Some people like showing up in a place and start planning their trip on the move. I agree that it can be a great adventure and a “proper” backpacker experience but I personally think that you will be missing amazing places and/or wasting your time if you don’t plan your trip at least a little bit before you go. Obviously, all depends on how long you are planning to travel. I’ve done both, and honestly, I think preparing your trip in advance saves you a huge amount of time and stress during the trip. So let’s start our 9 tips on how to plan the perfect trip.

1. Book your flights:

It’s done, we are going, we have our tickets!! Only if you are traveling as a “one-way ticket” type of traveler you can skip this point, but if that’s not your case just make sure you have your return ticket as soon as possible so you can start planning your trip with a certain amount of days. It’s very important to know the amount of days you have in total in order to be able to plan THE perfect itinerary. If you know how many days you are going to be travelling but don’t know where you will finish, that’s fine as long as you know how many days it will be in total. The important thing at this stage is that we can start calculating how many days we have in each place.


2. Research the destination:

What’s more exiting that researching things you are going to be doing in a few months, or weeks, or days.. It doesn’t matter, researching it will make us know more about the country and best places to visit. I normally use the big websites like Lonely Planet, Wikitravel, Trip Advisor. You can also have a look at my posts or other travel bloggers. Trust me, I’ve done it for years, it’s the best way to hear real experiences that other travelers like you had.

3. Decide what cities you want to visit:

At this stage you know how many days you are spending in the country, so now you need to bring that down and decide how many days you want to spend in each place. Things to have in mind:

What attracts me?

Obviously if you are travelling there it’s because you want to know more about the country. But what? Are you an extreme sports traveller? Historian? Chef? Philosopher? Whatever your interests are it will make it easier to start planning your trip based on what you like. I consider myself a nature person, that’s why I always research on “Beautiful landscape Vietnam”, “Amazing places in Cambodia”, “Sunset spots in Wanaka”. Depending on what interests you, you will have an idea of what places you want to visit in that country.

  • Is it easy to travel around the country?

Countries like The Philippines makes it very hard to move from one place to another since the majority are small islands. There you will have to take note of what are the best ways to travel around the country. A great tool for this is the website Momondo, it tells you every single way of transport with its costs.

  • How many days will you spend on transport?

Always count those days! The worst thing that can happen is that after you book everything you need you realise that you don’t have enough time to get there. You can read more about this later on but make sure you have those days in mind.

  • Always double check timetables

If you are in a tight schedule you need to try to find out what bus, plane or train to take. But also exactly where and when. I’ve had some really step-by-step trips where I was completely depending on these timetables. A good tip is always adding time to everything you need to do. If you think that walking from your hotel to the train station takes 15 minutes, let’s count 20, or even 25. With this you will make sure you arrive on time even if you have a mishap. But most importantly, it will allow you to relax before boarding and wait for your transport, because I’m sure they won’t wait for you!

  • Be realistic

There is no way you can take two planes and two boats in one day! Unless you can teleport, but normal people can’t, so, just make sure you have your city-bases where you will spend at least one or two nights. 

It takes time but it’s worthwhile

4. Google Maps:

A great tool to plan your trips is the actual Google Maps. I personally spend hours just scrolling around the country on google maps trying to find the best spots. Some tips that Google Maps can give you are:

  • Where to find cities and Natural Parks and how far they are from each other.
  • Places with a big infrastructure will give you an idea of where to set your city-bases.

A great example of this is the country of Taiwan. You can perfectly see that most of the infrastructure is either on the west side or the east. That comes handy since now you can start researching on those big cities like Taipei, Taichung or Kaohsiung and make them your city-base.

  • Bookmark places:

Honestly, you could plan your whole trip only using Google Maps, it takes longer, but it’s possible. Basically, just zoom out and have a look at what the map shows you. Take a glance in case some spots look appealing, otherwise start zooming in little by little. You will see how other landmarks or tourist attractions will start to appear, check them, if you like them bookmark them. After you do this, you will have an idea of the itinerary you want. An example of this was my New Zealand trip which took quite a long time to plan.

Try to scroll around and bookmark the locations that might interest you

5. Divide your days:

Once you know where you want to go you can start assigning days to these destinations. Let’s say you want to go to Taiwan for a 10 day trip. As you could see above our bases where Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung, therefore the easiest way would be 3 days in each city, right? Wrong! That’s why you need to research your cities before. You will find out that there are way more things to do in and around Taipei than in Kaohsiung for example, therefore you will need more days in Taipei than in Kaohsiung. Also, researching the transport you will also find out that there is a High Speed Train that takes you all the way down from Taipei to Kaohsiung in only 1 hour and 30 minutes!! So you could even leave Kaohsiung as a day trip or two, it depends on your total number of days.

6. Book your transport (if needed):

If you are that person that likes having everything under control, the best option is to have all your transport booked before you start your trip. You could also book the first ones and keep booking during the trip. Personally, unless I am certain that a specific way of transport gets sold out very quickly, I tried not to completely book my tickets too early, but I definitely make sure what company, where, when and what transport I need to take and most importantly, where I can find and buy the tickets. I recommend buying the tickets maximum a day before you need to travel, not too early and not too late. You can always change plans and you might not need those tickets anymore or you might show up with all your luggage and find out there are no more tickets. Also, always have a plan B in case things don’t go as planned.

momondo widget

7. Book your accommodation:

If you are that type of person we mentioned before and like having everything planned, then it’s time to book your accommodation. Since you have all your transport booked, you perfectly know where and how many days you will be in each place. You can have a look at my post HOW TO BOOK THE BEST ACCOMODATION for help. For those that are a bit unsure, the best way is to book your accommodation as soon as you book your transport, therefore you know for certain when you will be there.

Booking widget

8. Book your tours (if necessary):

When it comes to tours you have three options:

  • Book them through websites like Tripadvisor, Expedia, Kayak, Book Me, Klook.. There are many options. It’s perfect when you want to have everything planned before you arrive, so you don’t need to deal with tour operators on site and it will save you so much time and hustle. Bad point, sometimes they tend to overprice these tours. The worst thing that can happen is that when you are in that tour you find out that the person next to you paid less than you to have the same tour, but trust me, he probably had a bit of stress before he got there. You actually can find very good deals on these websites, you just need to compare prices between them and choose the best for you.
  • Make the bookings at your accommodation: This is my favourite as the tours offered in your hostel or hotel will probably pick you up there, you don’t need to go anywhere. Also, you might share the experience with people from your accommodation and it can turn into a beer after the trip! The bad side of this is that when you are ready to book your tour the receptionist tells you that there are no more vacancies for that tour and you might need to change your plan or wait for one more day, if you can afford it. That’s when using the websites mentioned above come helpful.
  • Look for tour agencies around the city: This will probably be the cheapest option, but I don’t think you will find much of a difference to the ones offered by your accommodation as they normally tend to be the same ones. So unless you have any particular reason to find it yourself there is no need to walk around asking in tour agencies. However, this option can be useful to compare prices and to have an idea of how much your accommodation should charge you.

expedia or viator widget

9. Enjoy your trip stress free (or at least less)

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