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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

How to plan a vacation trip

Updated: May 19

10 Steps for the perfect trip. Simple and easy. YOUR trip, on YOUR way.


Want to travel and discover the world but don't know where to start when planning a trip? Do you feel scared and lost thinking about the thousands of details, afraid of forgetting something important? No idea how to plan a trip? Would you like to have your dream trip but can't find what you want (apart from astronomical prices)?


Well, we've been through it. We've been through lots of hassles, had a lot of headaches, lost money, time and opportunities - because that's what happens when a trip is poorly planned.


After having been through all of that, I've been, for the last few years, following a step-by-step guide that is the perfect guide for planning the perfect trip.


Come with me!


Porto de Chania, ilha de Creta, Grécia, ao por-do-sol, com bares e restaurantes e pessoas se divertindo

Chania, Crete, Greece


FIRST, THE BASIC RULES:


In order for the trip to work out fine, I follow these basic rules - I recommend that you think carefully about them and try to adopt them:


1st - Less is more: don't try to see everything in one trip. Running through different places in a short period of time is the right recipe for getting tired, stressed and frustrated.


2nd - Planning & Flexibility: plan in advance what you intend to do at the destination, but be flexible - the most memorable moments of the trip are usually those that happen spontaneously.


3 - The trip is yours and you can do it however you want: it's not just because the neighbor loved it, your brother-in-law recommended it or someone posted it as a must-see on Instagram that you have to include this or that place on your itinerary. If that doesn't interest you or you think it's going to be tiring/boring/ expensive/silly, there's no reason to go there.


With these three rules in mind, follow me, step-by-step.


The Vessel, Nova Iorque. Moça com blusa laranja em primeiro plano.

Me in NYC, in a time when it was still possible to go up The Vessel.



1️⃣ Define time of year and make a list of destinations you would like to visit


I think that we all have a list of places we want to visit someday (maybe your list, like mine, has hundreds of items😂) .


What we need to do at this first moment is to define which time of year we are going to travel - it doesn't have to be the exact date, but that general idea: I want to travel for 2 weeks in March or April, or I want 20 days in August, or Thanksgiving week, and so on.


Having defined the time of year you intend to travel and with the list of possible destinations, the first step is to research if that time is suitable for visiting that destination.


Check if the place will be open (many attractions, especially national parks, may close at certain times of the year), if it's rainy season (not that this will stop you from traveling - it's usually cheaper to travel in the rainy season), if there will be snow (if you want snow or, the opposite, if you want to escape from snow), if it will be dry or flood season, if its school holidays on the country you are visiting or there is a national holiday and so on.


In recent years (and for many years to come) we can only travel during school holidays and national holiday-weekends. Which means we travel either in high summer or in high winter. So, I have a "wish list" for the January , another for July , and another for the Brazilian national holidays, with the appropriate destinations for each of these.


If you have the flexibility to travel during other times of the year, I highly recommend you do so. There are several advantages: better prices, less crowded places and more pleasant weather.


por-do-sol no Parque Nacional Tayrona, Colômbia

Sunset at Tayrona National Park, Colombia.



2️⃣ Search flight prices and estimate expenses = travel budget


Thius is when (usually) decisions are made. Set your travel budget and research to get a general idea of which of those destinations fits your budget.


The most expensive items are usually air tickets (especially if you fly internationally or on high season), accommodation, tours and food, and local transport.


Depending on the destination, tours and food may be cheaper (or included in the daily rate of accommodation), but it is always good to check, so as not to estimate a value for these expenses and realize you will have to spend triple, which may compromise all the fun and generate frustration.


tela inicial do Google Flights

Flight prices:I usually use Google Flights and SkyScanner to compare flight prices, though there are many other online tools available. I prefer Google Flights because I find the interface more user-friendly. Ultimately, choosing the right tool depends on your preference, as finding cheap flights is crucial when planning a trip.

Google flights is intuitive and simple: just fill in your origin and destination, dates and start searching. Dates can be flexible or fixed; use the date grid - in green in the figure below - that shows prices for a few days before and after the dates you initially set.

print of a google flight screen

As you find interesting flights, turn on the track price alert - in yellow in the picture above - Google Flights will email you whenever the price changes, up or down.


Tip: if there is no airport in your town (or it is a small regional airport), search with the origin at the main airport in your area and separately check the flight from your town to the international hub. There is often a significant difference, both in flight options and values.


tela inicial do Booking.com

Accommodation: I usually use Booking.com - just put the destination and dates and scroll throught the results. If there is a specific hotel you are planning to stay in, also check the hotel's website.


Tours: look for the official websites of the attractions you intend to visit (museums, parks, historical sites) to check the price of the tickets and if it is necessary to buy in advance. Do a googl search on the tour you want to do (for example: "Hot Air Ballon ride Cappadocia") and see what comes up, you'll get an idea of ​​the price. Another good sources are GetYourGuide and TripAdvisor.


Food: in addition to the basic search on ggole for "how much does a meal cost in ......", enter Google Maps, choose a destination you want to go to, and go see the restaurants, look for the menus (paying attention to when the photo was taken), you can have an idea of ​​how much a meal costs.


Local transport: if you are going on a road-trip, or moving between different locations, it is important to check the best way to get around and the cost: car rental, domestic flight tickets, train or bus. Even if you are going to stay all the time in the same city, it is important to figure out how are you going to get around. It's always good to take a look at the cost of the subway or taxi, if uber operates there, or if you need to rent a car. A quick Google search will give you an idea of ​​how much these cost.


With all this in mind, you can set the travel budget and (probably) exclude some destinations from your list.


