When you’re scrolling through Instagram and every other photo is of someone lounging in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, or drinking a tiny cappuccino at a picturesque cafe in Italy, it seems like everyone you know is out having the time of their lives exploring the world. If this is you, you’re certainly feeling like you’re ready to get out there and have your own adventure. There’s only one problem: you have no idea where to start.
The task of planning a trip to a foreign place, whether it be for a long weekend, two weeks, or an entire year, can seem daunting. As with everything in life, it’s always best to take things step by step. The most important part of planning any trip is to identify what that first step is and then get started! As a seasoned traveler who has also worked extensively as a travel agent and concierge, I have plenty of experience working to make travel accessible to anyone who is inspired to get out there and see the world.
Here is a quick, step-by-step guide to helping you plan and then go on your dream trip!
Step 1: Decide What Type of Trip You Want And Where You Want To Go
The most important part of planning your trip (and the best place to start) is deciding where you want to go. The world is a big place, and for those who are eager to see the whole thing, it can be hard to narrow down your options. First, figure out how much time you have for your trip. This will determine what’s reasonable as far as how many different places you can visit and how far away your destination can be. Next, decide what type of trip you’re looking for. How active do you want to be? Do you want to move locations every day or do you just want to chill? Think about what types of things you’re hoping to see and experience on your trip; whether it be mind-blowing natural landscapes, world-famous bustling cities, or beautiful beaches.
Step 2: Do Some Research On The Place You’ve Picked And The “Can’t-Miss” Things To Do There
This part, for me at least, can be the most intimidating. It’s hard to know where to start; there’s so much to learn and sometimes you don’t even know what you’re looking for! Remember that you’ve picked this particular destination for a reason, so focus on why you want to go there and start from there.
Step 3: Decide Where You’re Going To Stay
At this point you’ve already done a bit of research into the destination, learned about what neighborhood or area is best for you to stay in, and what you want to be close to based on your interests. You’ll need to decide what type of accommodation you want, whether it be a hotel, hostel, or Airbnb. Personally I prefer to stay in hostels, especially when I’m traveling alone, because they’re cheap, social, and are always located in great, central locations. I almost always use Hostelworld.com, which gives a quick and comprehensive description of what the hostel is like (more quiet and relaxed, more for partying and going out, great for solo travelers, yoga or theme-based, etc...), where it’s located, how to get there from the major airports and train or bus stations, and what’s included in your stay (towels, breakfast, free WiFi, etc...).
Step 4: Make Your Purchase
By far the most essential part of planning your trip is to actually buy it! This takes your adventure from an idea to a reality and will likely be the quickest part of your entire process. For me, once I’ve mapped out my route I’ll lock in my flights first, as flight pricing is always unpredictable. Then I’ll move onto buying my accommodations, trains, busses, or flights in-destination, and any tours or excursions I feel like I need to buy ahead of time. If your itinerary is flexible and you want to give yourself the opportunity to be more spontaneous, I would recommend at least buying your flight to the destination and booking your first (and maybe second) night accommodations, so you’re secure that your trip is 100% happening and you have somewhere to go right when you get there.
Step 5: Figure Out Your Packing List And Prepare Any Pre-Travel Requirements For Your Specific Destination
Before you travel, you’ll need to make sure to that your passport, visa, and vaccination requirements are taken care of. Find out what the weather will be like during your travel dates and what the cultural norms and expectations are in your destination to put together your packing list. Finally, make sure to print out or have your travel documents with you and easily accessible to take on your journey.
Step 6: Get Freaking Excited And GO ON YOUR TRIP!
Congratulations, you did it! You’ve successfully planned the trip of your dreams, and now it’s time to revisit those envy-inducing Instagram posts from earlier and start getting excited that your own trip is now a reality! Take a deep breath, realize that if anything goes wrong it’s all part of the experience, and get ready to have the time of your life. Be open minded, flexible, and enjoy the adventure you created, you’ve earned it!
My name is Sophie Mendel, and I’m an American travel writer and editor currently residing in Chicago, Illinois, USA. I have traveled to 42 countries and lived in 5, am fluent in English and Spanish (and always in the process of learning more languages), and love lugging my guitar around the world with me! Follow my travels on Instagram @theunboundedtraveler!