Now that the destination is fixed, It ‘s time to define the itinerary, book hotels, domestic flights, trains, buses, in practice, as the famous quote “Every journey begins with a single step”, this is already the first step of a journey just begun , my trip to Vietnam.
Where do I find all the information?
First of all, searches begin with a nice reading my favourite guide, Lonely Planet, from which I take ideas, suggestions and references to the places to visit, itineraries, hotels reviewed. I find it very useful the chapters of generic information on the country, where I find all the practical information about the culture and tradition as well as numbers and useful addresses, health and technical information (currency, electricity, telephone connection etc.).
At this point, to start defining the route, I continue the search in the vast sea of the internet, and this requires a lot of patience, experience and time. I start from the famous search engine and choose the results that come mostly from other blogs and travel forums, avoiding the agencies sites. Nothing against them, but I prefer to read real travel experiences and articles written by travellers like me.
Disentangle from the thousands of quotes and reviews it is not easy, so I try to find original and realistic advice, which is not very easy, but also catch the emotions and feelings, both positive and negative that the author lived during the journey. Of course, it remains entirely subjective, so take everything with a grain of salt, but it certainly helps to extricate me a thousand questions.
Which site to book hotels?
Once defined the route, I need to book accommodations for the night. I take the Lonely Planet again, and I note down the names of reviewed hotels that hit me somehow. After that, I do a search on TripAdvisor to read all the comments and reviews it has the structure. I do not trust completely everything, of course, there are many variables in the judgments, starting with the personal tastes, so I try mostly to read between the lines and figure out if there are recurrent criticisms or compliments. For example, if the majority of comments refers all to a particular subject, like positive or negative comments on the cleanliness of the room or on the quality of the breakfast, it will mean that something in it is true, and this affects my choice.
At the same time, I always do a separate research on Trip Advisor and Booking (filtering for higher rating review), to select other structures that have a high-grade average and good reviews, and finally, add it to the ones taken from the Lonely Planet.
In short, the end of the research I have a selection of 5-6 structures which then reduce again until you get to have only 3.
At this point, a step at Booking.com, where I check rates and availability and, based on these, I book the structure.
One last very important factor in the final choice, is the option that allows to cancel your reservation free of charge until a few days before arrival, ideally until the day before, because I want to have the ability to change itinerary and program for any reason and that, during my travels, it happens quite often.
Why Booking.com? For loyalty … In practice, I use it since ever and my account has become “Genius”, which gives me the right to discounts or special promotions. I always felt comfortable with them, professional and efficient service, so I’m very happy as well. Of course, in some cases, I give a look to Airbnb, especially if looking for a truly local accommodation.
How do I organise and I keep all reservations, electronic tickets and useful docs?
At the end of each trip planning, I end up with lots of documents such as flights, train, bus tickets, hotel reservations and more, so it is very important to always have them available at any time and, above all, in the same place. Storing everything in digital, it is certainly comfortable but could be a problem if, for instance, I do not have an internet connection available and then any document would be accessible.
Therefore, I organise all the documents in two formats: paper and digital.
For digital, I use Google Drive, as I already have a Gmail account, everything is connected and fast, such as transferring an attachment by email to Drive. So I create a folder with the name of the destination (in this case Vietnam) and inside I copy all files.
For the hard copy, I simply print everything in A4 format and store in transparent cases, like those used in folders.
Finally, a good old notebook
Last but not least, I always carry a notebook and a pen, where I can at all times, pinning a thought, a useful number, address, and this is very helpful when traveling, because pen and paper at the end, it is always the fastest method and does not leave you never on the ground, like the iPhone does…
Grazie per la lettura,