Planning a trip can be really tricky because it involves quite an amount of resources such as time, money and effort. Same goes in life, the more knowledge you have the MORE savvy you will be! hahaha. I have put together this list of 12 easy steps on how to plan for your next trip! 🙂
Step 1: Pick Your Destination
A lot of readers ask me this magical question, “Where do you think I should go, Keith?”. Thing is, out of 10 people who asked me this question, perhaps 9 people already have in mind where they really wanna go. The last one, probably just ask for the sake of asking since I’m a frequent traveller. haha Anyway, to avoid post travel disappointment, have a good knowledge and understanding of where you are going and to experience is VERY IMPORTANT! Unless you are like an official member of the avid traveller club, it is never about the destination but the journey itself, else please read more of my destination guide or other resources to fix your next travel destination! 🙂
TripHobo is a good tool to understand your destination better and it helps to estimate your trip budget, it will also assist you in your planning by sourcing for 3 major things (Flights, Hotels & Tours), which I will cover individually in the following steps. You may check out my most recent trip plan to Morocco, Portugal and Spain as a rough guide below.
Step 2: Determine The Length Of Your Trip
After you pick your destination, the next question is “How long can you be away for?”. Most of the time, we are constraint by corporate leave and time off. I know the Oceanians (Aussies mates and Kiwis) have the most number of days for leave in comparison to the rest of the world. Knowing how long you can be away for and set aside for your next trip is very important. It determines your resources needed e.g. money and time! For example, when you have more time, you can visit more places, hence higher transportation cost. Having more time to explore the new places also mean you can avoid peak hours or seasons. E.g. visiting during weekdays off peak will have cheaper price at the places of interest. This will save you some money. On the other hand, if you hardly have enough time e.g. 1 week in Europe from Asia (often my situation), then you will need to spend more to get direct services and offers, which is harder to get the “economy of scale” as you have high fixed costs (flights) and short variable costs (hotels, transport). Just a tip, be realistic and nice to your pocket when you are fulfilling your dream of a lifetime! haha I’m just playing the devil’s advocate now! haha 🙂
Step 3: Research & Fix Your Budget
Well, we spoke about time! Now, the next obvious resource is MONEY!!!!! Of course, the more the merrier, as simple as that! This will determine your style of travelling and as well as how far you can go in this single trip. Work out your sums and make sure you add in the following basic travelling expenses:
- Air tickets
- Attractions entrance fees
- Food & Beverages
- Visa (if applicable)
- Travel Insurance
- Gifts & Souvenirs
- Miscellaneous Expenses e.g. tax, tips and etc…
After you have done this, you will then try to match up your length of the trip and see if it works for your budget.
Step 4: Book Your Flights
Booking of flights can be tedious and confusing, especially for a first timer. Thanks to the Dr Internet and Dr Google, travelling in modern times nowadays are so much easier and seamless. There are many ways to avoid being the person on the flight who paid the most. For more tips that can reduce the ticket price even more, check out my article on 20 Budget Travelling Tips.
Ever since travel aggregators such as Skyscanner came into the market, it makes it easier for us to find the cheapest flight, and a breeze to compare fares across various airlines and different seasons! I have been using Skyscanner and find it extremely useful in tracking down the cheapest flight for me. It’s easy to use and extremely user-friendly, it compares the prices between major airlines and many budget airlines too. It also leverages on good filters to provide great overview of prices based on time, various months and seasons.
Step 5: Pre-Plan Your Tours / Things To Do or See
Sketch out the major activities that interest you and things you would like to accomplish in your next travel destination. There can be thousand and million things you wish to accomplish, and at times, a lot of things are either cheap or doesn’t cost money. E.g. monuments, places of interest or attractions can be free at times. What’s more tedious and involve more planning is when you need to travel out from major cities. Perhaps a day tour package is good for flexible travellers. You get to see the sites without taking public or expensive private transport, you get to meet new people and if you don’t like them, it’s just for a day! 🙂
Viator is a travel website that sells you tour packages. Many times, I used their services when I travelled alone in exotic places which is hard to commute. Viator offers extensive tour packages that sorted according to countries and cities, which easily aid you in finding your perfect tours. They have some multiple days tours too, but I find it costly. Single day tours are better. 🙂
Step 6: Pre-Book Your Accommodation
Some of you may like to rush to book your accommodation. This is actually my last priority. Usually, I will book my accommodation last. There’s absolutely no problem in big cities, because I’m sure there will be someone who can offer a shelter to you for that few days. haha BUT, if you are picky about your accommodation, in order to avoid losing your top picks, book early if you want to stay in your preferred hotel choice.
For my hotel stay, usually I will use HotelsCombined to do my preliminary research. I always find Hotelscombined useful especially with the map viewing function to show the different hotel prices according to their actual location. I could easily compare prices between various online hotel booking providers too.
