Travelling is such a fun activity, however, when you finally decide to plan that trip, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of planning that is required to ensure everything goes smoothly and that you experience everything you can dream of on that trip. Fear not, as I have created this guide so that you’ll have the perfect checklist and instructions on how to plan out all the main aspects of your trip, to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as it can and that you can see what you want to see.
this guide will cover everything on:
- Make a list of places you want to go
- Consider the time of year
- Research the currency
- Make a list of everything you want to see
- Make a list of everything you want to see
- Where to stay
- How many days to go
- The difference between travelling and a vacation
- The weather
- The language
Make a list of places you need to go
The first thing I would suggest that you do is make a list of all of the places you want to go, this is essentially your travel “bucket list”. If it helps, you could even rank the destinations from the most to least exciting in your eyes; this will make it easier to visit a destination at the best time for that given destination. This is due to various reasons, but mainly out of consideration for on and off peak seasons. If one of your dream destinations is off peak but another is on peak, you then have two destinations to choose from to make the best decision for you! You may prefer to travel to the one currently off peak as it will not be as crowded, but on the flip side the weather may not be as good. Alternatively you may prefer to travel to the on peak one as the weather may be better, but then again it may be more crowded… it all comes down to your preferences!
It is also important to know that you have your whole life, and if you don’t visit your top destination at a given time frame you can always go another time, but by going to a different destination on your list, you may be visiting it at the best time for that given destination; things can work out better this way in the end, so the key here is really just to be flexible!
Consider the time of year
As I mentioned above, due to on and off peak seasons, certain places will naturally be cheaper than others; destinations tend to be cheaper during off season and more expensive during peak season. Here I am mainly referring to hotels, tourist attractions, and flights, but food and materialistic items may also apply here as well.
I have always loved visiting places during off peak seasons as they are less crowded, and I find that I get a better experience as there are less crowds, which is nice as the lines are shorter, and you generally won’t have to struggle to see a tourist attraction through a crowd. If you love taking pictures (like me), I would recommend traveling during off season if your main goal is to visit the city to experience it as well as see as much as you can along the way, as you will love how empty it will feel and you’ll get more of an immersive experience (as it will have a less touristy feel); Your pictures will also turn out great as there won’t be as many people to crowd the background!
Research the currency
This one may seem obvious, but I would always suggest you make sure you know what currency your destination country uses before you travel! I am talking about all countries, but be careful with Europe specifically; it may be assumed that all European countries use the Euro, but in fact there are a select bunch that have their own currency, and trust me it is not necessarily common sense! I made that mistake myself while traveling to Budapest, and on arrival noticed that I had never even heard of their currency, and while researching it on the spot I was getting conflicting results…long story short I had no idea how much I was spending the first day haha.
If credit cards appeal to you, I would highly recommend getting an international credit card; these cards allow you to use them anywhere in the world and not be charged fees just to use the card abroad (you of course will see the conversion on your statement, but the price you pay at the time of purchase is the amount you will be charged). These have been amazingly helpful for me, as I personally am not comfortable carrying large amounts of cash on me, as the risk of being pickpocketed always exists.
On the same note as credit cards, do some research and see if the destination you are visiting predominantly accepts cards, or if it is more predominantly cash based. If the destination seems to have no issue with credit cards, they will work amazingly for you but you also don’t want to be in the situation where you didn’t bring enough cash and are forced to use an ATM.
If you are visiting a destination that predominantly accepts cash, you will therefore need to have sufficient cash to fund yourself on your trip. I would recommend going to your bank and withdrawing cash in your destination’s currency; this way you can avoid ATM fees and interest while you travel. It is probably best to go to the bank a few weeks before your travels, as they may not have that currency on the spot, and will then order you the amount you require.
Make a list of everything you want to see in that city
I find this to be the best way to ultimately plan your physical trip, and fit in everything you want to see! When planning my trips, I do research to find out exactly what I want to do and what I want to see. I then estimate how much time each activity will take, and then map out where everything is in that given destination; from there I then build my days by visiting/doing things close to one another, and do as many as I can fit into my day time wise.
Where to stay
The first thing to consider here is your budget, and from there you can find a place within your budget that suits your needs. In general, the city centers tend to be pricier than the outer edges, but both have their perks and downfalls. If you want to be completely immersed in the city, I would consider staying in the city center; this way you can start each day right in the center of everything, and also not have to travel into the city; on the flip side, if you prefer a quieter stay I would recommend staying on the edge of the city or outside the city all together. In the city center it will depend on your accommodation of course, but it is not guaranteed that there will always be city noise from the nature of the city itself. If you prefer a calmer approach, the edge of a city or outside the city all together may be a better choice. By staying outside the city it will not only be cheaper but much quieter, and will allow you to have a space outside of the constant commotion and happenings. The downfall here is that you will have to travel into the city each day, which could add unwanted travel time to your day.
How many days to go
Once you have done your research to decide upon everything you want to do and see, you will have your days roughly scheduled, which will present clarity in itself and therefore give you a pretty clear idea on how many days you will want to stay based on how long you’ll need to get through everything. If you have a set amount of days you are going to be traveling for, I would suggest prioritizing the things you want to see/do the most and then plan your days around those; if you get through them you can always see and do other things if you have time! Ultimately, the best thing to do here is optimize your days to fit your style; if you have a more “go go go” approach I would suggest cramming in as much as you can, but if you want a more relaxed approach then focus on your top activities and just enjoy the trip! Again this fully depends on your travel style, but you can always have a mixed approach, as some days are extremely busy where as others are purely relaxed; you could also do a mix where half the day you are out exploring, and the other half you are relaxing, completely up to you!
