Category Archives: Planning

Packing for the Trip

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When you’re solo traveling, it is essential to pack lightly. The picture above showed what I usually packed for my 3-4 weeks trip. My red luggage’s capacity is only 15 kg max. I use it to pack all my clothes, toiletries and camera tripod. I always bring my camera backpack and another small sling bag to carry my wallet and travel documents. When I know that I would be doing some shopping, I also carry a small bag that can be folded and put it inside the red luggage to be used when the need arise.

Why do you need to pack lightly?
Because you might have to use your untrained muscles to carry everything. Even when you’re travelling to a country where elevators or escalators are abundant, there’s always a place where you still have to haul all your belonging manually. It’s a good exercise but when you’re tired, you’ll be easily irritated because of the extra workout. I often saw people that carry too many or too heavy luggage running to catch a train or plane. Once, I saw a couple having a fight while carrying 2 huge luggage and in the end the woman was so frustrated that she threw her luggage down the stairs inside a subway station (not all subway stations in the world have escalators or elevator).

How do I do it?
I usually travel for 3-4 weeks and most of the time, I stayed in hostels. Most hostels have laundry service for reasonable price. Some even give free laundry service, such as Kim’s house, where I stayed in Busan. So, knowing that I can laundry my clothes, I only packed clothes for a week and laundry most of them every week during my trip.

Another trick is, I only pack 1 set of top for each day and I bring denim pants because it can be used for days…kekeke… It’s acceptable to lower a little of your hygiene standard during travelling. So, for a week, I usually only pack 6 tops, 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of pajamas.

Of course, when travelling in autumn, the weather could be a little cold. That’s why I always monitor the weather forecast so I know the coldest temperature that I have to be prepared of. For this trip to Korea, I fret a little about the cold. I knew that I would be hiking Seoraksan and I was worried about the cold weather during the hike because it could be fatal. So, I bought tops with heat-tech technology that could keep my body heat. I also bought leggings to keep my legs warm and a pair of non-denim pants because denim pants can’t keep the body heat. One thing that I forgot was…..to coordinate the colors…..kekeke….so on the day I was about to hike the mountain, I just realized that my top was deep purple while the pants were green. Wkwkwkwk. That’s fatal because I still want to look elegant while keeping the cold away and wearing color-clashed outfit is a no no. In the end I wore my dark blue jeans with the deep purple tops. Thank’s God the day I went to Seoraksan was a sunny day – a rarity during that autumn season.

I usually pack my old clothes, those that I won’t miss if I had to leave them behind during the trip. When I went to Europe, I decided to donate some of my clothes so I could have extra room in my luggage for the books that I bought during the trip.

For toiletries, to keep the weight to minimum, I always bring half empty 100 ml bottle of soap and shampoo. Lately, I even brought less. My skin is not too sensitive so I can use soap and shampoo that are usually provided at the hostel/hotel. I also bring an almost empty tube of toothpaste and face-wash.

Beauty products that I bring usually are only a 100 ml bottle of body lotion, a small jar of face cream, a small pack of bb cream with spf 30 and a lip gloss. I never brought hair dryer because my haircut is short and it’s easy to maintain.

One thing that I never brought too was travel guide book. It’s unnecessary to bring 400 pages book because most of information are available via internet. Especially when travelling to high-tech country such as Korea and Singapore, there are free wi-fi services almost everywhere. I gathered enough information before the trip and stored them in my smartphone. As for precaution, I also learned a bit of the local language, enough to help me understand simple signs or asking for simple things.

Sometimes, people pack foods to eat during their trip. Well, I never do that because my motto is, tasting the local dishes is part of the travel experience that I must have. Don’t be afraid to try what the locals eat. Sometimes, I also cook simple meals when I couldn’t find anything interesting to eat – most hostels have public kitchen and dining area where you can cook as if you’re at home. Cooking is also a way to keep your travelling budget on track.

Conclusion
When packing for travelling to a place where it’s easy to get basic supplies, don’t pack too much.
Pack only the basic things that you need for travelling. Check your itinerary and pack accordingly. If you’re going to exotic island where sun shine is abundant, be sure to pack sunblock instead of thick jacket.
Pack only what you can carry on your own. Remember that sometime during the trip, you might have to use the muscles that you don’t usually use to carry all your belonging.
Prepare in advanced, learn as much as you can before the trip but don’t worry too much if you couldn’t learn everything. Whatever happens during the trip is precious experience, so just enjoy it. Be cautious but don’t be too shy to ask for help.

