Whether you are traveling alone or planning a family vacation, you deserve to go away and create priceless memories without a lot of strain in the trip planning procedure.

Also down below are our very best vacation planning tips and the measures I’d take to plan your dream trip. Call it our vacation checklist if you will.

Do not know what to think about when planning a trip? Hopefully, this guide will save you some time, money, and your sanity!

15 tips for planning a trip

Table of Contents:

Click on each link below to go directly to each subject or scroll down manually.

Step 1 — Choose Your Destination

Step 2 — Book Flights for your trip
Step 3 — Book Accommodation for your trip
Step 4 — Getting Around
Step 5 — Things to See & Do
Step 6 — Places to Eat & Drink
Step 7 — Check Your Passport
Step 8 — Know the Visa Requirements
Step 9 — Get Immunizations
Step 10 — Make Copies of Important Documents
Step 11 — Phone & Internet Access to the road
Step 12 — Accessing Your Money
Step 13 — Purchase Travel Insurance
Step 14 — Pack Smart
Step 15 — Confirm Flights

Bonus Step — Group Tours

Step 1 — Choose Your Destination

Where do you want to go?

Your first step in how to start planning a trip is to decide on a travel destination that satisfies your interests and travel style.

Are you planning overseas travel or a domestic trip at home? Either way, the entire idea of taking a trip is to have a memorable time, to have fun and relax, and to not spend your entire vacation time stressing about money.

How long do you have?

If you only have 1-2 weeks of vacation time each year, do not waste too much of that time traveling to and from your destination. Plan your trip accordingly.

But if you have 2-4 weeks or more than a month you can look at taking an overseas trip or traveling further within your home country.

Who are you traveling with?

When you plan your journey, your destination options can be affected by your traveling companions.

Will you be traveling solo, as a couple, or taking family vacations?

Sit down with other members of your traveling group and discuss your ideas and interests. Memorable trips are those where each member gets to experience something they love.

Do not leave it to one person to make all the decisions. Or, maybe you could take turns in choosing a destination each year!

What type of experiences do you like?

To have a memorable trip, select a destination that allows you to have adventures you like.

Do you like:

Relaxation or adventure
Beaches or mountains
Summer or winter
Cities or countryside
Resorts or road trips
Festivals and culture
Shopping or food experience
Luxurious, mid-range, or Price Range

Are you the type of person who likes to sit by the pool all day with a book? Or would this bore you to death?

By answering these types of questions you can narrow down your list of where you want to go to your dream trip!

And keep an open mind. Many people questioned us when we announced we were going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans with children. We were a little unsure also, but ended up have a blast!

Relevant Reading: 23 Holiday Travel Tips to Keep You Sane and Happy

When to Go?

Weather and audiences play an important part when you plan your journey. For your preferred destination, do you know when the high season and low season is?

If you are fortunate enough to be flexible in when you can take your vacation time, good for you! Avoiding peak travel periods is one of our very best travel tips for how to plan a vacation.

For more inspiration look at all our travel destination articles on each region here.

Read more — 18 ways to save on accommodation

Step 2 — Book Flights for your trip

As soon as you have selected your destination, step two in planning a trip is to book your own flights. And learning how to find cheap flights can help you to reduce one of your main travel expenses.

As a traveling family, if it’s an overseas trip and a long haul flight I like to plan my trip so we get to our destination as fast as possible, with the maximum amount of comfort and facilities our budget allows!

When it’s your one-and-only dream vacation for the year, and you only have 1-2 weeks, I suggest that you pay the little bit extra for a premium airline and fly straight too!

Searching for flights

What websites are helpful for planning a trip online?

When searching for cheap flights online we always start with Skyscanner, it’s one of our favorite booking websites.

Skyscanner is a comparison site that searches millions of flights from over a thousand airlines, and after you’ve discovered your flight on Skyscanner you are taken to the airline or agency to make your booking (no extra fees added).

Download the newest Skyscanner App, which makes it easier for you to find the best travel deals. It’s an all in one flights, hotel and car hire search engine app!

Other commendable flight search engines comprise Kayak, Hipmunk, Google Flights, and Momondo.

Proceed to the airlines

After you have used the flight search engines indicated above and found your very best flight, go directly to that airline’s own website and see if you can get it for cheaper.

Many airlines have lower fares only available on their site.

Read More:

21 tips for finding cheap flights

Why TravelBank is a great travel planning app

Step 3 — Book Accommodation for your trip

Where you sleep is your other major fixed travel cost, so choosing the best accommodation for your needs at the best price will free up more money for activities.

