At first have a spark of an idea that you want to (or have to) travel somewhere.
Nothing stops you from running down to your local travel agent and getting them to organize everything. But do you really want to leave it up to them to decide what you should see, how you should get there and where you should stay? If that's OK with you, then you probably need to read no further on this page. Try to enjoy your travel agent's trip.
So you want to take control of at least some aspects of the experience. The best part of this is that you can begin to enjoy the trip before departure.
Without planning, you will almost certainly run out of time to do the things that you want to to. Planning involves thinking ahead to consider what things you will need, when you will need them and how to get to where you need them.
Answer these main questions:
See the planning outline that deals with
these question in greater detail.
Tip: Get informed.
You may already have personal experience with the places that you'll
But things change; often quite slowly so that even the locals
wouldn't think of pointing it out to you.
Look for web sites of official tourist offices of countries and cities, as well as those of public transport providers in the regions that you visit. These tend to have the most-reliable information available. Many foreign web sites have English-language pages available for the convenience of visitors that aren't fluent with the local lingo.
The web sites of commercial providers such as airlines, travel agents and hotels will inform you about schedules and prices.
You can keep the printed travel guide with you and browse it in the months before the trip; and take it with you on your journey if it contains information that'd come in handy while travelling.
Atlases and maps help to give a sense of proportion and perspective to your planned destinations.
An information resource often overlooked nowadays is a public library. This will likely have a wide range of relevant materials that you can browse, usually at no cost at all.
Such peripheral information, even if aimed at getting you to buy a particular package tour which you would never dream of taking because of cost/convenience/confinement, can add to your perspective of things that you can do and places to see.
Have periodic, informal meetings and chat about what you've all learnt.
If somebody's offered to become your expert for a particular place, then they can be your travel group's guide when you visit that place. They'll really get a kick out of giving locals and other visitors to the place directions and information.
You can't know too much.
But don't irritate others by unsolicited demonstration of your knowledge during the trip; or afterwards for that matter. You might get away with it in parts of the USA but the civilised world generally appreciates humility.
After you've figured out where you're going and when; and researched the likely weather, it's very easy to try to pack all the stuff that you think that you will need. But gone are the days of ocean liners, steamer trunks and minions to carry you favourite kitchen sink.
A general rule of thumb is to lay out what you think you'll need before packing it; and then only pack a third.
Travel light by choosing stuff with multiple uses; that's light and easy to maintain and clean. Keep in mind that you will have to carry your luggage at some point; and the further you carry it, the heavier it will seem to get.
If you're taking along things that might break, pack them in clothes that you'll be carrying anyway. Don't waste space and weight on packaging materials. Discard excess packaging from the stuff you buy along the way.
You will forget to pack something. If it's an item of clothing or toiletry, then you can probably buy it upon arrival at your destination. Don't fret just because you forgot to pack spare socks.
Wash new clothes before you wear them; especially undergarments. A hand-basin is enough for a quick wash and rinse. No need for washing powder — few people would pack it anyway. Use some shampoo. This is part of being resourceful.
Discard stuff that you don't have to take with you any further.
Toiletries and even some clothes may be dispensible.
Why bother packing and carrying them with you on the way back home?
Excess baggage fees are very hefty.
Tip: Be Flexible and Resourceful
If you get into difficult or things don't go as smoothly as planned,
Find a place where you can sit and think for a minute or five and
consider your options carefully.
Look around. There may be resources within easy grasp that can help you to get back on track. e.g. Tourist information offices, travel agents, ticket counters and even parking inspectors (!!) can be helpful at times.
If you've been an alert traveller, you should already have some clues and be aware of what's going on around you. Try not to look distressed as this will attract less-honourable types whose aim is to rescue you from your assets.
Think, then act.