This is How Much You Should Plan for Your Next Vacation

Why not being prepared is the secret to a memorable trip.

Photo by Chen Mizrach on Unsplash

Oftentimes, I’m asked how I go about planning my travels. The answer is quite different for every trip.

Sometimes, the planning needs to be intricate and full of details. But, more often than not, the best trips end up being the ones you’re most nervous about. The ones that aren’t planned out day-by-day, hour-by-hour. The journeys that scare the hell out of you and make you feel as if you’re taking a giant leap into the unknown.


Because it’s exhilarating to figure it out as you go- that is what makes up half the experience.

Plans are going to change.

It happens to me every time.

Perhaps, I plan to see Venice after Malta. But, after falling in puppy love, I change plans to visit her in Budapest. Am I going to turn down an opportunity like that? It is unlikely.

But, if I’m so drowned in my exhausted research and schedules, I’m not going to allow myself to go off course. That’s the sad truth. Sometimes, the best plan is no plan (or very little, anyway.)

So, here’s what I normally plan ahead of time.

Packing list.

This is a must. And this one will become easier as you become a more experienced traveler.

Your perpetual list will write itself inside your brain. It becomes second nature when packing your bags, eventually.

There are so many different “Packing List Must’s” blogs out there. I wouldn’t read much into them. If you must, don’t rely on one blogger’s list. Instead, use a collection of lists to make your own.

Remember: Pack less!

Although it seems like you need an extra pair of shoes, you probably don’t. The hassle of dragging them around outweighs the benefits of having them for the occasional evening out.

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

Trip length.

This one depends on the type of schedule you’re on.

My favorite trips are always the ones in which I don’t have a set return date. That restriction eats away at me.

However, I realize an open-ended return isn’t always possible. Plus, for financial reasons, purchasing a round-trip ticket is usually less expensive. So, time becomes an issue.

If you get the opportunity to travel without a time restraint, take advantage of it. It allows for so much more mind-freedom. There is less stress and your possibilities are open.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash


This is the hardest one not to plan. If you are like me, the internet becomes a dangerous thing during pre-trip planning.

Who can plan a trip without mapping out hundreds of different route combinations? Certainly not me.

The growing list of destinations starts to become a problem.

What’s my suggestion?

Make a list of potential destinations. Just once. Make it very broad (generally, I make a list of destinations I can see in my head without the help of a map). Then, keep it. Memorize it. But don’t get too attached to a specific plan.

Become educated about what destinations are in the general direction of your route. But don’t write your target destinations in permanent marker.

As mentioned, plans will change. You’ll meet new friends. Mother nature will not cooperate. You’ll run into transportation problems.

Whatever it is, be prepared to make the best of wherever your trip takes you. That’s the only advice I have, and it is the best and simplest advice to give.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash


This is the last but most important part of planning a trip.

A budget is different for everyone.

Be honest with your expectations and your limitations. Own up to what you can and can’t afford.

Because you don’t have a lot doesn’t mean it is not ENOUGH money to travel. In today’s world, it is easier than ever to find ways to travel inexpensively.

You must be frugal, you must do a lot of research, and most importantly, you must stay committed to your budget.

Not everyone will be able to afford a hotel in the middle of downtown Chicago. Quite frankly, you might be better off without it.

You will find out what you prefer to spend your budget on. It’ll teach you a lot about yourself. You will make sacrifices along the way for the things that are important to you.

For example, maybe you can afford to eat at the highest-rated local restaurants in each new city. But, maybe, you’ll find out you’d rather use that money to take an excursion to the village 90 miles outside of the city. Some places are rich in the local culture like you can’t find in the city.

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

There’s endless research you could do. It is up to you to determine when enough is enough.

You’ll figure out what is and isn’t enough structure for you. If you’re like me, you’ll decide all you need is a budget to feel comfortable.

Planning will always vary from person to person. Find the methods that fit your fancy.

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