Have you been thinking about taking a trip, but don’t really know where to start? If so then this blog post might just be for you! The following certainly isn’t a complete compendium of how to plan a trip, and I definitely don’t claim to have all the answers, not by a long way, but I have planned a few trips in my time, so I hope that the A-Z of Adventure Planning might give you an idea of the sort of things you might want to consider when beginning to plan your own adventure, however big or small it might be.
I’m hoping this list will serve as a starting point or as an overview, but depending on the sort of trip you are thinking about, you might be after some more specific or detailed information.
If so, then you’re in luck! As I’m planning to write individual blog posts for most of these headings, which will drill down into the subject with more information and some specific examples to help you get adventuring. So, if you’re looking for a bit more detail than is here, then watch this space (or if you’re really keen then why not send me an email?)
Okay let’s do this!
Where are you going to be staying during your trip? Will you be living it up in luxury hotels, or will you be packing your tent/hammock and hoping for the best? Accommodation comes in all shapes and sizes, but whatever your preference, it’s always useful to have at least your first night’s accommodation sorted out before heading off. It gives you somewhere to aim for when you arrive, it can be a useful staging point to get your bearings in a new place, and is a chance to recharge your batteries from travelling before heading out on your adventure.
B is for Budgeting
How much is your trip actually going to cost you? This is a really difficult question to answer as it is dependent on so many personal and location specific preferences, but a trip can be planned for almost any budget. Try to find out the cost of basic expenses: Water, food, accommodation, and transport being the big ones, and then get the calculator out! If it’s all adding up too quickly, could you consider a cheaper accommodation option? How about a cycling trip to reduce your transport costs, or travelling during a different time of year? This isn’t an exact science, so don’t be put off if you think you can’t afford your dream trip – there are ways to make it affordable!
C is for Clothes & Climate
Trust me when I say there is nothing worse than underestimating how cold somewhere is and shivering your way through an expedition. Look into the weather and climate of your chosen destination and make sure you pack appropriately. You often don’t need as many clothes as you think you do, think layers, and think versatility. Are there any cultural clothing considerations to be made? Don’t forget to check for rainy seasons etc. even the most tropical location can get a little chilly in a rainstorm, and remember, you don’t always have to buy clothes before you go – chances are you will be able to buy something suitable when you arrive!
D is for Dangers
It’s worth checking out the security situation of your planned destination before travelling. You can do this easily on the FCO website which has up to date advice and updates regarding security situations and natural disasters for every country in the world. As well as giving you a heads up of potential dangers, certain areas classed as too risky by the FCO will actually invalidate most insurance policies, so think carefully about heading there. This information is always changing, so it’s good to check-in once in a while whilst you’re on the road, and make sure you speak to people in your location to get the low down on what’s actually going on, on the ground – they’re the experts.
E is for Electronics
We live in a world of technology, and when it comes to travel there are plenty of arguments for and against it. Whichever side of this particular fence you fall on, the reality is the tech is here, and it can be incredibly useful whilst travelling. Think about how to best use your tech – mapping and language apps can be invaluable in a new destination, and you’ll most likely want to document your trip, so by all means bring that camera, GoPro, or drone?! But make sure it’s all covered by your insurance and you use it sensibly and safely to avoid unwanted attention or cause offence.
F is for Finances
What currency is used in your destination? Are you able to get hold of any before you go? If not, how are you going to get it when you arrive? ATM? Will there be any, will it cost you to use it? Will your cards work when you get there? All questions worth thinking about. Have you got enough back up cash in an emergency? Personally I always travel with an emergency credit card, and some US Dollars stashed away somewhere – with this combination you can almost always get by.
G is for Getting Around
Travelling by definition requires some sort of transport in order to happen, so how you are going to get around is worthy of a bit of consideration. What transport options are available in your destination? Is there a rail network, or do most people travel by bus? Can you hire a car when you get there, or will you be cycling there under your own steam? Each transport option will have pros and cons depending on the situation, and is likely to change depending on your type of trip, so think about which is going to be most suitable for your trip, and don’t be afraid to try something unfamiliar!
H is for Health
Are you fit to travel? And how are you going to stay healthy whilst on the road? Depending on where you’re heading, and what you’re planning to do when you get there, it’s definitely worth thinking about if you are physically ready for it. This is a massive topic which requires much more detail, but as a starter for 10, go and get an appointment with a travel clinic who will be able to give you lots of information about vaccinations and health issues specific to your chosen location.
I is for Insurance
Some people might see this as an unnecessary expense, but trust me, travel insurance is worth every penny, because if things do go wrong, your trip can get expensive FAST! Make sure your policy covers everything that you’re planning to do, scuba diving, snow sports, trekking at altitude etc. and will also cover you for the length of time you’re going for, and the locations your planning to visit. You don’t want to have an accident and get given a hospital bill for thousands to add insult to injury!
J is for Jabs
Have you had all the relevant vaccinations for where you are going? Do you need any boosters since your last trip? If you’re not sure, then go and get yourself some professional advice before you head off, your local GP will be able to put you in touch with a travel clinic who will give you the heads up.
K is for Keeping a Record
Wherever you end up going, and whatever type of adventure you end up having, it is always worth while making a note of your experiences and feelings. You are always going to remember the big events of a trip, but how about the name of that guy you met on the bus, or that delicious snack you had on that street corner? You don’t have to write a full blown diary, but a few note here and there will bring a smile to your face when your adventure is over and you’re planning your next one!
L is for Language
Miming “Where is the toilet” is not the most dignified way to enter a new country, so spend some time before heading off to learn some basic phrases in the language of your chosen destination. Even if it is as simple as ‘hello’, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’ your efforts will go a long way, and the more you will get out of your experience. As well as being practically useful it is also great fun, and not as embarrassing as you might initially think!