Another important definition, which can be made at this point, is the exact duration of the trip: "two weeks of vacation" can end up being anything from 12 to 16 days - depending on the prices of the flights and the cost of each day (accommodation + tour + food) , staying a day or two less, or more, can make a big difference.


mosteiro dos geronimos, Lisboa, Portugal

Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, Lisboa, Portugal



3️⃣ Documentation


VERY IMPORTANT: before making any decision on the destination, check if you need PASSPORT, VISA, vaccination (yellow fever, COVID-19 or other), if it is mandatory to have travel insurance or any other type of restriction or bureaucratic-documentary requirement.


A very good site to research is joinsherpa.com - I always check with them before planning any trip.



4️⃣ Research initial ideas for the itinerary, define entry and exit ports and whether domestic flights will be needed.


It's time to start thinking about the detailed roadmap. For example, if you want to go to Italy, it's time to think about which towns to visit and how long to stay in each one.


This is my favorite part of planning a trip: getting to know more about the destination (and thus having more elements to decide among those that are still in the game), discovering cool things to do, dreaming about the trip. There are so many ways you can do it: search on Google, blogs, Instagram, travel guides (love them!), asking friends and acquaintances, in short, all sources are valid to enrich your traveler repertoire.


It's also time to check if you're going to arrive and depart from the same location. For example: if you want to go to France and the Netherlands, it might be interesting to take a one-way flight arriving in Paris, and then depart back home from Amsterdam. In addition to saving time, you may get a better price on airline tickets.


Sunset at Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa.

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa.



5️⃣ Buy airline tickets


The most awaited moment has arrived: buying airline tickets always ends up having that taste of "that's it, I'm going, nothing can stop me now!"


(Of course, even after purchasing the tickets, many things can happen, but let's remain optimistic because, even with a global pandemic, sooner or later trips always happen)


Have we purchased airline tickets before any research on the destination? Yessss! Have we booked several hotels before buying airplane tickets? Yessss!! Do I recommend it? Honestly NOT I DON'T. In the first scenario, unless you find a really good, but really good sale, the one that you just don't have available time for a quick internet search, I assure you you can even get a good deal on the air fares, but you run the risk of getting frustrated in other areas, such as general cost of the destination, little or too much time at that destination, etc. In the second case (booking accommodation and tours before buying tickets), you end up with little flexibility to get flights, so you may end up paying more than you would like.


If the trip doesn't involve air travel, great! Take advantage of this moment to see if the car doesn't need an overhaul ;-) If you're traveling by road or train, research if it's necessary to buy tickets in advance and plan for it.


Templo de Adriano, Biblioteca de Celso, ruinas gregas em Éfeso, Turquia

Ephesus, Turkey



6️⃣Detail itinerary, research (and book) accommodation


Airline tickets purchased, throw yourself into planning the itinerary. How much you plan and book depends on your travel style and the time of year (in high season it's good to have your accommodations booked in advance), but it's always interesting and important to have a general idea of the itinerary: what places to visit, how long to stay in each one, and the tours and activities you really want to do.


As I said at the beginning, any trip has to have a mix between planning and spontaneity. Leave time and opportunities for free wandering, enjoy the place, take advantage of a tip that another traveler, who you met right there, gave you, change plans depending on the weather or your mood.


I recommend having at least the first few days of accommodation booked, especially when it comes to an international trip.


Lagoa Verde, Alter do Chão, Pará, Brasil

Alter do Chão, Pará, Brazil



7️⃣Book transfers, rent a car, buy train and bus tickets and other domestic locomotion


These reservations can be essential in some cases, recommendable in others, or can be made on the spot in other situations.


It depends on the destination, purpose of the trip (for example, if it is a road trip, it is essential to rent a car in advance), travel style, time of year, etc.



8️⃣ Buy tickets and book activities and tours


This also depends on your destination and what you intend to do. Check if you need to buy tickets to activities (museums, historic sites, activites like biking, kayaking, hot air ballon ride, etc) in advance.


We almost didn't manage to visit the Alhambra (one of the most beautiful places in the world in my opinion), in Granada, Spain, because I left it to buy tickets a few weeks before the trip (you must book it MONTHS in advance). We were only able to visit it because an amazing lovely person at the sales desk (yes, we went to the tickets office whining to see if there was a way to get tickets for us who had come so far only to visit the Alhambra 😂) explained to us that at midnight extra tickets were released for the following day . We managed to buy it, but at 00:03 am there were no more tickets available.


Don't go through that stress. Do your research before. I really mean it. Research.


Bear Lake. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, EUA

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA.



9️⃣Travel insurance


Travel insurance usualy must be made before leaving your home country (but check that information with your local insurance company). I always recommend having travel insurance, even if it's a short trip.


We only used travel insurance once (one in our group got C0VlD while we were travelling, he didn't have any symptoms, but it was pretty stressful)



1️⃣0️⃣Pack your bags and GO ENJOY YOUR VACATIONS!!!


Then just wait for the date of the trip and (a few days before) pack your bags and enjoy!


May it be the trip you've dreamed of and planned for!



BUT YOU MAY BE ASKING...


How long before should I start planning? How long does it take to do all this? ⏳⏳⏳


That's a tough question... 😂


There's no right answer. Everything will depend on your destination, the season, your budget (everything done in advance tends to be less expensive) etc. etc. etc.


We've already done all this process in 2 days (it was rushed but everything went well) and in other cases it took more than a year of planning.


What can I say is: school holidays? Plan well in advance. National holidays? Plan ahead EVEN EARLIER.



NOW PIN THIS TO YOUR PINTEREST ACCOUNT, so you'll always find this post when you need!


How to Plan a Trip - 10 steps to organize the perfect trip, simple and easy

AFTER ALL THESE TIPS AND INFORMATION, here's our link to BOOKING.COM- you won't spend a penny making your reservations through this link and it helps us keep this site up and running! Click and have a good trip!!



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