How to Plan A Trip from Scratch

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One of the most common questions I have received over the years is how to plan your own travels. Having done so for so long, I’ve completely glossed over this on World of Wanderlust and am yet to provide my readers with a step by step tutorial showing how to plan a trip from scratch and the best tricks I have learned to save money on travel along the way. Get ready… this is set to be a long one!

Travel Scrapbook DIY

Step One: Determine Dates

You can’t go anywhere until you decide when it is that you are going. If you’re planning a big trip around the world that you may or may not return from, then you will really only need a departure date which will also be your savings goal to work towards. For those traveller who only have a set amount of time (i.e. holidays from school or work), then you will need to determine your exact dates from start to finish to make sure you’re back in time.

Your dates will also heavily determine where you will or won’t go. If you’re looking for a beachy getaway but can only go in the middle of winter, then you’ll need to look at destinations further afield (like Southeast Asia or the Caribbean). Likewise if you intend to enjoy a certain destination but don’t want to travel during peak season, you will need to do your research in advance.

Do remember that anywhere is going to be good and any time/season will have its own unique flair. If you only have a certain date frame to work with then do not fret, there will always be something you can do somewhere!

Step Two: Determine the Destination(s)

This is the most asked question of my life time “Where should I go on holiday?” or “Where is your best recommendation in the world?” The truth is that this question is completely subjective. I would in turn ask you the following:

When do you want to go?

As mentioned above, the time of year will really determine what experience you will be able to get.

What kind of experience do you want?

If you want a beach holiday I would recommend Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, St Barthelemy or Fiji.

If you want a winter wonderland getaway you would have to be travelling around Christmas time to destinations like Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, or in the colder climates in the USA (wouldn’t NYC be a dream in the snow!?)

If you want adventure and outdoors, I would say Chile has been my favourite country thus far.

If you want a city break I would recommend St Petersburg, Vienna, Paris, London, Ljubljana, and so many more.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that the list is endless. If it helps in any way, I choose my destinations based on photographs. I see a photograph of a place I like the look of and I put it on my list of places to travel next (Pinterest is a great tool for that).

Step Three: Book Flights & Accommodation

Once you know what your dates are and where you’re going, the next step is to determine whether you are travelling in high, low or shoulder season. This will give you a better idea of the prices you should be paying for flights and accommodation to prevent you from paying too much.

Next, check those flight prices and sign up for email alerts to monitor them a little. You should also research sales for the airlines you’re looking to book with as usually they go on sale at the same time of year. Or if you’re heading off within the next few months, here is the cheapest time to book a flight.

After you’ve booked your flights (and only after), look into accommodation and determine how much you are willing to pay vs. the level of comfort you’re after. There are some great last minute steals on websites like, and, so do cross-check between each of them (i.e. Agoda generally has better offers in Asia whilst Expedia has great offers worldwide).

It should also be noted that you do not have to book your accommodation too far in advance, but it does pay to check if there are any events in the city you plan to visit in advance, as it can really suck to find yourself stranded without a hotel, car or anywhere to stay. Bill Bryson wrote a nice little memoir about that in his book.

Step Four: Research transportation, activities, restaurants, etc.

This is my absolute favourite step of planning because the not-so-fun stuff is out of the way and now you get to research all the fun little details that will make up your trip.

It is always good to know how you will get from the airport to where you are staying BEFORE you arrive (I’ve tried being spontaneous before and I’d say 9 times out of 10 it has ended in frustration). Usually there will always be a shuttle bus which is good value for money considering you will be dropped right at your doorstep. Alternatively a cab will take you right where you need to go but is more expensive if you don’t have 3+ travel companions. Finally, public transport can often be the cheapest and easiest but you will need to research in advance so you know which bus or train to catch and walking directions to your hotel from there.

For activities, I like to use sites like to see what activities are on offer in the city I am visiting but never actually book through them as it is always much more expensive. Instead contact the company direct (a quick google search like “kayak rental in Los Angeles” will lead to the right results). Even if you don’t book your activities in advance it is always good to know what is on offer so that you don’t miss out on any opportunities!

Researching restaurants is not at all necessary but does help if you have food allergies/intolerances in your travelling entourage. is a good resource for vegetarians and vegans.

Step Five: Set your savings goal and start saving!

You’ve probably already set your savings goal before planning your trip which is fine, because now is the time to reassess! Once you know precisely how much your airfares, accommodation, activities and a daily stipend will require, you can set an accurate savings goal (tack a couple hundred extra on just in case) and work towards it.

Here are 50 ways to save loads of money to travel.

Here is a complete guide to saving money for travel.

Here are the biggest ways to save money while you are overseas.

