Planning a trip or vacation can be super confusing and overwhelming.
It feels like there’s just so much to do and take care of.
Where to begin and equally important: where to end.
You don’t want to find yourself in the airplane, remembering that you forgot to do this one thing!
We’re trying to make the process a little bit more digestible by offering you an easy plan you can follow step by step!
In this guide, we’ll go over all the steps and divide these steps into simple sub tasks to take care off. This way, you can leave home without having to worry about the things you might have forgotten!
Keep reading to find out how to plan a trip in 14 easy steps!
Step 1: Get inspiration - Find a destination
It all starts with inspiration!
Where will you go?
Start of with writing up the destinations you have always dreamed about going to.
You can make a list of 5 to 10 cool destinations.
While you go over the next few steps, some of these destinations might be scratched off for some reason. Maybe it’s too expensive or your travel dates don’t align.
If you’re having trouble finding dream places to travel to, get some inspiration on visual search engines like Pinterest, where you can browse through a variety of dreamy tropical destinations, as well as city trips or short vacations.
Step 2: Timing and duration
When you will be traveling?
This might depend on when you can get time off from your work or when a contract ends.
If you’re lucky, you don’t have to adapt to someone else’s schedule and you can just choose when you want to go!
When checking the dates for your travels, you better check the weather predictions at your destination at the same time.
You probably don’t want to arrive at your tropical destination during monsoon or hurricane season.
How much time to you have to spare?
Some destinations can be just too far away for a 3 day vacation.
Planning a vacation needs to have a duration set when you start planning, unless the duration is set to: as long as possible or forever or something similar!
Timing and duration
The combination of timing and duration is quite important.
If you’re traveling in high season, most places could be super crowded and unpleasant.
Or maybe you want your trip to align with a special event or festival.
So take some time to align these two to fit perfectly.
Step 3: Cost and budget
Now that you narrowed your destination list down to just one or a few destinations, it’s time to estimate the cost of your trip.
Setting your budget
Everyone has a budget.
For some people the budget is unusually large, while other have to check every cent they spend.
You can either set a budget per travel day, or set a budget for the entire trip.
If you’re setting a budget per day, you have to add the extra costs for transportation and flights as well.
Plus, there are always a few extra costs to take into account, like buying a visa or passport.
Check out how we manage our budget on the road!
The usual expenses for a trip
When setting your budget and estimating the cost of a trip, you should take these things into account:
- cost of a passport and visa
- travel insurance
- flights (and getting to the airport)
- transportation on the ground
- 3 meals per day
- tours and activities
- credit card fees
We’re summing up a lot of things here. But don’t worry, we’ll get to how to take care of every specific item later on.
The total budget
Now that you’ve estimated your budget, you might be able to scratch more destinations of your list. This is usually the case for our travel bucket list, as some destinations are just too expensive!
The amount of money that you think you need to enjoy this dream trip is probably wrong. There are always more expense you didn’t count into your budget.
You find extra excursions and tours to do once you’re there or you end up eating in some super fancy restaurants.
You’re on a holiday and you don’t want to be too frugal.
Count an extra 10% on top of the calculated budget for splurges and extra trips.
Step 4: Get even more inspired - Research
After you passed through the first 3 steps, you probably have your destination set. You know when you will approximately leave and you know more or less how much money there is to spend!
You’re ready for the next step!
Start drooling all over your travel destination!
Now is the time to do some extra research!
You want to find out what there is to see and do in this particular destination. And you also want to make sure you’re not missing the highlights and hidden gems.
To do this, we use Google and Pinterest. We recommend doing the same.
Both search engines will lead you travel blogs and travel websites which hold loads of information about your destination.
Online, you can find articles about the best places to visit in a certain city or country, but you can also find information about specific tours and activities.
Step 5: Make your first draft itinerary
You should start to get a very good idea of what you want and can do in your head right now!
Take a map (or Google maps) and check all the hot spots and tours you want to include into your trip.
Take a good look at where everything is and then…
Look up where the best airport is!
Step 6: Book a flight (or other transportation)
It’s time to fully settle on dates and book that flight.
Without a flight taken care off, you can’t make a decent plan of your trip.
Compare prices on different websites and find the best flight, which also matches your budget.
If you still need to slightly change you dates in order to get a better/cheaper flight, now is the time!
This is the best website to find your flights:
Maybe you don’t want to fly and you’re planning an Interrail adventure or using different means of transportation.
For European train travel, Interrail is one of the easiest ways to get around and plan your train itinerary.
Step 7: Book accommodation
You now know when you arrive exactly at your destination, or at the first destination in your trip.
So you can book your first night of accommodation.
Even if you’re traveling for a longer time and want to be spontaneous, we still recommend you to book at least your first night of accommodation.
Chances are good that you’ll be jet lagged as hell or at least stupid tired. So make sure that there’s a bed available for you.
Check out our accommodation guides or check out these sites to book accommodation:
Want cheaper accommodation?
Step 8: Finalize your itinerary
You have your dates, your flights, and some accommodation.
Now, you can actually write down your itinerary.
