Planning a trip can be difficult. How do you start? What comes first? What comes next? What comes after that?

It’s simple to become overwhelmed, particularly if you haven’t done something similar previously and in light of how much information is available today. There are now more blogs, social media platforms, and guidebooks than ever before. There is a never-ending supply of information available, which occasionally makes the work of organizing a vacation even more difficult and daunting.


I’ve organized innumerable vacations and trips for friends, family, and even group tours after a decade of globetrotting.


After all, I don’t want to reach my next location just to discover that I have something missing. And you don’t either!

This website contains a ton of information, and my book contains even more, but a frequent query is, “Matt, how can I put this all together? How do I arrange travel?

I’ve put together this step-by-step tutorial on how to arrange a trip as part of my ongoing endeavor to assist you in getting outside and into the world. No matter what kind of journey you’re taking or how long it lasts, it works! You’ll be on your way very quickly if you just follow this checklist!



Step 1: Decide Where You Want To Go

a map of the world

Setting a destination creates a target to work toward. Many people make hazy generalizations about travel. They only ever state that they are moving, never where. Choosing a destination is crucial since it offers you a clear objective.


“I am going to Paris in the summer” is far simpler to mentally accept than “I’m going to Europe” or “I’m going anywhere.” Your vacation will not only become more tangible for you and simpler to commit to, but it will also make preparation simpler because you will know what to strive for. Provide specifics about your plans. Get specific. Your ability to achieve your goal will increase with how clear and definite it is.



Step 2: Decide the Length of Your Trip

How much does travel cost? To what extent!

I can’t respond to that question without knowing how long you’ll be gone. You must provide an answer to this query in order to begin planning.


You’ll need to know how long your vacation will be in order to calculate how much you need to save.

Are you taking a week off? six weeks? A year?

How much money you need depends greatly on how long your journey will be. Think about that for a while until you have a response.


Step 4: Research Your Costs

Now that you know where you’re going and how long you’ll be there, your next duty is to investigate the costs in your destination for the travel style you prefer in order to determine how much money you actually need.

Do you wish to travel on a budget or would you prefer to stay in five-star hotels?



What are the prices for lodging, dining, and attractions?

You can calculate how much money you’ll need for your vacation by being aware. Here’s how to conduct cost research:

Buy a manual.
See my section on travel advice.
For precise costs for activities you’re interested in, such as scuba diving, bungee jumping, winery tours, etc., use Google.


Now that you know where you’re going and how long you’ll be there, your next duty is to investigate the costs in your destination for the travel style you prefer in order to determine how much money you actually need.

Do you wish to travel on a budget or would you prefer to stay in five-star hotels?



What are the prices for lodging, dining, and attractions?

You can calculate how much money you’ll need for your vacation by being aware. Here’s how to conduct cost research:

Buy a manual.
See my section on travel advice.
For precise costs for activities you’re interested in, such as scuba diving, bungee jumping, winery tours, etc., use Google.


  • 5 Ways to Make Your Money Last When You Travel
  • How to Know the Travel Info You Find is Legit
  • How I Research My Solo Travel Destinations


Step 5: Start Saving Money

saving money for travel in your piggy bank

Step 6: Get a Travels Rewards Credit Card

travel credit cards
While you’re working to save money, get a travel credit card so you can earn sign-up bonuses to redeem miles and points for free flights and hotel stays. Collecting points and miles from travel credit cards is how I get tons of free flights, free hotel stays, and free travel perks every single year — and without any extra spending too!

These days, most cards have welcome offers of up to 50,000 points when you meet their minimum spending requirement. That’s enough miles for a free flight almost anywhere in the world!

If you want a free flight, sign up for the cards that help with that. If you want free hotel rooms, get a hotel card. Either way, sign up for a travel credit card and start earning points today. As long as you can pay off your monthly balance, you’ll get free travel credit.

You don’t need to sign up for very many cards either; pick one or two and focus on those. Do this the moment you decide you want to travel. Don’t wait — waiting equals lost miles, which means less free travel.

