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How to Plan a Major Trip

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Exciting Adventures

The first time traveling any great distance can be stressful. There's so much to consider and tons to do. It's easy to get overwhelmed trying to plan a major trip. However, if you're prepared and organized everything should run smoothly.

In July 2010, I met with some friends in Toronto. We had a great time, but one of my friends currently lives in Sydney, Australia, and a few short hours just didn't seem like a long enough visit. We decided that I should go visit her there so we'd actually have more time together. It seemed like one of these spontaneous ideas that is exciting at the time, but never actually comes to fruition. However, a year later I found myself booking a plane ticket to Sydney.

I spent the next few months stressing out about traveling by myself such a long distance. Here you'll find all the tips and tricks I learned along the way to help you have a fantastic (and stress free) trip. Ever trip is different, so you'll have to decide what works for you and what you need it ignore, but if you're travelling for the first time, this page should give you a pretty good idea of how to prepare.

One of the most important things to remember is to have fun! Even if you're stressing, take the time to enjoy the process. Once you're on the trip, set aside your worries and just take it one or two days at a time. Never think too far ahead and make sure to drink in every moment. In the mean time, here's my tips of how to prepare for your adventure!

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Research Your Destination

Knowledge is Power (and Fun)

You should research your destination well before you go. The more time you spend learning about the place, the better chance you'll see everything you want and not have any regrets later. This could mean buying travel books, surfing the net, or talking to people who have been there. With the internet, it's easier than ever to find out what you need to know and make sure you don't miss anything. You also might want to visit a travel agent to get their advice.

It's best to start your research as soon as you can as it can quickly get overwhelming, especially for a long trip. I started about six months before I left and I still found it a lot to handle. Of course, the more you travel, the easier it gets! Booking a multi-day guided tour can be a great way to hit the major tourist spots and take away a lot of the stress of planning (since the tour group will take care of accommodations and entrance fees). However, it's also a good idea to have a few days on your own to explore lesser known spots if you can.

As you book tours and hotels, print off or record the info (including booking numbers) and keep it all in a file so you can easily find and refer back to it. It might also help you to make a calendar with everything you've booked so you can plan your empty days.

It's a good idea to keep a couple of days open with nothing planned so you are free to add in activities you might learn about on the way, or to simply wander and explore.

Travel Photos - Memories!

If you're anything like me, you want tons of photos to commemorate your trip. Of course, the more you practice the better your photos will be. But, there's also some great tips and tricks out there that the experts are willing to share. If you're planning a big trip, make sure you have a great camera and get some practice in beforehand.

Nikon COOLPIX L830 16 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 34x Zoom NIKKOR Lens and Full 1080p HD Video (Red)
Nikon COOLPIX L830 16 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 34x Zoom NIKKOR Lens and Full 1080p HD Video (Red)

This is very similar to the camera I currently have, which is fantastic. It's important to have a camera with a high zoom so you can get those great scenery pictures even when you're far away.

 
Sony 32GB SDHC Class 10 UHS-1 R40 Memory Card (SF32UY/TQMN)
Sony 32GB SDHC Class 10 UHS-1 R40 Memory Card (SF32UY/TQMN)

I won't pretend to know a lot about cameras, but when I bought mine I learned that sometimes the memory card is just as important as the camera. A Class 10 memory card is ideal. It gives you great speed but doesn't over do it. If it's higher than Class 10, you're wasting your money unless you have a really fancy camera. You don't want a cheap memory card, either, or it will slow down all your pictures.

 

The To-Do List

As you're planning your trip, keep a list of things you need to do to be ready. This could include booking hotels and tours, booking plane tickets, things you need to buy, or getting your house ready for when you're gone. Everyone's to do list will be a bit different.

Here's the main points to consider:

  • Are all your plane tickets booked and confirmed? (always confirm flights the day before)
  • Are all your hotels booked?
  • Are all your tours booked? (if possible--you might be booking some when you get there)
  • Is your house ready? (pets taken care of, house sitter arranged, plumbing turned off, etc.)
  • Do you have everything you need?
  • Are all your documents ready and accessible? (passport, VISA, tickets)

Photocopy your passport and bank/credit cards (front and back) and keep the copy with you. If you lose the originals, it will be easier to fix the problem if you have the photocopy. Also leave a copy with a trusted friend at home.