This can either be done in an old school document, excel file, or even with pen and paper.
But there are also a few cool itinerary planners available for desktop, as well as for mobile devices.
These are some of the best rated travel planners around!
Step 9: Book tours you want to join
If you have all the legs of your journey laid out, you can start looking for epic excursions.
All of these highlights have to be on your itinerary.
Some might be possible to be visited independently, but usually, you want to get either a guide or get your tickets in advance, especially if you’re short on time.
These are the best places to book tours and excursions:
Sometimes, it can also be interesting to join a tour or group for a few days in order to do a multi-day hike or visit seriously off-track places.
If we do things like that, we usually choose one of these travel companies:
Step 10: Get travel insurance
Travel insurance is something we used to take for granted and we believed that our home insurance would cover everything.
Turns out they don’t!
So first, check what exactly is covered by your insurance at home and if you need to get a seperate insurance or not.
If you plan on doing weird and exciting activities, you definitely need insurance, but also if you’re not thinking about doing crazy stuff: you still need it.
All kinds of things can happen to you during your trip:
- your luggage could get lost or damaged
- maybe you have to cancel your trip for some reason
- you could get food poisoning
- do I have to keep going?
For travel insurance, you also have a few options:
Step 11: Take care of legal and official stuff
All right! Step 11!
For me, this is the least interesting part of the travel planning process, but you gotta do it!
Just check these few things and proceed to the next step!
Do you need a passport for your trip?
Once you leave your country or Union of countries, chances are that you need a valid travel passport.
Make sure your passport will still be valid for 6 months once you return back home.
Do you need a visa for your trip?
A lot of tropical and dreamy destinations require a visa for visitors to enter it.
Visa requirements vary greatly from country to country and destination to destination.
Best practice is to check the website of your country government. They should have a clear list of information about your destination.
Do you need vaccinations for this trip?
For some destinations, vaccinations are encouraged, while other vaccinations might be obliged.
This website has a clear overview of all the countries and the vaccinations needed.
Will your credit card work while abroad?
Because you probably need your credit card to make payments abroad.
Check your banking app or dashboard to see if you can use your debit card and credit card abroad.
Make sure to also check how much commission you’re charged for transactions and ATM withdrawals abroad.
We noticed that our bank wanted a big extra for each ATM withdrawal and store transaction abroad, so we decided to get a travel card, which ended up being a lot cheaper.
Will your phone work abroad?
Usually it does!
But you might need to check your phone account to see how expensive your calls will become when abroad. And don’t forget to check the price of your data abroad.
We used to turn off roaming to avoid extra cost.
When staying in a country for a long period of time, you might consider getting a local sim card. So if your phone is a dual sim phone, that’s actually the best possible combo.
Most accommodation offers free wifi, so you can use apps like Skype, Whatsapp, or Facebook Messenger to message and make calls home.
Step 12: Let people know you’re going
Yes! Tell everyone that you’re off to have the best time of your life!
Aside from family and friends, there might be other instance that need to know about your travel plans.
Especially if you’re gone for an extended period of time, you need to inform instances like: your bank, your insurance, your healthcare provider, … anyone you can think of!
Step 13: Pack your bags
You reached the final steps.
By now, most of your stuff should be taken care of and you can start doing the final things before leaving.
Pack the right stuff according to your destination and time of year.
If you need a little bit of guidance, make sure to check our backpacking packing list for world travel!
Step 14: Leave and enjoy your trip!
The crucial moment has arrived and you’re ready to go!
We usually have a small list of things to check off in the final days and especially on the last day. These are the things we definitely want to double check before closing the door behind us.
We recommend doing the same.
You want a list for things to check in the house. This can be stuff like: check if the heating is off or pull out all the electric plugs, or whatever needs to be done.
Then we have a second list with things we have to make sure we have: passport, flight tickets, all of the loose ends which are super important.
Before you leave the house, check your list! And close the door!
Off to a well deserved holiday!
Enjoy your trip!
Extra: going on a very long trip?
If you’re traveling for longer than most people take holidays, you need to take care of some other stuff too.
You can’t leave home for 6 months without taking care of these things.
What about your rent or your house?
Will you keep paying rent while you’re gone? Most people don’t have the budget to spare, so they cancel their rent. We did too.
If you own a house, you might consider renting it to someone else for the time you’re abroad and earn some extra travel budget while doing so!
Sell some stuff!
You canceled your rent or find someone to rent your house.
Where does all your stuff go?
You can either rent a garage or a storage unit to keep all your stuff. But you might just as well sell some of you stuff to get more travel credit.
Let people know you’re going to be away for a long time
These people are not just your family and friends! Those are obviously the first people you need to inform.
Conclusion - How to plan a trip
There you go!
That’s our extended plan for planning an epic trip!
As promised, we got it all down to 14 steps and this is actually how we do our own trip planning.
Of course, if you’re going on a 2 day citytrip, this process might be a little shorter or easier to do.
When you’re leaving for a 1 year round-the-world trip, there is a lot more involved.
We hope you enjoyed our article and we also hope that it was super useful and helpful.
Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and concerns in the comment section below!