If you’re anything like me, you’ll admit that it sounds a super exciting idea to just turn up in a new place in a distant land; hop off the plane as a ‘free spirit’ without having any plans, any idea of how long you’re going to stay there, where you are going to go next, or how much money you are going to need… but realistically; as an obsessive planner I struggle with this concept that others seem to find so fulfilling.
In this post I will share with you the 11 steps of how I plan my trips travelling. How I choose where to go, how I know where in each country I want to go, how I prepare for travelling between destinations, how I budget for the trip and how I know just how much money I am going to need.
1. How long are you going for?
This is a good starting point and although the time frame doesn’t have to be exact, it is very important to have in mind whether you going to go away for days/ weeks/ months or years.
Look at it this way; there’s no point deciding you want to travel around the whole of Eastern Australia, or take a road trip in an old camper van across the whole of the USA, or even backpack around South America, if you only have limited time. Save these places for when you will have time and do them properly. If you are short on time, focus on smaller countries. And if you have years of time, then great! But get planning where and make it a reality…
2. How much money are you likely to have?
Unfortunately, travelling is always going to cost money. You might want to travel for years, but you are going to need some money to do that. Saying that, I am a massive believer in never letting money be an obstacle if you want to travel, even if it means saving for years.
If money seems like it’s holding you back, then it may also help to choose places that are realistic to your budget and avoid expensive countries such as Western Europe or Japan and instead head to cheaper backpacker destinations such as Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Peru, Bolivia and India.
3. Where are you going to go?
As a travel obsessive I sometimes feel like there’s a constant map of the world in my head, with a huge list of destinations I just can’t wait to go to. How I decide which one to go to next firstly has to meet the first 2 requirements, then I can start pinning down my next trip.
For example, I have decided I want to go to Morocco next. Morocco has been luring me in and getting higher on my list for a while now. With it’s close proximity to Europe, now seems like the perfect time as I will have no more than 3 weeks, it is also a cheap country so I won’t need a large budget and it’s also small enough to travel around in my small time frame.
4. Start the research on your chosen destination/s
The beginning of the research process is when it all starts to get exciting and real. I start with simple things like checking out the blogs of people who have already been to the places I am going to. I mainly search on ‘Pinterest’ or search the internet for relevant blog posts or I even search hashtags on Instagram to find people who have already been there. This bit is great for getting ideas for your itinerary.
Finally, if you haven’t already realised I love to read about travel, so buying a travel guide is another thing I do as soon as I’ve chosen my next destination. My favourite of all being a good old ‘Lonely Planet’ guide, which I will read through whilst keeping a note of every place I read that I want to go to (As well as where to avoid).
Lonely Planet books can be a bit expensive, so I usually look for second hand one first before purchasing one; either online or in charity shops, but bare in mind to avoid those which are really old editions (I usually avoid any that are older than 5 years). Another option is buying the E-Book instead of the paper book. It’s usually cheaper and particularly useful if you’re heading to lots of countries as it saves you carrying loads of books!
5. When are you going to go?
By doing the above research, you should now have an idea of what time of year is best to go to your chosen destinations/s. If not, search the internet or read your travel guide on when the best time of year is to go. This is very important if you are going to enjoy your destination to the full.
For me, countries such as Morocco and Egypt get way too hot in the summer and other countries such as parts of India and South America experience heavy monsoons which are best to be avoided. This is one thing I have learnt from experience, we headed to South East Asia at the hottest time of the year and spent 3 months sweating our way around the region, spending as much time in air conditioned shopping malls and cafe’s as we did in temples. So to be planned properly, the time of year and the climate should certainly be considered.
6. How much will it cost?
So now you know where you want to go, when and how long for. But how much money are you going to need when you’re there?
