There is nothing more exhilarating to me than the prospect of a new adventure. It starts with an idea: maybe a photograph I saw, maybe an article I read. It grows and evolves and can get messy in the process. Through all of my adventures I have fine-tuned the way I plan. There is no aimless wandering of Instagram photos (okay, maybe just a bit of that) and no feeling like I’m missing out on the exact trip I want. This guide will teach you how to plan the perfect adventure in 5 easy steps, so that you can take control of your travel planning!
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Table of Contents
Step 1: Find out what kind of adventure you want
There are endless options out there for the kind of trip you’re looking for. In order to figure out what best suits you, you have to identify your type of trip and look for patterns in your travel.
Does this step seem overwhelming? Take my Travel Type quiz to quickly find your travel style!
Are you going to be visiting one city over a period of time? Are you going to plane-hop from city to city, country to country? Or are you going to drive to multiple destinations? Identifying the type of adventure that you want to have is the very important first step. Once you’ve identified that, the fun begins!
Do you seek out the most outrageous food experiences when you are traveling? Are you at home in the outdoors? Does your face light up when you discover a new art piece in a museum? What are you traveling to see? For me, it is usually the outdoors. Mountains and beaches are preferred, but any nature will do. For others, experiencing the culture of a destination is what they’re looking for. And for some finding the best cuisine is their goal.
Narrowing down your interests makes researching a lot easier. It is no secret that the Internet is filled with way more information than your brain could ever handle. Being smart about your research will save you a lot of time, and a lot of frustration. Keep your type of adventure in mind when moving to Step 2!
Step 2: Utilize the best travel planning resources
Now that you know whether you’ll be embarking on a slow-travel adventure in one city, or a fast-paced road trip in multiple locations, and whether you will focus on food or art or landscapes, you can start the planning! This is, in my opinion, the most fun of all the steps. There is so much to discover, and so much room for unexpected additions to your dream adventure.
The first place I always start is Pinterest. You can find anything and everything on there: off the beaten path destinations, reviews of food classes, itineraries. Since you have already narrowed down your interests you will have a great idea of what to search for.
I couldn’t teach you how to plan the perfect adventure without using Google. Once I’ve used Pinterest to gain ideas for what I want to see, do and eat, I take to Google to find blogs and articles to read. For example, if I have decided upon a multi-city adventure to Italy and my focus is culture, I may want to Google search “best cultural sites in Italy blog”. By narrowing your search down even further to find blog posts or websites, you fine tune your information to be from a traveler’s perspective!
There are so many websites that can help you plan the perfect adventure, so this is by no means an exhaustive list. I’ve used TripAdvisor as well as Google Reviews to find the perfect places to eat. City Wonders has been helpful in booking tours in Europe, and Viator has been essential in finding unique experiences and skip-the-line passes. RoadTrippers is helpful for a muti-destination road trip.
Amazing trip planning resources are not limited to the Internet. Two of my favorite resources to use when planning are guide books and tourist guides. Guide books offer everything from accommodation options to off-the-beaten path experiences. Tourist guides are a lesser-known planning tool, but just as useful. You can order many state guides in the USA to be mailed to you for free! These offer information and beautiful photos geared towards enticing you to visit.
The goal of using these resources should be to help you narrow down some details. You can plan on where you want to visit, what you want to see, places you may want to eat, and where you should stay. Having these ideas ready wil help you in the next step!
Read a detailed list of all the travel planning resources I use in the dedicated post “Best Travel Planning Resources“
Step 3: Create a budget tailored to your comfort level
Now that you have a rough idea of what your trip will look like, creating a budget is the next step in your adventure coming together. Expenses can add up sneakily, and you want to be prepared for your credit card statements during and after this trip!
Transportation and accomodation will likely be your biggest expenses. Fine tune the details of those in order to get a better idea of what your overall budget should look like. Booking directly through airlines can offer you peace of mind, but it usually isn’t the cheapest option. I have booked flights through Cheapoair as well as through looking at Google Flights. A tip? Track fare changes through a flight deal website. Flight deals and mistakes happen daily, and there are people out there who keep tabs on them. This can save you a lot of money! How will you travel throughout your trip? If you’re taking a road trip with your own car the costs significantly decrease, but if you’re renting a car, RV, taking trains or buses you need to factor all of this in!
