Useful Tips for Planning an Independent Trip

If you have seen any of my posts so far, you probably already know that I am a planner. I rarely go anywhere without thorough research into the history of the country, all the cheaper and best options for transport, hotels, food, etc, as well as a well-developed itinerary. I have been to 54 countries so far and planning Japan now 🙂 

The thorough plans annoy some people, but I prefer it that way to losing a lot of time on the spot trying to figure things out. Certainly if you are a nomad, or have the luxury of travelling for an extended period of time, winging it can be a great option, but for trips with relatively limited timeframe, my planning tips can be of help 😊

Let’s start with the basics:


This is the first thing I check before starting to plan any trip. Having a weaker passport, I don’t take it for granted that I could travel anywhere. There are quite a number of places for which I would need to travel to a third country to apply for a visa. So I simply rule out those places for now and go wherever I don’t need a visa or online visa or visa on arrival is an option.

  • A good starting point for checking whether you need a visa and how to get it is your country’s Foreign Ministry website. Some countries provide thorough information, others – well – not so much. Either way, this often gives only a general idea, as usually the Ministries don’t provide sufficient information about online visa options, etc.
  • Next, I start looking at the destination country official visa information (it can be from Ministry of Foreign Affairs or any Government websites). Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize, whether the website is official, so do a thorough research.
  • IATA provides great information about visa requirements, although not always enough on the ways to get the visa.
  • Some airlines are also a great source of information. For instance, Qatar Airways has quite good database on travel requirements. I find that it is up-to-date whenever I needed to look, but of course it may not be for some destinations. Some other airlines also provide similar resources.

If you don’t need a visa, that’s amazing But if you do, don’t be discouraged just yet. It may be quite easy to get. Many countries have the option for online visa or visa on arrival. Check all your options and find the best one that suits you. If that also isn’t an option, see if the country has an embassy where you are located. It may be a hassle, but if you really want to go, it can be worth it to get that visa😊

Timing of the Trip

After I figure out the visa requirements, I look at the best possible times to go to any certain country. This actually depends on your preferences. While I hate cold to the extent that with zero Celcius degrees outside, I just don’t wanna get out, the winter may be the best for you. So have a look at the average temperatures per month, the possibility of rainfall and compare this to the prices at the time.

If you can go off season or during the shoulder season, you will save a lot of money. But if it means, your experience will be completely ruined by constant rain, freezing temperatures or extreme heat, count this in your decision. Either way I almost always skip July or August, as this is the busiest time anywhere in the world. But I have the option to get vacation days outside this very high season. If that is an option for you, definitely consider other months, wherever you are going.

Also have a look at the holidays in the country of destination and origin. If it’s an Easter weekend, for example, prices for flights and accommodation will be crazy. But I have travelled at this time sometimes, when that was all I could do because of work.

There are a number of websites to help you check the weather per season/month. For instance, ; ; . These are just a few examples which have helped me, but there are hundreds of websites and simple Googling will be sufficient.

Getting There and Transportation

One of the most difficult parts can be finding the best transportation option. Nowadays, post-COVID and the attack on Ukraine, the flights have become more of a hassle than it used to be. However, it’s still possible to prepare well.

Depending how far you are travelling, a bus or train can be an option. Bus can be cheaper, while train (at least in my opinion) most convenient for shorter trips. If you book sufficiently in advance, trains can also be very cheap. For instance, Eurostar will get you from the center of London to the center of Paris in 2 hours, without a hassle of going to the airport and waiting. So have a look at your options and decide relevantly.

Rome to Rio  is actually a great website telling you most of the options (although often with wrong prices). But it’s a good starting point. After looking at this, go to the relevant train or bus company website or start searching for flights, if that’s the only option. ;  – are good options for searching for trains in Europe and Asia.

If you figure out that any other option is too long or nonexistent, start searching for flights. I personally first look at the websites providing information about multiple options. Google can directly provide this information, there is also Expedia,, edreams. I personally prefer to look at Skyscanner. Skyscanner allows to look at the cheapest month, shows the cheapest options in the month you want, or shows you your best options, if your dates are fixed.

I use all of these only for looking at options, I don’t usually book through them. While this worked out for many people, these third-party websites are often unhelpful in case of the need to change anything or if there are cancellations. For these cases booking directly with airlines protects you far more. I personally have never seen these websites having much cheaper tickets than official websites of airlines, but some people have found great deals on them. If that’s the case, see if the saving is worth it for you. Also, keep in mind that many of these websites direct you to others. Definitely first check the legality and trustworthiness of any website you decide to book with. For this look at Trustpilot and google any reviews.

If you are searching months in advance, don’t immediately book whatever you find. Keep looking for a while, as there might be some offers from airlines. It’s not predictable if this will happen but almost all airlines have offers (less of them post-COVID, however, they still exist). Definitely register with all airlines that fly to your nearest airport and monitor their emails and websites. I have accounts with Qatar Airways, Aegean, Wizzair, Turkish airlines, etc., most of those that fly to Tbilisi to receive information about any discounts that they may have. If you are lucky enough to live near a major hub, you will have far more options.

