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The best way to Plan a Journey: A Month-by-Month Information

Nomadic Matt wearing a backpack while walking along a beach in Hawaii
Posted: 4/2/2024 | April 2nd, 2024

Journey planning is usually a daunting process. Flights, insurance coverage, gear, itineraries, lodging, and a lot extra all should be thought of and sorted out earlier than you go.

It’s simple to get overwhelmed, particularly if you haven’t finished one thing like this earlier than.

After over near twenty years of touring the world, I’ve deliberate numerous journeys and holidays for myself, buddies, and household, even group excursions. At first, it was trial by hearth. I realized a number of classes the arduous method. Nonetheless, that helped me develop an environment friendly guidelines that ensures I don’t miss something necessary throughout the trip-planning course of.

One huge query I get requested loads is when to begin planning. To reply that query, this submit breaks the planning course of down into month-by-month steps so you possibly can plan your subsequent journey with ease.

Right here’s the way to plan a visit:

12 Months Out: Resolve on Your Vacation spot(s)

A large commercial jet flying through the bright blue sky as it takes off
Lots of people discuss vaguely about journey: they by no means say the place they’re going, simply that they’re going. They may discuss it for years earlier than truly departing (in the event that they go in any respect). However it’s a lot simpler to succeed in and plan for the objective of “I’m going to Paris for 2 weeks this summer time” than “I’m going someplace.”

If you have already got a dream vacation spot in thoughts, nice! If not, listed here are some posts that will help you get began:

However, this far out, the true factor you need to do is begin saving cash and determining your prices. Lodging and flights are the apparent ones, however how a lot do eating places, points of interest, and different actions value? Realizing these prices will permit you precisely estimate how a lot cash you’ll want. Right here is the way to analysis prices:

  1. Purchase a guidebook
  2. Take a look at my free journey guides (we break down all prices for every vacation spot)
  3. Skim the price of dwelling on Numbeo.com
  4. Google costs for main actions you need to do, akin to scuba diving, vineyard excursions, and so on. (Get Your Information is an efficient place to begin)
  5. Use Skyscanner or Google Flights for flight costs and join alerts to get emails if the value adjustments
  6. Use Uncover Automobiles to cost out (and ebook) a rental automobile if you happen to want one
  7. Use Reserving.com and Hostelworld to analysis lodging prices

Which will appear to be loads however you simply need to get a normal concept of how a lot it is advisable to save. You may head to this web page to see all my articles on how to save cash to your journey.

12 Months Out: Begin Amassing Factors & Miles

A bunch of different travel credit cards being held by avid traveler Nomadic Matt
Whilst you’re working to save cash, get a journey bank card so you possibly can earn miles and factors free of charge flights and resort stays. It’s what has stored my prices down and me on the highway for therefore a few years.

Lately, most playing cards have welcome provides of 60,000-80,000 factors (some will be as excessive as 100,000) if you meet their minimal spending requirement (typically $2,000-5,000 USD inside a 3–6-month timeframe). That’s sufficient miles for a free round-trip economic system flight to Europe from the East Coast of North America.

For extra info on this topic, take a look at these posts:

As well as, get a fee-free ATM card. I exploit Charles Schwab, however there are many different banks that don’t cost ATM charges (don’t neglect to examine your native banks and credit score unions too). Right here’s how one can keep away from financial institution charges whereas touring.

8 Months Out: Visa Necessities, Passports, and Vaccines

Whilst you doubtless gained’t want a visa to your required vacation spot, it’s best to nonetheless examine to verify. If you happen to’re a US citizen, use the State Division’s search device to study your vacation spot’s entry necessities. (Canadians can use this search device.)

Moreover, make it possible for your passport is legitimate for a minimum of six months after your journey ends. Many international locations require this for entry. Passport utility and renewal wait occasions will be lengthy (the usual is 6-8 weeks within the US), so do that as quickly as potential.

Additionally, analysis if you happen to want any vaccines to your journey as many international locations require vaccines to enter (and I don’t imply COVID). You may be taught extra about nation necessities and suggestions on the CDC’s web site. They may help you discover a clinic close to you as effectively (if you happen to’re within the US).

4-6 Months Out: E-book Your Flight

A huge commerical airliner flying through the dark blue sky as it comes in for a landing at an airport
The very best time to ebook your flight is usually round 3-4 months earlier than your departure, or 5-6 months earlier than in case you are going throughout a vacation spot’s peak season. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, although, so use it as a information.

Listed below are two articles on the way to rating an affordable flight:

If you happen to’ve signed up for a journey bank card and obtained your sign-up bonus, use your miles to ebook your flight and/or resort. The additional out you ebook, the extra availability there can be. Use instruments like Level.me and Awayz that will help you discover the most effective redemptions in your factors (for flights and motels, respectively).

However even if you happen to aren’t utilizing miles or didn’t discover a low cost flight deal, there are nonetheless some ways to keep away from being the individual on the flight who paid probably the most for his or her ticket. My two favourite websites for locating low cost airfare are Skyscanner and Google Flights.

3-4 Months Out: E-book Your Lodging

A small rolling suitcase standing near the door in a cozy hotel room abroad
If you happen to’re touring for beneath two weeks and have a set schedule, ebook lodging at some stage in your journey. If you happen to’re visiting throughout the excessive season, it’s additionally a good suggestion to ebook all the pieces upfront. For journeys longer than two weeks, I recommend reserving solely the primary couple of nights of your journey. As soon as there, you might find yourself wanting to vary your plans primarily based on insider recommendation from different vacationers and/or resort/hostel employees. I favor having flexibility, so I all the time simply ebook a number of nights and go from there.

