Trip planning is an art, not a science. And although there's no prescription for crafting a masterpiece, follow these three steps and you'll be on your way to creating your perfect trip plan.
1. Choose the perfect destination
The perfect trip plan starts with the perfect destination. But here's the tricky part: no one place is perfect for everyone, and finding your perfect destination will involve some soul searching.
First, ask yourself a few questions: What do I want to do? How much time do I have? What is my travel budget? Whom will I travel with?
Even if your travel wish list resembles a Tolstoy novel, attacking each of these questions should relegate it to a legal pad.
If there's one destination on your shortlist that you've always dreamed about, the decision's a no-brainer. Still stuck? Choose a destination where you can enjoy your favorite cuisine, strike something off your bucket list, or learn a cool new skill.
2. Plan what matters first
With trip plans less is often more, and the best ones are never the most detailed, but the most flexible. Don't stress about the extraneous details at first; here's what matters most:
- Getting There and Away – Don't let an expensive flight kill an otherwise perfect trip plan. Sign up for airline newsletters and fare alerts to stay on top of the best deals. Most of all remain flexible—with dates, time of day, and day of the week—to secure the cheapest airfares.
- Entry Requirements – Traveling is not always as easy as hopping on a plane and showing up at immigration. Many countries require pre-arranged visas, invitations, and all kinds of fun, complicated paperwork for entry. Always research and prepare for national entry requirements before heading off to ensure a safe and hassle-free arrival.
- Travel Insurance – There are three things I never leave home without: a passport, money and travel insurance. A comprehensive travel insurance policy can spell the difference between a worry-free trip and disaster. Don't take the chance; always protect yourself.
3. Don't etch your plan; sketch it.
Of all the mortal enemies of the perfect travel plan, none is fiercer than over-planning. Following a breakneck-paced trip plan—dashing between cities and sights, leaving no time for exploration—spells disappointment even for the most agile travelers.
Instead of casting your travel plans in stone, sketch them. Avoid crafting overly ambitious itineraries that adhere to stressful daily schedules and involve more traveling than wandering. Rome wasn't built in a day, and you can't see it all in one either. So why not just relax and let the travel gods guide you?
Although booking everything—rooms, tours, and train/bus tickets—before setting off seems logical, you'll usually end up overpaying while sacrificing flexibility. Consider even finding accommodation, beyond your first few nights, on the fly. You'll open up a world of possibilities—homestays, apartments, guesthouses, and pensions—that you'd have never found before arriving.
What are your favorite tips for planning the perfect trip?