How To Plan a Trip Without a Travel Agent: Complete Guide

Planning a trip amidst or even post-pandemic may seem like an impossible task. But, with the right guidance and preparations, you can plan an amazing trip even without the help of a professional.

Here are the steps on how you can plan a trip without a travel agent:

  1. Visualize your ideal vacation.
  2. Decide on your vacation budget.
  3. Decide when to take your vacation.
  4. Explore your destination with budget and timing in mind.
  5. Fulfill COVID travel requirements.
  6. Create a draft of your itinerary and make adjustments.
  7. Call the concierge.
  8. Make those reservations and bookings.
  9. Plan your logistics.
  10. Get travel insurance.

With COVID changing the way we travel and vacation, you need to plan a trip while combating restrictions. Know what to expect and what you need to take into consideration before finalizing that long-awaited vacation, and this article will discuss all of that in great detail. Whether you plan to travel solo or as a group, read on to learn how you can do it successfully on your own.

1. Visualize Your Ideal Vacation

As a travel guide for fifteen years, I always ask my clients to visualize their ideal vacation as the very first step. Envisioning requires no paper or research. Just close your eyes and picture the vacation you’ve dreamed of.

To make sure you visualize every aspect of the vacation, you should ask yourself the following questions. A travel agent is likely to inquire about these, too, as it helps them create a picture of the experiences you’d like to gain from this vacation.

Do You Want a Relaxing Trip or One Filled With Activities?

This question is an incredibly important one as the process of planning and exploring your destination in advance can completely change with its answer.

If you plan on having a relaxing trip, you need to keep less than two locations in mind for your vacation, with minimum traveling in between. The hotel you choose needs to be close to a beach or spa where you can go and relax rather than choosing a location with no such spots nearby.

If you or the people you’re traveling with want your days filled with activities and plans, your research should focus on locations that offer these activities. Your place of stay will need to be close to theaters, hiking spots, or any other activities you’re interested in.

Do You Want To Cook Your Meals or Eat Out?

This is important to plan as the answer to this question will help you plan the second step on my list better – deciding on the budget for your trip.

If you had envisioned a relaxing trip in the first question, eating out is more feasible. You don’t want to worry about groceries and finding the right utensils on a relaxing trip. Visualize the kind of food you’d like to experience and choose restaurants offering this.

Planning to cook for yourself is a good option if you plan a long vacation, have dietary restrictions, or have a strict budget. If you plan on preparing meals, you’ll have to make sure you have amenities like grocery shops close by.

Do You Want To Explore Popular Sights or Discover Local Gems?

Whether you wish to explore spots that only locals are familiar with or if you hope to tick off the popular attractions from your bucket list, either way, your planning process will differ depending on what you decide to do.

With popular attractions, it’s important to plan your trip in a low season when these areas won’t be crowded and their rates will be more affordable.

For unique tourist spots, watch my YouTube video and read on as I reveal one of my travel hacks in a later step:

Envisioning your ideal vacation and understanding what you want to experience is something only you can do, and it needs to be at the forefront when going through the next steps.

The vision you’ve created should be your main priority as it allows you not to get lost in the rabbit hole of choices and keep the main goal of your trip constant all throughout the planning process.

2. Decide on Your Vacation Budget

This is another thing your travel agent plans with you at the very start. The major difference, though, is that you save money in agent fees and other hidden charges without a professional, as now you have complete control of where your money will go.

Don’t worry if this step looks complicated! Make sure you include the following costs, and it’ll help you finalize a budget realistic for the vision you have for your vacation:

  • Food costs
  • Flight costs
  • Transportation costs
  • Hotel costs
  • Activity costs
  • Souvenir and gift costs

Make sure your calculated budget is in line with how much you’re willing to spend. Research on costs you may incur using different online sources, and I‘ve put two such resources in an epic smackdown in a YouTube video on my channel! Watch this:

3. Decide When To Take Your Vacation

If your dates or places to visit are already decided, you can skip this step. However, if you haven’t decided yet, read on to see how choosing the time to vacation can affect your budget and vision for the trip.

When deciding on an ideal time for your vacation, it’s best to plan a trip according to the following:

  • Low and high season. Every place has a low and high season, which greatly affects the costs of flights and hotels.
  • Major events or holiday weekends. To avoid overcrowded places, it’s best to ensure your vacation time isn’t falling under major events or holiday weekends. It’s also possible to face hotel cancellations due to local traffic at these times.

Having flexible timelines for your vacation can help you save money as some flight costs go down by half if taken on odd days like the weekdays or in the middle of the night. Make use of Google Flights to find the cheapest time to travel to the destination you have in mind.

