How to plan a trip: Step by step guide

Hello travelers! In this blog post I’ll share with you all the knowledge I’ve gained about how to plan a trip. Ever since I started traveling, I’ve planed and organize every trip on my own. I enjoy the process of planning a trip. I can’t help but to get anxious prior to purchasing flight tickets, booking a hotel or watching videos of the place I am visiting. Planning a trip on your own saves you plenty of money! 

Planning a trip successful requires traveling knowledge and experience. The more you travel, the more knowledge you’ll gain and it will ultimately help plan trips on your own. If I think about my trip to the west coast in the U.S with friends I begin to giggle. I didn’t have any trip-planning skills back then. I thought that purchasing a flight and booking a hotel was enough. We were very lucky that everything turned out well. I compare it to how I plan trips right now and there’s a nigh and day difference. I gain knowledge and experience every time I plan a trip. 

If you’re traveling for the first time and lack planning experience, this post will help you plan your following trip. If you are looking to plan a trip on a budget, I’ll give you several tips and tricks to save some money when you plan your next trip. 

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Table of contents

How to plan a trip on a budget in 10 easy steps

I’ve created a step by step guide on how to plan a trip on your own and most affordably. You’ll be able to find detailed information about how I plan my trips. I’ll also share some tips and tricks to purchase the most affordable flights, book hotels, etc. 

Step 1: Choose a destination

This is obviously the first step in planning a trip. You have to choose a place to visit. 

How do I choose my next trip?

I don’t usually think much about where my next trip is going to be. I follow what my mind and soul needs. Right in front of my desk, I have a huge cork map. I have different color pushpins and place them on countries that I wish to visit in the future. I sometimes go on flight search engines and if I find a cheap flight to a destination that I feel like visiting, I buy it. This is how I ended up in Glasgow last month.

My budget is usually a big factor when I am choosing a destination. I tend to shoot for countries where the cost of living is much lower than mine. Even if plane tickets to certain countries are more expensive than to countries in Europe, if the cost of living is cheaper, the trip ends up being more affordable for me. Especially if I am planning on traveling for months.

AFFORDABLE DESTINATIONS IN ASIA

Some cheap destinations in Asia: Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Philippines, Nepal, Indonesia, etc. Generally, almost all countries in Asia tend to be quite cheap, but there are exceptions.

AFFORDABLE DESTINATIONS IN EUROPE

Some affordable countries in Europe to visit: Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Serbia, Lithuania, Slovakia, etc. Eastern Europe is a good option if you are looking for a cheap trip.

AFFORDABLE DESTINATIONS IN AFRICA

Some of the most affordable countries in Africa are: Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Cape Verde.

AFFORDABLE DESTINATIONS IN AMERICA

Some of the most affordable destinations in America are: Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, etc.

One very important thing before planning your trip is to see if you meet all the paperwork requirements to be able to visit that country.

Step 2 to plan a trip: Buy flight tickets

The next step to plan an affordable trip is to buy flight tickets. To find a good price, it is advisable to start your search well in advance, in order to see how the price changes over time and to buy flights when there is a downward spike in price. SkyScanner allows you to create a price alert, thanks to which you can receive a notification in your email when there are changes in the cost of the flight.

Tips to get cheap flights:

1. Search for flights on a private window.

2. Cookies can sometimes increase flight prices therefore, I recommend deleting the recent history and cookies.

3. If you use SkyScanner, instead of putting the exact dates of your flight, choose the month in which you are going to travel. You will be able to see a calendar with the price of each day. Sometimes flying a day before or a day after can greatly reduce the cost of the ticket.

4. Check the box “include nearby airports”. If the airport is a bit far from the city you are going to visit, sometimes the price difference is very large and once you arrive, it is as easy as taking a bus. It may be worth it. For example, when I studied abroad in Lille (north of France), I always flew to Brussels Charleroi Airport. The flights were more affordable and all I had to take was a one and a half hour bus ride to Lille.

how to search cheap flights

5. Flights at dawn or very late in the day can be cheaper at times. Of course, it will also be much cheaper if you fly in low season. It is not the same to buy flights for February than for the middle of July or August. If you can, do not hesitate to travel during low season.

