I remember planning my first trip. I had no idea where to start.
That was almost 20 years ago, and I was leaving Iowa to vacation in France. I arrived, and one thing after another went wrong. Although it ended up being a good trip, I missed out on a lot of the activities and culture that I was hoping to experience. I learned the hard way how important planning is.
Since then, I’ve travelled extensively, both personally and professionally. I’ve planned countless trips for myself and my family, and helped others plan theirs. Travel planning is now a passion of mine, and I continue to see how planning takes a good vacation and makes it a great one.
Because so many people are overwhelmed by the thought of travel planning, I’ve pulled together the following list to make the process less daunting.
- Determine your budget. How much you want to spend will have a big impact on where you go and what you do when you get there, so this is an important first step. Some of the larger expenses to factor into your budget include transportation (to/from the destination and while there), lodging, activities (this can make a trip, so don’t skimp here), meals and general spending money.
- Decide where and when you want to go, and the length of your trip. All three of these will impact the cost of your trip. Once you have a destination in mind, you will want to look into considerations that could impact when you go. For example, Europe in the summer is extremely busy. You may want to consider spring or fall for lighter crowds and shorter lines. Going somewhere tropical? Understand any seasonal considerations.
- Do a quick feasibility check. The important thing here is to make sure your budget (#1) and preliminary plans (#2) align. Using your tentative dates and location(s), look at flights and accommodations online. Does your trip fit within your budget or do you need to make modifications? Maybe you still go to Paris, but cut the trip down by a couple of days. Tip: This is also a good time to double-check the expiration date on your passport, if needed for your trip.
- Book airfare and accommodations. At this point, you’re ready to set this plan in motion! Airfare and accommodations are more time-sensitive than other travel plans, so I start with those. Some of the better known sites include TripAdvisor and Expedia; both of which have rankings and customer reviews that can be especially helpful. Other options for flights include Google Flights, Kayak, Skyscanner and Momondo. For accommodations, also tryÂ Airbnb, Trivago and hotels.com.
- Plan your trip activities. This is what really makes the difference in your trip! If you already have ideas on what you want to do, start a list. Don’t know? TripAdvisor is a great place to search for ideas here as well. You can also do a general search online or use social media to ask friends for recommendations. Prioritize activities that are most important to you/your group. For those must-do activities, make sure you know the details to make sure they fit into your schedule.
- Stay organized using technology. In addition to the websites mentioned above, TripIt is one of the best tools I’ve found for travel. TripIt allows you to keep all your travel plans in one place and access your itineraries anytime, on any device. Find other apps that may be helpful for where you’re going.
- Make other preparations for your travel. So the big things are done. Is that it? Nope. Do you know if you can use your phone where you’re going or do you need to check with your carrier? Have you notified your banks and credit card companies of your upcoming travel? Do you know what weather to expect so you can pack and dress appropriately? Do you need foreign currency? Make sure you’re thinking about these things… well before your trip.
- Enjoy your trip. Finally! The planning is done and your trip is here. It’s time to enjoy your travel, soak in the memories and start thinking about your next adventure.
I hope you find this list beneficial when planning your next trip. As always, I’d love to hear from you. What other tips do you have that didn’t make the list? Use the Comments section below or send me an email, and remember to follow Le Foyer for updates.