Traveling is meant to be an enjoyable experience, something we do to explore our world, taste new cultures and open our horizons, but any trip without planning can end up in different wrong scenarios,
ranging from missing essential spots to end up in a middle of a typhoon.
As a professional Travel Influencer that I am, I have learned many lessons over time, so as a result of this I have come up with a checklist that I follow for every place I am heading to. Let me share with you my essential travel tips in a timeline before you embark to your “nextination”.
3 months before departure date:
Where to go?
The first step to plan any trip is to decide where to go. Sounds obvious, but actually is the cornerstone of your whole experience. Traveling is a very personal experience, and this decision is influenced by several factors like:
- What kind of experience are you looking for? Relaxing, adventurous, culinary, cultural, retreat?
- Who would be your entourage? Are you traveling solo? Couple gateway? Family vacations?
- When are you planning to go? Public holidays?Vacation time? Summer? Winter? Are you flexible?
The answer to all these questions will help you shape at the early stages of your trip the potential locations that you could have at your disposal to fully exploit the best of it.
Typically, you should avoid going to any destination during its high season because that means overcrowded and more expensive, but on the other hand, the high season is the best time of the year to go to that place. Low season has the best value deals and much fewer tourists.
Most of the times, seasonability is aligned with the weather pattern of the places. There are some factors you can consider:
- Avoid extreme weather: from June to late September is the hurricane season at the Caribbean Sea and typhoon season in South East Asia; during this time there are big chances that your trip to any of these destinations be under the rain. Also, in desert areas like the Emirates, Egypt and Qatar, or Arizona and Nevada in the US, summer can reach extremely high temperatures.
- Go to the other hemisphere: your summer is the winter in the opposite hemisphere of the world, and vice-versa. This fact can open exciting possibilities for traveling to places you didn´t think about before. Your melting summer in Europe can be an excellent time to ski in Argentina, for example.
- Go a bit later from the end of the high season: if you go to a place just after the high season you might still enjoy the good weather for a couple of more weeks.
- Beware of the Chinese New Year: as Chinese tourists are increasing in numbers every year around the world, they peak at their homeland public holidays, in particular, Chinese New Year and the Golden Week at the beginning of October. Traveling to China during these periods is something to avoid and to nearby South East Asia destinations, such as Thailand,Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali, etc., mostly because all places will be overcrowded.
Once you select your destination, double check if there are local holidays during your chosen dates for the travel that might impact your plans.
2 months before departure date.
Now is the time to check for flights, hotels, visas, etc.
According to the findings of several studies, the best time to book your flight tickets is around two months before your departure date. Be flexible to find better prices and consider that flying during weekdays is cheaper and Tuesdays are the days with better deals.
I use several search engines to compare flight prices and alternatives, but I usually end up buying the ticket from the airline website directly because if any problem arises, the airlines can’t blame third parties.
Tip: try to fly with the same air company or belonging to the same group (Star Alliance, SkyTeam, OneWorld, etc) as you can accumulate miles and eventually gain frequent flyer perks.
It is also an excellent time to start narrowing down your potential places to visit, in particular, if you plan to visit more than one city in your itinerary. At this point, you should start making some hotel bookings, as the rates are usually better.
My advice is that you book hotels with reservations that allows free cancellation, as this will give you much flexibility while designing your trip.
Depending on your citizenship you might have different visa requirements for the place you intend to visit. The best is to search official sources -e.g., Consulate, Tourist Board web site, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, etc. – that can provide the exact requirements.
In case you need to apply for a visa, and you need to do some paperwork, two months in advance can give you a safe margin.
If you are planning to move around during your travel in a car, the best is to book it also during this time, as you will get better deals. As I do it for the flight tickets, I use several search engines to compare different prices.
My tip to you is to go for the full insurance of the car. It will increase your daily rate, but your mind can be at ease knowing that you won´t need to fight with the car rental company in case of any problem.
1 month before departure date:
Now is the time to find out the list of activities to do, the places to visit and to buy some tickets.
- Activities: This period is to focus on those specific activities and/or places you want to visit during your travel. In addition to any travel guide you might get or any feedback from your friends about this place, remember that this is YOUR trip, so no one better than you to know what the best is to do and see.
- Reading Blogs: If you need orientation, I strongly advise you to start reading blogs about what to do and see at your travel destination and as well, the official tourism board web site. Also, there is an interesting web site named likealocalguide.com, where the locals share their best tips from each particular place. Without a doubt, local people are the one that knows better the area.
- Free Tours: In many cities, there are free tours where the guide is paid based on voluntarily tips. I recommend you taking part of these tours. They are of big help, and the guides are very well trained.
- Google: Also, I suggest you search in Google some keywords about your destination, such as: “hidden places”, “best spots for sunset”, “best rooftop bars”, “most photographed spots”or “best Instagram spots” to find cool places to visit.
- Instagram: Look for inspiration on Instagram. I personally do it a lot. I have created several galleries within the Instagram app where I save posts from those places I want to visit, organized by cities and countries. Also, you can search in Pinterest travel guides from that place and the best restaurants and bars, for example.
- Ckeck the opening hours: One important tip is that you write down the opening hours of all those places you want to visit, in particular, which day they close or at what time of the day the entrance is free, for example.
- Create a map in Google Maps. Many people don’t know this feature of Google Maps and is one of the most practical when planning a trip. I always create a new map before going to a new place, pinpointing all the spots I want to visit, and using customized icons in different colors depending on the categories, such as restaurants, cafes, museums, shops, etc. This map can be later downloaded to use it offline, in case you don’t have an internet connection.
