Planning a trip can be overwhelming. If you want to plan a trip all by yourself, it takes time, energy and patience. For some, planning a trip can be a nightmare. For others, this is an exciting time, especially if they have been thinking about it for a while.
In this post, we share our 7 steps plan to make your dream trip come true! These are some tips on how you can plan your dream trip in an affordable way. For some, planning a trip can be a nightmare, for others it is an exciting time. You might have to make some concessions to be able to travel, but it sure is worth it. If you follow these steps you can make your dream trip come true without becoming bankrupt.
1. Where do you want to go/How to choose your next destination/What to do there?
We have favourite places we want to go and we always research these ideal travel destinations through different ways. We watch movies, read travel blogs, watch travel vlogs and we also read about the place’s history & culture. All this helps to narrow our choices down to one place. This is a phase of discussion and overall brainstorming. We start to create the feelings, emotions towards that particular destination. Sometimes, we don’t agree on a place to go straightaway.
So, we compare and look for a place that we both would like to visit. It’s not that hard, as there are so many great places out there to visit. We always try to find something different to do no matter where we go to. We always look for new experiences, something different and that we cannot access in our home country.
1.1. Book flights
First step is to book the flights, which we do about 6 to 8 months in advance. This allows for better planning of our expenses and budget. It also gives us enough time to check for the best options. In the long run, this way of planning makes our holidays more affordable. We check search engines such as:
- Skyscanner as it gives us the widest view on flight companies that are operating
- Kayak is good because you have a map next to you and it quickly gives you an overview of prices
- Google flights
- ITA matrix – airfare search engine
These are all good resources to check flights. You can set up a flight price alert, which allows you to monitor price decreases for e.g. It is also important to check the length of the flight and weigh it against the price. We compare the length of the two leg flights always. How many layovers it has and how much is the difference between airlines. We always go for a 1 stop flight, because we don’t want to waste precious time in airports and get too tired afterwards.
This is because you waste so much time with 2 layovers and by the end of the flights you are dead. We also recently started considering the airlines we are flying with, given unpleasant experiences with some of them, there are plenty of reviews that you can find, e.g. Skytrax. It’s a good practice when you are booking to do a quick google search for the specific flight and trip you want to do. You have to think that especially for long trips, you can spend up to half day or one day on a plane, so might as well be a bit comfortable.
Check straight away if you need a visa or not to visit the country, because this may take a while. This info is easy to find online. We always do this straight after booking our flights, to make sure we have it sorted.
2. Am I willing to visit during the shoulder seasons?
We always look to travel during shoulder seasons, not only because usually prices are lower, but also to avoid the crowds and enjoy more. It is important in this stage, especially if you want to make it affordable, to be flexible with dates for your trip. Consider which time of the year you want to go and if everyone wants to go there at the same time. Perhaps instead of going in July to the Canary Islands, try to check if there is another time of the year that is less crowded, costs are lower and weather is still good to enjoy. Look to travel during the shoulder seasons, just before summer starts or winter starts.
3. What will I do there?
By this point, we start to look at our itinerary, what we will do in the country. We will do research, look for unique experiences and book them in advance. We then create a skeleton of our activities to check how long we will need to do them, where they are located, how to reach there, etc. To better guide your plan, you should check what are you looking for:
- An adventure in the outdoors?
- A relaxing time by the beach in a sunny place?
- A mix of cultural and urban exploration?
There are many different types of trips, and this will allow you to better check which destination and things you can do there. In our case, we read a lot of travel blogs and watch YouTube videos to give us an idea of what to look for there, we check travel related apps, and look for inspiration in these places. This gives us an idea of what activities we want to do. These can be booking tours to Machu Picchu in Peru, or island trips in Vietnam. We paid them partially in advance, so that we stretch our budget.
By booking some of these main activities in advance, our expenses are distributed over a few months and we don’t have to pay for everything at once. But we are always flexible in our activity schedule, because if we meet someone during our trip and they recommend something to do we haven’t thought of before, it is good to have a spare day. It is also good to keep some margin, because something unexpected can happen and then you need to postpone an activity. While on our trip in Argentina, where we had one of our internal flights postponed by one day due to a strike. We almost had to cancel our visit to the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia.
