How To Plan Your Trip
Congratulations, it would seem, given that you are reading this, you are interested, or in fact, are going on a trip. Many people never take the time out and experience the world, experience the variety of life out there, the unexplored road or go off-the-beaten track. People find excuses to not go anywhere, “I have kids, I have no money, I have no friends.” All of which are unworthy excuses. Kids can travel too, money can be saved with a little discipline and traveling is where you find the most amazing friends. My advice, save your money and just go. It will set you free, literally! We have created a step by step guide for you to learn how to plan a trip!
I feel traveling should be prescribed by physicians instead of anti-depressants. I have yet to meet an unhappy person who is traveling unless they are about to leave for home. It does something to people. Nothing changes a person so dramatically and in a positive way as traveling does. I am living proof. Traveling improves physical health but the real magic happens to the personality. A new and revived outlook or perspective in life is almost guaranteed. It’s a beautiful thing.
We need stimulation and not the kind found on a white screen, we crave to be excited about life. It’s good for us to forget what day it is and the normal rules set that we follow in regards to time. We need to forget prejudices, let down our guards and open our arms and we need to embrace the eternal now and forget about pointless worries past or future and just experience the moment for what it is. This is all achieved when you hit the road. It did for me and still does.
So with that being said. How do I tackle the logistics of planning a trip? It is a daunting task but it is most certainly worth it. Some people get overwhelmed at all that needs to be done. I personally enjoy it but many don’t. Use our guidelines below to make sure you remember everything you need to do for planning a trip!
The first thing you need to decide when you start to plan a trip is where you want to go. I use two factors to help gauge where I would like to go. First, what do I want to do? Activities? Do I want a warm climate, is culture a big part of my wants or would I like to hit the slopes for some skiing. I use these questions to get the ball rolling.
When I have a destination in mind, I will check the climate in that area at whatever particular time I want to leave. In the tropics, they have two seasons for instance. A wet and dry season. Be super mindful of this as you do not want to rock up when its monsoon season. Do note, that during the dry season, this is also considered the high season and prices and usually higher, considerably higher so if you are on a tight budget, make sure you will not be hit with unaffordable prices.
Obviously this will be your second major decision. If you are wanting to travel for 2 weeks or 6 months. This is important to work out now as the rest of your planning will be around these two decisions. You will need to work out routes and budgets.
This is the nit and gritty stuff that not many like to do but it is essential to be able to create a budget forecast. Start looking for flights, accommodation and activities. Read blogs and books to find out how much a meal will cost. How much transport will cost, especially if you are traveling long term and will be using buses/planes to reach different destinations.
Sometimes you can get cheaper prices for activities etc once you reach a destination. This especially is true in countries around South East Asia and Central and South America. You can haggle to get tours cheaper. If you are traveling in a group then you are even more likely to get a discount!
There will be some activities you want to do that will need to be booked in advance to ensure you don’t miss out! An example would be a Mule ride in the Grand Canyon needs to be booked months in advance. Read up on the things you want to do and make sure you book if it is necessary.
Now you have a fair idea of how much things cost in your chosen destination you can now create a travel budget and start saving! This is a very important step. Without a proper budget and savings, your trip will be nowhere near as enjoyable! Check out our post on How to Save for Travel here.
You now have a destination, a timeframe, and a budget so the next step is to book your flights! I always hunt around the internet to find the best price and route. Sometimes you can get a cheap flight but it might take you 40 hours to get there, with long layovers in airports. These flights end up costing more in the long run due to the money and time wasted at an airport!
Make sure you check SkyScanner, Kayak and Skip Lagged for your flights. I always check particular airlines websites as well just to make sure I get the best price possible.
If you have a quite a while before you leave then create a skyscanner price alert. They will send you email alerts when the price of your flight increases or decreases. When it decreases, this will be the best time to book.
It is also a good idea to use the flexible option when looking for flights as this will bring up the cheapest places to fly to. I find the best time to book international flights is around 3 months prior to departure.
Depending on how long you are going for, it is important to book your accommodation. If it is only a short vacation, I will always book accommodation for my whole trip to ensure that I dont miss out on places I want to stay.
If I am traveling long term then I only book accommodation for the first week or so. That way I can get to my destination, find out what it’s really like, meet new people and get suggestions . This way I am a bit more free to go where I want to. I always stick relatively close to my general plan, this just opens up the opportunity to explore new places that I did not know about.
As you have already done your research and know what activities you would like to do, you will know if you need to book any in advance. Do this now if you need to in order to make sure you definitely don’t miss out.
Next, you need to find out about visas and vaccinations. Find out what are the visa requirements for your passport with that particular Country. You will usually be able to easily find this information on the embassy websites or on travel forums. Some Countries allow visas on arrival, others need prior application submission. Visas can be a real pain if you leave them to late so find out the requirements and get on top of it!
Also, make sure you have a valid passport which has at least 6 months left before expiry. Many Countries will not allow you enter without the minimum 6 months. If you are planning long term, ideally your passport will have 12 months + left. It also needs to have at least 2 blank pages for visa stamps. Make sure there is not an exit flight policy for the country you are traveling also. Some countries will not let you in unless you have a flight already booked out of the country.
In regards to vaccinations, I always find the CDC website provides the best information. It is also advisable to see your doctor to make sure you are up to date with all the regular vaccinations. They will also be able to suggest any medication to bring with you such as antinausea pills and antihistamines.
You have finally booked your trip of a lifetime! The next thing you need to do is get travel insurance! It seems like a big expense when you purchase it but considering what you get from it if something goes wrong, it is a great investment. World Nomads is a great one for backpackers. It provides comprehensive coverage and covers more activities than others. If you want a cheaper one, at least make sure you have flight cover, medical expenses and lost luggage cover.
If you plan on partaking in extreme sports, make sure your insurance is aware. Many will not cover accidents from certain things and if they are not stated in the policy then you will have a hard time getting paid out for it. This has happened to a friend of mine and the medical bill and flight evacuation all had to be personally covered. Do yourself a favour and make sure you invest!
When traveling overseas, make sure to notify your bank you are leaving and what country you plan on visiting. Otherwise, the bank can cancel your card which is an absolute nightmare. Try to get a transaction fee free card otherwise you will be charged every time you withdraw money from the ATM. It is also worthwhile having several different cards that have access to online banking. In the event you lose one, you can transfer money online to the other so you will not be stuck.
Investing a travel card is also an option. You pay a one-time fee of maybe $20 USD for the card which in turn, saves you money overseas. You will not get currency conversion charges each time you use it as the card is loaded with local currency. These are especially handy of you are traveling to Europe or America.
Make sure you have payments set up for any ongoing expenses while you are away. It could be things such as student loan repayments, credit card payments, rent or power.
I have been traveling for pretty much, full time for 6 years now and if there’s one thing I have learnt, it is to document your trip. I have met numerous people who have traveled and never kept a diary. They have said to me experience life in the now and don’t worry about writing down what you’re doing. Just enjoy doing it. I agreed at the time. That same guy said to me years later, I wished I had written down what was going on in my mind at that time. It was one of the happiest times of my life and I would give anything to read the whacky tails of my adventures, especially when I’m feeling blue.
Keeping a journal might seem exhausting and useless right now, but years down the line, it will be priceless to you. Even if it’s to prove to your grandkids, you were once cool. It does not have to be a perfect a novel, just empty your mind of its thoughts and help yourself to remember the amazing times you have.
With all the hard stuff done it is time to pack your bag and get on your adventure! Make sure you enjoy yourself, grow, meet, adapt, laugh and live your life to the fullest!