Planning a trip should be something positive and fun but all the options and possibilities we can choose from nowadays can easily overwhelm us.

Planning a trip, long or short can easily become a stressful task. Where do you begin and what should you do first? Is there a easy step-by-step guide that you could follow?

I book flights and plan trips on a weekly basis. I take over 30 flights a year and I sometimes still get nervous when clicking the “Book now” button. Do I have everything right? A stupid mistake in the planning can cost you hundreds of dollars later!

These are 12 simple steps you should follow to plan and organize your perfect adventure:

1. Where do you want to go?

planning a trip

What do you feel like doing? Summer and Sun? Winter and Cold? Popular or rather Off The Path? Make sure to make up your mind where you want to go.

Why is this so essential? If you are planning to visit Melbourne during summer you should know that you need to go in December because it is in the southern hemisphere. If you go in July it will be very cold!

Also make concrete plans. I want to go to Canada is not concrete. Canada is big and has ten provinces and three territories and is the second largest country in the world. Why does it matter? Because there is a distance of almost 6.000 kilometers between the two coasts and temperatures are also different. Say, I want to go to Vancouver!

Do you have a Bucket List of things you want to see in life? If you want to go somewhere popular check out Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel List for 2014. They still are one of the Go-To resources and decide what is trendy in terms of travel countries.

If you rather go “Off The Path” have a look at Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel List 2014 too. Try to avoid all these countries on the list!

One of the biggest challenges of travel is to learn what it is you really want to see!

2. How long do you want to travel?

Are you going on a short trip of a few days or a few weeks or traveling long term for more than 6 months? This is important for #3. The longer you travel the less you will spend on average per day. Short trips will always be more expensive!

3. How much does it cost to travel?

money

When you ask friends or trust other websites or blogs, don’t trust when they say it’s cheap or expensive. These two terms can be very misleading. For Europeans, South East Asia might be pretty cheap but for a Swedish, Germany is cheap and for a German, Sweden is pretty expensive. Both are Europeans and still have a different feeling when it comes to money and expenses. Therefore try to figure out the exact costs of some key products and services at the destination.

Check out cost breakdowns. Here on Off The Path you will find cost breakdowns for Myanmar, The Netherlands, Macedonia and Thailand. Also check out Legal Nomads Resource list with many cost breakdowns!

Another help might be Expatistan, a free database of prices in the world. You can type down your city and a city in your destination and it tells you how much more expensive or cheaper it is. Awesome resource to calculate costs of traveling!

Before you continue planning it is important that you have completed the first three steps. How much money will you need in Vancouver per day? maybe $150? How long are you planning to stay? A week? Well, now you know that you will need $ 1.050! We finally have a number. Is it cheap or expensive? You decide!

4. Start saving money

Whatever the number it is you will need, you can now start to save for your trip. Let’s assume you are going to Canada for two weeks. You are planning a week in Vancouver and you know you need about $150 per day. Afterwards you want to rent a van and travel around BC for a week. This will cost you another $1.500 with a rental van, some outdoor adventures and lodging. Great, two weeks in Canada come to a total of $2.550 + flights of around $800 return a total of $3.350!

$3.350 Sounds like a lot but if you have a few months to plan it isn’t that much money anymore. The time value of money is important!

Let’s assume you are planning to visit Vancouver in 6 months:

30 days per month x 6 months: 180 days
$3.350 / 180 days: $ 18.61 per day

You need to put aside $18.61 per day to save the money for a two weeks trip of a lifetime in British Columbia!

Now, let’s assume you plan your trips very early and have 8 months or even 12 months time to save money:

30 days per month x 8 months: 240 days
$3.350 / 240 days: $ 13.95 per day

or

We all know that a year is 365 days!
$3.350 / 365 days: $ 9.17 per day!

Totally makes sense right? 12 month is the double of half a year which divides the cost of 6 months by two!

Now the best part of it. Let’s assume again you have a year to save. Now convert it into Euro!!! That’s 6,66 €!!!!!! PER DAY!

