gender Only” and I reduce the age range of people who can reach out to me because I feel more comfortable talking to people who are around my age and people who are females, just because when I first opened the app, I got a lot of messages from guys from China, and they kind of overwhelmed me
and made me feel weird in some way.
So just do whatever makes you feel comfortable. I feel comfortable just chatting with girls because that’s just how it is for me.
You can also ask them for recommendations in the city that you’re going to. That’s another option, just connecting with people who actually live in the place that you’re travelling to.
Next, let’s talk about booking accommodations, and for me, it’s all about location. It’s all about finding the place in the perfect location that is very, very convenient to everything that you want to see during your trip.
Personally, I’ve stayed in hostels, bed and breakfasts, Airbnbs, and hotels, and I don’t know if there are other types of options out there.
I’ve never tried couch-surfing. That’s a thing, if you want to stay on someone’s couch. But personally, I think Airbnb is my perfect medium.
That’s my favorite way to travel now because I like being able to stay in an apartment-type setting, and Airbnbs are usually cheaper than hotels, but they’re usually just as clean and organized. And you have just as much privacy.
So before you decide where to stay, it’s important to have an idea of the spots that you want to see while you’re traveling.
I would do a quick research on top things to do in the city, or just have a list of things that you want to see, and then map it all out on Google Maps so you can see if it’s in any specific area of the city. And you’ll see where you’ll more likely be hanging out.
So for example, on my recent trip to Tokyo, I knew I wanted to stay on the west side of Tokyo because I love the areas Shibuya, Harajuku, and Shinjuku.
And basically, there are a lot of things to do on the east side of Tokyo, but I knew I was frequently going to go back to places on the west side, so that’s where I wanted to book around.
Another important thing is, if you’re planning on taking metro and a lot of public transportation, is to find a place that’s close to a metro station.
By close, I mean walking distance, less than seven minutes. If it’s longer than seven minutes, you’re exhausted at the end of the day.
You don’t want to walk fifteen to twenty minutes after your station to get to your place. Sometimes I’ve done that. It’s just really annoying. It’s just so nice to live right next to the station.
And the pro-tip on top of that is to stay near a station that’s on a major line that you know you’re gonna be using frequently.
This is going to take some research. You can totally ask anyone who’s a local in that area if you can.
For example: In Tokyo, one of the main metro lines that will basically take you to all of the most important places is the JR Yamanote line, and that’s the green line that goes in a circle.
Another example is, if you go to Taipei, the blue line is the line that is most frequented if you’re trying to see the tourist attractions, so my friends recommended that I stay near the blue line.
And it really makes a huge difference, because if you’re staying even close to a metro station but it’s on a line that’s further away from everything, you’re gonna always be transferring to that major line, so it just depends on how much you care about being convenient to the place that you want to see.
For me, I’ve learned to just find a place near the metro station, preferably on one of the main lines that I know I’m going to be taking all of the time.
So let’s jump into Airbnb where we’re gonna find a place to stay. When–and hopefully you have the dates that you’re going. So it’s pretty straightforward to use Airbnb. Let’s put two guests and then these, internet. So this is my secret for using Airbnbs.
Instead of just looking through the places like this–although you can do that, because it’s cute to look at photos. What I do is: I zoom into each metro station. So I’ve already done my research and I know that I want to stay along this Yamanote line that’s near Shibuya station.
So I have a lot of options because here’s Shibuya, and the line goes all the way up to here and then all the way down here, and then it makes a circle through there.
But I don’t want to stay on this side of the line. I want to stay on this side of the line, a few stops away from Shibuya.
Basically, on Airbnb, I’m gonna start going into each metro station on that line and looking in the immediate of the apartments there.
Normally, I would click on the cheap options, look through the photos, “Do I like this?”. Maybe.
Then I’ll just open ones that are interesting on a new tab.
