There is no doubt the world we live in today is hectic and fast-paced. Taking a vacation from the rat race isn’t just a want, it is mandatory for your mental well being.
A vacation is one way to fuel the soul. It’s getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life – even for a few days.
What that vacation looks like is different for everyone, of course.
Vacation trip planning can be stressful and sometimes it might seem easier just to stay at home. But easy travel planning isn’t that hard when you have a plan for planning your trip.
A vacation trip planner will help take the guesswork out of trip planning. You won’t have to wonder:
- When is the best time to book a trip?
- Did I get the best fare?
- What is the best area to stay in?
Let us help you out the door and into the world. Follow these steps when vacation trip planning, and leave knowing you’re going to create some magical memories.
The Ultimate Guide To Vacation Trip Planning
The best way to get the most bang for your vacation dollar is to remain flexible. Keep that in mind as you work through this vacation trip planning guide.
Trip Planning Budget: Understanding The Cost To Travel
Knowing how much money you can spend before you start booking your vacation gives you the power to create exactly the kind of adventure you want.
Most trip planning sites start by suggesting you pick a destination. If your budget doesn’t fit your destination, then you will likely have to forgo some of the things you’ll want to do.
For instance, a limited budget goes a lot further in Central America or Asia. And if Europe is your destination and your budget is limited, where you go in Europe becomes more important.
Your Destination: Where’s The Value & Adventure
Go somewhere that speaks to your heart and your wallet.
Nothing ruins a great vacation trip than worrying about money. That is why we suggest you determine your budget first. But knowing your budget is only half the battle.
Understanding where your budget will go the furthest is the other half. It can be so disappointing to grab a cheap airfare only to realize you can’t afford to do the things you want to do in a city. Eating out, entrance fees, transportation, not to mention souvenir shopping all add up.
Look at traveling 2-4 weeks on either end of the tourist season. The weather is still nice, the crowds have dissipated and the prices are much more affordable.
Sometimes vacation planning can take an unexpected turn for the better. Especially, when choosing a destination that works within your budget and not having to deal with budgeting around your destination.
Trip Planning For A Vacation During The Pandemic
Let’s face it, travel has changed and we are facing a new normal. One key factor when planning your trip is to verify the tourist requirements with your destination country and city.
Some countries are open, and others are not. Then there are some that require COVID-19 tests and others that mandate a 14-day quarantine. Knowing the travel restrictions, if any, prior to settling on a destination will save you a lot of time, heartache, and possibly even money in the long run.
Create A Vacation Trip Planning Timeline
Knowing when to do what is half the battle when vacation planning.
- When should you visit your destination?
- When should I apply for my visa?
- When should you book your flights?
- When should you reserve your hotel or Airbnb?
Part of the stress of vacation trip planning is actually pulling the trigger on purchasing tickets and accommodations. At some point, though you need to pull it and then leave it knowing your job is done.
What To Book Before You Travel; And What Not To Book
Obviously, you’ll book airfare and accommodations – or at least the first few nights. But what about tours and other attractions? What should you book before you travel?
Finding Cheap Airfares
For airfare, follow our find cheap airfare guide. It takes you through the steps I take when booking our flights. I have found the sweet spot to be 2-3 months before travel and 3-4 weeks before travel.
Finding The Best Accommodations
For accommodations, first, make sure you know what area of the city you want to stay in. There is no magic sauce here. What are the things you want to do and what do you value in a place?
If your trip is around two weeks, book your accommodation for your entire stay. If your trip is longer, you might want to consider booking something for a few days so you can get your bearings.
You can talk to some locals and get a better feel for where you want to stay. I can’t tell you how many times we booked a place and went out exploring the city only to be sad we weren’t staying in another area.
Because our stays are longer and because we work while we travel, we almost exclusively book through Airbnb. Airbnb’s are often less expensive than a hotel. More space and a full kitchen in a local neighborhood provides a small glimpse into local life.
Booking Tours & Attractions
Presumably, you have an idea of some of the things you’ll want to do on your trip. I always suggest leaving the first and last few days of your trip open.
The first few days will give you a chance to explore and wander. Allowing yourself to soak in the city and its culture, talk to locals and just observe your surroundings will help shape the rest of your trip.
During the last few days of your trip, you can visit the places you happened upon by accident but didn’t have time to explore because you were busy running off somewhere.
As I leave every city we visit, I almost always say I’m not done because I want to visit something I didn’t get a chance to visit. And that is with leaving a few schedule-free days. You won’t be able to see everything, but make room for the important things you didn’t even know you wanted to see.
What You Should Book
There are just some things that are must-sees in every city:
- The Acropolis in Athens
- The Vatican in Rome
- The Eiffel Tower in Paris
- The Great Wall in Beijing
If you know you are going to visit a main attraction or a popular museum in the city, buy your tickets ahead of time and online. Attractions and museums often limit attendance to help preserve the artifacts and they often sell out.
We use Get Your Guide to purchase our tickets. It often means you can skip the lines and sometimes even comes with a guide. Of course, you can buy a guided tour, too.
