There was a time that I was able to write a travel diary after every travel. I even managed to write one entry per day of a travel! Wow! Where did I get all the time?! But then life and wanderlust happened. I planned travels faster that I could write about them so now I have 4 years and 22 trips worth of backlog!
In those years of traveling, I’ve only booked a tour package thrice: during a trip to Bohol in 2014, a trip to Northern Vietnam in 2015, and a trip to Sagada in 2016. The only reason I did so was because I was travelling with a large group and the public transportation option between our target destinations was not very convenient. More often that not, I prefer planning my own itinerary because I usually set a maximum budget per trip. I then adjust my itinerary, accommodation, food and transportation options according to that maximum budget. And how do I manage to do this? It’s through everybody’s best friend: GOOGLE!
Yeah, Google has been pretty much my travel planing bff in addition to Booking.com. There are so many travel apps around but I always go back to these two for a seamless travel plan. Below are some of the Google hacks that I love and use a lot in planning my travels:
- Looking for cheap flights through Google Search
The best way to know about flight promos is still to subscribe to the alerts of plane companies. But there’s also a feature in Google Search that allows you to search for the lowest flights. Just type the IATA code of your origin and destination airports, then Google will give you the different flights available. You can further refine the search according to price, travel period, etc.
2. Never forget a flight and hotel booking detail using Google Calendar
Remembering your flight and hotel booking details can be cumbersome. The most hassle-free manner of remembering them is to just sync your Gmail to Google Calendar. This can be configured by enabling the “Events from Gmail” option in your Google Calendar. Next time, when a flight itinerary and hotel booking is sent to your email, this will be automatically reflected in your Google Calendar.
3. Learning the art of making itineraries through Google Sheets
There are now a lot of app options to document your travel plans but I still find Google Sheets as the most convenient. You can use it to jot down address, budget, references, etc. You can also segregate an aspect of your travel plan by sheet. A Google Sheet file can also be easily shared to friends for them to pitch in a travel plan. Here’s a sample of the template I use for planning:
4. Plan the most efficient routes and best accommodations through Google Maps
Google Map is the only tool I use to decide which places to group, what place should I visit first ,and how should I go there. Google Map can tell you how far two places are from each other, the transportation options available and cost, and even the bus or train stops nearest to your destination. You can also use Google Maps to look for the nearest hotels to your intended destination. For instance, if you are going to Seoul and you want to stay near the N’Seoul Tower, just search for “Hotels near N’Seoul Tower” in the Google Map search box. Google will give you the different hotels available, their cost and even their reviews.
Google Maps is also very useful if you plan to meet someone or you are travelling with a group and you need to keep track of your companions’ location. Just enable “Location Sharing” and voila you will be able to see in the map where everyone currently is.
4. Be one step ahead of your flight through your Google Assistant
You don’t need to check the information board at the airport to know the status of your flight. Just type your flight number in the Google search box and you can know if your flight is on time or delayed. If you also synced your flight schedules to Google Calendar, Google will alert you in advance if a flight is delayed. You can also check the status of your flight through your Google Assistant by saying “flight schedule”.
5. Google Translate is the master of every language
Google Translate is not perfect but it’s still one of the most convenient translator to use. It can translate to almost every major language, can scan pictures, allows dictations and can be used offline. For seamless translation while on travel, I download the language package as there is no guarantee of Internet access all the time.
6. Be dressed to the nines
Not being in an appropriate attire can ruin a trip. I always make it habit to check the weather predictions 1 week before a travel and everyday during the week of the travel itself. I then plan the clothes I will bring and wear depending on the weather prediction.
Planning for a DIY travel can be stressful but with the help of the hacks I shared above, it can be done. To make the best of out these hacks, you should also plan early, patiently search for details and options, and have a good sense of what are your limitations and priorities for a trip. With patience, practice and experience, you will become a master of DIY trips sooner that you realize.
Happy planning! 🙂