Let’s face it: we all love to travel. Ask anybody you know if they like traveling, they will agree: they love it. That’s because it is such a rich experience and it serves all kinds of people and purposes.
Even though there is no fixed way to travel, there are basic topics you have to consider when planning your trip. We prepared a simple and easy guide to help check all the boxes in your travel plan.
Of course, if some of this sounds overwhelming, you can always hire one of our Catts to help you with tailor-made suggestions and tips for your trip.
If you have already started planning, you can skip to the step you are looking for. We took some inspiration from Google’s stages of travel idea and added a few topics to help you start from any point:
Pick your starting point:
- Ask Yourself: Why Do I Want to Travel?
- Get Inspiration
- Before Choosing a Destination
- Choosing a Destination
- The Five Pillars of Traveling
- Sharing With the World
- On Your Way Back Home
If you are at the very beginning of your plan or even if you don’t have a plan at all, you may start from the most basic question of all: Why do you want to travel?
1. Ask Yourself: Why Do I Want to Travel?
Traveling is a beautiful thing. You can live some of the best moments of your life while visiting other places. But before starting your trip plan, have you asked yourself why you want to travel? Here are a few reasons that might be behind this desire.
Escape From Routine
If you would like to shake up your week and do something more exciting than what you have on your calendar, maybe what you are looking for is an escape from routine. When traveling, you can try a different cuisine for each meal, wake up early and watch the sunrise several days in a row, or even just wander at your destination and see what life will bring you around the corner. This is also a great opportunity to plan a road trip. Be open to new experiences and see what happens.
If your heart is telling you it is time to go far away from your comfort zone, you might want to seek some kind of adventure. You don’t want to just visit some popular destination and its main attractions.
Maybe what you are looking for is to try something bold, like hiking for days, climbing mountains, learning how to surf big waves, chasing tornados, these kinds of things. Include the proper precautions in your trip plan, but follow your heart to the experience you are looking for. The most challenging moments might become the greatest stories of your life.
If you feel something is missing in your life, there is a chance you need to get busy. This can be done in several different ways but what is important is to keep pushing a get-busy agenda.
Set challenging and smart goals for your trip plan and see what happens. That could be: visiting 15 museums in one day, try 12 different beer flavors in 12 different pubs, learn a new kind of dance in a week, drive across 20 states and take a selfie at every welcome sign, go to 8 different places suggested by 8 different locals you have never met before, and so on.
Make sure you have your plan with you all the time so you can have that sweet pleasure of checking everything on your list. In the end, you will feel really satisfied and proud of yourself for accomplishing your goals.
If you need a break, finding peace from the chaos around you may sound appealing. That doesn’t mean you are running away from your problems, you just need to unload the weight on your shoulders and recharge the batteries. We all do.
Take everything that reminds you of your restless schedule and leave them behind for a while. Include on your trip plan activities that help you focus on positive thinking, peaceful moments, relaxation, physical and mental health improvement, as well as a very precious thing: Time for yourself.
At the end of the day, what you want is to concentrate only on the things around you, the beauty of your destination, and the tiny — but special — moments you don’t always notice in your day.
Nice and easy does it.
There might be other reasons why you want to travel. Maybe there is an experience you always wanted to have or have been dreaming of, you might be visiting a loved person, or simply because a friend recommended a certain place to you.
Whatever your reason is, make sure you keep it as the main guide behind all your decisions. Always ask yourself WHY you are doing something before you select WHAT to put on your trip plan.
2. Get Inspiration
Once you know why you want to travel, it is time to get inspiration to better pick your destination. There are a few different places you can find it.
There are several books out there not only about traveling itself but with fantastic stories about characters who have experienced dream trips.
If you want to find inspiration, you can start with the ultimate classic “The Innocents Abroad” by Mark Twain, or “Travels with Charley: In Search of America Book” by John Steinbeck.