For all of us, traveling with children is not about finding the cheapest accommodation, but getting the BEST VALUE for our money! We do not like to rough it as much as we used to pre-kids.

Based upon the length of our trip and the destination, we chop and change between accommodation styles.

If I am planning my trip that’s more than a weekend getaway we prefer to stay in apartments. They offer several benefits:

Access to a Complete kitchen

Separate bedrooms in the living room

You have your own laundry.

You can book a 3 or 4-bed apartment and split the costs with another family or friends.

These extra facilities on a long stay can make your journey a lot more enjoyable. But if it’s a brief city stay, or we are just traveling as a couple, we are happy to stay in a hotel.

Search Accommodation Deals

Our favorite accommodation search site is Booking.com. They have more than 1 million properties worldwide in 200 nations.

Besides listing all the major hotel brands, you can find a variety of low-cost independently owned hotels that can be tricky to find elsewhere.

We find their site user-friendly and urge you start your accommodation search there when you plan your journey.

Great features:

Book now, pay later at check in

Free cancellation on most rooms

24/7 customer service

Very best price guarantee

Search accommodation on Booking.com

On the lvacations.com site you can search for:

Hotels
Resorts
Guesthouses
Hostels
And much more!

Read More — 8 ways to book accommodation using Booking.com

AirBnB

When you plan your journey also consider Airbnb. They are another one of our favorite accommodation sites when I plan my trip.

Airbnb are in 180 countries and you can reserve entire apartments and homes, or just spare bedrooms allowing you the option between having the place all to yourself or staying with and getting to know the owner.

Even if you never meet your server, you’ll get to feel more like a local.

We have used it as a way to find low-cost apartments and rent out people’s entire homes. If you are new to Airbnb, we have a $45 AUD credit voucher for you when you register here.

Related posts:

18 ways to save on accommodation

Why Airbnb rentals are a great choice for family accommodation

Step 4 — Getting Around

Another factor to consider when planning a trip is to discover the transportation options in your favorite destination.

Will you will need to reserve a rental car or pre-purchase any transportation passes online? Is there a train or bus services? Are there taxis or Uber? Can you walk to many places?

By way of example, when you visit Sydney you want an Opal Card to get around on public transport. When you visit London you want an Oyster Card for public transportation. Are you planning to travel through Europe by train?

Throughout your travel planning research the transport choices for your destination. This will save you time and stress once there.

Rental Cars

If you will need a rental car, booking online in advance will almost always get you a better deal than if you just show up at the counter. And it’s easier and faster.

The last thing you want to do after a long flight is deal with rental car companies at the airport and negotiate a deal.

The fastest way to compare rental companies is to use an aggregator site that searches all the major car brands at once and checks that provider offers the lowest prices for your preferred dates and location.

We always start our search with RentalCars.com. It’s a website we have booked through several times over the years when traveling from Australia to the USA.

It has saved us time and money in the past for finding cheap rental cars and we continue to use them.

Read more — 19 ways to save money on rental cars

Step 5 — Things to See & Do

travel tips

View of Sydney walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

When you plan a trip you’ll want to know what are the must-visit tourist attractions and the best free things to do in your preferred destination.

As much as we like to just show up, some trip planning is a great idea especially if you are visiting a popular destination at the peak travel season.

Popular attractions like Alcatraz in San Francisco and the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb are booked out well in advance, so don’t just show up on the day hoping to get in.

Research and organize your tickets to any theme parks, zoos, and concerts etc.. And many cities also have City Passes that can save you money on attractions. Research people in your travel planning!

Are you planning a trip so you can:

Eat at a famous restaurant

See a Broadway Show when you visit New York

Take a scenic flight over The Grand Canyon

Do a cooking class in Italy

Visit Disney World in Orlando

Plan ahead and reserve any necessary experiences you would like to have.

Make a list of:

Free things to do

Parks and playgrounds

Best walks

City tours

Day trips

Resources:

For ideas on things to do on your destination, use these tools:

Websites / Google (use different search terms)

Pinterest (create a board to your destination)

Tourism board websites

Ask family & friends who have been there

Facebook (put out an update asking for hints )

Twitter (hashtags)

Guide books (we use Lonely Planet Guide Books)

Instagram (hashtags)

Viator

Trip Advisor

Hotel receptionist/bellboy (once in location)

Need help picking a tour or activity?

