Some of you maybe have heard or read "Don't plan. Just go!" That's interesting. I would love to try such thing one day, but the thing is I can't.... for now. I'm a person who always have to plan everything before go on a trip. I like to plan my trip long time before the D-day. The first and main thing you need to plan your travel is internet. You can find almost everything in it. Try to browse before you ask. You can find more things by browsing instead of only ask people around you. Both combination is the best. No matter you join a tour or an independent traveler, internet will always be your best buddy. I like to do an independent travel, but if I have to join a tour, I look for free and easy one first. So here's what I do when I plan my trip, maybe can be some tips for you.
1. Know your budget
Plan your trip based on your budget. If you have much money, you can do whatever you want. If you are in a tight budget, it's very necessary to plan your trip carefully. Out of money when you're in a trip is the last thing you want.
2. Know your destination and when to travel
Different places have different condition, culture and weather. When you've known where to travel, always browse for its' culture. There are always some do and don't. If you traveling abroad, look for the national holidays. Some places can be closed in certain national holiday, but there maybe some festivals you can enjoy. Browse for the weather is also important. You don't want to be in the wrong time at the right place. If you like to shop, browse for sale period. Every countries has their own sale period, unless you're rich and fine with regular price.
3. Plan long time before
If you're in a budget travel, you can always get cheap offer from budget airlines, such as Air Asia, Tiger Airways, etc. Some offer can lead to the next year travel period. Personally I don't mind with that. I can save more money for airfare so I almost always book my flight couple months until almost 1 year before. For the hotel, you can get a great offer from low price websites, such as agoda.com, booking.com, etc
4. Arrange itinerary per day
Always browse for the best places to visit, best things to do and see to arrange your itinerary. You don't want to miss the highlights. Don't forget to browse for transportation to go to those places. In country that have MRT, it's always more convenient to take it and usually less money needed. When you decide to ride on public transportation such as MRT or buses, always look for the map. MRT maps are available online, while for buses, some country have it online and some don't. There are transportation websites that can be so helpful, for example Singapore - gothere.sg, Bangkok - transitbangkok.com, etc. One thing you have to remember is browse for scams. Beware! it happens everywhere. Some places such as temples, casinos, luxury dinner places have a dress code. Look for it before your visit. When you go to places with admission fee, you can browse their websites. Some of them offer discount if you book online, but don't fall for the web's discount first, there are many online tour and travel agents and they might have cheaper price than normal, even after the booking online discount fare. If your hotel doesn't provide airport transfer, you can catch public transportation at the airport, but some tour and travels also provide airport transfer and it can be cheaper than public transportation. Usually they also have city tour if you want to take one. Browse for as many as possible online travel agents, find the cheapest one. According to my experience, the more I browse, the cheaper price I find. Before you book anything from a certain travel agent, don't hesitate to email them if you have some questions. Some can be too lazy to update their website. You don't want things go wrong after they take your money, do you?
5. Make more friends
Internet has almost everything, ALMOST. Sometime things you want to find are not available in the internet. This time you need to ask people around you. Local people, someone you know who live there or been there before. Make online friends from various country always become a benefit. You can ask them, if they don't mind, about anything related to the place you'll visit. See and know a local perspective will help you a lot. As a tourist, we always being a target for local to get more money. You can ask your friends ,who is also a local, for the real price of things you want to buy and transportation fare. You will be amazed how much different they are. Learn basic local language for tourist will never be a loose. Sometimes they give you cheaper price when you speak in their language. Eventhough you're not fluent at it, at least give your best shot. Local people will be happy and feel honoured when a foreigner speaks in their language.
6. Make notes and print
Make notes and print important information. Save any booking numbers you have in your phone or iPod or note. In case you lose your tickets, you always have the booking numbers. Don't forget to write down all online travel agents contacts information you booked from, local police and your home country ambassador contacts detail, just in case something goes wrong.
I hope they can be a little help for you to plan your trip.