One of the most exciting parts of traveling is the planning process.
Studies show that anticipating travel brings as much happiness as actually traveling.
Looking up places to stay, reading blog posts about where you're going, and thinking about all the other fun things you're going to do gives us a definite mood boost.
Then there comes a point where you realize you have SO.MANY.THINGS.TO.FIGURE.OUT.
Which neighborhood in the city is best? Does the place of stay have good wifi (crucial if you're working remotely/digital nomad)? How much are entry fees to certain attractions?
That's what this post is for - breaking down the different sections of the travel planning process, so you can get it done and then relax knowing your trip is on the horizon.
Now if you're working for a company that is covering some of your travel expenses, then you'll have less pieces to figure out. Since that will vary by travel job, I've broken down the main categories for any trip in this post.
How To Plan Travel: 2 Steps To Streamline The Process
Make a spreadsheet with these categories:
- Personal expenses (food/drink, shopping, misc. expenses)
Your spreadsheet doesn't have to be anything fancy. It can be really simple, like this:
I use Google Sheets. It autosaves as you go, and you can access it online from any device!
This is the fun part! Or at least it can be.
Advice: take it one step at a time. Focus on the most important section first before moving onto the next to keep the process as smooth as possible.
For example, if you know for sure that you're going to Oktoberfest in Germany, focus on what is most important: booking your housing since it fills up VERY quickly that time of year. Booking housing first before doing research on smaller details like activity costs will save you a headache!
TRANSPORTATION - LONG-HAUL/GETTING TO AND FROM the DESTINATION
Whatever your form of transportation is, allow yourself a decent amount of time to book it, especially if you're getting there through a long-haul flight!
My favorite websites for finding and comparing good flight deals:
- Google Flights
- Travel Pirates
- Airfare Watchdog
TRANSPORTATION - WITHIN THE CITY/REGION
You'll likely use some form of transportation once you arrive in your city/region, and it's helpful to have an idea of it beforehand.
Most airports are not directly in the city center, so first figure out if you'll need to take a taxi, public transportation, or some form of shuttle to get there. (Sometimes hotels or hostels will have a pick-up service, so check to see if yours offers that).
Next, see if the city is more of a walking city or if it requires transportation to get around. Are you going to take the metro? Use taxis or Uber it? Rent a motor scooter?
Lastly, if you're on a multi-destination trip, then you might be doing short flights or overland transport to get around. Look into rail passes, ferries, flights, or whatever you may need.
First, decide what type of accommodations you want for your trip. Hotel or hostel? Rent an apartment through Airbnb? Meet and stay with locals through Couchsurfing?
The options for finding housing while traveling are endless these days with many options to suit both your budget and your interests.
With the glories of the internet, we also have reviews! Definitely read reviews - and if you're on a website that doesn't specifically have reviews, look it up on TripAdvisor.
Some websites to consider:
- Hotels: TripAdvisor (there are SO many hotel websites, but I like TripAdvisor's search function and all the reviews)
- Hostels: Hostelworld
- Apartment or private rooms: Airbnb
- Meet and stay with locals: Couchsurfing
Check out my housing tutorial to see the entire housing planning process!
You may not decide which activities you want to do when you're traveling until you get there, but if you know there are certain tours, lookout points, museums, or places of interest, you'll want to add those to your list. Especially since sometimes you'll have entry/ticket fees!
TripAdvisor and Yelp are my go-to review sites for finding things to do while traveling.
I also use Pinterest's search function pretty much as a blog search database as basically every travel blogger is on Pinterest, and links to their articles there. You can sometimes get a lot more refined in your searches on Pinterest than on Google.
These can definitely vary but it is smart to look up the average costs of various items for where you're going to.
Food and drink: You probably already know that street food and grocery stores are going to be less expensive than going to a restaurant, but it is helpful nonetheless to get a general idea of how much eating out would cost you.
ATM Fees: Most ATMs charge a fee for withdrawals. Keep this in mind especially if your bank is charging foreign transaction fees. It is also very smart to look up information about ATMs in the city you're visiting beforehand to see if there are well-known "scam" ATMs that read your card info and steal your money.
Shopping and misc. expenses: You may or may not be into shopping, but consider if you'll want any souvenir type items to bring home. Also, random travel purchases (like a new adapter if you forgot it, or an extra memory card for your camera) should not be ignored! Of course some of this will come up unexpectedly, so keep a cushion for miscellaneous expenses.