Among the few online hotel booking providers, Booking.com is the place where I’ve been accumulating my points for booking hotels. It’s fast speed and has my favourite map viewing function to show the different hotel prices in an area. I could easily compare prices between the hotels in the city I’m researching for. I also love the mobile app, it consolidates all my upcoming bookings in my mobile phone, making it easy to manage when I travel. Once you’re their premium member, you will be exposed to secret deals and genius members deals. When using booking.com, most of the hotels don’t even require a pre-booking fee which I like the most, it gave me so much flexibility to choose my accommodation and make alternative plans even when the dates are nearer.
Step 7: Purchase Travel Insurance
Take my personal advice, ‘DO NOT!, I repeat, DO NOT skip buying travel insurance!”. Many of you might be thinking or delusional about your own health, thinking you will not fall sick, believing you will be healthy and safe in your entire life. Truth is, it’s better to be safe than sorry! In today’s world, nothing is absolute. Especially when you are travelling to a new destination, you will be bound to low immune system due to weather change, excitements, and anxieties. Your body is taking in so much pressure while you are travelling without knowing.
Anyway, travel insurance is only a few dollars a day (in most cases). Only fools don’t buy it. So don’t be a fool and please buy travel insurance when you travel. 🙂
Step 8: Inform Your Bank & Credit Card Companies
This is an important step that many people always forget. Informing your credit card companies and bank about your travel plans is extremely helpful and safer. Perhaps of my frequent travels, there were a few times there was unauthorised access to my credit card from London, New York and Uruguay before. The first time I encountered it when I was travelling in US & Canada. I received international calls from my Bank informing a suspicious activity from London. Fortunately, I informed my bank about my travel plans prior to my travel, they noticed I wasn’t in Europe that period, hence, gave me a call to verify that and ceased that transaction. I’m sure things will not be that “smooth” if I did not update my bank.
On the other hand, sometimes they may block your credit card because they thought it is a fraudulent transaction. haha It wouldn’t be fun that you need to make those expensive international calls to verify details with the bank, while you travel.
Step 9: Preparing Your Packing List
Finally, when you get to this step, you should be feeling the excitement of your trip which is round the corner. Many of you would have agreed with me that packing for the trip is way more fun than unpacking when you are back! Packing is exciting but unpacking is depressing! haha
Anyway, here are my tips and my the packing list for travel.
Referring to my packing skills (as shown above), you should give me some credits for that! haha I still remember how I managed to buy new luggage and brought the above goods, items and stuff back to Singapore alone. Yes, alone! haha Meandering the streets of Myeongdong on super busy Saturday evening, carrying my stuff bits by bits, dragged, forced & carried all the way to the airport via airport shuttle bus! haha It was just pure disastrous! haha Somehow, I made it back home safety. I can only blame myself for my lack of discipline and impulse buying behaviour in South Korea, but I recovered it from my good packing skills! haha
Step 10: Documentation
If you have been diligently following my steps and recommendations, you will not have much problem in preparing your documentations. Depending on the complexity of your conquering plans, you probably have heaps of flight itineraries, accommodation booking slips, tour receipts, visa, itineraries, driving license, permits, addresses and many more papers… So, if you are using the above recommended online service providers, you will have most of your flight itineraries, hotel bookings and tour packages in your phone apps. All you need to do is to create a travel folder and dump the apps in. Easy breezy! 🙂 If not, get a paper folder and organised them. You do not wish to scramble in the middle of the airport or public area to look for documents. There’s a potential risk for pickpockets and theft when you are distracted in searching for something in your bag or luggage! 🙂
Step 11: Currency Exchange
Well, currency exchange is like a business. It’s all about supply and demand. In some cases, it’s better for you to change the currency in your home country. However, most of the time, it’s better to change the currency at your destination. The general rule is airport don’t always offer good rates. Well for obvious reason, it’s profitable when they provide convenience at the airport. My general habit is to change a bit for me to get by a day or two at the airport because you need cash to get by and transport yourself to the hotel. Then ask around or do some research where to get the best exchange rate in town. Remember to bring along your passport, in rare cases, they do not require passport for identity verification. 🙂
Step 12: Finally… TRAVEL SAFELY & HAVE FUN!
You are finally at your final stage of planning your trip! The last thing is to remember to have FUN! Yea, FUN and HEAPS of FUN! Having fun require skills. Well, you probably be thinking what am I talking about? Having fun while remaining safe actually require skills such as high situation awareness, have a good grasp of your orientation geographically, and a solid good social skills (or be a social butterfly). If you are planning to do a solo trip, this topic will be covered more intensively here: tips for solo travellers! 🙂
Traveling is fun, sometimes what makes it exciting is when we are anticipating. For me, it’s never about the destination, but always about the journey. A famous quote by Lao Tze “A journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step!”, so start planning for your next trip, and set yourself onto a journey of a lifetime! 🙂 Travel safe and have fun! 🙂
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. – Jimmy Dean