Travel Itinerary

Once you book your transportation and already know exact dates of travel, it’s time to start thinking about the overall itinerary. First of all, look at the places you would like to visit (if you already didn’t). for this part, I personally look at the blogs, like mine. There are a lot of people writing about their itineraries, which will help you see, if you would like to see all of these places or skip some of them.

If your trip is a few days and you are just staying in one location, then skip this part. If you do a longer trip with several locations involved you need to thoroughly research how long would each location take and then find transportation inbetween these places. If you travel shorter distances, it might be easier and you could maybe even get bus or train tickets on the spot, but still know in advance, how you are planning to get around. If distances are longer, than maybe you need to book flights or fast trains way in advance. So for this do another thorough transportation research.

I will give an example of one of my longer trips to SE Asia. I have been looking at a longer – about a month – trip, given that the flight prices to get there from where I am located were a lot. I looked at flights to several major cities in the region and found out that it would be cheapest if I flew either to Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. The Qatar airlines I was looking at is usually allowing to do multi-city flights with which you arrive to one city and leave from another. So I finally booked flight to KL and from Bangkok. This gave us almost a month in the region having the flights. After that I started looking at all the places I wanted to see. For instance, I definitely wanted to see Angkor and stay in Siem Reap for 5 days. So I looked at transportation from KL to Siem Reap and found 20 dollar tix with AirAsia, which was perfect. After that, I looked at flights to Luang Prabang, as getting there on land would be exhausting. From there to Bangkok and Bangkok to Krabi and back. This looks like a lot of flights, but within one month period a few short flights saved us a lot of time and often money too.


Once you come up with the itinerary and know how long are you staying in each location, you start looking at accommodation options. There are a lot of possibilities – some people love hostels and meeting people, others prefer the cozy feel of Airbnb, hotels.

I personally prefer hotels, unless they are absolutely exorbitant, as this gives more independence and one doesn’t need to arrange to meet someone upon arrival, inform anyone if their flight is delayed, etc, like in case of Airbnb.

If you, like me, prefer hotels, you have options of ; ; ; and so on. I usually look on Booking and read the reviews thoroughly. I do suggest to everyone to look at reviews (not just the overall score) with critical eyes. The thing is that some higher end hotels have lower reviews, simply because people have too high expectations and a simple thing, like the receptionist not smiling at them may make someone write a negative review. So read those and decide for yourself, if those points are important to you. I usually start reading negative reviews and if those don’t contain anything I dislike, I choose that hotel.

Things I normally look at, while choosing a hotel:

  • accessibility of the location (in some bigger developed cities being near transport stops is very important),
  • cleanliness (if a few people say it wasn’t clean, probably it isn’t),
  • safety (for instance, if several people report losing their things from their room, there might be something fishy about the place).
  • easy access for bugs and insects (if too many people find some bugs, that’s not for me; nothing to say about bedbugs, which are a stuff of nightmares).

Other things of course depend on you – for instance, if the only complains are that it’s a bit noisy or that the room is small, that doesn’t bother us, but it might other people. 

Once I find an option I like, I check on other websites. Simple googling can show what are the prices of a particular hotel on each website. After that you probably will choose the cheapest option, at least I do 😊

Some people book these important things and leave the rest to be discovered on the spot. If you have weeks and months in one location, that definitely is a great way to get to know everything with a slow pace and figure things out as you go. However, if you like me usually have limited timeframe and prefer to have things planned rather than stress afterwards, then go on reading.

More Thorough Itinerary

Once you have your accommodations sorted, start making a day-by-day itinerary. It depends on how much of a planner you are. I myself make a list of places that are closer together and plan what we see after what and how to get to each location from hotel or another place.

For this I need to look at the following things:

  • I pin all places I wanna go to and activities I want to do on Google maps to see which places are closer together. I have green pins for the places I want to see, yellow – for food places, red for accommodation, etc 😊
  • I look at opening times of each of the places I wanna go to – some museums, temples, etc. may have limited opening times every day or be closed on a certain day, so do check all that before making your plan for the day. Besides, some things need to be booked days or weeks in advance. For instance, if you just show up at the Uffizi gallery in high season, you may spend many hours just waiting to get a ticket. While in Nizwa fort you can waltz right in, as soon as you show up. So double check what needs to be prebooked.
  • Then I decide the sequence of visits for the day. After which I look at transportation options inbetween these places. Some might be walkable, which is amazing, others may need metro, bus, tuk-tuk, taxi or whatever else. I usually look at public transportation first (I hate haggling with taxi drivers). If a city has metro or tram, that’s my preferred mode of transportation. For some cities Citymapper app can be great, others may need specific local apps. For outside cities I look at prices of hiring a driver or taking a tour. If you need to do either of these, prebooking tours or drivers will almost always be more expensive than if you spoke to the local tour agencies while you are on the spot.
  • In some cases, if we are talking about ginormous palaces for instance, I look at all the things I want to see inside the palace, just in case not to miss it. As I never take a guide, I do guide’s job myself and read on the history of the places, stories, etc.
  • I even look at the good and cheap food places and cafes in each place I go to. These I simply google and read the reviews.

