Travel planning - how I do it, from an idea to reality

Travel Planning: From An Idea To Reality

As I’m getting ready to leave for what I hope will be the best trip of the year, I remembered when this was all just an idea in my head, when I was thinking “this would be nice” or “will I ever go there?”. Luckily, my friends were on board when I pitched the idea to them and that set things into motion. I was recently asked how I fund my travels and I thought you would find it useful if I talked about my whole travel planning process. There are seven easy steps that I apply pretty much to every trip and they worked perfectly so far.

Step 1: choosing a destination

Travel planning - choosing a destination

This is probably the hardest step because the world is big, there are billions of interesting places and, you know, I want to go everywhere. I probably start thinking I want to go to place A, then ask myself if we can go to B as well or take a day trip to C. Someone will ask why don’t we go to D and/or E instead because they’ve been to A and they don’t care for B. Tears are shed, friendships are ruined and in the end we decide to visit W.Β  πŸ˜‰ Whatever you choose, make sure you consider two important factors: that you are happy visiting this place (and not just going because someone else wants to) and that you can afford it (for instance, I’d love to visit New Zealand, but I know it is a bit pricy for me).

If you are on a tight budget, just remember you can also visit your own country. Maybe you won’t have a story as interesting as that co-worker who has backpacked in Asia for a month, but chances are you will have more fun than him and that’s what travel is all about.

Step 2: finding the best prices

Travel planning - waiting for the best prices

And now let the waiting games begin! Subscribe to newsletters of airline companies, travel agencies, check out sites like Skyscanner, Skypicker, and Airbnb to see when the prices are lower. If you see a great deal, go ahead and book it, tomorrow it may cost more. Just don’t wait too long, unless you like to gamble and go for a last minute offer. Remember that cookies (no, not the sugary devils) are not your friends and you need to use private browsing otherwise you will see higher prices just because you’ve checked twice.

Step 3: researching

Travel planning - researching

Behind every great trip is a great amount of research. I don’t suggest that you should have your schedule down to the second and freak out if things don’t go exactly like on paper, but you should have an idea about the place you’re visiting. The customs of the people, what are the most interesting sites, what is the best option to get around, where to eat deliciously cheap meals are all things you should check out beforehand. Wandering aimlessly is great (make sure you do that too), but you would hate it if you came home and discovered you missed a stunning sight you would have loved just because you didn’t know about it.

What I usually do is make a list of all the places I find interesting (with addresses, prices and opening hours), order them by area and mention which are the ones I must visit and which ones would be nice if there was time. Sometimes I miss places I wanted to see and sometimes I regret it, but it’s good to have a starting point when you are in a new city.

Step 4: planning your budget

Travel planning - budgeting

Ah, the million dollar question. Actually less than that,you wouldn’t be reading this if you had a million dollars, would you? πŸ˜‰ All that research in step 3 gives me a general idea on what to expect, especially in countries with currency stronger than my own (which is basically everywhere in Europe for me, sadly). Knowing how many days I’ll spend in that city and what the pricesΒ are like (for accommodation, sightseeing, food and maybe shopping), I’ll be able to make a rough estimate on how much I’ll need. That amount is divided by the number of months left until the trip and the result goes into a travel fund each month on pay day, so I won’t accidentally spend it. This way, I am able to deal with monthly payments and hanging out with friends, without panicking when I need to pay something for the trip in advance (accommodation, for instance).

Step 5: getting anxious

Travel planning - getting anxious

This is the current state I’m in, days before the trip. Although all the travel planning I did so far definitely helped making sure things will go smoothly, I am still anxious as hell. What if the flight is cancelled, what if we don’t make the connection, what if it rains the whole time, what if I don’t get along at all with my travel companions, what if we get mugged, what if my camera gets lost or broken, what if we have a medical emergency, what if…. *breathe in, breathe out*. Putting all my energy into other things, like work, more research for the trip, and blogging definitely helps minimize my anxiety and make me more excited for the day I board that plane.

