Traveling is supposed to be fun and exciting! A lot of people get caught up in the planning of their trips and forget to enjoy the process. The travel planning process doesn’t have to be stressful and it doesn’t have to be hard! Here are my processes and resources for planning a trip to make sure I get the most out of my vacation or adventure!
Research Where You Want to Go
Whenever I am planning a trip, I always start with researching where I want to go. If you already have a destination in mind, you’re already one step ahead! If you don’t, you will want to consider how long you want to travel, how long you want to be gone for, and your overall budget.
Once you have a destination picked out, start researching where within that country or city you want to go. What are the top things you want to do while you’re there? What are the must-see attractions you can’t leave without seeing? For this type of research, I typically turn to Pinterest to help me out. I start by searching for that country or city and then browse different travel guides (like this one) until I’ve come up with the list of everything I want to do.
I also use Instagram for this step in the process. As I scroll through Instagram, I save different posts that I like to different folders based on what country they were taken in. For example, if I see a really cool post of a rooftop setting with an amazing view in Paris, I will save it to a France folder. This way when it comes time to plan a trip I can go back and look at the location tagged to know where to go, and even have some photo inspiration for when I get there!
Pick Your Travel Dates
Sometimes you might not have much flexibility as to when you can travel, which is okay! If you do have flexibility on your travel dates, you will likely be able to save some money on transportation! I usually will do some research on the best time to visit the destination I’ve picked out so that I can select my dates around peak season to avoid crowds, but also have the best temperatures. For example, I would not plan to go hiking the Grand Canyon in the summer because not only are crowds likely to be bigger, but it is also going to be HOT!
For me personally, transportation can be one of the hardest parts of travel planning. Depending on where you are going, how far away it is from your starting point, budget, and personal preferences will all determine what transportation you take. If I take a long weekend trip to Florida, I am more likely to drive since it is easy and more cost-effective. These are some of my favorite resources to use when researching and booking transportation:
Pro Tip: When researching, planning, and booking transportation (especially flights), ALWAYS use a private or incognito browser. This will prevent companies from tracking your research and raising the prices on you.
Scotts Cheap Flights
If you are looking for cheap international flights, THIS is the place to go! They can send you updates on flights leaving from your favorite airports, and save you up to 90% on international flights! Try the Premium version for FREE!
Another great option that researches flights across all airlines. They also have a flexible date feature that can show you the price variations for flying at different times of the month/year.
Airfarewatchdog is a great website to find cheap flights, special deals and more to save money while traveling! You can explore destinations and also search for hotel deals all on one site. It also can give you alerts when prices change.
Skyscanner is a resource to search for flights, hotels and car rentals for locations all over the world. If you aren’t sure where you want the go the “Everywhere” feature for destinations will let you pick dates and show you what the cheapest option is for your dates.
This is usually where I check first when booking buses or trains, especially around Europe. They also have pre-searched destinations, like if you wanted a train from London to Paris, they have a spot you can click to search that rather than taking the time to manually search. You can also search by country.
When looking for transportation within a city, I love to use CityMapper. CityMapper will help you find the best public transportation in the city you are going to. It also can give you the times and estimated price for other transportation methods available like Uber, Cabs, etc. Unfortunately, though, they are not available in every city. Another thing that I always do before traveling abroad is to see how reputable their taxi system is and what type of rideshare service they have available. Uber or Lyft isn’t available everywhere, but many locations have similar services (example: in Budapest, the main rideshare company is Bolt).
The type of accommodation that you decide on is going to vary largely based on your type of trip, budget, and location you want to be. When I travel, unless traveling with family, I rarely stay in hotels. Hotels tend to be pricier than some of the other options. However, if you are able to get rewards points by using hotels, then they may be a better option for you personally.
When I am planning and picking accommodation, I usually like to find a place that is central to the things that I want to do or public transportation.
Hostel World is my personal go-to when looking for accommodation. It has a HUGE variety of hostels, hotels, bed & breakfasts, and more. I have found amazing deals on here and they have everything from the budget hostel to high quality more luxury hotel stays.
Hotels.com has a large database of different hotels, apartments, vacation rentals, and much more to find something for any type of stay!
Travel Insurance is a MUST when planning a trip, especially on international travel. World Nomads is an excellent option that has comprehensive and affordable plans for any type of travel!
Simple & Flexible
You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from over 130 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
Before You Go
Create an Itinerary
Having an itinerary going into your trip, whether its a full day of adventurous travel or relaxing by the pool all day, will help a ton when you start on your trip. It will help ease anxiety about what to do next, and keep you on schedule to make sure you are able to do everything you want to do before returning home.
When making an itinerary, use Google to map out where everything is in relation to each other. This will help you save time and money, as well as the frustration of backtracking. Sometimes I will also get a paper map to map out everything by hand!
Check Vaccination, Visa, and Currency Needs
Always make sure to check with your doctor before you go on any international trip to see if there are any vaccines that you need, to protect yourself while you are gone. For my US friends, the CDC has great information on every country and the necessary precautions/vaccines needed to travel. Also, the US Department of State has a good resource for checking passport and visa requirements (as well as vaccinations, travel advisories, and a TON of other essential information) for your destination! The Department of State is where I check first for any international travel planning!
Create a Packing List!
I love packing lists, and it is a very important part of planning! Creating a list before you begin packing will help you control how much you throw in your suitcase and avoid overpacking. You can do it in a couple of different ways. You can plan by outfits: choosing your outfits beforehand and packing only those. Or you can pack by articles: choosing essential articles of clothing that you then mix and match to create outfits at your destination.
Get my Carry On Essentials Packing Guide: Perfect for Any Trip! BELOW
Before You Go (pt.2)
- Give someone else has your travel details/itinerary. This will make sure that if anything were to happen, they will know where to find you and how to get a hold of you.
- Decide what to do about your phone. Check with your carrier to see what types of plans they have for international travel. If I am going on a short trip I just do my carriers $10 per day unlimited deal, but if I am going on a long trip I look into a wifi hotspot or pocket wifi to save money.
- Make sure you have a credit card with no international fee, for purchases, and for ATMs. Doing this will help prevent outrageous international fees. Also, let that your bank knows you will be traveling. This avoids having your card shut down for possible fraud.
- Get all of your important documents at hand and ready to go. These include passport, driver’s license/ID card, visas, credit cards, tickets, and anything else you need specifically for your trip. If you need a visa or a new passport, do that EARLY! It can take time to get those and you don’t want your trip ruined because a visa didn’t come back in time!
Most importantly with any trip, HAVE FUN! Don’t stress over the things you can not control and enjoy your time away from home!