The first steps to planning your own trip is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • When do you want to go on your trip?
  • How long do you want your trip to be?
  • What do you want to do on your next trip?
  • Who is going on your next trip?
  • Finally, where do you want to go?

The approach to planning your own trip can drastically change based on your answers to these questions. Nonetheless, the next steps to planning your trip can be simple (and fun!):

  1. Looking up and booking your flights/travel plan
    • Booking your flight may require some patience. Flight prices can fluctuate from day to day depending on your destination and how much in advance you are purchasing your tickets.  It’s not always best to book your trip too much in advance since there are always great last minute deals on flights. But don’t depend on this tactic especially if you get anxious about trip planning so last minute.
    • One tool I love using is Google Flights – you can set your dates and use the “Explore Destinations” to look at the entire world map and determine which flight prices are best at that time. After you’ve looked up your destinations, you can save that search and track flight prices. They even send email alerts if prices have increased or decreased!
    • Another tool I use is Skyscanner. They show you hundreds of deals from most websites you know and don’t even know about yet.
    • One thing to keep in mind when booking a trip is looking at any potential layovers. Even if the flights may be cheaper, it’s important to look at the amount of time and location of your stop. If you are planning a shorter long weekend trip, a long layover may not be preferred so that you can enjoy your destination as much as you can.
  2. Booking your accommodations
    • After you have booked your flight or other travel plans, explore your destination a little bit on a map. See where the main attractions are in relation to the airport, as well as where the popular and central neighborhoods are. This should give you a good first look at where you would like to stay during your trip.
    • When looking through hotel/Airbnb booking sites, don’t forget to look at the map to see that the location and neighborhood is where you had in mind during your initial destination research. Find out more about how to optimize your search here.
  3. Planning for your transportation
    • A general search on what the recommended mode of transportation is will be a huge help. Other travelers have advice on this on many different forums and should give you insight on whether you should rent a car vs. use public transportation.
    • International Driving: If you are renting a car, make sure that you are covered with international driving insurance. Another thing to keep in mind is seeing if your destination requires an International Driving Permit. If so, you can get one of these easily at a local AAA for a low-cost. See my post on international driving here.
    • City Cards: Many international cities offer a city card that allows free public transportation for a flat fee. These cards normally will also offer discounts on museums and other attractions in your destination.
  4. Drafting an itinerary
    • This is by far my favorite part of planning my own trips. It is also probably one of the most time-consuming parts of the trip planning process. Doing some additional research on your activities is not only important to know how to get the most out of your destination, but also to be safe in knowing how to get around the area.
    • When planning your activities a trip, try your best to stay organized.  You will want to make sure that in each place you visit, you have options for eating, exploring, and buying souvenirs if you wish. You can see my post here on how I organize a trip itinerary.
    • Your mode of transportation has a large impact on the amount of time you will spend seeing everything you want to see. Think about how much time you will have each day to explore and look at how much time it will take between places you want to visit.
    • It is good to look at all of the places you want to visit on a map so that you have a rough idea of how to hit everything in an efficient route rather than wandering aimlessly and potentially getting lost in an unfamiliar setting.
  5. Finalizing a packing list
    • There are many ways to prepare your packing list, but it will vary wildly on a number of factors:
      • Seasonality, climate, weather, and terrain of your destination
      • The length of your trip
      • Availability of resources at your destination
    • Something else to consider is whether or not you will be traveling back from your destination with more or less things than you left home with. Yes – there is the option of carrying LESS things back. One practice I’ve adopted recently is to bring clothing and toiletries that you know you can discard at the end of your trip.
    • It’s always helpful to write your packing list down on paper or your device so that you can keep track of everything before and during the trip. If you’re unsure of how to complete a productive packing list, see my post here.
  6. Tying up loose ends
    • Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, there are always unique tips for your destination that is worth researching beforehand so that you’re not surprised with additional fees, headaches or obstacles.
    • Currency:  You should always know which currency is used at your destination and the rough conversion rate to your home currency. This will be a tremendous help in your budgeting process, and how you can obtain the foreign currency cash to use while you’re there.
    • Travel Notices: Again, this is for international travel – you never want to run into your credit cards being declined overseas. You should make sure to contact your bank to set a travel notice and specify which countries you are visiting before you set off on your adventure.
    • Cell Phone Plan: If you are like me and need your mobile device accessible during trips, you can contact your carrier to see what your options are. Verizon, for example, lets you use your domestic data plan at a flat rate per day.
  7. Enjoy your trip!
    • Yeah, I mean that. Think about how you want your trip to enrich your life.  Do you want to be more culturally versed? Do you want to grow your relationship with your traveling partner? Do you want to learn more about cuisines and languages? Don’t lose sight of what the point of your trip is, and enjoy your trip to the fullest!

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