Planning a trip is exciting. In fact, a survey commissioned by Exodus Travel at the start of 2021 found that many people who consider themselves travelers that were grounded by the pandemic spent their time doing “fantasy travel planning” to keep them happier.
Of course, planning can be stressful too, not knowing if you’re making the best decisions about where to go, where to stay, and everything else that comes with it. One of the ways to ease that stress is to ensure you’ve covered all the bases. Thinking about the various aspects of a trip and what you want out of it can allow you to make the most of your escape and perhaps memories of a lifetime.
How Much Time Do You Have?
To help determine the best place to go, consider how much time you have. If you only have a week, it probably doesn’t make sense to take two full days out of it to fly across the Atlantic to Europe, for example. You’ll have a lot more flexibility if you have two weeks or more, and you might even be able to explore multiple destinations. A long weekend on the other hand, might be best for a road trip somewhere within reasonable driving distance.
How Much Can You Afford to Spend?
Cost is a big consideration unless you’re one of the few who have unlimited funds to spend.
Switzerland, Iceland, and other Scandinavian countries are very pricey, requiring a fairly high budget. If you recently purchased a new home among Arlington real estate, money is probably tight so you might want to think about places where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck like Eastern Europe or Central America.
If you have a list of possible destinations, look into how expensive they are. You can get an idea by searching on Google, looking at hotel and Airbnb prices, checking airfares, etc. Sites like Numbeo can give you an idea of the costs for dining out and groceries.
What Type of Experiences are You Looking For?
If you have no idea where you want to go, you’ll want to think about the type of experiences you’d like to enjoy on your trip. Cultural attractions in major cities? Time at the beach or in the mountains? Relaxation or more adventure? All inclusive resorts or an apartment that lets you get to know more of the local life?
Do You Have to Travel During a Particular Time?
Crowds, weather, and budget can all play key roles as to when it’s the best time to travel to a destination. If you don’t have a choice as to when you can go, that can help you narrow down the destinations. Otherwise, research to determine the high, low, and shoulder seasons. In the Caribbean for example, the low season generally covers the hurricane season (June through November), but you might find some great deals during this period and, by choosing an island outside of the hurricane belt, significantly reduce the risk of being caught in a major storm.
Obviously, you don’t want to go anywhere where there is war, major civil unrest, a significant amount of violent crime, etc. Check official government sites and talk to others on travel forums to get a realistic idea of the current situation.
Before booking any international flights, it’s a must to check the country’s entry requirements and whether or not you need a visa. If you don’t, you might still need a travel pre-authorization. If you don’t have a passport yet, you’ll need to be sure your trip departure date is far enough out to allow you to get one. While that was once six weeks, due to COVID it’s been several months or more. If you already have a passport, be sure that it’s valid for six months beyond the date you plan to stay and that there are enough empty pages for stamps.
Accommodation takes one of the biggest chunks out of your budget, but you’ll probably have lots of options to consider. You might rough it and stay in a hostel, find an Airbnb apartment that provides access to a kitchen that helps save on dining out, or go luxurious and book a high-end resort.
Something a lot of people forget about until the last minute when going to a foreign country is their smartphone. Being able to use it for GPS alone can be incredibly helpful to avoid getting lost, and you probably want to take photos and post them like you do back home. Check with your carrier above coverage options and if it’s too pricey, use it only when connected to free Wi-Fi. Or use local SIM cards on an unlocked phone.