Travel planning can be daunting. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when it is a complicated itinerary or a long world-spanning journey.
I have planned countless trips and holidays for over the years (for myself, friends, family and customers) and understand how getting the essentials right is key. So here is a step-by-step guide on how to travel plan effectively and with less stress.
1. Decide on your destination(s)
This sounds as though it should be the easiest step of all. With all the destination guides available on the internet nowadays there can be a risk of information overload unless you have a clear idea to start with. Instead of thinking that you want to go to a continent or country, it is much better to hone in on a specific region, island or city. Saying that you are going to Antigua rather than the Caribbean concentrates your mind and makes planning much smoother. Guidebooks and maps are also useful ways of finding out more about your chosen destination, routes and culture.
2. Decide the length of your trip
How long are you going away for? Until you know that you can't have a concrete plan. Sometimes it will be dependent on how much time off you have from work. Other times you might be flexible from 7 to 10 days. Try to be specific, for example "I'm going to Antigua for 14 nights". This will make it easier for you to find the right flight, hotel or package out of the vast array available.
3. Cost planning
Now you know where you want to go, where you going and how long you are going for, you need to set a budget. Firstly consider your style of travel, luxury hotels, all inclusive, backpacking, etc. You can then check out costs online on holiday comparison sites. Travel forums are also useful to find out how much things cost in your chosen destination. This gives you a guide as to how much you'll need for spending money. Don't forget to check the exchange rate so you know how much local currency you'll need to order. These days I find it more economical to get a small amount of currency for immediate needs on arrival then get what I need from the ATM in the destination. Of course this won't work if you're going somewhere remote!
4. Check for last minute deals
It's always worth checking travel offers to see if you can save money. You may dream of Antigua but perhaps there are special offers to Barbados right now. Maybe you can get an upgraded cabin on a cruise, or maybe you can go further for your budget. The world is a big place and there are so many places to see. Sometimes you can get a better deal if you're flexible. This does, of course, mean that you start your destination research again. But it is much quicker when the place has already been chosen.
5. Package deal or separate elements?
It is most often better to book your holiday as a package if you are taking a stay-put holiday in one destination. If you're planning a trip itinerary with multiple stops then you will almost certainly have to book your flight, accommodation and transfers separately.
6. Plan your activities
OK, so you have planned how to get to your destination and where you are staying, now you need to think about what you'll do when you get there. Of course you don't need to know every detail, just outline the major activities you want to enjoy and have an idea of the cost. Activities available will vary dependent on your destination and again, Tripadvisor forums can be really helpful. You can ask fellow travellers or local residents whether you can parascend, bugee jump or horse ride. Find out which local suppliers offer quad biking, surfing, gorge climbing or child-friendly activities. The internet is also a great place to find out more about landmarks that you want to discover on your sightseeing days. Not forgetting which are the best restaurants to try. Whatever you want to do you should make sure that your insurance covers it, particularly adrenaline sports.
Now you've decided where you are going, when, how and what you'll be doing when you get there, you are ready to plan what you need to take with you. A great tip to ensure you don't forget anything is to have a packing checklist. I've been using the same list for over 30 years and it hasn't changed much - apart from replacing the Walkman, camera and film with my mobile phone!
Make sure you include the essentials such as passport, tickets and money. You can add types of clothing and footwear (the checklist stops me forgetting nightwear!), toiletries, medication, etc. What you pack depends entirely on where you are going but I just cross off what I don't need from the list and add extras. When I go shopping pre-trip I take the list with me and highlight items as I buy them. When I pack my suitcase I lay out the items on the bed first and tick them off the list before packing the case. Happy days.
Why not download my checklist to get you started?
Still feeling overwhelmed? Why not use an experienced travel agent to make the travel planning process a cinch. Tasteful Travel are with you every step of the planning journey and can support you before, during and after your holiday.