4-Step Guide on How to Plan the Perfect Trip

Updated on December 18, 2019
AntonyPilkington profile image

I love to get out and explore as much as possible. Whether it is culture, nature or cuisine, I'm doing my best to learn about it all!

I loved Mostar, Bosnia. You know the trip was worth it when you're sad to leave!
I loved Mostar, Bosnia. You know the trip was worth it when you're sad to leave!

So, You Want to Travel? Great Choice!

Travelling is amazing for so many reasons, but starting the planning process can be daunting! Luckily, I'm here to help. As someone who has planned many trips—both solo and with friends—I've narrowed the planning process down considerably, and I always start with the same four questions:

  1. Where do you want to go?
  2. Who do you want to go with?
  3. When are you going? (And how long for?)
  4. How much can you afford?

Together we will tackle these questions and get you on your way to planning your first adventure. Let's get to it!

Step 1: Decide Where You Want to Go

There are two ways of reading that sentence:

  1. "Yay! Let's get started! I'm excited, let the adventure begin!"
  2. "URGH! Can't I just get on the plane already?!"

Whichever one strikes a chord with you, fear not! You can adapt these steps to what is best for you! (Disclaimer: This will only work if you are realistic and honest with yourself!)

Now, I love maps—of the world, of cities, of places in general. So my "Step 1" naturally involves grabbing a map of the world and laying it out in front of me! I wholeheartedly recommend that you do the same.

Have a look at the map you choose and cover up anywhere that you have no interest in visiting right now. Simply continue covering up places until you've narrowed down your search!

If my map technique doesn't feel right to you, here are a few other options:

  • Ask your friends for their top travel recommendations!
  • Think back to the setting of your favorite book, movie, or TV show, and go there!
  • Do a little research online to see if there's a particular destination that appeals to you.
  • See where ticket prices are cheapest!

A Cart Ride With Friends at the Mekong Delta in Vietnam
A Cart Ride With Friends at the Mekong Delta in Vietnam

Step 2: Figure Out Who Is Going

There are basically two options here:

  1. You (alone)
  2. You (with a friend/group)

There are pros and cons to both (and the pros of one seem to be the cons of the other), so it all comes down to preference.

Pros of Travelling Alone:

  • Freedom
  • Selfishness
  • More potential to learn/grow (in my opinion)
  • Having to figure things out yourself
  • Forces you to be more social

Pros of Travelling With Others:

  • Safety in numbers
  • Less individual responsibility for planning
  • Can reduce costs for shared accommodation, etc.
  • Already have friends
  • Can figure things out together

When I first went travelling alone, I was scared that I wouldn't make any friends; it turns out that I often found it more difficult to tell people I needed alone time!

How Does the "WHO" Change Your Planning?

Travelling Solo
Group Travel
Safety: Avoid places you'll feel unsafe.
Group Interests: Avoid places that not everyone will like.
Meeting People: Avoid places that are too touristy/remote.
Group Dynamic: Avoid places that don't fit your group's dynamic (e.g. do you want to party all night long? Or hike all day long?).
Challenge: Avoid places that are too similar/different to home, depending on the challenge you want (cultural difference/language, etc.).
Organisation: Avoid places that will be logistically challenging for the group (maybe look at package tours for groups bigger than 4?).
As you answer the questions, cover up places on the map to help you narrow your search!
Just Me, Hiking in Sri Lanka With All My Mates
Just Me, Hiking in Sri Lanka With All My Mates

Step 3: Decide When You Want to Go

There are two real questions within this section:

a) How long are you free for?
b) What time of year will you be travelling?

Step 3a: How long are you free for?

This question should make you think about how long you want to be away and how far you are able to go. After all, time is very limiting! You don't want to spend half of your hard-won vacation time getting to and from your destination!

If you have a week off work and want to travel, I’d suggest somewhere that isn’t going to take too long to get to (e.g. travelling from London to Bali for a week is probably not worth it (even though Bali is amazing), so you're probably better off looking for somewhere closer).

Oh Bali! Why do you have to be so far away?
Oh Bali! Why do you have to be so far away?

If I'm having trouble deciding on a destination, I often look at flight times and think about what my time is worth and how much I want to see. Seeing many places in a short time means moving around a lot. Seeing a few places for a long time gives you more time to take in the culture . . . but you see fewer places!

If your schedule permits, allowing your plans to remain flexible can be a real treat. I recently went to Belgrade and booked 3 nights to explore the city. Over two weeks later, the receptionist of Hedonist Hostel, booked me a shuttle to Bosnia Herzegovina because the hostel was fully booked. I like to take my time and move on when I am ready.

If there are places you want to go but don’t have time to see on this trip, save them for another trip!

My Rough Preference Guide (Flight Time vs. Backpacking Time)

Flight Time
Backpacking Time
2 hours
4 days +
4 hours
1 week +
6 hours
3 weeks +
7 hours +
1–1.5 months +
I managed to time my trip in New Zealand with pretty perfect weather!
I managed to time my trip in New Zealand with pretty perfect weather!

Step 3b: What time of year will you be travelling?

Looking for sun in January? Avoid Sweden! Looking for snow at Christmas? Avoid New Zealand!

Not all countries have four seasons in the same way as the UK. A quick Google search will show you when the best times to visit a country are. Important seasons (other than summer, autumn, winter and spring) to look out for are the following:

  • Wet/Dry season
  • Monsoon season
  • Hurricane season

Khaosan Road in Bangkok is one of the best places to get crazy cheap, crazy good street food as a backpacker!
Khaosan Road in Bangkok is one of the best places to get crazy cheap, crazy good street food as a backpacker!

Step 4: Set a Realistic Budget

When planning a trip, it's critical to ask yourself how much you can actually afford (and answer honestly!). Here are a few main factors to consider:

  • Getting there (plane/bus/train)
  • Travel Insurance
  • Accommodation
  • Getting around
  • Food
  • Activities

On average, I have found that around £40 ($52) a day is more than enough (after arrival). Depending on the destination, however, this figure might shift considerably; for example, it is possible to travel in Thailand for just £5 ($6.50) a day.

Price (£)
Price ($)
Hostel (With Breakfast)
Food (2 Meals—Streetfood)
Walking Around Markets
Large Beer
Rough prices for a day in Thailand for the budget conscious!

Happy Travels!

Hopefully, there are still areas of your map uncovered! If you have a lot left, then you are lucky—it is time to start putting together combinations of places and figure out which ones really spark your excitement!

My sole aim is to help you plan a trip. Please leave a comment below if you liked the article, think I missed something or want information about another aspect of travel! Bon voyage!

© 2019 Antony Pilkington


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      8 months ago from UK

      You give great tips in this article. We often struggle on the where to go question. The cover up the map strategy is a great idea.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wanderwisdom.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)