How to Plan a Trip: Your Step-by-Step Travel Planner

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Let’s get away. I’ve always been passionate about traveling. I love the escape, the education, the adventure and immersion. I also always feel more content returning home to my daily life after a bit of a getaway; it freshens my perspective and usually infuses my work with a newfound sense of inspiration and motivation.

That being said, I have always been an advocate of planning a trip. I’m not one to book a flight and jet off the next day with no itinerary or idea of what I’ll be doing once I reach my destination. Having a list of what you want to do and see, and where else you want to go while you’re there makes the actual trip so much more fulfilling. You’re already spending the money to get all the way to your dream destination, but planning is what makes it your dream trip.

So, you know where you want to go…and now you’re sat wondering how you could possibly know this far in advance where you should stay, let alone what you should fill your days with. Well, I’ve been there many times before and have set a few unwritten rules for myself to follow when trying to plan a getaway. Here are my top tips to make the most of yours…

1. Ask Yourself Questions.

Particularly about why you are traveling. Are you traveling for a specific event? Are you looking to relax? Or do you want an itinerary packed with adventures and exploring? This will help you to decide the best place to go and just how many sites to plan on seeing while there. For example, just because you’re looking for a relaxing holiday doesn’t mean you have to go to a beach. You can book a trip to a city but just not plan to do as much while you’re there. Long lunches and walks through the park can get the job done just as well, but knowing ahead of time helps you to narrow your search.

2. Do Some Planning Before You Budget.

This may seem obvious, but hear me out. You should have a rough estimate of what you want to spend already, but planning what to see, what restaurants you want to try, and how many cities to visit on your trip will help you to choose the right hotel and flight package for your budget. I find this helps me make the most of my trip because I can roughly estimate how much I’ll be spending while I’m there and then put the rest into finding the best accommodations I can for my money.

3. Use Social Media To Get Ideas.

Because Instagram is often real-time, it’s a great tool for discovering the latest and greatest of what you’re destination has to offer. It’s also great because there are so many destination experts that you can look toward for trip inspiration. If their aesthetic and interests seem closely aligned with yours, maybe you should try some of the restaurants they’ve tagged on their feed. Additionally, I find it helpful to fill a Pinterest board with beautiful photos of monuments, restaurants, parks, and even street style snaps from my destination. You’ll likely find some hidden gems and specific things to try that you’d otherwise be unaware of. Pinterest is certainly a great way to collect and save ideas of you’d like to go, what you’d like to do, and what to wear while doing it all.

4. Good Old Fashioned Books.

I am not one to ignore that the most comprehensive and non-subjective travel tips are often found in the pages of a travel guidebook. Looking at social media is a great way to get detailed recommendations tailored to your personal taste, but a city-specific guide usually presents just about everything there is to do there, and often then breaks it down further based on how much time you have, your priorities, and budget. I personally use the AAA City Guides, Frommers, and DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 guides.

5. Leave Some Time Unplanned.

You often find out much more information about the city upon arrival. Just think – unless you’ve been to your destination before – prior to arriving you didn’t even know where your hotel was situated. I always leave some days unscheduled so that I can ask for recommendations when I reach my destination, whether it be from concierge, restaurant staff, or even other tourists I meet. It’s usually a great way to weed through the tourist traps as well, because you get up-to-date opinions of both travelers and locals.

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