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
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. 😉 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
And now let the waiting games begin! Subscribe to newsletters of airline companies, travel agencies, check out sites like Skyscanner, Skypicker, Booking.com 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
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
Ah, the million dollar question. Actually less than that,you wouldn’t be reading this if you had a million dollars, would you? 😉 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 prices 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
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
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. 😉 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
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.