19/12/2016 11:59 AM IST | Updated 26/12/2016 8:52 AM IST

How To Plan A Customised International Trip Without An Agent

It’s a 4-step process.

I love going on holidays. Half the thrill of a trip is planning every aspect of it. I am an intensive planner and loathe package deals for vacations. I like to take things at my own pace and make sure that we take in sights that are on the regular tourist list, as well as a few things off it. Planning everything from scratch has become easier now thanks to the abundant information online. I recently planned a five-day trip to Bangkok, with my family and here is how I did it. Who knows! You may actually be inspired to plan a similar trip to just about anywhere in the world.

Sudhakar B Prabhu
One of the myriad sculptures across The Grand Palace

Know what you want from the trip

We all do our research online these days and it's no different when looking at a city. But what I have found most important is knowing what you expect out of your trip. I wanted to show our daughter (whose first international trip this was) a good time and so a place with things for both adults and children was what I was looking for. Looking at the many fun things to do in Dubai, it became one of our top choices. More so because we had family and friends there as well. But unfortunately, the month of our travel did not make it feasible for family in Dubai to carve time out for us and so that plan is on the backburner for another holiday. Good this is, I have the itinerary set!

Hong Kong, Malaysia and a few other places went through the same checks and we finally settled on Bangkok. Why? A couple of reasons—it fit our budget, there were direct flights and there were a ton of attractions to entertain a child.

While the usual sources of information will help you form a base, looking at travellers' blogs also gives you first-hand experiences that are usually not listed out. In fact, you will get tidbits of information on things to pick up, places to visit and amenities that you may be specifically looking for!

Booking the right flights

I began by first making a comparison of all the flights out of Bangalore to Bangkok. Cheap, yet comfortable flights were the priority. I also decided to take a look at flights from airports close to us. Chennai, on average, offers flights at a significantly lower rate. But, when I worked the math out I realised travelling to Chennai, overnight parking and accommodation would come to about the same as flying from Bangalore.

What I did was make bookings for the flight and its associated services in a staggered manner. While I booked the flight in one month, we booked check in luggage in another and finally chose seats and meals two weeks before the actual flight. This helped ease the burden of expenditure as well.

One detail that popped up at this time was that most flights from India land early in the morning, whereas check-in at most forms of accommodation in Bangkok begin only at 2pm. This led me to include that as a criterion when booking accommodation.

Ideo Mobi at On Nut, Bangkok

Finding the right accommodation

We are the kind of family that does not want a fancy resort or star hotel to stay at. Our criteria include central location, close to local transport hubs, clean beds and bathrooms and of course a safe locality. This time around, we decided to try going the AirBnB way. It took a bit of digging to find the perfect place but we did. A one-bedroom air-conditioned condo in On Nut, 100 metres away from the Metro line, with a pool, gym and 24-hour stores around. We couldn't have asked for more. Especially in Bangkok, there is no central location to think about. As long as you are close to a metro station, commuting is never a problem. You will find a number of sites online that will give you great options for the budget you have on hand and the facilities you are looking for.

Planning an itinerary

With all this settled, you next need to plan your itinerary. Give yourself at least a month to research and read up on possibilities. I wanted to do a lot in a day, but then you need to give yourself the time to commute, the time to spend at a place, factor in time for meals and of course give yourself some leeway to accommodate a child who just may not be in the gung ho mood you are in at 7am in the morning.

One of the colourful acts at the well coordinated Playhouse Musical show at the Suan Lum Night market

What I was happy to find is that there are group buying sites where you can purchase your entry tickets to most sites at a discounted rate. These rates are significantly lower than buying over the counter or even the online sites of major sites in Bangkok. I used Hotels2Thailand to pick up tickets to Sea World, The Playhouse Musical and Safari World, at prices that gave me extra to spend on us at every place.

When planning an itinerary, I have found it best to club sights that are close to each other. This allows you to change your plans a bit if you so feel like it. So when rain played spoilsport at a visit to the Grand Palace and made us drop out of a place we were to visit, we replaced it with an evening of jazz music that we were scheduled to watch the next evening. Ideally, have one big outing planned for the day and have one or two smaller events for the later part of the day.

Also, I found that it is best not to stick with the clichéd things a place is known for. While the bargain malls are nice at Bangkok, it becomes repetitive to do the rounds in them. I did some of my best shopping at night markets, which are not really spoken about. I also found great deals at small pop-ups that appear every evening outside large departmental stores. The same logic also applies to food. Go where your heart leads!

Grilled Octopus at Chatuchak Market

Planning an international trip is all about playing it smart. Look for things specifically—for example, do you want to know whether a specific mall on a specific road will offer you a diaper changing room? Get online and ask the question and you bound to find the answer. Be a little adventurous, but do be cautious as well. Keep room to add things to your itinerary—no matter how much you plan, there will always be something interesting that you did not factor in!

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