For those of us with only two weeks of vacation time, most of the year goes towards planning a trip for that short amount of time. I start planning trips usually six months in advance to fully be prepared and make the most of the escape.
You should have your destination already picked out before the pre-trip countdown begins.
Six Months Out
Save Money: Go ahead and start saving money that you’ll need before and during your trip. Cut down on non-essentials in your daily life. You’d be surprised by how much money you save when you bring your lunch, skip the Starbucks and take public transportation instead of driving. And invite friends over for movie nights or wine tastings instead of big nights out at clubs. If you’re a smoker, this is the perfect time to quit and save money.
Cull Unnecessary Items: Unsubscribe from those subscription boxes like BirchBox and magazines you never have time to read. Delete the daily deal emails so you won’t be tempted to buy. Purge the clothing or household items you never wear by bringing it to a consignment store or selling online for extra cash.
Track the Money: Then set up a bank account or a jar for the money you’re saving for the trip. Tape a picture of your destination to it to keep you focused and keep you from pulling money out of it early. Track your spending on Mint.com to set budgets for food, shopping and transportation.
>> This is also the perfect time to get your travel blog up and running so you can track your planning and travel prep leading up to the big adventure! See our guide: How to Start a Travel Blog
Three Months Out
Passport & Visas: If you’re going international, make sure your passport isn’t expired and has plenty of extra pages. Go ahead and apply for any visas you might need, as you want to give them plenty of time in case something goes wrong. And of course, if you don’t have a passport, apply now!
Research Flights: Now is also a good time to price flights. Set alerts on websites like Kayak that will let you know when prices are expected to rise and fall. This gives you enough time to book and then use the remaining time to save exclusively for spending money.
One Month Out
Travel Doctor: Visit your doctor to see if you’ll need any shots or immunizations for your chosen destination. Some shots, like Japanese encephalitis, will need to be specially ordered and need a lead time. Your doctor can also recommend what pills you might need to take like malaria tablets.
Book Accommodation: While it isn’t essential, you can go ahead and book hotels if you’re concerned about it. If you’re visiting during the high-season, an event or holiday, it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and book just the first few nights. This is especially important if you’re arriving very late or very early. You can also write down the information for places you may want to stay that you can call to book when you arrive. If you’re using apartment rental sites like AirBnB, you should book one month out to give your host plenty of notice.
Hostels & Hotels – Search for deals, even on hostels, at your destination using Booking.com. Read our Newbie’s Guide to Staying in Hostels.
One Week Out
Get Paperwork in Order: Type up a list of where you’ll be and when with relevant phone numbers to leave with someone back home. Save another copy on a Google Drive or DropBox account. Scan a copy of your passport and do the same, as well as bringing a printed copy with you.
Money Matters: Tell your bank and credit card company where you’ll be so that they don’t freeze your accounts. See if your bank offers money changing services and get at least $100 in foreign currency.
Travel Insurance: Purchase travel insurance or make sure that your insurance at home covers you while overseas.
Last-Minute Details: Double check the time and date of your flight and which airport it flies out of. Don’t get them mixed up if your city has multiple airports! Lay out the items you’ll be packing, organize and pack them right!
Dianne W says
Actually, particularly if you have any pre-existing health conditions, you should purchase travel insurance within 2 weeks of booking flights and any non-refundable hotel deposits or payments.
I find the best airfares can be found 4-5 months before departure. Be sure you join frequent traveler programs to accrue points and miles. Be sure you have those program account numbers entered in every booking.
Many countries refuse entry unless your passport is valid for 6 months past your visit. Always renew a passport early and allow 4-6 weeks to get the passport.
Research the type of electrical outlets and plugs required for each country you visit. Get plug adapters 30 days before your trip.
Typo! Under Save Money, please change pubic to public. That’s a pretty nasty mental image!
This is great! I usually have everything worked out way before my trip too – it’s just too exiting!
I don’t know how travel insuracnes work in other countries, but i just got one with a cancellation service, that will refund pre-paid travel expenses such as plane tickets if I get sick or even if I fail an exam and have to retake it during the vacation.. This means that I can book my tickets now while they’re cheap, even though I have six exams before summer that could potentially ruin my vacation 😀 this has to be purchased well in advance, too 😉
Also, some shots need a double dosis with about a month between them, so I’d do that sooner, too 😉
Australian govt website smarttraveller has an area where you can register your travel details. I am sure many other countries now have this too. It’s so reassuring to know that if anything happens in any country I’m in – from natural disasters to political coups – the govt knows I’m there and can help contact my family and help me out!
Also, don’t forget to tell your credit card companies that you’re overseas! You REALLY don’t want to be abroad and have no access to your savings – like I was in Canada! Thankfully my bank has an agreement with ScotiaBank, amd they sorted it out for me – but not before I had Tim Hortons Timbits for dinner because it was the most filling thing I could find for my last $3!!!