So you’ve decided you’d like to go on a trip: congratulations, this is an exciting time! Here is a step-by-step planning process to follow. If you’re planning this on your own, without a travel agent (who will take care of all of these details for you, though this of course comes at a price), heres what you need to do…
Step 1: Start somewhere
Before beginning your research into trip specifics, have two things in mind: where you’re going and how long you’re going for. This is the fun part – get an idea of your schedule, your budget and have a look at the world map. Once you have a rough idea of these, you can begin planning your adventure.
Research your visa requirements. Find out where the applications are handled, how to apply and most importantly, everything on the checklist of required documents (bank statements, personal details, travel and accommodation plans are often required.) Set aside about a week to get everything together and to book your visa appointment.
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Step 2: Budgeting the trip
Work out exactly how much money you have for your trip beforehand so that you can plan accordingly. Budget can determine the where you go, how long you go for, what you do and eat. If your dream destination is out of reach right now, save it for later. Asia, Eastern Europe, South America and Africa offer great value for money, while Western Europe, the USA and island destinations will generally be far more costly.
Once the amount is known, jot down all of the expected expenses of the trip – there is a ton of information online to help you plan. These include:
Visa feesRoundtrip airfareIn-land transportationAccommodationFoodGeneral spendingTravel Insurance Step 3: Research to compare
Start of with travel insurance, visa fees and roundtrip airfare as these costs are unavoidable and crucial. When it comes to insurance, google is your friend – ensure it covers all the areas you’ll be traveling to. If you can book with a credit card, you’ll automatically be covered.
Visa fee information is available online. When it comes to flights, use sites which compare the lowest airfare. Note the price differences on certain days of the month (for instance, Tuesday and Wednesday travel is usually cheapest) and roundtrip tickets are generally cheaper than one-ways.
The best way to keep track of all of your trip’s finances and expenditure in a spreadsheet. Now that you have the important costs covered, work out how much you have left.
Step 4: Getting local
Plan out your route and research local transportation. If English is not the first language of the country, the website should have an option to translate to English. This may be short regional planes, car rentals, busses or trains. Visit forums where discussions have been had and advice is given on which methods of transport are best.
In short: Plot your points, choose your methods of transportation and note the prices. Total this amount and mark it on your spreadsheet.
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Step 5: Accommodation
Decided which accommodation you prefer: is it a house, private room, a hostel or local stay? If cost is the determining factor, compare what you can get for your cash and which options suit your trip best. Tally up your costs and add it to the planner.
Step 6: The last stretch
Work out the cost of food per day for the location(s) you’ll be travelling to. Calculate how much you’ll need and budget accordingly. This isn’t a cost you’d want to skimp on!
Finally, allocate what’s left of your budget to spending. This will include tours/entertainment, shopping and general daily expenses.
Step 7: Revise your trip
Assess whether you have enough money to cover the trip. There may be areas where you are able to cut costs further, or find ways to increase your budget for the trip. Make sure you leave a room for unexpected costs as these have a way of popping up.
Once you’re happy with all of your costs, start booking! Get your bank statement beforehand and then make reservations using your details and deposits or full payments. Accommodation and transport are costs you’ll likely want to have booked in advance.
Step 8: The real fun begins!
Narrow down your research by creating itineraries. This part of the process is a lot more fun and less stressful once the bigger costs have been settled.