Step 6: packing

Travel planning - packing

Some people hate packing, but I love it because it means I will be traveling soon enough. I never travel with carry-on only so I always have a suitcase with me. This doesn’t mean that I take my entire wardrobe though. I check out the weather and plan accordingly. I make sure I can mix a shirt or t-shirt with more pair of pants, thus creating outfits for more days. The lighter the suitcase is, the more wine bottles I can bring back home. πŸ˜‰ On the other hand, I despise unpacking and would be able to leave my suitcase untouched for weeks, until I ran out of underwear.

Although I usually pack a day or two before, I start thinking about what clothes I’ll bring so I’d stop wearing them, to make sure they are clean and ironed when the time comes to put them in my suitcase.

Step 7: having fun

Travel planning - partying

Well what do you know, all the travel planning is now over and you will finally visit the places you’ve been dreaming about for months. Sit back, drink an overpriced cocktail with an umbrella and just have fun. You’ve earned it!

What is your travel planning process?

I will be traveling around Scandinavia for the next weeks, but don’t worry, there will be some great guest posts here about destinations I’ve yet to visit. Stay tuned. If you want to follow me along my travels, let’s be friends on Instagram.

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  • hahahaha OMG, this post was the best way to start my day with blogging πŸ˜€
    I do EXACTLY the same things! The packing part was simply the best… until you run out of underwear hahahaha
    I thought I was crazy, an the only one who actually made a list of things to do, the price and opening times, I’m glad I’m not! I simply have to do that because I have been disappointed many times because the attraction was closed or something.
    AWESOME post!!! I am already feeling anxious for you too…. how exciting!!!! I can’t wait to hear all about it and see your pictures πŸ˜€

    • I also make lists of everything, from what to pack to even writing down the timetables of the buses that lead from the airport to the city center (in a special travel notebook I have). I would be freaked out if I didn’t write them down~! You’re definitely not alone, Allane! πŸ™‚

      • hahaahhaa OMG, me too!! It’s better to be on the safe side right? I think we probably do that because we had bad experiences before and don’t want to repeat the same mistake again πŸ˜€
        Happy to know I’m not alone hahaha

        • Jumping in to say I do that too! For my trip I have lists of sights, transfers to hotels and even restaurants! It’s good to stay organized πŸ˜€

          • hahaha yes it is!! I hate missing things out because I didnt plan enough πŸ˜€

  • Step 1: this is why I travel alone, bc F other people’s priorities
    I have given up on 2 & 4: I know I would be over-budget no matter what I did
    I outsource 6 (packing) to my mother, bc I am usually working up until my flight (this year it was an Epic Fail – I never took out at least 25% of my garments.
    And I am an expert on 5 – Anxiety has been the operative word for this trip (well… maybe second to “frustration”)

    • Luckily my friends and family -usually- go with whatever I say because they know I organize great trips πŸ˜‰

  • Haha, LOVE this post! I was smiling all the way through.
    For my next trip, I thought I’d just enter my starting point into skypicker and put anywhere, anytime in the next boxes, to see where it leads me! (it will be the cheapest one). Until now it was all about deciding on the destination first, and then looking up flights, accommodations, etc. But this time, I’m feeling more spontaneous πŸ™‚

    • I used Skypicker to check cheap flights as well, almost all of them were with Wizz Air, that’s why I’m thinking of joining their privilege club :)) It would pay off if I knew I will take at least 3 flights with them next year.

      • Ohh they ave a privilege club? I am in the WizzAir Discount Club and my membership will expire in November. So gotta get some new flight tickets until then πŸ˜€

  • Haha these were the funniest/most appropriate gifs ever! That just about sums up my trip planning process too!

    • Haha, thank you. Glad to know I’m not alone πŸ˜€

  • John Pilkington

    Excellent use of GIFs.

    • Thanks John! πŸ˜€

  • I also want to add that lately I’ve been googling “free walking tours [city I’ll be visiting]” and I’m always surprised at how many there are. They are tip based meaning you don’t have to go broke but still have an expert taking you around. πŸ™‚
    Have the best time in Scandinavia!

    • I’ve been doing that too, but only to get ideas as to what places I should visit. I like wandering around by myself, the only time I joined a walking tour was in my own city, haha.

