Planning out the ideal vacation is certainly high on a lot of people’s bucket list! There’s always lots to remember when mapping out your touring plans. Here is our easy to follow 10 step guide on how to plan your trip with minimal stress and concern. Follow these steps in the order they are written for the best results. Ok, let’s plan your trip!
Ten Steps To Plan Your Trip
1. Decide Where To Go
The first and most important step towards making your dream trip a reality is deciding the destination (or destinations). Without deciding on at least a specific country, the trip is much less likely to become a reality. Taking this first step allows the idea to become more concrete in your head, and allows you to move forward in the planning process. Visiting countries tourism websites is a great idea – You may want to plan your trip around seasonal events such as festivals or local holidays.
Here’s a great site which details great places to visit around the world, month by month: ResponsibleTravel.com
This site shows 20 of the cheapest travel destinations in the world: RoughGuides.com
2. Decide How Long To Go For
The next step is to decide how long you want to travel for. It is important to consider work, family and home commitments at this stage. Plan your trip around how long you can realistically afford to be away for. This step also serves the purpose of making the idea more of a reality in your mind and allows you to move on to the next step. After this step, you should have a firm idea in your head of the trip you plan to make (e.g. ‘I will travel to Belgium for 10 days’).
3. Make Sure Your Documents Are In Order
This step to plan your trip will take a bit of research. A few quick Google searches should let you know the specifics of the places you intend to travel to. Here’s a quick list of things to search for:
Are Visas necessary for your destination? If so, can they be purchased on arrival at the airport or do you need to purchase your visa in advance? Are visas single entry or multiple entries? Is there a time limit to how long you can stay in the country? Often, visas can take some time to process and in most cases, you will need to send off your passport to apply. Make sure you have a long enough period of time where you won’t need your passport with you to do this. Always plan your trip far enough ahead of time to allow for all of this.
Are there any specific passport requirements for your destination? Some destinations have strict rules on passport expiry (e.g. Passports must be valid for a minimum of 6 months or you won’t be accepted into the country). Now is also a good time to check your passport is currently valid. Applying for a new passport may take several weeks (although the process can be sped up at extra cost).
Do you require immunizations? Many countries do not, but you should definitely check this early on and get immunizations in order before buying any tickets.
Has your driving license expired? All car rental companies worldwide require a valid driving license from your home country. If you are hoping to rent a vehicle while abroad, always check the validity of your driving license before paying for the trip.
We recommend going through all of these steps before booking your tickets, as they can take time to get sorted. It’s better to do it early instead of finding yourself rushing against the clock to get your documents in order. Nothing adds pre-holiday stress like a tight, missable deadline where you are relying on a company to return your documents on time.
4. Research The Cost Of Your Trip
This step requires some more Google research. Figure out your holiday desires and how much they will cost. If you don’t mind staying in hostels, then research the average hostel prices in your destination. If you want to stay at all-inclusive five-star hotels, find out this cost instead. It is important to get a rough idea of all the costs your trip may require so you can set a budget, and make sure you don’t run out of money abroad. Always plan your trip with a budget in mind. Here’s a list of costings to calculate and take into account:
- Airfare (this is always changing so a rough estimate is fine for now)
- Travel Insurance (there are many types of travel insurance which we will go into more detail about later – for now a rough estimate on the cost is also fine)
- Accommodation (calculate the rough cost per day x the length of your stay)
- Phone/Internet (you may want to sign up for an extra service which allows you to use your phone/internet abroad)
Costs on the Trip
- Food and Drink (again, calculate cost per day x the length of your stay)
- Local Transport (taxis, buses, trains, trams, tuk-tuks etc.)
- Tourist Attractions & Activities (just the ones you plan to do of course)
With this information researched, you should be able to set a budget for the money you will need for your trip. On top of this, you should also take into account that the cost of currency exchange will add a little extra to your budget. And always bring some emergency money on top of your budgeted money.
Note: Researching approximate flight costs and accommodation long before you book them can lead to much higher prices when it comes time to book. Try not to leave too much time between taking the next few steps in this guide.
5. Create Your Ideal Travel Itinerary
The next step is to plan out your perfect day by day itinerary of all the cities, beaches, tourist attractions and activities you plan to visit on your trip. Make a plan and ensure you have enough time and budget to fulfill it. Always be sure to take into account travel time between cities and destinations. Leave a little extra time between each activity in case something goes wrong. Also, be sure to allow some time for rest and recuperation – Nothing makes a holiday less enjoyable than being tired and rushed off your feet the whole time so plan your trip accordingly.
