How to plan a trip for the first time

I have been planning my travel adventures for almost a decade, and now I understand the
ins and outs of adventure travel. When it comes to picking your destination, outlining your
activities, and managing costs, I’ve got you covered.

What will you learn in this blog post:

  • how to budget effectively
  • plan efficiently
  • handle logistics
  • pack smartly

Thinking about how to plan a trip for the first time can feel daunting especially if you’re just starting on your adventure journey. I remember relying on my husband to organize my trips, waiting for our schedules to align, and having almost no say in what was going to happen. If you’re a beginner traveler eager to maximize your adventures, this post is tailored just for you. Here’s what you need to know for your adventure travel planning!

Yes, it’s true guys, there might be affiliate links in this awesome, free post. This means that if you decide to buy something that you find here, and you use one of my links to do so, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I plan to use this money on ice cream, chocolate, and to travel more so I can write these useful guides for you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Choosing Your Location

Before dusting off your travel journal, it’s all about choosing a destination that ignites your
curiosity. It can be anything like the magical Japan, or peaceful Maldives, or even the amazing Iceland.

If you’re having trouble narrowing it down, think about what type of adventure you’re looking for. Are you an adrenaline junkie or a nature lover? Once you have an idea of your desired activities and experiences, you can start researching potential destinations that align with them.

Then start by making a bucket list of these places that whisper to you. Include a variety of different interests, maybe like climbing, surfing, or simply taking in the local culture. Expand beyond the borders of familiarity, but stay within the bounds of your comfort and skill level.

Actionable steps to take:

  • Research your bucket list destinations with a focus on safety, local customs, and seasonal weather patterns.
  • Prioritize a list of destinations based on their attractiveness to your interests and the practicalities of visiting them.
  • Create a Pinterest board or collection of travel articles about your chosen destinations to get a good visual and cultural orientation.

Need inspiration? Check out my Bucketlist Travel Challenges!

Solo Travel vs. Group Travel

Deciding whether to go alone or take the company of other travelers is a crucial step in planning your travel adventures. Both have their pros and cons, so consider your desired travel style and choose accordingly.

Solo travel offers freedom and self-discovery but can feel lonely at times. Group travel provides shared experiences and safety in numbers, yet requires compromise. Think about what you’re into, how brave you feel, and your need for human bonds before you decide which way to go.

Don’t forget, solo doesn’t always mean you’re truly on your own, organized tours can provide a structured yet solitary experience. Remember, you can always mix and match by joining a group tour while still having some solo time.

Actionable steps to take:

  • Reflect on past trips to determine what dynamics felt most rewarding and comfortable for you.
  • Consider starting with a group trip if you’re new to solo adventures, it’s a fantastic way to dip your toes into the solo travel waters.
  • Join travel forums or groups on social media to connect with other adventurers who might be considering the same destination at the same time.

Pennies for the Adventure Jar

The next step for your adventure travel plan is creating a budget. The financial aspect of your trip is where the dreams of travel meet the balance of reality. Create a budget that includes all costs, from the airfare down to the souvenirs.

When traveling, budget for categories like accommodation, transportation, food, activities, and souvenirs. To create a budget, be realistic about your spending habits and prioritize experiences that matter most to you.

Don’t forget to save some pennies for unexpected adventures, they’re often the best ones. Consider using a savings tracker app, and cutting back on expenses to reach your travel goals. Remember that budgeting is not just about saving but also managing your resources effectively while on the road.

You can get more budget travel tips when you read my detailed blog post, or if you decide to buy my eBook containing all the tips about traveling on a budget I managed to collect in all these years.

Want to travel more without increasing your budget? Check out my eBook on ways to travel on a low budget and make it happen!

Actionable steps to take:

  • Research average costs for your destination to create a realistic budget that considers all expenses, including food, transportation, accommodations, and activities.
  • Set up a dedicated savings account or use financial apps to track your travel funds and keep yourself accountable.
  • Look for travel deals, such as off-season discounts, and consider alternative accommodation options like hostels, Airbnb, or couch-surfing.

Need help with your travel budget? Check out my two resources below!

Ultimate Travel Planner - Airtable base to help you organize your trip to the Maldives (packing list included)

Crafting Your Itinerary

The art of crafting an itinerary is equal parts structure and spontaneity. Some travelers thrive on a day-by-day schedule, while others prefer a loose framework with space for the unexpected. Decide on the type of itinerary that matches your style. Whether it be adventure, relaxation, cultural immersion, or a blend of everything.

