Travel Planning can be incredibly stressful. I mean, there is so much to think about, like: where you want to travel, how you will budget, where to book flights and hotels, what to pack, and what to do in each destination. There is a lot to do when it comes to trip planning. The possibilities are endless, and it can sometimes be pretty overwhelming. Okay, it's ALWAYS overwhelming.

It can even lead to cowering in a corner and crying in frustration. I can't be the only one that does this!

Anyway, planning is what I do best. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I love making lists, and I know my way around a spreadsheet (more on that later!).

Whether you are looking to travel for the weekend, fly somewhere exotic, or embark on a once in a lifetime around the world trip, this guide will walk you through everything you need to do when planning your perfect trip!

Now, let's get packing!

What Type of Traveler are You?

Trip planning guide

There are a few questions to ask yourself before you start planning a trip. You need to figure out how you like to travel.

The first question you should ask yourself: Are you a planner or do you go with the flow? You may have a list of places you want to visit, but you don't want to plan too much, or you may want everything planned.

I am personally a planner and can get stressed out if I don't know have an itinerary mapping out where I will go and what I will do at each destination. I even take it a step further and make a google map of each destination, which includes activities, places I want to eat and places to stay, etc. You don't have to go that far, but you get the picture.

Another question to ask yourself is whether you are a slow or fast traveler, meaning would you rather experience more of one city or spend less time in a destination but see more places? 

When I tell people I am spending several weeks in one city or country, they look at me like I'm crazy. I prefer to get to know a place through the culture, people, and food, but I can't do that in 2 days. Lots of people enjoy visiting a place for a few days, seeing the top sites, and then moving on, and that's okay too.

Finally, do you prefer being by yourself or being in the company of others? Picking a travel buddy can be difficult. You never truly know someone until you have been on vacation with them. I prefer traveling alone because I can choose what I want to do during the day and when I want to do it. I love traveling with my friends, but traveling alone can be fulfilling, and it's much easier to meet people. 

There is no right or wrong way to travel, we are all unique and have our preferences, so think about what type of traveler you are and plan accordingly.

Why do you Want to Travel?

Every trip has a “why”, even if it's not clear at first. Below are several common reasons people travel, and of course, I can't list all the reasons, but this may help you figure out why you want to travel and help you plan your trip.

Adventure: Are you an adrenaline junkie looking for some high-intensity activities, or have you wanted to do a life-changing trek? Maybe Macchu Picchu has been a dream of yours? Or taking a safari to see the big five? Or riding a snowmobile in search of the northern lights?

Adventure Travel

Education: As Benjamin Franklin said, an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Maybe you want to learn a new language or teach English? Maybe take a cooking class? Learn a new skill that can only be learned in a particular destination like, imigongo painting class in Rwanda (painting using cow dung)?

Holidays: Holidays are fun to celebrate abroad, and some places go all out! Do you want to visit Europe in December for the Christmas markets? Visit Romania for Halloween and party at Dracula's castle? India, to celebrate Diwali? Chinese New Year in China? Or get drunk in Dublin for St Patricks Day? 

Holiday Travel

Festivals: There are thousands of festivals that go on year-round and attract millions of people. There are unique festivals like the underwater festival (Key West, Florida), and festivals celebrating dancefoodand culture. The list goes on and on. 

Food: Who doesn't love to try new foods when they travel? Some people travel just for the food. Do you want to do a dumpling tour through China? A cheese and wine tour through France? A pasta and pizza tour through Italy? Take a cooking class and learn how to make your favorite foods? Food is an excellent, and might I say, delicious way to explore a destination. 

Culture: Are you interested in history, museums, art, theater, or want to get immersed in the local culture of a new place? Learn a traditional dance, skill, or craft?

culture travel

Self-care: We all need some time away now and again, even just for the sake of staying sane with all the craziness our daily lives throw at us. This can be a yoga retreat in Bali, a spa getaway in California, or renting a cottage in the peaceful countryside of England.

Tracing family roots: DNA tests have gotten so detailed within these last few years. Now it's possible not only to see what country your family is from but also what region and sometimes even the city. Trips based on heritage are a really common reason to travel. There is so much that can be learned by following in our ancestor's footsteps.

Gap year: It's common in Australia and the UK to travel after high school or uni. Kids generally save up from the time they start high school and use that savings to travel for six months to a year, usually with friends, but often alone as well.  

Volunteering: Many people want to try living in a country for a set amount of time volunteering in exchange for a free room and sometimes food. This can include volunteering at a farm, animal sanctuary, in a village, or an orphanage. A few resources to find these opportunities is Volunteer HQGo AbroadVolunteer Forever, and WWOOF.    

volunteer travel

What to ask yourself before picking a destination

Picking a destination is the first step when trip planning, and to make that decision easier, here are several things you should think about before choosing a destination.

