1. Planning - Research, research, and research. You are gonna thank yourself for this. Once you decide on your destination, find about these things:
- Places to visit/see - Make a list of the must see and must dos. Check costs - entrance tickets of places, costs of excursions you may want to take with local agencies there. Decide on the number of days this would take you.
- Travel - Mode of transport available (cabs, metros, buses). Are there cabs available on call or you can hail them on the streets. Are there tourist buses? Do they have a specific point to point service?
- Where you would like to stay...right in the center of the city or a little away. It makes sense to stay near to locations you would like to spend time at. But, keep in mind that city center/downtown accommodation would be more expensive then hotels a little bit away.
- Find out the good places to eat/party/shop.
For your visa, i recommend that you still take the help of your travel company. They will take their fee and take care of the running aorund to the consulate.
yatra.com, makemytrip.com, thomascook.co.in. You can search by the city and you will be surprised at the cheap tariffs you can get for the best of 5* resorts and hotels. Again, compare the tariff with the hotel website. Specially, if you are traveling abroad...the tariff available for hotels to Indian travel companies are pretty low.
Also, very important - go and read real tourist reviews of the hotels you shortlist on websites like - tripadvisor.com and virtualtourist.com.These are extremely helpful website and give you a very real picture of things to do, tourists traps, where to shop, eat, and stay. You can ask your questions to travelers and get fast replies based on their experience. I swear by these sites.
4. Get your travel insurance. Again, go online, check the premium, and buy a policy...It's that easy. If you want to compare policy quotations/premiums...i found this quite useful - policybazaar.com. I compared the premiums and found what suits me and then went to that insurers website and bought my policy online.
5. Reconfirm - Once you have got your tickets, hotel vouchers, insurance policy...call up the airline and hotel and check/confirm your reservation. Place any special requests you may have with the airline or hotel.
With all these basics covered, you should be packing you bags and be good to go. Also, it would be good if you got yourself a handy map and a travel book, or betters till you can download information from the internet about the places you wanna visit.
Our DIY trip this time was awesome and everything went as planned and very smooth. We took our holiday at our pace and time and did not have to rush through or visit places we did not want to go to. We stayed at the best of places, which the travel company was not offering us in the package deal. We ate, made merry, slept, lazed, danced, shopped...everything we wanted to do! We had lots of fun and got a chance to meet locals and see their life.
This makes me wanna plan another trip soon :)