How to Plan Your Trip

You’re probably here because you want to plan your trip. Well, I’m confident that after reading this article, you will become a travel planning ninja. But before we dive in, I just wanted to take a moment to personally welcome you to my travel finance blog, The Thought Card.

On The Thought Card, I empower readers like you to make informed financial decisions and embrace their inner financially savvy traveler. Not only do I write on my blog, but I also have a fun podcast that you should definitely check out. Check out The Thought Card podcast here!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the trip planning process, first things first, take a deep breath and let it sink in that you’re actually going on a trip!

Perhaps this is a trip to one of your favorite places in the world (Iceland is mine) or maybe you’re going to a new country where you don’t speak the language. Either way, you’re planning a trip and that’s e-g-g-citing!

While there may be a lot of prep work involved before you go, in this blog post I will break down how to plan a trip. I have broken down the trip planning process into four main stages: 1) saving for a trip, 2) tracking flights, 3) planning your itinerary, and 4) pack your bags and go!

How to plan your trip from scratch. Hotel options.
Your next vacation is right around the corner!

Saving for a Trip

When it comes to budgeting in general, I recommend separating your money into multiple bank accounts.

If you want to travel the world, one bank account that I highly recommend having is a “travel fund”.

What is a travel fund?

A travel fund is simply a bank account where you save money for travel.

Why have a travel fund?

Having a bank account dedicated to travel ensures that you’re actively working towards your travel savings goals. It prevents overspending and undersaving, and at a glance, you know exactly how much you have saved up for a trip.

Your travel fund can be a checking account, savings account or money market. Give this special bank account a nickname like “Weekend Getaway with Bae”.

Danielle Desir in Disney World. How to plan a trip.
Our weekend at Walt Disney World!

For more tips on how to get started with a travel fund, listen to Episode 2 of The Thought Card podcast – Why You Need a Travel Fund.

Why save for travel consistently?

After you open a bank account devoted solely to travel, save for your next adventure each paycheck.

Determine an amount you can afford to save per pay period and automatically save that same amount each time you get paid via direct deposit.

How I plan my trips: When I first started traveling I saved $25 each paycheck. Now I save upwards of $200 per month. Whatever amount you decide to save, remember to save consistently. Consistency is key to developing good financial habits.

Saving consistently also means that you’ll have money available to hop on a good flight deal or go on a spontaneous trip without having to worry about your finances. Woohoo! Sounds nice right?

Girlfriend trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico!

The key takeaway here, automate saving for travel.

Next, create a budget for your vacation. Put together a list of places you want to visit and use blogs (like this one) to figure out how much it will cost you to get there, eat, and do fun activities like sea kayaking in Dubrovnik.

I actually share my vacation cost breakdowns for destinations I visit so feel free to use my blog as a resource.

Helpful Tip: Budget Your Trip is another helpful resource for determining travel costs around the world. Add all of your travel costs together to set your vacation budget.

Learn my easy step-by-step budgeting method by signing up for my Back to Budgeting Basics course.

Once you have a travel budget, start looking for flight deals.

Tracking Flights

This is actually my favorite part of the trip planning process.

I love cheap flights and to ensure that I get the best deal, first I establish a flight price baseline.

How do you establish a flight price baseline?

Do some research and answer the question, how much does it normally cost to get to a destination from your city? After figuring this out, try to beat that average.

For me finding cheap flights is so much fun, I’ve turned it into a game.

Danielle Desir

Although there are multiple ways to find flight deals, I primarily use Google Flights and Skyscanner but there are plenty of other sites that you can check out as well.

Dollar Flight Club is one of my favorite flight deal alert services.

When you find a flight that looks and feels like a really good deal, jump on it.

Now since you’ve been saving money in your travel fund all along, when it’s time to book your flights, you’ll have the funds available to pay for it.

Planning Your Itinerary

Once your flight and hotel are booked, then it’s time to plan the fun stuff. However, when your trip is short, you don’t have a lot of time to waste. If you really want to get the most out of your trip, it’s important to plan activities ahead of time.

How to Plan Your Trip: Having fun at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom on a water ride.
Fun at Magic Kingdom!

First, figure out the top things you want to see and create a hit list. This helps you maximize your time by focusing on the things and experiences that truly matter to you.

Pinterest is a great resource for finding things to do in various cities. Pins link directly to informative articles and travel guides.

Are you on Pinterest?

Follow my travel and personal finance-inspired Pinterest boards.

Next, figure out what routes you want to take. My itinerary is always on my phone. Google Maps is a great resource to map out your activities and routes. For good measure, also print out a map. You never know when it might come in handy.

Pack and Go!

Packing can be stressful and sometimes overwhelming. I hate packing so I am often stressing myself out because I leave it until the very last minute.

To help, use my packing list to help you pack the essentials. PackPoint travel list packing app is another option.

The night before you leave, check the weather and see if you should bring an umbrella, poncho or adaptors. If traveling internationally, the country you’re visiting may have different power outlets.

Lastly, don’t wait until you get there to get local currency.

Currency exchange kiosks at the airport overcharge so I suggest getting local currency at your local bank (at home). That way you have access to money immediately when you land. Lastly, while you’re traveling, connect safely online and protect your digital privacy with a VPN. Each trip is different so find one that best fit your needs with ProPrivacy.

Here’s a summary of how to plan your next trip:

  1. Open a travel fund.
  2. Save money consistently for travel.
  3. Pick destinations you want to visit.
  4. Set flight price alerts.
  5. Research how much it will cost.
  6. Create a travel budget.
  7. Plan out your itinerary
  8. Make your travel dreams a reality.

Where are you off to next?

Follow these steps, and let me know how your adventure goes.

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