How To Plan a Trip: A Beginner’s Guide

How To Plan a Trip: A Beginner’s Guide

I love travelling! I always try to plan a few trips each year, and trip planning is totally my responsibility in my family. Depending on the destination, sometimes it might be overwhelming; but a good planning will reduce your stress during the trip. So here’s my process on how to plan a trip:

1. Decide on the destination

The first step should be relatively easy. There are two ways to decide it.

  • I have a specific destination in mind. Most likely it’s on my bucket list, or it just feels the right time.
  • I don’t have a specific destination. I will go to different airline or travel deals web sites, and see what’s on sale.

Things to consider: is it a good time to visit there now? Weather, crowd, expensiveness. Usually crowded meaning peak season, which means expensive as well. Best time to travel is usually the shoulder season, less crowd, and less expensive.

2. Research things to do and build a rough itinerary

The purpose of building a preliminary itinerary is to see how many days I will need for my trip. I know that lots of other guides will suggest you to book flights and set budget before building itinerary, but that doesn’t work too well with me. I don’t want to end up rushing through my trip or simply cannot make it to some of the attractions. I have to make a list of activities I want to do, places I want to visit, food I want to try, and plan roughly how many days I would need, before I can book flights.

Things to consider: don’t pack too much in one day; leave some buffer for the unexpected events; be very careful to research which day the attractions are closed during the week (this is very important for Paris museums).

3. Book flights

Once I am comfortable with my list of things to do, then I would go ahead with booking flights, taking arrival time and departure time into consideration, ie: arriving before 12pm will give me extra time to travel to the accommodation, settle in, and maybe knock off 1 or 2 things on your list the very first day. However, arriving after 9pm will add stress to finding your place to stay in the dark, and not leaving extra time if something comes up unexpectedly.

Things to consider: how long is the flight before arriving at the destination, ie: arriving at 7am in Bangkok after 20 hours flight from Toronto does not help with itinerary; but arriving at 10am in San Francisco after 4 hours flight from Toronto is totally helpful.

4. Create itinerary and decide where to stay

Once flight is booked, the trip is pretty much confirmed for me since I have a rough itinerary ready by the time. Now is the most difficult part of planning for me, deciding where to stay. With all the attractions marked on my google map, I’ll need to decide which area would be the most convenient place to stay for my trip. I am not talking about which hotel, I am talking about which area I should be considering and looking for hotel.

Things to consider: google “best area to stay in XXXX” and “area to avoid in XXXX” if it’s your first time visiting the destination.

5. Book accommodations and figure out transportation

After deciding the area I want to stay, looking for the hotel is relatively easy for me, although it might take some time. Hotels usually have a huge price range, how do they compare with each other in terms of their pricing and google review? How do hotels compare with Airbnb in the same area? How close are they to the public transportation or does price include parking?

Things to consider: ideally, the transportation from the airport to the hotel should be straight forward; the less transfer the better because I would have luggage with me.

6. Plan for currency exchange and local sim card

Research how and where is the best deal to exchange currency . For example, Canadian travellers’ cheque has highest exchange rate in Japan compare to cash. US dollar $100 bill has highest exchange rate in Thailand compare to $20 bill. In addition, there are usually several currency exchange booth at the airport. NEVER exchange at the first booth you see. Always walk around and compare the rates, the difference can be as much as 10%.

Viola! I am all set for my trip!

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