- Buy tickets in advance. In case you are planning to visit a museum or any other attraction that requires a ticket, my tip is to better buy it at least two weeks before the date if it is in low season, and at least with one month in advance if it is a high season. Is also a good idea to save the electronic copy in your phone, like Notes or Wallet if you use an iPhone.
2 weeks before departure date.
Now is the time to cancel bookings, insurance..
Your trip will start soon and the last week previous to your departure will be hectic, so two weeks ahead is good timing to wrap up all your itinerary and cancel unused or redundant hotel bookings, finalize transportation details like train tickets or private driver or guide.
Is also important that you check the coverage of your health insurance and decide if whether or not you
need to buy travel insurance. You never know what might happen.
Tip: some places require specific vaccines, so take care of this point during this time as later you will be busier and might forget it.
1 week before departure date: the final
- Countdown: Start packing and check the weather forecast to select the right outfits. Also, consider the local costumes of your destination as you might have to adapt your wardrobes accordingly.
- Try to book restaurants and bars if you expect to go at busy times or during weekends if you have them in your bucket list or if they are trendy.
- Hardware: Prepare your travel gear, like cameras, drone, gimbal, tripod, extra power banks, cables and most important, check which kind of power socket type they have at your destination, as you might need to bring also an adaptor. Tip: I travel with an international power adaptor and aUSB hub where I can charge at night all my devices using one plug.
- Software: check that you have your devices updated and most importantly, that you have sufficient memory available in your phone and cameras. You don’t want to end up failing to capture all those moments just because you don’t have space.
- Downloads: Also, it is a good idea to download offline maps from Google Maps, Google Translator, transport applications that will work in your destination and all your hotel and flight bookings. Traveling to some destinations would also require downloading a VPN as maybe some apps or websites might be blocked. Tip: I like to travel with my music and some movies and tv series, so I use Spotify and Netflix as I can have these contents offline in case I have some free time to enjoy them.
In addition, these last days are essential to do some personal grooming for the travel: do your hair, wax your bikini line, manicure and pedicure, etc.
The Day before the flight:
Try to arrive on this date with 90% of your packing done. Some last-minute errands might take your final hours, and you should avoid any additional stress.
It´s time to do your flight check-in and get your boarding pass.
Prepare your travel bag and make sure you have: passport, driver’s license -if you intend to rent a car or another type of vehicle- credit cards and cash. I also include some other essentials in my travel bag as a hand cream, lip balm, my noise-canceling headset, power bank, iPhone cable, some snacks, water bottle, a magazine or book, and a blindfold.
- Be mindful: accept the fact that you that you won’t be able to see all in your list, so take it easy. I always say that is a good excuse to come back to the place in the future. Allow some time for improvisation.
- Get lost: sometimes is the best way to know a place. But always keep your hotel address handy.
- Walk your way: if you can, walk the place. You get to discover much more exploring by foot rather than taking underground metro or taxis.
- Be an early bird: if you can, wake up very early. Is the best time to take pictures with few or none people surrounding you.
- Chew on local:independently if you are on a budget or a high roller, street food is the most authentic and yummy, and you definitely should go for it. Find out which ones are the most frequented by the locals, as usually is a good sign of quality/value.
- Speak out: try to learn at least 5 expressions in the local language. The locals will appreciate your effort and you will be more immerse in their culture.
- Enjoy: above all, enjoy those moments. More than usual, unfortunately, we are trying too hard to catch the moments with the camera, so we are not fully aware of the experience. Next time try to not use the camera and fix the image in your retina.
Would you add more tips? Please, let me know in comments in order to improve this article.
If you have any questions, you can send me an email or write it in comments.
If you want to see more pictures of my travels, since here I only put a few, do not hesitate to follow me on my Instagram clicking here.
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Epepa Travel BlogJuly 5, 2019
Very useful tips for planning a trip. I usually do not plan a trip 3 months back, I try to be spontaneous. But if you’re going somewhere far, for a longer period of time, I think it’s worth thinking about everything before. I usually read blogs and check instagrammable places before going somewhere. But it’s a great idea to check also free tours. I will do it next time.
ShannonJuly 5, 2019
Wow this was an amazing post! Thanks for all the advice.
EdenJuly 6, 2019
This is a great little checklist you put together. I travel quite a bit myself and agreed with all your suggestions. Now that’s not to say I follow them all, mostly because I’m just not that organized, but I agree with them nonetheless. I should do better to adhere to your suggestions the week out before a trip because I’m usually running around all over the place the day before!
Shane PratherJuly 6, 2019
This was a super useful guide for any type of travel! Especially those new to the game. Thank you!
Adrenaline RomanceJuly 7, 2019
Great tips! Would also like to add the following:
1. A week and a day before your flight, reconfirm all your bookings—flights, accommodations, rental cars, etc. You would be surprised how many nightmare travel stories we’ve heard because they didn’t know that their booking details changed without their knowledge.
2. Once you arrive at your destination, get the emergency numbers of that place there. You can find it in travel guides, or you can shoot photos of general info boards.
Kevin | Caffeinated ExcursionsJuly 9, 2019
A very good list of things to keep track of, and I love how you divide it into a timeline to make it more manageable. I’m generally a more spontaneous traveler and I enjoy that, but sometimes it has its downsides. For example, you mention buying tickets beforehand; I recently went to Kuala Lumpur and missed out on the KL Tower because I didn’t think about buying the ticket online beforehand. Planning takes work, but spontaneity can be exciting. It’s definitely a personal decision to find the balance. Thanks for sharing!