One of the most fun parts of traveling is researching and planning your trip. But do you really know how to plan a trip?
I’ve planned countless trips for myself, and over the years I’ve developed an efficient checklist that ensures I don’t miss anything important. The idea of this post actually came to me while I was planning a trip, and I though, why not documenting the whole process?
Just to make it clear, I’m not a control freak. Ok, maybe I am a bit, but I hate wasting my precious vacation time searching for things or getting lost, so I make sure that once I’m at destination the only thing I have to do is to have a good time! So there you have it:
How to plan a trip, in 10 easy steps:
1. Pick your destination according to your interests
To me, choosing a destination is one of the funniest parts! The first question is: why you want to travel? Do you need relaxing time away or excitement and adventures? You can get inspiration everywhere, from travel books to Instagram and Pinterest.
If you already know where you’re going , your next task is to research very quickly the costs in your destination at the style of travel you want. It’s important to establish a budget as early as possible. Some destinations are generally cheaper than others, but there are ways to save everywhere: travel in the off-season, pick budget accommodations, plan a shorter trip.
2. Choose your departure date
Are you traveling during high season or low season? It is important to be aware of the “extreme peak” weeks, which are the busiest and priciest days of the year, and try to avoid them when it’s possible. But, on the other hand, you should also know the weather and climatic conditions of that period and general merits and demerits of the place. Example: Miami is one of the most expensive cities in the world, but many hotels offer great deals in the off-season, especially in August. Do you know why? August is the middle of hurricane season!
3. Website search for hotels/flights
So now you know your destination and your departure day. The next step is booking!
I book as far as possible in advance (3-5 months) on hotel booking websites with free cancellation policies and I keep an eye on prices and sales on a regular basis. Then I compare flights from hundreds of airlines and travel websites, but I always try to book flights with just one or two airlines in order to build frequent flyer miles that I can use for pre-boarding privileges or upgrades.
DO NOT DELAY in booking your hotel rooms or flight, cause the EARLIEST you book the LESS you pay.
4. Google your destination
Now you should search for articles like “10 things to see in …”, “What to do in…”, just to get some general information (if you don’t have them already) and make a list of what you’d like to see. Then you should search for articles with more authentic, unusual and quirky activities you can do at destination.
5. Search for tours, day trips and passes
Now you have an idea of what you’d like to see at destinations. The next questions are:
Is there a tour I could do? Is there a citypass I can buy to make things cheaper or easier? If you’re visiting crowded cities like New York, Paris, Barcelona, London or Rome a CityPASS booklet in hand can save you a lot of time by skipping huge ticket lines.
Remember that day trips are a great way to explore local destinations without having to spend a lot of money.
6. Create a personal google map with all the places you listed
This way you’ll immediately see places and activities you should add to your daily itinerary, so that you’ll spend less time (and money) on public transit or taxis.
You’ll also be able to reach places without getting lost along the way.
7. Plan your days
This part is pretty simple, just take your agenda and write down your activities for each day. If you’re visiting museums or monuments check closure days or free entry days; if you’re visiting touristic spots check for less crowded hour (I usually check Tripadvisor Forum) and finally, if you’re going to do open air activities, check the weather a few days before departure!
8. Include a few stress-free hours each day.
Remember that itineraries are often tentative and understand that your plans can change – and they probably will!
Use your itinerary not as a fixed representation of where you’ll be or what you’ve been doing at any given time and how you’ll get there, but as a means of helping you make abstract travel plans concrete. Include a few stress-free hours each day, you’ll have time for last minute adjustments
9. Write down what you need to pack
What clothes are suitable? Are any medications needed? What about currency?
10. Take care of travel formalities
Find all the information you need on passport and visa requirements, customs regulations, and other formalities.