Collecting points and miles (which is called “travel hacking”) is what all the experts do to cut their costs and travel longer. It’s what has kept my costs down and me on the road for so many years. While the best cards are only available in the US, there are still plenty of options for Canadians as well as folks from Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

For more information on travel hacking and travel credit cards, check out these posts:

  • Travel Hacking 101: A Beginner’s Guide
  • How to Pick the Best Travel Credit Card
  • The Best Travel Credit Cards
  • The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking
  • How to Be a Travel Hacker in Canada


Step 7: Switch to No-Fee ATM Cards

Once you’re abroad, you;re going to need money. While many countries will accept credit cards, in the majority of countries cash is still king. That means you’ll need to use ATMs to withdraw the local currency. And that also means you’re going to get dinged by ATM fees.

If you’re just away for a week or two, paying a few dollars in ATM fees isn’t the end of the world. But if you’re away for a longer period, those fees will add up and chew into your travel budget — a budget you’ve worked hard to grow. Don’t give banks any of your hard-earned money.

How? By using a no-fee ATM card.

I use Charles Schwab, but there are lots of other banks (don’t forget to check your local banks) that don’t charge ATM fees. Additionally, you can join a bank in the Global ATM Alliance.

By using a no-fee ATM card you can avoid those pesky ATM fees, leaving you more money for what it was intended for: travel

Here’s exactly how you can avoid ATM fees while traveling.

Step 8: Stay Focused and Inspired

While you get closer to your goal, make sure that you keep feeding your desire to travel. Travel planning can be exhausting and overwhelming — especially if you don’t have support from your friends and family (and especially if your trip is still months away). It can often get discouraging and feel out of reach at times.

Luckily, there are tons of ways to stay focused and keep your spirits high thanks to the amazing community we have on this website. Here are some inspiring travel stories to help keep you inspired to travel:

  • Why It’s Never the Perfect Time to Travel
  • 13 Travel Books that Will Give You Serious
  • How to Change the “I’m Too Poor to Travel” Mindset and Say Yes to Travel
  • 8 Ways to Stay Motivated to Travel

Additionally, be sure to join our online travel community The Nomadic Network. Not only will you find support (and tons of tips) online, but we also host regular in-person and virtual events all around the world. These are a great way to get inspired, meet other awesome travelers in your area, and get travel advice.

Step 9: Check for Last-Minute Deals

Okay, you’re inspired, prepared, and on your way to saving money for your trip. But before you go buy that flight or book that hotel, check for deals you might have missed. You may dream of Paris but maybe there are great deals to Berlin right now. Or maybe you can get a seven-day cruise for 70% off, a package deal to Hawaii for the price of your flight to Paris, or 50% off sailing trips around Greece.

These days, there is always a deal to be found — especially if you’re flexible with your dates and/or destinations. Some deal websites worth checking out are:

  • Scott’s Cheap Flights
  • The Flight Deal
  • Holiday Pirates

Step 10: Book Your Flight

taking off into the sunset
After you’ve used your travel credit card and received your sign-up bonus, use your miles to book your flight. It is harder to use miles these days due to less availability, so make sure to book early to ensure you get your desired flight.

Fortunately, there are still many ways to avoid being the person on the flight who paid the most for their ticket. My two favorite sites for finding cheap airfare are:

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is the best website for searching multiple destinations at the same time.
  • Google Flights – Like Skyscanner, Google Flights is great for open searches to multiple destinations.

For the best deals, book your flight about two-three months in advance. Here are two articles on how to score a cheap flight:

  • How to Find Cheap Flights
  • Booking Flights: Everything You Need to Know


Step 11: Book Your Accommodation

luna's hostel in panama city
If you’re traveling for under two weeks and have a set schedule, feel free to book accommodation for the duration of your trip if it will give you peace of mind (or if you’re visiting during the high season).

For trips longer than two weeks (or if you are going to be traveling long-term) just book your first few days. That will ensure you have a place to go on arrival. Once there, you can get insider advice from your hotel/hostel staff as well as other travelers. You can then use that info to plan your next steps.

While you can book more than your first few nights, you might end up wanting to change your plans once you land. I prefer having flexibility, which is why I always just book my first few nights and go from there.

Here are my go-to sites when it comes to finding the best deals on accommodation:

  • Hostelworld – Hostelworld has the largest selection of hostels and is my go-to site for finding affordable hostels.
  • Agoda – Agoda has the best results if you’re heading to Asia (though they sometimes have good US deals too).
  • – is the best overall platform for finding budget hotels and guesthouses.