Lonely Planet's Guide to Travel Photography
Lonely Planet's Guide to Travel Photography

This book is full of great tips on how to take fantastic travel photographs. I unfortunately only discovered it recently, but I know it will come in handy for my next trip.

 
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What to Pack?

A juggling act

Packing can be a tricky part of any major trip. You don't want to forget anything or leave behind something you need, but you don't want to bring too much, either. The fees for extra baggage on airplanes can be quite a chunk, so it's important to be careful and creative when you pack. And of course, you want to leave room for souvenirs!

Your packing list will depend a lot on where you're going. Obviously, a cold destination will require slightly different items than a tropical destination. Generally speaking, layers are a safe bet for most places. You never know if the weather will be unseasonably warm or cold. And, of course, everyone will have different items they want for their daily routines.

You should start a packing list at least a couple of weeks before a major trip so you can add to it as you think of things. If you do it the day before, you're more likely to forget something. It's also a good idea to walk through the travel section of a pharmacy for any ideas of what you might have missed.

One tip I learned is, don't bring a towel for swimming. You can take a towel from your hotel room to use at the pool if you're stuck for space when you're packing.

Here's a basic list of packing items, but you'll have to use your own discretion of which to include:

  • t-shirts
  • long sleeve shirts
  • sweater (light and heavy, if you have room)
  • jacket (rainproof is best)
  • shorts
  • pants
  • pajamas (light and heavy, if space allows)
  • long underwear
  • extra socks and underwear
  • bathing suit
  • toiletries (toothbrush/paste, razors, deodorant, etc. It's a good idea to run through your daily routine in your head to make your own personal list)
  • medications (prescriptions, plus headache pills and possibly motion sickness pills)

    travel shampoo/conditioner (the small travel sizes are a huge convenience)

  • bug spray
  • sun lotion
  • sunglasses/hat
  • first aid supplies (especially band aids and disinfectant)
  • notepad/pen
  • book/kindle
  • camera (plus battery charger, extra battery, extra card)
  • luggage scale (you can buy these at travel shops and they let you weigh your luggage at home--this avoids embarrassing shifting of your luggage at airports in order to meet airline weight standards)
  • travel notes/contact numbers/itinerary (basically, any information you need to check into hotels, tours, or phone numbers and addresses from home
  • cash and credit card
  • travel documents/ID (passport, VISA, driver's licence)

One final item that can be handy is a few dollars cash in currencies for any country you're flying over. This depends on where you're going and how easy it is for you to get the cash. It's always possible that your plane might need to make an unscheduled stop and it's good to have a few dollars cash handy so you can get a snack. It's not something to stress out over if you can't easily get it or you're flying over quite a few countries. I was only flying over the States and I live on the border, so it was no problem to have a few American dollars with me just in case. If you're flying over 10 European countries, it's probably not worth the hassle.

Image by Aleksandr Markin used under Creative Commons

Reading on the Go

If you like to read and always take a book with you when you travel, a kindle (or other e-reader) can be a valuable asset on a long trip. It will let you take as many books with you as you want without taking up much space or adding to your luggage weight. The only problem of course is that the battery needs to be kept charged, but the benefits far outweigh this drawback.

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Learn Travel Restrictions

Before you travel, find out travel restrictions for airlines. Most airlines will let you have one checked bag, one carry on, and one purse/laptop bag. (Ladies, travel with a big purse for flights and carry a small purse in your luggage for your day-to-day travels.) However, airlines sometimes have different requirements for the dimensions of your luggage. Check all the airlines you're traveling with and choose your luggage according to the smallest one you need.

International flights often allow for bigger bags than domestic flights, s if you are traveling within a country you might be stuck with smaller luggage. This is when you'll get very good at packing only the essentials, and making use of every available space! Make sure you stick within the guidelines, especially for carry ons. If your carry on is too big, they may force you to check it which will mean an extra baggage fee of about $50.

One good space saver is to tie a sweater and a jacket around your waist for flights. It's a bit of a pain, but it's great to have the extra suitcase room. I actually wore sunglasses on my head even though I had regular glasses on during my flight from Sydney to Canada. I looked ridiculous, but it was the only way to get everything in my suitcase.