6. Fly with light luggage. Many airlines charge you an extra fee for checking luggage. My advice is that you only carry a carry-on bag. I usually only travel with a 50-liter backpack. I don’t have to check it and everything fits perfectly inside the backpack.

I’ve exceeded the allowed weight of my carry-on bag at times. What I usually do if I have to check in for my flight at the airport is to put heavy items in a small backpack that will not be weighed at the counter. Some companies always weigh your luggage and if you exceed it you will have to pay an extra fee.

7. Make flight connections yourself. For example, if you want to go to Sydney, it is possible that flying to Singapore, and then purchasing a separate flight from Singapore to Sydney will be more affordable. Don’t be afraid to make flight connections yourself. Of course, always leave a decent layover between flights.

Here you can see a list of cheap flight companies according to the country.

If you are going to choose a destination according to the price of the flight:

If you do not have a clear destination and you are going to choose it according to the price of the tickets, I advise you to do the following. Go to SkyScanner flight search engine (you have probably noticed that I am a huge fan of SkyScanner). Choose your departure airport and on the arrival airport section, leave “anywhere”.

If you can only travel on specific dates, choose the dates, but if not, choose the month in which you can travel. Once you press search, you will get a list of countries ordered by prices, from the most affordable to the most expensive. If you click on a country, you will see which airport is cheapest to fly to.

how to plan a trip on a budget
how to find cheap flights

I usually do the same with Ryanair. On the home page, go to the menu above and click on plan, then click on search engine. Choose your departure airport, choose “any destination” and choose a budget.

Step 3: Get or make an appointment for a visa (if necessary)

Once I’ve chosen a destination and have purchased the flights, I head to this page and go on the country which I am traveling to and see if I need to obtain a visa and how to do it. As you know, there are some countries where you need a visa to enter. For example, to travel to China or Bolivia, you will need a tourist visa to enter the country.

Some visas can be obtained easily while for others you must apply at an embassy. For example, obtaining a visa to travel to China requires a longer process. My advice is that you do it as soon as possible

Step 4 to plan an affordable trip on your own: Purchase travel insurance

The last thing you want when you are abroad is to have an accident or a health problem. However, if there is something you want even less, is for something to happen and pay a a lot of money to receive medical attention. We already know that in some countries healthcare is very expensive… For this reason, I always recommend traveling with travel insurance.

As a Come Ama Viaja reader, you can take advantage of a 5% discount on your Mondo travel insurance. If you already know the dates and destination of your next trip, don’t miss the opportunity to get your travel insurance at a special price.

Step 5: Visit the doctor if necessary

To travel to certain countries, you may need to get vaccinated. I recommend visiting this web and searching for the specific country which you’re planning to visit and seeing if you need a vaccine to enter the country.

If you need any vaccines, don’t wait until the last minute and make an appointment as soon as possible.

Step 6 to plan a trip: Prepare the route

If you are going to visit more than one place during your trip, you have to plan a route. Sometimes deciding which places to visit in the country is a bit difficult. For example, I spent hours and hours watching videos, reading other blogs, etc, to plan my trip to the Philippines. I spent many hours trying to decide which islands to visit. It’s what you have to do when you visit a country with more than 7,000 islands…

I recommend searching for a lot of information. As I do, you should watch videos on YouTube, look for information on travel blogs, etc. You should also follow your instinct a bit based on your tastes and what you most want to visit.

Mi consejo para organizar tu ruta es que te empapes de información. Como hago yo, te recomiendo que veas vídeos en youtube, busques información en blogs de viajes, etc. Al final, déjate guiar por tus propios gustos y lo que más te apetezca visitar.

↠ If you are an adventurer and you are going to improvise your trip once you reach your destination, skip this step, step 7 and step 8.

Step 7: Buy internal connections

Once I know what places I am going to visit during my trip, I buy the tickets to move between the different stops: bus, train, plane tickets, etc.

Una vez ya sé qué lugares voy a visitar durante mi viaje, compro los billetes para desplazarme entre los varios destinos: billetes de bus, tren, avión, etc.

