Travel Planning Strategy Guide

For some people, having a whole slew of travel planning links at their disposal can be overwhelming. That is one of the major reasons why travel agents (both in person and online) are in business. They consolidate all the traveler needs in one place and provide the expert advice about where to go and what to do. My goal is to get you thinking about what type of travel you’re interested in and provide the resources for you to create your own trip ‘a la carte.’ Essentially, you can become your own travel agent – because who knows what you want better than you? I’m a firm believer that no single source out there can provide you the best version of all the travel resources you need. In this strategy guide I provide the framework to start planning an awesome trip, and then you can explore each individual travel category to get specific information and links to the places that I use myself to book my trips. This does not mean that other sources out there are bad, but I find these to be the least expensive, easiest to use, and most efficient.

The travel decision making process involves several important steps. First – the decision to travel. If you’re here, you’ve probably already made that decision. Second, and perhaps most important, is the decision where to travel. For business travel or travel to visit friends and relatives (called VFR travel and coincidentally the #1 reason people travel), this decision has already been made for you. However, if you’re starting from scratch planning a vacation, this can be a daunting task. I suggest starting by answering a couple of questions:

  1. What is my traveler personality? I recommend taking The Trip Doctor Traveler Personality Quiz first. This will help you get to know yourself as a traveler a little bit better, and can help you think about what types of destinations may be appealing to you. You can also share your results on social media, which is always fun!
  2. What type of travel am I looking for? Do I want to sit on a beach with a drink in my hand? Do I want to visit museums and soak up culture? Do I want to trek through the jungle/mountain/forest?
  3. What is my budget? Am I thinking about an international trip? Domestic trip? Are luxury hotels an option or are hostels more appropriate?
  4. How much time do I have? Am I looking to burn all of your vacation days on a month-long trip? Am I hoping to take a long weekend that will only use a few days of vacation time so I can save the rest for visiting family over holidays?
  5. Who is going with me? Am I bringing your family? Does my family include infants or small children? Am I traveling with a group of friends? Am I traveling alone and hoping to meet new people along the way?

Answering all of those questions can help you start think about what type of destination and travel style is right for you. Once you make that decision, you can start exploring potential destinations. Of course, some of the best information about travel destinations can be found in the experiences of family and friends – don’t be afraid to ask people where they’ve been, what they’ve done, and why they loved their trip. While I recommend a few destinations that may be appealing to you on your Traveler Personality Quiz results page, there are a ton of great resources out there to get you thinking about other cool destinations you might be interested in visiting.

When you’re exploring for potential travel destinations, I recommend starting with travel magazines. My favorite travel magazine is Conde Nast Traveler, but there are a lot of other good ones out there, including National Geographic Traveler, Travel and Leisure, Afar, and many more. There are, of course, many magazines that cater to a specific type of travel (like Food & Wine) as well as magazines that cater to travel to specific regions or destinations (like Islands). These and others are all great places to start when considering your next travel destination.

After you’ve narrowed your choices down, I also recommend checking out guidebooks as a primer on your destination. My absolute favorite guidebooks are written by Rick Steves, but unfortunately he only writes them for European destinations. For global destinations, I also recommend Lonely Planet. Both Rick Steves and Lonely Planet espouse travel values that fall in line with my travel philosophy of being as informed as possible about your travels.

Once you have decided on a travel destination, the first place I recommend you go to find out more is Trip Advisor (<– Affiliate link! If you click it and purchase something, The Trip Doctor may receive compensation). While it’s not perfect, TripAdvisor is a great source of user generated knowledge about travel destinations throughout the world. One of my main tips when reading the reviews on TripAdvisor – the two groups of people who are most likely to post online reviews are those that have had extremely positive experiences and those that have had extremely negative experiences. When reading reviews, try to remember that! I often find the most valuable information in those few reviews that fall somewhere in between the five star reviews and the one star reviews. I find TripAdvisor to be the most valuable when looking for destination information, things to do, places to stay, and places to eat; however, you can also find information on flights, vacation rentals, and road trips there.

Those sources should all give you great resources to decide where to travel and learn more about your travel destination. But what about booking the elements of your trip? As I don’t believe in the one stop shop method of booking a trip, I have created individual pages and contain tons of knowledge, tips for booking, and links to my favorite sites.  You can find more information about each of the following trip elements:  accommodations (hotels, sharing economy accommodations like Airbnb, hostels, and couchsurfing)flights, frequent flier miles, rental cars, restaurants, ride sharing, road trips, and tours. These resources will help you book the trip of your dreams. Don’t forget to check the blog regularly, as I’ll create posts about all sorts of strategies for being a more intelligent traveler.

If you want more information about some part of traveling that you think I’ve missed, please send me a message using the form on the bottom right side of this page. I look forward to hearing from you!