Knowing how to plan a trip really does take practice!
Even after years spent backpacking the world full time, we are still picking up new travel tips and tricks as we go, helping us to save time, money & a heck load of stress!
Well, with all this experience we figured it was finally time to put it to good use.
Hopefully, this epic guide will help you with all steps of the trip planning process and give you everything you NEED to know and remove the nonsense.
We’ve broken it down into 10 helpful steps, so feel free to skip through if you’ve already got key parts of your trip nailed down!
1. How to budget for a trip
Before you start planning your trip, the very first thing you need to do is decide on your budget.
There’s no point splashing the cash if you can’t afford it, and there’s no point booking a room with a shared bathroom if you can afford to pay an extra few dollars for the privacy!
So, budget first.
Of course, your budget will largely depend on where you are travelling, how long you will be travelling and what sort of style of travel you enjoy.
Budget vs mid-range travelling
How to plan a trip on a budget
When we first started backpacking in 2016, we had a pretty strict budget of no more than $1,000 a month.
This may not sound like a lot, but it’s plenty for mid quality travelling through many cheaper parts of the world; notably Southeast Asia.
Here, you’ll have great weather, a massive range of hotels and hostels, access to cheap meals.
What’s more, most of the things to do in Southeast Asia are very cheap, and the routes are well trodden by other fellow budget backpackers.
Here’s a rough idea of what we have spent backpacking different countries in Southeast Asia (all prices in USD):
- Thailand - $30/day
- Cambodia - $25-30/day
- Vietnam - $25/day
- Laos - $25-30/day
- Indonesia - $35-40/day
- The Philippines - $40/day
Other countries in wider Asia:
Based on our experience, it’s actually possible to travel to almost any country on as little as $1,000 per month.
However, in many countries such a budget would greatly decrease what you’re able to do or how quickly you move about.
How to plan a mid-range trip
In recent years, as we’ve started working more and more online whilst travelling, our income has risen.
Meaning we’ve had the opportunity to spend a little more when travelling, allowing us to visit some truly incredible places.
Most of our travels these days would probably put us in the category of “mid-range travellers”.
We’re happy to spend a little more on things like nicer hotels and better transport, but we are by no means frivolous.
We try to keep our budget at around $1,500 per month, allowing more when backpacking parts of Europe.
If this still sounds like not a lot of money to you, then that’s great!
If you can afford to travel long term on a budget higher than this, then you’re going to have an incredible trip!
Two great continents that fall within this $1,500-$2,000 per month budget are South America and Europe.
Both are, on average, a lot pricier than Asia; especially if you want to stay in the same quality accommodation.
How to plan a road trip
Here’s a rough idea of what it cost us to road trip through different countries in Europe (all prices in USD):
- Finland: $40-50/day
- Sweden: $60/day
- Norway: $50-60/day
- Ireland: $80/day (including campervan rental)
Read More: The Best Road Trips In The World
Saving money for travelling
There are lots of ways in which you can save money, but the first thing I suggest is that you create some form of savings account that you can pop your travels money into, so you’re not at risk of spending in daily life.
If you’re from the UK, then the Monzo travel credit card app is a good place for this, because when you do finally start your trip, you can use the money directly from your account with the best exchange rates on the market.
Our top 5 tips on how to save money for your trip:
1. Set a deadline - Nothing pushes you harder to save than having a strict deadline in place. Come up with an idea of how much you’ll need for a trip and put in place a hard and fast date that you simply have to raise it by.
2. Put aside a percentage of your income every month - Before you pay for anything else, take out a certain percentage of your income every month and put it in your travel fund. Then, you only have whatever is left to spend for the rest of the month.
3. Pick up extra work where possible - Those little jobs really add up! Whether it’s chopping wood for your neighbour or painting their shed (paid for Bradley’s trip to South America), it’s all money! Some people take on extra shifts, some people find online work (which is what we did in 2017) and some people even work at hostels/bars whilst they’re travelling!
4. Cut back on stupid expenses - For me, this was coffee. If you order a coffee out daily or even just 2 or 3 times a week, that can amount to around $400-500 a year!