Figuring out accommodation in order to create a budget will set you up for success in planning the perfect adventure. I often stay at Airbnbs when I travel, and have a whole method for picking the best ones! There are endless options for accomodation: hotels, hostels, Airbnbs, campgrounds, campervans etc. Once you figure out flight costs and your general budget, you can choose which options will work best for you.
Utilizing a budget planner template is essential in keeping track of expenses as they come up. While food and drink, souvenirs and attractions may seem like obvious contenders to plan for, travel visas, vaccinations and road tolls may not. Count every little thing, and save where you can! Once you’ve created a budget that works for you, you can move on to planning out the details of your adventure!
Step 4: Work out the details- but leave room for spontaneity
You’ve figured out what your trip will look like, you’ve researched ideas, and created a budget. Now you’re ready to start booking things and finalizing details of your adventure!
This is where an Itinerary comes together! You can start to fill in where you will be on which date, what your main activities/attractions for the day will be, ideas for places to eat or buy food. There is nothing more I love than filling in an itinerary. All of your hard work starts to come together into something that looks and feels real.
Start simple, and get more detailed. If you’re taking a road trip, start to map distances between places to get an idea of what you can fit into each day. If you’re country hopping, book your flights and map out where you will be. Then you can fill in the blanks.
One of my favorite things to add to an itinerary is the times of the sunrise and sunset. I’ve gone to California in February expecting long sunny days, only to realize the sun sets pretty early there in the Winter. I’ve budgeted a regular day and then remembered the sun doesn’t really ever set in the Summer in Yukon. You will save yourself a lot of hassle if you are aware of how many daylight hours you will have.
In working out the details remember not to overplan. I had a bad habit of doing this in my early travels: I would pack the day to the brim with activities, visit restaurants I had researched beforehand, and know exactly what my day would look like. I’ve found that spontaneity has an integral place in adventures. There is nothing like driving by a beach you didn’t know about and stopping to find a paradise. Or discovering a local food place by talking to residents. Plan one, two, maybe three things about your day as suggestions, and let the adventure unfurl itself from there!
Step 5: Get packing!
There is usually time in between Step 4 and Step 5. Step 4 is an ongoing exploration! You may find out about a restaurant you have to book ahead of time, and book it a few weeks before the adventure. Maybe you figure out a festival is being held in a place you’re visiting, and you buy tickets last minute. The planning doesn’t stop for me usually until I’m heading out the door to start my adventure!
Part of the planning your adventure is getting yourself ready for what you will need to bring with you. I’ve traveled for a week and brought a large suitcase. I’ve traveled around Europe for almost a month with only a 70 L backpack. And with the addition of a baby, I’ve learned that packing is a marathon. Each trip requires slightly different packing!
Are you visiting a cold or warm place? Tropical, or dry heat? Are you packing for yourself, or for yourself and kids? Do you have a baby? (Babies require a whole lot of things for how small they are!) Will you be staying in the same place, or will you be moving around a lot? Can you get supplies where you are going? All of these factor into the planning process!
Start with the big items and work your way down. Don’t forget small things like your toothbrush, any medication you need and lots of extra socks. When your list is complete, get to packing. Check and recheck that list, and before you know it it will be time to get the adventure started!
Planning an adventure from start to finish can seem daunting. There are a lot of moving parts, and so many choices in the world that we live in. By really honing in on what it is you want out of your dream trip, you can plan accordingly, and leave room for magical unexpected things to happen.
The planning doesn’t end when the trip begins! Some of my favorite things to take with me on a trip are my guide books, my maps and an offline copy of my itinerary. Maybe it is a rainy day, or maybe something is closed. There is always room for change and scrambling is the last thing you want to do.
You have the power to make your adventure all your own, and now you also have the resources to do so! If you haven’t already, grab a copy of my Free Adventure Planner below. Sometimes seeing the visuals help bring it to life!
I’d love to see how you plan your own perfect adventure! Leave a comment or send me some photos at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope your next adventure is the adventure of your dreams!
A Truthful Traveler