Asia Before The Trip Itineraries Vietnam

How to Plan your Southeast Asia Trip (2015)

how to plan your trip to southeast asia

After traveling to Europe, next on my bucket list was the magical kingdom of Southeast Asia. Friends would come back from their backpacking trip or study abroad trip and wax poetic on how “lifechanging” and “amazing” it was. After hearing the abundance of testimonies, I knew I would have to experience Southeast Asia for myself. So one of my buddies from college, Tess, and I started planning. We both finished our academic responsibilities in May and we both had a hard stop of June 1 to return to real life. This gave us about three weeks to explore a set of countries that we could have easily spent six months in. After much deliberation, we decided to visit Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Here is the final specific itinerary we came up with and hopefully it can shed some light on how to plan your Southeast Asia trip!

Three Week Southeast Asia Itinerary

Day Date Location
Friday 5/08/15 N/A
Saturday 5/09/15 Hong Kong
Sunday 5/10/15 Hong Kong
Monday 5/11/15 Hong Kong
Tuesday 5/12/15 Hanoi (Vietnam)
Wednesday 5/13/15 Hanoi (Vietnam)
Thursday 5/14/15 Ha Long Bay (Vietnam)
Friday 5/15/15 Hoi An (Vietnam)
Saturday 5/16/15 Hoi An (Vietnam)
Sunday 5/17/15 Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)
Monday 5/18/15 Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)
Tuesday 5/19/15 Siem Reap (Cambodia)
Wednesday 5/20/15 Siem Reap (Cambodia)
Thursday 5/21/15 Siem Reap (Cambodia)
Friday 5/22/15 Bangkok (Thailand)
Saturday 5/23/15 Bangkok (Thailand)
Sunday 5/24/15 Bangkok (Thailand)
Monday 5/25/15 Chiang Mai (Thailand)
Tuesday 5/26/15 Chiang Mai (Thailand)
Wednesday 5/27/15 Chiang Mai (Thailand)
Thursday 5/28/15 Bangkok (Thailand)
Friday 5/29/15 Fly back to the States

Looking back, I think the trip was comprehensive enough to give us a taste of each country and if anything, gave us more reason to plan our return trip. Some people leave their trips pretty open-ended, but planning ahead allowed us to:

  • save money on flights
  • save money on transportation
  • make sure we saw everything that we wanted to

Flights + Board

We booked our flights and hotels using mainly kayak to find cheap flights and AirBnB and TripAdvisor to find the best boarding. Here is the final cost breakdown:

Flight from JFK to Hong Kong: $673.96 via Cathay Pacific

AirBnB 2 bed studio in Hong Kong (near Jordan MTR):  $86.67 ($133 for three nights, split last two nights with a friend)

Flight from Hong Kong to Hanoi, Vietnam: $170 via Vietnam Airlines

The Hanoi Club Hotel & Lake Palais Residence, 2 Queen Beds: $66.50 ($133 for two nights)

Ha Long Bay Boat: $170 ($340 for two people for one night..kinda pricy but it included food, queen size bed with private balcony, and also cave visits and kayaking)

Flight from Hanoi to Da Nang: $61.46 via VietJet

Golden Bell Homestay, 2 Queen Beds: $50 ($100 for two people for two nights)

Flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh: $56.50 via Vietnam Airlines

Elegant Inn, 2 beds: $29 ($58 for two people for two nights)

Flight from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap, Cambodia: $147.39 via Vietnam Airlines

Gloria Angkor Hotel, 2 beds: $38.50 ($75 for two people for three nights)

Flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok, Thailand: $150 via Bangkok Airways

Chatrium Residence Sathorn Bangkok, 2 bed apartment: $139 ($278 for two people for three nights)

Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai$75 via Bangkok Airways (bought round-trip for $150)

Suriwongse Hotel, 2 beds: $74 ($148 for two people for 3 nights)

Flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok: $75 via Bangkok Airways (bought round-trip for $150)

Chatrium Residence Sathorn Bangkok, 2 bed apartment: $47 ($94 for two people for one night)

Flight from Bangkok to Florida: $925.40

——–

Total: $3,035.38

Flights were the hugest expense of the trip, but boarding was relatively cheap in comparison to the States and Europe. If you’re a student, you can save money on flights at StudentUniverse. For those looking to travel on a budget, you can easily find hostels for $10/night with the bare minimum of a bed and a hot shower. If you’re looking to ball out, you can easily splurge for $200-$300/night hotels and live like Queen B. Tess and I did a mix of staying at Airbnb’s the size of your average bathroom to staying at rooms in hotels that were bigger than my college apartment.

Save Time by Researching Visas

Before leaving, you can save time and money by checking out visa restrictions online! Some countries, like Vietnam and Cambodia, will require a visa before you can enter. Depending on the country, you can do the visa approval process online or at location. As the visas typically require photo ID’s and cash only (which I learned the hard way, learn from my mistakes), I would highly recommend looking up the visa regulations. For those of you coming from the States, you won’t need a visa for Hong Kong or Thailand, but you will need one for Vietnam and Cambodia.

Save Money on Flying

Also, if you’re crunched for time like we were, the most efficient way of getting around is flying. If you have your destinations planned out in advance, you can take advantage of fly passes, like the Asean Pass from AirAsia that will give you a set number of credits for a set price. You can then use the credits for flights and get them for a cheaper price than you would buying each flight individually without a pass. For example, you can get a 10 credit pass for USD160. Considering that flying round trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is only 2 credits, which cost us USD100 without a pass, it’s a solid deal. We found out about the deal too late to take advantage of it, but with careful planning you can definitely save money!

Southeast Asia Overall

Southeast Asia, in no way, disappointed. Yes, there were moments of being uncomfortable and yes, sometimes you find yourself without toilet paper at inopportune moments. But meeting locals like Nop and sliding down waterfalls, savoring the food and pretty much crying at how fresh it was, and temple hopping in Siem Reap are moments that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life.




If you’re interested in exploring Southeast Asia while on limited time, hopefully this post helped with planning! You can look at how to pack for Southeast Asia here. To see how to plan a trip to Europe, look at Sharon’s post here. You can also see how she packed for the trip here. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. 🙂

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