What is your budget? 

travel budget

Your budget is the ultimate deciding factor when choosing where to go. If you have a budget of $1000 for one month, you won't want to travel to Switzerland or France (where it's hella expensive!). I go into more detail on budgeting later. 

There are a few excellent tools that can help you decide where to travel based on your budget.

I like the site, Wander. It's pretty straightforward. All you have to do is input your entire trip budget, departure airport, and dates; then, Wander does its magic and finds trips based on the information you provided. 

Keep in mind, the airline deals they find won't always include checked bags.

Wherefor is another budget trip planning tool. It's similar to Wander. I love their slogan: “Where you can go for what you can spend”. It's worth checking out and seeing what budget trips they have available. 

What interests do you have?

landscape tra

When you think of taking a vacation, what do you think about? 

  • Are you lying on the beach with a book? 
  • Are you exploring a city’s sites and museums? 
  • Taking in the culture & history? 
  • Trekking through a jungle? 
  • Stuffing your face with yummy food? 
  • Drinking the best wine? 
  • Attending a festival? 

Thinking about what you enjoy doing can help you narrow down your search. For instance, if you want to lay on the beach, you wouldn’t go to Hungary because there’s no beach! Instead, you might pick an island in Thailand. 

What might help? Writing a list of hobbies and activities you like doing and thinking about which destinations are best, based on your list. If you love beautiful views and landscapes, New Zealand or Ireland would be great options. If you want to drink wine and eat good food, France or Italy would be perfect. Or if trekking through a jungle interests you, you may want to consider Colombia or Mexico. 

How do you want to get around?

Planes, Trains, Boats, Busses and Cars. How do you want to get from one place to another? Train travel can be slow but scenic. Plane travel can be a hassle, but fast. Taking a boat can be a relaxing way to see different places, but with limited itineraries. Boats are great modes of transport if you are island hopping. Busses are cheap, but slow. Car travel can be long and tiring, cars allow much more flexibility. Think about where you go based on your preferred mode of transportation and what destinations are best for that.

Do you want to travel solo or with friends?

travel with friends

Some people enjoy the freedom that comes with solo travel, and some prefer the company of others. Which one do you prefer? Here are some pros and cons for both. 

Pros of traveling solo

  • You have complete control of your itinerary: Wherever you want to go and whatever you want to do is entirely up to you. You choose what time you get up, where you eat and when you go to bed. You don't have to compromise with anyone and can travel based on your schedule. You are the boss of your trip!
  • It can be easier to meet people: Traveling solo allows you to make new friends. I have met my best friends while traveling by myself.
  • You are in charge of how you spend your money: When you are by yourself you can spend your money how you want. If you want to go a day without spending money – go for it! If you want to have a ‘treat yo self' day – go for it! 

Cons of traveling solo

  • It can get lonely: For some, being alone can be anxiety-inducing, and for that reason, solo travel can be difficult for some.
  • It can be awkward going to restaurants: Yep, you will get stares and sometimes questions about why you are alone. I always bring a book with me and read or do some work on my phone. Find things to do to take your mind off the awkwardness. 
  • It can get expensive: Traveling alone can add up. If you want to do a tour that is only available as private, you have to pay for two people. Accommodations can be more expensive, transfers, etc.
  • You have to be more careful: Night or day, traveling alone can be riskier. If something does happen, it can be challenging to deal with on your own, especially in a foreign language.

Pros of Traveling with People

  • You always have someone to go out with: You never have to worry about being alone or feeling awkward at restaurants or on tours because you have someone to keep you company.
  • You don't have to worry about all the planning: Planning a trip on your own can be stressful, so it's nice having someone with you to take some of that stress off your shoulders. 

Cons of Traveling with People

  • You won't have much alone time: This can be a toughy. I sometimes love my alone time and need a break now and then from human interaction, but when traveling with someone, it can be challenging to get that much needed alone time.
  • Arguments are more likely to happen: You can't escape the inevitable. When you spend enough time with someone, tensions will rise, and arguments will happen.
  • Your itinerary is a mutual decision: This is something to discuss with those you are traveling with before your trip. 

How long do you want to travel?

Do you want to take a short three-day weekend trip or travel for a few months? Determining the length of time you want to travel can weed out many destinations. For instance, if you lived in the states and wanted a weekend getaway, you would most likely choose a destination in the same country. It wouldn't make much sense to go to Asia or Europe for three days. If you are taking a gap year and traveling for several months, you can take many different routes.

Do you have any dietary restrictions or on a special diet?

