For the First-Time Traveler: How to Plan a Vacation

How to Plan a Vacation: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re about to plan a vacation for the first time, you’re probably pretty excited. Not only will you enjoy an incredible vacation, but you’ll also gain a new sense of independence and the realization that you have control over where you go—not just within the country, but anywhere! At the same time, you may be feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Whether you’re traveling alone for the first time or it’s just your first time holding the reigns, so to speak, planning a vacation can be daunting. In order to help, we’ve put together the following guide on how to plan a vacation:


How to plan a vacation

It’s kind of a pain, but you definitely need to budget ahead of time when planning for a vacation. You don’t want to go on a trip to Paris, for instance, only to discover you can’t afford to go to both the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Instead, use the following tips so that when you vacation, you can focus on your experience—not your wallet:

  • Figure out the larger costs, like flights and accommodations, first. Don’t just accept the first price you find. Instead, research to find deals on resort rentals and cheap flights.
  • Research to determine if you need a passport, visa, or immunizations and factor those costs into your budget as well.
  • Next, look at your daily costs. How much will you spend a day on three meals and the activities you’d like to participate in or attractions you’d like to visit? Don’t forget about transportation costs! Don’t just guess these costs—try to find them online or call up your resort/hotel to see if they offer any kind of free or discounted shuttle service to popular area attractions to save you time and money. Consider expanding your budget a little to pay for souvenirs and spontaneity.
  • Give yourself a budget that’s high enough that you can splurge on things that are a little more expensive, but that will definitely help make your experience unforgettable. At the same time, be discerning about what you splurge on. If you don’t plan to spend much time in your room, don’t opt for the most luxurious accommodations. Instead, splurge on a concert, museum entry fees, or a tour that you can’t replicate anywhere else.
  • Food can be a good place to streamline costs while travel planning if you need to. Don’t deny yourself nice dining experiences, but think about buying groceries and eating in for some meals, so that when you eat out at a fancy restaurant, you don’t feel guilty. Also consider street food as an option that’s more culturally immersive than making your own food, but less expensive than a sit-down meal.
  • Save up money ahead of time. Try to come up with a goal amount to save and post it somewhere you’re likely to see it often, so that you stay motivated to save.


How to plan a vacation

If you plan on flying, you need to consider where and when you plan to fly, where to find the cheapest flights online, how much time to give yourself at the airport, and what you can do to save time at the airport. It sounds intimidating, especially if you’re traveling alone for the first time, but planning ahead of time will help make it a breeze. Here are our tips:

  • When you go will affect costs significantly. Flying during spring break or the weeks of popular holidays will be very expensive. For some, avoiding flights at these times may be impossible. For others, this won’t cause a problem at all. For example, if you’re a college student with a typical winter break, you could go during December—just not Christmas week.
  • Where you go will also play a large role in flight costs. Flights to areas in their off-season will be cheaper than those in their high-demand season. It’s up to you whether you want to spend more to go to a location when it’s at it’s most popular, and probably having the best weather, or save by going when the weather is less ideal, but it’s probably less crowded. Keep in mind that bad weather means different things in different areas—in hurricane-prone countries it can be a safety hazard, so be careful.
  • You can find cheap flights online by looking on websites like Travelocity, Kayak, and AirfareWatchDog. Make sure that you look for flights in a separate incognito or private browser window. This will prevent sites from using cookies (online trackers). The reason you want to do so is that sites will start to show you higher prices on flights the more they know you’re visiting them, in order to make you think that prices are increasing constantly and pressure you to book a flight at the current price before it goes up. If you close your window and open a new incognito one every time you search flights, this won’t happen.
  • To give yourself enough time at the airport, arrive at least 2 hours ahead of your flight. That may sound like a long time, but you will need to go through security and find your gate. You also might want to eat something or purchase nausea medicine and/or reading materials.
  • Make sure you look online ahead of time to see how you should pack for your flight, especially if you’re a first time flyer. You want your luggage to pass through security smoothly. You also definitely want to make sure you bring your passport if you need it, along with any other necessary identification.

Considering Travel Insurance

How to plan a vacation

Travel insurance can help you financially in case parts—or the entirety—of your trip is cancelled, your baggage is lost, you’re a victim of theft, and more. It’s a way to have security in case an unexpected, and potentially costly, problem arises. However, there’s no guarantee you’ll need it, and it typically costs between five to ten percent of the portion of your vacation you choose to cover. If you choose to cover a portion of your vacation that costs in the thousands, you may be spending hundreds on your insurance. It’s up to you whether the security is worth the expense.

Using Travel Apps

How to plan a vacation

Technology improves our lives in many ways and travel is no exception. Travel apps are a great way to harness the powers of the modern age for your vacation convenience. For example, Hopper is great for finding cheap flights, while TripIt will help you put together your itinerary. Google Translate is essential if you’re going to a country where you don’t speak the language or only partially speak it. Our travel apps for summer trips guide can be used during any season to learn about useful travel apps.

Asking for Help

how to plan a vacation

Don’t worry about seeming naive or immature by asking the savvy traveler in your life questions. Everyone who’s traveled has at one point been a first-time traveler, and they probably asked questions too. Doing so will help you be more prepared and feel more confident. Plus, once you get the planning out of the way, you can soak in the excitement of your fantastic upcoming vacation! Good Luck!

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