5. Plan! - To help keep you focused and motivated, keep updating your travel plan and getting excited about your trip. This will not only mean you have a better trip, but will keep you focused on your savings goal.
2. Choosing the perfect destination/s
The next step to planning a great trip is deciding where you actually want to go, as well as how long you want to travel for.
Your budget will definitely influence this decision, and since we’ve already established the budget, it’s time to choose the place for you!
If you already have a firm idea in your mind of which places you wish to visit and for how long you want to travel, then feel free to skip ahead to point 3.
Something to remember: slow travel is typically cheaper than fast travel.
What you spend on a two week holiday in the Canary Islands could last over a month in Bali.
It all depends on what you want from your trip.
Low budget destinations
If you’re looking for the best backpacking destinations where you can get cheap food, drinks, accommodation and experiences, then Southeast Asia is always a good start.
All these locations will allow you to stretch your money, and if you’ve got a flexible budget, you’ll feel like you’re a King or Queen on holiday!
We spent no more than $30/day in each of these ...
Mid-range travel destinations
Here are some of our favourite destinations that we found to be “mid-range”.
Meaning, you’re probably looking at closer to $30-$60 per day, even when backpacking at a slower rate.
Expensive travel destinations
Finally, here’s a list of countries we would class as much more expensive.
You could still visit and have a great time on a time budget, but you will definitely need to miss out on a lot of the sites and attractions.
You’re probably looking at $60-100+ per day in each of these if you want to do them right.
Read More: The Most Romantic Destinations For Couples
How to plan a vacation itinerary
If you want to become an expert trip planner, you’ll need to know how to make a trip plan that is flexible and practical.
Naturally, you’ll want to try and squeeze as much as possible into your travel plans.
However, the issue is that if you’re jumping too fast between destinations, then it’s easy to miss great sites along the way and also burn out.
Burning out is common amongst travellers who spend a few months on the road at a time.
You constantly feel like you’re trying to keep up with a hectic schedule and end up enjoying the trip less AND spending more money.
Instead, I recommend being sensible and drawing up a plan that is as in-depth as possible.
Then, be critical and decide whether or not you’ve actually spent enough time in each place.
For example, The Philippines is filled with more than 7,600 islands.
So, even if you spent 20 years there, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to see them all!
Most backpackers spend 2-4 weeks in The Philippines, so you have to be strict and narrow down how many places you visit.
For us, we ended up spending at least 3-4 days in each location and enjoyed each one to the max.
We could have spent just 1 or 2 days in each and seen twice as many islands, but I can guarantee that we would have burnt out along the way.
I’m pretty happy with the route we ended up with, so as a good example of how to make an itinerary, check out our 4 week Philippines route here.
3. Finding experiences
When planning your dream trip, what sort of things are you looking to experience?
Are you interested in …
- Free sites and attractions?
- Off-the-beaten track experiences?
- High-octane adventures?
- You get the picture ...
If you already have an idea of specific sites and activities, then make a list of EVERYTHING you could possibly want to do on your trip.
For ideas on how to find more experiences in each country, keep reading!
How to find things to do in your chosen destinations?
Here’s a few of the best ways to find the most common things to do, as well as unique experiences and adventures.
When we visit a new town, city or country, we tend to get pretty adventurous and see as much as possible!
That’s why, when you click on one of the country links given in the section above, you’ll find some of the most in-depth destination guides available anywhere online.
For a full list of the countries we’ve been to, ordered by continent, check out our destination page here.
Our first port of call when planning a trip is good ol’ Google.
Simple searches like “things to do in Place/Country” will turn up much of the information you need to plan an epic trip.
You’ll soon find a few travel blogs that you love (as well as ours of course) and will use to help plan your adventures.
Pinterest & Instagram
Cazzy loves Instagram for helping to find the most picturesque and exciting places to visit in each country.
She‘s always in travel planning mode and saves any posts she likes, which then helps her down the line when planning what to do in each place we visit.
It’s also a great way to find destinations you never even considered visiting.
In particular, more off-the-beaten-track countries which aren't on the typical backpacker routes
This is one of the best and most underappreciated ways to find great experiences around the world.