Many people consider food to be a big part of traveling. Visiting a destination for the first time, you will discover many new and exciting foods to try, but if you are someone with allergies or have dietary restrictions, some destinations would not be a good fit. In many parts of Asia, it's normal to cook with peanuts and this wouldn't be ideal for someone with a peanut allergy. If you're vegan, certain places might be difficult to find vegan food (check out the app Happy Cow to find vegan/vegetarian restaurants).

If you do have an allergy, I recommend investing in Allergy Translation CardsThese cards can get translated into many different languages. They explain what your allergies are and hopefully no food you get will have any of those ingredients.

Do you have a disability?

Some places, unfortunately, aren't equipped to deal with wheelchairs, walkers or balance issues (like I have). Many cities in Europe for example, are over 2000 years old and are filled with uneven cobblestones. You will either gawk at how beautiful they are because well…nothing is that old in America or you will be miserable trying to walk or roll over them. I have had many painful falls in Europe on cobblestoned streets.

Have you checked the laws, culture and customs?

This is a question many people don't think about but should be taken into consideration. If you are a solo female traveler, how do certain cultures feel about women being alone? If you are in a relationship, is PDA (Public Displays of Affection) frowned upon? How do you have to dress? Do you have to cover your legs or shoulders?

I know it sucks to think about these things, but it's important to research local laws and customs before you travel. The last thing you want is to arrive someplace and unintentionally break the law or be disrespectful.

Is it safe?

Safety is not something to take lightly. Political situations can change in the blink of an eye, and certain places have more crime than others. Government websites will have Travel Advisories for its citizens, so before booking a trip, check your local government website to make sure the destination you want to visit is safe.

Types of Trips

Before picking a destination and taking your travel planning any further, you should figure out what type of trip you want to go on.

Cruise

Travel Planning Cruises

Cruises are a fun and stress-free way to discover the world. They don't require much planning; there is always a ton to do on the ship (a pool, shows, dancing); food is included, and you don't have to pack and unpack continually.

With thousands of itineraries to choose from spanning the entire globe, there is bound to be one that calls to you!

A few things to consider:

  • although you get to visit multiple destinations you usually only get about 24 hours (or less) in each port.
  • alcoholic beverages aren't included onboard and are very expensive.
  • wifi tends to be slow since cruise ships rely on satellites, so if you need to work and require the internet, you may have a problem.

If cruising interests you, but you don't want to commit to a long trip, there are 3-day itineraries worth looking into. this will give you a taste of that cruising life and see if it's something you would enjoy.

Types of cruises

River Cruises: These are small and intimate voyages along inland waterways. The ports they stop at are usually right in the center of town and the entire journey is scenic as the cruise passes tiny villages. 

Ocean Cruises: These ships can hold many people and get very crowded, but they are big enough that there is always something to do and somewhere to go. 

Themed CruisesThemed cruise getaways have jumped in popularity. There are hundreds of themed cruises to choose from like music cruisesfood & drink cruiseshealth & wellness cruisesdancing cruises and so much more! Do you have a specific interest? There is probably a cruise for you!

Cruise Travel Resources

Cruise Critic: Your guide to all things cruising. Is it your first time taking a cruise or you want to take a cruise but don't know which company to choose? Cruise critic has hundreds of reviews on different ships, companies, and advice on all things cruising.

Cruise Radio: This site is filled with podcasts about the latest cruising news. You can hear interviews from passengers who have recently taken cruises and listen to interviews from past cruise employees. 

The Avid Cruiser: A father-daughter team runs this blog. Anything you want to know about cruising, they have probably covered it. They have in-depth cruise reviews of hundreds of ships, plus sightseeing and recreational activity tips. If you are new to cruising, this blog is a great place to start.

Train

Travel Planning

Train travel is one of those experiences that everyone should add to their bucket list. It's a magical way to explore the world, and it's personally my favorite mode of transportation. Some of the prettiest scenery in the world can be experienced from a train. I mean, check out these amazing train routes. There are also fun themed train rides you can take like, The Cheese Train in SwitzerlandThe Wine Train in Sonoma, and The Polar Express (you know, from the book & movie!).

A few things to think about before taking a train:

Pros of taking a train

  • They are scenic and can offer some of the prettiest views in the world.
  • Trains are generally safer than cars
  • They are also environmentally friendly and use less energy than cars.
  • You can be flexible with your travel plans by purchasing a Flexible Fare ticket.

Cons of taking a train

  • Sometimes there is no assigned seating.
  • Depending on what country you visit and your budget, comfort can be iffy.
  • Bathrooms can be unclean and often don't even work (try and go before you board your train).
  • Like planes, trains can be very cramped.

Of course, this is just a general list. Every train is different, so make sure you do your research.

