7 Tips on How to Plan Your Travels

When readers write me, they tend to ask me all about the logistics of a trip – how do you plan your travels? How do you go about saving for your travels? How do you go about traveling in general.

Travel isn’t as easy as it seems, but getting yourself out the door is half the battle. I have a antique-looking map that is framed above my bed. There are times when I look at that map and I feel so small and so dwarfed. My eye wanders to Sydney, and there is literal an entire planet between there and here.

Sometimes I trip myself out a bit and start to think of things on a larger scale. I recently read this Buzzfeed article “26 Pictures That Will Make You Rethink Your Entire Existence“, and it basically takes you steps back from looking at where you live to zooming out and making you think of it as living in the solar system. It’s mental.

My point is: It’s a big, big universe out there. When it comes to travel, where do you even start? How do you plan your travels?

I’ve mapped out a very small path on how to get started when it comes to planning your travels, preparing for your trip, and how to jumpstart on saving money for travel.  It’s sort of what I am doing now as I look to future travels. As I mentioned once before, so much of my travel goals comes from reading magazines and seeing picture; Instagram gives me serious wanderlust. There are some places I’ve been to that I had always dreamed of, yes, but places like Iceland or Bolivia simply made the cut because I came across a photo and said to myself, “I need to go to those places”.

Regardless, here are seven steps to get you started as you plan your travels.

 Pick a Place


It might sound obvious, but it’s true. You can’t travel if you don’t know where you want to go. Maybe you’ve always dreamt of going to Rome and tracing the footsteps of emperors through the Roman Forum, or you’ve always wanted to learn to scuba dive, so your aquatic dreams are leading you toward Thailand or Belize. If your bucketlist is anything like mine, it probably has every country in the world on it. But you need to start somewhere, so put a pin on the map and get started.

Plan How Long You Want to be Gone For

For me, this is the part that is almost the most important. I learned from my seven weeks of backpacking across Europe not to squeeze too much into one trip; travel wisely. My opinion: It’s quality over quantity, and you’ll have a more enriching experience if you slowly explore a place than spend most of your time on transport from one place to another. Look at how much time you have on your hands, and think realistically. If you’ve only got eight days, for example, does it make sense to go to Sydney? As much as I love Sydney, I’d say it’s probably not the best option on such a short time frame. But what about London? Or even Rio or Buenos Aires?

Decide Your Style of Travel


Are you going to backpack and take local transport, or do you want to stay in nicer hotels and lead a more luxurious life on the road?  In order to be able to save, you need to know what kind of budget you’re looking to work with. Talk to other travelers, post questions on travel forums, attend travel meetups in your city, and do your research using blogs, travel books, and travel websites. It’s good to look into the average price of hostels, guesthouses, and hotels wherever you might be going.  Prefer street food or restaurants? Start to think about the finances of your trip, then you can start to estimate a daily budget for yourself – $25 dollars per day or maybe double that? Know the costs so you know what you need to save.

Start Saving Money

Here is the hard part, but when you have an end goal, you’ll start to focus your energy toward making that happen. I was terrible at saving money when I lived in Australia simply because there was (originally) no end in sight to my life in Australia, and I just sort of tossed the idea of traveling around without all too solid of a plan. When I lived in Korea, on the other hand, I knew that I was leaving Korea to backpack around Asia on August 26, 2011. There was an incentive for me to work toward.

Take a look at how you spend your money.  When I am really buckling down, I immediately cut coffee out of my budget. Think about it: nearly 5 dollars a day, and if you’re getting one every day? That’s a lot of cash. Make it or deal with the withdrawals, kids.

I also stop eating out and eat out once, maybe twice per week at max. I will be the first to admit my cooking skills are not all that amazing because cooking truly stresses me out (seriously, what does it mean when it says cut finely? How fine is finely?), but I would live off of simple, simple meals: vegetable and noodle stir fry or peanutbutter sandwiches. Remember, those repetitive meals are worth every second of your trip.

What I found most beneficial, though, was setting up an automatic savings that I couldn’t access all too easily. I never really missed the money because I didn’t even know I had it. Each time I got paid (and I have this set up right now), a chunk of it went straight out of my paycheck and into a savings. I could only withdraw the money from it by visiting the bank. Who the has time to do that? Not me.

Get a Good Travel Credit Card

4254714057_67cc69f0d7_o Flickr/Matt Sherberg

One of my biggest regrets was not investing in a travel card when I was younger, or frequent flyer miles: Europe and back – two times; Asia and back two and a half times; Australia and back – two times (kind of); and I booked it ALL through my debit card. Silly Sally (and yes, I did just say silly sally). But I learned, and I’ve since invested in my Capital One Rewards card and my Chase Sapphire Rewards Card. The membership fees are expensive, but the benefits pay off. I put nearly everything I do on these two cards, and in less than a year of having them, I’ve already earned about 700 dollars alone on one card. Eventually I’ll do a roundup of some good rewards cards.

Make Sure You’re With the Right Bank

One of the most frustrating parts of my travel was that I didn’t do the proper research beforehand, and I was with a bank where I was watching money drain away in ATM fees. It’s worth spending the time researching banks with branches in your area that also have ATM’s around the world or have no foreign transaction fees. When I was living in Australia, for example, I set up an account with Citibank just before I left to travel as the bank didn’t charge me for a transaction overseas (and there were a fair amount of Citibank ATM’s where I was headed). In the States, I know that Charles Schwab is a good option, but it’s always worth it to check out and see which banks are a part of the Global ATM Alliance.

Book Your Flight


It’s always smart to have price alerts and check a variety of different sites before jumping to book a flight. I use Skyscanner and Airfare Watchdog, but it’s also smart to sign up for a variety of travel deals, newsletters, and alerts. I set up a secondary email address so as not to clutter my email anymore than it already is, and I’ve so far found that a helpful way to keep it organized and stay on top of the alerts. Once you’ve found the price you want, jump on it. Use your credit card, buy the ticket, gain the miles, and start getting excited.

From here on out, it’s logistics. I spend more time reading about where I want to go or asking for advice than I do mapping out each day, and I never, ever book my hostels ahead of time; however, I’ve always had a fair amount of time in front of me whenever I’ve traveled, be it four weeks or 10 open-ended months.  When you have an ample amount of time in front you of, then it’s much easier to travel on a whim. If you’re traveling for a shorter time, then definitely look start reviewing and booking accommodation, into booking hotels, any necessary transport, any necessary activities, and the like.

And of course, most important of all before you start any of this? Make sure you’ve got a valid passport.

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