So I recently started my series on “How to Plan a 2-Week Trip” with part 1, the fun day-dreaming part and so here is the second installment. This is actually (in my opinion) the hardest part of planning a long trip: the logistics & budget!
To read part 1 of this series click HERE!
Step 4: Create a Timeline
After you have created a list of things you “must do” and want to do, it’s time to make some sense of it all! Make a few timelines putting things in different orders so you can play around with whether you are doing a round trip or flying in/out of different airports and putting things in different orders. This part takes a long time, especially if your trip includes multiple stops. My rule of thumb is to try to stay at each local at least 2 nights and try not to travel more than 5 hours during the day – no point in spending all your vacation time on a train/plane/automobile. An easy way to accomplish this task with any long vacation is to put things down on index cards for each day and keep arranging them until you are satisfied.
For example, this past spring break, I planned a Belgium & Netherlands trip but it made no sense to double back to Brussels to fly out so we flew into Brussels and out of Amsterdam. Saved time and money!
Step 5: The Budget
Although you should keep the budget in mind the entire time you’re planning, this is really the best place to starting looking at it holistically. Set up your budget day-by-day (according to the timeline you have created in Step 4), however, keep in mind it will continue to shift and move around as my planning continues. If you are budget conscious, like me, set up a trip “maximum” and make sure each day is balanced.
By this step you should also estimate the following big ticket items:
- Food costs (my favorite is using the State Department’s Foreign Per Diem website)
- Flight costs by using a tracking website like Kayak
- Hotel/AirBnb/hostel expenses (this can really kill or save your budget)
- In-country travel costs (trains, public buses, renting a car, etc.)
For example, my preferred budget tracking is Google Sheets because it is easy to use (at this point I have my template down!) and accessible on multiple devices as well as offline while you’re out and about for the day. This is exceptionally helpful if you are traveling with multiple people so everyone can be on track of the group’s spending.
Step 6: Tweaking the Budget
In addition to budgeting the basics above, add a section to the budget for “notes” to write opening times, addresses, estimated travel time, and other important information about the places you want to see. If something is out of your budget initially, before throwing it out see if you can tweak the budget somewhere else or find a cheaper way to accommodate it!
For example, instead of doing expensive walking tours, I will typically do my research about the cities we’re visiting ( I watch a lot of videos, read books and tons of blogs) and create my own “walking tour.” However, don’t throw out an experience just because it is expensive – you will regret not doing it if it is on your “must do” list.
Next time I’ll finish my “How to Plan a 2-Week Trip: Part 3” with the closing steps in Part 3!