Set a time frame. Are you looking for a weekend getaway, a few weeks, or 6+ months of complete cultural immersion? For some, this depends on work and family arrangements, while others have unlimited time to roam. I’m lucky enough to have a full month off, which allows me to visit 9 different countries within that time frame. This is the first criteria to creating the entire framework for your adventure. Once you figure this out, then you can realistically begin to plan out your next step.
Discover your interests & travel style. Will this trip involve a relaxing retreat, road trips, fine dining, camping/RVing, study abroad courses, work engagements, all night ragers, or sightseeing and cultural discovery? Figure out the 10 most important items on your travel bucket list and just go from there! This was the most fun part of planning for me because I became really motivated to see all of these amazing destinations in real life. I have a very relaxed travel style, and I find that giving myself at least 3-5 days in each city is ideal for me; it gives me just enough time to get a good feel for the city’s style and flow, without having to cram everything in. I like to be able to take my time, enjoy the ride, and have a few days to galavant freely. Others like to power through each area and on to the next, which is also cool. Everything is completely customizable to your preferences.
Decide how you want to travel. Solo, couple, small/large group? Luxury or budget travel? Road tripping, flying, or cruising? The possibilities are endless, and each has its pros and cons. I love traveling by myself, but things are a lot more expensive when you’re flying solo. Small groups are nice money wise because everything can be divided, which means you can spring for nicer hotel rooms, split groceries, and share taxicabs instead of taking public transit. Just make sure your companions have similar interests, or it can get complicated realllllll quick. I’ve never traveled in a large group, and this will be my very first time taking a tour with people I don’t know, so I’m sure I’ll definitely have more intel on this area upon my arrival from Europe.
Plan ahead & research deals. The Internet has completely revolutionized the travel game. We can now plan every aspect of our vacations from the other side of the world at any time. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on my trips simply by researching the cheapest food, attractions, transportation and accommodation. I’ve also scored some great advice from locals and fellow bloggers on free activities, as well as tips on what spots offer student & youth discounts. Find out what museums are free, and which restaurants have lower priced fixed menus (prix fixe). You can see how much your favorite attractions and events cost, which will also help you brainstorm a realistic budget for your trip. These small bits of information can save you tons of stress, confusion and frustration down the road. Just remember to leave yourself some free time so you can relax or just go with the flow of the towns you visit.
Establish your budget. You’ll need to have a pretty good idea of how much things cost, so exchange rates are something to research early on. After you have a realistic idea of your future spending, establish a comfortable daily and overall budget, as well as thinking about how you are going to make purchases (cash/credit/debit/traveler’s card). I’m traveling on a shoestring during my upcoming Eurotrip, so my daily budget will be £37 in London and €40 in the rest of the cities I’ll be visiting. This gives me enough money to eat take out for lunch & dinner (breakfast is provided by the hostels), as well as for the lapel pins I plan on buying for my collection.
Choose a region that coincides with your budget. Generally speaking, Western Europe tends to be the most expensive region to visit, while Southeast Asia and Central America are a lot more affordable. Every region has many facets to it, but you can decide what works for you. Research using Yelp and TripAdvisor for most countries, the reviews are accurate and some have really good tips and useful advice, as well as nearby alternatives. In addition to the obvious expenses, also keep visas, travel insurance, rentals, immunizations, and other documentation requirements in mind, which can get pretty pricey depending on where you’re headed. Above all, be open to new experiences and have fun! We are lucky to even be in the position to travel, so just remember to stay grateful and make the most of your time!
I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to share any other travel planning tips you’ve used successfully below.