Train Travel Resources 

The Man in Seat 61: If you are looking for information regarding train travel, The Man in Seat 61 is a great place to start. They have an overwhelming amount of train route information spanning the entire globe and guide you in planning your perfect railway journey. 

Eurail: This is the most popular place to book train travel in Europe and to get information about different routes. If you are planning on exploring Europe by train, (I recommend you do), you'll want to invest in a Eurail Pass, which allows you to take the train as many times as you want for a set amount of time. Eurail passes are popular with backpackers and those who want more flexibility on their trip. All you need to do is choose your route and how long you want to travel.

Amtrack: Taking the train in America can be a remarkable experience. I mean, check out these routes. Amtrack leads the way when it comes to train travel in the states with routes spanning almost all 50 states!

Busses

Bus trip

Traveling by bus these days can be awesome! Many companies offer free wifi, comfy seats, and lots of luggage storage. I don't think I would take a bus trip that was more than 8 hours, but it's not too bad for one day's worth of travel.

Although busses can be an inexpensive mode of transportation, here are some things to think about:

  • They can be slow due to traffic or having multiple stops.
  • The bathroom doesn't always work, and sometimes there isn't even one.
  • Bus terminals can be sketchy.
  • Delays are inevitable. I once had a bus that was delayed for four hours.
  • Breakdowns can also happen. In Panama, a bus I was on broke down at 4 am and took 4 hours until we got on a new one.

It looks like there are many cons, but honestly, for the most part, busses are great. I have very rarely had issues, but as with any part of travel, things don't always go as planned.

Bus Travel Resources 

Busbud is a bus booking platform that shows the cheapest bus tickets. It's easy to use and one of the best websites to book bus tickets.

Flixbus: This is one of the most popular bus companies in Europe. If you plan to travel by bus through Europe, chances are you will be taking a Flixbus at least once. Most of the busses are double-decker, will have free wifi, and the seats are pretty comfy. 

Megabus: One of the more popular bus companies in the US and UK. It is one of the cheapest, offering tickets for as little as $1! You have to book pretty far in advance to get it that cheap, but even when the prices go up, it's still pretty reasonable. 

Greyhound: The most popular bus company in the US. Greyhound has been around forever, offering reasonably priced bus tickets all over the states. 

Wanderu is an online platform that allows you to find and compare bus, train, and airline tickets. I mostly use it for bus tickets, though. 

Road trip

Road Trip

There is so much of the world to see that, unfortunately, isn't easily accessible by public transportation, making road trips necessary. I don't drive, so for me to do a road trip, I have to convince one of my friends or a family member to take one (I never have to try too hard). 

A few things that make road trips so great are:

  • Flexibility to stop and go as you please.
  • It can be cheaper. For instance, If you are traveling with friends, it's less expensive than purchasing a plane or train tickets.
  • You can pack anything that fits in your car, and guess what? No overweight fees because it's your car and you make the rules!
  • You can quickly get off the beaten path and explore places that would otherwise be difficult to get to without a car.

See? There are so many perks when it comes to road-tripping. It makes me wish I had a driver's license. Oh, well… luckily, I have amazing friends and family that love taking road trips and let me tag along.

A few things to consider before taking a road trip (because there are always cons):

  • Parking your car at hotels and attractions can be pricy.
  • Bad weather can dictate how your trip goes. If there is snow and you don't have chains, you may have to cancel or change your route.
  • If something unexpected happens to your car, it can cost a lot of money to fix.

Road trips are a fantastic way to travel. The freedom and flexibility to do what you want and the feeling of being on the open road and in complete control is something that everyone should experience at least once.

Road Trip Travel Resources 

Roadtrippers: A great site when it comes to planning the perfect road trip. They have an easy to use in-site itinerary planner that showcases the best route from point A to B and cool attractions that you can stop at along the way. Even though I don't drive, I use road trippers when I am trip planning because they have a massive selection of cool “off the beaten path” attractions. 

Road Trip USA: A travel blog run by an Australian couple with a focus on cross country road trips and weekend getaways. They have a lot of great information like road trip itineraries, city guides, plus info on living on the road for those wanting to take a long road trip.

Backpacking

backpacking

Backpacking is used to describe a person traveling for a few weeks to several months and includes a backpack or luggage that is easily carried for an extended period of time. Although this is the definition of backpacking, I think it's more about the experiences of travel & going off the beaten path, traveling cheaply, staying in hostels, and meeting other like-minded travelers. I don't think the luggage necessarily matters. I have backpacked plenty of times with a suitcase.

Backpacking Travel Resources

Hostelworld: The most popular hostel booking website and my favorite one. What I love about them is that if you book a hostel and your plans change, you can cancel, and your deposit gets saved in the system and can be used for another booking. 

