Helen’s 7 Steps to Travel Planning

*Collaborative piece

I like planning. I especially like planning travels and I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at it these days. An element of surprise can be nice, but the planning stage does require some organisation. These are my seven steps to planning any trip.

1. Check the Government Website

The British Government website has a list of all the countries British citizens can visit and various pieces of travel advice about each country. It’s particularly useful if you want to travel to a country with political unrest or with areas where conflict is ongoing. We found it really useful for guidance about places to visit, especially countries where borders are difficult (Kosovo).

Travel advice in Kosovo varies depending on where you visit.

It’s important to note that different countries might offer different advice. We loved spending time in the town of Morelia in Mexico. However, we met an American guy who said that the US Government website advises not to visit the whole state of Michoacan. By contrast, the British government website does not warn against travel to Michoacan.

While different government’s opinions may differ, your government’s website is still a good starting point if you want to visit a country and want to find out a bit more about what’s going on there.

2. Choosing a Location: Check Budget and Flights

Why did Mitch and I end up in Albania on our first trip together? Quite simply, there was a cheap flight and it was a cheap country. We knew that we wanted to travel for a long amount of time so heading to countries where our money could go further was ideal. Knowing your budget before travelling is so important.

Finding cheap flights and comparing deals these days is breezy thanks to sites such as Skyscanner. It’s one of the reasons we chose to visit Bulgaria and Prague most recently – there were some great flights from Bristol. If you can be flexible with your location, check what flights are on offer. There are loads of great travel packages available so spend time searching online.

3. Finding Good Accommodation

I like to think that I’m a pro at finding the best accommodation for our trips. When we’re working and travelling, AirBnB is usually the best option. Having our own apartment means a good nights sleep and (generally) a better wifi connection. If we’re not working, we tend to go for hostels. We love meeting new people while travelling and hostels are great for that. Deciding what you value most on your trip can help you decide where to stay.

If it’s a short trip, look for somewhere central so you can see everything. If you’re on a budget, find somewhere cheaper but still with good access. If you value a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, there are some great hotels available with those options. Shop around – that’s the most important part.

Our Airbnb in Guadalajra, Mexico, had a swimming pool! There are loads of great choices out there.

4. Think of Your Health

I’m not saying “Don’t travel if you’re not healthy.” I’m saying if you’re going somewhere and it’s likely that you’ll need injections or medication (such as antimalarials), get them within plenty of time.

When I called my GP surgery in London before my first trip to Vietnam, I couldn’t get an appointment for a month! Many vaccinations require one or two doses a few weeks apart and my trip was in two months, so this didn’t work at all. It was one of the reasons I opted for a private travel clinic. These clinics are more expensive. So, wherever possible, try and get what you can from the NHS. Book a doctors appointments well in advance and buy travel insurance if required.

5. Do you Need a Visa?

Getting a visa for some countries can be a lengthy process. Your government website should tell you all about visas for the countries you’re visiting. Getting an appointment at some places for a visa can be tiresome. We ended up getting our Chinese visas in Manchester because London was booked up for about a month.

The ‘Entry Requirements’ section on the UK Gov website will give you visa and entry details about the country.

6. Currency: Don’t Always Buy Before You Go

Because I’m an organised traveller, I always get my currency beforehand (after thorough research to find the best rate in Bristol).

But, in both Prague and Bulgaria, the rate has been better in the country itself. What’s the moral of the story? While it’s good to bring some of the local currency with you, do some research beforehand and you might be able to get more at a better rate after you arrive.

Always try and check the exchange rates online before you travel. In Poland, Scottish pounds don’t appear to have the same exchange as British pounds…!

7. What Do You Need to Survive?

The day before I travel, when I’m frantically packing, I keep asking myself “Do I have everything?” On the day of travel, I think to myself “Do I have everything I need to survive?” In most cases, this is your passport, money, medication, and a phone/laptop. Everything else, really, can be forgotten. Unless you’re going to hiking into the jungle, it’s likely that you’ll be able to find everything you need at your next destination: clothes, toiletries, books etc. So relax and enjoy your trip!

My trusty Osprey, packing everything I need for trips since 2014.

These are my seven travel planning tips. What do you do before planning your next adventure?

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