Also, if you like collecting books, the Lonely Planet collection is going to be your best travel buddy. You can find books on each country or region you dream of and these books have destination maps, historical and touristic attractions, plenty of suggestions of places to eat, things to do, and much more.
Make it a hobby and for each country you visit you can purchase a correlated book; even more fun is to mark each activity you have done in the book until it is complete. Those books by themselves can be your personal tour guides.
Some books became movies, like the famous “Eat, Pray, Love”, written by Elizabeth Gilbert; “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”, by Cheryl Strayed; and “A River Runs Through It and Other Stories”, by Norman Maclean.
However, other titles were written directly for the screen, such as “Midnight in Paris”, written and directed by Woody Allen; “Easy Rider”, by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern; and “The Darjeeling Limited”, by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Jason Schwartzman.
If you would like to add a dose of fantasy to your inspiration, then you can just let the epic stories of titles like the oscar-winning trilogy “The Lord of the Rings”, the beautiful “Missing Link”, and the always fun “The Adventures of Tintin” guide your dreams.
Podcasts are currently one of the most popular ways to get information. Grab your headphones and check out some of these suggestions:
The Big Travel Podcast — Listen on these platforms
Hosted by Lisa Francesca Nand, this podcast has a variety of different guests — including athletes, authors, musicians, soldiers, and much more — sharing their adventures around the world.
Zero to Travel — Listen on these platforms
Jason has a lot of tips for both experienced and beginner travelers, especially those looking for a budget trip.
JUMP with Traveling Jackie — Listen on these platforms
Jackie is a very experienced traveler and loves to talk about hidden gems and other secrets she discovered in her adventures.
Nothing like beautiful pictures to make us dream about a certain place. We’ve selected a couple of accounts that will open your eyes and your world, here they are:
- @tastemadetravel: by their own words a “Global community of explorers & adventure seekers”. You’ll find everything here, from traveling tips, great local food places suggestions, unique places to go, and much more.
- @thebucketlistfamily: this is a special one for families and it can serve as an inspiration even to the kids. The Gee family sold everything they had and went backpacking around the world, they even had a third baby during that adventure. Their page comes with awesome pictures, videos of their awesome adventures, and travel tips for families.
- @thiagomlcorrea: this guy knows how to catch your eyes with his stunning traveling pictures. From the Maldives to the Atacama desert, you’ll find great shots that will make you want to pack right now and leave.
- @dontgoto.video: The irony of this page’s handle is compensated by the amazing takes they have for each place they go. The idea is that they visit a place and dare you not to go there, while they show you the most wonderful things from each destination.
This one is awesome if you want to dig in a little deeper into those influencers’ experiences.
- Tolt Around the World: even more worthy of your time than their Instagram, this is the DontGoTo.Video Youtube channel. Their videos are just stunning and to give you a quick taste, check Don’t Go to Brazil.
- Max & Lee: This cool couple took to the roads in a van. Such an awesome life! They comment on the places they go, as well as how it is living/traveling in a van. Pretty cool traveling tips that will help you with your trip plan in general, even if you’re not driving a van somewhere.
- The Bucket List Family: Here’s the full experience of their channel, you’ll watch their family swimming with whales, observing bears in the wild, and walking with penguins. Honestly, a great channel to inspire traveling and to help your kids have a more adventurous spirit.
3. Before Choosing a Destination
How Many People Are Traveling with You?
Traveling solo will certainly give you more freedom. You choose where to go, where to stop and when you leave. It’s also a great way for self-discovering and to make new friends along the way. A trip plan customized to your own will and dreams sounds amazing, right? It does!
But it also requires a lot of courage to brave this world alone and a lot of extra safety measures. If this kind of trip attracts you, here is a list of the safest destinations for solo travelers. There are also several safety measures, usually directed to female travelers but they can be used by anyone. You can find some of those here.
Does it really matter where you go if you have the one you love by your side? Probably not, but a weekend in Aspen sounds nice, doesn’t it? This kind trip plan is usually easy to prepare, from finding tickets to accommodations and restaurant reservations, a table for two is usually available.