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    February 9, 2016 at 2:29 am

    Hi Brooke, I’m a new reader of your blog and currently a full time traveler. I’m planning a trip now myself and I love checking how others plan for inspiration. I think you have all the right steps but I would recommend at least outlining activities and neighborhoods before you book accommodations. For instance, if you’re a foodie, there might be great neighborhoods for restaurants that you’d want to be near or if you want to scuba dive, it’s wise to find a hotel near dive spots to minimize transport time.

    February 7, 2016 at 10:42 am

    It was not long though… I was expecting disquisition at least ; )

    February 7, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Best Way to go, is Without having a plan !!

    February 4, 2016 at 4:38 am

    […] exciting trip next year, nonetheless, I’m still so stoked with the idea! Hopefully, this travel article will guide me along with my crazy crazy […]

    February 4, 2016 at 3:22 am

    Everything you wrote is so true! Picking a country can be complicated. Uchhh just wanna travel the world. I would recommend to future travelers to check out visitdotorg. They have awesome social impact travel opportunities!

    Kayti Clayton
    February 3, 2016 at 10:20 am

    I love planning trips from scratch, I think it’s one of the best parts of travel. The anticipation. At one point I thought I loved it so much that I could plan other people’s travel and be some kind of travel agent. But the idea of creating these perfect trips for someone else would probably drive me up the wall. So, I’m sticking to planning them for myself. Currently working on an upcoming trip to Italy in May!

    February 2, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    This is really helpful. Loving all the information you’re giving your readers. Planning your travels alone can be overwhelming.

    February 2, 2016 at 7:13 am

    I plan on doing lots of travelling within the next few years so this post will come in very handy ! Thank you !

    Holly X ||

    Gabi @ Books & Trips
    February 2, 2016 at 6:34 am

    Very good tips indeed! That’s what I do also, only in most cases I ensure I also have my transportation from the airport to the hotel taken care of: book shuttle tickets online. It saves me money by doing it in advance and I don’t have to worry about it once I get off the plane!

    February 2, 2016 at 6:25 am

    Thank you for this article !
    I like being organize and I always plan a lot before going somewhere.
    Finding adresses and interesting things to see is definitely the best while planning a trip, I love to be lost on Pinterest to find THE spot.

    Thx for sharing. 🙂

    Kenza from

    Jess ~ Gibbon Travel
    February 2, 2016 at 5:49 am

    Great post! When you travel a lot, it’s easy to forget how daunting the planning stage of it can be. Good info for starting the process 🙂

    February 2, 2016 at 5:41 am

    I like a combo of research and spontaneity! thanks for sharing this!

    February 2, 2016 at 5:05 am

    Great post! The planning and research stage of a trip is always one of my favorite parts. One thing I would add though is that you should always check if you need a visa for the country you want to go to before you book your flights. I work as a visa coordinator for a travel company so I see it all the time–people who want to travel in two weeks when it’s going to take them better part of a month to get a visa. A quick search on visa requirements can save you from showing up at the airport and being turned around for not having the correct visa or not having enough validity left on your passport!

    Sally Howard
    February 2, 2016 at 2:53 am

    Great post Brooke, really detailed and will definately help those who are about to plan their first big getaway xo

    Shannon Off Duty
    February 2, 2016 at 1:49 am

    Monitoring cheap flights is probably the best piece of advice. Cause there is cheap airfare out there believe it or not. Airlines always have sales you just have to be on top of it.

    Nish Gorczyca
    February 2, 2016 at 1:21 am

    Love this! So helpful, especially in my case as I’m studying abroad! Planning trips can be hectic but this is such a great guide!

    February 2, 2016 at 1:19 am

    I think determining the dates is the most important. You never know what the weather is going to be like in some countries! I also think Pinterest is one of the best trip ideas planner ever 😀

    February 1, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    Must be that time of year…I did a similar post yesterday! However there are some tips on here that I hadn’t thought of so there may be a part two coming soon

    February 1, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    I really agree with the frustration about getting asked “where should I go?”, or more often what I get asked is “where should I go in Japan/what should I do in Japan?”. It’s such a subjective thing because I think that Japan has something for everyone, however what I like to do, might differ completely to what other people like to do. I always clarify with other questions such as, do you like the outdoors, shopping, temples or technology because everything is available in Japan, but it’s hard to recommend anything without writing a whole guidebook if I don’t have a little more information.

    I do love planning trips for both myself and others though! I think that’s a leftover from my days as a travel agent!

    February 1, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    Great tips! I’ve never used before, but will definitely look into it for my upcoming trip to Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. Thanks!

    February 1, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Good tips! One of my favorite things: planning my travels!

    Monica @ Wok Like Me
    February 1, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Awesome post! Travel planning is soooo tedious! Incredibly exciting to think about where you’re going and what you’ll do, but takes a ton of manpower. I wrote an article on it too. Hope you find some of my tips useful!

    February 1, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    I’m about to start planning my getaway to Europe this year… this post couldn’t come at a better time! thanks for all the tips as always x