Trip planning basics – three key questions to ask yourself before you plan a trip

Almost everyone we know loves to travel.  But for the average vacationer, trip planning can be a real hassle.  Just figuring out where to go and what to do can take hours of research.


Is it any wonder that most people just take the easy way out and book a cruise or vacation package?


But doing your own travel planning has lots of advantages.  First of all, you don’t have to be surrounded by tourists if you don’t want to be.  Making your own arrangements gives you more options.  And it’s often less expensive.


It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and there are plenty of travel sites and online resources to help you plan a trip.  The first step is to answer these simple questions:


1) What kind of travel experience are you looking for?


There are as many kinds of trips as there are travelers.  Do you want to kick back and relax, enjoy an active outdoor vacation, or drink in the splendor of ancient Rome – as well as the wine?  If you’re not sure, think back on the travel experiences you’ve enjoyed the most.


If your fondest travel memories are of hiking in the mountains, a big city like London or New York probably isn’t right for you.  Love Las Vegas nightlife?  Cross Tahiti off your list – everyone there is tucked in by 10PM.  Want to shop till you drop?  Check out the currency exchange rate.  Shopping’s not much fun when everything costs twice as much as it does at home.


Once you’ve figure out what kind of vacation sounds good, figure out:


2) How much time do you have?


These days, jets can take you anywhere in a fraction of the time it used to take cruise liners and trains.  But just because you can travel somewhere in twelve hours doesn’t mean you’ll be bright eyed and bushy-tailed once you get there.


You should figure on one day of jet lag recovery for every time zone you cross.  If your dream destination is more than seven times zones away, don’t go for less than a week.  Otherwise, it will be time to go home just when you’re hitting your stride.


With two weeks vacation – 14 nights away from home – you can go almost anywhere you like.  Don’t plan on much activity for the first couple of days, and remember to schedule days off into your itinerary.  Sometimes you just want to loaf, no matter where you are.


With one week, you’ll probably enjoy your vacation more if your destination is less than a six-hour flight away.  And don’t fly more than three or four hours for a long weekend.   Remember all the time spend getting to and from the airport, and standing in line.


By now, you should have a pretty good idea of how far you can go.   Next, ask yourself:


3) How much money do you want to spend?


Want to practice your French, wander down cobbled streets, and dine on Coq au Vin?  Montreal’s got it all for about half the price of Paris.  Looking for a secluded beach you can call your own?   If you’re willing to hike ten minutes, there’s one on Kauai for a lot less than that private island in Tahiti.


Most travel experiences are available in a wide variety of price ranges.  So figure out what you can afford, and then back out the cost of meals.  Many people underestimate how much they’ll spend on food.  So unless you intend to be very frugal, add another 30% to the cost of your trip.  After all, dining is one of the best parts of traveling.


Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ve already started the trip planning process.  The next step is to start doing some research.  For an introduction to travel sites that can help you with that, read the best travel sites for planning a trip.

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