I remember my first trip to Europe, the only thing I booked was my ticket to and from Europe. I had no idea what I was going to see or stay, I only knew I was arriving in Frankfurt and leaving Frankfurt 5 weeks later. It seemed like a great idea at first, as it seemed bold and adventurous. As soon as I landed in Frankfurt it hit me, I had no idea what the next play was. I had no idea how to get into the city center, where I was staying that night or how long I was staying. After messing around for a few stressful hours I found a hostel to stay in and immediately realized this is not how I could travel for the next few weeks, especially being new to solo traveling. That night, I did tireless research and planned out my next week, which I really should have done before I even boarded the plane.
I’ve learned from my error and now plan all of my trips. You can follow the methodology I’ve outlined below to plan your future trips:
STEP 1: FIGURE OUT WHERE YOU WANT TO GO
The first step in the preparation for your trip is to figure out where you want to visit. Do you want to concentrate your trip on one country or visit multiple countries? You should consider the time of the year you want to go and also what interests you. Are you planning on traveling solo or with friends?
STEP 2: HOW LONG AND WHEN WILL YOUR TRIP BE?
The next step is to determine approximately how long your trip will be and when you plan on going. Having a time frame will help immensely in the next steps. If you’re interested in visiting the Greek Islands you’re probably not going to want to go there mid-winter.
STEP 3: DO RESEARCH ABOUT ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Every country has entry requirements that are based on your passport. Some countries will require VISA’s, have restrictions on length of stay, and health requirements/documents. It is best to check the official travel website of your country for more details.
STEP 4: BUDGET THE COSTS
It’s hard to travel comfortably without money or a source of income. You need to research the countries you’ll be visiting and determine what the costs are for transportation, hotels, food, activities, potential VISA costs, and other miscellaneous expenses. You can easily do this by googling prices and doing quick flight searches on a flight matrix website.
STEP 5: START SAVINGS/BUDGET
You may already have some savings, but you might need some more before starting the actual planning and booking stage of your trip. You can read our article about methods to save more money here if you need some ideas. Based on the research you’ve done in step 3, you should have a savings goal to reach. Keep in mind you should always overestimate the totals needed as opposed to underestimate, since it’s better to have extra money than to run out of money mid-trip. Another way to combat this is to have an “emergency travel fun” which is essentially an additional savings of 15-20% above your total budget. This extra savings is good to have in the event of an emergency or something unforeseen happening. Lastly, don’t forget to consider travel insurance, we’ll talk about this later on.
STEP 6: START BOOKING FIGHTS AND ACCOMMODATION
This is probable the most important step of planning your trip. Assuming you’re near your savings goal, you can now consider booking your trip. Assuming you did the research in the previous steps, you should have an idea what a reasonable price for a plane ticket is and the costs associated with accommodations, food, etc. For more in-depth analysis and ways to save a few $ in booking, check out our articles on “How to Find Cheap & Free Accommodations” and “How to Find Cheap Flights”.
You should book your flights in advance, since prices can be volatile and waiting until the last minute to book flights usually results in higher costs that cannot be budgeted for. Accommodations should be booked for at least 1-2 weeks in advance. The length of booking in each location should be based on what you plan to see and do in each city, that’s why it’s important to do your research. If there are small modifications needed to your trip, accommodations can usually be cancelled free of charge if cancelled within a certain period.
STEP 7: PREPARE/PACK WHAT YOU NEED
It’s not fun to travel with a heavy backpack, as this slows you down. We recommend only bringing things that are necessary and you’ll use. You can have one larger backpack that will hold your necessities and a smaller day pack for daily use. Also, make sure you’re prepared to have a universal charger, as your electronics will not charge overseas. I’d recommend buying this at home, as you usually have to pay a premium abroad and quality is not guaranteed.
STEP 8: TRAVEL INSURANCE
One of the most important things that is often disregarded is travel insurance. There is nothing worse than getting hurt or sick abroad and being on the hook for hefty medical bills. This is especially true considering you can’t budget for things like this. Good thing is you can budget for travel insurance. We’d recommend using Worldnomads.com for good affordable travel insurance. Creating and processing claims with them is painless and easy.
STEP 9: TAKE CARE OF RESPONSIBILITIES
This is important, as you don’t want to rack up late payment charges and miss payments on bills. I’d recommend cancelling/pausing services for the duration of the trip if you can. For some things you can’t, like a cell phone plans because of a contract, but you can try putting the plan on lowest possible to avoid cancellation fees. I’d recommend setting up pre-authorized payments for other bills, so you have peace of mind while away.
STEP 10: TRAVEL!!!
If you’ve done all of the above, it’s time to go on your trip and enjoy it! Preparation and planning is key to a successful trip. However, it’s important to be flexible, as you’ll meet others on your journey and your plans may change, that’s OK and it’s one of the wonderful things about travel. Last of all, make sure you enjoy yourself and take in every moment and you’ll have memories for years to come.