↠ If you are going to take flights within the country, take into account the ticket prices when choosing the order of the places you want to visit.

↠ If you are going to rent a car during your trip, it is also a good moment to do so.

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Step 8: Book the hotels

Booking hotels is one of the most time-consuming steps when planning a trip. I spend several hours trying to find the most affordable and best rated hotels.

Once I know which country I am visiting, the first thing I do before booking a hotel is to look for information about the best areas to stay. Something that you should keep in mind to get the best deals when booking a hotel is to stay in the outskirts if it’s well connected to the city center by public transportation. Usually you will pay less money and get a better bang for your buck.

The search engine that I always use is Booking. Although I never click on booking without first reading some reviews on TripAdvisor. 

How to search for good deals in Booking

Booking is my go-to website when I am searching for the best hotel deals. You’ll need to have a destination and specific dates in order to find the best deals in Booking. Once you’ve inserted the require information, you’ll see a list of options. I always use filters to narrow down my options in the menu called “Filter by”.

If you are looking for affordable options, set your budget and check “Good rating”: (7 or more). If you have other preferences, such as “breakfast included” or “parking”, you can also check those boxes.

how to plan a trip yourself

Once the filtered list appears with all the hotels, I usually order them from “best reviewed and lowest price”. I tend to look for hotels with a good rating and decent price. You can find these filters at the top of the page, just above the list of hotels.

Once I find a hotel that I am interested in, I begin to look for more reviews on TripAdvisor. It is important not to be put off by one negative review because not all hotels are great options for everyone. I recommend looking at the overall rating and the amount of reviews the place has, the more reviews, the better.

 One of the ways to save on accommodation is to go Couchsurfing. Soon I will explain in a different post how to search for a room in Couchsurfing and provide you with tips to travel on a budget. I have not tried Couchsurfing yet but I do know people who have and they always speak very positively about it.

 Keep in mind that if you stay at a place that has a kitchen, you will be able to save some money on food.

Step 9: Plan your visit – What to do, see, eat, etc.

I must admit, planning your visit is probably the funnest step: deciding what do do, which places to visit, where to eat, which activities to do, etc. This step is obviously time consuming but it is fun.

In order to make a list of all the places I want to visit, I search for information on the internet, I watch videos on YouTube and I even watch tv shows related to traveling. If you want to plan an affordable trip, I recommend searching for free plans, activities, museums, etc. in the city you are going to.

Create your custom map on maps.me

Something that I always do and highly recommend is to use the maps.me mobile app. The app allows you to mark on the map the spots you want to visit. You can also use this app without internet connection, which makes it very useful to move around the city. You must download the map of the country you’re visiting in order to use it offline.

Once I’ve completed my map, I am able to see the places I am interested in visiting. Once I am at my destination, I use the map whenever I need to.

Book activities in advance if necessary

Once you’ve decided which places you want to see and what you want to do during your trip, I recommend booking some activities. There are certain activities which sell out very quickly, such as visiting the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam.

By booking your activities in advance, you will make sure you get a ticket and save some time on the line.

If you are going to visit many touristic places, it is time to think about whether it is going to be worth buying a tourist pass, such as the City Pass (New York), the London Pass, etc.

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Step 10: Pack your luggage, the last step on how to plan a trip

This is the last step of this guide on how to plan a trip. Time to pack your luggage! Two things that I always keep in mind when packing is the temperature and forecast at my destination and what kind of activities I am going to do. For example, if it’s going to rain, don’t forget to bring a thin raincoat, waterproof shoes, etc. If it’s going to be hot and sunny, remember to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, etc.

As I mentioned before, I always recommend packing light. There are times when I overpack and I always regret it as it makes moving from one place top another a bit of a hassle. If you pack light enough, you can also save some money by avoiding the need to check your luggage. 

↠ One last tip to make your trip as affordable as possible is to get an N26 card. This card allows you to make transactions in other currencies without commissions and withdraw money from ATMs in other countries with only 1.7% interest (much lower than conventional banks). You can get the card online.

One last step: ENJOY YOUR TRIP!

I hope this post on how to plan a trip has been informative. If you feel like I missed something or skipped a step, leave a comment down below. Thank you!

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