M is for Maps
Wherever I’m going, I always make sure I get a map of the area beforehand. This might be a city plan, or a large-scale road map of an entire country depending on the type of trip I am taking. It’s really useful to have an idea of the relative geography of different places, to avoid going to wrong way out of the airport (Like I did in New Zealand), or knowing which locations to look out for at the bus station! They are also awesome if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere with no shared language. If you’re taking a phone with you, then make sure you download an app which allows you access to offline maps which are invaluable if you are heading somewhere off grid, or somewhere where paper maps aren’t available.
N is for Nutrition
One of my favourite things to do when travelling somewhere new is to go and find the local food market and experience all of the weird and wonderful delights on offer. However, this can be problematic if you are allergic or don’t eat certain foods. Language has a big part to play here, and specific vocabulary can be really useful in ascertaining the ingredients of exotic dishes. Again, this is a topic worthy of much more detail, but as a general rule, ask around for local food recommendations, the busiest restaurants or food stands are usually busy for a very good reason, and don’t discount the street food – it is often the cheapest, freshest, and most hygienic food around!
O is for Offence
Traditions are very important in all places and cultures, but they can be difficult to understand for the visitor. Make sure you try to learn about as many traditions and customs as you can before going, and if in doubt ask! The last thing you want to do is to upset someone by accidentally doing something considered offensive. This also includes legal offences; do some research, and understand what the laws are before you arrive, pay particular attention to drug and alcohol laws, as in certain parts of the world these can have lengthy prison sentences attached and saying “this is fine in my country” isn’t a defence!
P is for Passport
Have you got one? Do you need one? Do you know where yours is? How many pages are left? When does it expire? Does yours contain certain country stamps which make entering another country impossible? Even if you are a seasoned traveller, you can often get caught out by not having enough pages left or it being close to its expiration date. Make sure you check yours before you travel (ideally not the day before!), and always have a photocopy of it stashed away somewhere - just in case!
Q is for Quality Vs Quantity
Time is precious, and as such there might be a temptation to try to fit as much into your trip as possible, cramming every day full of activities and intricate travel plans to allow you to visit as many countries or places in as short a period of time as possible. If that’s your style, then go for it, but remember there is an option to take things a little slower so you can spend a bit more time in fewer places – in my opinion this option allows you a better insight into each place you visit, and also gives you something to come back for! Think about what you want from your trip before you go.
R is for Research
This underpins most of the suggestions on this post. There is a wealth of information out there about even the most remote locations, which will help you to find out what currency you will need for your trip, or learn some of the language etc. However, don’t get too caught up on researching every element of your trip, online information can be out of date or biased, and some of the best parts of a trip are the bits which are unplanned or unexpected– make sure you keep some of the mystery alive!
S is for Safety
I am the first person to shout about the power and kindness of strangers, but unfortunately there are a few people in the world who might have slightly less-noble intentions. Being aware of potential scams before you arrive is really useful, and it will help to make sure that your trip is as positive as possible. Taking a common-sense approach to safety is the easiest thing to do, and isn’t rocket science. Keep your valuables out of sight, take local advice about potential problem areas, and trust your instincts – if things don’t feel quite right, walk away.
T is for Time Management
We all know how frustrating it can be when your train is delayed for half an hour, but imagine it was twelve hours late, or didn’t arrive at all?! Time is a very relative concept depending on where you are in the world, and it is important to take it into consideration during your planning. Don’t rely on all your transport connections working out perfectly, and be prepared to go with the flow!
U is for Underwear (and the Unexpected)
Bags go missing, plans change, accidents happen (!) a spare pair of undies are a useful item to have nearby for various circumstances – always keep a clean pair in your hand luggage, you’ll thank me for it one day! Embracing the unexpected is one of the best things about travelling, accept that the unexpected is going to happen and embrace it when it does, and I can guarantee at the very least you will have a great story to tell.
V is for Visas
Have you checked you are eligible to enter the country you are planning to visit? Do you need to have any official documents with you? Do you need to get a visa before you leave, or can you get one on arrival? This can be a lengthy task to try and do in country (which I found out first hand trying to get a Sudanese visa in Ethiopia) so it’s worth doing a little bit of research beforehand to ensure you aren’t held up by unnecessary paperwork, or sent back home before your trip has even begun.
W is for Water
In many parts of the world tap water isn’t safe to drink, but to avoid buying dozens of single-use plastic water bottles when travelling think about what else you can do. Definitely invest in a strong reusable plastic water bottle (I love my Nalgene), and refill it whenever you can (assuming you can ensure it’s safe) – depending how long/where you’re heading to, it might be worth investing in some chlorine tablets to purify the tap water, making it cheaper and producing less plastic waste – you soon learn to love the taste.
X is for X-Rays
They’re expensive! If you haven’t already done so, get yourself some travel insurance.
Y is for You
Whatever awesome trip you’ve been dreaming about, it’s important to remember that this is your trip. Chances are this is something you’ve been thinking about for a while, and there’s a good chance it might be costing you a fair amount of your hard-earned cash, so have a think about what it is you want to get out of the trip, and try to ensure you get every opportunity to do that.
Z is for Zoology
Do you know about the local flora and fauna of where you’re going? Are you going into a malarial area for example? Or somewhere with dangerous creepy crawlies? Do your research, and ask your GP for health advice and which jabs you might need.
Did you find this post useful? Do you think there is anything crucial that I missed out? I’d love to hear your feedback, so feel free to comment on this post below, or send me an email.
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