Viator has a team of travel insiders who handpick the best local tours, attractions, and activities. And they pre-vet them all to make sure you always have an exceptional experience. Click the image below to search for things to do in your destination:

Viator

Step 6 — Places to Eat & Drink

travel

You can learn a lot about a destination by means of its food and beverage, and you can also plan a excursion by eating your way through a destination. For many people that is their favorite thing about travel. Is that you?

When I plan my trips I really like to discover new cafes, restaurants, bars and bars when I travel. I like to try the local delicacies, the local craft beers, and coffee arena.

And as a family, it’s important we learn about the family friendly places to eat, not just from a practicality standpoint but from a budget standpoint.

Research ideas for:

Coffee shops

Cafes

Restaurants

Street food

Food trucks

Bars

Pubs

Picnic spots (supermarkets for supplies)

Famous local dishes

Resources:

Websites / Google (use different search terms)

Pinterest (create a board to your destination)

Ask family & friends who have been there

Facebook (put out an update asking for hints )

Twitter (hashtags)

Instagram (hashtags)

Trip Advisor

Hotel receptionist/bellboy (once in location)

Step 7 — Check Your Passport

vacations

Check your passport before traveling.

If you are planning an overseas trip and do not have a passport yet, give yourself sufficient time to apply — at least 6 months before departure and preferably as soon as you have booked your flights and accommodation.

And in case you already have a passport, what is the expiration date? Most countries require that your passport is valid for six months beyond your date of stay and it has enough empty pages for stamps/visas.

Step 8 — Know the Visa Requirements

Do you understand the visa entry requirements for your destination? Do you need a particular visa and how do you get it?

Each nation and nationality will differ, and again, do not leave this until the last minute as it might take significant time to organize.

If you are concerned about how to plan an overseas trip because of visas, you can learn more about tourist visas for all countries and passport holders at Project Visa — then double check with each relevant embassy’s site!

Join our Free VIP Travel Tribe and receive our Unplugged Life & Travel Toolkit to help you travel more and create better memories. Join here.

Step 9 — Get Immunizations

Are you planning for overseas travel to a high-risk destination in regards to health?

Based on where you plan your journey in a particular country, it’s important to get the perfect advice for any necessary vaccinations before you travel.

Your safety and health are essential, and in some instances, you can’t travel unless you have proof of having been vaccinated.

Talk with your physician or health care professional knowledgeable about travel vaccines. Visit them at least 2 months before departure as some vaccinations will need to get started six to eight weeks before departure and need more than one shot spread out over time.

And take any documents you have of previous shots.

Step 10 — Make Copies of important documents

Make copies of important documents before traveling

Image: Dreamstime.com

When you are planning a trip sometimes your important documents get misplaced. Companies can lose your booking reservation or there is a communication breakdown between the price you paid and the anticipated support.

For peace of mind, make copies of important documents such as:

Passports

Visas

Flight tickets

Itineraries

Hotel reservations

Rental car reservations

Tour bookings

Drivers licence

Credit Cards

And anything else you reserved for your journey.

Print out hard copies and save your confirmation emails to a”folder” on your web-based email account. Consider leaving copies at home with a trustworthy individual, and if traveling with a partner each carry copies.

Hard copies of certain documents are important as you won’t always have access to the world wide web to search email.

US immigration missing our passports when we lived in the US whilst applying for an extension to our visa. Fortunately we had copies went to the Australian Embassy in LA and obtained emergency passports to leave the nation in time, otherwise, we would have overstayed our visa!

Measure 11 — Phone & Internet Access

Check the phone and internet options for each destination

These days almost everyone travels with at least a smartphone, and other gadgets that need connection to the net and a data plan.

As travel bloggers, we understand more than the frustration at not being able to be connected on the road. However, you may just like to update your Facebook account or send emails so family and friends can follow your travels.

This is what we do when we travel abroad:

We have an unlocked phone so we can use local SIM cards.

Or, we use our phone just when we have access to free wifi.

As for our laptops, we either use the free wifi in our area, at a cafe, or we use a mobile data device such as WiWander and Tep Wireless.

Research the data plans and SIM card situation for your destination.

One thing you will need is an international travel plug adaptor like this one below by OREI so you can plug in your charger, phone, and laptop. We do not go anywhere without one of these and it makes for a great travel present.

International Travel Plug Adaptor – one of the greatest travel gifts for travelers!

Step 12 — Accessing Your Money

We all want ease and convenience when traveling, especially when it comes to accessing our money. We also want to reduce our bank and transaction fees. The more money we maintain within our pockets, the more we have to spend on travel.

International transaction fees can be hefty when using the incorrect credit cards and checking account cards.