Our itinerary usually involves some sort of nature or outdoor activity. As we don’t mind walking, biking, hiking, and we like a bit of a mix up, we always like to check for nature spots close to the cities we visit. In that way, we can go for a Free walking tour in the city, get inspired by the culture there and then wander off into a quieter mountain or lake.
Travelling in a group: we don’t like travelling in a group, but we choose group activities in some of our trips, which can be quite fun.
4. Where to stay?
When it comes to where to stay, we usually go for a mix of mid-range hotels, airbnbs, hostels and we also use free resources like couchsurfing. We book them spread out over the months leading to the trip and not in one go, so that we don’t have to pay for everything at once and stretch the money in the process. Airbnb and Booking are the main resources we are using to find somewhere to stay, but there’s also some other alternatives that we will later explore in another article.
5. Book activities & Inner flights/trains/buses
Once we have our flights and accommodation booked and our activities researched, we make a daily travel plan of what we are going to do there. At this point, we book all the activities that we can book from home and also we check how we can get to the places we need to go. For e.g. for our trip to Peru, we booked all the buses we were going to take between cities online from Ireland. Again, by doing this we paid in small portions the expenses for our trip. We booked in advance our flight simulation experience in Toulouse, our shooting experience in Latvia, our hiking in Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina, our hot air balloon experience in Marrakech and many more… This is something that you can also do.
We always try to find how to best reach a place, what is the easiest, cheapest and safest way to go around. It’s a matter of trial and error, you reach a place, take a taxi once, Uber, or go by bus or train. Depends on what is easiest available, or also cheapest. There’s also a possibility to rent a car, or use car sharing services. There are numerous ways, and it’s only a matter of what you feel more comfortable or have time to do. In our itineraries we detail how we get to the places and if it’s expensive or not.
6. Check Passport, Currency & Vaccines
Because we live abroad, even if within the EU, it’s always good to have the passport up to date before and after the trip (at least 6 months after). Since it’s an expensive and lengthy process to do it from another country, we make sure we take care of it as soon as we know we are going somewhere. We also check the currency of the country we are going to and if they accept € or $. For e.g. in Cape Verde, they accept € along with their currency.
Another important tip that can save you some money is to subscribe to an online banking service like Revolut, which gives you the best exchange rates while you’re travelling. We rarely bring money with us, so we just withdraw in the country as we go along. Focus on withdrawing more money in the beginning, so you pay less ATM fees. From our experience, paying in the local currency is cheaper than using € or $. However, keep in mind that getting local currency if it’s at the airport or through exchange bureaus, can be more expensive because of the exchange fee you end up paying. We also always bring cash with us, especially if we go to more remote places.
Have your vaccines up to date. Depending where you’re going, in some places it is good to have Hepatitis A or B vaccine for e,g,. Make sure to take these, you don’t want to risk ruining your holidays by staying in a hospital bed somewhere. Also, take with you pills, can be for malaria, altitude sickness, etc. Some of these we definitely used in our trip to Peru for e.g.
7. Travel rewards – air miles
We haven’t really taken advantage so far of any of these tips, but it is something to keep in mind.
7.1 Credit card and miles
It is common to have a credit card that allows you to accumulate points and use it in all travel related expenses. Keep an eye on it.
7.2 Air miles
When it comes to air miles it is something that we have subscribed to. You can easily do it for free: choose an airline, subscribe to their air miles program and everytime you fly with them you accumulate these miles that eventually can lead to either a discount or free flight. They usually have an expiration date however, so it’s not so easy to get a free flight. Nonetheless, if you are strategic about your flight purchases you might get some good deals.
As an e.g. if you fly with Lufthansa (part of the Star Alliance Group) you accumulate miles that then you can use with one of its partners like TAP. So far for us, we haven’t really taken advantage of this, as we are flying to different destinations and usually we choose the airline that is offering the best price/quality at that moment for that destination, and not necessarily the airline that we have mileage with.
The 7 steps plan we highlighted above, hopefully will make your dream trip come true faster. These are just a starting point. This is how we plan our trips and as you can see it’s not so difficult, it just takes time, patience and best of all excitement for where and when your next adventure is going to be!