Travel planning assistance

Travel planning assistance

Sometimes all the information out there—and here on—can seem overwhelming. Our travel planning service is designed to help you cut through the noise and refine a trip to Southeast Asia best suited to your budget, interests and time.

On this page

Start with a story

Recently, on a bit of a whim, we decided to take a family holiday in Japan, a country I’d lived in as a child but hadn’t returned to since. We found some affordable flights, randomly selected three weeks and made the bookings. Very quickly we realised just how little we knew about where we’d just spent a significant amount to get to. We bought a map, which helped us figure out where was what, then we bought a guidebook, which was more encyclopaedic than advisory in nature.

We contacted friends who knew the country better. They pointed out that we’d be there in peak season, at the coldest time of the year and over New Year, when many places would be closed. We started checking out websites, Facebook timelines of people we know travelling there, canvassed Twitter for suggestions ... We started a spreadsheet...

We had no idea what we were doing. Get a rail pass or hire a car? Stay in Nara or visit it from Kyoto? Is the skiing okay in Honshu? We’ve always loved planning holidays, but this was the first time in years we’d sat down to plan a holiday somewhere we didn’t know reasonably well already. Information overload approached. Tempers frayed.

Wasn’t this supposed to be fun?

Then we got in touch with a friend who knows the country inside out, who has written guide books about it, who speaks the language and runs a series of websites to destinations in the country. “Chris,” we hollered, “help!”

Two emails and a 20-minute phone call later we had decided exactly what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. We moved on to booking accommodation and planning the day by day stuff. Sometimes, asking for help is the smartest thing you can do and while we’d never suggest you contact us about Japan (for that, contact Chris), if you’re heading to Southeast Asia, we can help.

Do you need planning assistance?

Many travellers enjoy putting together their own itineraries, but they may not be confident that what they’ve put together themselves is going to be practical. Are you trying to pack in too much? Have you missed something between City X and City Y that you really should see? And once you do have an itinerary in place, which hotels or guesthouses should you book and where should you eat?

We’ve been travelling across or living in Southeast Asia (excluding Brunei and the Philippines) since 1994. We can help design a trip that will make the most of your time and money, either by reviewing and improving the itinerary you’ve planned, or by helping you to plan one from scratch.

How it works

First up, contact us by email as early as you can so you can have as much flexibility as possible. You may want to contact us ahead of booking flights so we can ensure you’re not heading to that perfect tropical island in peak monsoon—also, making sure that you’re flying into the right hub can make all the difference. As we’re often travelling too, more lead time will allow us to fit you in at a time convenient to both you and us.

We’ll go through your initial email and let you know what we feel is the best approach. It could well be that the answers to your questions are just a few links to pages on Travelfish for further reading. That being the case, we’ll point you in the right direction—no charge.

Where we feel a more hands-on advisory is needed. In our experience, what tends to work best is a one hour chat (either by Skype or WhatsApp) to get to know each other and what you’re looking for. Following this we’ll continue by email or Skype depending on what is required. Our minimum consultation is two hours—made up of the initial one hour call, followed up by email or phone.

What it costs

We charge a fee of A$200 (around US$135) per hour (50% off for paid-up Travelfish members). Note if you joined Travelfish before September 20, the charge is lower—please email us for details. Payment is in advance, and once received, we’ll get down to the brass tacks of seeing you get the most out of your trip. If the consultation expands beyond what was initially discussed, we’ll let you know when time is running short and we’ll either wrap matters up or request an additional payment.

In our experience a typical consultation for a month long trip runs for around three hours all up, but, as every trip is different, so is every consultation.

A$200 per hour is not cheap. But when you think of how much you’ll spend on your overall trip, it seems crazy not to plan it right from the outset—what is your time worth? Chances are we’ll actually help you save money by streamlining and making sure you’re doing what you want to be doing. And a good trip is priceless, after all.

What we don’t do

Please note that as we are not travel agents. We do not make any reservations or bookings for you—that you will need to do yourself. Where required, we can supply a detailed travel brief including places and transportation, which you can book yourself. In some cases these may be for services that pay a commission to Travelfish, in which case they’ll be marked as such.

We cannot assist with travel to the Philippines nor Brunei, as we’ve never been to either.

What you should do

When you contact us, email us an outline of your trip details, any schedule already in place, information about the people who are travelling, including their nationality (handy for visas), ages, interests and what your ideal budget is. The more information you give us, the better we’ll be able to tailor our advice and the faster we’ll be able to deliver a trip plan back to you.

Most importantly, before you get in touch, don’t forget to check out the itineraries we already have on the site. You might choose one that we start with and then refine to suit your needs—or it may be all you need.

Also, bear in mind that you’ll be drawing on the expertise of more than one person. We’ve researchers with a long experience of living in countries across Southeast Asia, so a query about say a trip to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia may draw on the expertise of three or four people, but we’ll pull all that together so that you’ll be dealing with just the one—the co-founder of Travelfish, Stuart McDonald. He’ll be your sole point of contact through the entire process.

Contact Stuart now at stuartmcdonald @ travelfish . org.