For many people travel is the ultimate escape. A time to experience new places, disconnect or get some much-needed relaxation. However, the time leading up to the moment the plane wheels are up and the flight ascends into the sky can be filled with stress. Why can planning a trip overseas, or even in your own backyard be so complicated? From finding the best flight deal to picking hotels and making the most of your days, it can all be overwhelming. Below we break down how to plan a trip in a simple ten-step guide. Hopefully this planning a trip checklist will make your life easier so you can fast forward right to the fun stuff!
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Step 1: Day Dream
It sounds silly, but don’t all amazing trips start with a little daydreaming? Maybe you picture yourself sitting on an exotic beach with a cocktail in one hand, and a good book in the other. Does your mind wander to skiing in the Swiss Alps, or how about some waterfall hunting in Bali? Are you planning a solo getaway, or is it a family affair?
Every trip is simply taking your dreams and turning them into reality.
So ask yourself… What type of trip do you want, and where do you want to go? Simply yearning to go on a “trip to anywhere” isn’t possible.
So pick a location and start your planning a trip checklist! It could be a bustling city you’ve always hoped to visit, the country you want to explore, or a certain experience you’re traveling for. Dream BIG and figure out what type of vacation you are ready for!
Guide to Planning a Trip Questions:
- What Kind Of Trip Do You Imagine? Beach, snow, or tropical?
- How do I want to spend my days? Relaxing, active, or both?
- What place do you really dream about visiting?
- Why have you not gone before?
Progress Check: Do you now have an idea of the type of vacation you want to take?
Step 2: Set a Timeline
For many, this will be an easy answer. You might have a long weekend, one week vacation, or you could be looking at 10 days. Two weeks? More? Hopefully, it’s as long as possible! Yet, the amount of time you actually have to plan a trip will dramatically affect your plans.
Take some time to be realistic about how many days you have so you can make the most out of every single one. Obviously, you can’t try to squeeze one month of Europe activities in if you only have a week off of work. Being honest about the amount of time you have will help focus your mind on realistic destinations.
Now if your dream locations are out of reach due to time restraints don’t let that get you down. Know that you’ll save them for when you’re able to take the type of trip that you want in the future.
Progress Check: Have you settled on your dates, and have a good idea of what kind of trip you’re looking to take?
Step 3: Pick Destination(s) & Travel Style
By now you hopefully have an idea of where in the world you want to go, and how long you have. This next step is especially important before you start to figure out your budget. What kind of traveler are you?
Ultimate Escape: When you plan a trip you only want the best of the best. It’s your only vacation of the year so you’re going all out. Luxury hotels, fine dining, and upscale experiences.
Fun Vacation: Ready for a fun vacation somewhere, but don’t necessarily have an exact budget. You’re willing to spend a little more for something nicer, yet everything is within reason.
Budget Traveler: All about the deal! Cheapest bed, food, and have no problem staying in hostels or cheap accommodations.
Progress Check: Do you have a set destination, know what kind of trip you want to take, and the amount of time you have?
Step 4: Set a Travel Budget
Now for the not-so-fun, but very important part of how to plan a trip. Realistically before booking anything you should come to the idea of how much this trip is going to cost you.
However, this isn’t meant to stress you out. If you’re reading this blog you’re already looking ahead which means you have time to save for your travels!
To get a basic idea of how much planning a trip overseas will cost start with a few quick searches. Find the price for a round trip flight, hotel cost per night, transport, meals, and activities. Then add on a daily amount for spending money. What kind of traveler you are will change these numbers. We’ve included a template to help guide you below.
- Daily Meals:
- Extra Spending Money:
- Pre-Travel Costs (Visa, Immunizations, etc..):
If you plan correctly you won’t return from vacation with a massive pile of credit card debt! By following this planning a trip checklist you’ll hopefully save up what you need, and you can head home with only positive memories.
5 Easy Tips For Saving Money
- Set up a separate savings account just for your trip. That way you can save and plan as your account grows closer to the money you need.
- Do you regularly eat out, or grab drinks a few nights a week after work? Cut back a little and transfer some of the money into your savings account.
- Pack your lunch and cook at home.
- Make a grocery store list and stick to it.
- Dial it back where you can with simple things. Every penny counts when you’re planning a trip overseas!
Progress Check: Do you have your location? Length of trip? Basic budget sorted out? Great!
Step 5: Get the Basics Together
Before we go any further there is one important step in our planning a trip checklist that some people forget. Really this should be done before anything is booked. It’s time to get all the basics in order to be able to enter the country/place you’re traveling to.
Plan for a Visa: Do you need a visa to go on vacation? Depending on your home country and where you’re going this might be a visa on arrival. However, if you are planning to visit somewhere that requires getting a visa beforehand make sure you leave yourself enough time.
Check Your Passport: If you’re traveling internationally do a quick passport check (yes even if you’re certain you are good). We know several people who assumed they had time in their passport only to not be allowed on their flight! Some countries require you to have a valid passport for at least 6 months from your entry date.
