Step 1 – Start 2-6 Months Before
Early planning means you have more time to make any changes, to do some research, to compare prices, and learn about where you may potentially be travelling to if you don’t have your mind set on a specific destination yet. Not only that, you take away any stress you might feel trying to book several flights, hotels and possibly train rides within a matter of days. Depending on your budget, how solid your plans are, and where you are going, you can start as early as 6 month! There is, however, such thing as TOO early, especially when it comes to booking flights, which I talk about in a bit.
Step 2 – Know Your Time Frame
Step 3 -Look at and Compare Potential Flights
Depending on where you live and the general places you want to visit, planning early means an earlier booking, which means cheaper flights. Gauge about 3-5 months before your intended take-off as a good time to start booking. If you live in Europe, for example, and want to visit another European country, chances are you can find a cheap Ryanair flight a mere few days before you intend to leave. For example, I’m in Egypt and looking to visit Europe for Christmas, which is a busy season, so to avoid higher prices, I’m booking early October!
Step 4 – Make Final Decision and Book Flights
This step can have some revisions as you go between step 2 and 3, or as you begin to check out flight prices. Maybe you realize flying to Brussels is cheaper than to Amsterdam and decide to take a train from one to the other. At some point, before you officially book, you should have a relatively solid itinerary, especially if you are doing multiple cities and countries. But don’t freak out about having every little detail planned, and if you are doing a fair amount of non-flight travelling, you open your schedule up to flexibility.
Step 5 – Book Places to Stay
Destination chosen: Check. Flights booked: Check. Next is lodging. Whether it’s a hotel, Air BNB, Couchsurfing or other means, be sure to secure a place to rest for every night of travel, if this a several months-long kind of trip, try to book at least a couple weeks in advance during high-season (May-October). The last thing you want to worry about is finding a hostel that has room for hours on end or being forced to check in to a pricey hotel that cuts into your travelling spending money. Both of these have happened to me for different reasons, and it is NOT fun! I know some travellers like to live more on the edge and only plan a few days in advance, but it bit me in the butt and I did not handle the situation very well. To each their own! I just prefer to err on the side of caution.
Tip: Read the reviews and keep location in mind. I always look for walkability and distance from public transportation to make sure I can not only get around the city easily, but to and from the airport as well.
Step 6 – Research Your Destination
Step 7 – Write it Down
Long trips usually means multiple cities, countries and all kinds of modes of transportation. While on the go, you may not always have internet. In fact, I can almost guarantee that you will be without internet for many periods of time. So my advice? Go retro! Here is another example where a travel journal will come in handy. Print out metro maps to know how to get to your hostel, write down addresses and phone numbers of couch surfing hosts, etc! Sure you can have all of these on your phone or tablet and use it off-line, but we all know how reliable technology can be sometimes…