How to Plan the Perfect Trip Without Breaking the Bank
PART 3: TRAVEL TRANSPORTATION & LOGISTICS
Travel transportation and getting from point A to B can be challenging, especially if it’s in a country where you don’t speak the language. But it doesn’t need to be! Regardless of where you are traveling to, if you want the best chance of smooth travel transportation, you absolutely need to research and plan ahead. Other travelers, locals, and travel concierges are typically your best resource, and offer the most up-to-date and accurate information. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask. People are usually more than happy to offer help to visitors.
Depending on the location you’re staying and traveling to is going to determine the types of transportation available. Large cities are usually the easiest to get around, and offer a range of transit options (trains, taxis, subway, etc), whereas in more rural areas, transportation might be more scarce.
Different areas of the world have also different standards when it comes to travel transportation, and all are not created equal. Overnight trains in Thailand are much different (ahem, better) than those in Vietnam. Trains connect cities around Europe and make it super easy to hop from place to place without a car, but in the US, it’s near impossible (and time-consuming). Subways in Hong Kong are fast and efficient, but many large cities in the South America have limited public transit systems.
Within the City
If you’re in a large city, chances are, it’s going to be fairly easy to get around. I prefer to travel on foot when possible since it gives you a better lay of the land and a great opportunity to see the city. I like to plan a mix of activities paired with time just to wander around and see the sites while not worrying about getting lost or keeping to a timeline. Having a rough plan for the day is important though to ensure you don’t waste time figuring out what to do, retracing your steps, or traveling to opposite sides of the city. Start by choosing attractions and neighborhoods in the same vicinity, then make a plan of attack utilizing public transportation when you can.
If the thought of navigating bus and subway systems in a foreign city make you want to hide in the corner, taxis and ride share companies (Uber, Lyft, Grab, etc) are another great and affordable option to see the city.
Regardless of where you’re headed, Google Maps is your friend. It is by far the best ways I’ve found to navigate from point a to point b. Directions are (usually) spot on and newer updates include walking directions and very specific instructions for utilizing public transit systems that include stations, train/bus numbers and colors, how many stops you need to go through, landmarks, and a real-time location tracker so you know where you are at all times. If you’re in a location where you don’t have data or cell access, there’s also an option that allows you to save and download maps so you can use them offline. Easy peasy!
Traveling From City To City
If you have planned a multi-destination trip, you’ll need to figure out how to get from city to city. The obvious choices being plane, train, bus, boat or car. When choosing which is right for your trip, consider a few things:
- What’s my timeframe? If you’re in a hurry to see a lot in a shorter period of time, a train or plane might be best. But if you’ve got plenty of time, want to see the countryside, and save a few bucks, bus might be a better option.
- What’s my budget? Traveling by air is usually the most expensive (depending on airline and where you are in the world), followed by train or private vehicle, then bus.
- Who/what am I traveling with? If you’re traveling with children, the elderly, someone with mobility/health issues, or lots of luggage, you’ll need to plan accordingly. An 8 hour bus-ride through winding mountains with two toddlers, or an ocean cruise with your father that gets sea sick easily probably aren’t your best options.
If you’re planning on traveling by plane, follow my tips in Part 2: Research & Booking. Then sit back and enjoy your flight.
As I mentioned earlier, trains vary drastically from country to country. In Europe and many parts of Asia that have high-speed trains, it’s one of the quickest and affordable way to travel — not to mention the most scenic. In other locations that don’t have the infrastructure in place, you may find yourself tied up for days or in very close quarters trying to get to your next destination.
For the most comprehensive collection of information on worldwide train travel, be sure to check out The Man in Seat 61.
Although not the quickest, buses can be found in most major (and not so major) cities around the world and are very budget friendly. Comfort and reliability can vary from region to region ranging from tourist sleeper buses to local buses. Tickets can be purchased directly from the bus stations or advance online or through local travel agencies (just make sure they’re legit). If you’re keen on saving even more, look into backpacker hop-on-hop-off passes or tourist passes available on popular tourist routes.
For additional info on bus travel, check out The Trusted Traveler’s helpful collection of links.
Nothing is more scenic than traveling by boat (large or small). For a slightly more luxurious and relaxing take on travel, consider booking a ferry for short jaunts and island hopping or a cruise for longer excursions. I recommend that everyone take a cruise at least once in their lifetime. It’s a fun and easy way to see a lot of destinations on one trip. And the best part is — it’s all-inclusive and your room travels with you, so no need to worry about lugging heavy luggage or bags around!
For tips on cruising and picking the best cruise, check out Cruise Critic.
By Car or Motorbike
Sometimes part of the fun of exploring a destination is getting off the beaten path, and it’s inevitable that you need to rent or hire a car or motorbike. But before you fire up the engine and take that road trip, you need to keep a few things in mind:
- If you are in a country other than your own, what are the rules of the road? Are there any obscure traffic laws I should know about? What side of the road do they drive on?
- Is my driver’s license valid here? Some countries require visitors to have an international license or permit in order to drive or even to rent a car.
- Do I need additional insurance on the rental? Often times rental agencies will offer this as an add on, or check with your travel credit card to see if it’s an extra perk they offer. Many offer the benefit of car rental coverage if you use that card to pay for your rental. Additionally, your regular auto insurance may also extend to rentals, so check your plan.
- Are there any limitations on your rental? Is there a milage cap or special rules with crossing state lines or country borders?
- Finally, above all else, be sure to return the car with a full tank of gas and in the same condition you rented it in. Before leaving the rental agency, make note of any dents, scratches, or damages to save yourself from the possibility of being charged with it upon return.
Booking a car is a similar process to any other item on your trip, and can be done through most booking websites or directly with the rental company. Generally, no payment is due up front, so it’s a good idea to reserve it as soon as you know you’ll need it.
If you’re worried about driving in a foreign place, consider hiring a driver for the day. They know the lay of the land, the best places to stop, must-try local gems, and are usually pretty affordable, especially if you’re in Asia or South America.
PRO TIP: Renting from an airport location is often cheaper then renting from locations within the city.
What are some of your best travel tips for getting around on your trip?