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  • Writer's pictureLotus Girl Travel

Travel Planning Checklist: 10 Essential Steps & Tips

As the warm summer breeze beckons and vacation plans take shape, planning ahead and taking care of important details can significantly enhance your travel experience and ensure a stress-free journey. This travel planning checklist will take the guesswork out of planning your next travel adventure. Whether you're headed to a tropical paradise or exploring a new city, these ten travel planning tips will make sure you’re prepared for your trip! Let’s get into it!

This blog post contains affiliate links and links to Amazon products. As an affiliate and an Amazon Associate, I earn a small fee from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

1. Research Travel Destination

If you are like me, you already have a bucket list of where you want to travel. So, before you set foot on unfamiliar soil, research your destination extensively. Familiarize yourself with the local culture, customs, weather conditions, and any specific requirements such as visas or vaccinations. This knowledge will not only help you pack appropriately but also enable you to engage more meaningfully with the local community.

I always start planning with booking a flight. If your travel dates are flexible, utilize either of these resources for getting airfare deals notifications: Going and Dollar Flight Club. It’s definitely worth the cost to subscribe and has saved me hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the years on airfare. Both also offer a FREE subscription so you can try it out first. It is best to have a general idea where you want to travel in mind and then set alerts or be on the lookout for email notices. When I get an email or text alert for a good flight deal and the dates work, I book it right away (even if it’s a year away). I booked a roundtrip ticket from LAX to Bali for under $500! On the flip side, last minute deals can also save you even more. Just remain flexible!

Airfare Booking Tips

  • Best Time to Buy: Research suggests to book flights 47 days (or 7 weeks) in advance to get the best price (with the exception of flash sales and deals). But I suggest that if you know you have a set itinerary, and can be flexible with dates or location, it really is best to book your flight immediately.

  • Holiday Travel: If you plan on traveling during a peak holiday season, book your airline tickets immediately and as far in advance as possible.

  • Best Days to Travel: Travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays – Flying mid-week is usually the cheapest time to fly. Sundays are typically the most expensive.

  • Best Days to Purchase Airline Tickets: Buy on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as mid-week is known to be the best time to purchase airline tickets.

  • Consider a Priority Pass: For long layovers or just pure bliss, check any travel-related credit cards you have, they may offer membership as a perk to Priority Pass. If not, consider getting a membership. They offer access to a global network of airport lounges that include complimentary drinks and light bites, free Wi-Fi and handy charging points, comfortable seats and quiet places to work or unwind, conference rooms, showers, and exclusive retail, dining, spa and sleeping options.

2. Check Your Travel Documents

Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended return date. Additionally, check if you require any visas for the countries you plan to visit. If you are planning to travel to Europe in 2024, read about their new ETIAS requirement. Taking care of these documents well in advance will save you from unnecessary last-minute stress. Not sure if where you are going requires a Visa for entry? Check out CIBT Quick Visa Check. For vaccination recommendations, you can check out the CDC’s website and look-up your destination. I also suggest making back-up copies of all your travel documents in the unfortunate event your phone and/or laptop is stolen or lost. Make copies of these items: Passport, Drivers License, Travel Booking Confirmations, Emergency Phone Numbers and Travel Insurance.

3. Book Accommodations in Advance

During the peak summer season, popular destinations tend to fill up quickly. Secure your preferred accommodation by booking in advance. This not only guarantees you a comfortable stay but also allows you to avail yourself of better deals and options. I use the following for booking accommodations: Vrbo,

4. Create a Packing List

Make a comprehensive packing list to avoid forgetting essential items. Consider the weather, activities, and duration of your trip. Pack versatile and lightweight clothing, comfortable shoes, toiletries, and any necessary electronics or travel adapters.

5. Purchase Travel Insurance

Protect yourself from unforeseen circumstances by investing in travel insurance. Medical emergencies, flight cancellations, or lost baggage can quickly derail your plans and incur significant expenses. Research different insurance options and choose a policy that suits your needs. I use and recommend Visitors Coverage Insurance.

