14 TIPS FOR PLANNING A TRIP
I love planning trips. In fact, it is a past-time of mine that helps me sate the travel bug. Always having a trip planned and another adventure in the pipeline to plan gives me something to look forward to. The planning process has this funny way of transporting you somewhere without even leaving the house. It’s my little secret to always feeling like I am on holiday. I’ve learned a lot on the road over the years including how to maximise the experience, tips for spending smartly and even what to look out for. By sharing with you my tried and tested tips for planning a trip you’ll have access to the tricks of the trade and hopefully have an awesome adventure.
When well-done, efficiently planning your trip can really make a difference in your overall experience. For me, it takes uncertainty out of the equation which allows me to focus on being away and enjoying my time without the stress.
Here’s a look at my tried and tested top 14 tips for planning a trip.
1. CHOOSE DESTINATION
Deciding where to go your next holiday may just be the toughest decision you have to make in the planning process. So many places, so little time – right?
Are you looking for a quick weekend away or are you planning a trip around the world? You venturing out solo, joining a group of friends or will this be a family holiday? What type of experience are you looking for – culture as part of a city break, topping up your tan with some fun in the sun or testing your limits on an expedition?
Asking yourself these questions as you look at that long bucket list of yours, should definitely help whittle that list of choices down. Just do yourself a favour and make sure once you have pinned down your destination, that you check to see when the best time of the year is to go. Shoulders seasons are great, but off-seasons are a thing for a reason.
2. BOOK FLIGHTS
If your destination requires you to fly, you’ll want to book your flights well in advance of your departure date. Even if you don’t define yourself as a budget traveller, there is no need to spend more on flights when you don’t have to.
There are definitely great deals to be found, but do yourself a favour and book with a reputable airline and make your flight as comfortable as possible. I always choose to book direct flights when possible to avoid unnecessary stress and opt for a more premium seat for the comfort.
When searching for flights my main go-to resources are Kayak and Skyscanner. Both quickly compare flights from tons of airlines making your hunt for the best fares lot easier. Always double check the actual airline website in case have a sale offering lower fares. Also add a car or hotel and see how this impacts the fares.
3. BOOK ACCOMODATION
Once your travel dates are set, its time to start looking at accommodation. Whether you are looking for camp grounds or luxury resorts – chances are, you’ll have plenty of choice. Just don’t wait too long or your first choice may disappear.
I always use a range a booking sites to help find the best deals on my stays. Momondo and Hotels.com tends to be my go. In addition to finding great deals on accommodation, you can collect free nights for every tenth stay. Guess how many free nights I racked up when I was travelling on my sabbatical?
Booking.com is also a great aggregator that makes it easy to find and book accomodation. Feel free to use my Booking.com referral link to get 10% off your next stay.
If you have identified where you want to stay, always spot check any offers if you book direct. Brands want you to book direct – so sometimes you may find stuff like meals, airport transfers and laundry included in the cost of your stay.
Another alternative that I use, especially if I’m going to be on the road a while and want to feel more at home, is Airbnb. If you are new to Airbnb, sign up here and you can get a £25 credit.
4. GETTING AROUND
If your travel plans are looking like a road trip, it is likely you will also need to book a rental car. Doing so in advance will help save you time and money (and is the only way to guarantee you will have a vehicle waiting for you upon your arrival).
RentalCars.com helps aggregate the larger car rental companies making it easier for you to locate a car of choice. More often than not, I end up booking with Avis.com – as they offer extras that I like include GPS and Car Wi-Fi. If you are already abroad and decide to book a car online, be sure to read the fine print when booking to ensure you have the correct drivers license from the correct country.
Many cities offer public transport with travel cards that offer savings with unlimited use across subways, busses and trains. Be sure to check if this is available before paying the full single fare.
If taking a taxi (or a Tuk Tuk), be sure to know the rates before hopping in. Companies like Uber are also a good choice for getting around. Sign up to Uber here using code 2DNDO and get credit towards your first ride.
