I’m preparing for a few weeks of adventuring in Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam and I’m super excited! Every time I travel Southeast Asia the planning process gets smoother, cheaper, and faster (that’s the goal anyways).
When I travel I’m all about seeing as many places as possible while not spending an arm and a leg. So here’s a checklist I go through before leaving to travel.
1. BOOK TICKETS
My go-to site for checking flights is skyscanner.com. You can see price comparisons across different companies, and also set up flight alerts for when certain flights drop or increase in price. You can also look at an overview of a month and see which day of the month will be cheapest to fly.
Another great site is 12Go , a budget travel website that helps you book Trains, Buses, Ferries, Transfers & Flights in Southeast Asia.
This year I primarily booked through Ctrip.com because it’s especially convenient in China as they accept Wechat Pay.
2. CHECK VISA REQUIREMENTS
This website is great to easily check which countries require a visa! Input which country you’re from and where you want to go. Boom. Done. https://www.visahq.com/
Also check if you need US cash to pay for the visa on arrival (like Cambodia and Vietnam).
3. BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE
So important! I’ve always used https://www.imglobal.com/ but there’s lots of other great companies depending on the coverage and benefits you want and how much you want to pay.
4. DOWNLOAD APPS
Before I travel I always download apps for each country – metro maps, bus timetables, food guides, city maps, etc. These are super useful and make traveling much faster! Some apps also might have extra benefits – in Japan if you had their Tokyo metro app you could get free wifi in the subways.
Some apps I downloaded for Singapore. I’m a big fan of the Ulmon Maps because you can use them offline.
5. BOOK LODGING
I gravitate towards hostels, mostly because they’re super cheap (we stayed in Cambodia for $4 per night!) and it’s a great way to meet other people.
Last year in Japan my friends and I met some guys from Australia, and we visited them a few months later when we went to Melbourne! It’s cool when you get to meet people from all over the world.
But there is something to be said about staying in a hotel or renting an AirbnB – especially if you don’t want to rough it with noisy neighbors or you want your own space. When I go to Bali this year my friends and I will be renting an Airbnb because they’re very cheap and gorgeous! So it all depends what you’re looking for.
Many people recommend $35 a day for traveling Southeast Asia, but I’d definitely budget a little more, especially if you’re planning to do more than just walking around markets and going to the beach. Seeing Angkor Wat, going to elephants sanctuaries, island hopping, and just having a night out with drinks will dig into your budget.
It also depends on the country – Thailand and Cambodia are much cheaper than Malaysia and Singapore.
6. PACK LIGHT
Anywhere you look – Travel sites, Pinterest, Blogs, Instagram – you’ll find tons of packing lists that all say the same thing: you don’t need to bring a lot!
Unless you’re wandering into the wilderness, it’s easy to find lots of cheap tanks and shoes and skirts if you need anything extra. (And, come on, you can’t not buy elephant pants in Thailand anyways, so just plan on leaving room for stuff like that.)
DON’T FORGET: Skirt or scarf you can wear to temples – covering your shoulders and legs is important!
ALSO DON’T FORGET: Check out the outlet/voltage situation for the countries you’re going to. It’s always good to have a universal adapter just in case.
Carry on Bag: This was basically my carry-on bag for an international flight from the US to China, so this will look different for shorter flights (I don’t travel with my laptop normally.)
I always pack:
- Books or Kindle
- Inflatable pillow
- Portable charger
- Light jacket
- My ukulele (just kidding)
7. REMEMBER IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
Don’t forget these! (And I always tell someone where I’m generally going to be. Hi Mom.)
- Passport copies
- Visa (or cash for visa)
- Travel itinerary
- Insurance Info
8. MAKE A TRAVEL PLAYLIST
Every good trip has a good playlist (duh). I like songs that are acoustic-y and epic and make you feel like you’re in a movie scene (but that’s just me). Download some jams that you can groove to (bonus if it has a super hipster playlist name).
If you wanna follow my playlists on Spotify and steal some jams from there that’s cool too.
9. CLEAR YOUR MEMORY CARDS
It’s the worst when you’re at an awesome place doing awesome things with awesome people and suddenly your phone or SD card tells you your storage is full. Nooooooo! Now you have to stop the awesome thing you’re doing and delete old pictures of your cat.
This might have happened to me once (or twice) so I always have to remind myself to make room on my phone and camera so I don’t miss out on any moments.
10. BE LOOSE AND FLEXIBLE
I love planning almost as much as I love traveling. I like making my own little documents with pictures and places I want to go and a calendar of my itinerary, and spreadsheets estimating how much each country with cost.
I also love scrolling through other travelers’ blogs and Instagrams to see where they’ve been, what they recommend, and cool places to take pics. If I’m spending money to travel I want to make sure I’m able to do everything I can and maximize my time!
But I also love having my own experiences and don’t plan every little detail out. It’s awesome to leave room to go with the flow and see what happens and who you meet!
It’s just always good to be smart and prepare for things before you drop into a new country. (One day I would like to try hopping on a flight knowing nothing about where I’m going and seeing what happens).
Most importantly, be open to new experiences. Try some local food. Barter for things in a street market. Say yes to a wacky adventure. And have a magical time in Southeast Asia!
Check out some of my posts about traveling to these Southeast Asia destinations:
- 5 Days in Chiang Mai: Exploring northern Thailand’s temples and food streets!
- Siem Reap Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Floating Villages, and More
- Phuket Is Waiting For You: One of Thailand’s most famous beach destinations
- Qing Ming Festival in Hong Kong: Three days of shopping and site-seeing
Do you have any other items on your travel checklist? What’s your favorite Southeast Asia travel destination?