If things are getting too expensive or there’s not enough time, take out the less important parts to ensure there is space for the best stuff. Spending the time researching, considering and refining whats most important now makes sure you won’t end up missing something you might regret later.
Fun Things To Do On A Budget
You may find some enjoyable ways to save money on your trip whilst making long lasting memories. Here are some good examples:
- Planning a scenic walking route between destinations is always free.
- Renting bicycles and cycling across the city is almost always going to be significantly cheaper than taking taxis.
- Spending a few nights camping at a local campsite can save a lot of money on accommodation.
- Don’t overdo it! Scheduling a relaxing night in the hotel spa or a morning in bed and a late start will replenish your energy supplies and make the rest of the trip even more enjoyable.
6. Book Your Flights
Airfare will most likely be the most expensive part of your trip, so always book this before the other parts of your trip (such as accommodation and car rental etc). Plan your trip in this order to see the best results. Booking the flights first allows for flexibility of dates, which can lead to a huge cost difference.
Tips For Booking Cheap Flights
- When booking flights online, always tick the ‘Dates are Flexible‘ tick box to find the cheapest available options.
- Another good tip is to sign up for airline newsletters to make sure you are the first to know about deals and special offers.
- Do not automatically assume return tickets are the cheapest option. Sometimes, booking two single tickets may be cheaper than a return flight. Exploring all the available options can save a lot of money.
- Don’t always fly direct. A lot of money can often be saved if you don’t mind making a stopover.
- If you travel regularly, frequent flyer programs can save cash and often lead to free flights, upgrades and companion tickets.
Here are some of the top travel sites we recommend to find the best deals on flights:
And here is a list of budget airlines from around the world. These can be significantly cheaper than regular airlines:
7. Book Your Accommodation
Now you have your finalized travel schedule, the next step is to secure your accommodation. This process entirely depends on your personal needs and desires. Always plan your trip primarily around you and your traveling companions.
Here’s our list of the best accommodation booking sites around:
Filtering Search Results
A good first step to booking a hotel or hostel online is to filter by price bracket. Choose the upper end of the bracket which best reflects your preferred price range. You should leave the lower end of the bracket at $0, as you never know when something very good and cheap may pop up in your search result.
The next step is to filter by amenities. Choose which amenities are most important to you. Reliable hotel wifi can be invaluable if traveling without phone internet. You may also require parking, a spa, included breakfast, a pool, a gym or hot tubs etc. You can also filter hotels by star ratings, as well as type (such as ‘family’, ‘romantic’ etc). This will save a lot of your time and ensures you avoid sifting through too much unsuitable accommodation.
Next, you can sort your search results (either by price or review ratings, depending on your preference). This way, the most suitable accommodation for you should appear closer to the top of the (potentially long) search result list.
Finally, you will want to make sure your hotel is not too far away from some of your key destinations on your itinerary (or at least not too far from the airport, depending on your preference). Most accommodation booking sites will include map features to allow you to view this easily.
8. Buy Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is certainly worth considering for any trip abroad. However, the policies can vary a lot and be a little confusing to understand. Here’s our mini guide for what to look for when shopping for travel insurance:
Some travel insurance does not cover everywhere in the world. Double check it covers your vacation destination before buying.
Trip Duration Limits
Make sure the insurance covers you for at least the amount of days you will be abroad for. Your insurance will be invalidated if you go over this amount.
If you are planning on partaking in any risky activities on your holiday, make sure your insurance doesn’t exclude ‘hazardous activities’. Some policies won’t cover you for this, others will make you pay a little extra. Also beware that if you choose something like ‘winter sports cover’, but then get injured playing a sport outside of this activity, you may not be covered.
Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
Always be honest about pre-existing medical conditions. Although these may add a little extra cost, being dishonest here may invalidate your claim later if something goes wrong.
Treatment Of Belongings
Every insurer will expect you to take reasonable care of your belongings while on holiday. For example, if you leave your cash unattended and it gets stolen, the insurer may refuse to pay. Some policies only cover theft if items are on your person or locked in a safety deposit box. Be sure to check this and follow their rules whilst on your trip.
Many policies require you to report any theft within 24 or 48 hours. Failure to do this may invalidate your claim. Make note of the rules and be sure to stick to them.
Limits On Claims
It is certainly worth checking how much you are covered for with any policy too. Work out how much money and luggage you are bringing to make sure the cost is covered by your insurance. Also, ensure the ‘cancellation cover’ is enough to cover the cost of your holiday. Single item cost limits may also be in place (commonly around $400 per item). This limit can be increased if you pay a little more. Also, some items like mobile phones may require separate mobile phone insurance. Medical cover limits should also be taken into account. Ensure you have enough medical cover for wherever you are going. For example, health care in America may be 2-3x more expensive than some parts of Europe.