With my trips, I generally give myself an hour to see tourist attractions (such as the Eiffel Tower). For me this includes taking the pictures I envision as well as just admiring the attraction itself. That being said, I rarely actually spend that long at tourist attractions, which results in me having “extra time” to see and do other things. Personally, I like to over budget my time so that I do not get myself in a situation where I am rushing and do not get to do everything I wanted to do. On that note, it also works out well because if you have any delays from unforeseen circumstances (such as traffic, transit issues, crowds, etc), you will still be able to at least see everything on your list, even if that means you don’t have extra time. Talking again about tourist attractions, if you want to actually go inside them and get the full experience, I would suggest giving yourself 3 hours to factor in for lines, and the experience itself.
I want to also talk about how I see “traveling” vs. a “vacation”. I know many times I have returned from my trips and felt like I needed that time again just to relax at home and recover! For this reason, I see “traveling” as more of an opportunity to experience life in a new destination and see as much as I can given the time I have there, whereas I see a “vacation” as an opportunity to relax and have a break from your life at home and just not do anything exhausting, so that you can return home feeling refreshed. I think this matters because you really want to give yourself the best experience you can based on your needs and what you want to get out of it, so be sure to think of how you want to feel during and after the trip and just what you want to get out of it.
Of course if you plan your trip months in advance you can’t really check the weather, but if you plan it a week or two in advance, be sure to check the forecast! This impacts what you pack as well as potentially what you will see and do. If you do plan your trip months in advance, I would consider doing research on that destination in terms of what their weather typically looks like around that time of year, as well as even looking at past years weather. This of course won’t give you a sure indicator, but it can help you to decide which month you want to go in.
That being said, a few days before you travel do be sure to check the weather as it will be more accurate, and will again help you decide what to pack clothing wise. If it turns out it is raining, you can still see attractions but you can also have the opportunity to reschedule your trip if you wish.
Transportation can seem very overwhelming, especially in a country where you have no idea how anything works. I personally always take public transit, and although I was super intimidated and scared of it at first, after my first few trips I realized that although it is different to what I am used to, it really is not that different and all generally works the same way. I do rely on my phone maps, and use either apple maps or city mapper; I honestly have always been able to find my way around by using them, as they tell me where to catch the transit and which direction to go, which line to take, etc. I have always felt safe while doing so as well because the way I see it, people are using it just as you would in your home city, so there’s really nothing out of the ordinary and as long as you take the route your maps tell you, you’ll be all good! The good thing with phone maps as well is that it generally gives you multiple routes and will adjust to any delays or closures, allowing you to always find a way to where you need to be!
I find the most stressful part of transit in another city is getting to and from the airport. I don’t mind getting to my accommodation from the airport too much as I have essentially endless time to get there, even if it is annoying and takes hours. I get stressed getting to the airport on my way back if it is quite far, because of course I don’t want to miss my flight! In this case I always give myself an extra two hours just to be extra safe. Obviously if you’re not flying this does not apply to you!
I would also do research ahead of time and see how much transportation costs, but also how to pay for it. Some destinations have transit options where you can purchase a ticket on the vehicle itself, whereas others require you to purchase a physical ticket at a booth.
Be sure to also look around and see if you have to validate your ticket before your trip (you can typically watch other people, or you may notice the booth to place the ticket). I have been caught before without a validated ticket when I didn’t even know I had to validate it as I do not validate them in my city, and so it didn’t even occur to me! Some staff may be understanding, but in my situation they were not and I did have a fine.
If taxis are within your budget you could also opt to use them. I would do lots of research on taxis beforehand though, because it is not unheard of for taxis to be fake and scam their unexpecting tourists; just be sure you know the number of a legit taxi company and that you clarify the rates upfront, so that there will be no surprises when you pay the driver. In some cities taxis may also be a slower option depending on the traffic in the city. In London for example, it can be almost impossible to drive at times, which would make the underground a much faster option. So again it all comes down to how fast you want to get to your destination, as well as your budget and location!
Walking is also always an option! When staying in cities I try to walk everywhere mainly because I love walking and would rather not take transportation, but it is also such a great way to see the city in areas that are not specifically tourist attractions. If you have the time and enjoy walking, I would definitely recommend it; I find that walking around new cities also gives you the immersive experience, and you can really see how people live in that given area which is always super interesting and amazing to me.
This one is probably what I consider the least problematic out of all of the above, and again mainly because I rely on my phone to get me around, and research anything I may need to know on the spot. The instances that I find it most helpful to speak the language is when I am at a restaurant, in a shop, checking into my accommodation, or occasionally talking to the driver on transit as well while purchasing a ticket. I have honestly mainly traveled to destinations where English is widely spoken, however in some cases where I have been talking to someone who could not speak any English I would just use google translate and show them what I am trying to say (assuming they speak the language that destination is known to speak).
You likely won’t have to worry about this while taking public transportation either ,because even if you do not speak the language, you can still see the words on your maps vs the signs, and just follow the like ones. When I was in Budapest I had never even seen their alphabet, however I was perfectly fine getting around with this method.
Thank you for reading and I hope this can be of help to you! Whether you’re looking to travel more regularly or if you just need help with one trip, I’m sure this guide will have something that you can take away, and help you to feel more prepared for your trip!
I get that this may seem like a lot to take in, but in reality it’s just a few extra things to consider to help you be that much more prepared when in a foreign destination. So please keep these in mind, but ultimately just trust yourself and know that you’ll figure it out along the way! One of my favorite things about traveling is that it turns you into such a problem solver without even realizing it, since you’re literally forced to deal with anything that comes up on the spot. So have fun and tag me in your photos if this guide was of help to you, and as always follow me on instagram and feel free to message me any questions you may have!