Immunizations: This is another part of planning a trip that changes for different areas of the world. It’s best to check with your local travel clinic and make sure you are up to date with what is needed. For example, you can not enter Columbia without showing proof of a yellow fever card.
Think About Your Finances: In the last section we discussed how to get a rough idea of how much your trip would cost. Any guide to planning a trip should make you really question if you can afford it. But if not now, then when? This is not a make or break at all. Yet, giving yourself enough notice and time to save for the type of vacation you want is extremely important.
Step 6: Plan a Route
When using our guide to planning a trip the amount you structure is totally up to you. Traveling to Europe mid-summer for a week’s vacation? Well, then you will have to have almost everything planned and booked in advance. This is always a must for peak seasons in popular travel destinations.
Island hopping in Thailand for a month? Well, then you might only need to plan out the start of your trip. Things cost a lot less in Southeast Asia which allows you to be flexible.
To be fully transparent, for extended travels we only plan out the first week of our trip and often don’t book too far in advance. This gives us plenty of freedom if our plans are to change.
Other Things to Think About
- Are you visiting one location? That will take out this step completely.
- How about a road trip? Consider planning a route that takes you from one city to the next so you don’t have to backtrack!
- How are you going to travel? Car, bus, train, or flight?
Step 7: Ready… Set… Book A Flight
Blast off! This might be the single most important step of all. The step that takes you from daydreaming about eating pasta in Italy or hiking Volcanos in Indonesia, and actually makes it a reality. It not only gives you a set date but completely changes your mindset from dreams to reality.
Not sure how to get the best flight deal when planning a trip overseas? No need to worry! We break it all down in our guides below!
- How to Book a Cheap Flight 101: Finding the Best Deals For Your Vacation
- How to Dominate Your Next Airport Layover
Step 8: What You Need to Plan Ahead
Depending on where you are going and the length of your trip there will be some things you need to book in advance. If you’re planning a trip overseas and going for a week’s vacation you probably want to have your accommodation and activities booked in advance. However, if you’re your trip is longer you may be more flexible with your plans. Below are some things to consider.
Accommodation: We use booking.com to find hotels and short-term accommodations. If you’re traveling on a tight budget or looking to meet others, Hostelworld is a great resource. For longer stays, Airbnb tends to be our go-to.
Rental Car: Pre-booking a car can be so important in some places, but not necessarily in others. For example, if you are planning a road trip through Europe then you might want to schedule something. We use rentalcars.com as well as Kayak when searching for the best car deals.
Activities: Traveling somewhere and your trip is planned around a certain activity? Don’t miss out! While abroad we always look at Get Your Guide and Viator.
Step 9: Packing For Your Trip
So often on our travels, we’ve discovered that less is more. Why? Well first off, if you stuff your bag till the point of explosion how will it fit everything you buy along the way? We like to travel light so we have less to carry, and it’s easy to travel around once we reach our destination.
Some things to consider when packing are the weather at your end destination. Any activities or special occasions you may need to dress for, and also checking with the airline to see your baggage allowance and additional fees.
Step 10: Final Planning a Trip Checklist
Before take-off, there are a few things left to do! You may not need all of these, but they are good things to be aware of when planning a trip overseas.
- Alert Bank & Credit Card You’re Traveling: The last thing you want is for your cards to be frozen, and not be able to access your funds abroad.
- Pre-set Bills: Pending the length of your trip you may want to put your bills on auto-pay.
- Sign Up for STEP: The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program sends you email updates on the country you’re visiting.
- Photo Copy & Email Yourself Everything: It is so important to be prepared for anything. Make a copy of your important documents such as passports and visas, and email them to yourself as a backup.
- Send Your Travel Plans to Friends or Family: Always let someone know what your travel plans are. This means sending your flight, hotel, or whatever your itinerary is to a friend or family member.
Time For Take Off!
We hope you found our planning a trip checklist helpful, and use it as a loose guide to book your next trip. Make sure to check out all the travel resources that we cover below!
- Destinations: Information and guides covering over 40 countries.
- Travel Itineraries: One-week to one-month routes for a range of international destinations.
- Get Familiar Guides: Get Familiar with some of the world’s best cities.
- Travel Tips: Random tips and helpful travel information.
Have any questions about our guide to planning a trip? How about your own planning a trip checklist tips? Let us know in the comments below.
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Information: Explore dozens of amazing destinations around the world, travel planning tips, itineraries, street food guides, and so much more.
Flights: We always find our cheap flight deals using Skyscanner. That’s how we flew from Norway to Poland for under $20 USD, and Thailand to Vietnam for less than $50!
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also, Hostelworld can be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars for renting vehicles. A quick travel tip is to ask for a discounted weekly rate rather than booking 2-3 days.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for thousands of activities around the world. From food tours to skip the line entry passes!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
*We receive a commission for purchases made through links in this post. This allows us to continue our travels and keep providing great content to our readers! Also, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
Would love to visit all these places for sure. The journey has begun