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A Beginner's Guide to Staying in a Hostel for the First Time

The Broke Backpacker: The ultimate source for all things backpacking. I always check The Broke Backpacker before I embark on a trip whether I want hostel recommendations, budget-friendly travel tips, or backpacking travel guides. It's a great place to plan your backpacking trip.

Tours

If you are traveling for the first time, traveling solo or even a seasoned traveler who hates trip planning, tours can be great. You have a tour director/guide that takes care of all the logistics, planning, and any problems you may have, and everyone on tour will become like family by the time it's complete.

The first time I traveled alone was on a trip to Ireland with a tour, and I had the best time! That is when I truly fell in love with travel, and I finished my trip with 40 amazing friends.

Although tours can be great for so many reasons, there are some things you should take into consideration before deciding to take one:

  • They are fast-paced with packed itineraries, and only about 12 – 24 hours are spent in each city.
  • Drama can happen since you can't control who goes on the tour with you.
  • There is no flexibility. Tours have fixed itineraries, so you are stuck doing what they have planned.
  • Lack of free time. In each city, you generally get a couple of hours of free time.
  • Tours can be expensive because everything is included but many times it's much cheaper doing it on your own.
  • Every morning you have to lug your bag to and from the bus.

Tours Travel Resources

TourRadar is the best (and my personal favorite) site to search and book multi-day tours. They have over 40,000 tours available whether you want to travel for food, wildlife, a festival, or holiday, history and more, they have an endless list to choose from.

Travel Document

travel document

Now we are getting somewhere! If you have traveled before, but never made a travel document to organize your plans, I am about to blow your mind.

Now I organize my entire life using spreadsheets. I honestly don't know how I lived life without them. I don't leave on any trip without my travel documents, which consist of a budget, itinerary, helpful info (language spoken, emergency contact, currency, etc.) , and then a layout of my accommodation, attractions/tours, restaurants, and a packing list.

I have put together a travel planning template. You just have to copy, and then you can fill it out with your information. This is the template I use for all of my trips. It keeps me organized and on top of all my travel plans.

How to Plan the Perfect Trip: The Only Travel Planning Guide You'll Need 2

How to budget for your Trip

How to budget for a trip

Time to talk about budgeting. I know, not always a fun topic, but we have to talk about it. Here are several ways I budget my money for travel, and hopefully you will find some of these tips helpful as well.

One way I keep track of my budget is by keeping a spending journal. You might be thinking, that sounds like so much work. It is a bit more work than say, taking out your credit card and making a purchase, but that is the point. If you are accountable for every single thing you buy, you will be able to realize certain things in your daily life you can sacrifice like that $5 coffee from Starbucks every morning. It's incredible how fast your mind will change to do I really need that?

There are certain things I don't buy because I can't be bothered to take out my spending journal and jot it down.

Before I leave on any trip, I always create a trip budget doing my own extensive travel research but also using sites like The Trip Cost or Budget Your Trip for estimates. 

If you have a trip you want to go on, you should start saving as soon as possible. Try and plan your dates and book your accommodations, activities, and tours because the longer you wait, the more likely things will fill up, or they may get more expensive. Planning in advance can save you money and stress.

Make sure you have some money in a “Break Your Budget” fund. There may be a restaurant you find out about on your trip that you have to try or an expensive tour that sounds fun. Although you should stick to your budget, splurging isn't a bad thing some of the time. You are on vacation, after all. You should enjoy it!

The last thing I recommend is to keep a lookout for credit card fees. Better yet, get a credit card with points. They generally have low fees, and if you rack up enough points, you can get free flights and hotel stays depending on the card you use. For more information on picking the right credit card for you, check out this article on The Best Travel Reward Cards from The Blonde Abroad. Make sure your ATM/debit card does not have foreign transaction fees.

Where do you Want to go? Finding Travel Inspiration

where to travel

Ah, my favorite part of trip planning; getting all that good travel inspiration! There is an endless amount of resources online when it comes to picking a destination. 

Pinterest: This is probably the most well-known resource and my personal favorite. Pinterest allows users to browse “pins,” which can be about anything. Users can save pins to boards that they create, for example, if I had a board called Europe Travel, all my Europe travel-related pins would be saved to that board. Millions of people use Pinterest to find travel inspiration and plan trips.

Google Earth: Has anyone else used Google Earth to take virtual walks in different cities? It’s a great way to explore a city without actually being there. Wander down streets, check out the exterior of various buildings, and see if there is a destination you just HAVE to explore in person.

Instagram: You can find amazing and breathtaking photos taken in places all over the world. Every time I scroll on Instagram, I feel the need to pack my bag and go.

