It’s been a couple of months since Jass and I got back from a month long trip around Southeast Asia, and I’m finally getting round to writing up some travel posts about my favourite cities, islands and hotels. I’ve had a number of questions about how we planned our trip so thought I’d attempt to answer them all in one place.
Itinerary planning is complex and very time consuming. There’s no best way to do it as everyone has different travel desires, budgets, goals and needs – so unfortunately there is no magic formula. I have shared 5 of my biggest money saving travel tips here, and I use these every single time I book a trip – whether I’m planning a month away or simply just a long weekend.
Having travelled around Thailand and Hong Kong previously, we wanted to see more of South East Asia and tick some new countries off our bucket list in a relatively short space of time. Malaysia, Bali and Singapore were on the list, and as they are all fairly close together, we decided to do it in one trip as this dramatically cuts down on travelling time between each country, giving us more time to explore them all.
After hours of research and speaking to friends and family that had visited these places, we planned to spend around 10 days in Malaysia, 10 in Bali and 6 in Singapore in order to see and do the things we wanted to do. You lose about a day travelling to and fro that part of SE Asia, so it’s worth keeping that in mind and for us that meant we were away for a total of 28 days – 4 weeks.
It’s also worth noting that you don’t ‘need’ to know how long you want to spend in each place and you can book flights and hotels as you go along. My sister for example, is currently travelling in South America with her boyfriend for 6 months, and they just booked a one way flight to the US and their first few nights at a hostel in Columbia before they left. Personally, I’m very fussy with hotels and though we like to travel ‘backpacker style’ (without staying in hostels), I like a bit more structure to my time away and this wouldn’t have worked for us.
As we like to travel ‘backpacker style’, we always book flights and hotels separately so that we don’t spend more than 4-5 nights in one hotel/area. This way, we have more control over the areas we want to explore and we can see how the locals live rather than simply booking a package deal and spending a week in a nice resort with other tourists.
Initially, we saved a lot of money by being very flexible with the route – we didn’t have a preference about the order in which we visited these countries which really helped cut down on cost. I checked Skyscanner and called numerous online booking agents, multiple times on different days to get an idea of prices. (Personally, I prefer speaking to somebody on the phone when planning a complex trip like this).
Bear in mind that prices change on an hourly basis, so it’s worth taking some time to keep checking and write down the prices to keep track of them. If you can help it, I would advise not to book at ‘popular times’ such as Friday evenings, weekends and bank holidays as prices are driven up by the number of people searching for the same flights.
It’s worth mentioning that I have never used an actual travel agent such as Thompson or Thomas Cook as I know they are more costly. My first point of call and preference is always STA Travel. I’ve booked all the flights for our ‘big holidays’ through them as they are very knowledgable about the best route to take, they’re extremely helpful in trying to find you the best deal and they are all based in the UK which means less room for any potential errors! I know I could have saved a bit of money by booking the flights online myself, but for a complex trip like this, it’s a risk I wasn’t be willing to take.
Again, unfortunately there is no magic formula to this. It simply comes down to hours of research on Google, reading lots of travel blogs and TripAdvisor reviews! I will be writing a separate post on where we stayed very soon, so keep an eye out for that.
As tedious as it sounds, to get the best deal on hotels, we booked one a day.. Don’t worry, there is a method to my madness!
Like the ‘abandon your basket’ trick that I mentioned in this post, I have found that once you book a hotel on Expedia, within 24 hours, they will email you a discount code for more hotels to entice you into booking with them again. If you book with them again, they’ll send another discount code (sometimes a higher percentage, but not always!), and so I kept using these codes daily providing the same hotel wasn’t cheaper elsewhere – Out of the 7 places we stayed, 5 were booked through Expedia, 1 was an AirBnB and 1 was much cheaper to book directly.
Obviously, this trick isn’t guaranteed to work, but it has done for me 9 times out of 10 in the past so it’s worth giving it a shot if you have the time. The other benefit is that once you book multiple hotels through the same website, you can easily rack up enough loyalty points to get money off the next one which always helps.. and you earn nectar card points with every purchase on Expedia! It’s a win-win if you ask me!
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
Always check whether you need a visa for the country you are travelling to. Some have to be applied for online such as the ESTA for US travel, others have a long application process that have to be done in person and some are simply paid for at the airport when you reach your destination. It’s important to check this in advance so that you aren’t turned away before you’ve even set foot in a new country!
This is a good idea regardless of where you’re going, but should you find yourself in a bad situation or medical emergency, it can be life-changing. If like us, you are a frequent traveller, yearly travel insurance is much more cost effective than paying for single trips. Make sure to always read the fine print such as whether it covers water sports if you are going on a beach holiday or planning any boat trips. I think it’s always worth paying a little more for this, just in case you change your mind about water activities while you are away.
Sadly, terrorist attacks are becoming too frequent these days and they’re unpredictable which it makes it impossible to protect yourself absolutely. The most important thing to do is check up on your destination at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice before you book anything to learn about the situation on the ground. If there is a travel warning or a travel alert, you should seriously reconsider how important your trip is and if it can be postponed.
There is a lot of confusing information online about which vaccinations you need for various countries – the NHS Fit For Travel has some information on there, but I prefer to call my nearest Boots pharmacy to confirm this.
I hope this has answered some of your questions. If you have any more, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.