A recent article on MSN.com stated that many people enjoy planning a trip more than when they actually take the trip. While I love anticipating a trip, nothing beats actually taking it. Because I travel a lot (or at least like to day dream about it), I often get asked about how to plan a trip. It can be overwhelming and frustrating for those who are unfamiliar with the tips and tricks. Here is my step-by-step guide to enjoy planning your dream trip and to help you have fun while traveling.
Pick a locale.
The easiest way to get started is to pick a destination. Whether it is international or domestic, knowing your location is key to getting started. One word of advice: don’t make it too broad. Too many people get stuck in the “I’m going to Europe” frame of mind and try to hit too much in too little time. You will just go over budget and become frustrated. Pick a couple of countries if you plan to see a lot in both or focus on one region.
Determine a budget.
Picking a destination and determining a budget really go hand in hand, since you should pick a destination that you can afford. Your budget will also determine the length of stay and what kind of activities you want to do. Keep in mind that there is not one blanket cost for all destinations. Some countries are notoriously expensive (France usually costs travelers about $150/day) and others you can get by on a fraction of the cost (tourists in Cambodia can travel for about $50/day). Knowing how expensive things are in your desired location will greatly affect how much you can spend. When budgeting include food, lodging, activities, souvenirs, travel to and from location and travel during your trip. Also budget a little extra in case costs are most than you think.
Find a flight deal.
If you are flying to your dream destination, start looking for the average flight cost immediately. I use websites like Kayak.com and Airfarewatchdog.com to alert me when my desired flight changes in price. If I am deciding between a couple of destinations, I will get flight alerts (through my email) so I can get an idea of what the average cost will be. Grab your flight a few months in advance for international destinations.
This is critical to a smooth and flawless trip. Doing research ahead of time will let you know that the museum you are dying to see is closed on Mondays so you can plan around it. Don’t fly across the world to be disappointed. Know what to expect.
I use travel forums on sites like Tripadvisor.com or ricksteves.com to see what other travelers have experienced. This allows you to learn from their mistakes. Knowing what to expect ahead of time allows you to side step travel disasters and head straight for the good memories.
Lastly, ask friends. Their traveling experiences may inspire you and get you excited for your big trip.