HOW TO PLAN A TRIP

Ready to take your first big travel trip abroad? Well, today we are sharing with you how to plan a trip – what websites we use, how we budget our trips, find the perfect hotels, find the cheapest flights and create the best trip we can.
To help you along, I am going to give you my example as I go. I am currently planning a trip for this Christmas. We will be based in Thailand by then so we are planning on a little trip around South East Asia so you can see my trip planning example in the coloured sections.

Decision making

First things first, we decide where we are travelling to. Normally, I will have an idea of the destination or at least continent. Whilst we have been living in Asia, I have found it easier to let Skyscanner choose my destination – using the “everywhere” tool.
Using google maps, I will find my chosen destination and then start browsing nearby cities or places of interests.
I also double check if a visa is needed for any of the destinations I want to visit. 

Case Study – Xmas trip OK, I know we will be in Bangkok but we want to visit Cambodia and Vietnam.
Looking at google maps, I am going to put a pin in each of the places I want to visit and work out which route makes more sense to travel around.

Getting your dates

Next, you need to decide the dates you want to travel on.
Decide on your start and end date then check that flights are available on your chosen dates.
From here, you need to start planning out how many days you want in each location. To do this, I search for things to do in an individual city, look at the types of things available, check if there are any activities that will take a full day then plan accordingly.
For example, there are so many exciting things to do in NYC but many of them can be done on the same day, especially with so many attractions near one another. Spending time in Orlando however, you will likely want to spend a whole day in each theme park so will need to plan extra days for your trip. 
Creative Tip: I use a spreadsheet to plan a trip – personally, I use numbers but Google sheets is also a good tool to use. 

Case Study – Xmas trip This is a rough guideline for our trip. We Know we want to spend a day at Angkor Wat and enjoy the two day Halong Bay cruise so that has influenced our time in each of these places.

Work out your budget

Next, choose your budget.
You may not know how much you can afford just yet but decide an a ball-point and divide it between the number of days you are away for. Of course, some places are more expensive than others, so you may need to shift some of your budget a bit to cover accommodation costs.
Personally, to comfortable travel and enjoy our time away, I work out a daily budget first. For most countries in Asia and South America, £50 is enough but for Europe and North America, we say around £100 is needed.
For my example, we have 22 days on the trip and, as we are travelling around South East Asia, we will budget around £50 a day to spend. This won’t include hotels so I will increase my budget to £75 a day. 
22 x £75 = £1650
Flights and extra expenses (I know a Halong Bay cruise will be more expensive) adds additional costs.

Cost of flights and trains

Using that same spreadsheet, I then add prices. First, I start with travel between places – so flights, trains etc.
I use Skyscanner, to begin with, finding the flight times that suit us. Then I compare prices using Momondo – they compare the prices across the month.

Finding the perfect hotel

Now you have your itinerary, you are probably looking to find the perfect hotels. There are a few different ways to do this but I am going to talk you through the steps I take to find the perfect hotel.
Step 1 – Google search “best areas to stay in x” – reading more about the different areas you can stay in and which areas others recommend.
Example: I searched ‘Best areas to stay in Hanoi’ – I read this and this and decided that the Old Quarter would be best for our trip. We will only be in Hanoi for a few days and want to be near the attractions and restaurants. 
Step 2 – Next, I head over to Agoda and search for hotels. I will add the filters I am looking for then often search by reviews over anything else. When we were kids and went on our first trip, I would search by price and learnt the hard way when we rocked up to a hotel with no window and no shower.
Step 3 – After finding my favourite few hotels, I head over to Tripadvisor to check reviews and customer pictures. If I am happy with the reviews, hotel, price etc then I will add it to my spreadsheet. This allows us to make a note of the final price and budget accordingly.
Step 4 – I do this with all the hotels on the trip and just before booking, I will check prices on booking.com, the hotel website and Agoda.

Fleshing out the details

This is the fun part.
I make a FULL itinerary. This isn’t essential and I don’t tend to do this is we are only visiting one place but I do like to do this when we are visiting multiple places on a road trip or longer travel journey.
So, I search each destination on google then TripAdvisor and make a note of the best things to do. I also like to browse the best restaurants but tend to stick with bloggers advise on this one, especially local bloggers that live in that city or country. I can then use google maps to work out which attractions are near one another and can be seen in a day, which restaurants are nearby and begin to map out rough days.
It is worth noting that I don’t always stick to this plan but it’s a great guideline for us and is super helpful when you have been travelling for some time and want to make the most out of your trip.

These are my general guidelines on how I plan a trip – let me know in the comments below how you go about planning your travels?
For a more thorough guide on planning your trip but also saving and budgeting your trip, download our free guide below! 

Helpful resources

We have a collection of Destination guides and Cost of Travel Guides for you to browse.
The resources we use to book a trip (including our filming and camera gear).
Posts to help plan your trip:
A GUIDE TO GETTING A CHEAP CAR RENTAL
BACKPACKING FOOD: MEAL PLANNING TIPS
CHEAP EUROPEAN DESTINATIONS YOU MUST VISIT
HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON CRUISES
STAYING IN A HOSTEL: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
17 TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE ON VACATION

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