Accidents may not be covered if under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription drugs (or acting illegally in any way). Always read the policy carefully to be sure you can stick within its rules and stay covered. It would be wise to plan your trip in accordance with these policies.
Even if you miss flights through no fault of your own, many policies will not cover you for new flights. Always check whether missed flights are covered or not and be aware of this when traveling. Even if missed flights are covered, you may be required to provide evidence that it was not your fault. For example, you may have to prove that you left your house with sufficient time to make the flight. Other policies will have a specified timeframe to make a claim on missed flights. Always thoroughly check this part of any policy.
We recommend booking in your travel insurance straight after booking your flights and hotel for the trip. That was as long as cancellations are covered, if you need to cancel your trip, you won’t lose out too much financially. Always check exactly which cancellation situations a policy will pay out for before purchasing.
Finally, always be sure to bring your policy documentation with you on your trip. This way, if anything goes wrong, you can instantly refer to it, and not miss out on claiming due to not knowing the rules.
9. Handle Last Minute Logistics
A few weeks before your trip is the ideal time to sort out some of the last minute logistics that come with traveling abroad.
You should contact your credit card provider and let them know that you will be traveling abroad. Ask if your card provider will charge a fee for using your card overseas. You may want to research ATM locations close to your accommodation if you are planning on withdrawing money abroad.
House Sitter/Pet Sitter
Do you have a lot of plants that need watering? Are your pets going to need attention, feeding, or walking? Are you uncomfortable leaving your house unattended for the duration of your trip? Now is the time to ask a close friend or family member to look after everything while you are gone. The more last minute you leave this, the more inconvenient its likely to be for them.
You should check with your mobile phone service provider whether you can make calls and use the internet overseas. Will your service provider charge you extra for this? Data roaming charges and calls from abroad can be extremely costly. Many cell phone companies will offer temporary travel packages which can save loads of cash. If you are considering leaving your phone at home to escape your normal life, we strongly recommend at least having access to a phone in case of emergencies.
Many banks can exchange currency at more favorable exchange rates and with lower charges than the airport currency exchange branches. We recommend doing this in advance instead of at the airport to save money and eliminate any extra stress from your airport experience.
10. Pack And Prepare
The final (but by no means least important) step in this Plan Your Trip guide is to pack smart and make final preparations for your perfect holiday. Packing a few days in advance of the trip is a great idea (especially for a group trip. The more last minute issues you can avoid, the less stress you will experience when traveling.
Packing Hand Luggage
- You should keep any valuables and cash on your person and not in the check-in luggage.
- Absolute essentials such as medication, contact lens solution and a clean pair of underwear should also be in your hand-luggage or on your person. In the unfortunate event that your check-in luggage gets lost, having these on you can be a life saver.
- Beware of ‘leakables’ such as sun cream, hairspray, toothpaste, and deodorant. Any of these may set themselves off in your bag. Packing your leakables in a smaller separate zip-locked bag can save a lot of stress later on.
- Remedies such as headache pills, band-aids, and indigestion tablets are a good idea to keep with you.
Packing Check-In Luggage
- Roll clothes (instead of folding) – This can save a huge amount of space. Fold shirts, pants, and skirts in half before rolling to save maximum space.
- If you are planning on shopping in your destination, be sure to save some space for your purchases.
- Pack shoes you aren’t wearing in grocery bags – This way, when they inevitably become dirty, the rest of your luggage will not.
Travel In Comfort
There are a few items that can make all the difference for a comfortable and stress-free flight. We never travel without the following items.
The Night Before Your Flight
Be sure to get a good nights sleep the night before your flight. The easiest way to get a holiday off to a bad and stressful start is to be overtired on the day of traveling. If you’ve followed this Plan Your Trip guide so far, then you shouldn’t have too much last minute planning to worry about at this stage.
On The Day Of Your Flight
Double check you have your passport, money, travel insurance documentation and tickets before you leave the house. Always aim to arrive at the airport with plenty of time before your flight. Missing a flight because of misplanning can be a heartbreaking experience.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, go enjoy your holiday! Make some amazing memories to tell the grandkids about some day and tick an ambition off from your bucket list.
We hope you have a great holiday and that our Plan Your Trip guide was helpful to you. Let us know about your crazy holiday stories and adventures HERE.