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Travel Planning Tips/Tricks: Getting Started Part 1

Brainstorming is a very important part of the planning process and for me it’s always the hardest. This is when you have to think about where you want to go, how long you want to be gone, and just how much you can afford. Below is my suggested list of what you to think about during the first stages of planning!

How long will you be gone?
There are a lot of things you might consider when deciding how long you can be traveling such as the obligations you have at home, how many places you want to visit, and monetary restrictions. For someone who is traveling out of the country for the first time, going on a six month trip might not be the best idea. It’s better to take a smaller trip first so that you are used to the experience of being in another country, far from home, before taking a longer trip.

If you have family, pets, school, jobs waiting for you back home you might want to plan a shorter trip. As a student, I know I can only travel during the summer so I can take classes in the fall and spring, but other people I know were okay with taking a year off school to travel around the world. It really depends on your current life goals.

Another thing to brainstorm - how many places you want to visit. If you just want to see one city, you can plan a shorter trip. Even seeing one city can take as much as two weeks. But if you want to experience a country more thoroughly, want to explore a whole continent, or multiple continents, you need to plan accordingly.

When I plan my trips, I usually allow for at least three days in each city. So make a list and calculate an estimate of how long you will be gone. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, is how much money you can save up before your planned trip dates. It’s always better to over budget, so do the math and see just how much you think you can afford.

Do a little research to see about how much your trip will cost (not too detailed though, you will want to do that a little later on since a lot of things can change). This can determine how long you can afford to travel. After considering all of these things, you should have a general idea of how long you will be away from home.

What will you do?
There are a lot of reasons why people decide to travel. Many choose to do it for fun, but some go to school or get a job abroad. Many of my friends in college want to travel but need structure. Not everybody is okay with traveling alone, without a plan. For my friends, study abroad was their ideal choice.

The main concern for most students who want to travel is falling behind in school. Studying abroad is a good solution to this dilemma since most Universities offer study abroad opportunities around the world and for most majors too. By studying abroad, students can see the world while furthering their education.

Others find a job in their chosen county. This is a good option for people who want to live in one country for a longer period of time. This way they are making money to support themselves while traveling. Some examples of jobs people take abroad are hostel work, teaching English as a second language, travel blogging, or finding a job in your specific field. Another option to consider is volunteering abroad. Most cities have volunteer opportunities available. But if you just want to tour around and see the sights (like me), that’s perfectly fine too!

Where do you want to go?
As I mentioned above, it is important to come up with a basic idea of where you want to go while you are in this brainstorming stage. Ask around; look on Pinterest, read some travel books and blogs. Make a list of all the places you want to see and then see what comes up during the research stage.

Will you go alone or with a group?
This is a pretty big, and not so easy, decision to make. There are pros and cons to solo and group travel. Many people I met in my travels chose to travel in groups and were completely happy with that choice. They felt safer traveling in numbers and liked the company. But for so many others, they felt like traveling alone was the right choice. I am one of those people.

The thing about traveling alone is that you can make so many more friends than when traveling in a group. When you travel with people you know from home, they become your comfort zone. You do everything and go everywhere with them. For a short trip this is fine, but if you are planning on traveling for more than a few weeks, you might get tired of them (or they of you). Traveling in a group also limits opportunities to meet new people. If you already have friends, you don’t feel the need to make more. My favorite part about traveling solo is that I am forced to make friends so I am not alone. I saw so many people who only hung out with their group and missed out on meeting some really cool people. An additional pro to solo travel is the freedom that it affords. You can go wherever whenever without having to make decisions with your group first.

While I prefer to travel alone and not with people I knew before, I will say that on my trip this summer I am meeting up with several of my friends from last year to see other cities. If you do decide to travel in groups, maybe discuss beforehand whether or not they would be okay with separating at some point so that you have a general expectation for your trip.

How will you afford it?
For most people, this is the biggest component to planning your trip. Travel isn’t cheap so it’s important to create a budget as early as you can. In the How long will you be gone? In the section above, I suggested making a list of the cities and number of days that you want to travel. In Step II: Research, I will go into more detail on how to budget based on were you are traveling, but before you set a budget you should start saving. Think about how you will get the money. Think about picking up more hours at work or getting another job. Cut back on spending by shopping less, not going out to eat, and making changes at home to save money on electricity and water bills. When you start putting a budget together it may seem like your trip is costing more than you expected. If this happens, try shortening your itinerary and remember that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer! :)

Keep an eye out for more travel tips and tricks from Bakpak Girl and for tons of info about backpacking Europe check out Bakpak Dave's Backpacking Europe section!

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