Reddit: What I love about Reddit is the endless amounts of subgroups you can join. Subgroups are a specific online community and posts associated with it. For instance, if you are traveling to Prague, all you have to do is search Prague in the search box, and you will find r/Prague/. Locals and travelers alike will post recommendations, and you can ask questions. There are subgroups on pretty much every destination in the world. 

How to book flights

How to Plan the Perfect Trip: The Only Travel Planning Guide You'll Need 3

Now that you have all the pre-travel planning out of the way, it's time to book those flights! 

Skyscanner: I love using Skyscanner because they compare prices with lots of different airlines and websites. It's an excellent place to start when you are looking to purchase airline tickets.

Hopper: Hopper is an app that keeps track of the best times to book flights. You pick where you want to go, the dates, and Hopper will notify you when to book!

Momondo: For some reason, Momondo always seems to showcase some pretty great deals. Along with Skyscanner and Hopper, they are one of my go-to sites to check for flights.

Airfarewatchdog: This is an excellent site if you want to be emailed the best deals from a specific airport. 

Kayak: Kayak has a great feature called “Kayak Explore.” You input what airport you want to fly out of and choose the continent you want to fly to, or you can pick “anywhere” to display all countries. Finally, you can select what month you want to travel or pick “any” month if you are flexible with your dates, and then a map with the cheapest flights will show. You can then choose the price point that fits your budget.

Google Flights: I have found some pretty good deals using Google flights. They have a feature similar to Kayak's “explore” feature.

Scotts Cheap Flights: Scott has been a pro at finding cheap (error fares) flights for years. To get his deals, you have to sign up for his newsletter. You can pay for a pro version to get more flight deals if you're an avid and flexible traveler, but the free version is perfectly fine. When you sign up, you can choose what region of the US or Canada you want to fly out of, and then you will receive the cheapest international flights straight to your inbox.

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How to book accommodation

How to Plan the Perfect Trip: The Only Travel Planning Guide You'll Need 4

Now time to find where you shall slumber. Here are my favorite websites to book accommodation that will help you, even if you are on a budget.

Hostelworld: This is my favorite site to book hostels. They have thousands of hostels you can browse, and the best part is that if you pay $1 more on your deposit, you get a flexible booking, meaning if plans change and you decide to cancel, your deposit can go towards another booking.

Booking: I use booking to book my hotels most of the time. They sometimes have pretty good deals.

Hotels Combined: This is an excellent site to get hotel price comparisons from different websites to find the lowest price.

Hotwire: I use Hotwire for last-minute bookings. They work by surprising you with the name of the hotel after you book. You provide the area you want to stay in and check off any amenities you want, and they will show you a list of hotels with the prices and star rating, and then once you book, you get emailed the confirmation with the name of the hotel. I find it pretty fun.

Hotel Tonight: This is an app that lists all available (and most affordable) hotels for last-minute bookings.

Cool Stays: As their slogan says, “stay somewhere extraordinary” this site is filled with unique and quirky accommodations; you can book a cute cottage in the English countryside, gorgeous villas on the beach in Thailand, and so many more spectacular places.

AirBnB: Sometimes, you want your own space and don't want to pay the hotel's crazy price. Airbnb offers room and apartment rentals. There are lots of properties to choose from, and it's easy to find a room in your price range.

Quirky Accom: Another site offering fun and unique accommodation. Here you can choose to stay in a castle in England. A treehouse in Finland or a windmill in Greece. There are so many incredible places to choose from. If you want to book a place that will blow your mind, then it is worth checking out.

Canopy and Stars: (UK Only) Want a calm and relaxing escape from city life? This site is perfect for those who love the outdoors. Only available in the UK, they list hundreds of cute places to stay in the great outdoors.

iescape: Here, you can book boutique hotels, bed and breakfast, and villas. They state that every property is visited and handpicked on their website, so you know the standards will be high.

Bring Fido: If you want to bring your furry friend on vacay Bring Fido will give you a list of pet-friendly hotels.

How to Get Around

How to Plan the Perfect Trip: The Only Travel Planning Guide You'll Need 5

The great thing about traveling is that transportation can be easy, and I am not talking about flights. Buses and trains are convenient, cheap and way more relaxing than rushing to an airport outside of the city, 2 hours early. When it comes to figuring out routes and booking transportation on the go, I have a few sites I use.

Wanderu: Wanderu is my favorite transportation booking engine in Europe and the US. They locate the cheapest mode of transportation. I have never been disappointed using them. 

Rome 2 Rio: This is a great site that compares transportation prices from point A to B. They will show you the cheapest and quickest options, and then it's up to you to decide which one to take.

