How do I prepare for a travel?

5-10 more years ahead

  • Apart from south east, east Asian cities and Sydney, I have not been to other continent.  I’ll reserve the American dream or European destinations a little later in my lifespan. 
  • But for now, start building your portfolio.  Who knows we might not get that visa approval when we are not prepared with our financial statements.
  • If you are still in doubt with your travelling feet, try going local and join group guided tours first.

2-3 more years ahead

  • When local destinations may come in cheaper and easier to reach with just jumping to provincial buses in EDSA, you may also draw your international destinations then.  (Why not visit the other nearby 3rd world countries, before pushing for Singapore, Seoul or Tokyo).
  • When Asian cities were still just part of my dreams, I started studying by going to book fares or book sales, to buy travel books about a city.  (I even bought a book for Japanese etiquette).  I read these while heading to the office, marking the pages, categorizing between the must see and optional sites (that can fill-up my free days).

12 or more months ahead

  • Search or watch-out for the ticket sales.  This is the time that you’ll get it on a cheaper price.  But be careful on the in-season or off-season dates.  The fares might be cheap due to monsoon season, so how can you enjoy the place then.  

  • Once I have the ticket, I do start back-reading forums (e.g. pinoyexchange or tripadvisor) for a year’s worth of post.  I’ll prepare a tally of those which were mostly visited by travelers, check photos which I would want to see or skipped, look for newly opened attractions and find unbeaten paths or less traveled sites.

  • Same way, I would start searching for hotels, which I prefer to experience a boutique modern room at a cheaper price.  
  • I normally prepare a tally board of the price, location, I prefer LCD/flat TV, split type air conditioner, rain shower – as these shows if the hotel is modern or newly renovated, with windows (so can I see it’s raining or if there are already people walking outside in case I want to start my day at 5am when going to the mountains), with elevator (if I’m bringing a luggage), near dry market or shopping area or convenience stores, near trains or subways (better if in intersection or more than 1 subway lane for accessibility), location wise (near the most attractions so I can easily walk and can go home late), bar/water thermos (a must especially during autumn, winter or spring), optional free breakfast (I prefer free buffet breakfast, or most of the times it does not matter at all, since I do leave the hotel early in the morning to catch the early trains if going to the mountains or go to the next city’s attraction). 

  • If there are more expensive attractions that I’ll be trying then, I might opt to stay in a hostel, secured capsule or dorm.

9 or months ahead

  • Search and catch those insider deals from your most trusted hotel sites.  Try,,, for booking your hotels.  If budget matters, go to or  My favorite hotel booking site will be due to the points I have accumulated, I got a free night stay in Tokyo on 2014, and 1000php discounted stay in Nagoya in 2015 and Fukuoka in 2016.  I also got 85% off during early booking saver rate in Bali on 2013 and 10k php discount during hot deals for Sydney on 2015.     
  • Look for pre-opening hotels, I got to stay for a very decent modern private room in Kota Kinabalu for just 750php, 2010.  

Planning the itinerary
  • In addition to the tally I should have completed by then after reading sample itineraries in forums and trip reports on blogs, browse itinerary of famous travelers (, Anthony Bourdain, TLC), dive on and  Watch travel shows and look for documentaries in youtube.  
  • On younger years, I even bought city maps from National Book Store.  Recently, I can work on or off-line Android applications on be familiar on the city grids. 

  • Mapped out or locate the sites, I draw an imaginary line which places are on north, east, west, south, or which quadrants can go together, which places can go on the same date.  This will make your trip time and fare efficient. 
  • Define a theme for the day.  If you can refrain from visiting 2 palaces in a day, do it, otherwise you’ll get fed up (vernacular, “nakaka-umay”).  You can squeeze in a different theme in between these 2 days like going to a modern museum or a theme park.  
  • Have a separate day for you shopping day, when you can leave your heavy SLRs at the hotel and just bring your shopping money and extendable bags for the day. Hopping from one market to the next mall, as if your feet do not complain of a tireless walk.
  • For which ever religion you are in, make sure to spare a day to visit your church.  I do look for English mass schedule in Catholic Church or at least visit a chapel during my stay. (When we visited Bangkok in 2008, I have visited a lot of Temples in the morning and I have also attended a mass in the evening since I’m not a Buddhist after all.)
  • I make it a point to visit a restaurant with something special or with a reason – it could be uniquely themed, owned by famous personality, or a filming location.  (In Hong Kong it would be the Toilet Restaurant.  In Taiwan, it was Meteor Garden’s car restaurant and Jay Chou’s place.   In Seoul it would the drama cafes and Haha’s place.  In Sydney, we tried The Grounds and Jamie Oliver’s place.)

6 or months ahead
  • Finalize the hotel bookings, otherwise your chosen rooms may no longer be available. 
  • Prepare the detailed research – here’s the paranoia.  It’s like creating my fix log or preparing the procedure of what I will follow during my visit. From which transportation card to buy, to bus #s, to subway lanes, train stops, transfer station, subway exit #s, open/close hours – I do prepare a documentation for these information.
  • In parallel, I do enlist the fares and attraction admission fees, together with forecast breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, shopping expenses in a separate Excel file.  This will be my guide on how much should I prepare for the trip. (Thanks to unnie for letting me borrow 500 USD as emergency money when I go on solo trips, that’s for possible cancelled or delayed flights, rebooking, extended hotel stay or what so ever unpredictable situation that might happen.  Lesson: On my two-week trip to southern Korea, I lost my luggage on last KTX transfer together with the money, so be careful to keep your valuables with your hand-carry bag). 
  • Research for discounted coupons or tourist passport for cheaper deals or admission fees.