You can choose anything, it can be an all-inclusive resort at the beach or a week at the slopes sharing the coziness of winter; it doesn’t matter because you will have each other all the time. But just in case, you can find a list of the top 10 romantic places to go here.
It is a completely different trip when the whole gang is together. However, like anything in life, you must have a plan. Discuss the main places everybody wants to visit but give freedom so your friends can also do their own things.
To make the plan easier for you and your group, use the Trip Planner on our website to have all your ideas in one place. It includes a chat so everybody can share their thoughts and suggestions.
A family trip plan is probably the one that calls for thorough preparation. You need a place that fits everybody and has fun activities for each member, age, and style. That can be a tricky task, but worry not we prepared a great guide on how to plan a family trip to help you out. As for possible destinations, U.S. News Travel has a good list of possibilities for family vacations on American soil, which will give you some ideas about where to go.
What Do You Want to Experience?
Is art one of your passions? Are you more of a classic or modern art style kinda person? If you are the latter, there are some pretty cool options for you, for example, the Wynwood in Miami
Imagine a whole neighborhood not only filled with awesome graffiti but also planned in a way to exhibit them. There is something new you can add to your trip plan and you might catch artists working on their graffiti as you walk around.
Another city with art all around is Barcelona where you can walk uphill until you reach the beauty that is Park Güell. If you prefer to admire art inside walls, there are cities filled with museums, Paris, Athens, New York City, Montreal, and Tokyo are a few to list here.
Most of these cities have special deals for art lovers, such as a day-pass to visit every museum you want, special days with half-price or free entrance, and exclusive exhibitions.
Does the sound of waves give you butterflies in your belly? What about that comforting sensation of sand beneath your bare feet? Add to that fresh coconut water and some delicious tropical food, and that’s it! The perfect beach trip!
No doubt that the ocean has a calming and soothing effect on our souls, maybe because of that when someone thinks of vacation, they often think of the days at the beach. For this one, the trip plan can include “enjoy a relaxing day while sunbathing” and you will be good for it.
It’s an ideal trip to pack light summer clothes and as long as you are close to the water any accommodation will be great, so it’s just a matter of knowing how you will get there and how much you are willing to spend. And to inspire you, here is a list from the U.S. News Travel of the 15 best beaches in the world.
If you’re looking for that extra adrenaline in your veins or just a casual challenge, you’re most likely in need of an adventure. Lucky for you, we live on a vast and cool planet with a variety of options.
Start by thinking about what kind of scenarios, or even weather, inspire you more to a challenge. Once you get that done, there is no limit to your trip plan. You can go surfing in Australia, go on an expedition in Antarctica, take on the many snow slopes in Canada or go hiking in Peru. There are several options out there for mountain climbing, skydiving, desert expeditions, and safaris. The list is endless.
Let’s be honest, isn’t every trip a foodie trip? We think so too but you can definitely travel with only this goal in mind and taste all the amazing food from your destination in a couple of days.
Every place has its unique and diverse cuisine, so why not put our taste buds to the test?! It is really common to find food tours today, which means that you will pay a certain amount and a guide — usually locals — will take you to the best spots to try the best local food; that amount you’d pay often includes some meals or drinks.
Fond of driving down history lane? The question here is how far back you want to go. A history trip plan is really exciting and often filled with cool discoveries about humanity. Now, if you want to learn more about America’s history, here’s a list of the top 10 historical destinations you could consider.
From walking where Paul Revere walked to visiting the sites of the Civil War, at the very least you will come back with cool souvenirs and as a history expert. But if you really want to dive into the beginning of civilization, you will need to catch a flight. There are a lot of options, and to assist you here is a list of 15 of the most historical sites in the world.
Road trips will give you full control of your trip, as far as how fast you will get to your destination, where you want to stop, eat, and so on. It is usually cheaper than flying somewhere, especially if you are traveling with family.
