Traveling is fun but planning a trip can be a stressful experience depending on a few aspects.
If you have been following our adventures, I’m sure you must have noticed that San and I usually encourage spontaneous travel. But hey – don’t get us wrong. A basic level of pre-planning is required to avoid last minute mess-ups. At times we have managed to do everything within one hour, but hey – it all depends on the kind trip that we’re taking.
The level of planning that is required for any vacation doesn’t necessarily only depend on the duration of the trip but many other aspects. If you’re traveling internationally or solo or just visiting a new destination – there is usually a need for a more thorough planning to avoid last-minute surprises that are bound to spring up.
So are you planning on travel anytime soon and wondering if you’re forgetting something? Check out our list, most likely we have covered every aspect of trip planning to help you enjoy your vacation:
1) Choosing Where to Go
Like many people, San and I don’t just pick the first destination that comes to our mind. Instead, we decide where to go based on many factors. At this stage of planning, we usually keep one or two aspects of our trip flexible – it can be the dates, the destination or even the method of transportation.
At this stage of travel planning, we ask ourselves a few questions:
Is it easy to reach there?
Do we need a visa for this destination (or destinations if it is multiple countries)?
Will it be a high season at the time of our visit?
Can we just drive there ourselves?
Most of the time we check multiple websites to find a list the destinations that fit our budget for a specific period of time. We really like the vacation planning grid on Tripcentral.ca that tells us the overall travel cost for multiple places for different months.
Another website that we always check is Skyscanner because it has a feature called “everywhere” that tells us the cheapest places where one can fly and even the cheapest months.
2) Booking Transport to Reach
Usually for us, this step of the planning process is not as long as the others because we often pick where to go depending on how feasible it is to reach there. By this stage, we usually know how we’re going to reach there.
While we were living in Asia, we often just booked air tickets for visiting a new country except if we were traveling domestically. However, after moving to Europe, we consider driving, train transport, taking a bus or even sharing a ride on Bla Bla cars if we’re traveling within the European Union.
3) Sorting Out Your Stay
Just like most of the points on this list, even for this point we normally have a general idea of what we’re going to do at this stage because it is a deciding factor. If we’re visiting a super expensive city (like Amsterdam), then we normally first look for hostels. If it is a beach destination, then we look for beach huts, cabanas or cabins. For forests, we look for tree houses or safari lodges.
If we were driving there on a rented campervan, then we would most likely only consider campground. Again, a little basic research on a website like TripAdvisor surely helps to find the most suitable options.
At this stage, it is very important to keep the location of the stay in mind so that it is easy for you to move around.
4) Initiating Visa Paperwork, if Needed
San has a German passport and I have an Indian one. Usually he doesn’t need a visa but I do. Over the years I have applied for so many visas that the process comes to me naturally.
Typically, the visa process involves submitting a filled application along with the itinerary. In most cases, you’d also need to submit a copy of your air tickets, hotel booking, travel insurance, bank statement, proof of residence and proof of leaving the country. If you already have a US visa or a Schengen visa, some countries will let you enter without a pre visa or just an electronic visa (E.g. Turkey, the Philippines, Croatia, Romania, etc).
5) Checking the Weather and Packing Appropriately
Do not underestimate the importance of this step because you don’t want to be uncomfortably cold or when it is raining, or even snowing.
After spending a week in Sri Lanka’s rains, San and I decided to always check the weather forecast before packing. It doesn’t require a lot of effort to pack your rain poncho or gumboots but at times these things are super expensive to buy at touristy places.
It is always easier to pack for a beach holiday – you normally just need a few swimsuits, sarong, shorts, tank tops, a sundress or two and flip-flops. Packing for a cold destination needs careful packing so that you stay warm and comfortable all the time. It gets even trickier if you don’t have much baggage space and are going to multiple destinations out of which some are cold and the others are warm.
Packing for music festivals is a little different than most of the trips so be sure to check out our detailed guide.
6) Travel Insurance
I’m surprised to see how many people skip this point. Here’s the thing – booking travel insurance is usually not expensive. In fact, it can be as low as $20 based on the duration of your stay. However, paying for last minute disasters is usually not cheap and will make you regret not buying travel insurance.
7) PreBooking Special Activities
You may not need to prebook your activities or tours unless you’re doing something that’s once in a lifetime kind of special.
Back in 2010, when I visited the New York City, I wished I had prebooked Statue of Liberty’s Crown tickets so that I could go on top.
When I visited Thailand, I prebooked my Skydive because the slots were limited. I also prebooked my sleep aboard tour on Maya Bay so that I could be one of the very few ones to visit this amazing place before and after hours.
My point is – you don’t always need to prebook most of your activities or tours but in case you’re planning on doing something that’s been on your bucket list for long, you kind of have to make more effort from before.
8) Do You Need Foreign Exchange?
Believe it or not, most of the time I end up withdrawing money at ATMs when I reach a new country. Surprisingly the exchange rate is more favorable than what most Forex guys would charge.
However, there are exceptions – when I’m visiting Europe or America from Asia, I usually compare exchange rates from multiple Forex centers and exchange the currency one or two days before I fly.
9) Saving Your Travel Documents on your device
Go green and don’t print your travel documents unless they are absolutely necessary. Nowadays most of the places accept soft documents on hand held devices so I email them to myself and save PDFs on my phone. I often make a folder on Dropbox app on my iPhone and save an offline version of my travel documents.
10) Emptying Space on Your Phone or Camera Card for New Photos
Let’s face it – we all love to click photos. We’re not encouraging you to travel only through your camera lens, but we’re helping you prepare for being able to store your photos when you click them.
Being travel content creators, San and I usually carry three different cameras while we travel. Sometimes making space for new media takes time because not all transfers are quick. This is something we do on the last day before traveling and you’d want to do this too.
11) Charging All Gadgets the Night Before
Even though they are smart, sadly smartphones die faster than most of the gadgets. Nowadays most of the people don’t just rely on their chargers that can be plugged but also carry powerbanks and portable batteries. Powerbanks are extremely useful but they need to be charged for a longer duration so that they can actually work. We always charge all our gadgets before leaving and you’d want to do that too.
12) Recheck Your Flight Time Before You Sleep.. and Relax
San and I must have taken 100s of flights / trains and buses together but there was just one we missed. It happened because I got too confident about the time of our flight and I did not bother to double check. Lesson learned – always check the time of your flight before you go. After doing so, go set up an alarm and sleep for at least 8 hours before you go, unless you’re planning on sleeping while you’re on your way.
Remember the most important aspect of traveling – smile and stay in a good mood. Your smile will help you a lot in many situations but if your mood is bad, you will end up ruining your trip. So sit back, relax, smile and be happy that you’re lucky enough to travel.
Great checklist! I always forget to charge my mobile and power bank. Thank you for sharing this awesome checklist