Other Resources

Other resources that may help you while making your itinerary and planning your visit in general:

  • Blogs and vlogs – I love reading blogs. They give so much advice, which isn’t easy to come by even in guide books. So blogs are my first go-to resource, when making a plan.
  • Guidebooks – my preferred is Rough guides, but there are a number of others, including the famous Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, Brandt and so on.
  • Travel Fb groups – there are a number of groups for travelers, including those for specific regions (for instance, South East Asia traveling), specific countries (Jordan backackers), parts of countries (Bali travel), for specific groups (Girls love travel, Solo female travelers group). You can read other people’s experiences and ask questions, if searching doesn’t help for some specific things.
  • TripAdvisor forum – another useful place to ask your questions, if you are stuck with something while planning your trip.
  • Reddit – same as above, there are a few reddit topics, where you can find people’s posts and ask questions.

Other Things to Learn while Planning Your Trip

  • Learn about local safety situation in order to avoid any areas considered sketchy. Read other people’s stories about the most common scams to be aware and not to make same mistakes.
  • Learn about the health environment – check if you need to be vaccinated for anything and make a decision if it’s just a recommendation and not a requirement. Learn, are there any dangers coming from insects or creepy crawlies to keep in mind and be prepared. If you are going to tropical locations – parts of Africa, SE Asia, parts of Latin America, the mosquitoes may carry dengue and other viruses, so you will need to bring mosquito repellents and spray every few hours.
  • Get the insurance – many people do entire trip insurance, we usually do only health insurance. This last is requested by many countries and you may be asked to provide proof of its existence upon entry.
  • Find out where is it better to exchange money. In some countries banks have the best rates, in others – you may need to find exchange offices without commission to get the best rate. Before going, research where is better to exchange money and note a few spots near your accommodation. Always try to exchange very little at the airport to only get you to your hotel, as airport exchange rates are almost always terrible.
  • If you are one of the people who can’t survive without internet, learn about the cheapest relevant prepaid sim packages in that country. For that check several major providers’ websites. I don’t suggest using roaming, unless you don’t mind throwing money to the wind 😊
  • Check local customs and traditions. Make sure to at least know basics, such as the fact that thumbs up is considered a bad thing in some countries, that you shouldn’t say anything bad about certain important figures in other countries, etc. This will help you not to offend anyone, or to stay out of trouble.
  • Check how locals dress and what is frowned upon, even if you are a tourist. Most countries may not have any official prohibitions on clothes, but you may feel more comfortable, if you don’t attract too much attention. I personally have bought some long lightweight dresses just for travel. I dislike long dresses, but they are useful for travelling to hot destinations, where knees need to be covered. Plus, in many temples and mosques around the world, the usual requirement is that shoulders and knees should be covered and you may need to take your shoes off (so I always carry socks in those countries).
  • Learn at least a few words, such as “hello” and “thank you”. You will find that even with that locals will be far more friendly to you and will go out of their way to help you, if you ask anything.

Apps to Download for Your Trip

(An exhaustive list can be found here)

  • Your airline app – many airlines currently have their own apps, which notify you with updates on your flights.
  • Accommodation app –, Airbnb app or another relevant app with the details of your bookings and numbers.
  • Maps – in most of the world, Google maps works quite well, but it may not always be accurate. Have or any local map, as a backup. Don’t forget to download the area you are going to for offline use.
  • VPN – many countries in the world may restrict certain apps. For example, in Oman you can’t call via Skype without vpn. I use Tunnelbear, as it’s free. Expressvpn is also widely liked.
  • Google translate – have the language you need downloaded for offline use
  • Taxi apps – in many cities, Uber, Bolt or similar international apps work. In others, you may find local taxi apps instead. These may not always be the cheapest, but firstly it will give you an idea, approximately how much should a ride cost, and secondly, you may not want to haggle with the driver, who quite often cheat.
  • Public transportation applications – examples include Citymapper, Moovit, etc. this will be specific to countries you are going to.

What to Bring on Your Trip

Packing is one of the issues widely discussed now with airlines often losing luggage, introducing new fees for checked bags, etc. Besides travelling light makes you more flexible and sometimes makes things easier, when taking local transportation. So if you can help it at all, bring only a carry-on size suitcase. I personally can fit into this for up to 2 week trip, but I understand this is not for everyone, as my clothes are small 😊

I can’t really advice anyone on what to pack, as this highly depends on the purpose of your trip. If you plan a beach vacation, you will have an entirely different packing list to that for the skiing trip. I and many other bloggers write what not to forget while travelling to a specific country, so be sure to check the posts out. After you’ve done your research on the locations you are visiting, you will come up with the relevant packing list.

I guess I gave the short info on the basics that may help you guys out. I am always happy to answer any questions you may have while planning your trip. Just drop a comment below.

Happy planning!

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