The trick is to find groups that focus specifically on one country or region and ask to join.
They are typically filled with thousands of like-minded travellers who either want to visit or who have already visited places.
Those that have visited are always more than happy to share their personal experiences and offer up unique attractions they discovered when there.
Here are some of my favourite Facebook groups that we have personally used for trip planning.
To find new Facebook groups, search the same way as you would in Google or try variations such as “Country backpackers”.
Not only are these a great way to, well you know, book tours; but they are also a great way to discover great things to do.
Even if you don’t plan on booking a tour, you can still scan through popular sites like Viator and GetYourGuide to see what’s on offer and most popular.
If you are looking to book tours, then we personally tend to book online these days for a few reasons; notably:
- You can usually get the best prices
- You can base your decision off plenty of reviews
- You have greater security in case of cancellation
- It’s a lot less tedious than booking in person
Over the years we’ve used a variety of tour providers to book our tours around the world and I’ve listed them below.
Just bear in mind that some companies are better in different areas!
GetYourGuide has a pretty extensive range all around the world, as well as a fun and easy-to-se site. In particular, they are perfect for European bookings, as well as the USA & Australia. We use GetYourGuide more than any other tour provider.
Klook are a front runner in Asia bookings, and we often find them cheapest; not only for tours but also for transfers between destinations. They have recently expanded into more parts of the world, and they actually sponsored our hot air balloon ride in Marrakech.
For years, Viator have had the biggest array of tour options, though personally we have never been too fond of their site. That being said, they do have a lot of tours that other sites don’t offer and are well trusted in the industry.
We came across ForeverVacation when planning our time in Bali, and instantly fell in love with the company (check out the Bali Instagram Tour Cazzy did with them). They are continuing to expand, offering personalised and unique tours in places like Bali, Malaysia and Bangkok.
Musement offer a great range of tours in Europe, as well as particular parts of Africa. We went through them with our Agafay desert day trip in Morocco and had a great time!
Tips for saving money on tours & attractions
Here are 5 quick tips and tricks we use to save money on experiences.
- Look for city cards that offer bulk discounts on top attractions; these are usually valid for 2 or more days
- Google “sign up bonuses” or “discount codes” before booking your tours online
- Always check a variety of tour sites before booking, as prices can differ
- Some websites offer a discount if you book more than one tour, so consider bulk buying
- Look for free activities: for example most cities offer free walking tours and free cooking classes; though it’s customary to tip at the end
4. Buying your flights
A key part of knowing how to plan a trip around the world is sorting out the best flights.
Well, when it comes to finding cheap flights online, you have two options:
- Searching directly with the airlines
- Using a flight search engine
For every single flight we book (which is at least a dozen or more a year) we follow option number 2.
Well, the search engine automatically compares the prices of all airlines following your intended route and gives you the best rate.
The only time you may want to search and book directly with the airline is if you are very familiar with their flight patterns, costs and want to gain air miles with them.
Besides that, a search engine is the way to go; and there are 3 main ones to use.
We use Skyscanner every single time.
We’ve tried the others, but Skyscanner is always the cheapest, most easy to use website and we’ve never had any issues with them.
Skyscanner is a comparison site that not only checks airlines directly for prices, but also all the other intermediate websites that sell flights.
They have a great tool that shows you the cheapest month to fly to a destination, and you can view a whole month of prices on one screen.
You can also book multi-city and multi-country trips which is perfect if you’re doing a large backpacking adventure.
When is the best time to buy flights?
We get this question A LOT!
And, truth be told, there really isn’t an exact answer.
Sometimes, it works best to wait until right before you fly, other times you’re better off buying flights as soon as they become available (usually 9 to 11 months before departure).
Based on our experience, it works well if you can buy flights 3 to 6 months in advance.
Either way, the best approach is to head on over to Skyscanner, do your search and then set up a price alert.
Naturally the longer you leave it, the more the seats sell up and the more expensive the flight will be.
Also, return flight tickets are better value than one way, but obviously you can only do this if you know when and where you’re returning from.
Read Also: 22 Awesome Things To Do On A Long Flight
5. Arranging transport
I wanted to include a section on this, as we’ve found that how you choose to get around is a HUGE part of the travel experience!