If you’re on a tight budget or you want to connect with more locals furing your travels, consider joining platforms like Couchsurfing or BeWelcome. These communities allow travelers to stay with locals for free as a sort of cultural exchange.

Long-term travelers can also try housesitting or WWOOFing as well as they both offer free accommodation (in exchange for pet sitting or farm work respectively).

Step 12: Plan Your Activities

To make sure you have budgeted properly, outline the major activities you want to enjoy during your trip and how much they cost. Make any last-minute adjustments to your savings so you can ensure you have enough money. This will also help you figure out if you need any reservations for your chosen tours or activities.

Search online for discounts as well. While some countries offer cheaper prices in person, others give discounts to those who book early/online. Research which is which for your itinerary so you can save money.

For shorter trips, you can also book your activities in advance to ensure you get tickets. For longer trips, book as you go.

Additionally, before you leave home, have a rough idea of what activities are priorities for you. That way, if you run out of time or money, you can focus on your top activities so you don’t miss out. Also, make sure to double-check that there are no holidays or other obstacles that will prevent you from certain activities as well.

Step 13: Sell Your Stuff

If you are going on a long-term trip (six months or more), consider selling your stuff in order to earn extra money for your trip. Start doing this about 60 days before you leave. Some sites to use are:

  • Gumtree – An online classified site with a focus in the UK and Australia.
  • Amazon – The biggest online store in the world.
  • Craigslist – Online global classifieds that have both local and global reach.
  • eBay – Another global online classified site.
  • Facebook Marketplace – Great for finding people near you (so you don’t need to ship your items).

If you aren’t going to be gone that long, skip this step. If you are going away long-term but want to keep your stuff, move it to a friend’s house or keep it in storage. A good storage company in the US is Public Storage. It’s one of the most affordable options out there.

Step 14: Automate Your Bills

Get rid of your mail, go paperless, and set up online bill payment for your recurring bills to ensure you won’t miss any while overseas. If you are still going to get paper mail, use a service like Earth Class Mail, which will collect and scan your mail for you. (If you are going on a two-week trip, you don’t really need to worry about this, so you can skip this step, too.)

If you have the option (and don’t want to pay for a mail service), you can also have all your mail sent to a friend or family member.

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you cancel any phone plans you have or switch your plan to one that is more travel-friendly. T-Mobile is great for travelers going on trips under 3 months. For any trips longer than that, you’ll want to cancel your plan and just buy SIM cards abroad as that will be much cheaper.

Step 15: Pack!

pack your bags
Time to pack for your trip! It can be tempting to want to bring everything with you “just in case” but when it comes to travel, less is more. You don’t need 5 sweaters or 8 pairs of shoes. You can get by with less, I promise. it’s actually quite liberating once you get used to it!

I travel with a 45L REI bag and then a smaller day bag.

Unless you’re heading to multiple climates and need bulky winter gear, you don’t need a massive 70L bag stuffed to the top. Here’s my suggested packing list to help you take just the right amount of stuff and avoid overpacking (here’s a list for female travelers as well).

While what you pack will depend on where you are going, remember that you don’t need to pack everything you own. You can buy things you need on the road. You can do laundry overseas. At the end of the day, you have to carry everything you bring. So bring less!

There are a few extra items you might want to pack beyond your everyday clothes, though. Some things I like to bring with me are:

  • First aid kit
  • LifeStraw bottle with built-in filter
  • Packing cubes (to stay organized)
  • Travel lock (for hostel lockers)
  • Travel adapter
  • Quick-dry towel

Additionally, make sure you bring any prescriptions with you so you have enough for the duration of your trip. If that’s not feasible, bring a doctor’s note and prescription with you so you can fill it abroad.<

Step 16: Buy Travel Insurance

While a lot of people think, “I’m healthy, I don’t need travel insurance. I won’t get sick,” travel insurance is much more than just medical protection. It covers you when your camera breaks, your flight is canceled, a family member dies and you have to come home, or if something gets stolen.

Yes, it’s an added expense. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I never leave home without it because I’ve seen first-hand just what can happen on the road.

I never thought I would pop my eardrum while I was scuba diving in Thailand or break my camera in Italy.