• Sarah Preston

How to Plan a Trip: A Beginners Guide

For beginners, planning a trip can be super daunting but one of the most exciting experiences you can go through. In my opinion, planning a trip is the best part. I geek out researching the chosen destination, booking the flights and accommodation among other things, and getting SUPER excited along the way. (Those around me can vouch for my excitement, I’m never able to shut up about it!)


I would love to be able to help you plan your first trip, or second or third, so I’ve created this knowledge and resource-rich beginner’s guide in the hopes that you find it helpful and a little less stress-free!


So if you are wondering how or where to start planning your trip, please read ahead. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to drop them into the comments section at the end of this post.



Research and pick your destination


The world is a ginormous place, there are so many destinations for all types of travellers out there. You must be thinking ‘oh gosh, where do I want to travel to?’ or ‘How am I supposed to pick a destination?’.


First things first research and seek inspiration.


Pinterest, Instagram and Youtube are my personal favourites for seeking inspiration. I follow many bloggers, vloggers and interesting tourism-related accounts that provide the goods on a daily basis.


Maybe you already have a bit of a clue as to the destination, so why not seek out accounts that are rich in content for the destination you have picked. Search for the local tourism board, they will have interesting write-ups, tips, photos and probably some good deals scattered through their pages.


For example, I’m planning a trip to Florida, so I’ve followed Instagram accounts such as Visit Florida, Experience Kissimmee and CBS Miami to name a few.


Hot Tip: Create a bucket list of the destinations that spike your interest that way you’ll have a whole heap of destinations up your sleeve to visit next time!


I have a travel bucket list that I have been adding to over the past couple of years. Every time I see a destination or interesting looking hotel, attraction etc. I will add it to my list. You can see my bucket list here.



Decide on the length of your trip


Now that you have chosen the destination, you now must decide how long you would like to visit. There are going to be many factors that will influence the length of your stay such as:



Flights

One downside to living in New Zealand is that everywhere is so very far away which means travel time doubles! So you will definitely need to consider the fact that you may need to add on another day or two of travel time on either side.


If you are from elsewhere in the world reading this, then you are probably safe in that aspect! Lol.


To make your trip worth it, you’ll most likely wish to spend 2-3 weeks abroad.


Time required to enjoy the chosen destination

If you’ve done the research into your chosen destination, you will learn to gauge just how long you may need to thoroughly enjoy your trip and make the most of it.


For example, I really really want to visit Disneyworld. I never had any clue that the queues would be anywhere near 90 minutes long! But because I did my research and watched vlog after vlog, I soon came to realise that I would definitely need more than a day to enjoy each park.


Party Size

Believe it or not, it is more expensive to book accommodation and other things when travelling alone. It’s always twin-share or family-share for most deals, so make sure you keep an eye out for that. Best to enquire directly with the provider so you get an accurate idea of how much things may cost you if and when you travel alone.


Annual leave days (or vacation days)

Do you have any leave days at work? How many days do you actually want to use up on this holiday? Don’t have any leave days owing? Then perhaps that might affect your budgeting and the length of your trip.


Money

Ah, money. I love it and hate it all at the same time! It definitely makes the world go round. The longer your trip, the more $$$ you are going to require!



Budgeting


This is the least fun part in my opinion.


There are many resources out there to help you budget such as Travel Money which has a handy basic calculator based on the destination you choose, maybe you’re good at budgeting, have done your research and can whip one up in Excel, no sweat. I have found that I’ve done all my planning in Trello, added the costs of almost everything needed and have a fairly decent idea of how much money I can afford to spend and how I can save up before I depart.


Hot Tip: Don’t forget that it is customary in some countries to tip, so ensure you factor that into your budget.



Find your flights!


This is an important step to always complete first, once you’ve been through the steps above.


Airline prices are constantly changing and availability can be a bit of a cow to navigate at times.


So before you go ahead falling in love with accommodation and booking specific dates, make sure you find and book your flights first. I would hate to see you book accommodation to find that you can’t actually get a flight to match!


I usually scan through Webjet, Expedia or visit a travel agent to see what flights they can secure. I will usually contact a travel agent to price up the whole trip and gain more knowledge from them about where to stay and things to do. You don’t have to go with them but that is a fairly good starting point if you are stuck. If you’re like me though you’ll want to find the best deal, so I will shop around until absolutely certain. Is that frowned upon? If so I apologise!



Find your accommodation


I love looking through all the different kinds of accommodation in the area and will usually use a variety of websites to find the best deals, such as Trivago, Expedia, Webjet or even directly with a hotel depending on the location.


For example, since I would like to visit Disneyworld, I have chosen to get the full experience by staying onsite, it doesn’t come too cheap but they do bundle attraction tickets, and the accommodation and sometimes transport there too.


Expedia is a good option because you can also bundle accommodation, flights, insurance, transport and attractions together in the same booking.



Transportation


You will need to be aware of your options when it comes to getting around your destination, especially if you don’t plan on hiring a car. Again, this comes back to the research part of this guide. There is a high chance you won’t need to book the majority of your transport but definitely check out the options just in case you end up in a pickle!


You may need to use public transport or perhaps there may come a time when you will need to get an Uber, Lyft or another rideshare, or even a hop on hop off tour bus. Download some maps and bus/train timetables to your phone for easy reference later.



Attractions and activities


Check out local tourism pages and guides to make a list of those attractions and activities you are interested in. Some may require you to book in advance and others may be available for walk-ins. Once you have exhausted your research and have a healthy list in front of you, you can then go on to choose the ones you really cannot miss out on. You will never be able to see everything a country has to offer in one trip but you can always go back again!



Get your book on!


Yes! Now you can book EVERYTHING! Woohoo, you are now even closer to being on that holiday you have been dreaming of for so long!



Itinerary time!


It always helps to make a rough plan when you decide to do everything on your holiday, it doesn’t need to be the most detailed document on the planet, just a rough plan to guide you and don’t worry about detouring away from your original itinerary. Remember, travel is meant to be super fun, rewarding and relaxing. Do what you think is important to you.



Don’t forget these super important details


Visas

Each country has different restrictions and requirements when entering. Make sure that you have researched and applied for the correct visa, if necessary.


Travel Insurance

This is very important when travelling abroad. Visit your local travel agent, call your bank or your insurance provider to see what they can offer you in terms of pricing and advice on what types of insurance to take out, especially with this whole pandemic going on.


Foreign Currency

A travel agent, bank or other forex providers can help you get the best rates when exchanging one currency for another. There will always be a fee of some sort when making these types of transactions, so shop around. Get the best deal!


Inform your bank you are going on holiday

THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!! Please make sure you inform your bank that you are leaving the country and will be using your cards in *insert country here* between these dates *insert dates here*.


There is nothing more annoying and inconvenient when your bank thinks that you have had some suspicious activity on your statement, so they block your card from being used.


Vaccines

Have a chat with your doctor about what vaccines, if any you may need when travelling to your chosen destination. There may be none, there may be some mandatory or there may be some that you can choose whether or not to have as a precaution.



ENJOY YOUR TRIP!


Here is where all your hard work pays off. Go out there and enjoy yourself, have the time of your life, make the best memories and take loads of photos!


Do you have a story to share or do you have any further questions about trip planning? Feel free to share in the comments below and I'll try my best to answer them.

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