How to finance your trips

Okay, as I wrote in earlier post, I will write about the tips & tricks to finance your trip.

For those who expect a new trick, I’m sorry to disappoint you because the first tip is just plain old saving. Yup, saving.

If you’re an employee, like me, you get regular paycheck every month. The only way to accumulate enough money for a trip is saving.

You see, for me, travelling is a luxury. I can only satisfy my thirst for it only after I paid my debts (always pay the credit card bill in full amount on time and pay other debts – for example, mortgage – on time too) and after I put away enough amount of saving for retirement.

So every month, after I received my paycheck, I always do those two things first. After that, I save same amount each month for my travelling budget.

I put the travelling budget in money market mutual fund for 3 reasons:
1. There’s no subscription fee and there’s no redemption fee.
2. There’s no penalty or fee for redeeming the fund before 1 year.
3. The return is bigger than plain account saving.

Another trick is by arranging the cashflow. My usual cashflow arrangment is like this:
1. A year to 10 months before the trip: buy the plane tickets
2. 6 months before the trip: book accomodations
3. 3 months before the trip: book other transportation tickets – domestic flight & train.
4. 1 month before the trip: apply for visa
5. 1 week before the trip: redeem the mutual fund to buy foreign money for daily expenses during the trip.

So, there’s no instant way to finance my trips. The first time I was able to have a trip to Bali was after I work and save money for 3 years. The first time I was able to see Europe was after working and saving for 10 years.

There may be people who will disagree with me, it’s okay. After all, every one has their own style in travelling and managing their money.

^_^

Hunting for Tickets and Accomodation

Now that I had the dates and duration of stay at each cities, I could begin the hunting for discounted airline tickets. The key is, you have to know when the airlines’ promotion period. How do I know about it? By signing up for their newsletter.

Here’s a little tips:
1. Jet star always have promo every Friday morning. Their big promo (take a friend for free or return for free) is usually in late Oct or November.
2. Air Asia free seats promo usually occurs in late November.
3. Late November to early December is a good time to hunt for discoubted tickets from pricier airlines such as Lufthansa, Qatar, Malaysian Airlines.

For this Korea trip, I choose to use Garuda Indonesia airline because their discounted tickets is only a little bit more expensive than Air Asia’s regular price. My friend gave me the tip to look for the discounted ticket from the airline’s website around late January-February. I did that, and got the tickets for USD 520, the regular ticket price was around USD 700.

Next is hunting for accomodation. This one takes more time than looking for the tickets. I usually use Hostelworld.com for hostels, Tripadvisors.com and Agoda.com for hotels. Hunting for good accomodation takes time and that’s why I usually do this months before the trip – especially for a long trip like this.

The steps are:
1. Looking for available accomodations during the time of my visit. The really good ones must be booked up to 6 months in advance.
2. From those available accomodations, I usually rank them based on the review score. I believe that the higher the score, the better it is. I also compare the number of people who gave the score. A score of 7.8 from 50 people is more solid than a score of 8 from 2 people.
3. After that, I sorted them by the location. How high is their location score, how detailed is their instruction on how to get there. It’s important because I don’t want to stay at a really nice place but it’s in the middle of nowhere without access to public transportation.
4. Then from the selected few, I read the people comments. If the recents comments are all good then it’s a good one but if there’s 1 or several unsatisfied comments recently, even though the total score is still good, I won’t chose it.

Booking from Hostelworld is easy and you only have to pay for only 10% down payment. While booking from Agoda, sometime they have a promo for paying later – you book the hotel now but they will charge your credit card a month after that.

The nice hostels and hotels usually send a confirmation email directly after the booking website send their confirmation email too. They don’t just send the confirmation, they also give a detailed instruction with map on how to get to their premise.

Here are my selections:
1. The Suitcasers Hotel in Myeong Dong, Seoul.
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2. Casa Seorak, Sokcho
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3. Sum guesthouse, Jeju
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4. Kim’s house, Busan
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5. Nahbi guesthouse, Gyeongju
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6. Hill House Hotel, Seoul
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Duration & Destination

The next step in my planning phase is determining the trip duration and destinations.

For me, the minimum duration is 2 weeks. Maximum is 4 weeks. Why? Simply because, as an employee, i only have 17 off days per year. The company’s rule only allowed 6 consecutive leave days to be taken at once. So, if i want to go for more than that, even though my off days are available, i have to ask my direct supervisor’s permission to use unpaid leave. It means, the longer my trip is,  the less I’ll be paid for my work.

Another factor in determining the duration is of course, money. How much do you prepare to spend for the trip? The longer it is, the more money that you have to prepare.