3 months ahead
  • Check the attractions you wanted to visit if they require pre-registration.  Just like visiting Blue House in Seoul, they limit visitors coming in so you have to reserve a slot for your visit.
  • Check the culture and how to be a responsible traveler in their place.  
  • What’s allowed on the dining table or how not to be disrespectful – like proper use of utensils or chop sticks as it may cause bad omen. 
  • Remove the red district or unsafe districts from your itinerary.  It may be famous but if there are petty crimes happening on the area, just stay away from it.  
  • Find what to be careful or cautious on the area. (In Beijing, refrain from entertaining students, as they claim themselves, trying to sell-off their paintings or traditionally written names.  Be careful in ripped-off taxi/cabs.)
  • Prepare for the weather, what’s the minimum or average temperature during autumn or spring. Can you just do layering instead of bringing leather jacket?  Check out the rainfall on historical data - 
  • Is there a festival or celebration?  It’s not always a happy fest, there are cases when the city is to pay respect to a previous bombing incident or boat accident – so you need to be aware of. 
  • Listen to the news.  Is there a recent natural disaster? There might be broken bridges going to a mountain?  In 2016 Fukuoka trip, some were alarmed if it is still safe to go after the Kumamoto Prefecture earthquake which cancelled train routes going to the southern area.  Instead I stayed in northern part, with Fukuoka, Nagasaki and Saga.  Is there a virus (sars, zika, flu) outbreak and if there is vaccine shot that you can take before going to the place.  Be careful to bring masks or anti-mosquito repellent when going to wet mountain side.  Is there a spread of bird flu or red tide where you should refrain from eating chicken or sea foods?

2 months or more ahead
  • Review your detailed plan, in case you missed anything.  

6 weeks or more ahead
  • If your trip requires a visa, you must then now prepare you bank certificates, birth certificate, certificate of employment, etc. 
  • Search for official consul websites which lists down all the requirements they need. Some would need a rough plan of your itinerary when you visit their country, that’s the case for Taiwan and Japan.  

4 weeks or more ahead
  • Wake-up early and go to the embassy for your visa application with the rest of the filled-up forms and requirements.  
  • Find out the lieu way for days before you can get your visa. (In 2015, Australia’s processing time is 32 days.  For South Korea, 3 days for frequent flyers and 5 days for first time travelers.  For Japan, they require the public to apply through affiliated agencies, they don’t accept walk-ins.)
  • Exchange for the foreign currency.  I prefer buying the 3rd currency instead of USD and exchanging later on the other country.  (Rates on airports are not that good.)

1 week ahead
  • Check the weather forecast, temperature, sunrise/sunset timings (
  • Prepare your luggage.  Check if the condition is still satisfactory, wheels are still moving, no cracks or broken zippers.  (If not, you still have time to fix or buy a new one).
  • Some would just throw in clothes on their bag without planning, but if you care on your fashion style, here’s the time you may do a cat walk on your room.  Cross-checking which tops can go on different bottoms to make your luggage a bit lighter.  You need to have a room on your bag for more shopping on your way back home.  (Refrain from paying an excess luggage fines).  Moving forward, as you take more trips, you'll soon learn and try to be a light packer until you become a real one. (Read articles on how to pack light, then know when to break them).
  • Decide on the things that will go on the head over bins or those under the seats. 
  • Prepare your medicines and first aid kit.  (I have a weak throat, and when I wanted to try out sweets, cakes, ice cream - I should always be ready with my medicine.)
  • Repack toiletries to small amount that can last you for your journey.  If staying in hotels or guesthouses, check if your hotel will provide toiletries, if yes, then then there’s no need to bring them with you. 
  • Print out your itinerary and hotel booking.  Make sure that you send copies to your family as well.  I do prepare a one-page summary of my itinerary (table format on date and places I will visit), screenshot of my passport and visa, details of hotel (address and contact), flight information and post it at home - just in case my mom would be wondering where am I going.  But more than that, we will never know when they would need it, just make it easy for them.
  • For those traveling solo and wanted to stay in touch with your family, download the Life 360-Family Locator application, so you can track each other, especially for those who are planing to remote or mountainous areas. 
  • Download and familiarize yourself on how to navigate on helpful applications (translators, bus guide, subway guide, etc.)
  • Unless you memorized them, make sure to have a local copy of your emergency contact numbers (embassy, hotel, family, tours) written on paper or online, just in case you lost your phone on your journey.

1 day ahead

  • Have enough sleep, so you’re alert in the airport until you have yourself inside the plane.  Be careful on your things and stay away from those you don’t know.  (Be careful of those tanim-bala, wrap your things properly without open zippers).
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Call out your bank to activate your international withdrawal or your credit card provider to approve your international transactions.  Be mindful of the fees and charges that will be included in your transactions.
  • Charge the batteries of your phone and camera.

Your travel day!
  • Activate your roaming service with SMS (or call if expecting to work while on vacation).
  • Prepare a separate local money in paying your transportation, travel tax and snack on the airport.
  • Moisturize as the air inside the plane will dry your skin.
  • Relax!  Enjoy when you get lost!
  • For whatever situation you may be in, stay focus! Stay safe! 
  • Enjoy, if you can’t avoid the situation!

This has been the routine for most of my travels in the past ten years, unlimited plans and paranoia.  Months ago (July 2016), I had my first two weeks trip in southern provinces of Korea with just 2 weeks to prepare and where I had my laptop broken for a week.  I had less time to plan my adventure, then I learn that it's also enjoyable to go to a place with no or less plan.  Just go with the flow on where will your feet take you!