You can travel for two weeks if you save 6,66 Euro per day!

So if you are a very early planner you only need to save €6,66 per day to finance your ultimate adventure! What’s €6,66 a day? Two Starbucks coffee? Two beers less on the weekend when you go out with your buddies?

Want to take it a way further? Cancel your plans for your phone and go prepaid and set yourself a monthly limit!

Start to cook more and go grocery shopping at the weekly markets.

Make meal plans for the week!

Cancel TV and switch to Internet streaming

And so on…

Saving €6 to €14 Euro a day shouldn’t be too difficult!

5. Get the right credit card

Getting money abroad can be costly. If you don’t feel comfortable running around with big amounts of cash you will probably get money from an ATM many times during your trips. Every time you pay a fee, sometimes it is a fix fee sometimes a percentage. But most of the time between €2 and €10

A few banks offer free credit cards but most of the time you will have to look for an internet bank. They offer free credit cards where you can withdraw money around the world!

Want to take it to the next level and you know that you will travel a lot in the future? Get a credit card with a partner program where you can collect points which you can redeem for flights, car rentals or accommodation. Look into it, sometimes you only have to spend a thousand euro in a short period of time and you can get your flights covered for that or other things!

Tip: If you are from Europe you should get the Credit Card from DKB. They offer a free credit card and no withdrawal fees worldwide! It’s a great deal and it helped me to save a lot of money on my travels! Sign up here!

6. Find out which Visa you need and check validity of your passport

Something I almost forgot once. Not only I didn’t have a valid Visa, my passport was also almost about to expire!
If you are going to a country where you need a visa, check it early and plan accordingly. Also check that your passport is valid for at least 6 months by the time you enter the country!

7. Vaccinations

Many countries require that you have certain vaccinations before you enter the country. They can be very costly and often have to be covered by you and will not be paid by your health insurance. If you are traveling in Europe, North America or Australia you probably won’t need any vaccinations. Check out the website by the CDC where you can find out which vaccinations you need for each destination!

8. Book the right flight timely

1422609_549449631801982_1983391914_n

Don’t want to be the person that paid the most for their flight? If you’ve followed ALL my advices, then you should have enough points with your credit card and you can use it to book your flight.

If you decided against the credit card here are a few tips how to save some money with your next flight!

- Book open jaw flights

Sites like Momondo offer the option to look for open jaw lights. It’s very simple, simply look for multiple destinations and for cheaper airports. Don Muang Airport in Bangkok is much cheaper than the Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Example: In September I spontaneously flew to Thailand. Every flight out of Germany started at 750 €. Since I was in Frankfurt a few days before my preferred date of departure I booked a flight from Brussels to Bangkok and on the way back I flew to Düsseldorf. See what I did?

Brussels-> Bangkok -> Dusseldorf

This way I saved the 50 € the German Government charges for long haul flights and Brussels has cheaper airport charges. The flight cost 420 €. I saved over 300 €!

- Be flexible

Sites like Skyscanner offer you to look for flights during a whole month and departing from a country to another one. No need to select the airport you want to fly from and to. This way you can also save a lot of money if you area flexible!

- Look for offers

Every time an airline launches a new route they will probably offer it with crazy prices as a teaser. Check out all the offers around the destination. Sometimes you are lucky and will find a cheap flight!

9. Book your accommodation

steps to planning a trip

Are you more a hotel person or a hostel person?

I’m both. I do enjoy the social aspects of hostels but love the facilities in hotels. There is something for everybody!

If you are more a hostel person you can check for hostels at Hostelbookers or Hostelworld. It doesn’t really matter which one you use, since the same booking group owns both. Alternatively you can also search and book via Hostels.com or visit the site of the hostels directly!

If you are more a Hotel person you can look for them on following sites:

Hotels.com
Hrs.com

Agoda.com (Get the App if you are traveling in Asia)
Booking.com

Tip: Even better than a hotel or hostel is staying in local apartments. Sign up today for AirBnB!

