You’re ready to start planning your next vacation, but don’t know where to begin. We put together the beginners guide to vacation planning in answer to several emailed questions about this topic. This 15 step travel planning guide will hopefully put you on the path to traveling more frequently.
First, you need to decide WHERE you want to travel. You need to give yourself a goal, something to make the trip real. Saying you want to travel more is great, but you need to know where you want to travel to. Deciding “I’m going to South America” or “I’m going to London” is going to get the ball rolling faster.
But deciding where to go isn’t always an easy task. There are so many places in the world that deciding on just one destination can be tough. It can be overwhelming and some of you may not even know how to begin picking a destination. Read on for my tips to get you headed in the right direction.
15 Step Travel Planning Guide:
1. Deciding when to travel – When to travel can be one of the most important travel factors. If you are limited to traveling during certain times of the year due to school or work, you’re likely going to be traveling during peak season. I recommend traveling during the off season, but that’s not always possible. If your job only allows you to take vacation time during the summer, try to plan for early June before kids get out of school. This will make travel cheaper and less crowded.
If you’re traveling around Christmas, the best days to fly are usually on Christmas or New Year’s Day or the days immediately preceding and following those dates. Being even slightly flexible with your travel dates can save a ton of money on transportation and accommodation plus allow you to enjoy popular tourist attractions with shorter wait times and less crowds.
2. What’s the weather? – Once you know when you can travel, you need to decide what type of climate you’re looking to enjoy on your vacation. Is it hot and you’re looking to cool off at a Northern retreat? Do you want to get away bfrom the snow and jet off to the beach? Figure out what type of weather you’re looking forward to in order to help narrow down your travel destination choices. This can go hand-in-hand with deciding when to travel as well.
3. How much time do you have? – Look at the length of time you have available to travel. While it’s feasible to travel from the US to Europe for 5 days, do you want to spend 2 of those coveted days in transit? Is there a weekend or holiday surrounding your travel dates, so you can add in a little more vacation time? Don’t forget that weekend trips are worth planning. You might discover a wonderful city just a few hours from home.
4. Keep a board of “Wanna Go” places on Pinterest – Have you fallen in love with the social media platform Pinterest? It’s not only a great resource for recipes, but a fabulous tool for vacation planning as well. If you’re at a total lose on where to go, simply search the term “travel” and see what pops up. As you browse through all the gorgeous pictures, pin places that catch your eye. When it’s time to start planning your next vacation, scroll through your board for inspiration.
Pinterest is also one of my top search engines for getting ideas on what to do and see, and where to stay and eat in a specific area. Simply type in a country, state or city you want to visit or a short phrase such as “Rome with kids” and BAM – you instantly have tips galore. Pin some of these to your Rome board to browse through later or start clicking into the pins to be directed immediately to an article to help plan your trip. I LOVE Pinterest for trip planning, even more than just using Google. It’s amazing to see what other families, like mine, have done in the next place I want to visit.
5. Use magazines for inspiration – As you flip through that new issue of Travel & Leisure, National Geographic Traveler or even Woman’s Day, clip the articles with places that look like a great spot for a holiday. You might not be able to visit for 2-years, but you will have the article for future reference.
6. Google it – Yes, you need to use the #1 search engine to help plan your next vacation. Once you know where to go, you need to start the planning process. One of the top search results will likely be TripAdvisor. This is a great first stop for your “Top 10 places to…” You can also find links to online magazine articles or blog posts for more ideas and tips to make your visit a success.
Make sure you’ve downloaded our FREE travel planner to customize your travel research, travel checklist and more!
7. Read travel blogs – You found this article right? Keep tabs on some of your favorite travel writers for vacation inspiration and tips. Find bloggers who specialize in specific regions, countries or types of travel (adventure, family, solo, etc.) to help narrow down your interests.
8. Ask friends & family – If you’re friends and family enjoy traveling, they can be a wealth of knowledge when it comes to travel planning. What cities did they love? Which do they wish they had spent 5 days instead of 1? Or even 1 day instead of 5! Take the time to speak to your closest advisors and make notes of their top vacation picks. You can even make a quick note on your smartphone then add it to your travel bucket list later.
9. Guide books aren’t dead – I love a good guide book. While they may seem a bit old school, a lot of research has gone into the creation of these books.
I have a particular affinity to the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, but Lonely Planet also puts out some of my favorite guides. Downloading the ebooks can save space (and weight) once you’re packing for your big adventure.
10. Classic library search – Another fantastic resource for travelers is your local library. You can find guide books and top destinations books for years gone by. But you’ll find more inspiration in your local library than just in the travel section. Just reading books in which the plot takes place in a faraway land, can help pave the way to your next voyage.
Take reading The Count of Monte Cristo and our journey to Marseille with kids as an example.
11. Watch deal sites – Daily deal site such as Groupon and LivingSocial offer specials to help entice you to travel well for less. While you can search these sites for current travel deals, you can also jot down notes of places to visit when deals hit your inbox.
12. Youtube videos galore – Have you ever Googled something and a video popped up in the results? Youtube can be an excellent source for trip planning and inspiration. Videos of all types are logged into search results just waiting to be discovered. You’ll find everything from grainy amateur videos to professional videos even shot with droids. It’s fun to watch videos of far off destinations to get you in the mood for your next great adventure.
13. Instagram share – Another social media site that has taken the world by storm is Instagram. With it’s gorgeous pictures and on-the-go platform, Instagram is a great way to find your next vacation destination.
14. Keep your ideas organized – Whether your collecting vacation spot ideas or planning for a specific getaway, you need to keep your notes in one place.
- Create a folder for those magazine clippings or sticky notes from when your best friend fell in love with a specific Hawaiian island.
- Create a bookmarked folder to keep article links you’ve found online.
- Create a Word document or Google Drive Doc to list places you’ve discovered or things to do.
- If you prefer something you can carry around, keep a dedicated notebook for writing and storing ideas. You can even paste in magazine clippings or print-outs for future reference.
Whatever method(s) you choose, have a go-to spot for your trip planning. You need somewhere to write down the name of the gorgeous city your cousin just shared a picture of on Facebook, right?
I have a friend that that uses a small notebook for her planning. It fits into her purse, so she can easily carry it around while traveling. Inside are handwritten notes, photocopies of key places to visit from guidebooks and highlighted articles. She even uses it for keeping a rough pre-trip itinerary as well as noting where she visited during the vacation, so all those little places don’t get lost in the excitement of a big trip.
15. Determine your budget – Now that you know where and when you want to travel, you need to determine your budget and start saving. How much will it cost to get you to London? Where do you want to stay and what do you want to do? Make a note of these costs then figure out how much you need to make the trip happen. We have a handy vacation budget planner to help you note all the costs involved with planning your next trip.
If you want to ensure you don’t break the bank, check out these Money Saving Summer Vacation Tips to help budget for your next vacation.
What other tips can you add to our travel planning guide?