So you’ve decided to go on a trip — awesome! The decision to spread your wings and discover a new destination is exciting, but with so much to consider, the trip planning process can quickly get overwhelming. To manage it, I find that breaking the process down into concrete steps goes a long way in keeping it fun and stress-free.
To keep you from tackling everything all at once, here are nine easy steps to guide you through the trip planning process.
How to Plan a Trip in 9 Easy Steps
Step 1. Decide on a Destination
Deciding on a destination is the most important aspect of planning a trip, but with a world of options, picking just one place can be tough. First, consider your budget and the number of days you can spend. Is planning a big international trip in the realm of possibility or does sticking a little closer to home make more sense?
Also, some destinations are more expensive than others. Do a little research on a few destinations that interest you and find out what the average daily costs are.
Step 2. Get Inspired
Doing all the other legwork will be so much easier when you’re inspired and motivated! To help keep your interest up, use Pinterest, Instagram, or blogs to find beautiful photographs and facts about your destination. This will give you ideas for specific locations where you’d like to visit or stay.
During this step, I love creating Pinterest boards and excel Google Docs to help keep all my ideas organized and in one place.
Step 3. Decide When to Go
Destinations often have high seasons and low seasons. High seasons tend to have the best weather and offer the most attractions and accommodations. However, it also means crowds and often higher prices. Low seasons can give you more privacy and be more budget-friendly, but many hotels and restaurants close during that time, the weather may be less favorable, and you may miss out on seasonal events.
It depends on the destination, but I often try and book trips in the shoulder season when hotels and attractions are still open but the crowds have yet to arrive.
Step 4. Research Your Costs
Plan out a budget ahead of time, including possible costs for visas and required vaccinations. You can find out a lot online about prices for transportation (car rentals, buses, etc.), fares for cultural sites and nature preserves, and menu prices for restaurants you might like to visit. Once you know your financial range, you’ll be able to book and plan everything else more confidently.
Step 5. Book Your Flight
Sites like Momondo or Airfarewatchdog let you search for the best times and prices across airlines. You can even set up fare alerts to be notified when prices for your searched flights have dropped.
In booking flights, be sure to research prices to and from both your direct destination and the surrounding area. Flights from different size airports, even if they’re close to one another, can greatly vary in price.
Step 6. Book Accommodation
Like the flight finders, Booking.com lets you quickly find the lowest prices and compare between accommodations to suit your needs. Airbnb is similar, though all the lodgings are owned by hosts who sign their property up to be rented by travelers, which can give it a unique and personal feel.
Step 7. Plan Your Activities
Now that you’ve got a way there and a place to stay, create an itinerary of what to do! You can look at sites like TripAdvisor or blogs to get ideas. Then, decide on what to do each day based on distance/travel time and level of intensity. Of course, don’t feel obligated to cram in every activity possible — time to just relax or wander is important, too!
Read more: 10 Of The Most Spiritual Places On Earth
Step 8. Buy Travel Insurance
Many people don’t know much about travel insurance, but it can be a lifesaver. It will cover cancellation fees, so if there’s an emergency and you can’t make your trip, you’ll recoup most of your expenses in booking your airfare and lodgings. Some plans can even help you with emergency medical expenses.
Step 9. Start Saving Money
Now that everything else is squared away start setting aside money with whatever method works for you, be it a savings account or a jar of cash. If you’re mindful of your spending habits and know your budget goals, you’ll be well on your way to financial security for the trip–and that much more stress-free!
If you find it difficult to mindfully save, then I recommend setting up your bank account to automatically transfer a designated amount to a savings account every two weeks or month. That way, you can save without even thinking about it!