Considering there are people reading this from many diverse countries and traveling to various destinations, it is not possible for us to advocate THE BEST cards or ways for everyone to access their money.

How to transfer your money overseas with the best exchange rate

When you transfer money overseas with the banks they take a 4-7% margin AND add fees on top. We have found a way to put more money back into your pocket not the bank’s CEO.

With OFX.com you get the best exchange rate — the nearest to what it actually trades at on the market WITH no charges.

You can read more about how to use Ofx.com and its amazing benefits in this informative article

Checking or Savings Account

On a previous trip to Thailand, we had an issue accessing our money using our ATM card because our account in Australia was a checking account. For it to work in Thailand it had to be a savings account.

We didn’t know this at the moment. Check with your particular bank regarding this. Or get one of each!

The way to carry your money?

If this is your first overseas trip and you do not know how to carry your money, one of our very best travel tips is to have more than one option! When we travel we utilize a combination of:

Debit Cards

Credit Cards

Travel Money Cards

Cash

Debit Cards

Debit cards are a fantastic alternative to credit cards for when you plan your trip overseas. Not everyone has a credit card, but most have a debit card.

Debit cards also include either a MasterCard or Visa logo so you can use them everywhere MasterCard or Visa cards are accepted.

The other advantage is there’s no risk of overspending using a debit card because it’s your money in the account to start with, not your bank’s money.

Which debit card is ideal for you?

That depends on what country you come from. We can’t offer advice for each nationality, but you can still apply these suggestions and find a card with similar features as the cards listed below!

Very best debit card for Americans traveling

USA residents should consider the Charles Schwab Checking Account.

The Charles Schwab debit card (available through their high-yield checking account) is commonly mentioned as the best travel debit card out there for both domestic or international travel.

You can use any ATM in the world and Schwab reimburses all the ATM fees at the end of each month. It appears that if there was an award for most favorite (and the least evil) bank it would probably win.

Benefits:

No ATM fees globally.

No fee for foreign currency exchange.

No monthly service charges.

No account minimum.

Unlimited reimbursement of any ATM usage. E FDIC-insured.

While you will still be charged by other ATM’s for taking out money, Schwab will reimburse you for the charges at the end of the month.

Very best debit card for Australian’s traveling

The card most highly suggested for Australian’s is the CitiBank Plus Account.

Benefits:

No ATM fees.

No monthly fees.

Fee FREE overseas ATM withdrawals.

Minimum Balance: $0

Free international money transfers from Australia to other CitiBank accounts in 25 nations.

This account operates with a Visa debit card so you can withdraw money from your account at any ATM that accepts Visa. If you discover a CitiBank ATM, you can use your card free of charge.

CitiBank has an international network with over 20,000 ATMs globally.

Credit Cards

You’ll almost certainly require a credit card when traveling as a way to reserve flights, rental cars, hotels etc on the internet. Providers need this for the security deposit, plus paying using a credit card provides some insurance and safety for you.

In case you have a problem with a hotel room or a tour, you can dispute the payment with Visa/MasterCard. Should you pay cash, it’s gone.

Make sure when you plan your trip overseas your card is connected to either the PLUS, Cirrus or Maestro networks. This enables you to access cash anywhere worldwide.

And it’s a fantastic idea to carry both a Visa and a MasterCard. We also have an American Express Platinum Edge Card.

Start Looking for a credit card that has:

No international ATM withdrawal charges.

No currency conversion charges.

No charges on cash advances.

No annual fee.

Reward points for airlines and resorts

PIN Number Tips

Get a 4 digit PIN number.

Many ATM’s abroad, particularly Europe, don’t accept PIN’s more than four digits.

If your PIN is based on letters rather than numbers, change it to numbers. Many ATM’s only have numbers on their keypads.

ATM’s often do not have a 0 button (zero) or won’t accept PIN’s that start with 0. Proceed to your bank and change your pin to four digits that don’t contain the number zero.

Know your PIN number by heart–never carry it around in your wallet.

Prepaid Travel Money Card

There are pros and cons to using a travel money card when you plan your journey, and from our research we figured the experts lean more towards ease, accessibility, and reduced prices.

These cards are not a credit card. You load up your own money on the card then access the local money through international ATMs around the world.

What to look for in a pre-paid travel money card:

What currencies can be loaded onto the card?

Can you lock in the exchange rate?

Subscribe charge — These can range from $0-$20

Reload fee — usually a commission or flat fee.

Currency conversion fees

ATM withdrawal fees.

Card cancellation fees.

Monthly fees to maintain the card open

How many days required prior to reloading money is cleared?