Listed below are my go-to websites on the subject of discovering the most effective offers on lodging:

  • Hostelworld – Hostelworld has the most important choice of hostels and is my go-to website for locating inexpensive hostels.
  • Reserving.com – Reserving.com is the most effective general platform for locating finances motels and guesthouses.
  • Agoda – Agoda has the most effective outcomes if you happen to’re heading to Asia (although it generally has good US offers too).

I like to recommend checking the cancelation coverage of wherever you ebook. I like having the flexibleness to cancel if one thing comes up.

If you happen to’re on a decent finances otherwise you need to join with extra locals throughout your travels, take into account becoming a member of platforms like Couchsurfing or BeWelcome. These communities permit vacationers to stick with residents free of charge as a kind of cultural alternate.

Lengthy-term vacationers may also strive housesitting or WWOOFing as effectively, as they each supply free lodging (in alternate for pet sitting or farm work, respectively).

2 Months Out: Plan Your Actions

Now it’s time for the enjoyable a part of journey planning! Which means studying books about your vacation spot, studying normal journey suggestions, connecting with on-line communities, and pre-booking any obligatory actions.

Pre-booking ensures you don’t miss out on issues that you just actually need to do in your journey. If you happen to’re going to a well-liked vacation spot, excursions and actions refill shortly, and if you happen to’re going to a smaller place, actions or excursions would possibly solely run on sure days and have restricted availability.

Both method, Get Your Information the most effective place to seek for and pre-book actions, excursions, and tickets. Native tour operators and points of interest can checklist their choices on this on-line market, so yow will discover tons of stuff right here, from meals excursions to museum tickets with skip-the-line entry.

1 Month Out: Get Journey Insurance coverage

Get journey insurance coverage. That method, these purchases are protected ought to one thing occur that makes you cancel your journey.

Lots of people assume, “I’m wholesome. I don’t want journey insurance coverage.” However journey insurance coverage is rather more than simply medical safety. It covers you when your digicam breaks, your flight is canceled, a member of the family dies and you must come residence, or one thing will get stolen. (That’s why you’ll additionally need to familiarize your self with any frequent journey scams to look out for, in addition to the way to conduct your self as a way to mix in to keep away from wanting like a goal for petty theft.)

Sure, it’s an added expense. However it’s all the time higher to be protected than sorry. I by no means go away residence with out it, as a result of I’ve seen firsthand simply what can occur on the highway.

I by no means thought I might pop my eardrum whereas I used to be scuba diving in Thailand, break my digicam in Italy, or get knifed in Colombia.

Sadly, dangerous issues can occur if you’re touring. True, these occasions are few and much between. However they’ll value tens of hundreds of {dollars}. If you happen to’re not ready to pay out of pocket, purchase journey insurance coverage.

Listed below are some posts on journey insurance coverage to get you began:

I by no means go away residence with out journey insurance coverage. You shouldn’t both.

7 days out: Pack!

Nomadic Matt's gear on the bed as he packs his backpack before a trip
Your journey is nearly right here, and it’s time to pack! It may be tempting to need to carry all the pieces with you “simply in case.” However on the subject of journey, much less is extra. Whereas what you pack will depend upon the place you’re going, do not forget that you don’t have to take all the pieces you personal. You should buy belongings you want and do laundry on the highway. On the finish of the day, you must carry all the pieces you carry. So carry much less!

I journey with a 45L REI bag after which a smaller day bag. Right here’s my urged packing checklist that will help you take simply the correct amount of stuff and keep away from overpacking (right here’s a listing for feminine vacationers).

Moreover, carry any prescriptions you want at some stage in your journey. Strive to not depend on filling these overseas (although carry a prescription and physician’s observe simply in case).


With all the pieces taken care of, it’s time to go in your journey and have enjoyable! Make a listing of last-minute objects it is advisable to pack the day of (your toothbrush, glasses, telephone charger, and so on.) and examine in on-line beforehand (you are able to do so 24 hours upfront). (If you happen to’ve acquired lounge entry by a premium journey rewards card, you would possibly end up wanting ahead to attending to the airport early.)

If you happen to’re feeling nervous, don’t fear. That’s completely regular. Feeling anxious or not sure is one thing each traveler experiences. However you’ve made it this far. Belief your planning and observe your instincts. You’re about to have the journey of a lifetime.

E-book Your Journey: Logistical Suggestions and Methods

E-book Your Flight
Discover a low cost flight through the use of Skyscanner. It’s my favourite search engine as a result of it searches web sites and airways across the globe so that you all the time know no stone is being left unturned.

E-book Your Lodging
You may ebook your hostel with Hostelworld. If you wish to keep someplace aside from a hostel, use Reserving.com because it persistently returns the most cost effective charges for guesthouses and motels.

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will shield you in opposition to sickness, harm, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes unsuitable. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many occasions previously. My favourite firms that provide the most effective service and worth are:

Wish to Journey for Free?
Journey bank cards mean you can earn factors that may be redeemed free of charge flights and lodging — all with none additional spending. Take a look at my information to choosing the right card and my present favorites to get began and see the most recent finest offers.

Want Assist Discovering Actions for Your Journey?
Get Your Information is a big on-line market the place yow will discover cool strolling excursions, enjoyable excursions, skip-the-line tickets, personal guides, and extra.

Able to E-book Your Journey?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for the most effective firms to make use of if you journey. I checklist all those I exploit once I journey. They’re the most effective at school and you’ll’t go unsuitable utilizing them in your journey.

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