Watch this YouTube video to know how to make use of Google Flights:

4. Explore Your Destination With Budget and Timing in Mind

I always advise deciding your vision, budget, and time first before you begin exploring the possible spots to visit while on vacation. This is mainly to avoid going astray and planning something completely different from your vision and going way above your budget once faced with multiple options.

Go on YouTube or read blog posts available online to research destination spots. It won’t take much time if you use the following as a checklist and make sure you research each of these aspects in detail:

  • Flight options. Use Google Flights to view and compare flight pricing and choose airport locations that work best for you.
  • Places to stay. According to your estimated budget, choose and compare different options available, whether they’re close to the attractions you wish to see and if they’re safe or not.
  • Food options. Explore restaurants mentioned online and research if they fit your budget and vision.
  • Must-see places. Make a list of all the possible popular and local attractions you wish to see and note down any arrangements you need to make to visit them.
  • Neighborhoods. Many YouTube videos discuss the different neighborhoods and mention their pros and cons. Make sure you choose one that fits your vision.

Note down everything you find interesting or wish to do, any tips you find valuable, and once everything is in front of you, it’ll be easier to feel what matches your vision perfectly.

5. Fulfill COVID Travel Requirements

COVID and its restrictions have eased down as more people are getting vaccinated, and the disease rates are going down. However, it’s wise to keep a lookout for any changes in the travel requirements to your destination until the very last day before your flight.

Make sure you’re comfortable with the travel restrictions imposed by your country and the place you’re visiting. Book an appointment for a COVID test before you travel, even if it isn’t a requirement. Since there could be a sudden change in travel restrictions, it’s safe to have proof of a COVID negative test in hard copy with you.

6. Create a Draft of Your Itinerary and Make Adjustments

It’s time to create a rough itinerary from the first four steps. While building your itinerary, make sure you note adjustments for the problems that may arise when logging the steps together in a calendar.

There can be many things that can come up when making your itinerary, but to give you an idea of what to expect and make changes for, here are some questions that may require adjustments to your draft itinerary?

  • Are the locations you have decided to visit open at the time you’re visiting?
  • Are your dates of travel falling on a local holiday or event?
  • What’s the time difference in the place you’re visiting, and how will it affect your current itinerary?
  • Is the hotel you decided to stay in too far from the airport, restaurants, or activities you have planned?
  • Have you considered your mode of transportations and their availability in the area you’ll visit?

Make sure you’ve made all possible adjustments to your itinerary and plan around any possible hurdle you may face on your vacation. It’s completely ok if you have to make several edits to your draft itinerary. It’s best to make changes now than to worry about unexpected hurdles while on vacation.

7. Call the Concierge or Host

This is a hack that I recommend adding to your vacation planning to give it that oomph factor.

Calling a local concierge and picking their brain can help you as they can recommend some unique places to visit only they’re aware of. They can guide you on whether to use your credit card or if you need to arrange cash for your stay. They can also recommend the ideal transportation means to visit places in your itinerary.

8. Make Those Reservations and Bookings

Yes, you can finally make those reservations now, and reserve flights, hotels, transport, and anything you think of that requires early booking.

Since COVID needs to be kept in mind, try and ask about refund or exchange policies so that you can protect your bookings and reservation money if you can’t travel or need to change dates.

9. Plan Your Logistics

If you’ve watched my videos or read the blogs on my website, I’ve always emphasized this. Now that you have everything booked and finalized, it’s time to shift your focus to the tiny details of your trip.

Think about the little details of each day and what you can add to make the trip more comfortable for you. These could include:

  • Shipping your luggage ahead of your arrival. Some shipping companies offer to send your luggage to your destination before your arrival. This cuts down the time spent on airports by half and can add that extra comfort to your plan.
  • Planning your airport arrival time according to COVID. Find out from recent travelers how long the lines are at the airport and decide on a reasonable time to arrive early.
  • Check the weather forecast for the places you’ll visit. If you have an idea about the possible weather conditions to expect, you can pack better and be prepared for possible rains, snowfall, or winds.

Watch this YouTube video to know more about the logistics specific to your destination and the type of vacation you’ve planned.

10. Get Travel Insurance

I always advise buying a travel insurance policy to protect yourself from any major mishap on your trip. Read my article on Is Travel Insurance Necessary? to understand why I recommend buying insurance and the companies I recommend buying insurance from.

Conclusion

When you use a travel agent to plan your trip, you may have to compromise on your vision and the budget you’ve set out for this long-awaited vacation.

When planning it yourself, all you need is to spend some extra time and put in a little extra effort researching and finalizing an itinerary. The result? A customized trip perfect for satisfying all your vacation needs!

Sources

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