If you want to “roll your windows down and cruise”, here is an awesome way to start to plan your trip: How to plan a road trip. And if you got to be a child or teenager during the 90s, here is a fun read of the crazy adventures we survived 20 things we endured when going on road trips in the 90s.
Did I hear someone say “Love Shack”? Oh yeah! This can be a honeymoon, a surprise proposal trip, a babymoon, a regular vacation between you two — because heck yeah! You both deserve it. So many options!
For this one what is important is to go somewhere you both enjoy. You’ll find some activity suggestions here. But remember these as just ideas in the air, it’s all up to you and how you want to impress your partner.
Where Are You Going?
Perfect for a quick weekend vacation out or a short drive. This option is certainly the cheapest and easier to plan, plus it gives you the chance to better know your own state, support local businesses, and have a great time.
America is such a big and diverse country, getting to know the wonderful places we can find here is a bliss. It is still a good option for a road trip and also flying; you might need to be an extra light packer for the flights, as the regulations have reduced the weight for luggage, but it is worth it.
Oh, the wonders of traveling around the world. This one needs a little more planning. Make sure your passport is ok, that you apply for necessary visas or permits, and pay attention to currency change.
For international trips, it’s always a good idea to start your trip plan at least one year in advance, which will give you the chance to find good flight tickets, check the best season to be at your destination, and do general research on the area.
How Much Time Do You Have?
How long do you want to stay away? A weekend, 3 to 5 days or 1 week. For a short trip plan, the best is not to waste too much time with transportation, so you can enjoy your destination the most. So focus on places you can reach with a short drive or flight.
Are you ready to spend that vacation bank you have been saving for forever? This is it! Check your budget and make sure you are ok for the long stay. Spending too much time on a plane or car isn’t a problem here as you will have enough time to enjoy your vacation. Plus, you will have enough space to fit all of those bucket list things you want to.
4. Budget — Your Best Friend
How Much Do You Want to Spend?
On a Budget Trip
A tight budget may cut you short on the luxury but never in the experience. There are plenty of ways to save some money when traveling:
- When traveling solo, you can stay at hostels.
- Buying flight tickets at least one year in advance.
- Traveling during the destination’s low season.
- Enjoying the local street food, which can be much better than a fina restaurant sometimes.
- Using public transportation at your destination.
- Researching free attractions.
It is very important to plan a daily cost and keep track of that, you can use a spreadsheet or a budget app to help you.
It’s All About the Benjamins
You only live once. It’s cliché but it’s true. If you have the dough to spend as much as you want, then go for it and make it unforgettable. Are you accepting guests? Asking for a friend.
Mind Your Wallet
The second most important question on a trip is: How much can I spend on this trip? Be honest with yourself. If you are going overseas, make sure you check carefully what is the currency abroad and how that is going to impact your budget.
Create a spreadsheet and add all the numbers you either already know or you think might pop up on your trip, including an extra amount for emergencies. When traveling, one can never be too careful.
Notify Your Bank
Let your bank know you are going on a trip so they understand your credit card might show a different spending pattern. Also check with the instructions on how to cancel your credit card in case of theft, especially if you are overseas.
5. Choosing a Destination
Once you pick your destination, it is time to go through the Five Pillars of Traveling. However, before you do that, just keep in mind a few things.
If you are planning a trip to a country that speaks another language, you want to learn a few basic things before departing. Words like “food”, “bus”, “washroom”, and “exit” can save your life. You can also download an app to help you with translation.
If you are staying in a hostel or hotel, check if they have a business card by the front desk. When taking a cab back home, you can just show the card to the driver and they will know the address.
People are different everywhere. Inside your country, it might be easier, but when traveling abroad you are more likely to face cultural values a bit different from yours. To make your trip plan easier, find out the basics about how people eat, talk, dress, and behave at your destination. It is okay to make mistakes if you are a tourist but you need to respect the local culture as if it was yours.
Risks and Insurance
Keep Your Documents and Money Safe
Especially when traveling abroad, always keep in mind your documents and credit cards are the most important things you carry with you; you can use a money belt to keep everything safe.
