Grace Lower | Jan 21, 2022
This blog post was updated January 21, 2022.
If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably long overdue for a vacation. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to plan an overseas trip or the best places to travel within the U.S., there’s such an array of options, it can be hard to know where to start.
So, where to begin?
Whether you’re brand-new to travel or a seasoned expert, you can break your travel planning into a few key steps. First, ask yourself what you hope to get out of a trip. Do you want to relax, explore, or learn something new? And for that matter, why not all three?
Next, you'll want to think about the logistics of your trip. In other words, how will you get from Point A to Point B without breaking the bank? Your time off is precious, and you’ll want to maximize every moment of your vacation.
If all that sounds overwhelming, we’ve got your back! In this feature, we’ve outlined a simple method for finding the best things to do on a trip, no matter your destination.
There’s a huge world out there, and seeing it all requires a plan. As you consider where to go for your next vacation, start with what matters most to you.
Take a look at the options below. Which two or three resonate with your vision for the trip? Keep in mind that focusing on too many of these factors may make it difficult for you to plan your travels.
Whether you’re a college student, a new parent, or a retiree, it helps to make every dollar count. Fortunately, there are free and cheap activities at every destination; it’s just a matter of finding them. There’s also nothing wrong with splurging and choosing a luxurious getaway if that’s in your budget.
In any trip, time is key. Your vacation days are numbered, so it’s important to plan carefully and truly savor that “out of office” time. Even if returning to work isn’t a concern, how long can you be away from family or other responsibilities at home? There’s a reason microcations are all the rage right now.
Cultivating the perfect #travelsquad is equal parts art and science. But getting your group together is only just the beginning. You’ll want to find the right activities to keep everyone happy, and that begins with a conversation. Don’t underestimate the benefits of a solo trip, either.
You work hard, and your next trip can be the perfect opportunity to hit refresh. Relaxation could be as simple as reading a book in a city park or as elaborate as a week-long spa retreat — what matters is choosing the right experience. But if that sounds too slow for you …
Do you feel like it’s time to step outside your comfort zone? Skip the relaxing vacation and go for something more lively if you’re a thrill-seeker, a daredevil, and an adrenaline junkie. Seek out anything, as long as it takes your breath away.
The world is expansive and begging to be explored. If you have a curious mind, travel is the perfect opportunity for personal growth. You can learn about new cultures, regions, and ideas, thereby expanding your imagination.
Whether venturing out in a group or on your own, travel is full of opportunities to meet new friends from around the world. If you’re a social butterfly, finding ways to mingle with locals and swap stories with fellow travelers is essential.
Here’s the fun part. Take your top factors from above and make them into a mad-libs-style internet search. For example, if I picked “cost” and “travel companions” as my top priorities, I might search for the following:
Low-cost girls getaways
Affordable family vacations
Best vacation spots for couples on a budget
Google is an excellent starting point, but you can take your search even further by plugging your key terms into different online platforms (see our list below).
When picking a platform, think about how you learn best. Would you prefer to watch a video of a destination, or read about it in your favorite travel blog? Would you like to learn from the experts, or will you crowd-source your decision by reading
reviews from ordinary travelers?
If you’re not sure, sample a few different platforms, and see what you like best.
You didn’t think we’d make a list of resources without mentioning TripAdvisor, did you? The world’s largest travel platform, TripAdvisor hosts almost 990 million reviews on 8 million attractions, accommodations, and
All you have to do is type in a destination, and you’ll receive a list of all the best things to see and do (and those to avoid!).
We might be a little biased, but travel blogs are a great way to get first-hand knowledge from seasoned adventurers on how to plan a trip overseas or even in your own backyard. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs to choose from, so it’s especially helpful to find a blogger with similar interests and travel preferences. To get started, check out some of the blogging “greats” like Rick Steves, whose books you might already be familiar with, or Oneika the Traveler and Hand Luggage Only.
If you’re looking for a “normal” person’s take on a location or simply want to get some video-based inspiration, social media is the place to be. Like blogs, these travelers highlight nearly any location and type of vacation – luxury, budget-conscious, foodie trips, photography expeditions, family-friendly activities. Try a swoon-worthy account like Girl vs. Globe on YouTube, @bestintravel on Instagram, @nomadicmatt on Twitter, and @laxtoluxury on TikTok, or find others that focus on the city or country you plan to visit.
As you research how to plan a trip abroad, start jotting down the destinations, attractions, and experiences that excite you most. At first, be generous – anything that seems even remotely interesting can get added to the list.
Once you’ve included as many items as you can, you’ll want to take a break and revisit your list in a few days. When you’ve had a chance to review everything with fresh eyes, think about the top three items that excite you the most. Do those items align with your priorities from Step 1?
Now is also a time to bring in any family or friends who will be traveling with you. See what types of activities excite them and imagine how they might fit in with your top picks.
Finally, think about the logistics of your trip. Can you successfully visit all your favorite attractions in the amount of time you have for your trip? How much will everything cost?
This part of the planning process isn’t easy, but fear not! There are plenty of tools that can help.
You’ve made your plans and packed your bags – now all that’s left is for you to enjoy your vacation. The best travel plans are those that have a little bit of wiggle room built in. As great as online research is, don’t
be afraid to ask your Airbnb host, your hotel concierge, or the person next to you on the train for their ideas and recommendations.
And above all, give yourself a chance to explore on your own. Wander into that unusual store, ask for the chef’s choice at a local restaurant, and spend an afternoon doing whatever brings you joy. Sometimes, the best travel resource is your own intuition.