How to Plan a Trip?

I know that summer is getting closer to its end, but as some of you are probably starting to plan their trip for next winter I thought you might appreciate this new tips article. When I don’t know so much about a topic I don’t hesitate to let you know, but when it comes to travelling I’m probably what you could call an expert.

I’ve travelled a lot and in almost all the continents and sometimes for more than 6 months in a row. So I’ve planned many trips and I still plan to do this for a while as I love travelling. So, below you will find all my tips for planning a trip so that you can make the most of your travelling experience. More planing for less thinking later!

(By the way, this picture was taken in 2010 during my trip to Thailand. This is on the island of Koh Phi Phi where the movie The Beach was filmed for those who remember)

Navigate: Choose your Destination | Budget | List of Things to Bring & Packing | Passport & Travel Documents | Other Tips for an Awesome Trip | Resources

Choose your Destination

This could seem like an easy step but there are quite a few things to consider when you decide where to go. So here’s a quick list of, I think, the most important things to consider when choosing your next destination:

Season/Weather: What is going to be the weather like? Trust me you probably don’t want to be in Asia during the rainy season. And don’t forget that South American countries during our summer months in Canada (June, July & August) are probably not that hot and tend to be very humid. I can guarantee that Peru in August is not really warm!
Political Situation: Is it going to be easy and safe to travel in the country? What happened lately there politically? Don’t forget to consider your personal situation also such as woman will need to adapt her wardrobe if planning to travel in countries where cultural references and religious beliefs are different.
Government Alerts: Have a look on the Government of Canada website to check if there are any warnings about your destination. Read it carefully as sometimes it only applies to a specific region of the country and you can safely travel in other areas.
Kind of Trip: What are you looking for? Are you more after an all-inclusive package destination or a backpacking in the jungle trip? Some destinations are easier to travel backpacking than others.
Currency Exchange Rate: As the Canadian dollar value changes often, you might want to check what is the currency exchange rate with the other country as it can seriously affect your budget.
Trip length & Jet Lag: Consider how much time off you have and also how much time (flight hours) it would take to get there. For example, if you only have a vacation that is 1 week long, you might want to eliminate Asia from your possible list of destinations as it normally take about 20 hours to get there. And don’t forget to consider the jet lag when going to Europe for example as if you choose a South American destination instead it should normally be a lot less.

Budget

This is probably one of the most important steps when planning your trip, unless you’re a millionaire but I guess that if it’s the case you’re probably not reading this blog right now ;) Travelling in Europe versus in South America doesn’t cost the same thing, this is why building a budget accordingly to your destination is an important step of this process if you don’t want to have any bad surprises. Likewise, the plane ticket to Bangkok might be more expensive than one to go to Paris, but what would be your daily expenses at each city?

To help you do that, I recommend that you have a look at different travel books such as Lonely Planet. They normally contain a section with an estimate of daily expenses you could expect to have depending on the kind of trip you plan to do. From my personal experience, I would say that you should also plan a buffer (in project management this is normally 10% of the total amount) as there are always surprises and unplanned events happening during a trip. And you would rather have extra money than not enough.

List of Things to Bring & Packing

As soon as you’ve chosen your destination and your itinerary, I would suggest that you build up a list of stuff you will need to bring with you. This helps you to identify stuff you don’t have that you might need to buy or to borrow from relatives. And it will also avoid that you end up spending a few hundred dollars for stuff you needed right before leaving.

Another suggestion, travel light! Bringing clothes you’ll never wear takes room in your luggage which means less souvenirs to bring back and a heavier luggage to carry. And this apply to any kind of trips I think. To know what essentials you need to bring with you, I also recommend you use a travel guide book that normally has pretty exhaustive lists of essentials things to bring.

When it comes to packing your stuff, I think that it could become a lot more complicated and important if you’re backpacking. As you don’t want to have to empty your backpack every night to find clothes that you’ve packed at the bottom of it, you really need to think about it. It should be as simple as: put on top what you’ll need for the next day! And put in the side pockets what you will need every day. But we all know that at one point we will need something that is at the bottom of our backpack ;) It’s also important to always keep your valuable things on you or on a small backpack that is lock so people cannot go through your stuff easily. Never put them in your luggage/backpack.

Passport & Travel Documents

First I thought about including this section into the previous one, but I realized that it would have contained too much information so I’ve decided to make a whole section dedicated to what documents you need to bring with you. First of all if you’re leaving the country, your passport will certainly be needed. Note that most of the countries also ask for your passport to be valid for a 6 months period after you left the country.

As soon as you’ve book your flight you also want to verify if a visa is needed to enter the country. Every visa has different restrictions and some can be more expensive than others. I think I’ve spent more money on my visa to go to Cambodia than what I actually ended up spending while travelling there ;) Read carefully on the country’s website what you need to do in order to get your visa as some might need to be done in advance while others can be done at the border. Note that sometimes getting a visa at the border will cost you more than if you do it before. You can always refer to a travel agency that can do it for you. As Canadians we’re lucky enough to be able to get visas for almost all countries pretty easily.

When travelling I always have a photocopy of every important document I’m bringing with me such as my passport and visa. This is normally kept in a different luggage than the original documents, just in case anything happens. Plus my parents also have another photocopy so I’m ready for the worst case scenario.

Other Tips for an Awesome Trip

I think I could have spent an entire day just listing tips for planning a perfect trip, so here are a few more advice I could give you. First, one of the most important thing I would recommend certainly is to read as much as you can about your destination. The more information you have, the more you can travel easily, safely and enjoy your trip.

I highly suggest that prior to your departure you check for travelling insurance that are always helpful if ever anything happens. Get a quote from your bank and from other insurance companies for one that covers emergency medical, trip cancellation and luggage. What you will end up paying for your insurance is nothing compare to what you would need to pay in an emergency situation. I got robbed once during a trip to Spain and trust me it was worth it.

When writing this blog post I realized that I could have also talked about a lot more topics such as how to get the cheapest flights, how to spend less money when travelling, how to choose your hotel, what are the best travel guides, etc. So stay posted with this Tips blog and you might see more articles about travelling shortly.

Resources

For online bookings: Bookit.com, Canadian Affair, CheapOair, Expedia.ca, Gap Adventures, Hotels.com, Travelocity.ca, VRBO, etc.
For information: Gogobot, Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, etc.

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