5. SEE AND DO
There will be no shortage of places to research all the great things to see and do once you are in your destination. Hearing friends travel stories, reading other popular blogs and perusing social platforms such as Pinterest, Insta and YouTube are great ways to get travelspiration.
I always suggest having a loose game plan before going anywhere as a way to ensure you can maximise your time away. It wont be possible to see and do everything – and I suggest you not try to. There is no fun in rushing around ticking sites off of a list. It’s even less fun when your lack of planning means you miss out on an experience.
It is not uncommon for top tourist attractions activities around the world to be completely booked in advance. This also includes trekking permits as well. Some of the most popular in the world, including Peru’s Inca Trail and the Milford Trek in New Zealand, offer a limited number of permits a day and tend to be need to be booked months in advance.
I tend to always carry a destination specific guidebook with me as a tool and reading material while on the road. One of my favourites is Lonely Planet – who offer a wide variety of travel guide books, downloadable PDF guides and other cool travel and photography books.
You also need to be mindful of the number of empty pages that you have. Some destinations require you to have a set number of free pages available prior to arrival. This helps ensure that any space required for visa stamps and stickers is available during your travels.
Also know that your travel history – as told by the stamps in your passport – may get you into some sticky situations at border control (including refusal into a country). Be mindful of passport sensitivities and requirements of your destination prior to your departure.
7. VISA REQUIREMENTS
Unfortunately not every passport is created equal. Entry requirements to your final destination will vary depending on which passport you hold. Be sure to look into the entry requirements of your destination and make sure you have your ducks in a row. Here for US passport holders. Here for UK Passport Holders.
Some countries require you to make an appointment at the country’s embassy to process your travel visa. Other countries handle this processes electronically and as a result allow you to apply online.
You may also be presented with the option of having a visa issues on arrival. Be mindful of any forms that you need to fill out in advance, any visa/passport photos that you are required to bring with you and also ensure that you know how this will be paid for. Some countries allow you to pay on a card, while others require cash in a particular currency.
It’s best practice to keep your vaccinations up to date, but there are often others recommended for travel. Examples of these include Hepatitis A & Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis. Some of these require multiple vaccinations spread out over time, so don’t wait until the last minute to assess what you may need.
If you find yourself heading to rural parts of developing countries or deep in the jungle you may even require anti-malarials to ward off a bout of malaria. I am nothing close to a doctor – if you are travelling be sure to speak with a qualified medical professional on any and all relevant travel related medical advice.
9. TRAVEL DOCUMENTATION
Its often recommended to have a series of copies of your most important documents with you as you travel. These include passports and drivers licenses, as well as other docs such as travel insurance information and booking confirmation details.
Having these to hand will make your life easier if your originals get stolen, misplaced or damaged while you are abroad. I also store PDF versions of these on iCloud so they can always be accessed remotely if need be.
It may not be a bad idea to email a copy of your docs to your emergency contact in case something were to happen while you are off adventuring.
I subscribe to TripIt – which helps keep track of all of my travels. Just forward your conformation emails to trip it and they collate and keep track of everything in one master itinerary. The app is great to use when you need to access your booking details while on the road
10. STAY CONNECTED
I love being disconnected when I am on the road, but like even better to know that I can connect if I need to. Using your phone abroad is very useful, but could result in massive fees depending on your plan. Know your rates before you go, to avoid astronomical charges.
Buying a local SIM card upon arrival is a great option. Shop around and find the provider that offers the most value. I often look for unlimited data with an allotment of minutes and texts. This allows you to access emails and get online, while also the security of being able to make a call if needed.
If planning to use a SIM card, make sure your phone is unlocked before you depart by contacting your local phone carrier.
Wi-Fi is a great option as well but you may struggle to find it in most remote places. If you are road tripping, see if you car rental company offers in-care Wi-Fi. We had this on a trip through New Zealand and Jordan – and was fantastic. The new SkyRoam Solis is also becoming the hot new mobile hotspot within the travek community – worth checking out if you simply can’t disconnect.
Unfortunately travel is not free, which means that you will need money while you are abroad. It goes without saying that different countries have different currencies – so planning in advance is key.
