Planning a trip by yourself can be very overwhelming. Though there’s no way to get around the time consumption that goes into planning your own trip but if you have the right resources and know what to look for, it can be a lot easier.
Here’s my guide on how to plan a trip on your own. Note that this process isn’t linear and you’ll be going back and forth sometimes.
Choosing a Location
Maybe the most difficult part of planning a trip is deciding where to go. Some people have a specific target in mind: they’ve always wanted to go to France, or Japan has been on their bucket list for ages.
However, you may be staring at a shortlist of places you really want to go to but aren’t quite sure about. There are so many places that are worth your time in the world, and one may not be exactly “better” than another. Below are some questions to help you narrow it down.
Note that you should first mock up a general itinerary for the places you want to go, or else you’re not going to know the answers to some of these questions. See below for tips on making an itinerary.
What time of year are you able to go?
Every place is different and it’s important to know what the weather is typically like at your destination. Time and Date has some good information on average temperatures but I’d also recommend doing a Google search and see what people are saying. Is it sunny? Is it rainy? Is it humid? Is it hurricane season? You can find a lot of that information on forums or travel websites.
It’s also important to look at sunrise and sunset times to see how much daylight you’ll have. The sun can set at 2:00pm in northern Europe in winter, and can set at midnight in summer. It’s good to know before you go.
Are you going to have enough time to see what you want?
If you’ve created a mock-up of an itinerary, you’ll have an idea of what places you want to see and how much time you want to spend there. Is the amount of time you have off going to be enough to see what you want? Can you cut your trip down in any way? The trip that fits best into your schedule will probably be the best one to visit.
How expensive is it going to be?
I have a guide on budget travelling but you probably won’t book right away, especially if you’re debating between places. Do a simple flight search on Google or STA Travel to see how much a flight will be for that time period. Keep that amount somewhere. Look up hotels on Booking.com and add that amount. If you plan on doing a lot of travelling within your destination, look up how much it will cost to get from A to B. (See “Making an Itinerary > Getting Around”) Add that up to get a rough estimate. You should also look up how much museums, tours, food, etc will cost – some destinations have a plethora of free activities while others charge a pretty penny for you to do anything.
Note that high seasons such as the summer and holidays can make prices go up a significant amount.
When you have everything in front of you, it can be easier to make a decision. You’ll also learn more about your destinations and might form more excitement towards one over another. If you’re already set on your itinerary, then it’s time to book! If not, then I have some itinerary-making tips for you below.
Making an Itinerary
Making an itinerary is definitely the most exhaustive part of planning a trip. It’s also not for everyone; some people like to wing it! But I personally prefer making loose itineraries so I don’t go all the way across the world and miss something I really would’ve liked to see. It also helps to plan trip costs, which is discussed above. No matter how strict or free your itinerary is, here’s a guide on how to make one with all the important details.
What is there to do?
I always find it helpful to make a list of things to do in a certain destination, research them at least a little, and then mark the ones you really find interesting. A great way to find things to do at a destination is by searching your favourite travel blogs. I personally think that since you follow blogs that are on the same wavelength as you, you can get more personalised recommendations this way. However, Trip Advisor is a very large website dedicated to hosting travel reviews. The key is to consult more than one source.
Also be sure to get opening times for each place, and whether or not it’s difficult to get into. You don’t want to visit someplace that’s closed! You also don’t want to wait to make reservations for places such as Machu Picchu or the White House since they usually fill up in advance. If you really want to visit a place, it’s worth the 2 minutes to visit their website and see if you can get tickets in advance.
I strongly recommend compiling everything together on a platform such as Maps.me. This way you won’t forget anything and you can see how everything relates to each other on a map.
A lot of people forget that they need to incorporate travelling time within their itinerary, and a lot of first-time travellers make the mistake of thinking the world is smaller than it is. Some places may be physically close but don’t have quick public transit options. It may take only 2 hours to get from A to B but is there a train that will leave early enough for you? Is there only one ferry a day? Will the bus get you to your destination at a good time? These are all important questions and may be the most overlooked.
Renting a car is a great option if you feel comfortable driving in another country. If not, I personally recommend Omio, Flixbus and Trainline to look for public transit tickets. However certain countries have public transit that isn’t listed on such a site, so you’ll need to look into that on your own as well. There are also some times when taking an organised tour is the best option.
It’s good to look into this in advance, not only so you’re prepared for your trip but so you can know roughly how much it’ll cost. I like the security of booking ahead of time and recommend it since some routes can sell out.
Especially for people who haven’t done a lot of travelling, it can be difficult to know your pace. Often times, people overestimate how much they can do over a period of time. A good idea is to aim to do 2 close by things per day, maybe 3. It’s hard to tell how much time you’ll spend in a museum so a max of 2 per day is a good bet if you’re a museum-goer. That way you can enjoy both places and have time to eat. This will help you determine how long you will should stay in a certain city or how much you can actually see in the time you have. The rule of thumb is to underestimate the amount of energy you’ll have; don’t overestimate it.
It’s Vacation Time!
Well, first you have to book – but that’s all easy once you know what you’re going to book.
Make sure that you bring all your info with you so you can enjoy your trip seamlessly! I recommend printing it out so that you still have it if your phone batteries die or there’s no internet. It’s not the greenest practice but I like the security of having my information physically with me.
Remember that you never have to follow your itinerary to a T. You might feel jet lagged, might get sick, or might get caught up with new friends you’ve made. That’s OK! The important thing is that you take care of yourself and have a good time.
Planning a trip is a complex process but it’s very much worth the time and effort. If you need any help, feel free to email me and I will be happy to assist you. Bon voyage!