Planning a trip can be exciting! The thrill of finally booking that plane ticket to a place you’ve always dreamed about is a feeling that you won’t find anywhere else. But it’s one thing to decide you want to take a trip and another thing to actually ensure everything is in line to have the perfect trip. Being an incredibly organized person, I follow the same steps each time I book a trip and it seems to make trip planning smooth and exciting versus stressful and disorganized. Here is my step by step guide.
Step one: Pick the location
This can be the hardest item in this entire list, especially when you have a bucket list as long as mine. I usually use a few factors to decide on where I want to go:
- If I’m traveling with someone, where do we mutually want to go?
- What’s my budget? For example, next to the flight there, traveling in Asia can be pretty cheap versus a place like Europe, even though it is technically further away.
- How much time do I have? It just doesn’t make sense to travel 19 hours for five days. I’m a strong believer in not limiting myself, however, sometimes things just don’t make sense logistically.
- Do basic research on flight costs. Just because a place seems not too far away doesn’t mean it won’t be expensive to fly to. Often I’ll scope out my next location based off what the approximate flight costs looks like.
Step two: Book my flight
I mainly use Skyscanner for booking my flights as it scans all the other discount and airline websites and brings all the prices into one place. It also allows you to add filters like if you are flexible on dates you can search for an entire month, or if you want direct flights or certain airlines you have the ability to select that.
I also like looking at Hopper as you can plug in the dates and destination and the app will tell you if you should book it now or wait because prices are likely to go down. This can be a great tool because I always find it difficult to know if I should bite the bullet or wait but when you wait you risk prices going up.
Things to keep in mind when booking your flight:
- What time you’ll be arriving in the location as some places are dangerous to arrive at night.
- How many stops and layovers there are and how long they are. Will there be enough time for you to make each flight?
- Is luggage included in the flight and will it be transferred all the way through if you have connecting flights?
Note: If you are planning on doing an organized tour for the duration of your trip it’s likely better to book the tour first before the flight.
Step three: Map out my route
Now that I have my flight booked, I want to determine the best route I’m going to go on. Assuming of course that I’m not going to be in one place the entire time. I start by researching all the places of interest to me in that specific country and then plop them into Google Maps to get an idea of where they actually are and how far they are from one another. This can help me visualize what is a practical route and what is doable with the amount of time I have.
Once I think I have a practical route I’ll start to look at how to get between each place. This brings you to step four, however, before I start booking any domestic travel I’ll ensure it’s practical and in my budget first. Some places are just too hard to get to or more expensive than you’d think.
Step four: Book my domestic transportation
Once I have an idea of where I’m going to go and how, I start to book my domestic transportation. I find booking internal flights can cost more but save you time, however trains and buses can be great options in some countries as well. What I’ll do is basically go through my route I’ve mapped out and book each mode of transportation I’ll need.
Step five: Book my hotels
Now that I have my transportation booked I like to figure out where I’m going to sleep. Lots of people choose to wing this, however I’d rather not have to worry about it. I’ll usually use websites like HostelWorld, Booking.com or Agoda (for Asian countries) to begin to research places to stay. Keeping in mind some key components: reviews, price and location. Location is probably one of the most critical as you want to ensure you are staying near the popular points of interest.
Step six: Research things to do
You don’t really need to book your activities prior to leaving on your trip, however, it can be valuable to do some research so you have an idea what there is to do in each place you are visiting. Also, while doing your research you may determine that there are some things you want to book in advance. For example, some points of interest may have tickets that sell out or have long lines when you visit so you can save time (and sometimes money) for booking in advance.