Planning a trip can be a time-consuming and stressful task, especially when you’ve never visited this country before or you’re travelling abroad for the first time. Questions will arise, where do I want to visit? How long shall I spend here? How much will this all cost me? If you’re head to multiple countries, confusion on bookings and transport can become hectic. In this post, I’m providing you with a step by step guide on how to plan a trip anywhere in the world; including the best travel sites, visas, buying travel insurance, and so much more!
So strap yourself in…as this is going to be a long one!
Having travelled to 43 countries before turning 21, when we plan a trip abroad, it comes second nature to us. So over the years we’ve developed a checklist that ensures we never miss anything important. Forgetting stuff sucks!
Want it all in one place? Hopefully our step by step guide on how to plan a trip will break down the process for you making it a lot easier and somewhat less daunting.
How To Plan A Trip – Step By Step Guide
Step 1: Choose Your Destination(s)
This is ultimately the golden question, where do you want to go?
This should be the first step when planning a trip, choose a destination that satisfies your interests, hobbies and budget. This will not make your trip become more solid for you and easier to commit to, but it will also make planning much easier as well.
Take a look at:
- Awesome trips to take in 2017.
- 8 places you must visit on your RTW trip.
- Where are we travelling in 2017.
- Top tips for first time backpackers.
How long will you have?
Planning a long weekend away, compared to a 6 month backpacking trip are two different things. You will need to consider if this destination is enough for such a short amount of time or alternatively could I visit multiple destinations during my trip.
What’s your travel style?
If you’re more into backpacking and staying in hostels, consider countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Australia and much of Europe. If you’re more a luxury traveller these countries are great too but consider different accommodation options.
Will you be travelling solo, as a couple, family or friends?
If you’re not travelling solo, sit down with everyone in your travelling group and discuss your ideas and interests.
Don’t leave it to one person to make all the decisions!
What are your interests?
So travellers prefer adventure and a challenge, others prefer relaxing retreats on the beach. Determine your travel interests at the start of planning your trip.
By answering simple questions to yourself, you can really narrow down your choice of destinations before moving onto the next step.
Step 2: Determine Your Travel Dates
You can’t go anywhere until you decide when it is that you are jetting off.
If you’re planning a large trip that covers several months to even years that you may or may not return from, then you only really need a set departure date.
For those traveller who only have a set amount of time (i.e. time off from work/school), then you will need to determine your exact dates from start to finish to make sure you’re back in time.
Your trip length will also heavily determine where you can and can’t go. If you’re looking for a relaxing and tranquil getaway but can only go for a week or so, then you’ll need to look at destinations closer to home (unless you really don’t mind long-haul flight). In addition, if you’re adamant on a particular destination but don’t want to travel there during high season, you will need to do some research in advance on when the best and cheapest time to go is.
Do remember that any destination is great at any time/season, whether it’s due to lower prices, animal migrating season, dry season and so on, it will always have it’s own unique flair. If you only have a certain date frame to work with then don’t worry, there will always be a destination waiting for you!
Step 3: Calculate Roughly How Much It Will Cost
So far you know where you’re going, and for how long, but you have yet to calculate how much it will roughly cost you. When you plan a trip, you will need to research the rough costs of your chosen destination. There’s no hiding that luxury hotels will cost more than hostels. As mentioned in Step 1, determining your travel style will also determine your overall costs of your trip.
How much are flights, hostels, hotels, restaurants, and activities? Knowing this, will allow you to estimate roughly how much money you’ll need for booking your trip and whilst you’re there.
Once you’ve estimated the total cost of your trip, you have a concrete goal to work towards.
Step 4: Set Your Savings Goal & Start Savings
Everything is getting a little more real now. You’ve chosen your destinations, dates and the rough cost of your trip. It’s time to start saving and cutting your current expenses!
If you thoroughly think of your current daily expenses, you may surprise yourself. Little things can really add up, whether it’s going to Starbucks, eating out instead of in or cutting down on drinking. Breaking all your expenses down onto a spreadsheet can help you set your goals and realise where you can save money.