So for example, if I don’t see anything I like around the Yoyogi area, then I would just go down. This is Harajuku. I know that it’s really busy here, but it’s worth a look to check out all these places.
So for my recent trip, I actually stayed down here by this station, Meguro. Another thing I pay attention to in the listing is they usually tell you how long it takes to walk to nearest station.
Sometimes if they don’t say how long it takes to walk, I have a feeling the walk is pretty long because to be honest, Airbnbs, these points are not exact.
They don’t expose the address of the Airbnb until you book it, so I don’t know if I would completely trust the location of this point. I mean, it’s probably the general area but it’s always just more safe to read the description of the listing.
So this one says “5 minutes by foot from the station”. And this one looks super sleek and this one says three minutes to Meguro station.
Another thing that I really care about is reading reviews. I love seeing four and a half to five star reviews for the place that I’m staying in. there have been times where I’ve stayed in a place where there were no reviews because it was a new home, so it’s been a hit or miss.
Sometimes they’re great, but sometimes if there’s no reviews, it could be kind of dirty or the place could not match the photos.
So just keep in mind that it’s always a risk. You’re always taking a gamble. Sometimes places don’t look exactly like the photos.
But if a listing has really good reviews and you actually read through the comments and it sounds great, then I would trust that.
Moving on, let’s talk about budgeting.
So how much money should I budget for my trip? How much cash do I bring? These are questions that I always ask every time, and it really depends on the location you’re going to because some places are cheaper and some places are more expensive.
That’s just how it is. But what I would do is: I would look up the average price for meals in your city that you’re visiting.
So look up the average price for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then you can calculate yourself: “Okay, if I’m going to spend $10 on breakfast, $15 on lunch, $15 on dinner,” that’s like $40 a day for food. And I’m sure there’s a lot of wiggle room there for stuff as well.
It really depends on you. I’d also look up prices for everything you want to do. So museum ticket prices, excursion prices, things like that.
So you can add that in your budget as well. So food, activities, and transportation, so whether you’re planning on taking metro or taxi, Uber, or even renting a car. That cost goes into it at all.
Lastly, how much do you want to shop?
So factor that into the budget as well. The tricky part for me is deciding how much cash to bring and how much I should rely on credit card.
Some places don’t accept credit card as widely as other places, so this really just depends on your own research on the city that you’re visiting.
Are you gonna be able to use your credit card? The best general tip I can give is make sure you get a credit card that has no foreign transaction fee.
I use the Chase Reserve card. There are a ton of other travel cards out there, but make sure you get one that has zero foreign transaction fee, because why pay for extra fees like that?
Another thing I always do is: I order foreign currency at my bank because the rates are generally the cheapest if you get it from your bank at home.
I don’t recommend exchanging your money at airports or any touristy places because usually the conversion rate they charge is much higher. It’s just better for you to order foreign currency at your bank before your trip, and it usually takes your bank seven days or so.
So order it two weeks in advance. My last money tip is to have the currency conversion app on your phone so you know exactly what the conversion rate is, and when you’re looking at the prices in this foreign area, you know how to use the conversion in your head or just do it in your phone really quickly because it’s helpful.
My last tip is on handling important documents, and this is just a personal tip that I think everybody should do just to prepare themselves and protect themselves.
All of your important documents, have a photocopy on your phone and online. Take photos and screenshots of your passport, boarding pass, ID, visa, the address of the place you’re staying, directions to the place you’re staying, and any other important documents or health insurance, things like that because you never know if you’re gonna lose something.
You always want to have a copy of all of your important documents, and you want to have a copy on your phone hidden somewhere, and a copy online on the cloud, whether it’s in Dropbox, Google Drive, or sent to yourself in your email.
That way, you can access it from anywhere around the world. You might also want to consider keeping emergency phone numbers on your phone and online in part of that cloud storage because you never know what’s gonna happen, and you want to have those numbers with you.
And also keep a written copy of these important numbers in your wallet or something, in case anything happens to you.