Bring with you a photocopy of your ID and passport in case you lose them and have the local embassy’s address with you — preferably printed — so you can contact them if any problem arises.
Travel insurance is recommended and it can save your life. Ask your travel agent about it but also message your friends to see if there are other companies with better packages.
6. The Five Pillars of Traveling
1 — How to Get There
There are a few different ways for you to get to your destination. The most common types of trip plans usually include either a flight ticket or the traveler’s car. However, depending on how adventurous you are feeling, you may want to check if catching a train or even a cruise — once they are back in business — can be a nice addition to your trip.
Once you select your method of transportation, always check how to get to the place you are staying before departing. Some cities include a light train or subway from the airport to downtown. You also want to avoid large avenues during rush hour. Keep everything in your plan and make the first day at your destination as smooth as possible.
2 — Accommodation
Your accommodation is as important as your destination. If you are traveling solo or with friends, finding a hostel can help you save money and meet new people. When on a trip with a partner, a B&B or a resort should give you the privacy you need.
However, if you are traveling in a large group or with family, a hotel should be the easiest option. Even though not the cheapest, hotels are usually ready with rooms big enough for families, sometimes with connecting suites so you don’t have everybody in the same room.
It is crucial for your trip to always talk to your host/hotel in advance and explain your needs. Let them know if you are bringing a pet or if somebody in your group needs special needs. The more you tackle these issues in advance, the easier your trip will be.
3 — Transportation
If you are not driving to your destination, it is important to check the price for the local public transportation, as well as how much a taxi or Uber run would cost you. Here are some other tips.
Check-in in advance how much a ticket for public transportation costs, especially when traveling in a large group. You should also check if the price changes by location or if extra fees are applied when going outside the main urban area.
Depending on what kind of trip plan you have, getting a day pass or even a monthly pass might be cheaper for you. Just do the math of how many times you are planning to take public transportation and how much each trip costs.
Some apps offer offline maps so you can download in advance a map of your destination before your arrival. This is especially good if you have any issues with your data or if you are bringing a device (like a tablet) that doesn’t include a SIM card.
4 — Food
Eat What Locals Eat
If traveling is an opportunity for you to see new things, it is also a chance to try new food. Always keep in mind that you can always try at home the recipes you already know. Give yourself the chance to taste what locals love and expand your palate.
Try Something New
Depending on where you are traveling to, there might be a local recipe you should try. Check if there is a unique restaurant or experience involving food you can give a chance. Including these ideas in your trip plan can add an extra flavor to your day and make everything even more special.
Spicy Food & Allergies
Once you know where you want to eat, check if the place has its menu on their website, and anticipate if it includes ingredients you are allergic to. You may also want to contact the place first and check if the food is considered too spicy if that is something you are not into.
5 — Entertainment
Oh, yes, the good ol’ entertainment. After all, millions of people travel for one purpose: to have fun. To select the best options for attractions, first check with your group what they like to do, since each place is known for something different to see and do.
Maybe your group likes to watch live sports events, they might want to see how the local music scene is, or maybe your kids really want to visit a local park where they can see dinosaur fossils and trained animals.
Whatever your choice is, check in advance if the place has a website and buy the tickets before departing. It helps you save the day for that attraction and keep your trip plan more organized.
If you are spending a long time in one place, you want to plan all your activities around that address. Check what restaurants are around, how the traffic is, and how to go back to your hostel/hotel from there.
If you are looking for outdoor activities, it is also important to check the weather forecast before committing to a certain attraction.
7. Sharing With the World
No way you will go on vacation and won’t photograph every special moment. Even more improbable that you won’t want to share those moments with your loved ones, or that co-worker who drinks cold coffee in the office. So we prepared a list with some useful tips you can use.
How to Take Better Photos
Get up as early as you can
It might sound too much, but since a lot of people don’t like to wake up early when traveling, your sacrifice pays off if you want to take a selfie at a very busy or touristic place/attraction.
