Penny Cordner-Maas, Staff Writer

Wondering how to get through isolation with your sanity intact? Our top tip for travel fanatics: make the most of all this spare time by planning your next trip.

There’s no better way to escape the confines of your own home than by dreaming about the incredible places you can travel to once this is all over. If you take charge when it comes to planning your next trip (you know who you are), you might find a few handy tips, and if you don’t, well, it’s never too late to change your ways.

Step 1: Decide where to go

The world is a big, beautiful place, and sometimes the hardest thing about planning a trip is choosing where to go.

Find inspiration

Start by following your favourite travel brands on social media. Our top picks: Condé Nast, Lonely Planet, Australian Traveller and National Geographic. As you’re scrolling through your feed, save dreamy destinations, landmarks or experiences that interest you. Be sure to save different collections, either by location or holiday type so you can refer to it later.

Make a shortlist

If you don’t know where to start, find your ‘travel profile’ by answering a few questions with this short quiz. You’ll get recommendations based on the type of travel you enjoy (adventure, relaxation, historical, cultural).

If you have somewhere in mind but you’re not sure whether it is within your travel budget Numbeo has a great tool to figure out cost of living and daily expenses in destinations all over the world. The best way to get some trusted guidance is to reach out to your friends on social media and ask for their recommendations. There’s nothing people love to talk about more than travel.

Narrow down your list

Once you’ve made a shortlist, read up on each of the destinations. This is when you can begin to imagine yourself there and decide if that city/town is for you.

You might choose to flick through a printed Lonely Planet Guidebook, spend time reading travel articles and blogs online for each destination or check the specific tourism websites – they capture the highlights and give you a feel for a place. You can also open Google Maps to see if there are countries nearby you’d like to visit. Are there neighbouring places you don’t know anything about? Look them up.

Step 2: Choose when to go

Once you have a rough idea of where you’re going you need to figure out when you’re going. While some people have set holiday leave, others have more flexibility around when they can travel — and this could save you quite a bit of money. There are two main things to consider when choosing where to go: travel season and weather.

Travel season

It’s no secret everything costs more during peak season, but it also means there will be more tourists around, longer lines and limited availability for various activities. Avoid Crowds is a great resource to help figure out how busy a place will be — enter your destination and date to see an expected crowd.

The best advice we can give you is to travel during shoulder season if you can. This varies for each destination but will fall either side of the peak season. Shoulder season means most things are still open and operating but the destination is less likely to be overrun by tourists.

When it comes to costs, you’ll be able to see the price difference between seasons too. Put rough dates into Skyscanner and see how much flights increase month to month. The best way to save here: sign up to an airline’s mailing list and follow them on social media – this is where they’ll post their deals and specials. So whether you have a date in mind or could be swayed, you’ll find the best price for the season you want to travel.

Weather

No matter what kind of trip you’re planning — beach, snow, city — you’ll want to have some idea about what the weather tends to do during certain times of the year. Accuweather should be your go-to for local and international weather forecasts year-round. This will help you decide on the best time of year for the type of trip you’re planning.

Step 3: Get organised

Now that you have an idea of where you’re going and when you’re going, it’s time to start a Google Sheet. This will become your bible for everything you’ve booked and everything you still need to organise. It will be saved to Google Drive so you can access it from anywhere in the world. Here are a few tips for how to organise your document: list your travel dates in the first column, use the other columns for things like city, accommodation, transport (time and duration) and activities. Be sure to note down various costs so you can see if you’re sticking to your budget.

Once you’ve set up this spreadsheet, and as you start making actual reservations, download the app TripIt. This allows you to upload any email confirmations (flights, transport, accommodation) and automatically builds out your itinerary, which you can also share with others.

Step 4: Build your itinerary

Your itinerary is perhaps the most important step of the trip. There’s nothing worse than choosing a bad route and wasting unnecessary time in transit, or not leaving yourself enough time to explore a city you love.

Tours

If you’re planning a long and complex trip, consider booking one leg as a tour. Tours are especially useful for hard-to-reach destinations or places where an English-speaking guide would make your life a whole lot easier. Luxury Escapes’ bespoke tours take you closer to the heart of each destination, creating a truly memorable and immersive experience.

Route

Reduce transit days by planning a smart and effective way to get from one place to the next. In all honesty, there is no website better to help you figure this out than Rome2Rio.

This ingenious site allows you to plug in where you want to go and discover all your options for travel: by plane, train, car, bus or ferry. Not only will it provide you with an estimated duration but also price, meaning you can plan the most time and cost-effective route for your trip.

Duration

Perhaps the hardest part is deciding how long to spend in each place. Back in Step 1 (when you were choosing where to go) you would have saved a few must-see destinations, activities you’d love to do or restaurants you want to dine at. Make sure you research these in detail and figure out how much time you’ll need in a destination to fit these in, and still explore the city.

If you’re still trying to find these ‘top experiences’, Time Out has great coverage for cities all over the world, with everything from food and drink recommendations to the latest music and theatre shows. Travel forums are another good place to get advice on how long to spend in a place. We recommend you allow a minimum of three nights in major cities (four or five is better). Compact cities can be explored in two nights (if you plan well) and day trips are a nice way to see more of the world.

Step 5: Book your accommodation

You know where you’re going and when you’re going. Now the fun really begins – it’s time to book your accommodation.

Be sure to subscribe to Luxury Escapes’ daily deals as early as possible. Our team partners with some of the world’s best-known and most-loved brands to negotiate exclusive accommodation packages. With everything from private-island villas in Asia and all-inclusive packages in the Maldives to the ultimate city break or weekend escape, every deal is packed with added value and comes with a best-price guarantee.

Depending on where you’re travelling to, you might like the idea of mixing up your accommodation types. If you want entire homes to yourself Airbnb lists homes all over the world. Hostelworld can be great if you’re looking to save on accommodation and splurge elsewhere. Remember you can book a private room with ensuite for a hotel-like experience without the price tag. For something totally different, Glamping Hub allows you to book treehouses, yurts, safari tents and tiny houses.

As avid travellers, we can’t wait for the world to recover and open its borders. In the meantime, we will be spending our days researching and planning the ultimate post-isolation trip.

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