There’s the fun part of trip planning, and the unpleasant part of trip planning. When I’m putting together a trip to a new place, I make it a habit of getting the unpleasant parts dealt with so that for the rest of the planning process I can enjoy the excitement! The first thing I do is write a list in my Any.do app. I’m a list writer, that’s what I do. Next I mobilize because there’s nothing more satisfying that crossing things off a list:
- Decide on a budget
Your budget will be comprised of several components: Transportation, lodging, food, entertainment, and souvenirs. Doing some research on the area you’re visiting will help you to come up with some ballpark figures for this. For example, after doing some research about Iceland for my upcoming trip there, I’ve decided that the budget for this trip will be about $3000 for a ten day trip including everything. That’s a budget for two people being a bit splurgey because it’s their honeymoon, it is definitely possible to spend less on a trip for two to Iceland. We bought the more expensive plane tickets, and paid for a few of the nicer experiences like tickets to Sonar Reykjavik, and a boat tour to see the northern lights. You can easily google currency conversions in order to make sure you know what you’re spending.
- Make transportation arrangements
This can mean buying plane tickets, making reservations on a train, renting a car, etc. This part is the most important because all it takes to get your trip in motion is to have the way there! Once you have that the rest will fall in line one by one. I usually use Kayak to find plane tickets but there are a variety of ways to find the best price, for example using a Google flight search. When I was searching for plane tickets to Thailand, I found Bravofly to be really helpful because of the ease with which I could compare tickets with varying departures and arrivals. For train tickets it really depends on where you’re going. But a little bit of research goes a long way. Some places are great to see by train, Europe being a good example. Whereas, The United States are not so great by train because it’s not very cost effective.
- Make lodging arrangements
This part becomes a lot more open ended because the best place to look for lodging varies based on the place. I usually will start with Travelocity or Kayak again — this time using the hotel search — and round that out by looking on Airbnb. Then, I’ll look at what hostels are available just to make sure I’m not missing out on saving a ton of money somewhere. It’s always a good idea to use the resources are available to you. If you have a friend in the area you’re hoping to visit, leverage their knowledge of the area to help you find a good place to stay!
- Check on visa requirements
Some places don’t require a visa unless you’re staying for longer than a certain amount of time (which makes things easy if you don’t plan on staying for long). Usually, that time period is about 3 months, but it varies quite a bit depending on the place. Iceland doesn’t require a visa for stays less than 90 days. Thailand doesn’t require a visa if your stay is less than 30 days if arriving by air and 15 days if arriving by land. If you’re planning on visiting a country in the Schengen Area in Europe you can expect them to follow the guidelines detailed on the Schengen Area fact sheet. It’s easy to find out what the guidelines are by performing a quick search online on your favorite search engine. (Please note: everything I detail in this section is based on being a US citizen, make sure to double check what the guidelines are in order to make arrangements for yourself!)
- Make sure your vaccinations are up to date
It’s always good to keep detailed records of what vaccinations you’ve had. All it takes to get up to date on your vaccinations is to search for what’s required for the country you’re visiting. Then visit your doctor to get your shots! You can check with the CDC here to get a good idea of what’s necessary (if you’re lucky you wont even need to get vaccinations).
- Get on with the fun stuff
Now it’s time to focus on the really exciting things, like what you’re going to do with the time you have! Will you attend all of the tours possible, or will you get lost in the city and wander? Are you going to play it by ear, or squeeze as many plans into your itinerary as possible? Now that you’ve got your trip’s scaffolding in place, you’ve got room to make the fun decisions.
Breaking a huge trip into smaller pieces makes it more achievable. I hope you find my trip planning guide helpful!
This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later,