Trip Planning Process

Trip planning from start to finish can be extremely overwhelming, and a long process. This checklist contains five easy steps, and following this process will ensure you have a smooth trip.


Table of Contents

5 Steps to Planning a Trip


The first step in trip planning is important, as you need to make three key decisions here. You need to decide:

  1. Your budget
  2. When to travel
  3. Where to travel


It is important to decide on your overall budget first, as this will influence when and where you wish to travel. Decide on a rough number that you are willing to put towards your trip. For example, deciding to take a gap year and use your $8,000 savings versus a quick getaway with a $500 limit. This will give you an idea of what budget you are working with.


Next you should decide when you want to travel. This may already be decided for you, if you have set dates you are allowed off work or school. Knowing when you are able to travel will narrow down options and ultimately help you decide where to go. This is because you will be able to rule out certain destinations based on weather or cost during peak season.


Finally, you will be able to decide where you want to go! Do some research for different places or regions of interest. Make sure that the destinations will both fit with both your budget and have good weather for that time of year. For example, if you want a budget-friendly trip during July, you might consider Europe or SE as cheap destinations. However, knowing that July is rainy season in SE Asia might mean you choose to travel to Europe instead.


*If you are only travelling to one specific destination, this step will not apply. Please skip to Step 3 to continue your trip planning.


The second step to trip planning is to plan the route you want to take. This involves some research into the area based on what you enjoy doing. Search for highlights of your chosen region to narrow down which specific places you might want to go. Add each possibility to a shortlist. For example, if you decide to travel around Europe, where do you want to go? Europe is a huge area, so do some research into what things you might enjoy. If you love art and museums, you might choose to go to places like Florence, Amsterdam and Vienna. If you love the beach you might choose the Algarve, the Balearic Islands or the Greek Islands. This will help you create a route filled with places you will really enjoy. 

A great resource for this research is group trip operators. I suggest looking through relevant trips offered by:

This will give you an idea of both popular places to visit within your chosen area and the kinds of things to do in each place. Additionally, travel blogs including those by Planes and Plans can be a fantastic trip planning resource. This is a great starting point for creating a custom route based on your personal interests.


Pin each destination from your shortlist onto a Google Map. This will help you visualise the region, and help you create the optimal route for you. You may also find that there are some destinations on your list that end up being further away than you realised. Ultimately,  you may choose to save these places for a later trip. This not only helps you narrow down your list even further, but also identify appropriate start and end points for your trip.


The third trip planning step, and perhaps the most important, is booking your trip! You will need to book the following:

  1. Flights
  2. Accommodation
  3. Internal Transport
  4. Tours and attractions


When booking long-haul flights, I recommend using a travel agent. Not only will they be able to give you the best prices, but also as take care of booking details should plans change. If one of your flights is delayed or cancelled, they will be able to deal with the airline directly on your behalf. This can take a lot of stress out of the travel day.

To get an estimate of how much flights will cost, have a quick look on Skyscanner for all options on your chosen dates. If you are a member with an airline, check their website to see if you can use miles or points to pay for your flights.


When booking accommodation, use a platform such as to assess all your options. You can filter based on dates, price, service standard and amenities. Moreover, not only has a great cancellation policy, but also a rewards program. This will allow you to save money on accommodation in the long run when consistently booking through their service.

For the best hostel recommendations, check out Hostel World. They provide access to a chat feature where you can connect with other travellers staying at your accommodation ahead of time. However, keep in mind that you may receive a discount when booking accommodation directly through the hostel’s website. This is worth checking before booking, particularly if budget is a main consideration for your trip.

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If you planning a multi-destination trip, consider how you are going to get from place to place. Are you going to take a flight, train, bus or private transfer? Each option will fit a different budget and may or may not be available in your chosen destination. For example, Europe has an incredible train network which will get you between cities faster than flying. However, you might choose to hire a car if travelling to more rural areas of North America or Australia. 

Research what options are available for your chosen destination and book ahead of time to get the best price. There are some fantastic resources to help this stage of planning. Rome2Rio allows you to compare transport options around the world, while Omio allows you to compare transport options within Europe. Skyscanner also allows you to compare flights. 

Another consideration is any airport transfers you may require to get to your accommodation. If travelling to a major city, there will most likely be public transport options for you to get into the city centre. Most hotels will also offer an airport transfer service. This is worth booking ahead of time so that you can have a stress-free arrival, particularly when arriving with luggage.


It is important to book tickets for tours and attractions that you want to visit ahead of time, particularly if travelling in peak season. This will save you lots of time instead of waiting in a line for hours at places like museums and theme parks, not to mention having digital tickets being a more sustainable option. Once you know what attractions you want to visit, check out their website to book tickets directly. 

If you are looking to take a day trip, a longer city tour or a guided tour of a specific attraction, Get Your Guide is a great platform to compare tour operators, as well as discover popular tours nearby. Most day trips will organise transport for you from a central meeting point, and can be a very convenient way to explore the region in more depth outside of a main city. These tours will also usually be led by a local guide which is another great way to learn more about the culture and history of the place you choose to visit.



Once you know where you are going and have your flights booked, it is firstly important to always check that your current passport will still be valid at the time of your departure. As a rule of thumb, it should remain valid for at least another six months after the date of your departure to cover any changes to plans or emergencies. If your passport is due to expire before this time, you will need to apply for a new one as soon as possible due to varying processing times.


With your valid passport, you will need to check if you require any visas for the countries you will visit on your trip, including any layover destinations you may have. For most major passports, you may be eligible for visa-free entry or an electronic visa depending on the country you are travelling to. However, for some passports many countries will require a visa to be purchased on arrival, or even processed ahead of time. In some cases, you may still need to send your passport into the country’s embassy in your home country to receive the visa, so it is important to leave enough time for this to be processed.

You will be able to find relevant visa information for your passport online through your home country’s government or through the government of the country you are travelling to. For people holding an Australian passport, the Australian Government has an incredible resource, Smart Traveller, which will help you understand any visa requirements for your destinations, as well as any other administrative, cultural, safety and health considerations.


It is important to ALWAYS purchase travel insurance when travelling internationally. Even if you do not think you will need it, you never know what will arise during your travels and it is not worth taking the risk. If you choose to book your flights through a travel agent, they will be able to help you with recommending a travel insurance policy appropriate for your trip. Make sure to research your chosen policy to ensure it covers all contingencies for each country you will travel to. For example, many worldwide policies will exclude countries in the fine print, including the USA, so make sure that you take out a policy that will cover you for all countries you will visit, even if you are only there for a layover.


Packing is the fun part, because you know your trip is close once you pull out the suitcase! The final step when trip planning is to create a packing list of everything you will need for your specific destination and activities. Important considerations include:

  • Do I need special equipment for any activities I have planned? Hiking boots? Swimwear?
  • What kind of luggage will be best for my trip? Backpack? Suitcase?
  • Have I got all my documents and valuables? Passport? Insurance details?

Having an electronic PDF copy of all your important documents including insurance details, accommodation, passport, etc. is SO important. This ensures you will still be able to access the most important information even if you have no phone service or mobile data, or if you happen to lose any of the physical documents. Make sure to email these documents to yourself before leaving home so that you can still find them even if you lose your phone.

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