Vacation Planning Adventures of a Travel Newbie (Beijing and Bangkok)

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Aside of deciding on the countries and cities I wanted to vacation in, the three biggest things to plan for were flights, hotels, and what to do once I'm there.  I have never been a huge travel bug.  The biggest outing before coming to Korea was a flight to Florida from NYC when I was living in the Big Apple.  I stayed with family, got picked up and everything was pretty much vanilla.

Now I live in South Korea, and I will be vacationing in Beijing and Bangkok come summer break in August. This is huge for me.  Since being in Korea I've visited Tokyo and Seoul, but nothing other than that.


It was a start!
For this vacation, I planned for each trip individually to avoid any confusion.  Once I scratched everything on paper, it was straight to the net to get cranking.  I began with Bangkok since at the time I was still deciding between Beijing and Osaka for the second trip.

Airfare
Airfare nowadays is pretty simple and straight forward.  There are many price comparison engines on the net that make grabbing a good deal fairly easy.  I usually go with Travelocity.com or Expedia.com.  Though I started with these sites I ultimately found better pricing through Priceline.com.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find any direct, non-stop flights from Busan to Bangkok.  I'll have a nasty 8-9 hour layover in Shanghai.  Maybe I can get out and see some local things before taking the second leg of the flight.  Part of the experience I suppose.

Hotel
Flight secured - check!  Hotel time.  Now, being a little older and crankier than many perpetual travelers, I opted to look for a decent hotel.  No hospices for this ajushi.  At least not in Bangkok.  Western style will be my style.  I found that Booking.com had the best site layout and customer reviews.  I landed a nice hotel near the areas I plan on visiting and the price was pretty killer considering the pictures and reviews.  Pictures - what else can you go by?!

I took the same path for securing flight and hotel with my Beijing trip.  Priceline.com and Booking.com.  I'm sure the travel gurus out there could shed some light on ways to get even better pricing, but for lack of experience it was the route I went.

What To Do?
All that was left was deciding WHAT I wanted to do once I was there.  I went straight for Tripadvisor.com and Lonely Planet to get the top ranking activities based on reviews.  The lists are so extensive that there's little left to the imagination once you've gone through the whole thing.  But what do I do with all these ideas?  I can't just leave them on scribbly pieces of paper and hope to have them come August.

Customized Google Map for my Bangkok Trip
I turned to Google maps.  Yes, over the years I've learned to use online storage over mechanical for accessibility reasons.  For example, I always save documents for work (whether teaching or in my past career) on my Hotmail Skydrive.  It's 10 GB of free space and you will always have them should something happen to a jump drive.  So I went to Google to create custom maps for my two trips.  One for Bangkok, one for Beijing.  When I found a location I wanted to visit, I stored it in my custom map so I can just pull it up when I reach the hotel.  Google has subways, directions, landmarks, etc. indicated on its maps.  Great information to have all in one spot.

Beijing Subway System - good to view beforehand
There were a few other important details to look into as I planned.  First, understanding the subway system is important in case finding or affording a taxi is too complicated and confusing.  I read some stories.  Though the subways are displayed in Google maps, going to the actual website of the local transit authority and understanding the map can save some serious hassle.  I did this before going to Seoul and Tokyo and it made all the difference.  I still had to find the exact stops the day of, but the map itself was no longer intimidating.

Second thing is exchanging money.  I have to place a call to my bank back home, Chase, just to be sure I can get money once I'm in Bangkok and Beijing.  It's my understanding that it's cheaper to pull money directly from Chase through an ATM rather than doing it at the airport where rates are bad.  Need to nail that one down.  I don't think these cities will accept I.O.Us - I'm not Lloyd Christmas here.

Though the biggest chunk of planning is behind me, there's still some loose ends.  Other than that, all that's left is waiting for August.

the Red Dragon Diaries

ESL, Travel, and Judo!


 

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