I remember when I started planning my first trip around the world. I had no idea what I was doing. When I decided to quit my job and travel the world, I walked into a bookstore and bought Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on Shoestring. It made the trip seem more real, but it didn’t prepare me for planning a long world trip. Back then, there weren’t really travel blogs, guides, sharing economy websites, and apps like there are today. I was lost. I figured it out as I went, just hoping I didn’t miss anything.
Trip planning can be a daunting task. Where do you begin? What’s step one? What’s step two? What’s step three? It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you haven’t done something like this before.
I’ve planned countless trips and vacations for over the years (for myself, friends, and even group tours) and I’ve developed an efficient checklist that ensures I don’t miss anything important (I like lists) during the trip planning process. I don’t want to get to my next destination and then realize I forgot something.
And neither do you!
There is a lot of information on this website (and even more information packed into my book), but one question that comes up frequently is, “Matt, how do I put this all together? How do I plan a trip?”
In a continuing effort to help you get out the door and into the world, I’ve created this step-by-step guide on how to plan a trip. It works for any kind of trip and no matter how long you’re going for! Just follow this checklist and you’ll be off in no time!
How to Plan Your Next trip
Step 1: Decide Where You Want To Go
Defining where you want to go sets a goal to work toward. A lot of people talk vaguely about travel. They never say where they are going, just that they are going. Picking a destination is immensely important, as it gives you a definite goal. It’s a lot easier to mentally get behind “I am going to Paris” than “I’m going to Europe” or “I’m going somewhere.” Not only will your trip become more concrete for you and easier to commit to, but it will make planning easier as well…because you know what to work towards.
Step 2: Decide the Length of Your Trip
How much does it cost to travel? I have no idea without knowing for how long you’re going away. You can’t figure out how much you need to save if you haven’t decided on how long you’ll be in your destination. After you say “I’m going to Paris,” add “for 10 days.”
Now, you have a concrete plan to work from. “I am going to Paris for 10 days” is a trip that you can plan for.
Step 3: Research Your Costs
So you know where you’re going and how long you’ll be there, but to really nail down how much money you need, your next task is to research the costs in your destination at the style of travel you want. Do you want to backpack, or would you rather stay in luxury hotels? How much are hostels, hotels, restaurants, and attractions? Knowing will allow you to estimate how much money you’ll need for your trip. Here is how to research costs:
- Buy a guidebook.
- You can begin with my travel guide section.
- Ask on community websites like our forum and Facebook group or Lonely Planet.
- Google prices for specific things you want to do.
You don’t need to do more than that. There’s so much information on the web that if you go down the rabbit hole of overplanning, you’ll get lost and confused by the firehose of information. Stick to those four things and you’ll be set!
In our example, if you are going to Paris for 10 days and need $75 a day (not including your flight), you know you need to save $750 (though round up to $800 since it’s good to have extra) for your trip. If you were to travel around the world for a year, you’d need $50 a day.
One thing you might forget, bring a match anywhere because you might need it in an emergency. Many people have ignored this trifle on their vacation trips. bring a USB lighter because it is very safe and practical to carry anywhere.
Go on your trip and have fun! Head to the airport, board your plane (don’t forget your passport!), and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You’ve worked hard to get here. If you’re feeling nervous, don’t worry — that’s perfectly normal! You’re about to embark on an amazing adventure. Trust your planning, follow your instincts, and you’ll have the trip of a lifetime. I guarantee it.