Once a conceptual itinerary has been established, detailed planning can proceed. You know why and where you are travelling, and what you want to achieve. Only the minutiae of exactly when and how remain to be decided. Bear in mind the importance of good planning. The best images rarely come about by chance, so reckon on spending as much time planning as you will travelling.
The timing of a journey is not only related to personal objectives and circumstances, but also to the date of particular events, seasons, weather, hours of daylight, airfares and other factors. If the objective is to photograph India’s monsoon season the itinerary might be planned to progress northwards across the subcontinent. If you intend pursuing the migration of the wildebeest around the Serengeti, make sure the itinerary follows the rains. However, a degree of compromise inevitably creeps in as practical considerations and common sense temper idealism. The internet is useful for checking weather and the availability of services, and for making bookings. In many instances there is no quicker way. Countless websites can also be used to develop a detailed itinerary or purchase ready-made arrangements. Alternatively, work with a good travel agent or book an organized tour. Travel plans can also be left open, perhaps booking only a flight and a rental car. I prefer flexible arrangements of this sort, but they are not always possible or desirable. It may, for instance, be unwise to drive without language and local knowledge in Japan and India respectively.
Most travellers experience delays, minor problems and less than ideal weather, so planning an extra day or few hours in each destination can make a significant difference. It is all too easy to get swept along by enthusiasm and excitement and end up with an itinerary built on unrealistic expectations. Do a reality check before finalizing an itinerary. Make sure that it represents what you want, and is practical, affordable and within your capabilities. Does it allow for minimum stopover times at airports, and make allowances for time zones? Does it leave you in the right places at the best times? If you want to see a local market or festival, make sure the days and times are correct. If you need evening light in a location consider staying overnight.
Responsible travel is reasonably safe but there is no such thing as zero risk. Be realistic about the hazards of the region you are visiting. Think about how you plan to travel – the airlines, the light aircraft, the trains, boats, taxis, buses and cars. Plan to stay in respectable, secure accommodation where you and your valuable photographic equipment will be reasonably safe. Choose a price range that reflects not only your budget but also your expectations and risk assessment. Don’t be too ambitious. Over-long journeys lead to exhaustion, carelessness and hasty decisions, all of which can be dangerous. It is better to achieve most of your objectives than to rush around and do nothing properly. Start at the top of a list of priorities and work down. Anything that gets missed out is then less important. If the weather is good and the chance exists, go for it. Otherwise, choose something further down the list.
Another consideration is whether to travel alone, as a couple or in a larger group – the experiences are quite different. When travelling alone you must be self-sufficient but can expect freedom and good contact with local people. As a couple you can rely upon each other but will be less approachable and consequently more isolated. Groups offer the security of numbers, but nevertheless imply compromise and a slower pace. The choice is yours. In any case, obtain advice regarding your proposed activities, particularly in remote or hazardous areas and after dark around cities. It is also worth planning to eat and drink sensibly in reliable establishments. It can take several days to recover from a bout of diarrhorea and sickness acquired from a street-corner stall.
Finally, plan your journey in a culturally sensitive manner. Read up on local religion, customs and etiquette, and their implications for your trip. It might, for instance, be wise to purchase a few garments of an appropriate style. Western women, in particular, should dress conservatively in some countries. It is also worth learning a few words of the local language if only to say "please", "thank you", "hello" and "goodbye". Simple gestures of this nature are generally noticed and appreciated