At least for those of us in the northern hemisphere, January is a great time to make summer travel plans. You are able to beat the rush and still get some good deals on popular travel destinations, as well as you are able to think about things other than the cold and wind and snow currently going on outside. It’s also a good time to curl up under a warm blanket with a cup of hot chocolate and thumb through travel magazines or travel guides to learn as much as you can about the place (or places) you want to go.
When planning a trip, it’s best to start by analyzing your budget. How much do you already have saved? How much can you save before deposits and tickets need to be made or purchased? How much can you save before the actual date of travel?
Once you know how much you will be able to save for your vacation, you can narrow down the locations of where you wish to go, how you wish to get there, where you will stay while there, and what you wish to do when you’re there. Or, as you probably refer to it as, an Expense Budget. As you’re writing down your expenses, don’t forget that you may need to purchase a few special items before your trip — a new swimsuit or larger memory card for your digital camera or a travel jacket — and you’ll also need to eat while you’re on the road. If you’re someone who buys a trinket or two while traveling, budget for these expenses, too.
WiseBread.com has a terrific round-up of travel websites that can help you to save money, “40 Most Useful Travel Websites That Can Save You a Fortune.” The article is a few years old, but most of the websites are still in business. When making your plans, you want to be sure to get the best deal possible so you aren’t wasting any of that money you so diligently saved.
With the money part of the equation settled, turn to the internet and/or your travel guides for itinerary inspiration. Save articles to Instapaper or Evernote. Pictures of destinations can be pinned to Pinterest. Maps, hotel reservation numbers, flight plans, car rental receipts can also be saved to Evernote. Services like TripIt work, too. If you are traveling outside the U.S., you may want to keep a file folder of this information to carry with you, especially if you don’t plan to have an international data plan for your smart phone when you’re overseas.
As the months pass and you get closer to your time of travel, check out travel expert Chris Guillebeau’s article “Stress, stuff, and world travel.” It’s crammed with extremely useful information for jet-setting in an uncluttered fashion.