This page is all about trip planning! More importantly, this page is all about how to plan a trip so that the process is as stress-free as possible. We plan quite a few trips each year but getting started with choosing where exactly to go, how to book, and what to pack can always be a tricky part of the process!
Wherever you may be in the trip planning process, here is a step-by-step guide on how to plan a trip. We follow these exact steps ourselves and it works out really well for us!
If you are planning on travelling with your partner/significant other, you might want to check out our step-by-step guide on planning a trip with a partner because it might be a helpful post for you to read and follow!
Friendly Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links which means we might make a commission if you buy something. At the same time, these companies are exactly what we use to book our travel.
When we don’t know where we want to go – or if we know what country but nothing more specific than that – we search around for ideas and inspiration. The places we like to look at are other websites (both bloggers and larger travel sites), books, Pinterest and even Instagram sometimes.
Then we usually make a list of the places we would like to see without making any decision at this point. This is just brainstorming! If you would like to get some travel ideas of your own, you can check out our page all about Travel Inspiration.
Research the Destination
After we have decided on a region, country, or city, we then look more in-depth to make the sure that the country/place is a place we actually want to visit and that it aligns with our trip purpose.
Remember: A sunny holiday is very different than a hiking adventure through the Canadian Rocky Mountains! For this step, we look into feasibility of the actual travel like distances, travel dates, seasons, etc. and then more specifically at what in the place in mind offers in terms of things to do, etc.
If you’re thinking about planning a trip to a place in Europe or North America, check out our Destinations Page. You’ll very likely find more in-depth information about the country you are thinking of visiting since we specialize in those places!
Booking Your Trip
Once you have decided on where you want to go and potentially when you want to travel, you need to book everything. Contrary to popular belief, booking a trip really isn’t that scary and can definitely be done yourself. Of course, travel agents do great work but you can certainly handle it on your own if you take it step-by-step.
For flights, we usually check on Google Flights and Skyscanner for basic availability and prices and then book directly through the airline. You might use a third-party like Expedia which might have a cheaper price but we’ve found that if you need to ever change or cancel, it’s easier to book with airlines directly.
For travelling within Europe, we like to travel by train as much as we can. For international trains we like Omio to get a sense of train options in a country, timetables, prices, and more. If you’re travelling within one country, the local train company’s website is usually also a great source of information!
If you’re travelling by bus – which is honestly often a good option when you want a cheaper ticket – we like FlixBus and have taken it loads of times, both nationally within Germany and internationally.
For those looking at renting a car, we like to use RentalCars.com because it gives you a good overview of the different companies and their prices available in a city for the given dates you are renting for. However, we don’t rent cars all that often to be honest.
Once we know where we are going and how to get there, we usually set up our accommodations! Often times, we book in order of our trip: first accommodation, transportation between, second location, second transport, and so on until the end!
When it comes to booking hotels and guesthouses, we really like Booking.com and have used it loads of times as our primary booking platform. It’s a good way to check honest reviews and see the properties before booking.
When we have stayed in hostels in the past (sometimes we still do – but we feel like we’re getting old), we trust Hostelworld as a great way to compare hostels, check reviews and prices, and then book. Their mobile app is also super handy.
We have stayed in Airbnbs in the past (and they are great) but we avoid them in larger cities (Barcelona, Amsterdam, Toronto, etc) that have housing shortages already. That said, Airbnb is a good option for an apartment rental in many places if you are doing a longer stay.
Activities and Tours
Once you have booked your flights/transportation and all – or most – of your accommodations, you can relax and then have a look at what exactly you want to do when you are at your destination! We have lots of attraction and things to do posts for specific cities – you can find them through our Destinations Page.
When it comes to actually looking for tours and activities in Europe and North America, we love GetYourGuide. This is because they usually have mobile tickets and we’ve always had good customer service when we (very rarely) have had to cancel an activity and get the money back.
In any case, some people plan tours and activities when they arrive while others book things far in advance – it really depends on your preference. Generally, we book things in advance because some top activities like a Croatia island hopping cruise can fill up if you travel in the busy season for that destination! And we’re also just planners, generally.
Once the trip is all booked, (one of the) only things left to do is pack! Obviously what you pack greatly depends on where you are going, the purpose of your trip, the time of year you are visiting, and how long you are going for. It’s not always the easiest task and can take some practice!
If you need a few packing lists to help you out, you can browse a number of them below:
For advice on great travel gear that we trust, you can check out our Travel Gear Page. Something people usually forget is to get a travel adapter because the plugs where you are going might be different from where you live. This is also the case between Europe and North America – our two main continents!
Other Trip Planning Considerations
Before you think you’re all done, here are just a few other important travel considerations you should think about or check into – depending on your destination!
- Travel Visas: Depending on your passport and the country you are travelling to, you MIGHT require a visa for entry as a tourist. There are electronic visas called eTAs for Canada, Australia, and the United States while India and China still require a paper visa that needs to be processed ahead of time. We recommend checking directly with the Immigration/Embassy website for the country you are travelling to see if your passport needs a visa to enter.
- Vaccinations: Another thing to research when picking a destination – and certainly before leaving on your trip – is whether or not you require any travel vaccinations (like Hepatitis A/B) and/or travel medications to bring along (like anti-malarial medication). Depending on the country, you might have to show proof of certain vaccinations before being allowed to enter/transit through. An example of this is with Yellow Fever vaccinations.
- Travel Insurance: You should have travel health/medical insurance for your trip because things can (and unfortunately do) go wrong while travelling. Having medical coverage is important or else you might face high costs to be taken care of! Eric – from Canada – has used Manulife and World Nomads while Lisa – from Germany – has used Allianz and TrueTraveller.
- Currencies: It’s always a good idea to check the currency that is used at your destination before you travel AND whether the destination is card-friendly. This way you can plan to bring cash with you before you leave or you can choose to take out cash when you arrive. We usually withdraw money when we arrive but you should do the math for the card/account you are using and the exchange rate to switch between currencies to see what makes more sense for you!