Take a look at:
Step 5: Sign Up For Relevant Frequent Flyer and Hotel Loyalty Programs
Chances are, the airline you choose to fly with will have a frequent flyer program. These are 100% free and can bring you many benefits if you fly them regularly. We’ve scored Business and First Class flights, free upgrades and lounge access all around the world due to loyally flying Etihad Airways and other partners.
The same goes for hotel loyalty programs. If you’re wanting to stay in hotels signing up to their loyalty program is a great perk to have. We’re Hilton Honors Diamond Members, which means we receive free breakfast, lounge access (free alcohol & food throughout the day) and guaranteed upgrade if available.
Read why we think Hilton Honors is the best loyalty program.
Step 6: Book Your Flight(s)
Things are starting to get real now. You’re ready to book your flights. Learning how to find the cheapest plane tickets will help you to reduce one of your highest travel expenses.
If you’ve travelled a fair bit, check for points redemption flights before paying with a card.
You may not be bothered about stopovers, length of stopovers or which airline you choose, as finding the cheapest flight is paramount. Alternatively, you may want to get to your destination as quick as possible, with the most amount of comfort and facilities your budget allows!
Searching for flights.
Which websites are best for booking flights?
Generally when searching for flights we start with ITA Matrix. Although you can’t book through them, they are a great ball point on rough prices. ITA Matrix is fairly complicated, read our Beginners Guide here.
Our favourite sites for cheap airfares are:
After you have found your perfect flight on the search engines suggested above, make sure to go directly to that airline’s own website and see if you can get it for cheaper.
Many airlines have lower fares only available on their own site.
Step 7: Book Your Accommodation
You may or may not choose to book your accommodation before you leave. If you’re travelling long-term, we suggest booking only the first couple of nights when you arrive, giving you more flexibility.
Choosing the type of accommodation will again depend on your budget. For us we always aim to get the best value for money. Depending on the length, destination and the purpose of our trip we change frequently between luxury resorts, all the way to backpacker hostels.
If I’m travelling with friends, we usually prefer to stay in backpacker hostels (booked through Hostelworld) or Airbnbs (get £30 travel credit). Whereas if I’m with my family our preference is hotels.
Searching for accommodation
Which websites are best for booking hotels/hostels?
We’ve learned several tricks on how to find the cheapest accommodation when travelling, here are our favourite booking platforms:
- Hostelworld: For every kind of hostel around the world!
- Agoda: Amazzzinngggg for Asia!
- Booking.com: Largest variety of hotels.
- CheapTickets.com: 16% off every hotel you book with monthly code. (read out how here!)
Alternative: Airbnb are in 180 countries and you can book entire houses, or just spare bedrooms allowing you the choice between having the place all to yourself or staying with and getting to know the owner. Get £30 off your first stay with our unique code!
Step 8: Getting Around/Transportation
Depending on your destination, when you plan a trip, you may need to find out what form of transportation you will need. Whether it’s booking a rental car, camper-van, a pre-paid transportation pass, uber or can you simply walk everywhere.
For example, when you visit New York, buying a New York City Pass is great to have if you want to visit all the top attractions at a discounted price without having to worry about tickets etc. When you visit New Zealand, hiring a camper or car is highly recommended due to the lack of public transport and natural scenery.
Determine before you depart whether you will need a rental car. Booking online is usually a lot cheaper than walking into a rental dealership.
The quickest way to compare rental companies is to use a comparison site that searches all the major car brands prices at once and checks which company offers the best prices for your chosen model, dates and location.
Our favourite is RentalCars.com. It’s a site we booked through whenever we need a rental car.
Step 9: Plan Your Activities
Sketch out the must visit tourist attractions and any free tours that you want to enjoy, including how much they will cost. Make sure to book any popular attractions well in advance, possibly before you depart, as there’s nothing more frustrating arriving at a destination and seeing the one thing you wanted to visit is fully booked for the duration of your stay. This nearly happened to us at Antelope Canyon, lesson learned!
Make a list of:
- The free things to do
- Highly rated restaurants and eateries
- Bookable tours
- Day Trips
- Anything else related to your destination
You can find things to see and do by searching on Google, Social Media, Blogs, Guidebooks, Tourism Boards and much more!