In all our earlier backpacking trips (like South America and Southeast Asia) we mainly used public transport to get around; as it’s cheaper and can be paid for as you go.
This included taking a combination of long distance buses, trains and on occasions airplane rides.
This will depend on where you’re visiting and how long you’re visiting.
In our later trips, we’ve opted to road trip as much as possible, including road tripping …
Personally, we think this is a fantastic way to get off the tourist trail and really see everything a country has to offer.
Campervan and car rental has become much more affordable and can be done in almost any country, so long as you have an International Driver's Permit.
Some people love the thrill and challenge of getting from A to B, and others like the open road and being in control of their own itinerary.
Here’s a few pros and cons ...
Benefits of public/local transport
- Cheaper overall
- More time mixing with locals
- Great if you don’t like driving abroad
Negatives of public or local transport
- Typically much slower to get around (except flights of course)
- Less freedom over your chosen route
- Miss out on sites
- Delays and cancellations
Road trip vs public transport: which is best for you?
Our approach is to road trip 100% of the time if possible.
Of course, this is as long as you are happy and comfortable to drive abroad and that the country you are visiting lets you legally drive there.
But if both those things are fine, then when possible, we always recommend you opt for a road trip.
It’ll give you a sense of freedom, the chance to get off the beaten track, the chance to save money on accommodation and camp in unique places (either in a tent or campervan if you’ve rented one).
Also, you’ll never have to rely on slow buses, broken down trains or overcrowded transport. Bliss!
I would suggest that even if you can’t rent a car for the full duration of your trip, then for even a small section of your trip you could rent a car and see some sights that aren’t necessarily offered on a typical tour.
Converting a van into a campervan
We love road trips so much that we actually ended up converting our own campervan!
It's how we now live and travel the world, check out the full guide here:
How To Convert A Campervan: Our Step-By-Step Beginners Guide
Useful tools for booking transport
- Rentalcars - Worldwide car rental (our go-to choice)
- 12GoAsia - The ultimate source of transport options anywhere in Asia
- Busbud - Bus hire in most countries
- Klook - Great for transfers & hiring drivers across Asia and Europe
- Spaceships Rentals - Campervan rental in Ireland, UK, New Zealand & Australia
- Motorhome Republic - Worldwide campervan rental
- Rome2Rio - For finding transport options between destinations
- Google Maps - For offering local transport options (great for bus and train times)
- Uber / Grab / Bolt - Car pooling in most cities
6. Arranging your accommodation
The next step in planning the perfect trip is arranging your accommodation.
Budget vs mid-range vs luxury
When people think of “budget” accommodation, they often think of hostels.
Well, you may be happy to learn that in many countries, hostels are more expensive than private accommodation (especially if you travel as a couple).
Budget accommodation is really high quality in places like Southeast Asia, where your money goes further.
For example, you can get hotels with private rooms, bathroom and swimming pools with breakfast for $12 a night in most parts of Asia.
Budget accommodation typically includes a private room with a private or shared bathroom.
Rooms are generally small, and the price doesn’t always include breakfast. Expect to pay around $8-30 per night (based on two people sharing).
Mid-range accommodation tends to be where Brad and I are at.
And even if we can’t get mid-range for a budget price, we will pay the extra to get what we want.
Mid-range accommodation typically includes a private room of a decent size, with a private bathroom (if we’re lucky, a bath!) and most properties have some form of swimming pool.
Breakfast is also included. Expect to pay around $24-70 per night (based on two people sharing).
Luxury accommodation typically offers lots of space with private rooms, bathrooms, sometimes even an extra living area. The property will typically have swimming pools, a gym, and other desirable amenities. Breakfast is typically included. Expect to pay around $50-120 per night (based on two people sharing).
Of course these prices will differ depending on the area you’re visiting, prices above are for Asia.
As mentioned before, your money will go a lot further in Asia, than it will in Europe.
Best places to book your accommodation
There are dozens or booking sites online, but here are the best 5 based on our experience.
