When you have a big trip coming up, there are tons of moving parts: funding your trip, transportation, connections, lodging confirmations, language and culture notes, tour times, and ideas of things to do and places to eat. When you are traveling to a single destination, keeping it all straight is no big deal, but when you’re traveling for weeks or months, keeping all those details organized can be overwhelming. This is a quick look into how I organize my travel plans (plus download a free organizer for your next trip!)
The first step in any trip is funding your travel. You want to make every cent count, and to do that, you need a system. My husband and I recently discovered the only two cards you need while traveling, and maximize those travel benefits.
Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account has ZERO fees, reimburses 100% of ATM fees, and waives all foreign transaction fees. You do need to open a brokerage account with $1000 minimum in addition to funding the checking account, but you literally don’t need to do anything with the money in the brokerage account. This card will get you cold hard cash from any ATM, anywhere in the world, for FREE. You really can’t ask for more.
Of course you also need a credit card, and that’s where the Chase Sapphire Preferred card comes in. The benefits on this card alone make it an incredible insurance policy (24-hour dedicated support, lost baggage insurance, rental car insurance, trip delay insurance, etc.), plus the points are worth 25% more when you buy travel with them through case – that’s like getting 25% off your next trip! They have some awesome sign-up deals right now where you can earn $600+ in free cash (via points). The card has no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees.
Brainstorm with a Map
Once you have your finances figured out, it’s time to start planning. But before you dive into the abyss of the internet, take a few minutes to think about what you want to get out of this trip: Do you want to immerse in another culture, learn a language, help people, discover place off-the-beaten path? Decide on your motive, and look at a map to understand where you will be in the world, and exactly where that place is on the globe. Understanding what else is near the place your visiting can help inspire your brainstorming.
Another reason to skip the search engine in this initial brainstorming is that search engines will hike up the prices for attractions you click on, if you do so more than once. Because when you’re searching, the sites know what you’re looking for, and their pricing can change. So, before you even start this process, you’re going to want to make sure that you get all of your ideas of where and when you want to go, so that you can do everything in one go. This will leave minimal time for the prices to go up.
Create A Tracking System
From here, you should create your tracking system. Donald and I use a shared google sheet so we can both add to it, and paste links of places we want to go.
When we’re done planning our itinerary, we share the final version with our families so they can follow along. And if we ever need to know what we did or where we went, we have a complete record of everything.
As I’m writing this, I realized instead of explaining it I should just share it with you! So I created a slightly nicer-looking version just for you all 🙂 Download your copy of the Rise & Brine Travel Plan Organizer by entering your email here:
Do Your Research
Then it’s time to start your research. First, look into flights since you can’t book anything else until you know where you will be and when. I often use Kayak’s Flight Explorer to find the cheapest flights during a specific time frame. This gives you an idea of the most economical flight options. You can also use a comparison tool like Skyscanner that will allow you to choose the cheapest option.
Then, look at hotel prices, hostel prices, and rental prices for different kinds of accommodations. This should help you to work out which locations are going to be more cost-effective when you’ll be there.
Once you know where you will stay, you can look into things to do, special events, guided tours, and restaurants! I like to browse TripAdvisor for these ideas since you can read reviews and get a good idea of if you will like something or if you should pass. You can often find special events on the location’s tourism website.
Save a Little Extra Moolah
When you’re narrowing down your options, search for coupon codes and cashback deals. You can often get great travel bargains on coupon sites like Groupon if only you just look. You may even find that you can get a better deal elsewhere this way.
Finally, should also try and be a bit flexible with your travel times, places, and duration – you’ll often get the best price this way. If you can book when places or flights first become available, or wait until last minute, you may find that you get the best bargain of all.
Cultural and Language Notes
While this isn’t always necessary, I find myself doing a lot of research on what to wear, key phrases in a new language, and any cultural practices such as tipping and customs. A little knowledge of the basics can go a long way and make the difference between a rocky trip and a smooth one.
Take your plans on the road!
Record all your confirmation numbers, reservation times, research, and restaurants in one easy to access sheet. I love using google sheets since I can easily access it (and add to it!) on the road, and download or print a PDF version for when I don’t have WiFi.
If you didn’t already download your copy of the Rise & Brine Travel Plan Organizer, you can do that now by entering your email here: