28 Sep How to organize a trip in 10 steps: Complete Guide
While it is probably my favorite thing in the world, for many, organizing a trip is a headache. Along with deciding the destination and the dates, you will have certain doubts in any travel organization. Where do I find the cheapest flights? Through which page do I book the accommodation? Do I need a visa or travel insurance? Where is it better to change money? And so dozens of questions! And since I see that you are starting to sweat, you can already start reading the complete guide about organizing a trip in 10 steps!
Do not despair 😂! In this post I will explain in detail how to organize a trip from the first step. Many prefer to hire a travel agency and have them organize everything, but I’m going to show you that planning a trip can be fun!
Although I reveal my best secrets (not so much … haha) I am going to give you a guide on how I organize my trips. The websites I use, advices according to my experiences… Everything I can think of to help you, I will explain it into this post!
Are you ready to start organizing a trip?
- 1 Destination: Where am I going on a trip?
- 2 Dates: when do I want to organize a trip?
- 3 Flight search and booking
- 4 Accommodation: hotel or apartment?
- 5 Transport at destination
- 6 Itineraries: an essential step for organizing a trip
- 7 Activities and excursions (with cost)
- 8 Gastronomy of the place: what is the typical food and where to eat it
- 9 Travel Tips: Health and Travel Insurance – Visa – Money
- 10 Apps for traveling: essential to organize a trip
Destination: Where am I going on a trip?
Many of you will say … the easiest part of organizing a trip! Definitely not for me 😂. Because I like to travel so much and I want to visit so many cities that when I think about where I want to go I end up shuffling between at least 3 options haha.
Generally, when I have 2 or 3 options in mind I ask myself some common questions to decide the final destination:
- Is it a unique trip or could you organize it at another time? Organizing a trip can be hard, and it is not the same to want to go to Paris than to want to go to Australia… To Paris if we are honest, we could go at any time, but Australia? Last year for example I was between doing a road trip through Italy or doing a route through Malaysia. I finally decided that it would always be easier to organize a trip to Italy than to organize a trip to Malaysia. And what a success!
- How many vacation days do I have and how much money do I want to spend? This question is directly related to the previous one. In other words, organizing a trip to Paris is always going to be much cheaper than organizing it to Australia. And, for Paris we will need at most a week and for Australia I would say 3 or 4 weeks.
- What is the weather going to be on the dates I want to go? Following the same previous example, if I want to organize a trip for August, Paris is not the same as Australia. In August it is summer in Paris, but it is winter in Australia. If I am organizing a trip for winter, it is not the same to go to Poland at -20º than to go to the Riviera Maya. It seems very obvious, but surely this is one of the questions that will help you a lot to decide your destination.
- What kind of trip do I want to do? This question is one of the most important to me when choosing a travel destination. Do I want city? I want beach? Do I feel like going to the mountains? In some moments I die to return to New York hundreds of times with all the bustle of the city. And, in others, I need a “retreat” and think of the Maldives or taking a rural trip. This depends on each one!
In conclusion, as a tip, when I have almost decided my destination, what I do is read hundreds of blogs. I like to know what the people who have gone think, if it is worth it or not. When I decided on Malaysia, I read thousands of posts about all the cities I wanted to visit and as I read, the desire to catch the plane started to increase!
Dates: when do I want to organize a trip?
For those of you like me who have the flexibility to choose a vacation, you can choose the date of the trip. At the beginning of the year I have to give at work the vacations dates of the whole year but I choose them when I want.
Last year when I went to Malaysia, I had the option of leaving from June to September. After doing a lot of research on the weather I decided that a good date was July, and so I did!
It also depends a lot on the destination, for example New York or Prague. Some of you will prefer to visit these cities with heat and in a short t-shirt, but others will organize the trip just to see the incredible Christmas markets. Or if you want to go to a paradise island. Obviously, you are not going to go during the monsoon season so as not to touch the beach 😂.
Flight search and booking
In most cases, this is probably the step that bores me the most when organizing a trip… Let’s be honest, generally, we spend hours looking at flights. We continuously compare prices by connecting at different times, visiting different websites, changing dates … It’s hard work!
In order to help you organizing a trip and find your flights, here are some tips:
- What flight search engine do I use? My favorite is Skyscanner. It gives you many options for flights and companies, it tells you if it is convenient to buy at that time or wait, you can activate alerts … It is essential that the search engine helps you as much as possible to decide.
- When is it better to book flights? There are millions of theories. If you want to book a European flight you would have to do it 6 months in advance. If it were long distance, it would be best to book between 25 and 30 weeks in advance. You can see a complete report that Skyscanner has made of when is the best time to book flights from the US. What is proven is that weekends will always be more expensive because people are looking for much more.
Couple questions 👇!
So far I have given you some tips to find the cheapest flights. Once you have located it and you are decided, you will have to answer a couple of questions:
- What flight do I choose? All search engines give you infinite options. Direct flight? With stops? Tourist or business? Do I want to leave in the morning and return at night? This already depends on each one!
- What company do I want to fly with? You will also answer this question according to your preferences. I personally always avoid traveling with low cost companies, because in the end cheap is expensive… And if you can choose between good companies, find out which one is the best. To go to Malaysia, I had the option of traveling with Emirates or Qatar and, after reading opinions and services they offer, I chose Emirates.
Accommodation: hotel or apartment?
Some of you will prefer a hotel because you are going on vacation to rest and literally “do nothing” 😂. Others of you will choose to book an apartment because you prefer that type of privacy and you can also cook as you please.
I personally am always open to both. On my trip to Malaysia, in which I visited 5 different cities, in 3 of them I chose an apartment and in the other 2 hotels.
Yes or yes, there is one VERY IMPORTANT thing when choosing accommodation: the cancellation policy. ALWAYS take free cancellation. First because you will never know what can happen and you may be forced to cancel the trip. And if not, look at what happened with the coronavirus… And, secondly, because you may find a better option just before the trip and you want to change your accommodation.
Book an apartment
If you prefer an apartment, I will always recommend that you look for it on AirBnB. I take this opportunity to remind you that if you have never booked with AirBnB, I will give you a discount of up to € 50 for your first reservation. I also leave you some small tips to book “correctly” with AirBnB:
- Read the opinions! Many of the travelers leave their opinions about the accommodations. It is important that you read them to choose the apartment well.
- If you can, choose Superhosts, which are those tenants who, after having very good ratings, are considered “super tenants”. That gives you enormous peace of mind!
- Check well how much they charge you for the cleaning service. There are some apartments that do not charge and others that charge more or less.
- And finally, take a look at the usual things: apartment services, map with location, check-in and check-out information …
Book a hotel
I have used millions of hotel search engines, but for a long time I only look at two: Booking and Expedia. I have to say that in both you can book hotels but also apartments.
As a priority I use Booking and I only book with Expedia if it is cheaper. The good thing about Booking is that it has a loyalty program called Genius that, depending on your level, they will give you discounts on the rate, changes to higher categories, free breakfasts … I’m at level 2 😂!
Transport at destination
Knowing how you are going to move around the city you visit is undoubtedly important when planning a trip. Would you rather use the subway or the bus? Do you like the independence of renting a car? Organizing a trip it’s different depending on the kind of trip 😉
I decide according to the following guidelines:
- If I am going to visit a city and I don’t plan to move, I always opt for public transport or walking. For example, I’m going on a trip to Rome and I don’t plan to move from Rome. Well, I either walk everywhere or take the bus.
- I am going to visit a city but I also want to see nearby cities. I’m going to Rome but I want to spend a couple of days in Naples and instead of going by train I want to go by rental car because I’m going to want to move along the Amalfi Coast.
- I am going to visit several nearby cities. I land in Pisa or Florence because I want to do a road trip through Tuscany. And, instead of taking a multitude of buses or trains, I prefer to have the independence of moving around in my own car.
Transport travel apps 👇!
Based on the transport you choose, you can download some essential travel apps:
- If you are going to dedicate yourself to kick the city: You can download Google Maps or CityMaps2Go. I love the latter and then I will tell you more about it below, because apart from being a map, you can mark the things to see, restaurants, shops …
- If you are going to go by public transport: I usually look at it on Google Maps, in the public transport option.
- Rental car: Waze definitely! The best GPS in the world 😂
Itineraries: an essential step for organizing a trip
This is the step I like the most when organizing a trip! In this section what we will do is investigate the city: what to see, what to do, what to visit …
I tell you the steps that I follow when I do my itineraries:
- I research the things to see in blogs and on official pages of the destination city: monuments, parks, statues, the best beaches, shops … anything you can think of!
- Once I know what I want to see and do, I make the itineraries. For example, on my visits to New York, when I want to see everything in Manhattan, I make different itineraries. The day that I go to see the Statue of Liberty, I am also going to visit the 9/11 memorial and Wall Street, because the 3 are close together. For example, I would never put a visit to Central Park that day, because it is on the other side of the island and it would be a waste of time in transport. If I go to Paris, the same day I will go to Montmartre, the Sacre Coeur and the Moulin Rouge. It is about organizing all the visits to optimize the time as much as possible 😉
Activities and excursions (with cost)
I want to differentiate this section from the previous one, because in this I am going to refer to paid activities and excursions.
There are many companies that organize excursions to nearby cities, or activities in the city you visit.
Before you go on a trip, do not forget to research the available companies and their activities in case there are any that you want to book.
Gastronomy of the place: what is the typical food and where to eat it
Along with the itineraries, it is the step I like the most when planning a trip. I love what is called “gastronomic tourism”. Whenever I travel anywhere, in Spain or outside of Spain, I investigate what is typical of the local gastronomy and restaurants where I can try it.
First I make a guide of the typical gastronomy of each city that I am going to visit, and then, with the help of TripAdvisor, I look for the best restaurants. And by best, I don’t mean the most expensive, but the best-rated local restaurants. I’m not looking to leave 100 euros for a meal, I want to go to eat at the restaurant where the locals go. Those restaurants where you enter and you don’t see a single tourist. That will be the best restaurant!
To give you an idea of what I am telling you, you can take a look at my post about what to eat and where to eat in Georgetown, a city in Malaysia. It is a guide in which I have included all the typical dishes of the city and where to eat them.
Travel Tips: Health and Travel Insurance – Visa – Money
In this step I wanted to include all the travel tips that you have to look at when planning a trip. Do I need to get vaccines? Is it better to hire a travel insurance? Do they ask for a visa in the country of destination? What currency do they use in the city I go to and where do I change the money? Hundreds of questions will arise!
Health and travel insurance
For some destinations, such as tropical areas or areas at risk of contracting diseases, it will be essential that you get vaccinated for certain things.
They differentiate between three types of vaccine recommendations: mandatory vaccine, generally recommended vaccine, and recommended vaccine in special situations. To go to Malaysia last year there was only one mandatory, which was Yellow Fever, but only for travelers from a country where yellow fever exists (endemic). With which, I did not get vaccinated for anything 😂.
Always carry a small travel kit. It is always advisable to bring some medicine from home, such as ibuprofen, paracetamol, omeprazole … The typical things!
And finally, travel insurance. Vital on certain trips! If you go to Paris or Rome for a few days, it would not be necessary to take out travel insurance because in theory it covers us because they are European countries. I always take it for countries outside of Europe. For example, it is vital to take it to go to the US because anything related to Health is super expensive; or to go to any Asian country, where any bug can bite you 😂
When deciding on a destination, don’t forget to check if you need a visa. I have to say that having a Spanish passport is an advantage because normally we do not need a visa to go almost anywhere. But don’t stop checking it!
There can be four situations (Spanish examples):
- A visa is not necessary: if Spaniards travel through Europe, we do not need any type of visa.
- Free on arrival: it is the entry stamp that they put in your passport as it can happen in Malaysia. It is enough to fill out an entry form and have a valid passport with more than 6 months to expire.
- Payment on arrival: it is made at the airport windows upon arrival at the destination. You have to fill out a form, sometimes attach a photograph and make the payment.
- Visa issued before arrival: the clear example of the ESTA of the United States. The simplest thing is to process it through the US Customs website. You have to fill out a form on the same website where they ask you for your personal and work information, information about your stay in the US and certain questions such as whether you are going to attack the President. The most normal thing in the world … 😂
In this case you may have several doubts. Currency exchange, where to change money, commissions when you use ATMs or make purchases …
There are cards with very good conditions to travel, but I only recommend them if you’re an avid traveler. If you travel from time to time, I would use my bank card and, if I charge fees, I would bring cash.
The options are as follows:
- If you don’t travel a lot: my recommendation is that you talk to your own bank to check if it charges you commissions for using the card in shops or for withdrawing money at a foreign ATM. If it charges you commissions, it is best to bring cash. Your own bank in your country can change your currency, but I always do it at destination. Of course, NEVER AT THE AIRPORT! Take a walk around the city and compare prices until you find the one that offers you the best change 😉
- If you are a born traveler: if you travel a lot, it is best to get a specialized travel card. I Spain we have to great options: the Bnext card, which has a free plan with withdrawal and spending limits without commissions. Or, the N26 card, which applies a small commission on withdrawals, but not on payments. I don’t know if these cards can be also contracted in other countries!
Apps for traveling: essential to organize a trip
For me there are 3 travel apps that are completely ESSENTIAL on any trip you do:
- CityMaps2Go: you will be able to carry the map of the city you visit without having to worry about being connected to the internet. What I like the most is the ability to add bookmarks. Things to see, restaurants, shops … anything you want to bookmark you can add!
- XE Currency: In this application you will find the official currency exchanges in practically all imaginable currencies.
- AccuWeather or any other weather app: If there is something that we are going to consult SURE when we go on a trip, it is the weather. It provides hourly and long-range predictions (up to five days), among other statistics!
If you are going to do a road trip, don’t forget to download Waze! This GPS is made up of millions of users who provide totally up-to-date navigation data, with traffic warnings, roadblocks, construction sites, radar controls … You won’t miss anything!
And this is my complete guide about organizing a trip in 10 easy steps! If you think that I should add any more steps please do not hesitate to tell me 😉.
I hope to help you with your trip planning! But if anyone is very lazy about all this, you can also ask me about my travel consultancy and I will help you
Cheer up and good luck!