10. Plan your activities

flyboarding in curacao

Flyboarding in Curaçao

Remember #4 when I calculated your budget. Well this was only an assumption. Know which costly activities you want to do. Maybe you want to go Whale Watching in Vancouver or do a Wildlife Safari in BC? Activities can be costly and you want to calculate them into your budget. Would be shame being there and not able to afford them right?

11. Tell your Bank that you are traveling

If you don’t travel regularly like I do, you should tell your bank that there might be unusual transactions from abroad soon. Banks often block cards when there is a transaction that doesn’t fit your usual spending pattern. That is why I also advise to have more than just one card with you.

12. Pack your bags

steps to planning a trip

Well your trip is coming up soon. Now it’s time to pack. For how long are you going and how much do you really need? Check what the baggage allowance of your airline is. Most of the times it’s either 21 kg or 23 kg. Pack less than that. You might want to buy a souvenir or two on the way.

Check out my packing list!

13. Check everything and enjoy your adventure

Do you have everything?

Passport?
Visa?
Vaccination?
Wallet?
Credit Card?

Well that is the most important. It gets you out of the country and into the new country. Now lean back and enjoy your adventure.

I hope this post helps you as a guideline to organize your trip a little bit better! Save travels…

 
Sebastian Canaves

Sebastian Canaves

Publisher & Marketing Consultant at Transit Media
Sebastian is the main contributor of Off The Path. He has been writing here for more than three years. Until today he has traveled to more than 60 countries and lived in more than 7 countries around the world including Australia, The Netherlands and Thailand.
Sebastian Canaves

@offthepathcom

✈ Travel Blogger ★ Marketing Consultant ☆ Social Media Expert ★ Co-founder @TransitMediaNET & @BlogCampDE ⚑ Tweets in German and English ⚑
Und dann denkst du dir so: Warum bin ich eigentlich nach Aarhus gezogen? http://t.co/cfklgiijVE #Kolumne - 29 mins ago
Sebastian Canaves

This post is also available in: German

13 Responses

  1. SnarkyNomad

    I remember going on a trip and calling my bank the day before to make sure everything was good, and it turns out they had actually placed an unrelated warning on it that day, so it sure was a good thing I called ahead of time. Always a hassle to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no cash.

    Reply
  2. Ebony Kane

    The new year has just started and most of us are already musing about where we want to travel in the upcoming months. Annual prognostications by several travel agencies predict that tourists will flock to destinations across the world . However, in a barely recovering economy, money may still be tight for many of us. This doesn’t mean you can’t explore the world, though. If your travel budget is small, but your wanderlust is big, check out the ten best value travel destinations for 2014.

    Reply
  3. chantae

    Love the per day savings approach… sure makes a big number seem less daunting (though maybe not as daunting as giving up two coffees a day! That part really scared me ;))

    Reply
  4. Carolyn V. Hamilton

    Also, be sure to call your credit card company and tell them where you’ll be traveling! Otherwise you could go to use your ATM or credit card and find it blocked for security. This happened to me a few years ago in Honolulu, which I never considered to be “out of the country.”

    Reply
  5. thebritishberliner

    I like the way that you broke down costs per day. So much more manageable. And the advice to call your bank if you’re overseas is invaluable. I happened to tell my bank I was going to India before I actually got there. Good thing too as my bank manager told me that they would have blocked it!

    Reply
  6. Marcello Arrambide

    Cool tips! But I think travelers must not be too consumed about having a “perfect” trip, because there can never really be one. There will always be something bad waiting to happen :-D Just need to be flexible during the trip and be open to changes.

    Reply
  7. Toni

    Great post Seb!! Really love the depth you’ve gone into and even suggested how much to save (and how easy it is).
    I think everyone needs to remember to be flexible when they’re making their plans but other than that, plan away! :)

    Reply
  8. Suki F

    Great tips I also like to confirm my reservations a couple of nights before I leave. It just helps me to sleep better.

    Reply

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