When it comes to organizing your travel plans, the format of your itinerary can be as varied as the destinations on your bucket list. Each method has its fans, and what works marvelously for one person might be a recipe for confusion for another.

There are many different types of itineraries that you can choose from and even use a mix of multiple ones. Spreadsheets are great for structured plans, while documents for narrative layouts, or go old school with pen and paper for flexibility and creativity.

Need help planning your itinerary? Check out my resources below!

Actionable steps to take:

  • Use online resources and travel guides to ensure you don’t miss must-see attractions and experiences.
  • Leverage digital tools like travel apps and Google Maps to plan routes and flag points of interest.
  • Leave room in your itinerary for serendipitous discoveries and be prepared to deviate from the plan if an exciting opportunity arises.

The Travel Details

Adventure lies in spontaneity, but a certain level of meticulousness is required to make a trip go over the top. Once you have your destination, itinerary, and budget set, it’s time to plan the specifics. Consider the little things that pave the way for a smooth expedition, from visas and vaccinations to travel insurance and emergency plans.

When planning your dream vacation accommodations, flights, getting around, and dining are all key things to think about. Making sure you’ve got a comfy place to stay, affordable flights, reliable transport, and tasty meals can really boost your trip’s quality.

Another aspect to keep in mind is to make sure you have copies of important documents like passports and contact information for family or friends in case of an emergency. It’s also essential to research the local customs and culture of the country you will be staying in.

Need help planning your trip? Check out my resources below!

Actionable steps to take:

  • Check visa requirements for your destination and make necessary applications well in advance.
  • Consult a healthcare professional to ensure you’re up to date on all required vaccinations and discuss any potential health concerns for your trip.
  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance that covers any adventure activities you plan to undertake.
  • Make digital and physical copies of important documents like your passport, insurance, and emergency contacts, and store them in secure locations.

Booking your Trip

With your travel plans detailed and logistics sorted, the next task is to reserve your trip. This involves booking your flights, rental car, hotel, and excursions. While early reservations usually lead to better deals, last-minute offers can sometimes show lower prices.

Always compare prices across multiple platforms, and don’t forget to look for combo offers that bundle flights with hotel stays. Signing up for alerts from airlines and travel websites can give you a head start on sales and limited-time promotions.

Once you’ve clicked the “book” button don’t forget to keep track of your confirmation emails. These digital receipts are your lifeline in the whirlwind of travel logistics. Save them in a designated folder in your email. This way, if any hiccups arise, from checking into your hotel to renting a car, you’ll have all the necessary information at your fingertips.

Need help booking your trip? Check out my resources below!

Actionable steps to take:

  • Research different travel options such as flights, trains, buses, or ferries, and weigh the cost against travel time and comfort.
  • If you’re flexible with your dates, look for mid-week or red-eye flights and consider alternative airports to find cheaper rates.
  • Consider the environmental impact of your travel and look for options to offset your carbon footprint.

Packing Right

Packing for your trip doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Start by crafting a detailed packing list to ensure you don’t forget anything essential. Consider the climate and activities planned to make your list as efficient as possible.

To save money and streamline your travel experience, aim to pack light. This approach not only makes it easier to maneuver through airports and transit systems but also saves you from incurring additional fees for checked baggage.

Before you zip up your suitcase or backpack, check your airline’s luggage requirements and then set aside some time for last-minute shopping. Planning your outfits in advance can also prevent overpacking. Lay out your clothes and mix and match pieces to create versatile looks that can transition from day to evening activities.

Need help packing for your trip? Check out my resources below!

Actionable steps to take:

  • Make a checklist of essential items and review it multiple times to ensure you’re not missing anything important.
  • Invest in high-quality, lightweight travel gear that will withstand the rigors of your adventures.
  • Roll your clothes to save space and prevent wrinkles, and use packing cubes or compression sacks for maximum efficiency.
  • Always pack a basic first-aid kit, a portable charger, a power plug adapter, and any medications you need, along with a few comfort items that can make a long trip more enjoyable.

How to plan a trip for the first time – The takeaway

Adventure travel planning is all about balance. By being practical and strategic with your decisions, you can save money, reduce your environmental impact, and ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. Keep these tips in mind for your next adventure and get ready to make unforgettable memories!

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