Most developed countries (and airports of less developed countries) will have plenty of ATMs to access local currency. Most ATMs charge a fee for usage and your home bank will also likely charge a fee for usage as well as % of the amount as a non-home currency transaction fee.
Notify your bank of your travel plans in advance, so use of your cards abroad does not get flagged as fraud. If this happens, you may not have access to your money without calling your bank. Take the opportunity to ask your bank about international transaction fees as well.
I don’t tend to use high street currency conversion providers to buy currencies before I travel, but this is also an option if you prefer to get cash before your departure. Just make sure you are getting a good deal.
I always recommend travelling with a credit card as most will not charge transaction, currency conversion or cash advance fees. It’s easier to address any charge disputes with your credit card company – if you paid cash, the money is gone. Credit cards that offer airline and hotel rewards points are the best.
Guess what – use of debit and credit cards isn’t always accepted – so ensuring you have cash on hand is key. Check the currency that is preferred locally and remember that larger bills in less developed countries may not be accepted. Ask banks to break them down into smaller bills for you in advance.
12. TRAVEL INSURANCE
Getting travel insurance for a trip is not something I used to think about. Now I don’t book a trip without having this in place. Unexpected medical emergencies, cancellations, lost luggage and stolen devices are a thing. Being covered properly will make them less of a headache for you.
If you are booking a group tour it is likely they will require you to purchase and provide the policy details before your departure.
The type of trip you take will also influence what type of coverage you require. On our trek to Everest Base Camp we were required to have high altitude trekking and helicopter air lifts covered in our policy.
Do your research and make sure you are covered properly. Some organizations invalidate your insurance if you are already on the road at time of purchase – so read the fine print. Call your bank before your trip – most have travel and device coverage as an add on to your checking account.
World Nomads is used by and often recommended by those in the travel space – partly because they have a great affiliate program, but because their coverage is one of the best. While I have coverage via my bank, I purchased coverage from True Traveller on my sabbatical as it covered long term travel and high altitude trekking – both of which are non-standard and required for the activities during that time. Please note that the latter is only available for those living in European countries (always check your fine print!!).
Like a lot of these recommendations, how to pack for your trip could be a post of its own. The type of trip that you are embarking on will influence what and how you need to pack.
The key tip is to pack light and smart. You can get away with carrying more on smaller trips as its unlikely you’ll need to schlepp your stuff often. If you heading off in a trip around the world, then every thing you put in that bag needs to serve a purpose. Every ounce you carry will feel heavier every step you take. Stevie & Carrie always raved about how they use packing cubes when packing as they are a great way to compress and organise what you pack.
When it comes to clothes, pack what you need, opt for layers over bulky items and don’t be afraid to do laundry on the road. Make sure you save room for your electronics such as cameras, extra batteries and travel adapters – and always ensure they are in your carry on when flying.
Off on adventure and thinking a bout what to do with your walking poles, trekking boots, sleeping bags, snorkel gear, tents, etc? Bring what you need with you, but know that most outfitters will offer the stapLes for rent onsite. This is great option if you are travelling long term and through multiple climate zones.
14. CHECK YOUR FLIGHTS
Flight times change, flights get cancelled, planes being used change (so your seats may change) – confirming your flights prior to your departure are key to avoiding issues as a result.
A good rule of thumb is to check your flight details a week before you depart and ensuring that you check in once online check in opens. This helps flag any issues in advance and helps avoid the long queues at the airports. Who knows what delays you may encounter on your way to the airport.
If you are using TripIt, you will receive flight status updates as well. If there are cancellations, delays or even gate changes – you will be notified, which is always helpful whether you are at home getting ready to depart for the airport, or at the airport already and not getting updates from the arrival/departure boards.
If you have followed the above steps, the stress of planning your trip should now be out of the way. You are set to enjoy what will hopefully be an amazing travel experience – you worked hard for it.
Check our DomOnTheGo’s Travel Resources for the top tools and companies for planning your trip
Coming Soon: Journeys // Top Travel Tips
Coming Soon: Journeys // Top Adventure Travel Tips
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