I am currently in the process of planning my summer trip and I thought I would take you on this journey and tell you how I do travel planning from picking a destination to actually having everything ready to go. I will walk you through every step I do and how everything comes together to give you the tools to plan your own trip that you have always been dreaming of.
Picking a Destination
Now you might already have a dream destination to go to, but if you don't this is a hard step. There are so many amazing places in the world worth your time. For me, the best way to do this is to narrow down the continent first. Where do you want to go? Have you always dreamed of traveling around Europe? Did you always want to backpack through Southeast Asia? Has South America has a strange pull for you?
For me, since I will already be in the US and have recently fallen in love with Latin America, that was where I wanted to go. I love to culture in these places and have wanted to explore them as much as possible. Since I will already be on the right side of the ocean, it saves me one leg of a long trip.
From there you can pick a few countries you really want to visit in that continent. This can be a few countries you have heard good things about or that just intrigue you. There does not have to be any ration reasoning for this choice. This is just a feeling that you have. The research will come later to check which of your choices are feasible.
So once I was set on Latin America, I started looking at countries that I always wanted to visit or of which I have heard great things. I settle on the choices between the Dominican Republic, Costa Rice, Peru, or Colombia. There was no real reason for these just that I liked what I knew about them.
Set a Timeframe
You are probably bound to some timeframe for your trip. This can be because of how much vacation you have or depending on your travel partner. Maybe you have to make it back for a specific event or anything else that limits your time. This is important to set before doing research so you do not fall into the trap of wanting to do more than you have time fore.
For me, this limitation is school. I have two weeks in August since that is the time between finishing my internship and getting home before my semester starts again. Therefore everything I decide to do and see has to fit in two weeks.
This is the next stage. Once you have dreamed up a destination you have to see if that is possible. My favorite resource is blogs from people who have already visited. You can find descriptions of the cities, things to do, is it worth visiting, and many other posts that can give you a good overview. Many bloggers also write travel itineraries that you can check and adapt to your needs. It is just a great guide for what you can do in your timeframe. I suggest making a list of all the cities or sights you want to see in each country and see if you really want to do in each place.
For me, the first step was asking my blogging group. Many of the girls there have been to the destinations I was considering and can tell me what is really worth it. I read many of their blog posts about cities and itineraries to get an idea about what I would like to do. I made my own list of cities I wanted to see in each place and how much time I wanted to spend there. Based on that some options were doable and others were not. It gives you a great idea.
Make your final choice on the country
Once you have done your research, you can make your final choice. After your research, you should know what is realistic and what interests you the most. When doing this follow your heart but also be cautious. Know what you want from this trip and stick to that with your choice. Pick a country for your vacation and then you can get excited.
For me, the thing that narrowed it down was all the cities I was excited for when researching Colombia. There are so many cute places to visit and explore. I also knew that I could see most of what I want to see in the time I have so it is a realistic plan. Now starts a lot more research and planning because I am excited about my trip now.
Make a preliminary plan
So once you have decided which of your countries you are going to, you have to start building a plan. Since you have already done research, you should know the places you want to visit and what there is to see there. Based on this information you can set up a preliminary timeline. Decide how much time you want to spend where to see everything you want to see. Then you start researching accommodation to have a price idea. You should do this briefly during research, but now is the time to dig deep. You can search hotels or hostels to see what the prices for rooms are and where you should stay where. You should also look into getting from A to B. See what is the most common form of transport and what is safe. At the end of this, you should have a timeline and somewhat of a budget set up to see what it will cost you, more or less.
For Colombia, I decided on five places I wanted to visit and started looking into what hostels would cost there. I knew to expect low prices but I was surprised to see that rooms only cost around 10€ per night in most cities except for one. I also looked into how to get from one city to the other. Since the distances are relatively far, most distanced I would fly which is fine since the flights only cost around 40 to 70€ per flight. Some distanced the flight seemed too expensive so I decided that I would take a bus for that distance to save money. In the end, I had a list with all the cities I wanted to visit and a budget for accommodation and travel. Food I know is very cheap so that will not account for much, and the only other cost to account for is adventures, which I can set a daily limit to and see how that works out.
Make the actual plan
Now that you have all the planning done, have thought about it, and talked to any travel companions. This is the time when you are booking all your flights and hotel rooms. If you have not done this before, I have a post about how to book a flight for the first time which you can read here. You are finalizing all your dates and trips and are ready to get excited about the trip. Once you have done all this you can move onto more planning and research.
I have not booked all my accommodations and flights yet for my Colombia trip. It is still a distance away and there are things that still need to be confirmed. Once I have done this, I will add it to this post so you can see how the planning is developing.
Planning your itinerary
This is the really fun phase. Now you get to dive deep and create crazy plans. You should already have a list of cities and probably even things you want to do. So go read all the blogs you can find on the cities you want to go to and find all the things you want to do. Once you have that you can start to put together a daily itinerary so you know what you'll be doing each day. Now, this doesn't have to be perfect, but in a way that everything you don't want to miss has a timeslot. Make sure to plan in some time to explore the city and some downtime to relax.
I am definitely going to do this for Colombia since I have never been there and I want to make sure I do not miss anything. This is my favorite part since I get super excited for the trip and really start to look forward to it. I will definitely be posting this online after my trip, so I will link to that once it is up.
Once you have done all this you are ready to take this trip and enjoy your adventure. While all this planning is great, know that not everything goes as planned and you will have to make changed and everything will go fine. Hope this travel planning guide helped you embark on the best trip of your life and get over your fear of booking a trip.
As always, if you have any other tips, please share them in the comments below or on social media. I always love to hear from you and learn from your experiences.