Flixbus: Flixbus is available in Europe and the US. The buses are cheap and a great option if you are going a short distance. I have never had a problem using Flixbus, but I have heard horror stories mostly about being delayed for hours.

Megabus: Megabus works similarly to Flixbus. Megabus is available in Canada and the US. It's cheap and pretty comfortable. 

Eurail: Eurail has been a preferred mode of transportation for decades, especially with the option of Eurail passes that make it cheap to travel around Europe. Also, what's not to love about train travel: scenery, comfort, and speed are all great perks of taking a train.

Omio: this is another transportation booking engine that finds and compares the cheapest mode of transportation in Europe. 

Uber: The popular ride-sharing app is available in tons of cities, and it's a simple and easy way to get around.

How to Find the Best Things to do

How to Plan the Perfect Trip: The Only Travel Planning Guide You'll Need 6

You have planned the logistics; it's time to think about what you will do once you get to your destination. These are my favorite trip planning sites:

Viator: a company owned by trip advisor, here you can browse and book tours. I use Viator in every city I visit and have loved every tour I have been on. 

Atlas Obscura: if you're looking for things to do off the beaten path, Atlas Obscura is a fun site to browse. Locals give tips on weird and quirky attractions. There is even a book you can buy if you want a cool coffee table read. 

Trip Advisor: This is the most popular site to find things to do. People will leave reviews for attractions, restaurants, hotels, and tours. 

Like a Local: If you want to experience a city like a local, this site will be your go-to guide. Locals recommend hidden gems which can include restaurants, cafes, bars, shops, and attractions, and some will even offer tours. 

Lonely Planet: if you use a lonely planet, I suggest getting the app. They have guides you can download to your phone, and each guide is in-depth, giving recommendations for the best things to do, where to stay, and tips to make your visit easy & fun. 

Urban Adventures: This is the absolute best day tour company. All the guides are local, and the tours generally take visitors off the beaten track to show a side of the city they wouldn't usually see.

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Urban Adventures City Tours: The Best Day Tour Company

Get Your Guide: This is another excellent tour booking agency where anyone can sign up and offer guided tours. You can find everything from food tours to day trips and so much more.

Show Around: Why not hire a local to show you around? On Show Around, you pay a small fee, and you will get a few hours of their time to show you the best places in their city.

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How to Find Places to Eat

how to find the best places to eat when traveling

Food is such an important part of traveling so here is a list of apps, websites and experiences that you can check out to find the best food on your next trip.

Read local publications & bloggers: A great way to find restaurants is through the locals, the people that know their cities best. If you are visiting a city read the local news sites. They will usually have a food section with lots of restaurant reviews. Bloggers are also great resources to find good food.

Happy Cow: if you are vegetarian or vegan, you will want to download Happy Cow. This app allows you to search for the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants in any given city all over the world.

Thrillist is an awesome site to discover restaurants. It's an online magazine that covers all things food, drinks and travel. Their writers are always on the lookout for the best places to eat and they share their finds with their readers hoping to inspire them to explore the world even if it's their home town.

Chowhound is an online resource for foodies. it's filled with an active community of knowledgeable writers who find and write about the best places to eat.

Reddit: I have mentioned Reddit before in this post and that is because it's such a great resource to find travel information, and food is no different. There are sub Reddit's on just about any topic so if you want to find the best places to eat in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Berlin or anywhere else in the world, you should definitely spend some time browsing Reddit.

Eater is a US based online publication that writes about the best restaurants in 20+ cities.

Foursquare is a great place to discover restaurants. Instead of focusing on showing you EVERY place to eat in a given area they show you smaller and independent restaurants. When it comes to finding restaurants outside the US, Foursquare delivers.

Zagat: Another US based restaurant review platform that features a mix of user content and their own expertise. They strive to help you find the perfect restaurant.

Like a Local is a great place to find local restaurants, cafes and bars.  All recommendations are written by locals. I have eaten at some pretty amazing places after browsing this site.

Food Tour: If you are visiting a city for the first time, instead of taking a typical walking tour I suggest opting for a food tour. You get the same information you would on a walking tour except you get to indulge in yummy food and the places you are taken to are usually off the beaten track.

Cooking Class: Learn to make some traditional dishes on your trip and then take your new found cooking skills back home and showoff to your friends and family.

Join a Local for Dinner: There are lots of websites out there that allow you to book a traditional dinner with a local host who will cook for you. A couple of the best ones are Bonappetour, and Eatwith.

Most importantly, make sure you ask locals where the best places to eat are. There is nothing like getting a recommendation from someone who knows their city well.

How to Plan Your Days Itinerary

planning your day

Okay, so you have arrived in your destination and now it's your first day. What do you do? Plan what you are going to do of course!

