You’ve decided that you want to make some unforgettable memories and take a trip. Great, that’s the easy part! Now, a lot of questions start flooding into our heads: Where do I want to go? Who will come with me? How do I find out information about that country?
Taking a vacation or a longer trip is an exciting experience that we spend months looking forward to, but planning a trip shouldn’t be stressful, it should be exciting! Trip preparation should be part of the fun, a build-up to the moment when you finally step onto that plane.
Whether you’re going on vacation or booking a one-way ticket, here are 6 trip preparation steps to follow before you go:
Step 1: Decide where you want to go
There are nearly 200 countries on our beautiful planet, offering endless opportunities of exploration. That number can be overwhelming, so here are some questions to consider in order to narrow down where you want to go:
What type of trip are you looking for?
Do you want an adventure-packed vacation? Does the sound of summiting mountains or paragliding over valleys sound enticing?
Maybe you’d prefer to spend your time lounging on white-sand beaches with warm waves lapping at your toes?
It’s important to know what kind of trip you want!
When do you want to go?
The weather can be a big help in deciding where you should visit.
For example, the rainy season in most of Southeast Asia runs from May/June to late September/October. Whilst it’s still possible to visit during these months, your plans might be disrupted by heavy rainfall and intense humidity.
To fully enjoy your trip, I recommend visiting a country when the weather is at its best or in the shoulder months.
Top tip: Visiting a country during its shoulder months can mean fewer tourists and lower prices.
How long will you go for?
The duration of your trip can be very important for determining whether to visit somewhere close to you, or a country further away. If you only have one week, do you want to fly to the other side of the world and spend half of your trip jet-lagged?
Knowing how long your trip will be should help you when planning your itinerary, what you want to do and whether you’ll need a visa.
Step 2: Check what you need
Once you’ve decided where you want to visit, research what is needed to enter that country. It’s important to do this in advance as some things may take time to organise.
Your own government website and the country’s website are good places to find out entry and exit requirements, information on security and vaccinations.
Do you need a visa to enter that country? Can you apply for the visa online or in-person? Are certain vaccinations required to enter that country? These are all questions that you should know the answer to before booking anything for your trip.
Step 3: Research and make a rough plan
This is when the fun really begins! Researching and planning your trip gives you a taste of the incredible time that you’re going to have.
Where to start?
There is an abundance of information out there. Almost too much! You can watch YouTube videos, read blogs, search Instagram and purchase guides.
Find resources that are similar to you and your travel style. If you’re a solo traveller, follow advice from someone else travelling alone. If you’re going on a family vacation, there are plenty of resources aimed for this audience too.
How to organise your research?
Once I’ve got a feel for a country, I like to plan a loose itinerary. I use Google Maps to plot a rough route around the country, hitting all of the destinations that I don’t want to miss.
When doing this, keep in mind the duration of your trip. Try not to pack too much in, or you’ll end up travelling all the time and constantly tired!
Step 4: Choose where to stay and how to get around
For this step, knowing your budget is important. There are accommodation and transportation options to suit all travellers, you just need to know what to look for.
If you’re travelling solo or on a budget, then staying in hostels can be a great idea. They are budget-friendly and the best way to meet other travellers. To be even smarter with your money, try and find hostels that offer free breakfast and activities.
For those travelling in a couple or a group and have a bit more money to spend, the world's your oyster. Do you want to stay in an eco-lodge surrounded by nothing but jungle? Or is a villa on the beach more your style?
Top tip: Pick one booking site for accommodation and stick with it! Often, booking sites reward loyalty, and you can quickly start receiving 10-20% off your stay, or a free night.
Volunteering is an amazing way to learn new skills, meet life-long friends and get free accommodation at the same time.
Many hostels, private properties, farms and other places offer free accommodation and some other perks in exchange for a few hours of volunteer work per day. It's a great way to save money! You can find voluteering positions here on the Worldpackers website.
Although I wouldn’t recommend booking transportation before you go, it’s good to have an idea of how long it takes to get between each place and how much it costs. Having this information may change your route. Sitting on a bus for 12 hours might be too long if you’re only visiting that country for a week.
Websites such as Gecko Routes can be very useful for researching and booking your transportation.
Step 5: Make a list of experiences and activities that you want to do
Now go a little bit deeper with your research. When you’ve got your list of destinations, start looking into the top things to do in them. Is there anything on your bucket-list that you really want to tick off? Knowing what you can do in each of the places can give you an idea of how long you need to stay there for.
My recommendation is not to book any activities in advance, unless you know that they get booked up quickly. This allows you to remain flexible with your plans and it’s often much cheaper to book when you get there.
In most tourist destinations there are tour agencies selling tickets for the popular attractions and tours. You can haggle with these agencies and get a much better price than booking online.
Do you have time to volunteer?
Volunteering and staying in a place for a longer period of time really allows you to immerse yourself in the culture of a country. You’ll have a completely different experience this way.
Maybe slightly contradictory to everything that I’ve said above, but don’t plan too much.
Spontaneity and flexibility are two very wonderful things to have during your travels. The ability to change your plans in a second can lead to experiences and opportunities that you hadn’t even thought about.
You might meet some awesome people and want to continue travelling with them. Or, you may have missed an amazing activity when doing your research that you now want to do.
Doing research before you go saves you time when actually travelling. Booking accommodation, transportation and activities can then be done quickly and on-the-go as you already have the information. Instead you can spend more time having the time of your life!
After following these 6 steps to plan your trip, it’s time to count down the days and begin packing your bags! This minimalist packing list can help you with your trip preparation.
If you like these tips, follow Worldpackers social media to keep up with the news: we are on Instagram, Tiktok and YouTube!
Join the community!
Create a free Worldpackers account to discover volunteer experiences perfect for you and get access to exclusive travel discounts!