Ask the locals
People who were raised in your destination know unique places and where to photograph. Ask around or use one of our Catts to learn more about where you are going.
Take the road less traveled
Include in your trip plan enough freedom to change course at any moment. You never know what is going to pop up around the corner. If something looks interesting, take the shot. You never know if you ever see it again.
How to Photograph with Your Phone
Step 1: Clean your lens
Keeping your phone in your pocket may leave its lens dirty and it will definitely affect the quality of your photos. There are a few products you can buy to keep your gear clean. Try a before and after and you will see it makes all the difference.
Step 2: Turn on your camera grid
Go to your Settings app and turn on the grid for your camera app. Once you open it, you will notice four lines on your screen, crossing in four different sections. Keep the main “target” of your photo either in the very middle or place the crossing sections over your subject to create a more pleasant aesthetic in your pictures.
Step 3: Focus
Tap on your phone screen where the main subject of your photo is. It will tell your phone to focus on that area. If your subject is close enough, your phone will blur the background and create a more professional look.
Step 4: Use extra lenses
There are a lot of companies out there that offer extra lenses for your phone. You can simply attach the lens on your case — if compatible — or use a clip, and take much crispier and beautiful photos.
You can even play with different kinds of lenses, like the classic fisheye, and challenge your creativity to take unique photos. Have fun!
Bonus tip: Bring a power bank
When traveling, always keep in mind your phone’s battery is limited, no matter how good or expensive it is. If you need your phone to go back to your bed & breakfast, to get an Uber, or to just simply get directions, recharge your phone when it indicates less than 20% battery.
To make your life easier, include a power bank on your trip plan survival checklist. You can charge it overnight and bring it with you in your backpack. It is easy to use and it might save your life. Don’t forget to match your phone charging port with your power bank and always bring your cables with you.
Top 5 free photo editing apps:
- Snapseed — iOS & Android
- VSCO — iOS & Android
- Prisma — iOS & Android
- Photoshop Express — iOS & Android
- Foodie — iOS & Android
Video App: RTRO by Moment
If you would like to add a vintage look to your trip videos and have them stand out among your friends’ Instagram stories, then RTRO is for you. The app offers several different vintage filters that add a fun and analog vibe.
It lets you “pause” the recording, so you can add different moments to your video. In the end, it automatically compiles everything together and creates one single video to be exported to your phone. Give it a try!
Keep Your Trip Photos Safe Forever
Try these apps to backup your photos overnight (using Wi-Fi) and keep everything safe:
- Dropbox — iOS & Android
- Flickr — iOS & Android
- Google Photos — iOS & Android
- Microsoft OneDrive — iOS & Android
8. On Your Way Back Home
Ok, I get it, nobody wants to think about this part. When traveling, the least exciting part is the way back home. This is when you have to remind yourself about going back to the routine, unpacking, doing laundry, etc.
“It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.”
— The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
As much as this is not as amazing and the trip itself, you can still make the best of it. First, take the time to be thankful for the trip you just had. It is really a special moment in life when you can take some time off and be anywhere you want in the world, eating, seeing, and doing anything you want.
Second, be thankful for those who were with you and for those you met at your destination. Traveling is a genuine human experience and, as much as it is awesome to enjoy cities and nature, each person that becomes part of your trip makes it even more special.
Third, go back to your trip plan and see what went right and wrong. Traveling is never perfect and it never will be. However, you can always learn from it and take notes for your next destination.
Go from the very beginning and see what part of your plan was flawed, what could be improved, and what you could have done differently. Not only it helps you revisit every day of your trip, but it also reinforces all the knowledge and experience you gained, so you can use it next time you travel.
Remember: going places is great but the genuine experiences we bring inside of us, no matter where we go. Our personal growth as humans is more important than tickets, hotel rooms, or restaurant menus. At the end of the day, it is all about the memories we carry with us in this amazing journey called life.
That’s all folks! Stay tuned for our next publiCATTions.