Booking,  How To,  Planning

unexpected booking: from start to finish (trip prep pt 2)

Read Trip Prep Part 1 on packing here!

How To Plan a Trip

I’ve been lucky enough to have lots of practice planning trips. The first trip I planned was actually a trip I never REALLY went on, in 7th grade math class. I partnered up with my friend, Carter, and we were given an $3,000 budget to go anywhere in the world (this budget was imaginary as you can imagine- $3,000 is a LOT of money). We planned a trip from CVG airport (Cincinnati, Ohio) to Sydney, Australia, including airfare, things to do, where to stay, what we’d eat (down to the dish), everything. After that, I was hooked on planning trips and itineraries. For some reason, little 7th grade me thought that everyone loved to figure out these logistics, but I soon after realized that quite a few people get overwhelmed whilst doing so.

After taking this gap year, which has sadly has come to an end, I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good grasp on how to plan trips from start to finish (relatively) painlessly, and this post is going to run you through exactly what I do.

A note: It’s helpful to have a piece of paper or a notebook or something to write things down, even if it gets messy or complicated. Writing costs and locations and whatever down will simplify things immensely. Spreadsheets also work really well for planning a trip, but if you’re on the road, it’s a bit hard to use spreadsheets from a mobile phone.

I’ve created a spreadsheet that I find quite useful; it looks like this :


Step 1: Budget
You first need to figure out how much money you can spend on travel, even before figuring out where you’re going to go. Come up with a rough number regarding how much you can afford to spend, and we’ll find you a place that will accommodate to that.
Step 2: Where?
Now that you have your budget, it’s time to figure out where you want to go. First think of all the places you’ve been lusting after and write those down. Then, look at a map and see what’s near you. Write those down too. Think of any other place it’s possible to go and write those down as well.
Step 3: Getting There
For most of us, budget plays a huge role in deciding where to go, so run through every destination (yes, every single one you’ve written down) and find the general airfare prices. I like to look at third party sites like ,, etc. for general prices. When you’ve written down all of the prices or put them into the excel spreadsheet, narrow down your location options to places actually attainable.
Step 4: Staying There
It’s time to choose where to potentially stay in each of your locations! If you’re a backpacker, find the general hostel prices of the places on your list. I like to use Keep  in mind that if you’re traveling with others, sometimes getting a private room is cheaper than staying in dorms. I find this true mainly in Europe; Asia’s hostels are incredible for travelers on a budget.
If you’re taking a trip and NOT backpacking, and are wonderful.
Step 5: Choose
Now that you know the general price you’ll be paying for each location, excluding activities and food, you should be able to figure out where you’d like to go. Keep in mind that activities and food add up, so if you have a really strict budget, you may want to look up general prices of those as well. DEFINITELY look up activity prices if you plan on trekking, as permits, equipment, maps, guides, and porters can all add up!!!
Step 6: Book
To book flights, I like to use the sites mentioned above (in step 3), but I ALWAYS book through the airline, as I’ve found that sometimes, really good deals have conditions or are sold out through third party sites. It’s easier to resolve issues if you book directly with the airline.
That “guideline” doesn’t apply to hotels or hostels, though. I don’t mind booking through hostelworld, agoda, or, as I can just pay a small deposit (or sometimes none at all!) to reserve a bed, and it’s usually not so substantial that losing out on it would matter.
Step 7: Research!
Once I’ve booked my trip, I usually get obsessive about researching what there is to do, but luckily, I’ve found that doing some research always helps. I go online and look the location up on, google “(location) city guide” or “(location) things to do)” and always try to find little hidden gems of the city. Some cities have their own tourism websites, which are incredibly helpful. My more preferred method of researching is going to the library to look at guidebooks. Lonely Planet has the BEST of the best guidebooks, and I use them religiously.
Step 8: Get excited, get packing, get going!!!
You’re going to have an incredible adventure xx
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of these websites- I just really like them!

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  • katteacher

    A great straightforward layout! I use a lot of those sites, and I like that you book through the airline sites, it is OH SO frustrating to fill in every little box and see that your flight has doubled in price or is no longer available, ugh. I should get into the habit of going through the airlines, especially for the customer service aspect.
    Starting to travel feels daunting at times, all the pretty pictures make it look so easy, but it can be scary!
    An extra piece of advice when it comes to using or any travel search engine, use an incognito window! No joke, when I am signed in to my kayak account, they usually charge me $200-300 more for my flights in and out of Asia, the incognito window cuts out the cookies and your preferences, making it a clean search (because I search at least 10 times before I buy).
    I definitely will keep in mind the extra trekking/hiking fees, I always seem to forget about that when I’m pre-planning, thanks for the post!
    Have a great weekend,

  • toobusy2

    A big Thank you to Mrs Osborne (7th grade math), , and Mr. Maher (5th Grade Marriage Project) for teaching you these invaluable skills. Wyoming City Schools – amazing school district! Love the post Anya!

  • Dreamvoyager

    Great share. Thanks. I always try do in depth research for most of my trips..but it’s just about finding time….. For my budget…. I have an excel sheet which is combined with a pie chart…so at the end when all my figures are estimated, I have an broader and detailed ideas of my breakup! 🙂

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