A first look at our flight itinerary, some ideas for booking hotels and last minute preparations for a trip to Southeast Asia.
Happy New Years! By this time tomorrow I will be on a plane bound for Hong Kong.
I love taking advantage of the holidays. By requesting a mere 10 days off from work, I can take an 18 day vacation between New Years and MLK Day. This is especially helpful since my job doesn’t accumulate much leave and about half will be taken as leave without pay.
The only downside is the busy rush of the holiday season. I’ve spent the whole month shopping for gifts, preparing for meals and visiting relatives. As a result, most of our preparations for this trip got left to the last minute. This week has been all about the necessities: what do we need to have done before we leave. I’ve called to confirm our flights and visa requirements with United, set travel notifications on my credit cards and bank accounts, created a spreadsheet for packing (nerd alert) and bookmarked about 100 sites filled with travel ideas and recommendations.
I am traveling with my mom and three cousins so we worked out where we were going and booked flights over Thanksgiving dinner and our annual Christmas Eve game of pool. Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore were always the plan, but booking reward flights required some flexibility. Here’s what we settled on.
January 1 – Fly to Beijing and take a second flight to Hong Kong
January 2-6 – Hong Kong
January 6-11 – Ho Chi Minh City
January 11-? – Kuala Lumpur, or perhaps spend two days at the beach
January ?-15 – Singapore
January 15 – Fly from Singapore to Hong Kong and take a second flight back to San Francisco
January 15-17 – San Francisco
We are still nailing down the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore portion of our trip, but general consensus from friends was that we did not need to spend 5 days in Singapore. Everyone suggested taking a few days to visit Malaysia. If you have any recommendations for this, let me know!
For this trip we only needed to apply for a Vietnam visa in advance. My cousin handled that and sent our passports in mid-November. When we booked flights last week, our lowest available reward flight was a United flight into Beijing. We then booked a second flight to Hong Kong (it just happened to be a cheap flight and warm nearby destination) so we fall under the 24 hour transit rule and don’t require a Chinese visa.
After deciding where to go, I started researching hotels. I try to pinpoint the best/most convenient locations and then hunt for budget-friendly options with solid reviews. It can be tough in some cities, like Hong Kong and Siem Reap (last time), but other cities like Chiang Mai have well-established options for backpackers and budget travelers. I’ve been looking at these sites to get ideas.
At the bare minimum, I always book my accommodation for the first night. It can be nice to have the flexibility to book the rest of your stay once you’ve got a better feel for a place and get recommendations from locals, but there’s nothing more stressful than landing in a foreign country without a confirmed bed to sleep in.
Although this week has been a mad scramble, I’m mostly just happy to be back in the deep end with travel planning. Let me know if you’ve been to any of these destinations before and have recs for me. I’d love to hear them!
If you’re planning your own trip to Southeast Asia, let me know because I’m happy to help you plan or answer your questions! And don’t forget that instagram is where you can join in the adventure and follow me each day!