Booking.com is great for all travellers. It’s our go-to website and we honestly believe it offers the best range and value when it comes to finding accommodation anywhere around the world. They have a price promise, so if you find it cheaper (which you rarely will), they’ll give you the price difference. You also get Genius perks like early and late check in/out, free breakfast and sometimes free bike rental!
Airbnb is always a brilliant choice if you’re looking for unique accommodation or long-term stays. We often use Airbnb when we want to stay in a location for a month because the monthly discounts are so good! And if we want to stay in a treehouse, lighthouse, log cabin...anything weird & wonderful, then you’ll typically find it on Airbnb! Get up to $43 off your first booking here.
If you’re backpacking on a budget and love the hostel life, then Hostelworld is going to provide you with so much choice! All the best hostels have a presence here and it’s what the majority of backpackers use. They have a really easy-to-use site and have the biggest range of hostel reviews, meaning you can have peace of mind knowing that what you book is actually up to scratch.
Agoda is the second top booking site we tend to use. On occasion it can be slightly cheaper than Booking.com when they offer flash discounts. So keep an eye out and compare your hotel on both sites to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Plus, with Agoda, you get cash back which you can use towards another booking to get money off!
If you really want the “local” experience or you’re on a shoestring budget, then Couchsurfing is for you. We first tried Couchsurfing in Santiago (Chile) and honestly it was fantastic! We ended up making friends for life from the experience and we got to see parts of Santiago we would have missed on our own (like the best bars and clubs!). Couchsurfing is also really useful for solo backpackers.
7. Sorting your travel gear
Travel packing is a key stage in planning any trip!
And if you plan on doing a lot of travelling, for a few months or more, then it’s well worth investing in good quality travel gear.
Over the years we’ve slowly upgraded a lot of our gear, particularly cameras and other tech.
However, we have used our main bags and a few other items now for more than 4 years.
And they have been beaten about …
I know that when you’re planning a trip on a budget, spending money upfront on travel gear can seem quite daunting.
But actually, if you invest wisely before your trip, then it will last you for years to come and end up saving you a lot of money.
When you’re choosing backpacks and shoes etc, make sure you do your research and use the reviews.
Here’s a look at the fundamentals we take with us on every trip …
- Osprey Farpoint 70 Litre ← Best travel backpack for men
- Osprey Renn 65 Litre ← Best travel backpack for women
- Osprey Stratos 24 ← Best travel day bag
- Tropicfeel Canyon or Monsoon ← Best overall travel shoes
- Basic First Aid Kit
- Passport & other travel documents
- Travel Insurance
- Monzo or Revolut cards ← Best travel banking solutions
- Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II ← Best overall travel camera
- DJI Mavic Pro ← A superb travel drone
- GoPro Hero 8 Black ← Best action camera
- Samsung Galaxy S9 & S10
- Universal Travel Adaptor
Other useful guides:
Other items to take with you travelling
Of course, what you pack for travelling will depend largely on where you are travelling and at what time of the year.
We’re continually putting together very in-depth travel packing lists from our travels around the world, and these should help you with everything else you might possibly need …
8. Staying safe
Whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple or with a group of friends, it’s very important that you take all the necessary precautions to stay safe when travelling.
So much so, that we think it deserves it’s own spot in this trip planning guide!
So here’s a few top bits of advice for what to do now, to help keep you safe when abroad.
Lots of people decide to risk it when they head off on a backpacking adventure; however, I cannot stress enough how dangerous this is.
Vacations are there to stop diseases from killing you and NOBODY is immune.
Get vaccinated before you visit a country, or if you’re from the USA (where it’s super expensive for vaccines), get vaccinated as soon as you land in the country you’re visiting.
Check your local government health website to find out what vaccinations you need for a country.
There’s a whole range of anti-malarials on the market, which means you’ll be able to find one that doesn’t react with your body.
Some people report symptoms of feeling sick or having headaches with certain types of malaria tablets.
From good experience, we can recommend Doxycycline as a cheap, symptom free malaria tablet.
I’ve also taken Malarone which didn’t produce any side effects, although it’s the more expensive option.
Once again, it’s best to speak with your travel doctor to find an antimalarial that’s right for you.
Buy travel insurance
Please do NOT go to a country without travel insurance.
