- Is it safe for US citizens to visit this destination? check here.
- Do you need a VISA?
- Are you required to take medical precautions? (Typhoid shot, malaria pills, etc) Are there concerns of an outbreak: you check here.
Once you confirm/check the following; then you can beginning planning your independent tour! Good luck!
A step by step guide:
1. Decide on a budget.
2. Detemine your travel dates
a. Keep in mind the weather of your destination spot during your travel dates
Cost Saver: Can you swing flying on a T/W/R? Airfares on these days are usually lower in cost than regular weekend flying (F/Sat/Sun)
Cost Saver: Consider what is 'peak season' for your destination - costs will usually be higher for those travel times...take a look into what the weather is like when its NOT peak season...does rainy season mean it rains every afternoon for an hour - maybe you can hit the museums/temples during that hour?
3. Create a free account at http://www.tripit.com/
a. I don't know anything about programming, but these peeps do. All you do is FWD your confirmation emails from bookings (hotels/tours/transportation) and they'll upload into your itinerary
b. So handy for printing/emailing itinerary copies to your parents/family so they'll know where you are while on the other side of the world
4. Create a free account at http://www.travbuddy.com/
a. Like facebook and blogger had a baby and that baby loves him some traveling; get inside blogs/reviews from real people who have been to your travel destination
b. I used travbuddy to help find hotels and get reviews in all of the different cities we'd be visiting
5. Book your flights
6. Draft up a calendar and map out where you want to be each day
a. I do this on scrap paper and use a pencil because it gets changed a few times when you start getting into the details of planning
b. Put in the times of your flight departures & arrivals so that you'll be clear as to how much of your travel day will be consumed by hanging at the airport vs. time to sightsee
7. Book some day trips - even though this is an independent tour, we wanted a little help with some guides and inside hot spots.
a. I googled thailand itineraries and was connected with a Thailand travel agency in the UK. I was lucky to get a very helpful rep who was super patient and walked me through all steps of the booking process
b. Make sure you understand what the day trips include (meals? Pick ups/drop offs?, etc)
8. Book your hotels
a. Now that your day trips are planned, you can book your hotels based off of when and where you need to be to meet up with your day trip group
b. Travbuddy was a lot of help for me
c. Google currency converter to calculate actual costs - many of the hotels have their cost listed in the local currency, so the converter will spit out the US $ cost immediately
Cost Saver: Some non-chain, locally run hotels have breakfast, airport pick-up, access to the internet, or activities included in the cost. Make sure you understand all that you can get with your booking. Read as many human reviews as possible to get a better idea of the experience.
Cost Saver: Are you willing to walk 5 minutes to the beach? If so, you could save a pretty penny on forgoing a beach front hotel.
9. Keep fwding your confirmation emails to tripit.com
a. hooray for easiest itinerary creation ever!
10. Determine how you will travel within the country.
a. What will be most cost effective? vs. What is most time effective?
b. You can usually google train and bus schedules if necessary
c. Usually it is easiest to get your in-country travel taken care of when you get in-country (train, bus, cabs), but if you are renting a car - its probably best to book in advance.
11. Google "Must see things to do in _______ (city/country)"
a. Write those spots down in your Notes section in Tripit
b. Remember that since you're traveling independently - YOU get to decide...so museums/temples not your thing? Check out other interesting things to do: bazaars & markets, cooking classes, spa visits, etc
12. Google "Suggested Packing List for ______ (country) in _______ (month)"
a. pack accordingly