Tips for Purchasing Travel Insurance

  • You should base your decision to buy travel insurance on two factors: financial risk and medical concerns. Consider the amount of money you will potentially lose if you have to cancel your trip, it is interrupted, you lose your bags, or have medical expenses abroad. For short, domestic trips, travel insurance is likely not necessary. But if you are investing a significant amount of money in traveling internationally, it makes sense.

  • I injured my ankle once traveling internationally (I didn’t see that coming). It threw a curve ball in my plans! I had to cancel some booked excursions and change a few places I planned on visiting because I wasn’t able to manage the walking. Luckily, I had purchased travel insurance and was reimbursed for the cancellation of a boat trip to an island, hotel accommodations on the island and excursions. It more than paid for itself.

6. Inform Credit Cards and Bank of Travel Plans

To avoid any disruptions to your financial transactions, inform your bank and credit card companies about your travel plans. This will prevent them from flagging your transactions as suspicious and potentially freezing your accounts. Additionally, consider carrying a mix of cash and cards for added flexibility. For tips on how to exchange money before, during and even after you travel, click here.

7. Research the Costs

Determine the style of travel you want for the trip.

  • Luxury or budget friendly

  • Fly, drive, train or combo

  • Camp, AirBnb or Vrbo, hotel or luxury resort

  • All-inclusive or dining out at restaurants

  • Tours and excursions

  • Transportation - rent a car, use taxis or Uber or walk or combo

Purchase drinks and snacks at local supermarkets instead of a hotel shop or gas station, prices are lower and they offer more healthy food options. Travel with a reusable water bottle you can fill up instead of buying $7 water bottles at a hotel. Choose local restaurants outside of tourist areas to dine.

8. Arrange Transportation To/From Airport(s)

Plan your transportation to the airport well in advance. Whether it's booking a taxi or arranging for a friend to drop you off, ensure you have a reliable mode of transport to avoid last-minute panic. Check traffic conditions and give yourself ample time to reach the airport stress-free.

9. Pack Essential Carry-On Items

Prepare a well-stocked carry-on bag with essentials to keep you comfortable during your journey. Include items like a travel pillow, earplugs, a sleep mask, a book or e-reader, snacks, and a reusable water bottle. These items will come in handy, especially during long flights or layovers. Don't forget to include any medications you might need in your carry-on in the event your luggage is delayed or lost. Check out other travel essential recommendations here.

10. Create an Itinerary

While spontaneity is exciting, having a rough itinerary can help you make the most of your time at your destination. Research and list must-see attractions, local experiences, and recommended restaurants. This way, you'll have a general plan while still allowing room for flexibility and unexpected discoveries. Customize the itinerary based on the time that would be required for the places you visit. Search for activities and tours online. I use sites like Viator, TripAdvisor and GetYourGuide.

Tips for Planning a Travel Itinerary

  • A NEW and exciting travel planning app out there is Wanderlog. Wanderlog is especially cool if you are planning a road trip. I’ve used this highly integrated app to easily keep all my travel plans organized. You can use it on your desktop or via their app. In addition to keeping all your travel plans organized, you can find loads of travel guides created by locals. You can also easily export all your saved points of interest into Google Maps! I am very impressed with the overall ease of use and functionality of Wanderlog.

  • Send all of your confirmation emails for hotel reservations, flights, restaurant reservations and tours that you book via Wanderlog’s email address they provide you. It auto populates the information into your itinerary and you can access all of the documents on their app. You’ll have everything in one place at your fingertips!

Wrap Up

By following these ten essential tips, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable travel experience. From research and preparation to thoughtful packing, these steps will help you create lasting memories while minimizing potential travel hiccups.

To shop all of my travel essentials, click here.

Embrace the spirit of adventure, savor new experiences, and have an incredible trip filled with exciting journeys!

Happy travels,



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