Before you get your camera ready to capture the most exotic and beautiful destinations, there is a bit of planning that must be done to make sure you even reach that point. For most people, planning a trip is the least favorite part of traveling. From booking a hotel, chasing for a visa, designing an itinerary to actually finding the perfect flight. ( My least favorite part is chasing for the visa, God knows I hate all the hustles I have to go through to get one just because I hold a Ugandan passport! It is such a pain). All this can kill the excitement of your trip if you don’t know what to do and how best to go about the entire trip planning process. With this post, we are going to look at a step by step guide on how to plan a trip.
I agree, most people might plan their trips differently from mine or even change the order (yes you can adjust the order a little bit) but I find this one more favorable and practical. These are the exact steps I take when I plan my trip and I am making them available to you so that you don’t burn out while planning a trip and I guarantee that by the end of this post, you’ll know how to plan a vacation like a pro.
A Step by step guide on how to plan a trip successfully
Step 1: Choose a destination
Before you do anything, you must know where you’re going or at least have an idea of where you want to go!
Many of us have a long list of bucket list destinations. According to the factors that might be in play, choose one country or more that you would like to tick off your bucket list. This might be easy for some, but quite difficult for some that have many countries on their list and can’t decide where to go to.
Can’t decide on where to go to between different countries; why not get an independent idea from someone else or from other travelers; weigh the pros and cons of each country until you narrow it down!
In my opinion, choosing a destination is the most important aspect when it comes to planning a trip since there are so many factors that contribute to where you’ll be going next.
Some of the things to consider before choosing a destination.
Which kind of traveler are you? Are you one that wants to participate in adrenaline and thrilling activities, or you just want to lay on a beach sipping on cocktails. Are big cities your ideal travel destination or off the beaten paths? These aspects should help you narrow down your choices.
How much money you saved for traveling. Are you a backpacker who prefers traveling on a budget or you prefer staying at all-inclusive resorts. The money you saved for travel will dictate whether you’ll travel to major recommended cheap destinations or expensive countries like Australia or Dubai.
Visa requirements of that country. Most people are likely to consider destinations whose visas are free or easy to obtain instead of being in a rat race while processing one.
Step 2: Decide on the travel dates.
Even though most of us would prefer to have flexible dates for traveling, it is unfortunately not always the case as some have to ask for a travel leave from work, other obligations tie them down to having a schedule.
So if you don’t have the flexibility to travel anytime like you would want because of one reason or the other, the best thing to do is to come up with specific travel dates or at least an estimate of when you would like to travel.
Decide whether you want to travel during the peak seasons, off-peak seasons or the shoulder season (the season in-between peak and off-peak). The season you pick will somehow influence your budget as flight fares tend to go high during the peak season and a bit lower during the off-peak. But you don’t want to travel during the wrong season, so if you can find a balance and go during the shoulder season, that would be better.
Before you nail down on the time to travel, find out what the weather will be in that destination. You wouldn’t want to go during heavy rains when all you want to do is rock the beach. Knowing what the weather will be won’t only help you choose your travel dates perfectly but also pack appropriate clothes.
After deciding on the destination (s) and the time you’ll be traveling, its time to find out how hard/ easy it is to enter that particular country.
Step 3: Get your travel documents in order
Check the validity of your passport, most countries will require that the expiry date of your passport is more than 6 months at the time of your travel and that your passport has at least 3 free visa pages. If you don’t have one, check with your government on how you can obtain it. This might take longer in some countries, so be sure to do it way before your intended time of travel.
If you’re planning an international trip. find out the visa requirements of the country you’re traveling to and if you need one, obtain it.
The worst mistake you’ll ever make is to start booking stuff before your visa has been granted. Even though it’s easy for some nationals to get a visa to certain countries, it is a different story for some of us.
If you’re required to have a visa before departure, work on the paperwork and submit your visa application.
The duration of time it takes for your visa to be ready depends on the country you’re visiting. So be sure to leave an allowance of time to be able to get the visa without interfering with your anticipated travel dates.
A yellow fever card is also required in some countries. Find out if you’ll need it and obtain it if you don’t have it yet.
Step 4: Come up with a budget
When planning to travel, coming up with an approximate budget in the early stages of planning your trip will give you an idea of which activities you’ll be doing and how much you’ll be spending on things like food and accommodation.
Is your estimated budget higher than the money you had initially saved? When this happens, you can either cut down on the things to do that require money or save some more money.
Some of the common ways of accumulating money quickly that fellow travelers use.
Selling some of the home items they no longer need OR items they have not used for a good number of years and don’t plan to use again. I have not used this method myself but I know some travelers who can testify that it has been able to fund at least a percentage of their travels. This does not mean selling your entire home just to come back a few weeks later to be homeless or to an empty house. Do this smartly, sell only things that you no longer need.
Cut down on your current expenditure to be able to save more money for travels.
Step 5: Design an itinerary
We sometimes all love to be spontaneous travelers and however much it can be fun and exciting, planning ahead on the places to visit and things to do in that particular destination is necessary in order to be a little more organized.
So before you travel abroad, come up with a rough idea of how you plan to spend your days. There is a lot of information online to inspire you to decide on the things to do. You can also check out the official tourism website of your destination, travel books, and others.
You can also check out the getyourguide website, a very popular and amazing online platform that provides tours in destinations all around the world. This will inspire you to choose the best activities to participate in. Getyourguide doesn’t just inspire you, it gives you an option to book your tours right away and all details about the tour are provided beforehand. From price, duration, what’s included in the package, what other travelers thought about that tour and what to expect. So book your next guided tour with experienced tour guides all around the world from here.