Step 10: Tell Your Card Companies You’re Travelling
I’ve had countless time whilst abroad where my credit card has been declined at ATM’s, it’s the worst. Without money you’re unable to do anything, and this is the last thing you want to be worrying about whilst travelling.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ll be abroad, it’s a good idea to let your credit card companies that you will be using them overseas; that way any cash withdrawals or purchases that you make aren’t flagged as fraudulent, resulting in your card getting blocked. It’s horrible!
Step 11: Check Your Passport Is Valid For 6 Months/Apply For A Passport
If you plan a trip that includes jetting off overseas and don’t have a passport yet, make sure to give yourself enough time to apply for one. To be safe, try and apply at least 5 weeks before your departure date.
If you already have a passport, make sure to check your expiration date. Nearly all countries require that your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your date of travel and that it has a few pages for visa stamps.
Step 12: Buy Travel Insurance
Whilst a lot of people do travel without insurance, do not be that person. Please. You may think “it won’t happen to me, I’m healthy and not accident prone”. Yes you may not be, but you can’t control other people’s actions or natural events happening. Travel insurance is a lot more than just medical insurance. It also covers flight cancellations, anything that is stolen, if you break an expensive camera etc.
Yannick never thought that someone would steal his iPhone or get food poisoning from street food. Unexpected things can happen all the time whilst travelling, don’t let these things prevent your travels from continuing.
The cost of purchasing insurance is a hell of a lot less than what it would cost otherwise.
Our favourite travel insurance company and the one we personally use is World Nomads. With great prices and covering residents in 150 countries it’s certainly one of the largest ones. They also allow you to buy travel insurance online 24/7 from anywhere in the world, even if you’re already traveling.
Here’s our ultimate guide to buying travel insurance.
Step 13: Know The Visa Requirements (If Any)
Before you depart, check online at the destinations embassy to whether you’re nationality needs a visa or how long you’re allowed to stay without one. Every country is different, so do not presume a destinations requirements because they’re a similar culture to another one you’ve visited before.
Some countries require you to purchase a visa before entering the country, others you can obtain at immigration, double check everything before you leave.
Step 14: Check If You Need Vaccinations
Some destinations require you to have specific vaccinations against diseases and viruses. These mainly include Central/South America, Africa and Asia. Make sure to research if you need any well before you depart, as your health and safety will be paramount when abroad.
You’ll be able to talk to your local GP or doctor about which vaccinations to get for each destination. Make sure to tell them of any vaccinations you’ve have prior.
Step 15: Print Off All Required Documents
I personally use a travel wallet to keep all my important travel documents in one place. It’s a lifesaver and saves a lot of stress trying to find loose bits of paper in my backpack. If you haven’t purchased a travel wallet already, I highly recommend doing so. Some airlines require you to print your boarding pass before arriving at the airport, and charge you if you haven’t e.g. RyanAir.
Documents you may want to print/photocopy:
- Boarding pass
- Hotel/Hostel confirmation
- Travel insurance
- Photo page of your passport
- Suggested itinerary
- Rental car reservation
- Drivers license
- Anything else you can think of.
Step 16: Pack For Your Trip
Photo by: Stillwellmike
Now this is when things get real exciting! I personally LOVE packing for trips, as I know I’m about to go travelling.
When packing, remember less is more. You don’t want to be lugging around a backpack or suitcase when you’re only wearing around half of the clothes you packed. It’s not enjoyable and you’ll wish you left half of it at home. Take only the necessities and clothes you’ll actually wear. I’m still so bad at this, and always pack more than I should (I think it’s a girls problem!)
Take a look at our Travel Packing Page with numerous posts on what to pack, female and male packing lists, carry-on packing lists, what not to pack and more!
Step 17: Check In Online
It’s coming up to the big day! Most airlines let you check in 24 hours before departure, some even 48 hours. Check this prior so you can be one of the first to choose your seats at check-in.
If you’re not flying with a budget carrier, and have already chosen your seats then you can wait till arriving at the airport, as sometimes you may have a higher chance of being upgraded, or able to change seats according to spare seats near you.
Step 18: Enjoy Your Trip!
Woohoo! You’re travelling! Go have fun and create some awesome memories. Plus you also know how to plan a trip now, and all your future travels!
Want to share any of your own travel tips on how to plan a trip? Just comment below!
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