It’s a quarter-life crisis. It’s a divorce. It’s an epiphany. It’s a sign from above. It’s just a gut feeling. There are a million “its” for why people get the urge to travel. The greatest thing about this endless list of reasons why people get away is that every reason is justified. Unlike work or school, there’s no wrong answer. And all it takes to make a trip a success is answering a series of questions with thoughtfulness and research.
Where Are You Going?
It may be an obvious question, but it’s also the biggest hurdle you have to face. How many times have you heard someone say, “I want to travel” or “I want to visit destination A, B and maybe even C”? Put simply, until you’ve firmly decided where to go, you will never leave.
Luckily, there are ton of resources for finding destinations, from books to blogs to apps. When deciding, consider the factor of language. Do you prefer an English-speaking country? And then, do you have any friends or family living abroad that can accommodate you? Ultimately, as a corny as it sounds, following your heart is the best way to choose a destination. If you’ve obsessed about Madagascar since kindergarten, a journey there has a slim chance of disappointment.
How Much Money Do You Need?
Pin down your trip length to help you decide if you’re booking a round-trip flight or a one-way. The cost of flights becomes the first slice of your travel budget pie. Next, research accommodations in your destination of choice (good thing you’ve picked one already). Scour less expensive options like Airbnb, VRBO and guest houses that are run by ex-pats. Determine a daily budget, add it up and set your savings goal. Write the number on a board, in your computer or tattoo it on your arm — whatever you have to do so the number fuels your motivation and focus. Look to cut unnecessary subscription services and daily costs (like coffee or snacks), and consider selling personal items like furniture and electronics.
How Will You Ensure Your Safety?
Travel insurance is a no-brainer. For a few dollars a day, you are covered for any unexpected injuries or illnesses. Coverage options range from $20,000 to $1,000,000 — or in other words, risky to unnecessary.
NomadicMatt recommends a $100,000 policy and provides a helpful guide. Independent Traveler warns about child ID theft, which can occur when a child’s social security number is obtained. Research ID protection companies like LifeLock if you want additional peace of mind.
What Will You Do?
Determining an itinerary is where personalization comes into your trip. There are hundreds of sources on the Internet for identifying and booking things to do. Here are just a few trip-planning apps:
- TripIt: You can’t do anything if you miss your flights or trains. TripIt is a service that creates a master itinerary so you have important information in one place. The free version allows you to forward your confirmation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and an itinerary populates on the app. The paid version removes ads and includes additional features, such as real-time flight alerts.
- TripHobo: TripHobo enables you to enter in multiple destinations, select a number of days for each spot and populate a list of attractions with info on hours, pricing and location.
- Tripomatic: Tripomatic is another free tool that populates a map of a desired city and visually depicts museums, neighborhoods and landmarks. You can add attractions and attach them to a certain day of your itinerary. All the information is then synced with a mobile app.
It’s important to note that people were traveling the world far before smartphones or the Internet. Seat 61 presents a spreadsheet technique for planning an itinerary. The columns include the date, activity and cost broken down into fare, hotel and food. Even if it’s not exact or complete, filling out an itinerary spreadsheet helps you see the big picture.
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