The art of travel planning: An 8-step guide

You have just confirmed your next trip destination and blissfully highlighted your trip dates in the calendar. Now all the fun begins as you prepare for the trip. The reality sets in, although you want to do everything, you have time limitations. The big question: do you arrive at the destination and wing it, or will you map out a detailed itinerary?

As an experienced traveller, I have experimented with both approaches. The reason for the trip, your personality and travel style will dictate the most appropriate approach for you. If you choose to map out an itinerary, below are some considerations to make as you plan for your trip. I hope this helps my fellow adventurers who appreciate having some sort of plan. However, I also encourage leaving room for spontaneity.

1. How much time do you have?

If you have this clear, it will set the foundation of your entire plan.

2. How far do you want to go in the chosen destination?

Decide if you want to explore one city or venture out to surrounding areas.

3. What is your budget for the trip?

Decide how much you want to spend in different categories. This includes accommodation, activities, flights, food, souvenirs and local transport. Do some research to identify estimated costs of things in the chosen destination. Try and create a buffer for yourself in case you find some unexpected gems.

4. What are other people recommending?

Obtain insider tips from friends or family who have visited the destination. These can prove to be invaluable.

Also don’t forget to get some inspiration from the interwebs – travel blogs, Tiktok, Instagram, Youtube or TripAdvisor. Refrain from overdoing this as this may affect your experience when you eventually arrive. in a place.

5. What are your priorities for the trip?

Decide what your primary focuses for the trip are. This could be adventure, walking, relaxation, culture, history or a bit of everything. Being clear on your key priorities will guide which activities you choose.

6. What activities do you want to do?

Create a list of activities you want to do and where you can do this at the destination location. Consider if these fit within your budget.

Decide which you can do alone or where you might need to go on a guided tour. In some places, guided tours can be a fantastic way to explore and learn about local culture and history. They also make logistics simpler. Tours sometimes bundle different activities together, making the trip smoother. You can either book private tours or group tours – depending on your budget and preference. I have made some amazing friends through group tours who I have later had other adventures with.

7. Do you have time for each of your chosen activities?

Plot out your daily activities for the trip. Do not overfill your itinerary, but leave room for serendipity. Overloading your schedule can stifle spontaneity.

8. Are there any activities you need to book in advance?

Once you have decided on your activities, you need to work out how to book them. You may just arrive for some activities, book some activities the day before or a few days prior. Confirm if any of your chosen activities need an advance booking. How far in advance do you need to make the bookings? Imagine my disappointment in San Franciso or Johannesburg when I discovered I could not visit Alcatraz or have Dinner in the Sky. Other activities that may need advance booking include festivals, sporting events, theatre shows or music performances.

Once your itinerary is set, trust it as your guide, but be open to unexpected adventures.

Allow the trip to evolve as it progresses. Remember it’s not always just about checking items off a list; it’s about immersing yourself in unique experiences. Whether you are a super planner or a go-with-the-flow traveller, the beauty of exploring new destination lies in the discoveries you make along the way. You might find a local bar, discover new food, meet someone who invites you on a road trip or an activity that you had never considered.

Comment below and let me know if you are a wing-it type of traveller, have a plan as a guide or stick rigidly to your plan. Do you usually stick to your pre-planned itinerary when you travel?

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