One the most fun things is when you decide to take a trip. The anticipation of seeing someplace new or revisiting a favorite destination – it’s all exciting.
When you are ready to plan a trip, there are some simple steps you should follow to ensure that you cover all the bases and set yourself up for a great, low-stress sojourn! Of course, your mileage may vary, but these are the steps I typically follow for my personal travel. For business travel, all bets are off. I go where the client needs me, when they want me, and for however long they pay me. 😀
- Pick your dates. Most of us don’t have the luxury of personal travel when the whim strikes. We have to coordinate work schedules, school schedules, pet care, and other things that take up our calendars. Determine the when and for how long as your first step, since this can help determine location.
- Choose your location. We usually have a good idea of where we want to go, but once you have your dates you may discover that you are better off going somewhere else. If the only dates you can travel are over summer break and you don’t like crowds, you may not want to visit Paris but Lyon. Instead of Prague, consider Budapest. *Depending on your financial situation, you can choose set your budget before you choose location.
- Plan your budget. Next, determine how much you want to spend. If you are traveling during high season you’ll need to account for higher rates on airfare and hotel. Once you plan for lodging and transportation (air, train, car) you can determine how much you need to save for daily expenses.
- Assemble your documents. Gather the travel documents you will need. You should always keep your passport up-to-date and now is a great time to check. If you are traveling overseas, this is a great time to check your health records and determine what, if any, travel vaccines recommended. If you plan to drive in a foreign country, you may need an international driving permit. This is the time to investigate and buy your travel insurance.
- Research your location. This is the time to read up on the weather, the local culture, the overall safety of your intended destination. Be sure to check out several respected sources for information as it is always a good idea to get a variety of perspectives. I like to use Fodors, Lonely Planet, and Frommers.
- Pick your Must-Dos. I have found that the most fun adventures are those where I’ve only planned the bare minimum, planning on those things that are important to me and require special arrangements/scheduling/tickets. Things like climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, touring the White House, visiting the Anne Frank House, tower tour of Sagrada Familia all require reservations so make your list and purchase your tickets.
- Start saving. Now might be the time you want to cut out any extras like your daily $5 coffee or you want to convert your loose change to a deposit for your savings account. Consider using your mileage earning credit cards to pay for bills and purchases BUT only if you can turn around and pay it off. Set up automatic savings account allocations from your paycheck direct deposit. If you need extra money, consider getting some flexible gigs through sites like Care.com or Rover.com.
- Be flexible! Once I have picked dates, location, and chosen my must-dos, and arranged for the first two nights of hotel, I leave everything up in the air. Depending on where you, this can be really fun or slightly worrisome but if you have researched your location well, you should be able to pivot as needed. For example, having no firm plans in Paris is a lot easier than having no plans in Botswana. Still, it’s all an adventure, right?
- Get excited! You know where you’re going and when, you are on track for your travel expenses (and earning miles with every purchase), now you can get excited. Consider creating an inspiration board with photos on a cork board or starting a Pinterest board can really get you in the mood and make the countdown a bit more bearable.
I am sure there are more tips and other ways to plan your trip, but those are my tried and true ways. What do you think? Did I miss any tips? Let me know in the comments and, as always, thanks for stopping by!