How many of you have been planning to travel for SOOO long, but was too lazy to proceed with the planning part of their trip?
How many of you have thought that they’d rather plan it on their own to cut costs, then they failed completely at doing the right choices & ended up paying much more?
How many of you have been terrified to proceed with booking on their own, to avoid any unexpected turn of events?

I am here to tell you that planning a trip can be the BEST part of it. Yes the BEST
I know you’re wondering “HOW come, it’s the most HECTIC & maybe STRESSFUL one!”.

Here is the deal.
When I plan for a trip, my selection is never random, there is some sort of routine that I always follow which creates all the fun, once a destination pops up in my mind, I start doing extensive research, readings, checking websites, tripadvisor, googling what is the best time to visit? what are my cheapest options?, how to get there? what ways of transportation are available? talking to nationals or people who have been before, watching videos, photographs, learning about the culture, customs, street foods, must visits, must dos, famous festivals, special occasions, … If all of these were appealing enough then I have a new place to visit. It is booking time 🙂

The 7 Benefits of Highly Effective Trip Planning

  1. To have full awareness of the place/city/country that you are visiting,
  2. to have a pleasant unique experience,
  3. to cut expenses,
  4. to visit unknown, untouristic, uncrowded places,
  5. to not experience a below expectations trip -you get what you have planned for,
  6. to not be treated as a tourist, hence being ripped off
  7. to really be merged in the culture -locals, local cuisine, etc.

Five Steps to follow

  1. You have to ask yourself: What am I looking forward to during this trip? The answer to this question will make you choose your destination easily and the type of company that you should be looking for. For instance if you want to have a hiking trip, you have to choose someone with good physical fitness, active, nature lover, outgoing, and most importantly who gets acquainted to rough conditions without complaining. If you wanna travel for shopping then you have to choose someone with common interest. Otherwise your trip will be a TOTAL failure, trust me it’s NEVER about having your best friends traveling with you, it’s all about choosing the right company who have common interests.
  2. You have to surf the internet by googling keywords like: must visits, most famous travel destinations, hottest travel spots, adventure travel, top destinations, most visited places in the world, whatever reflects your travel preferences. Then check out National geographic, & National Geographic Traveler websites to learn about their recommendations, as well as tripadvisor, also take a look at the planned trips & itineraries that they offer. Also subscribe to travel newsletters, or follow them on twitter, or facebook as they send regular travel inspiration, ideas and updates such as; Tripadvisors’, Frommers’, Roughguides’, Huffingpost, LonelyPlanet, CondéNastTraveler.
  3. Once one or two  destinations sound appealing, start focusing your googling on this/these specific destination/s by asking yourself several questions then googling their answers:
  • What is the highlight of this destination? (which is related to question no.1)
  • What are the must dos there? (i.e. hiking, rock climbing, museums, shopping, etc.)
  • When is the best time to go? Which season of the year is it, to pack accordingly?
  • When is the high/low season?
  • How do I get there? (air/train/car/boat/bus/bike)
  • How many hours does it require to get there?
  • What is the cheapest, safest and most convenient way to get there?
  • Are there any interesting events/festivals/carnivals going on in this place/city/country? If yes, when? Do they sound appealing to me? How did former attendees of these events rate them? Are they for free or shall I buy tickets? Where to buy tickets from? Is it cheaper to buy them online or on the spot?
  • What’s the minimum number of days required for such a visit? or what fits in my X number of days visit?
  •  Are there any available online itineraries or guides to my destination? (DEFINITELY THERE IS)

4. Once decision is made, start looking for visa requirements, your way to get there (airfare/train/car/boat/bus/bike) & your accommodation.

As for flights

  • Start by looking on generic websites such as expedia, momondo, kayak, orbitz, edreams, skyscanner for two reasons: 1. To look for the best fare & compare prices, 2. To know which companies are operating on the desired destination’s route.
  • Afterwards, check the prices on the websites of specific airline companies, compare them with those found on generic websites, then choose the cheapest, yet convenient option.
  • Choose the cheapest flight with the minimum number of transits & stops.
  • Book online since it’s usually cheaper -don’t forget to check the refund policy.
  • If you are traveling inside Europe then easyjet, swissair, ryanair, vueling, transavia could be the cheapest and most practical option to move from one city/country to another, flights could cost you up to 10€ if you book early.

As for any other ways of transportation

  • Google or ask friends who have been to this place before.
  • If you are visiting Europe, then you have to use website as your main reference, it is EXTREMELY informative.
  • If going by car/train/bike google the most scenic routes to ride on.

As for accommodation

  • If checking in in hostels, so Hostelworld and Hostelbookers, they also offer other types of accommodation such as; hotels, campings, BBs & apartments. I also check those mainly for hotels bookings; Booking, Venere, Hotels as they can offer good deals. For apartment rentals best deals are on Airbnb, Apartments & Wimdu (which can be a good option if traveling in groups). Don’t forget to check the facilities offered by your chosen accommodation option.
  • After finding good deals, check on googlemaps their location. I always prefer to check in places in the city center or 10min walk from it -to know where is the city center, google <city’s name> city center.
  • Then read reviews about the hostel/hotel/apartment on Tripadvisor as well as the website on which you will book. If the rating of the place is high & the positive reviews are more than the negative ones, then consider it as an option. If not, then exclude it from your options.
  •  Choose a top selection, then proceed with the booking through a valid credit card -don’t forget to read the cancellation policy.

5. Next step is preparing your itinerary according to your budget and number of days that you are willing to spend. I usually prepare it through all the research that I have already made in step 2, but in more details, by reading reviews and watching videos & photos, I also buy a Roughguide or a Lonelyplanet guide as they are widely sold in Egypt (where I live). A guidebook is my true helper and friend during any trip, as it covers all the history, maps, estimated prices, transportations, opening hours and all useful information that I need.

Bonus Tips

  • In some countries; students get discounted tickets, people aged 25 years or younger (in some countries it is 26) or over 60.
  • ANYTHING could be booked online including museum tickets, tours, transportation passes, car rentals, shows, etc.
  • Buy a transportation pass according to the number of days that you’ll be spending. And note that in some countries you pay a reduced price if the weekend is included in the pass, and that in some countries you pay a travel pass per day, per week or per month.

To help you plan budget-friendly trips, check my 5 tips for traveling the world on a tight budget