How to Plan a Trip

Five Parts:Planning HelpChoosing the When, Where, and HowFiguring Out the LogisticsSetting Your Plans in StoneWrapping Up the Details

Before planning a trip have a current passport. Purchase travelers checks. Keep the receipt in a safe place in case of being stolen. Whether for travel or pleasure, schedule some fun. All trips are meant for adventure, relaxation and enjoyment. By planning well, you can ensure you that you and your family or friends can enjoy a hassle-free trip with only the good kind of surprises to ensue.

Planning Help

Sample Trip Schedule

Packing Checklist for Short Trip

Sample Budget for Short Trip

Sample Schedule for Longer Trip

Packing Checklist for Longer Trip

Sample Budget for Longer Trip

Part 1
Choosing the When, Where, and How

  1. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 1
    Choose your location. When people think to themselves, "I want to take a trip," usually they have a place in mind. Where's yours? Try to make it as specific as possible. "London" is a lot easier to plan than "England."
    • Research it online and discuss it with your fellow travelers. Websites are a great place to browse travel photos, journals and videos posted by real people sharing their experiences. For example, before going on a trip to Japan, do a quick search -- you'll get all kinds of stories and advice from people who recently visited Japan. Each trip offers you connected experiences from real people so that you can get a better picture of the place you want to go.
    • Keep in mind weather and climatic conditions, merits and demerits of the place, types of recreation (beaches, culture, shopping), and facilities (transport, eating out, etc). What clothes are suitable? How removed from civilization will you be? What does your destination require?
  2. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 2
    Choose when you want to go. This will be determined by a number of things, but mostly your schedule. How much time can you feasibly take off work? In addition to your constraints, consider more global factors:
    • Do you want to go during the off-season or while tourism is booming? The off-season will offer discounts, but it will also mean closed doors and reduced availability.
    • When it comes to weather, do you want to deal with winter or the rainy season? How about when it's hot and muggy?
    • And then there's ticket prices – if you're flying, when is it the cheapest to fly?
  3. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 3
    Plan a loose itinerary. Planning too far ahead may backfire, because vacations hardly ever go as planned. Plan for spontaneity, but keep hints from travel guides in mind. Mark places to visit and things to do. How many days do you have? You should keep the overall schedule in mind – you do not want to end up too tired (or alternatively, bored).
    • Make a list. Write down the places you want to visit, including restaurants, museums, malls, and other places of interest. This will help give you ideas and prevent being completely lost when you arrive and do not know what to do.
    • Include how you're going to get around. Does your itinerary involve cab rides? Using the subway? Trekking on foot? If you are taking public transportation, make sure you know how that's done wherever you're going.
  4. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 4
    Be wary of going through a travel agent. The largest immediate savings in planning your trip would be to use an online travel website to research, plan and book your travel adventures vs. going to a local travel agent where you live. Travel Agents simply must charge booking fees, or they could not stay in business. Not only does a travel website pass savings to you in low overhead, they are able to rapidly check hundreds of options within a few seconds.
    • Companies that help you in the actual "planning" phase of your trip, would be like Gap Travel Adventures, Get A, the Automobile Club of Southern California Travels Division (and their counterparts in each of the 50 States), and the American Express Corporation, whereas the giant travel conglomerates, such as Expedia, Travelocity , and Priceline (the 4 largest travel vendors in "gross profits" within the United States), aim at the end booking process.
    • The five things you can do to help yourself and your budget (that you don't need a travel agent for) are the following: 1) Book your flight and hotels at the same time, not separately 2) Be willing to fly mid-week and off-hours 3) Be willing to fly or land at a neighboring airport within 30 miles (48 km) of each other 4) Pay an all-inclusive price when possible, so that meals and gratuities are included, and 5) The actual season you travel – i will differ the rates by 30-40%.[1]

Part 2
Figuring Out the Logistics

  1. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 5
    Assess your costs. Are you going to be bathing in champagne in the claw-foot tubs of a five-star hotel? Or are you going to be roughing it in hostels with a stub of bread in your pocket? A large part of how much a vacation costs is what you decide to spend. Take an hour or two to figure out how much your trip would cost you and your companions. This should include airfare or gasoline costs.
    • Always add some wiggle room, overestimating rather than underestimating. There are always costs you don't foresee or things you want to do that you haven't accounted for.
    • If the trip is more than you are willing to spend, make cuts where you can. If it ultimately means cutting the trip short, so be it.
  2. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 6
    Make a budget. Let's say you figure your trip will cost $1,500, including airfare. It's six months away. That means you have to save $250 a month for the next six months in order to meet the costs of your trip. Here are a few ideas where you can start saving:
    • Ditch that daily sugary latte. If you get a $4 coffee drink three times a week, that's $12 a week, and about $50 a month. That's $300 in six months right there.
    • Eat from home more. Restaurants are great, but they're expensive. If you cook at home, you can save money not only because it's cheaper, but because you'll have leftovers that can last you days.
    • Quit the luxuries for a while. That last drink on Saturday night? Pass. A movie next week? Nope. Heck, cable? Who needs it when you have Netflix? Take a look at what little things are fun, but that you could live without.
  3. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 7
    While you're saving, do your research. If you plan ahead, you can save on prices by doing your research and searching around for deals, either for flights or for accommodation. Search online for things to do and travel tips to and around the destination you're visiting. In your learning, you'll know what to search for when looking for deals – like museum passes, hotel discounts, transportation deals, etc. And when you find those deals, nab 'em.
    • It is said that you should book airfare around two months out for the best deals – this is that happy place where airlines start discounting their trips to sell tickets, but haven't yet jacked prices up because they're last-minute.[2]
    • If you're going somewhere that speaks a different language, take the time to brush up on the basics. You'll be glad you did, and the people you interact with will be, too.
  4. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 8
    Get a "travel" credit card, if possible. Many credit cards nowadays are associated with major airlines. They offer bonus miles for signing up in addition to miles for every dollar spent (most have a minimum per month, however). You can use it to pay for everything, raking up miles along the way. Just make sure you have the money to pay it off.
    • Many airlines also pair with major retailers, like Target, Amazon, and Apple.[3] If you buy from those stores, you get miles. What's not to like? You're shopping there anyway – you might as well get a free flight for it.