My suggestion is to plan for these activities in the middle of your trip and if you have time, skip a day between them. While we don’t book our tickets before arriving in a city, we do book ahead online. It saves mountains of time waiting in long lines.
Just as important as knowing what to plan for your trip, is knowing what not to plan.
There are plenty of free tours around a city and these are short and good fillers when you find yourself with free time. It’s usually just a matter of showing up.
Do not plan on everything going according to plan. Things happen, discoveries are made, and you’ll eventually get lost a time or two. Not to mention, your mind a million times about what you really want to do on your trip.
Learn to go with the flow. Expecting the unexpected often leads to the best travel stories.
Logistics Of Vacation Trip Planning
Now, that you have a trip plan, it’s time to think about some of the details that will help make your trip go smoothly.
Travel Rewards Credit Cards
If you don’t have a travel rewards credit card, get one. This might be the very best travel hack of all.
Many cards come with bonuses that will reward you with a free flight right away. The other benefits include no foreign transaction fees and competitive exchange rates.
- American Express
- Barclays Red Aviator
- Chase Sapphire
You also might want to consider opening a Charles Schwab checking account. The checking account is free and you get reimbursed ATM fees and have no foreign transaction fees when withdrawing money while traveling.
Whatever you choose to carry with you, notify your bank that you will be traveling. Doing so will help ensure your card remains active while on the road.
A Travel Communication Plan
How do you plan to communicate with people back home during your trip? Will you use social media? Text? Make a phone call?
I realize switching phone service is not an option for most, but understanding what your service provides before you leave will make things go more smoothly.
For instance, does your carrier offer international service, and what are the restrictions? In some countries, it might be easier to buy a cheap phone and get a sim card.
We travel with Google Fi and Pixel phones and our service works in most countries around the world. No separate sim card required. It is very convenient when landing in a country to have a phone that works.
Make Copies Of Your Important Documents
Before you leave, make copies of your passport, credit cards, and other important items you will be traveling with. Hopefully, you won’t need them, but if you lose your wallet or passport, you will be so glad you have them.
A few tips. Don’t leave the hotel with your passport, take your copy with you. Your passport may be the most valuable thing you have with you, protect it.
Also, I only take one credit card and one debit card with me, leaving the others in my room. That way if I lose my bag, I still have access to cash and charging power.
Bad things happen when you’re traveling – even on vacation. Not always and not every trip, but when they do, they can be costly.
If you had to return home suddenly or got sick or injured, having travel insurance will prevent you from having to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket.
We always travel with insurance. We use and recommend SafetyWing. Other full-time travelers we know use World Nomads. And if you are over 70, look at Insure My Trip.
It’s never fun paying for something you know you won’t need – until you actually need it, of course.
Get Familiar With Your Destination
It can be nerve-wracking landing in a new country without any idea of what to expect. Before heading out, we like to get a feel for the city by exploring the different areas using Google Maps and YouTube videos. We also have a transportation plan for when we land.
Airport ground transportation is different in every country and city. Knowing how you will get to your hotel or Airbnb takes the stress out of making a spur of the moment, and often costly decision upon arrival.
Learn Some Of The Language Fast
One of the best ways to help you feel more comfortable in a new city is to learn some of the language. It is remarkable how a few key phrases can make a trip much more enjoyable.
Chances are you will encounter people who do not speak English and those people will be driving your taxi, taking your orders, and giving you directions – or at least attempting to.
It’s hard communicating your needs when you don’t know the language. But it doesn’t have to be.
We created a system to help us learn exactly the right words and phrases in a new language quickly. It’s called Easy Travel Speak and it’s what we do every time we head to a new country.
How You Will Capture Memories?
You’re going on a grand adventure and it is only right that you want to capture the special moments to remember and share for years to come. On the flip side, though, you don’t want to spend your time looking at a city through a lens.
Believe it or not, having a game plan for capturing your memorable moments will help you enjoy the moment without being a slave to your camera.
Packing For Your Trip
Trust me when I say, you’ve packed too much. Other than underwear and socks, which you can never have enough of, you won’t wear half of what you brought.
What you pack will obviously be dependent on where you going. My suggestion is to start packing and then cut it in half. Also, one of the very best and most liberating lessons is you can always buy something you’ve forgotten.
Knowing you can buy whatever you need when you get there makes it a lot easier to downsize. For instance, I always buy small shampoo, conditioner, and lotion in every city so I don’t have to carry it around. I do that with other stuff, too. Something to keep in mind.
Enjoy The Fruits Of Your Vacation Trip Planning
The time has come. All of your hard work is about to pay off.
If you’re headed to a new destination, you might be feeling a bit anxious. Trust your planning and remember, most people are friendly and want to help.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Here are some more don’ts …
Don’t be afraid to:
- Get lost
- Try new foods
- Speak some of the language
- Change your plans
The best way to have the most magical and memorable trip is by being flexible. Give yourself permission to skip a tour for wandering around town. Many of the things that will introduce you to the local vibe of a city are not on the tourist track, but just off the beaten path. Go find them.
Now it’s time to head out the door and into the world.