Planning a trip from scratch can be quite overwhelming. This is especially true if planning is not really your area. Here is the thing - putting together the perfect trip does NOT have to be hard. In fact, it can be quite easy if you follow a series of standard steps for each trip. This post will tell you how to plan a trip in 12 simple steps so that you never have to stress out about it again. And even If you are a more experienced planner, you will also find plenty of tips and resources

How to plan a trip!

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It’s always fun to plan a family trip, but it can also be daunting. There are so many amazing places to see in the world and many factors that can affect your choice, such as budget (read more about the average cost of a vacation), time and age of your kids. Once you’ve picked the destination, let’s talk about how to plan the trip itself.

Let's go travel

So you’ve picked the destination? Great! Let’s get some ideas flowing! If you need some inspiration, check out these fabulous travel quotes to help inspire the Wanderlust in you!

1. I always start with a word document. That way I can just copy and paste thoughts and ideas. They usually have a couple of sections: what to do, where to eat, recommended neighborhoods to stay, things to note.

Hands typing on computer

2. I start by reading a travel guide. I’m a huge fan of Rick Steves. His books don’t have a lot of photographs, but he does a wonderful job of keeping each topic organized, itineraries as a starting point and some restaurant ideas. This helps me pick where I want to stay and how to string the trip together. For example Portugal. I read each section, then decided Lisbon (with a day trip to Sintra) and the coast would work best for our family. The library is a great place to check out different travel guides and see which writing style works best.

Guide Books

3. Time to scour the internet. There are tons of Facebook travel pages, as well as blogs and Pinterest pages. I start with keywords, such as the city or famous monument I want to see. This is where the word document comes in. I copy and paste the information as I find it. Sort it into the categories. Facebook is starting to become a favorite since you get suggestions from people who have traveled recently and you can often ask questions for clarification. For blogs, I search “travel kids blog ______ (insert place)”

4. Once I’ve gathered some of the major information, I start to organize. I decide how many days I need and look at flights. Book your tickets! (Don’t forget to check out the countries/cities events and festivals. You wouldn’t want to miss an amazing experience by just one day.)

5. Next up is picking a location to stay. I use google maps to save all the locations I want to visit. Then I look at the neighborhoods nearby and start my Airbnb, vrbo, hotel search. I find 4-5 places that work for my budget and location. Then I start looking more in-depth at the neighborhood. Are there restaurants? If we are using public transportation, is it close? Any playgrounds? How kid-friendly is the place? That helps me narrow down my top choice. Then, book it! If you haven’t booked with Airbnb yet check out my link, you’ll get a referral bonus and so will I, win-win!


6. Flights, check. A place to stay, check. Next up is organizing the trip. I’m a planner, so I have an itinerary. Let’s be honest, I have a young child, so it’s pretty flexible.

Best Car Seat for Airplane Travel

7. I insert my flight information and dates. Then I start putting in my top sights. Look at your map or use a travel guide to put sights in the same neighborhood together. For example, you don’t want to spend the day going back and forth all over town. Focus on one neighborhood. Immerse yourself, take time to explore a playground and get some ice cream or coffee.

For example Friday, July 25th: Lisbon, Portugal:

-Head over to the Santa Justa Lift from the Airbnb. Take the lift down. Grab some ice cream at Amorino Chiado. Head to the Largo do Carmo square to enjoy eating the ice cream before heading to the Carmo Convent. Have lunch at Cervejaria Trindade (historic Portuguese restaurant in an old monastery). Continue walking past the Church of Sao Roque. Want to try some Port? Hit the Port Institute for a tasting. If not, continue to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara for some views. There is also a park 5 mins down the road called Principe Real garden. It has a park and playground.

Santa Justa Lift
Santa Justa Lift, Lisbon, Portugal

8. Now that you’ve got the bare bones, focus on restaurants and break stops (playgrounds, parks, ponds). I usually list a few options along the way. Maybe we will finish something early and move on before lunch. This is where flexibility is key. I save these into google maps so I can quickly look when the time arises.

Milk poured into coffee

I like to add travel times as a side note in my travel plans. That way I can quickly glance at my trip and see if we need to grab a snack before an hour train ride. Or maybe it’s only 10 minutes and we can wait. Also add notes such as opening and closing times, special notes like side entrances for strollers or get an audio guide because it’s worth it. The little notes can make a big difference when you’re traveling.

Airplane Schedule

Last, sent it to yourself as an e-mail, upload it or download it to your phone. Now you have a digital copy!

Suitcase and camera

I hope this is helpful for those of you that feel like trip planning is daunting. I spend countless hours on planning our trips, but it pays off when I know to buy tickets ahead of time to make sure that they aren’t sold out or that eating inside the restaurant is faster than the pick-up window. You don’t want to waste any time when you’re on vacation. Of course, you can simplify this process if you’re doing a last-minute getaway or you’re not much of a planner. Happy travels!

Now that you know how to plan a trip, let’s get some creative juices flowing. Click here to read my latest blog posts on our families travels. Perhaps something will spark your interest.

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