Part 3
Setting Your Plans in Stone

  1. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 9
    Make your reservations for flights and accommodations. Once you're exactly sure of where you want to go and when you want to go where, where you want to stay and how you want to get around, make your reservations. For flights, again, book around two months out. And don't wait till the last minute for your hotels either – you don't want them to be booked or almost-booked (because then prices skyrocket).
    • And anything else for that matter, too. Many attractions have ticket sales online where you can skip the lines and go right in. Sure, the idea of waiting in line right now doesn't sound so bad, but for three minutes of work right now you can not waste hours of your vacation standing in a line with strangers wishing past you would've had better sense.
  2. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 10
    Consider travel insurance. While you may not want to pay premium rates for something that might not happen, you should nonetheless have some protection in case you could not travel during the time your tickets are booked for. The average one week vacation will cost you in insurance needs approximately $75 dollars. This is not a lot of money considering the security it buys you.
    • Only you know if you are one of these people that changes their mind often, or often does re-scheduling – or if you are one of these people that will fly out in a hurricane, no matter what!
  3. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 11
    If traveling internationally, make sure your documents are in order. Some countries require a visa to enter and exit the country. Does where you're going require one? If so, do this as soon as possible. If something is to come up and you don't have one, kiss your trip goodbye. Barring countries that take monetary bribes, they will tell you to turn around and get a flight back home if you don't have one.
    • Keep your passport, travel documents, visas, and similar items in a safe pouch. You may want to make copies, too, and keep them in a safe place. It will make it so much easier to replace anything that you lost.
  4. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 12
    Notify the right parties that you're leaving. For starters, notify a friend or family about your leaving. If possible, leave them a contact number or address. If anything goes wrong, you'll be able to hear about it. And if anything should go wrong on your end, they'll be able to take care of business back home.
    • If applicable, put vacation notices on your e-mail, and remember to set your answering machine. Those messages will just have to wait until you get back.

Part 4
Wrapping Up the Details

  1. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 13
    Buy everything you'll need. Buy film, or keep digital camera batteries on hand. Do you have the right plug-in adapter for wherever you're going? How about gear for the weather? A guidebook? A language book? What will make your trip go off without a hitch?
    • Traveling in a car? Make sure to get lots of foodstuffs, water, and things to do. A CD on tape about a road trip or your specific destination will be great to get you in the mood. Consider "On the Road," " Lost in My Own Backyard," "A Walk Through the Woods," or "Washington Schlepped Here," amongst others. Good music is a must, too.[4]
  2. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 14
    Pack light. No one has ever said to themselves while on vacation, "I'm so glad I practically packed my entire closet." Leave space for shopping and buying souvenirs. Moreover, traveling with lots of luggage restricts your movement and causes discomfort – you'll be moving around a lot, and it'll only be cumbersome. Only pack the necessities.
    • Stick to basic pieces and a couple pairs of shoes – it's really all you need in terms of clothes regardless of how long your trip is. A few basic shirts and a few basic pants, shorts, or a skirt will do the job. You can then mix and match as necessary.
    • Roll your clothes when packing. This will save you a ton of room and mean you can buy that authentic-looking tiki torch when the mood strikes.
  3. Image titled Plan a Trip Step 15
    Go! Itinerary? Check. Passport and documents? Check. Reservations for practically everything? Check. Now all that's left to do is get going and enjoy yourself. This is the easy part. Now it's time to relax.
    • Don't be tempted to take work or home problems with you – then all this planning will be for naught, making it feel like you're still mentally back home. Leave that laptop and your phone off – now is all about exploring and going on an adventure.


  • If planning a trip on a severe budget is your number one priority, there are literally hundreds of money saving tips for the actual daily travel plans, that can save you in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
  • If peer reviews are more important than shopping by rates, than websites like Trip and some of the top ranked travel blogs, like with Budget Travel and Travel all have stellar reputations for providing unbiased reviews. In Europe, a similar counterpart would be found within Auto (full service European travel vendor, not just cars) The Asian markets probably have the widest variety of travel providers. The only reason mentioning names is relevant, is according to Forbes Research many of the other smaller affiliate travel resources have been known to delete from their databases the low-25% of the negative reviews, thus obstructing true peer review analysis. This does not mean however, that one should not consider one of these smaller travel affiliates, though one should do their research and due diligence on that company's trust factor. Many have value-added services the larger companies do not have.


  • Traveling can be hectic. If traveling to a new place, make sure you keep medication (especially for children). Keep your documents and precious possessions safe. Mugging and theft is common.
  • Don't keep sharp objects in your luggage. Security has been greatly beefed up, and your luggage may be checked.

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Planning Travel