Tripadvisor is also a good source of information to craft your itinerary.
Your travel itinerary should at least include things like;
- Things to do in that place and when
- Where to eat
- Free things to do
- And possible self-guided city walks.
Step 6: Book your flight
After your visa has been granted, (you must be highly spirited by now), it’s time to really get serious about this trip by booking your flight! This is perhaps the most exciting part of planning a trip, at least for me!
There are so many airlines with different prices, and it can be really confusing if you don’t know where to look. You won’t be pleased knowing that someone paid almost half of what you paid for the same flight. So use websites that show available flights from all airlines and pick the best for you.
Some of the platforms to use to search for cheap flights are;
- Skyscanner. I use Skyscanner all the time and I can guarantee that it is the best platform for comparing flight prices and routes. It also goes ahead to show you the “best flight”, “cheapest flight” and the “fastest flight”
- Google flights
Step 7: Book your accommodation
A step by step guide on how to plan a trip is not complete without the “booking accommodation” step. Knowing where you’ll sleep when you reach your destination is crucial and that’s why you need to book accommodation at least for the first few nights.
The accommodation you book depends on the type of traveler you are. Are you a backpacker or a “flashpacker”?
Some of the most common types of accommodation you can choose from include; hostels, guesthouses, boutique hotels, Resorts, Campsites or even rented apartments depending on how long your trip will last.
Don’t forget that the type of accommodation you choose depends on your budget and whether you’re traveling solo or with family.
Some of the biggest platform to use to book accommodation are;
Booking.com: This is what I mostly use and I highly recommend. It’s great because you have access to over a thousand properties in different parts of the world and you can even book some properties without adding your bank details which I find really useful. So now that you’re ready for your trip, you can book the accommodation that suits your needs from booking.com
Hostelworld: Are you planning to stay in a hostel? Then you need to use Hostelworld to book the perfect hostel. And since you’ll stay at the hostel read this post to find out what you need to pack for your hostel stay.
Airbnb. Not up for staying at a hotel or even a hostel, why not opt for an Airbnb to have that home feeling even when traveling. Most Airbnb’s will even have a kitchen so you can prepare your own meals.
Step 8: Buy Travel Insurance
As travelers, we always expect the best and never hope or wish something to go wrong while we travel. But what if, God forbid, something goes wrong. What would you do? Even though some people think that travel insurance is just for medical cover, that is not true, it goes a long away from missed flight, lost items, fire to repatriation.
While traveling, there are some chances of any of the above situations to happen(even though I hope they never happen to you). But since you know that there are chances, you need to buy travel insurance and the most highly recommended travel insurance by travelers is World Nomads.
It covers a number of countries and a number of misfortunes. Check if the destination you’re traveling to is covered and ask for a quote from World Nomads. It’s better to spend a few dollars on travel insurance knowing that it can cover your expensive camera or in case you got sick on the road, travel insurance will be able to cover you.
Step 9: Book ground transportation in your destination
Research about transportation in your destination and decide on what you’ll be using. If you decide that you’ll be using local public transportation, you don’t need to book anything else other than your airport pickup.
But if you want to get around in style by self-driving, then hire your rental car from Rentarcars.com, a reputable car rental platform that works in many countries. If you go for that option, don’t forget to obtain an international driving license.
Step 10: Take care of other travel tasks
Take care of other “small” but equally important tasks. Some other tasks that I take care when I plan my trip are;
- Pay or schedule out your bills before you travel.
- Research about local sim cards and data plans for your destination.
- Inform your bank about your travels.
- Print out all your travel documents.
- Download the necessary travel apps. Read this post to find out which free travel apps you’ll need to download for your travels. The good news is that they all work offline.
Read this post for a more detailed guide on the things to do before traveling internationally.
Step 11: Pack your suitcase or backpack
Now that you have everything ready, its time to pack your bag. I have friends that say that packing is their worst nightmare when it comes to traveling, not for me though; I love packing because I learned the techniques to packing smart. Do not overpack; just pack the things you’ll only need not what you might need.
Here are some of the things that will help you pack smart and light.
Using Packing cubes: These packing cubes from Amazon are a lifesaver to any traveler. There is no better smart packing tip than buying packing cubes. They not only help you save space in your backpack/suitcase but also to stay organized.
Packing clothes that can be worn multiple times. Packing light comes with comprises. Instead of carrying trendy clothes that you wear once and they become dirty immediately, why not opt for clothes that can be worn more than once in a row. These outdoor convertible pants from Amazon are perfect for that. Also, consider packing dark colored clothes instead of white.
Want to know more tips on how I manage to pack light, read these proven tips to packing light. They will help you pack just what you’ll need for your travels aka pack smart and light.
While we’re still at it, there are some travel essentials that you shouldn’t forget to pack.
These are the must-haves while traveling. Even when you’re running out of space, remove other stuff and add them.
If your destination is in Africa, here is the list of everything you’ll need to pack for your African safari.
Step 12: Enjoy your trip
Woohoo!! The process of planning a trip might have been exhausting before you stumbled upon this step by step guide on how to plan a trip, but now that you have it, I am confident that you have planned your trip well and now it is time to enjoy your trip. Go create memories, have an adventure of a lifetime and have fun.
Where are you headed to? Let me know in the comment section plus how your trip planning process went.
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