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  • I just found your website and love it!! Especially the name, made me laugh! Great! Love the little videos on this post as well! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you so much, it’s comments like yours that make me smile and motivate me to keep going. πŸ™‚

  • Liz

    Great post! I more or less follow the same process. I spend so much time researching, but for me, the travel fun has begun the moment I start researching where to go. I love doing it so I don’t mind spending so much time on it. I think doing a lot of research also saves me money. So in the end, it all pays off. πŸ™‚

    • Oh, I love researching for future trips, sometimes I do it just for fun, to have an idea where I can go next, haha!

  • Megan Claire

    Great pointers, I especially agree that choosing the destination is often the hardest part!! So many places to choose from and so little time! Though totally agree that there are generally so many places in your own country you can visit if you’re short on cash – local staycations and weekend trips count as travel too, and often I think people will be genuinely surprised by what’s in their very own backyard!

    • It was one of my new years resolutions to travel more in my own country and I’m glad I managed to squeeze in a few local trips this year. πŸ™‚

  • I love packing too. Every part of it, from making a packing list, to putting everything neatly into plastic bags, and laying everything out on the floor, so that I can see if I have missed everything. My hubby always calls me obsessive, but at least I never forget to take anything, unlike him. πŸ™‚

    • I do the same, except I put everything on my bed. But I still worry I forgot anything, despite making a list days in advance, haha.

  • Rachel

    I love the idea of making a spreadsheet of all the places Id like to go, opening hours etc. Thanks for the tip!

    • It’s really useful to keep track of the places you want to visit and see which ones are closer to each other, so you won’t run from one place to another πŸ™‚

  • I think steps one and two are crucial if you want to make travel a reality. You can be wanting to visit a place for a long time but if you do not take action, you will never go. For me, reality hits once I get my plane ticket. After that, there is no looking back. And of course, I look forward to steps 5,6 and 7!

    • I’m the same, if I don’t have a plane ticket in my inbox, it doesn’t mean I’m going, haha

  • For us, step one consists of making compromises between three variables: WHEN you want to go (say, if you are limited to school holidays…or choosing the best weather for a destination), WHERE you want to go, HOW MUCH you want to spend. It’s rare that the three interlock perfectly – so at least one of those will be compromised. The trick is to juggle it to get the best outcome on all three!

    • I know what you mean, I usually compromise on WHEN, because we need to find a time when all of us can go and it’s often not my first choice.

  • Hahaha! So true. One thing I have learned? Once you figure out your budget, multiply it by two!

    • Hahaha, so true!

  • Hahaha, so simple. I’m working on getting the anxious part out of my travel reality, but, well, it’s not an easy task….

    • I hear you, I hope we can both be less anxious in the future πŸ™‚

  • samiyahl

    Good tips on travel planning! We do most of these, we try to have a solid budget but always end up straying from it and spending too much! Love the planning stage of it, hate the packing stage, LOVE the fun in travelling πŸ™‚

    • I hate unpacking after coming home, I could go weeks without unpacking my suitcase, haha.

  • Amanda & Brian

    Great tips! We also make a list of places/attractions/restaurants we want to visit in the area. We then put them in google maps to help plan general days so we ensure we are visiting the places near each other to minimize travel time. Enjoy your upcoming trip!

    • Do you create custom maps for the places you are visiting? I only search for them on the map and organize the list based on location.

  • Natalie Tanner

    The videos you chose are a scream! Love the post. Great tips! Choosing can be so hard!

    • Haha, thank you! πŸ™‚

  • Connie Reed

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t travel with just a carry-on. I don’t know how people pack a couple weeks worth of stuff in a carry-on or a backpack. Great tips!

    • Thank you! It’s so much easier to bring checked in luggage, you don’t have to worry about size, weight or what things you can’t bring πŸ™‚

  • Beth

    It sounds like we have a similar approach to vacation planning. πŸ™‚ I always come prepared with a few restaurants I’d like to see, things I’d like to do, etc. It helps to give the trip some structure (no wasted days!), but still allows for plenty of exploring and discovering new places once I’ve arrived. πŸ™‚

    • Absolutely, I usually choose a bunch of restaurants and I’m lucky if we go to at least a couple of those, haha.

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    Travel experience indeed creates to highlight in our careers where we are trip to famous places in the world. It concludes to great an idea, thinking, proper planning, wonderful destination and regarding plan budget for journey. Thanks for share.