You’ll be shocked at how expensive treatment can add up in some countries.
Sure, in parts of Asia it can be cheap for a bandage or injection, but if something serious happens, it will cost thousands upon thousands to get you better and get you home.
Get travel insurance!
- UK travellers - I recommend Compare The Market as the best starting point for cheap UK travel insurance.
- US travellers and elsewhere - World Nomads offers competitive backpacking insurance (at least compared to US prices) and is popular with lots of backpackers we meet.
There are a number of smart items that you can buy before travelling, which will help keep you and your possessions safe.
Travel locks are always a smart item to have around, especially when leaving your rucksacks unattended in hostels or on buses.
I also suggest having a small purse that you can put “backup” money in that’s hidden, in case of an emergency.
As well as this, always carry a photocopy of your passport, travel insurance and any other important documents.
Other travel tips
Here’s a few other top tips worth mentioning to help you stay safe abroad:
- Don’t walk alone after dark, opt for transport instead
- Try and use roads that are well lit when walking with friends
- Don’t carry lots of cash or expensive belongings on you
- If someone engages with you, walk ahead, or get in a taxi
9. Getting things in order at home
Before you embark on any new backpacking adventure, it’s important to sort out your things in your home country.
You’ll eventually be returning (unless the travel bug completely takes over your life), so here are some things to remember are….
- Make sure you’ve got someone to look after your house (or rent it out if you can and make a little extra cash when travelling!)
- Store your car somewhere safe, either in a garage or at a friends house
- Arrange any automated bills
- Find a home for your pets
- Get time off work: some people build up their holiday time to use in one go, others take a leave of absence from work, and others transfer their day job into a remote position whilst traveling
10. Making the most of your adventure!
Don’t forget that you’re going to want to share every aspect of this amazing journey with your friends and family!
What’s a trip if you don’t make people at home jealous?
Here are some top tips for what you can do BEFORE travelling, in order to make the most of your trip.
Take a great camera with you
Make sure you bring a camera with you, as well as plenty of memory cards so you don’t run out of space.
You don’t need to spend lots of money on a “professional” camera nowadays.
Or, if you do want to buy a camera, then spend a couple of hundred and get something good that will last you many years (here’s the one we use).
If you’re a couple, bring a small tripod with you, this means you won’t need to rely on others to take photos of you when you’re in remote and unique places!
If you plan on spending a lot of time in the water, then your best bet is GoPro.
Read More: Our 23 Top Travel Photography Tips
Get your social media in order
If you don’t have social media accounts, now is the perfect time to create some.
It’s also a good way for them to know you’re safe.
They’ll worry and ring you less if they can see that you’re having fun on the trip!
Bring a diary (or start a blog!)
I always suggest bringing a small diary with you.
This means you can document your favourite days, write down memorable moments, or even keep track of your budget and see how much you’ve spent when the trip ends.
Or, if you plan on doing a lot of travelling in coming years, then why not start a travel blog?
When we started our blog in 2016, there’s no way we could have believed how popular it would become.
We now get more than a hundred thousand readers a month and our main source of income, allowing us to travel the world full-time!
Research common scams
Nothing ruins your fun like being scammed.
Bradley and I have been pretty good at spotting a scam, but we almost got roped into one in India, because I let my guard down for a few seconds!
Anyway, you can learn about local scams simply by Googling the destination, which will help make you aware of certain things to avoid.
Be aware that not everyone is out to scam you!
People are genuinely nice and most times, just want to chat with you; it’s just in the super touristy places that you may experience something a little off!
You want even MORE information!?
Well, unfortunately that’s everything we could think of!
Hopefully now you have a much more solid understanding of how to plan a trip of your own.
So it’s time for you to get to work planning your own epic trip, be it for 2 weeks or 2 years.
It’s a lot of information to take in all at once, so you’re probably best off bookmarking the page and coming back to it as and when.
Also, be sure to check out the the rest of our blog, which is filled with useful tips for countries all around the world.
Best of all, we’re always updating our content to keep it as fresh and useful as possible.
If you do have any more questions, then feel free to drop a comment below and I will help you out however possible.
Have a great trip!