I love to step outside of my comfort zone. If you want to break free and plan your own adventure, join on board! Oh and that’s me nervously zip-lining through a Mexican forest. I swear I wasn’t terrified. Oh wait!
In mid-2011 I went on a Euro-trip all by myself. A few years before that I didn’t even have the guts to go to the coffee shop or mall alone. I always needed to be with someone. I thought only weirdos went to places alone. Somehow over the years I ended up becoming that weirdo. How did I end up going on a trip alone?
I became my own travel agent. I started to plan my own adventures. I stepped out of my comfort zone and pushed myself. Now you can become your own travel agent to plan your next epic adventure or just a relaxing trip.
I didn’t use a single travel agent when I spontaneously showed up in Budapest, Hungary or when we explored Miami during Wrestlemania weekend. You don’t need to either.
What’s the simple formula for planning an adventure?
Research where you want to go, figure out when you can/will go, and do everything within your power to make sure that the trip happens.
Let’s break every single step of the process down…
Do the research on where you want to go.
The first step is to write down a list of places you want to visit. What did you have in mind? Is there a place on this planet that you’ve been dreaming about? The good news is that there’s no place too far or impossible to get to. There are flights to almost everywhere.
Next you take 20 minutes to do some quick research. It’s not hard to find information. I can promise you this. The best option is to check out the forums on Trip Advisor. They have reviews of every possible location, hotel, and attraction. There are also forums where you can ask questions and interact with locals/other vagabonds. I’ve used these forums to find out everything possible about destinations from wi-fi access to beer brands.
I also need to mention that my number one trick when planning any trip is to avoid the tourist traps. You don’t have to go to Ibiza, Spain to party. You can if you have lots of money to blow. Chances are that you want to try something more affordable for one of your first adventures. You just need to book your accommodations.
What about booking the transportation?
Book everything online. I’ve always done everything online and in advance so that I don’t have to stress on my trip. The flight will be the most expensive part of course. You can search Kayak to get the cost of your flight. We cover this more a little later. For now, you can start tracking flights to see what the prices are like and to track any movement.
You also have to decide on how long you want to be gone for. Will this be a relaxing week or a full-blow adventure that goes on for months? This will play a role in the cost of your flight and stay.
Once you get to your destination, you need to find a place to sleep and keep your stuff.
Where will you stay?
Expedia will show you the hotels that are available (a bit pricey). AirBnB features regular folks that rent out a space in their place (affordable). Hostel World is what I used when I was travelling through Europe. It’s very affordable and you can pay in advance with your credit card. You’ll likely meet the most interesting characters at hostels. You just need to be open-minded about the living conditions.
There’s just one problem left…
How can you stay somewhere when you’re a broke joke?
Don’t worry if you don’t have enough money. None of us are millionaires. An empty heart can hold you back, not an empty pocket.
The following resources are perfect if you want to stay somewhere when you have no money:
- CouchSurfing. The name says it all. This is the best opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and meet new people. I wrote about this in greater detail when I covered how to travel after college.
- Global Freeloaders. Ditto. The site is for those that want a free place to crash around the world. Check it out to see if your dream destination is on there.
Does your trip have to be a wild adventure? Not at all. You can plan an excursion to a sporting event. The show below is a picture of me at the first ever UFC event in Toronto.
Figure out when you CAN go.
The next step is to pick when you’re going to go. When’s the earliest that you can escape? The longer the trip, the more that you have to plan for it. I would shoot for six months to a year of planning for an extended trip. For a week getaway you need 2-3 months of planning. You also have to factor in your job and commitments. If you have a stressful job, I doubt that your boss will be happy to find out that next week you plan on attacking Thailand for a month.
What about booking your flight? When do you book? I try to book international flights a few months in advance. However, I searched around to see what other information I could find on this topic.
According to Yahoo Finance:
But if you wait until the day or two before you want to travel, get ready for some serious pocketbook pain. Domestic flights that would normally cost less than $400 jump to about $625.
Ultimately, the booking of your trip will come down to timing. Can you afford to visit a tourist hot spot in the summer or during a busy season? Are you willing to go off-season?
Much of booking a flight is common sense. You know what the busy times are. You know that you have to book in advance for a busy season. What are you waiting for?
Another important aspect of figuring out when to go, you also have to gather to troops to see who’s in. Once you have some guaranteed positive responses, you guys can work on agreeing on the time.
The final step is to get the time off from work so that you’re guaranteed the freedom. Your employer or your business contacts will want to know of your absence. It’s only polite to give them fair warning. This again is common sense. Telling you to book your vacation time is like reminding you to bring your passport. Just a friendly reminder.
Now you’re so close…
Do everything humanly possible to make the trip happen.
There are going to be a lot of factors at play here. We already covered timing and booking. The only thing left is your money. You need money to make this trip possible. Most of us are horrible at managing money. The good news is that this is a personal finance blog and I love to save up for big purchases.
Get your money right!
This is once again easier said than done. Execution is key. How do you get your money right?
- Organize your finances. Do you do online banking? Do you have your accounts linked together? I believe in simplifying your finances so that you have easy access to your money and don’t have to stress about being flat broke.
- Pay off your debt. I just put together an insanely colosal post on paying off debt. The process is simple, but the execution is difficult. I give you all of the tools that you need. The onus is on you now to earn your freedom.
- Cut back the money that you spend on total crap. We all buy lots of crap. There’s no way around this. How much money do you spend on crap? If you really REALLY want to plan an adventure, you’ll find ways to save money or to cut back. If you don’t truly want to go, you’ll think of excuses. Which will you do?
Start saving slowly!
You need to start saving up slowly. Instead of giving you the theory, I’m going to share a calculator with you so that you can see the results for yourself. Let’s see how much you can save and how long it’s going to take you to plan for your next trip.
How much money will you save? How much more do you need for your next trip? I hope that you consider opening a new savings account so that you have somewhere to put your money while you plan your much-needed trip.
You can use Ally Bank as mentioned above. They allow you to create sub-accounts so that you can start putting money aside for your trip.
As you’re saving up, there are a few more points to consider.
Don’t bail on the trip!
Anxiety is just experiencing failure in advance over and over again for no reason. As your trip gets closer, it’s easy to bail and make excuses. You have to get past the mental barriers that your mind will try to create for you. It’s you vs you.
Don’t listen to the nay-sayers either. They’re just jealous that you have the balls to plan an adventure.
Before my trip to Europe, so many people tried to discourage me. I heard about every possible scenario from being robbed to getting ripped off. I ignored it all. When I came back, those same nay-sayers admitted that they regretted not coming with me.
You have to stay focused on your trip!
Any final thoughts on planning your adventure?
Meet people. Take my word on this. You don’t have to worry about planning out every detail. You’ll meet some interesting characters on your trips. I’ve had all sorts of plans go right out the window upon arriving at my destination. When I was in Cracow, Poland, some dude told me about a bus that night that was headed towards Budapest. I went online, found a deal, a booked my overnight bus. I saved money because I didn’t have to pay for a place to sleep that night. I found myself in a place I never imaged visiting.
Go with the flow. As corny as that catchphrase is, it’s an important mantra for your adventure. You have to remember that you’re not at home and these are not familiar conditions. You won’t have the same food that you do at home nor will the customs be the same. It’s your job to adapt. The whole culture won’t adapt to you.
What about getting work done on a trip? You can read about my location independent experience where I did my best to be productive on a trip. It’s totally possible to not fall behind on a trip. A few minutes a day on your laptop will help you stay on top of things at home.
What’s next? You got to start planning and saving. Your next trip won’t come easy.