How Malaysians can plan holidays without relying on travel agents

Free independent travelers (FITs), or fully independent travelers like to plan for holidays on their own. But it doesn’t mean that only savvy travelers can holiday without the help of a travel agent or guide.

Traveling on your own comes from experiences gained while being on the road. Nobody starts off being a totally expert traveler. Just ask Matthew Keppnes, the man behind the popular travel blog Nomadic Matt.

“Travel savvy-ness is a process born of missed buses, foolish behavior, cultural unawareness, and countless tiny errors. Then, one day, you begin to seamlessly move through airports and integrate yourself into new cultures like a fish to water, ”he wrote in a post.

That being said, it can be daunting (and perhaps, even a little intimidating) to plan your own trip. After all, engaging in the services of a travel agency will immediately iron out many logistical issues.

Another travel writer even said independent travel is akin to improvised cooking where you sort of “cook up” plans as you go. What’s for certain is that planning for your own holiday can be incredibly rewarding as you have full control of your time and environment.

Here are three simple steps to get you started.

Do your research

Thanks to the Internet, looking up information on the destination you’d like to visit is a cinch today. There are many resources available online – from first hand account in travel blogs to virtual travel guides – that make planning your itinerary easier. Some things to consider are local experiences, transportation methods and accommodation options.

There are specialized groups on social media where travelers can connect with local experts or seasoned travelers to get expert recommendations on unique activities. As for transportation, download the respective rail or bus app which usually comes with a journey planner. It helps to stay informed on the operation hours too (so that you don’t miss the final train or bus).

With accommodations, use the filter function and set your search parameters to your preferred budget and area.

Planning for your own holiday can be incredibly rewarding as you have full control of your time and environment. – Pixabay

Prepare necessary documents

This is especially pertinent with post-pandemic holidays as travel requirements vary from country to country. There are a handful of vlogs by avid travelers on YouTube that detail their post-lockdown adventures. This should give you an insight on the necessary documentation prior to your trip.

However, do take note of the videos’ publication dates to make sure that you get the most updated information. Another good idea is to go through official channels such as the respective embassy of the country you’re planning to visit.

As a rule of thumb, many countries these days require a pre-departure test, valid medical or health insurance and proof of vaccination for Covid-19.

Of course, don’t forget about your passport, flight tickets and visa too. To be on the safe side, draft a list of things you need to prepare – and strike them off the list accordingly before you board the plane.

Consider making extra copies of some of the documents. With the advent of technology, you can even download PDF versions and have them stored in your phone.

Remain flexible

One of the joys of independent travel is the flexibility that it gives you. So it’s really a given that travelers should be open to surprises. These could be from flight delay to unexpected weather conditions. Granted, these are some of the things you would run into on a booked group tour too. The difference is that you won’t have a tour leader to help you out.

The onus is on you then to pivot your plans accordingly. The key is to remain calm and, well, stay flexible. That being said, it helps to do some contingency planning too. Keep a list of local emergency contacts such as hospitals, the nearest police station and the embassy.

You can also consider walking into a local tourism office – these are usually located in popular tourist attractions or near a shopping district. The officers there would have plenty of resources to help you carry on with your travel plans.

Pay a visit to the local tourism office where you can also pick up some travel brochures.  - YAP CHEE HONG / The StarPay a visit to the local tourism office where you can also pick up some travel brochures. – YAP CHEE HONG / The Star

There are also many travel brochures that you can pick up there, if you haven’t already gotten them at the airport.

Best of all, the service and resources at these tourism offices are usually free of charge and if you’re lucky, you may even get some discount vouchers to attractions.

Be open to switching activities or taking different kinds of transportation.

Who knows? You might be rewarded with a memorable experience just by doing something unexpected.

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