How to Plan a Vacation and Know How Much Money to Bring to Anywhere

Whether it’s your first time travelling, or you are getting tired of browsing forums for other people’s itineraries every single time you go somewhere new, here’s how to break down your holiday planning and expenses for stress-free, budget-friendly travel.

1. Decide where you are going and set a budget
What kind of trip do you have in mind? Would you be alright with having to think twice about buying a souvenir and spending on food, or are you the type to splurge on experiences? Once you have decided how much you are willing to spend for the whole trip, it will make budgeting a lot easier.

Tip: The further you are from home, the costlier your trips will be in general. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find similar activities in more affordable places.

Narrow down your top travel to-dos and check if there are other destinations you can compromise on. If you really prefer a certain country, you may wish to take a rain check and save up for that instead while settling for a nearby staycation in the meantime.

2. Solo, with family or friends?
Before you set anything in stone, the first thing to do is set a date. The earlier the better. For large groups, if there are people who can’t make it this time round, it’s better to let them know they can join in next time instead of reshuffling your entire itinerary on repeat. Mark school holidays and public holidays down and set a budget everyone is comfortable with for the flight (budget airline or direct flight?) and accommodations (Air B&B or four-star hotel?).

Some people prefer to go off the beaten path while others like to follow the itinerary down to the letter. If you can’t plan activities everyone will enjoy, you can compromise with a ‘free and easy day’ for those with different interests.

Tip: Designate who will be planning the itinerary, and make sure everyone knows the departure and arrival times in print.

3. Book in advance
Subscribing to travel site newsletters is one way of making sure you don’t miss out on special deals. A good rule of thumb is to check in at least two hours before your flight. Also, make sure your passport is up-to-date and if it isn’t, get it settled as soon as possible, because we all know VISA procedures can be slow.

Tip: Better safe than sorry – get travel insurance and remember to check your flight times, especially if it is past 12am midnight as flight companies like to list the timings in the 24-hour format. People have been known to miss flights that way.

4. Plan your itinerary
Choose your places of interest
It may be tempting to pack as many locations and to-dos in a day, but you will feel the toll the next. Plan one to three activities that are close-by in the same day and be prepared to cut down those are too far. It boils down to whether you prefer a relaxed pace or intensive trip.

Account for the time taken to travel (and even to find the next bus stop or train station) and list down how to get there in-between your activities. Think of what you want from your trip – do you prefer to take in the natural and local scenery, or dive straight into high-energy sports and non-stop music festivals? Focus on the spots you really want to visit and remind yourself that it’s alright if you miss some. After all, travelling should be fun not stressful.

Your phone and navigation
If the country you are visiting has good wireless coverage, pocket wifi may be ideal and can be shared with your friend. Else, there is always data roaming or a prepaid SIM card to choose from. Google Maps will also be your lifesaver when navigating from place to place or going on road trips.

Packing for travel
You may want to travel light and bring along a foldable duffel bag if you plan on doing plenty of shopping. Most hotels will provide toiletries and towels. A side loading backpack will save you time on having to unload everything to get what you need. Place all your heavy stuff at the bottom of your luggage and the ones you need to access most often at the top.

Travelling somewhere cold? Pack your hand warmers, a scarf and a vacuum flask. The last thing you want while on a holiday is to fall sick. You can also get second-hand winter clothes or borrow from a friend if you don’t foresee yourself needing them often in the future. Going to a rural country? Check your vaccinations, and bring stomach-ache or flu medication in case you get sick. For those with allergies, take your antihistamines or EpiPen with you.

Tips: Take note of the emergency numbers in your destination country and also for your local embassy. Solo travellers, always be aware of your surroundings and never take drinks offered by strangers. You may want to invest in a portable lock for your hotel door or barricade it with your suitcase for added security.

5. Cover the rest of your expenses
Set aside money for:

  • Travel: How much you need to get around town each day of your itinerary. Add in extra money for cab fare just in case.
  • Activities: Destinations such as nature parks, sightseeing and museums won’t cost much. However, if you are keen on snorkelling for example, you may need to account for gear rental besides activity fees.
  • Food: Generally, you will need enough for three meals a day with snacks and drinks in-between. For those on a strict budget, street food and convenience stores are good choices.
  • Shopping: Think of what you want to get overseas or nothing at all. Branded goods at a mega mall will easily cost you a few hundred compared to street shopping.
  • Souvenirs: Will you be bringing back anything for your colleagues, friends and family?
  • Tipping: Certain countries may have service tipping as their norm. While it isn’t an obligation, it’s still good etiquette to follow what the locals do (also, most of the time these servers thrive on tips for their daily wage).
  • Buffer cash: Lastly, add around 20% more as emergency funds.

Tip: Always keep your passport and cash with you in a safe place. Bring your debit card (you can check for ATMs in your destination country) in case you run out of money and remember to check your account limit before flying.

6. Checklist everything
Before you fly, check that you have everything packed and accounted for:

  • Did you bring your charger and universal adapter?
  • Are your liquid items in your check in bag?
  • Is your luggage locked?
  • Do you have your boarding pass and passport?

Lastly, keep in mind any cultural sensitivities, and don’t be afraid to talk to the locals or go off the beaten track.

Bon voyage!