I recommend using My Maps to pin landmarks, restaurants and anything else you want to see on your trip. That way you can see what places are close enough together and worth fitting into one day. Trust me, this will help you plan your days with ease.

Planning your arrival

planning your arrival

Now it is time to plan your arrival and how you will actually get from the airport/train station/ferry terminal to your accommodation.

The last thing you want is to arrive and and not know how the heck you will get to your hotel. If you don't do this research ahead of time, you are bound to arrive stressed.

You can contact your accommodation and ask them the best way to get there.

A few questions you should be researching are:

What are the cost of taxis and are they readily available and legit?
Is there any form of public transportation that goes to the city center? How much does it cost?
Does your accommodation offer a transfer?
Is there Uber/Lyft or a similar app? Is it safe and legal?
Is there WIFI in the airport or a place to get a sim card?

I ALWAYS have my hotels address, phone number and any other helpful information I may need with my travel documents in case I get a driver who doesn't know where they are going. If you have a screenshot handy on your phone that is really helpful.

Tip: Make sure if you get a cab that they are legit. Ask someone at the information desk where you get a cab. There are people who wait at airports for travelers to arrive and ask if you need a cab. Sometimes they are legit, but sometimes they aren't real taxi drivers and will charge an arm and a leg for a ride.

Just make sure before you arrive, you are doing as much research as possible and have a plan on how you will get to your accommodation.

How to Plan for Layovers and Overnights

plan for a layover

Layovers can be the worst! I mean, I don't know about you but I would like to spend the least amount of time in an airport, but sometimes with layovers that's not possible. I went ahead and listed several helpful resources that will hopefully help you make the most of your layover.

If you have a long layover say 12 hours or more and want to explore a city during that time check if the airport has luggage storage (assuming your bags aren't going though to your final destination). My favorite website is LuggageHero. If your airport doesn't have luggage storage this site allows you to search for luggage storage facilities close to you and it's affordable.

If you have a layover that needs to be spent inside the airport you can do so comfortably by paying for a days use at the airport lounge. LoungeBuddy is an airport lounge search tool that allows you to purchase passes to airport lounges all over the world or if you don't want to buy a pass online they will show you what lounges are available so you can check out the lounge first and then buy it.

If you have an overnight layover but want to save money on a hotel room, Sleeping in Airports is a website that breaks down the best places to sleep in any given airport (if the name wasn't already clear).

There is so much helpful information on this site for those dreading a long layover.

If you have a long layover during the day but don't want to do any sightseeing or stay in the airport, check out Day Use. This site allows you to book a hotel for just a day, so if you want to take a nap for a few hours you can do so at a nice hotel for a fraction of the price.

Health & Safety

How to Plan the Perfect Trip: The Only Travel Planning Guide You'll Need 7

Get Travel Insurance: Getting travel insurance is essential and you should not travel without it. You never know what could happen and why take the risk? Before I travel anywhere, I always book my insurance through World Nomads.

Scan relevant documents: You never know what could happen. Your passport may get stolen, or you may have to show proof of vaccines. Keep your essential documents in a safe spot so you know where they are if you need access to them.

Keep family and friends updated on your whereabouts: Put your loved one's minds at ease and keep in contact with them, so they know where you are at all times. If there is a crisis, at least your family will know where you are and where to look.

Register your travel plans: Imagine something happens in the city you are visiting. Registering your travel plans informs the government to look for you, and you will receive alerts in case there is a crisis you need to be aware of.

Here are a few government links:

Follow the laws: It's essential to research the laws before you travel anywhere. Have you seen the show Locked up Abroad? Yeah, you don't want to end up like the people on that show. 

Check if tap water is safe: Tap water can be iffy in some parts of the world and can cause a pretty serious stomach bug. The last thing you want is to be on vacation and sick, so make sure to research if the water is safe where you are traveling.

Get the proper vaccinations: Yellow Fever, Typhoid,, Hepatitis A & B and Rabies. These severe diseases can be prevented by getting a vaccination. If you are traveling, check the CDC for a list of vaccinations you will need. 

Well, there you have it! Everything you could possibly need to plan your perfect trip. Let me know in the comments if this guide helped you! Was there anything I missed? Where are you planning on traveling to next?

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Travel Planning

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Marika Devan
Marika Devan
As a clumsy Californian with an obsession for exploring the world. I love getting to know the destinations I visit by discovering what makes a place unique, unconventional and a little bit weird.

But like most people I don't spend ALL my time traveling (that would be exhausting). When I am not gallivanting around the world you can find me singing Celine Dion songs into my hairbrush, taste testing gourmet donuts (someone's got to do it), and watching movies comfortably in my unicorn onesie.