When people find out about all the places I’ve been, many times I get the question: “How did you even know where to start?” Other times, people will say something like: “So I’ve decided I want to go traveling somewhere, now what?” When I’ve been asked these sorts of questions, I know they are usually really asking me how to plan a trip. Or, maybe more precisely I should say, they’re asking me how to figure out where to go when on a trip.
At a high level, “how to plan a trip” might sound like “how do I get a passport” and “how do I book a hotel in a foreign language” kind of stuff. But typically in my experience, it’s not a question of “how do I start traveling?” but more of a question of “I’m not sure where to go when I’m traveling.” These are very different questions. If you’ve ever wondered how to figure out where to go on a trip, whether around the world or just a short getaway, I’ve got you covered.
Now, if you’re asking yourself these questions, you will eventually need to answer the “how do I start traveling?” question. And trust me, it’s a huge question to ask and figure out. But, if you don’t have a destination in mind yet, there’s no point in figuring out how to get there.
Maybe you know you want to travel in Europe, but you’re not sure what destinations you want to visit. This is normal. Any experienced traveler started in this same position and then started doing lots of research. The best way to plan your trip is to look at travel guides for the areas you want to visit. I highly recommend the Lonely Planet series of guide books. That’s because they’re easy to parse, contain the maps you need, and are loaded with useful information.
Every country in the Lonely Planet series is presented with major sights to see and possible itineraries for that area. Then, for each city, it contains sights, recommended eats, hotel info, nightlife, shopping, and transportation info. To begin, I recommend you first look at the sights for the major cities in potential countries you want to visit. See what inspires you. Look at pictures on the internet. What are you curious to know more about or experience in person? For those places, write down the city name and some quick notes. If a country really speaks to you, then look at some of the smaller cities and more remote sights in that location. Start out big and work towards the small.
Once you have a list of places, you may find that it’s easy to start seeing a path or plan to put these notes together into a trip itinerary. Once you plan your first trip like this, it gets easier and easier for every trip that follows.
For the Explorers and Wanderers
For those of you who feel as though you want to see the whole world, and don’t mind doing over a couple of big trips or even lots of little ones, you might find that you want to start even more generalized. If this sounds like it may be interesting to you, Lonely Planet does a great job of including large areas in some of their guides. For people like yourselves, I recommend looking into at:
- Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a shoestring (Multi Country Guide)
- Lonely Planet Europe (Multi Country Guide)
- Lonely Planet Central America (Multi Country Guide)
- Lonely Planet South America (Multi Country Guide)
- Lonely Planet Africa (Multi Country Guide)
- Lonely Planet Caribbean Islands (Multi Country Guide)
With just these few books, you’ve already covered a huge portion of the planet’s surface. You may even find that you want to explore places you never even considered. I should also note that I have heavily preferred the physical copies of the books to their ebook versions. In my opinion, they are easier to read and the maps are easier to use on the go.
With this information in hand, go start researching! Once you know which cities and locations you want to visit, you’ve already answered a lot of where to go and how to plan your trip itinerary. In future posts, I’ll talk more about how to execute your travel plans in the real world.