7 Simple Steps to Planning a Trip (even if it’s your first time)

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Learn about planning a trip like a pro with these seven easy steps, perfect for first-time travelers and seasoned adventurers alike.

planning a trip

Traveling is an exciting and enriching experience that everyone should try at least once in their life. However, planning a trip can be a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time. Proper planning can help alleviate stress and ensure a smooth travel experience.

As someone who has been traveling full-time for over three years and has planned trips to over 30 countries, I know firsthand how important it is to plan your trip properly. Trust me, once you know what to look for, you’ll be a pro in no time!

We’ll cover planning a trip, trip planner online, how to plan a trip itinerary, travel plan sample, and more!

This post is all about the exact steps you need to start planning a trip!

Planning a Trip:

Step 1: Determine Your Budget

The first step in planning any trip is to set a budget. Your budget will have a significant impact on your travel experience, from what country you will travel to, where you stay, and even what you eat. Consider all costs, including transportation, accommodations, food, and activities, and use online tools and resources to help you stick to your budget and find the best deals. It’s important to be realistic about your budget, but don’t let it limit your experience. There are plenty of ways to travel on a budget and still have an amazing time.

Just because you are on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to stay in dorm rooms at hostels if you don’t want to (if you do, all the better!). Spend on what’s important to you and save on what is less important. For example, we like having a reliable, clean place to sleep and shower. We’d rather spend a little more to ensure that in our accommodations. However, you can definitely catch us eating fast food on our travels to save a few bucks instead of dining out at high-end restaurants. Whatever floats YOUR boat!

Step 2: Decide on Your Destination

Choosing a destination can be overwhelming, but there are many factors to consider that can help narrow down your options. Consider your interests, the time of year you’ll be traveling, and your budget. Research different cultures and attractions and read reviews from other travelers to help you decide. Also, consider the safety of the destination and any language barriers that may exist. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and explore a destination that may be less popular but equally amazing.

Since we have an endless list of places we want to travel to, it can be overwhelming to choose just one or two for a trip. The easiest way for us to decide is to follow the cheap flights. We use the Google Flights Explore feature to see where we can find the cheapest flights, and we’ll base our entire trip around that.

Step 3: Check the Destination Details

If you only take one tip from this post, I hope it is this one. Now that you have a destination picked out, you’ll want to double-check a bunch of details before you start booking some non-refundable tickets or hotels. Any of these categories below could potentially hinder your entire trip, especially if you don’t know about them beforehand.

Entry Requirements

Check what the entry requirements are for the country. You may need to apply for a visa ahead of time, have certain vaccines, or have a limited window of time you can visit. You can search “Entry Requirements for Thailand” and visit your country’s embassy page for the most relevant information based on your citizenship.

Insurance Coverage

Your health, travel, or car insurance may not cover certain countries. We have purchased travel insurance only to realize it doesn’t cover countries with level 3 or higher alerts. And some car insurance plans don’t work in certain countries with particularly bad accident records.

Holidays & Events

This one can go either way. You may want to plan your trip around a holiday or event or avoid visiting altogether. Holidays can cause a surge in demand, meaning higher prices and bigger crowds. It could also mean that many activities or locations are shut down over the holiday since everyone has the day(s) off.

Weather & Season

You don’t want to travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season or Bali during monsoons. A quick search can tell you what the typical weather is and when the off-season is. Off-season may be cheaper and less crowded, but less ideal weather conditions.

Check the News

I like to do a quick search of the country on the news to ensure there is nothing I should be aware of. You don’t want to visit a country on the brink of war or with lots of civil fighting. There may be protests or a recent natural disaster or a chemical spill. A million things could happen, and if they already did happen, the news will be quick to tell you.

General Budget for the Destination

You may have found a great deal on a flight, but before booking, you should make sure the rest of the trip will be within budget. Hotels could be insanely expensive (like Israel), or maybe it’s really hard to get around (like in the Maldives). Doing a quick search for general budget expectations can at least point you in the right direction.

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Step 4: Book Your Transportation

Once you’ve chosen your destination, it’s time to book your transportation. Consider all options, including flights, trains, and car rentals. Look for deals and discounts, and book early to save money. Don’t forget to factor in transportation costs once you arrive at your destination. If you’re traveling to multiple destinations, consider getting a rail pass or booking a multi-city flight to save money.

We usually book our flights first and then return to the rest of the transportation once we confirm our accommodations.

Step 5: Find Accommodations

There are many types of accommodations available, from hotels to hostels to vacation rentals. Think about your needs and budget, and do some research to find the best options. Look for reviews from other travelers, and consider the location and amenities. If you’re traveling solo, consider staying in a hostel or joining a homestay program to meet other travelers and locals. Don’t be afraid to try something new and unique, such as camping or Couchsurfing.

We personally love staying at hotels. Our brand of choice is Hilton, but we’ll also book vacation rentals when possible. The most important aspect of accommodations for us is budget and then location. We like to be centrally located to help cut costs with transportation and save time to do more during our trip!

Step 6: Plan Your Activities

Researching things to do in your destination can be overwhelming, but it’s important to have a general plan. Make a list of must-see attractions and activities, and consider booking tours or activities in advance. Don’t forget to leave some free time for spontaneity and exploration. Also, consider trying local cuisine or attending cultural events to get a better understanding of the destination. It’s important to be respectful of the local culture and customs and to be open to new experiences.

I plan all of our trips for us and we rarely book tours. We personally love getting lost and the satisfaction of planning and having a great day all by ourselves. It’s not for everyone, though. When we’re with family, we book a lot of tours and love being able to kick back and let someone else do all the planning.

Step 7: Pack and Prepare

Packing for a trip can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Make a packing list and consider the climate and activities you’ll be doing. Don’t forget to check visa requirements and health recommendations for your destination. Also, consider packing light to avoid excess baggage fees and make traveling easier. It’s important to be prepared for any situation, but you will likely be able to purchase whatever you forgot at your destination.

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This post was all about planning a trip for a stress-free vacation!

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