Most airlines have a limit on liquids in carry on luggage. If you have toothpaste, contact lens solution, or any other liquid, it likely needs to be in a container less than 100 ml. Anything bigger needs to be in your checked baggage. Also, liquids and medicines should be in a clear bag that can be taken out for security.

You also need to check what documents you will need to travel to each country you are visiting. This generally means a VISA (although other documents may apply) If you're not sure, check with a travel agent. Apply for your VISA as soon as you can in case there are any problems with it.

Image belongs to author

Check what travel documents you need for any country you are traveling to, such as a VISA

The Budget...

The budget is often people's least favorite part of planning a trip. It can easily start to spin out of control if you're not careful. It's important, though, to know how much you can spend and to keep yourself under this number.

Give yourself a range for your budget so you have some room to work with. Know how much you want to spend, but be open to going a little over that number if the right opportunity comes along.

Here's some things to consider when planning your budget:

  1. Flights
  2. Hotels
  3. Tours/activities
  4. Daily travel (trains, taxis, etc.)
  5. Food
  6. Souvenirs

You can cut down on some costs if you book cheaper hotels, or even stay in hostels if you're comfortable. Try to take public transit when you can since it's cheaper than taxis. If you're trying to save money, don't eat out if you can avoid it. Go to grocery stores or convenience stores and get sandwiches, fruit, crackers, granola bars, juice boxes, etc. It's amazing how much money you can save this way!

Photo from Public Domain

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When Things Go Wrong

While it's nice to think that everything will go exactly as planned, it's not always the case. The most important thing to remember when something goes wrong is DON'T PANIC.

When my friend and I were heading from Sydney to New Zealand, there was a horrible rainstorm and our flight was cancelled. The airline could reschedule us for the next morning, but that would mean we would miss activities with our tour group that we didn't want to give up. We were left scrambling trying to find another flight as early as possible so we didn't miss much of our tour. Thankfully, because of technology, we were able to use the airport's wi-fi to find a flight with another airline that evening. We ended up wandering around Sydney (during which this picture was taken in The Queen Victoria building), doing some shopping, and actually having a really good day. I'll admit that we were lucky things worked out, but a big part of that was keeping calm and exploring all our options.

If a flight gets cancelled, find out your options from the airline, but also look at other airlines to see if there's a better offer. Even if you lose a bit of money, it might be worth it. If you get to a hotel and find out something has gone wry, remember that people backpack all the time and take whatever accommodation they can get for the night. There's always hostels, which are much nicer than they're made out to be in the movies. Make sure you have all your confirmation numbers for hotels and tours and you're less likely to run into problems. As for flights...you just have to keep your fingers crossed! Travelling with a wi-fi capable device is a handy tool in case you need to find a new flight quickly.

Image belongs to author

Have you ever been on a major trip?

  • No, and I don't plan to
  • No, but I'm planning one now
  • Yes, I've been on one
  • Yes, I've traveled lots
  • No, but I'd like to
See results without voting

 Last updated on October 20, 2014

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Share Your Experiences and Tips 54 comments

Art Inspired profile image

Art Inspired 8 months ago Level 1 Commenter

Libraries are a great source for finding travel books. I check out two or three travel books from my local library when I'm planning a trip or for getting ideas for future destinations. Make it a great day!


favored profile image

favored 8 months ago from USA Level 7 Commenter

Really good information, especially with all the new flight rules. Congratulations on LotD.


StrongMay 8 months ago

Stopping in ten countries in Europe is no problem - they all use the Euro.


StrongMay 8 months ago

I go through all these steps when I travel; they make up my essential travel guide. I especially recommend planning a few free days before and after a guided tour. It makes the trip more personal and less generic, and gives you a chance to go back to places you found interesting during the tour but at your own pace, and do the things the tour inevitably left out.


esmonaco profile image

esmonaco 8 months ago from Lakewood New York Level 7 Commenter

All great advise here, I do agree to be prepared is best, as in my travel experience something always doesn't go as planned. Thanks and Congratulations on LOTD!!!


tedwritesstuff24 profile image

tedwritesstuff24 8 months ago Level 1 Commenter

Book nothing, take half what you think you need and enjoy exploring off the beaten, much travelled tourist traps. Save money by not buying rubbish souvenirs. Oh and never ever take a suitcase, always take a comfortable backpack and if you have any discipline at all take one that fits into carry on. Based on 6 months in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka with a 40lt pack.


