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?
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?
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!
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
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!
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!
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
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
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:
Tip: Even better than a hotel or hostel is staying in local apartments. Sign up today for AirBnB!
10. Plan your activitiesRemember #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
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.
13. Check everything and enjoy your adventure
Do you have everything?
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…