If you're new to independent travel, or even if you're not, the need to plan and book everything yourself can some times seem daunting.  You often need to book different parts of the trip separately, and you need to be sure that it will all fit together.  But it's not really difficult.  This page explains how I plan a complex journey and work out a budget for the trip, as you might find the same technique useful. 

Why it pays to plan...

The simple spreadsheet technique...

Doesn't everyone do this?  I thought this was obvious, but feedback suggests they don't, so here's how I sketch out a big trip.  I use Microsoft Excel to sketch out an itinerary and budget like the one below.  You can use a table in Word or another word processor if you can't use Excel.  The table below is just an example, so please don't read anything into the times, fares or costs.  They are just to demonstrate how to plan a trip, not a real suggested itinerary!  This example is for a Trans-Siberian trip, but the technique works for any complex journey.

 A

B

 C

D

E

F

G

 Date

Day

 Day's planned activity or journey

 Fares  

 Hotels  

Food  

Other

28 August

Friday

London depart 10:24 Paris arrive 14:47, Eurostar.

Paris depart 18:58 by sleeper to Moscow...

45

245

0

20

 

29 August

Saturday

On board sleeper via Warsaw...

0

0

10

 

30 August

Sunday

Arrive Moscow 10:01.  Day in Moscow

0

40

20

 

31 August

Monday

Day in Moscow

0

40

20

10 entrance fees

1 September

Tuesday

Day in Moscow.  Depart Moscow 23:00 by train to Irkutsk

250

0

20

 

2 September

Wednesday

On train in Siberia...

0

0

10

 

3 September

Thursday

On train in Siberia...

0

0

10

 

4 September

Friday

On train in Siberia...

0

0

10

 

5 September

Saturday

Arrive Irkutsk 04:30 (08:30 local time).  Day in Irkutsk.

0

30

20

 

6 September

Sunday

Day in Irkutsk.  Day tour to Lake Baikal.

0

30

20

20 Baikal day tour

7 September

Monday

Depart Irkutsk 15:00 by sleeper for Ulan Bator

90

0

20

 

8 September

Tuesday

On train in Siberia...

0

30

10

 

9 September

Wednesday

Arrive Ulan Bator 06:00.  Day in UB

0

30

20

 

10 September

Thursday

Day in UB.  Day tour.

0

30

20

15 day tour

11 September

Friday

Depart UB 09:30 for Beijing by sleeper train

95

0

10

 

12 September

Saturday

Arrive Beijing 15:00

0

40

20

 

13 September

Sunday

Day in  Beijing.  See Forbidden City.

0

40

20

10 entrance fees

14 September

Monday

Day in  Beijing.  Day tour to Great Wall.

0

40

20

25 Great Wall  tour

15 September

Tuesday

Flight Beijing-London:  Beijing depart 21:30.

470

0

20

20 Taxi to airport

Totals:   

1,195

350

320

100

Then add important  one-off items to the bottom of your table:

One-off items:

Cost ():

Guidebooks

25

Belarus transit visa

80

Russian visa

60

Mongolian visa

35

Chinese visa

40

Travel insurance

40

Total:

280

This planning technique is simply my own method.  Was this helpful? Let me know what you think!

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