Merrci profile image

Merrci 8 months ago from Oregon's Southern Coast Level 7 Commenter

Great suggestions. Very well thought out. It makes me want to take a trip! Congrats on LotD!!!


tonyleather 8 months ago

Useful and informative lens! Thanks a lot!


Adventuretravels profile image

Adventuretravels 8 months ago from London UK Level 7 Commenter

Some very good advice here - it's always wise to plan very carefully before any trip - you can always change you mind when you're there.


Faye Rutledge profile image

Faye Rutledge 8 months ago from Concord VA Level 4 Commenter

Thanks for the tips. Congratulations on LotD!


Ahdilarum profile image

Ahdilarum 8 months ago Level 2 Commenter

Excellent tips, will really help everybody.


JohnCumbow profile image

JohnCumbow 8 months ago Level 1 Commenter

My wife and I have taken a few big trips over the years: Mexico, Japan, Peru, Cambodia.

And we're planning a trip to Paris later this year.

We just wish we had more time to explore each place we vist.

Thanks for a very helpful lens.


MJ Martin profile image

MJ Martin 8 months ago from Washington State Level 3 Commenter

Congrats on LOTD and a Purple Star. Yes, having a currency converter is so helpful. No way could I travel without a smart phone, whew. Love the pictures too.


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@Art Inspired: Yes, libraries are a great way to find info while saving money. :)


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@favored: Thank you!


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@StrongMay: Lol, that's a good point! I actually meant to take out the Europe reference, though I hadn't though about the Euro.


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@StrongMay: Absolutely--I really enjoyed my "free" days. They let you recharge, too, since you're usually going at a slower pace.


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@esmonaco: Thank you!


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@tedwritesstuff24: You're absolutely right. I"d never personally have the guts to travel for that long or that freely, but it's such great advice for anyone with a true sense of adventure.


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@Merrci: Thank you!


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@tonyleather: Thank you!


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@Adventuretravels: That's very true. There's often a good amount of flexibility even after you arrive.


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@Faye Rutledge: Thank you!


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@Ahdilarum: Thank you!


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@JohnCumbow: Yes, time is a problem, isn't it? I heard one girl say that there's so many places she still wants to go, but that she also wants to go back to the places she's already been...


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 8 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@MJ Martin: Thank you!


teelover profile image

teelover 8 months ago Level 1 Commenter

Great lens and good tips some of which we will use in our next coming trips! Thanks for sharing!


HilSue profile image

HilSue 8 months ago

Good information. I'd add this:

1. Lay all bank and credit cards you'll bring with you on a copier and make a copy. Then flip them over and copy the second side. Make a second copy (or scan) of this and leave it at home or with a trusted friend or family member. Keep the first one in a separate place from your cards themselves. This way, if they're lost or stolen, you have available all important info you'll need to report.

2. I use XE Currency Converter in my iPhone when at home, but I also recommend printing out wallet-size "cheat sheets" available at for when internet is not available (which can be quite often, depending upon where you are and how much you're willing to pay for that service).

3. Make sure that some of your clothes or shoes are ones you'd be happy to leave behind in case you need extra space in your bags on the way home. Also, bring long underwear that can double as pjs, and especially: bring your luggage scale with you. I don't think anyone still charges for overweight bags by the pound or kilo; it's a flat fee of way more than $50 for a bag that's overweight, even by a tiny bit. Also, depending upon where you are, consider shipping something to yourself if necessary, rather than pay those extra baggage fees!


Jim Houston profile image

Jim Houston 8 months ago Level 2 Commenter

Hi Stephanie, very nice lens. The greatest difficulty for us is having to deal with security. It is a real pain and so much of it is useless controlling people. America has way overdone the airline security thing and our freedoms are being taken away daily. Once you get past this everything else is fun.

JimHouston33


anonymous 8 months ago

At some point I'll travel again. Terrific lens and congratulations on getting LotD!


Dressage Husband profile image

Dressage Husband 7 months ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada Level 5 Commenter

I like both planned and unplanned trips. If you have traveled a lot like me (often for work). There is no longer anything scary. Just make sure all your jabs are up to date and go. I have an international driving license and will often just hire a car and go when I arrive. Berlitz guides and a good map definitely help in planning trips. Nice lens.