This is all down to research and calculations. I usually read travel blogs of people who have recently been to the destination/s and provided their budget. I use the word ‘recently’ as there’s not much point reading a post about a budget from 2005 as it will most likely have now changed. Again, guide books such as Lonely Planet are really good for stating how much things cost in each destination. You also need to decide if you’re going to be travelling on a budget, mid-range or luxury. My budgets are based on 3 key areas:
- Once you know how much your accommodation, travel, food/ drink and activities are likely to cost each day for each place, you can then work out your daily budget and then your total figure for daily spending. For example, you have worked out that on a backpacker budget you need £15 a day for backpacking around India. You want to go there for 4 weeks, so that is £420 in total.
- So now you know your daily budget, you need to know how much your flights are likely to cost. Search flight comparison websites to work out how much your flights are going to cost. Skyscanner is my favourite, you can easily set price alerts so you will receive emails when prices go up and down. You can also search by the whole country not just the city so you can see which airports are cheaper. For example: ‘England to Morocco – March 2017’. You can also search by the ‘cheapest month’. And once you select the destinations and the month it will then show you the cheapest dates within the whole month:
Top Tip: It’s also handy turning on private browsing when searching for flights to stop flight companies knowing what you’re searching and then putting the prices up.
- Extra costs: This could be visas, vaccinations, malaria tablets, travel insurance; All vital things which should always be taken into consideration into the budget as they will add up. Start booking appointments for vaccinations at least 3 months in advance
Once you have added your daily budgets, flights and extra costs up, you now know how much money you need to make the trip a reality. I have a spreadsheet template which I use whilst planning the budgets for my trips and this is particularly useful if going to lots of different places. So if you are familiar with Microsoft Excel you may also find it useful to set up a spreadsheet so your budget is easy to view, amend if necessary and it will keep track of the total budget for you .
7. Start saving money
If you haven’t already, now is definitely time to start putting money into your savings each time you’re paid and cutting out unnecessary spending. Check out my guide on How I Saved £10,000 in 10 Months to Travel the World for my top tips on how you can easily save enough money to travel the world too.
8. Plan an itinerary
Okay so even I don’t always stick to an itinerary, but it’s important to have an idea of where you want to go so you can at least have a vague route and it will save time researching it when you are away. For smaller trips, such as my recent trip around Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, we only had 3 weeks so it made sense to plan the whole itinerary in advance.
To plan the itinerary, I usually already have my list of places I want to visit in each country written down that from my previous research.
I then look at maps, look at the logistics and distances in between places, is it possible to get from one place to another in one journey? Will it have to involve a night bus/ night train? How long do we want to spend in each place?
Top Tip! Check out my favourite website for train travel: Seat 61
9. Book your flights
Once you have your vague itinerary, or at least a start and end point, you now know which airports you will need to fly in and out of which mean’s it’s time to start thinking about booking your flight/s!
As previously mentioned, Skycanner is my favourite website to use to search for flight dates/ times and how much they cost. But I don’t always use Skyscanner to actually book the flights. I will go onto the individual flight company’s website (not via Skyscanner) and it is often a teeny bit cheaper. I like to book my flights around 5 months in advance, although I did once read that the best time to book a flight is only 1 month beforehand.
For our Round the World trip in 2014 we actually used STA travel, they booked all our main flights in one ticket, this is rarely the cheapest way to do it but for a small extra cost we had the flexibility to change the date of any of our flights up to 3 times.
10. Book your accommodation
For longer trips, I would usually just book the first few places in advance and no more, which would then provide flexibility if the itinerary was to change. However, many websites now allow free cancellation which provides that extra flexibility, we took advantage of this in our recent 3 week trip to Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. We booked all our accommodation in advance knowing that it would save time when we were away but made sure that our rooms had free cancellation if there were to be any changes to our route.
My favourite websites for booking accommodation:
11. Buy your travel insurance
An essential cost of any trip, make sure you buy travel insurance. This is really quick and easy so it’s usually what I leave until last, so for that reason this is my final point.
For our Round the World Trip we used STA Travel for our insurance, for smaller trips we just use our bank provider.
Finally, it’s time to leave and enjoy your trip!
So there you have it, My Ultimate Guide To Planning Your Next Trip.
Are you a fan of travel planning? Are you looking to plan your next trip? If you have any questions or would like further advise on planning a trip, drop a comment and share your thoughts in the comments below!