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WH Trip Planning in 5 steps

In a couple of days I’ll be on my way for my last trip of 2016: South Korea and Palau are waiting, including 4 'new' WHS. Maybe you want to look over my shoulder how I plan and prepare these WH related trips. I just hope I don’t come across as too obsessive–compulsive!

1. When to go?

I am in the fortunate circumstances that I can have about 45 days off from work each year. And that it does not really matter when I use these days. I like to spread them evenly across the year, so most years I take 4 trips of about 2 weeks length. I always travel the weeks right after Christmas, just to escape the European winter and because I get some bonus days off this time of year (Dec 26 and Jan 1 are national holidays in the Netherlands).

The remarkable Flag of Palau (the yellow circle represents the moon)

2. Where to go?

My wish list of destinations is still very long. I even maintain a spreadsheet of countries (or parts thereof) that I’d like to visit in the near future. I have added the number of weeks that I’d like to allow for a visit to that particular destination. Also I have marked the best months to visit that destination – those are the yellow fields in the graphic below. Destinations that I am looking at nowadays have a combination of a couple of WHS and are somewhat off-the-beaten path. I'm not looking to incorporate as many WHS as possible (I'd better stay in Europe for that) - the destination itself is more important than the number of 'ticks'. Palau at least fits the criteria and December/January is a good time to travel there. I asked on our Forum whether South Korea will be bearable this time of year and the WHS are open for business. The replies were reassuring.

Part of my wish list; the whole list contains 45 destinations

3. Booking stuff

Just before finally booking I create a new worksheet in my spreadsheet: this will contain a day-to-day itinerary for this trip. At this stage it mainly contains the places where I’d like to stay and any longer transfers that I have to make. In this case, on which days can I fly from Seoul to Palau and how long am I going to stay in each country. I usually book my flights and hotels beforehand. Looking back in my e-mail archives, I see that I booked my flights to Korea and Palau already on May 21, the hotels in Seoul on May 22 and the hotel in Koror on Palau on May 23. So I got the basics settled already 7 months before!

4. Day-to-day planning

All of the activities above were based on a rough idea of where I wanted to go and how much time I would allow to each destination. In the following months I fill in the worksheet with more detailed activities. For example, on which day will I visit which (T)WHS? I look at the opening hours of course, and other practical details. I read many trip reports and forum topics about the destination, and keep on adding sites that take my interest to the schedule.

My detailed 'roadbook' for this trip

5. Preparing for the individual visits

This is the final iteration, it usually starts some 3 weeks before I leave. I create Word documents for each (T)WHS and other major stops on the trip, and copy into them all relevant available information that I can find about them on the web. A print of this document I take with me on the day of the visit, and the digital version will be used in writing up the review afterwards. All hard copies put together form my 'roadbook', which also includes prints of hotel confirmations, airline tickets, specific directions etc. Some sites / museums etc require specific preparation of course, such as pre-booking of a ticket to secure a place on the day that I want to visit. For the upcoming Korea/Palau trip I booked a day tour to the Rock Islands of Palau and from Seoul a tour to Panmunjom/DMZ (both about 2 weeks before the actual visit date). After finishing all of this, I feel both 'in control' and relaxed about my upcoming trip. I'd like to hear from you in the comments whether you have any specific ways of preparing that differ from mine?

Els - 21 December 2016

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Els 22 December 2016

Re: "How's packing for low 0 C weather and 30 degree C weather for the same trip?"

There's even an extra hurdle: I always only travel with carry on luggage. But I only go for 12 days so I do not need a lot.

I plan to do a dry run packing on Saturday to see if it all fits. But I have those handy compression bags which usually help with issues like this. I probably only have to carry my winter jacket separately when landing in Palau.

Kyle (winterkjm) 22 December 2016

How's packing for low 0 C weather and 30 degree C weather for the same trip? Your post is interesting, you definitely plan more in-depth than me, but there are quite a few similarities. For example, I've purchased my flights to Denmark/Sweden last month, despite the fact I am not departing for this trip until June 2017.

I am also very curious about your final itinerary for Korea. Were you planning to visit:

- Munmyo Confucian Shrine & Seonggyungwan National Academy
- Deoksugung Palace & Jeong-dong Old Legation Quarter
- Hanseong Baekje: Seokchon-dong Baekje Tomb
- Seodaemun Prison History Hall

Which Royal Tombs?
Yungneung Tomb Cluster (Suwon)
Donggureung Cluster (Seoul)
Seolleung Cluster (Seoul)
Hongyureung Cluster (Seoul)

Clyde 21 December 2016

Cool post. My annual leave amounts to 26 days so together with a list (instead of your excel sheet) I also try to maximise my annual leave by combining my days off from work with public holidays and long weekends. I also have separate lists for road trips and shorter trips. I'm also almost half way through my top 100 whs which usually inspires my travel plans for at least half of my travel plans while I reach compromises on destinations which are on my better half's wishlist.