As Australians, we utilize the Qantas Cash Travel Money Card.

For a trip that involves multiple destinations, I believe prepaid travel money cards are a fantastic option.

Notify Your Bank

Before you depart, make certain to contact your bank and credit card companies to inform them that you are going to be traveling, where to and when. This is to prevent them putting a freeze on your card if they see unusual transactions from overseas.

Step 13 — Purchase Travel Insurance

“If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel”. It’s that easy.

Not having travel insurance on an overseas trip (or nationally ) is not worth the risk. Anything can, will, and sometimes goes wrong. If it does and you are not insured, you can be up for a great deal of money AND inconvenience.

When you are planning a trip, do not shrug off this measure. It’s one of the most important vacation planning tips!

What happens if:

You Will Need to cancel your trip suddenly

A hurricane damages your destination

There is a terrorist event

You get sick or injured on your trip

Your luggage is lost or stolen

You lose your passport

Travel insurance is designed to cover unexpected medical emergencies and events such as trip cancellation, your personal effects, lost, stolen or damaged luggage by an airline, and other related losses incurred while traveling.

Which travel insurance is ideal for you? There are different levels of coverage depending on:

The plan

The insurance company you purchase with

The size of your deductible (excess)

Very best Travel Insurance Companies

One of the best travel insurance companies we have used many times since 2006 is World Nomads. Easy and flexible to use and they protect residents from 150 nations.

World Nomads allows you to purchase travel insurance online 24/7 from anywhere in the world, even when you’re already traveling (love this option!)

Americans can check out reputable brands like Allianz and AMEX. And to compare travel insurance companies, check out Insure My Trip and Squaremouth.

For Australians, besides World Nomads check out World 2 Cover (free pay to your children and grandchildren 25 and under when they are traveling with you) and Cover-More.

Read more — 15 tips for purchasing the best travel insurance coverage

Step 14 — Pack Smart

What are the best suitcases for travel? Read today’s blog article to Discover

Thinking about packing can be stressful when you are planning your journey, however, the best thing to do is pack the bare minimum because you can always buy it there!

Encourage your children to select and pack their own clothes to minimize complaints and also to teach travel planning abilities.

Select versatile, comfortable and loose fitting clothes and neutral colors that can be worn in several combinations so if something gets dirty you simply have to change part of the outfit.

Packing cells are a lifesaver. In each packing cell, we roll up each item and arrange clothes based on type and season. And Caz enjoys her underwear organizer that rolls up and clips together like a little sleeping bag and sits on your suitcase neatly like packing cells perform.

With young children, pack a change of clothes for dinner, pajamas, or what is required during the day in case of accidents.

Top 5 Travel Packing Tips:

Know the weather of the destination you are visiting, which helps decrease over-packing.

When flying take a change of clothes in your carry-on only in case your checked-in luggage does not arrive with you.

Know the activities you will be doing so you can pack appropriately.

Know the types of accommodation you will be staying at. If you are staying in resorts you won’t have to take things like towels, hair dryers or linen.

Charge your electronic equipment and load all your tablets and portable devices with things to read, play, watch.

Step 15 — Confirm Flights & Check-In Online

Ok, one of our last tips for traveling is to confirm your flight times!

On a previous overseas excursion, we missed an important flight from Bangkok to Sydney after because we had it in our head that our flight departed five hours later than it actually did. Whilst we were sitting at a bar in the city the plane flew over our heads.

So, the day before departure, confirm your flight times and your transport to the airport.

And check-in online! Trust me, it’s no fun running through an airport with two young children in toe because you are late arriving for check-in. To take the stress and hassle out of this, when possible we always check-in online.

Hot Tip:

We also utilize Trip It — a cool app that organizes all your travel plans in one place such as flight bookings, hotels, car rentals, and you can also access your itinerary offline, while in flight or to avoid roaming charges when we travel abroad.

Group Tours

Ok, after all our travel advice above on planning a trip, if you’re the type of person who does not like to travel alone or plan your excursions, maybe a group tour is an alternative for you.

Check out these reputable companies:

G Adventures — offers small-group adventure tours, safaris, and expeditions. You’ll experience authentic adventures in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Intrepid Travel — another small group specialist who cater to a range of styles and budgets, which means you select the adventure that suits you best.

Trafalgar Tours — 70 years experience as a tour operator offering tours worldwide for the 35 to 65 age demographic.

Insight Vacations — specialists on Europe and USA for the 35 to 65 age demographic.

Enjoy Your Trip!

That’s it. You are currently a trip planner!