Planning a trip can be stressful. Trying to balance budgets, time, transportation, weather, etc. can leave you frazzled when you want to just be excited for your adventure. I get you. Every time I plan a trip it’s the same thing – I end up stressed the week before rushing to finalize plans or change plans or buying things that I forgot or making packing lists and itineraries and it’s a whole lot of organizing and planning and replanning and changing my mind over and over again. Especially right now – I’m planning a two month trip where I have very specific goals and things I want to do on this trip like get my PADI Open Water in Cebu, Philippines and do a trek through Indonesia Borneo to see orangutans but I’m balancing so many other factors that my itinerary has changed at least 12 times. I’ve gained a few solids tricks to help make this process go my smoother, keep my headaches and stress to a minimum and stay as organized as possible. Here’s my simple guide on how to plan the perfect trip:
1. Read blogs
Yaaaaassss, step 1 complete! There are so many awesome blogs online that gives you real, up to date & usually unbiased information on what’s happening out there. Some of the best travel advice I’ve gotten has been from reading other peoples blogs or creeping instagrams. I’ve even reached out to a few people and asked their opinions on things if for instance I’m crossing a border by land and I’ve read it’s sketchy, or if I’m booking an expensive tour and want to know more about the company. I get lots of people messaging me on facebook and insta asking for travel advice and it makes me SO happy! Backpacking is a community and being able to help others get out there, break out of their comfort zone & see the world is the besssst feeling.
2. Pick up a travel book
Travel books will get you excited, will inspire you and will lay a good foundation for your travel plans. My personal favourite books are always the lonely planet ones. They have good advice for all budgets and are usually up to date. They’re also organized in a logical way and are an easy read. Just remember not to rely too heavily on guide books. Take the information as inspiration and then make your own itineraries and plans with what YOU want to do and see.
3. Write in a Notebook
It’s a good idea to write everything down in a notebook or in one place, especially if you’re planning an extensive trip! You can organize your budget, write down any advice or tips, plot out your itinerary, etc. Having a notebook is the best way to plan your trip and will keep you organized. I end up writing down so many lists: what to buy, what to do, what to bring, etc. Having a planning notebook saves me!
4. Use Trip Advisor
Trip advisor has it all – from top activities to do, to forums and discussions on how to get around. I use trip advisor for almost everything except I’ve never actually booked anything from there. It’s a great tool if you’re looking for some inspiration and answers to questions that come up while you plan!
5. Talk to friends who have already gone
Meet up with people who have already gone! They’ll be able to share their unedited stories and real experiences from their time abroad and you’ll be able to ask questions that they may have the answers to! Just don’t forget that not everything someone else loved/hated you’re going to feel the same about. It’s always great to hear their opinions but make sure to make your own while travelling!
6. Read reviews!!
Reviews are your best friends. I take my reviews seriously (but never really write any myself haha), especially when it comes to accommodation. What might look like a nice room from the photos might be a completely different situation when you get there. It’s like hostel catfishing. Read up on the recent reviews to know what’s really going on!
7. Wait to Book Some Things
If you’re going for a longer stretch of time, or you don’t know specifically what you want to do then just calm down and wait. Make sure you’re not travelling during the peak season to ensure that there will be rooms and hotels available to you and then just book as you go. Otherwise you’ll risk booking something and then deciding you would rather be somewhere else and lose money or not travel to where ever you wanted to go.
8. Use Accommodation websites like hostelworld, airbnb and hotels.com
Especially if you are a budget traveller, these websites will come in handy when planning a trip. Be cautious and make sure you check all three as you may assume you’ll find the cheapest options on hostelworld but I’ve found that sometimes the same listing has been on a different site for cheaper. At the end of the day, if you find a good place with a good review for a good price then you’re in the right spot.
9. Use Skyscanner for flights
I’ve used skyscanner for years now and they keep coming out with cool new ways to help plan amazing trips. For those who are unfamiliar with skyscanner it’s a website that finds the cheapest, fastest or best reviewed flights for you. It gives you options to be flexible with the date to find the cheapest flight AND it even lets you put it “everywhere” so if you’re flexible about where you want to go you can search to find the cheapest destination. Skyscanner also has new awesome tools like being able to book separate segments on different bookings to create a cheaper flight. This can be risky move so be warned because if you miss a connecting flight and have two separate bookings then you would have to pay for the next flight. They also have an option to do multiple city flights. For instance, I want to fly from Phuket, Thailand to Cebu, Philippines and theres usually a layover in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Rather than just taking the three hour layover I might extend that to two days so that my flight is the same price but I’m able to get a trip to Singapore with it.
10. Make a packing list
This is ones of my favourite parts of planning a trip.. but also one that can stress me out the most when I realize how much shit I want to buy before I go haha! I have made countless packing posts on this blog so feel free to explore them h e r e. Although they might not be for the exact same destination it will help as a guide.
11. Read up on entry/exit requirements for each country
Don’t be that person that shows up to the border without a visa…. when a visa was required. Do a quick google search before you go and make sure you have your documents lined up before you cross any borders! On your federal government website there will be information on entry/exit requirements so all it takes is for you to look there. You can find Canada’s on: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories
12. Read up on Safety
Always always always look into safety before you travel. Know what the common sense behaviours are in the place that you’re travelling to, because they may be different than at home. Pay attention to which areas in countries/cities you should avoid and plan your trip accordingly.
13. Download Maps
Before you go it’s a good idea to download some offline maps. You can do this from an app called maps.me! It’s a free app and has free map downloads. I’ve used these maps all over and they have proven themselves to sometimes be better than google maps. They have up to date coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, etc. and you can do everything you could with google maps on this app, it’s amazing!
14. Make your own decisions
Everyone has different opinions and might not like the same things as you. Learn, see and do for yourself. Even take this blog post with a grain of salt. I’m not here to tell you what to do and how to travel and neither is anyone else. If someone doesn’t like one place it still might be your favourite city in the whole world! We are all made different and we all travel and live differently, so let that be. Take inspiration from others, appreciate what they say and the ultimately use your own judgement and heart to make your own decisions and plans.
15. Be open to change
Things will happen and plans will change. You need to be able to accept this or else trip planning will be way more stressful than normal. I made an itinerary for my upcoming backpacking trip and then remembered that the typhoon season was going to be hitting the Philippines so if I wanted to go I had to go at the beginning of my trip, not at the end. This completely through a wrench in everything I had planned and cost me a little more because of flights. At the end of the day though these things will happen, and they’ll happen to you on the road too so you need to learn to not sweat the small stuff – because it’s ALL small stuff.
I hope these tips help make your adventure planning run a little bit smoother!