Lifestyle · Travel

Trip Planning for Dummies Like Me

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*Raises hand* Hi my name is Sarah and I admit to having no clue how to plan a successful 3-week trip abroad. It can be a really daunting task, with lodging, food, transportation, activities, budget, and everything in between to consider. It’s enough to make your head spin, trust me I understand! With that being said, I have managed to pick up a few tips over the past couple of months, and wanted to share what I have learned.

Keep a Travel Journal: I am a strong believer in writing things down. During the school year, you will never see me without my trusty planner in my bag. I use it to keep track of absolutely everything going on in my life, and don’t really think I could function without it. So, I applied this habit to trip planning and it works to calm my mind in the same way. Mine contains flight information, packing lists, a vague itinerary, and random thoughts to be sorted out later. I am constantly adding to it and crossing things out. It’s great to have all my information in one spot that is easily accessible, plus there is something so satisfying about writing things out the old fashioned way!

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Image via: Pinterest

Stick to One Country/City at a Time: More than once, I have found myself with approximately 20 tabs open on my computer containing potential hostel/Airbnb/hotel choices for each country we will be visiting. This only made me more stressed and confused because I had tried to tackle everything in the “lodging” category all at once. I have found that sticking to just one country at a time really simplifies this task. Not only does it make the research seem less intense, it also allows you to chronologize this portion of planning so that you can check off countries as they will be visited on your trip.

Plan in the Order of Your Trip: As stated above, I find it immensely helpful to plan in the sequence of your trip. It won’t do you any good to decide you want to take a gondola ride up the Alps on Friday morning when, after the fact, you realize there won’t be any trains from Florence to Switzerland until the afternoon. This also assists with budgeting, since you can keep a running tally of how much you are spending in order to better understand what you will have to work with in each location. To save yourself the headache, plan from the first day of your trip onwards, you will thank me later!

Buy Flights on a Tuesday, in an Incognito Window: THIS IS SO IMPORTANT GUYS!! Our round trip tickets from Boston to Paris and vice versa only ended up being $480 because of this simple little tip. For some unknown reason, flights are way cheaper on Tuesdays (preferably in the morning) than any other day of the week. When I first started researching flights, I was finding around $650 to be a normal round trip amount, so I figured that was going to be how much I had to spend. However, I cannot stress how important it is to shop around for flights. I would search through Google Flights on an incognito tab so that the website wouldn’t save my searches and jack up the prices. This article from World of Wanderlust explains this in a little more detail. I am living proof that it is possible to find relatively cheap round trip tickets, so don’t settle! Chances are you will be able to find something cheaper than what you initially budgeted for. 

Ask Around for Advice: Striking up conversation with family and friends about your upcoming adventure will inevitably lead to someone knowing something about a place you’re visiting. Indulge in this knowledge! It’s one thing trying to gain information from the internet or guide books, it’s a whole other ballpark when you’re talking to someone about a time where they were actually in that location. These resources can give you the best advice on where to stay, what to do, which restaurants aren’t just tourist traps, ect. Even if they haven’t been to where you plan to go specifically, I’m sure they will have some type of general advice to give you. That’s the beauty of travel, it is riddled with parallels regardless of where you go, so soak up any experience-based knowledge that the people around you can give.

So there you have it! A few of my best planning tips so far. I plan to update this closer to our departure date with more information, so keep an eye out for that article. Until next time!

-Sarah