Brite-Ideas profile image

Brite-Ideas 7 months ago from Toronto, Canada Level 7 Commenter

It's been so long since I've had to do this, that I would seriously refer to your page for help!


delia-delia profile image

delia-delia 7 months ago Level 5 Commenter

Congratulations on LOTD! I've gone to Europe several times...for me the booking of the flight is the most stressful. I use the same check off list to do & pack for every trip...change for the season. I'm a real good packer, for me less and light is more...more easier to travel. If I had my way I'd only travel with a carry on. I use plastic to pack my cloths, take the air out of the plastic making it flat. Easier handling at custom check.


rainykua profile image

rainykua 7 months ago Level 2 Commenter

My family is going to Tokyo this December. It's not too far from where I live (Manila), but we consider it as a major trip. Though we've been there once (we joined a tour), we are still pretty clueless about the city. I'm already starting to research a little bit. We've already booked plane tickets, and I hope I can get a good rate for a nice hotel. We are going there on our own so I'm kind of nervous and I don't want things to go wrong. This lens is really helpful. Thanks for sharing and congrats on your LOTD! :)


Charito1962 profile image

Charito1962 7 months ago from Manila, Philippines Level 6 Commenter

Thanks for these helpful tips, though I haven't travelled in a while. My last trip was in Hong Kong in 2010.


Bercton1 profile image

Bercton1 7 months ago

Well written lens and great information! Well deserved and recognized work!


Zodiacimmortal profile image

Zodiacimmortal 7 months ago from Yonkers, NY Level 2 Commenter

Great lens I've added it to the featured ones on my http://www.squidoo.com/torontoOntario lens


Sensuintell profile image

Sensuintell 7 months ago

Great lens. Wish I were going on my planned trip to visit family in the Netherlands. Perhaps I'll bookmark your lens so it will be there when I'm ready. Thanks.


joanagarcia 7 months ago

Love the lens! I'm a frequent traveler and I honestly don't hire agency services or purchase travel packages. I do things on my own from finding an affordable airline ticket, finding a convenient and affordable accommodation, places to visit, things to buy, etc.... I definitely do my own research at least a month before my flight.

I totally agree with 'Don't Panic' advice! Because sometimes, things will not turn out the way we planned them...

Great lens ;)


stereomike83 profile image

stereomike83 7 months ago from UK Level 4 Commenter

Great lens! Agree that always best to plan a couple of days with nothing as on a couple of our big trips they have turned out to be the best days of the trip


ajp71555 profile image

ajp71555 7 months ago

Congrats on the purple star! It's well deserved. Travel is so fun, but it can be stressful at times. Your tips for successful planning are a great way to remove some of the stress and make more room for the FUN!


DebMartin profile image

DebMartin 7 months ago Level 3 Commenter

You've put me in the mood to head out again. Congratulations on your LotD


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 7 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@HilSue: That's some great advice! I will have to add in especially the part about the credit cards. It's a great idea so that it's much easier to deal with in case something happens.


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 7 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@anonymous: Thank you! Yes, make sure you travel again as it's such a wonderful experience.


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 7 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@Brite-Ideas: Lol. It's stressful if you haven't done it in a while or at all, isn't it? I'm glad there's some useful info for you here! :)


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 7 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@delia-delia: Wow, it sounds like you're an expert packer. It's definitely to your advantage when you travel. :)


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 7 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@rainykua: Thank you! I'm glad you found some useful info. I was so nervous before I traveled, but it turned out really well. The more prepared you are in the first place, the better you can handle it if something does go wrong. It sounds like you'll be well prepared. I'm sure you'll have a great trip!


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 7 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@Bercton1: Thank you!


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 7 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@Zodiacimmortal: Thank you very much! Much appreciated. :)


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 7 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@ajp71555: Thank you! Yes, it's so important to have fun on the trip! :)


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 7 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@DebMartin: Thank you!


Radgrl profile image

Radgrl 7 months ago Level 1 Commenter

I have traveled to and lived in Germany several times. I hate the 10 hour flight from DFW


Stephanie36 profile image

Stephanie36 7 months ago from Canada Hub Author

@Radgrl: The flights can be a pain sometimes. After a while it's easy to go a little stir crazy. But they're worth it in the end. :)


nikahexplorer profile image

nikahexplorer 6 months ago

Yes i am also planning for a major trip travel, indeed these tips are very helpful.

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