10 questions you need to answer to plan a trip ahead of time.

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There are things in life beyond argument.  The sun rises in the east.  There’s always room for Jell-O. Nobody hates vacation!  Getting to travel around the world and seeing different cultures are two of the greatest pleasures in life.  Even if you have the greatest job in the world, you will eventually need a break and a change of scenery.  Planning ahead is essential when you want to get away from it all and enjoy what the world has to offer.

Why plan ahead you say?  Off the top of my head:

  • It saves money:  Airline tickets.  Hotels.  Rental cars.  Tours.  These are all things that we look for when travelling.  Booking them in advance could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
  • Reduces stress:  Imagine getting to your destination and finding out that amazing tour everyone recommends is booked for the next couple of days.  Bet it wouldn’t feel fun.  By scheduling your itinerary ahead of time you won’t have to worry about where to go next and making usually long lines to the most popular attractions.

More money to spend and less things to worry about.  Sounds like an excellent payoff.  Let’s see some of the questions you definitely have to answer when planning ahead of time.

  1.    Where do I want to travel?

This is the starting point for any vacation.  Answering this question helps narrow down your options. Culture.  History.  Nightlife.  Beach.  Relax.  The destination you choose should be directly related to your main purpose for travelling.

  1.    What documents do I need?

This is of the utmost importance.  Research what documentation you need for your destination.  These usually include:

  •         Visas
  •         Valid personal IDs such as passports, national ID document, or driver’s license.
  •         Health insurance
  1.    What places do I want to visit?

You’ve chosen your destination. It’s time to do some research.  Ask around your social circle to see who has gone to where you want to go.  They are possibly the best source you can have when deciding which places are worth a visit and which ones aren’t.  Sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp are extremely helpful in deciding which are the must see visits.  Make a list of the places you are interested in going to, it can be as long as you want.  Just make sure they appeal to your interests.

  1.    When is the best time to go?

Unless a company has a collective vacation period, people usually have the liberty of choosing when they want to take their much needed time off.  Take the list you made and find out when is the optimal time to visit.  You should find that many of the places you jotted down can be visited during similar time frames.  At this point, I highly recommend a spreadsheet.  Sounds a little OCD, right? Trust me, it helps in the decision making.  Organize the possible visiting spot into several multi-day itineraries and each one with a different number of places to go check out.  All of them should include the three or four must see places you know you can’t miss.

Image courtesy of twentymindsomething at Flickr.com

Image courtesy of twentymindsomething at Flickr.com

  1.    How many days can I afford to stay there?

Where? Check.  What I want to do? Check. Several itineraries? Got it.  Up until now we haven’t considered the monetary part of the trip.  You might have an overall estimate thanks to the research you’ve done, but now it’s time to take into account your actual budget for a trip. We usually know how much we will have for vacation pay.  Come to a decision on how much time you need to save up for your budget and consider your departure one or two months ahead of that time. This will give you a little more time to save or to cover any last minute changes or inconveniences.  In order to get a better idea of how much you need to have look for the following:

  •   Different flight options on several online travel agencies.
  •   Hotel options on the same sites.
  •   Flight and hotel packages.
  •   Cost of tours and places you are interested in.

Time to head back to the spreadsheet.  Put the information you just researched into the different itineraries you came up with earlier and decide which one fits the savings goal you came to earlier. This will ultimately help you decide on one single itinerary that you can afford without having to sacrifice your main travel interests.

  1.    What can I book in advance?

You’ve got minimum six months before your trip.  I know it seems like a long time to plan a trip but it will take you at least a month and a half to answer the first four questions.  About three months before your trip is a good time to take care of the most important travel expenses.  Some things you should book at this point are:

  • Flights and luggage
  • Hotels.  A lot of hotels have the option of paying right away or at the hotel for the listed price of the day you reserved.  I’d suggest trying to pay it at once. That’s one less expense to worry about when you’re travelling.
  • Tours.  Many local and online agencies offer great discounts for purchasing tickets ahead of time.
  • Museums, landmarks, and other points of interest.  Lines can get really long at the main tourist attractions.  Why not avoid them by paying ahead of time.  Save money and get more time to enjoy your destination.
  1.    What’s my daily budget?

Once you know how long you plan on staying, you should decide on how much you can spend per day. You can call this your ‘getting around expenses.’  You should make a call on how much you need for food, transport, and souvenirs per day.  A good round number is about a hundred dollars per day.  Make sure you register your daily budget in your travel spreadsheet.

  1.    How easy is it to get around in public transport?

Using the city’s public transport system could help you save a considerable amount of money and it’s a great way to know the real culture.  Go online and check out public transportation services, fares, and maps.  If you see that it’s easy to get around you don’t have to worry about renting a car or paying for hop-on hop-off tour. More money for getting around.

  1.    What do I need to know about the culture?

We often get offended by outsiders who don’t respect our customs.  Don’t be one of those offenders when you travel.  Read up on the dos and don’ts of the culture you are visiting.  A little cultural understanding and respect goes a long way.

  1.   What do I need to pack?

With about a month left before you depart you will notice that everything has been taken care of.  The only thing that is left is your luggage.  Turn on your computer and open our useful spreadsheet.  Make a list of the following things you’ll need for the trip:

  • Clothing
  • Accessories
  • Toiletries
  • Medicine
  • Electronic gadgets

You’re all set.  Double check the sheet once a week to see if you left off anything and with a week left until your vacation get to packing.  Planning ahead initially requires a lot of work but as the day of your trip gets closer you will be more relaxed knowing everything has already been taken care of. 

One final recommendation.  Make sure you have all the necessary documents in one place and that they are always easy to reach during your trip. Bon voyage!

 

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