For the trip to Korea, I decided to see the country for 2 weeks. Is it enough? Of course not! Kekeke…eventhough Korea is not that big, there are too many interesting places to see there.

The key is, knowing what you want to see and do on the trip. I usually make a list of things that I want to do and then planning the itinirary according to that wish list. I have to chose what I really…really…really want…I can’t be greedy hehehe…

My wish list for this Korea trip was:
1. Enjoying autumn in Mt Seorak.
2. Meeting with my friends in Korea.
3. Seeing the places visited by 1N2D members in Gyeongju episode.
4. Visiting Busan’s Santorini
5. Experiencing Jimjilbang
6. Shopping in Busan & Seoul

That’s all.

I know that the flight from my country will take me to Seoul and will leave from Seoul. So, Seoul is the beginning and ending destination.

Other destinations are Mt Seorak in Sokcho, Busan and Gyeongju. I decided to visit Jeju too…because…it’s an iconic place in Korea.

Next is determining the duration in each destination. It depends on how many places that you want to see there. I also have to estimate the time that will be needed to travel between destination.

Another important thing to consider is the possible routes and mode of transportations between destinations.
How do I know about all of these informations? Of course, I have to search for them. I mostly use Google.

Korea is one of the countries that I’ve visited that have a great tourism organization. The KTO – Korean Tourism Organization do a great job in promoting the tourism and providing information for traveling to and in Korea. Their webpage is well maintained. They have events all year round to encourage people to visit Korea. Their free apps are available in Apple Store and Google Play.

The KTO website was my main source of information. I also read a travel book about Korea, which was a gift from my friends. My other source of information was my friends who had visited Korea.

This was my original final itinerary (I made several itinerary versions and finally chose one that I felt as the best):
Day 1: arrive in Seoul, attend Sunday mass at Myeongdong Cathedral and meet with my friend.
Day 2: travel to Sokcho
Day 3: see Mt Seorak
Day 4: travel to Jeju
Day 5: sightseeing in Jeju
Day 6: travel to Busan, see Busan’s Santorini
Day 7: sightseeing in Busan
Day 8: take a walk to Mt Jiri
Day 9: travel to Gyeongju, sightseeing in Gyeongju
Day 10: travel to Seoul
Day 11 – 14: sightseeing in Seoul

Next: hunting for discounted tickets and accomodations. How? Wait for my next post ^_^

Planning is Half the Fun

For me, planning for a trip is half the fun. I already feel excited before the actual trip. Planning for a trip is a side-tracking activity that I actually like.

I’ve never really written about how I did this planning process in my other traveling blogs. So, this time, I want to share how I prepared the trip to Korea.

Let’s see…..where should we start? Hem….okay……

For me, the first thing that I have to decide when planning a trip is: WHEN to travel.

It’s important because:

1. I’m an employee, so I have to follow the company’s rules about taking day off for travelling. Careful planning will make sure that I will be able to finish the jobs/projects on time before leaving for a trip. I won’t be able to enjoy the trip if there’s unfinished business at the office. Actually, informing my direct supervisor months in advance usually will make it easier to get the permission for taking the days off from work.

2. Deciding when to travel will affect the itinerary of the trip. For this trip to Korea, I decided that I wanted to see autumn leaves at Mt Seorak. Looking up for the information about “danpoong” (단풍) or the peak autumn colors from the internet helped me decided to travel on during early November 2013.  At first I decided to see the southern part of Korea first but after studying about the foliage peak color, I changed my itinerary and visited Mt Seorak soon after arriving in Korea because the autumn color appears on the northern part first and then slowly move to the southern part of the country.

3. Having a decided date to travel will make it easier when hunting for the (cheaper) airplane tickets. The biggest expense for a trip is usually the plane tickets. Too keep the cost down, I usually travel during low season. Somehow, most people travel during summer or spring and that’s why the airplane tickets and the hotel during those seasons are more expensive. For me, the prettiest scenery in 4-seasons countries can be found during autumn. That’s why I usually chose to travel in autumn.

4. Knowing the travel date will also make it easier to coordinate the schedule with other friends. Sometimes when I travel, I have friends that I want to visit during the trip. I have friends in Korea and by letting them know in advance about my travelling plan helped us to coordinate our schedules.

5. Deciding on the travel date helps me manage my finances. How? I think I better explain this topic further in another post. I will tell you about my financing tricks later.

What else? hem…can’t think of any….

Well, that’s the first step of planning the trip. Next step will be revealed in my next post. See you later ^_^