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Millennials are traveling internationally more than previous generations. You’ve probably seen the signs on social media: your old high school friend riding a Bel Air in Cuba, your cousin drinking pints in Munich.
These tips are as much for seasoned globetrotters as they are for newbies. Whenever my travel life is feeling a little stale, or I’m just trying to get my next trip in order, this is my process.
Disclaimer: I work seasonally and have a lot of flexibility with what I do in the next 6 months. If you have the kind of job where you need to give your vacation days like, in January or something, obviously tailor this process accordingly.
1. Choose a Destination
This is one of the most fun, and most difficult, parts of planning travel. I could probably write an entire blog post on choosing a travel destination. That being said, it’s really not that complicated… where in the world do you wanna go?
Do you inexplicably accrue Eiffel Tower art in your apartment? Do you have a Pinterest board devoted to the Australian outback? Because there’s your answer. If you’re reading this right now with the name of a city or country hiding in plain sight in the back of your mind, there’s your answer. It’s like the name of that one ex that always seems to pop up when Taylor Swift comes on.
If you have searched every crevice of your brain and still can’t pinpoint that perfect next travel destination, make a list, then make a pros and cons list of that list, then go with your gut. The point is, you have a place that really speaks to you, really motivates you, in mind. That’s necessary to make the next 4 steps happen, and make any travel dream a reality.
P.S. If the destination you settle on is international, may as well get your passport in order now if you don’t already have one.
2. Save Up $$$
This is why I said achieving travel dreams takes motivation. I worked two jobs at one point to save up for travel, and took any and all opportunities for overtime. Unless you’re some lucky duck who manages to come into work you’re passionate about on the reg, the ends will have to justify the means. Constantly remind yourself, the ends justify the means.
As a fun added bonus for us Millennials, students loans are a thing. We may travel unlike any generation before us, but we’re also in more debt. My $300-$500 monthly loan payments are what make “long term travel” mildly impossible for me right now. I’ll always come home to work sooner or later. I also take those monthly payments into account when saving up for travel; just because I’m off American soil doesn’t mean my checking account is.
My advice? Find seasonal work that’s fun for you and pays well enough to enable saving some cash. Don’t buy shit besides groceries and necessities (cancelling my wine of the month in anticipation of my next adventure was particularly painful). In my experience a full season at some kind of seasonal tourist destination is perfect for funding your next season of travel. These places don’t pay insanely well, obviously, but housing tends to be pretty cheap. And most National Parks (my personal favorite workplaces, if you couldn’t tell) are so remote that you don’t have the option to blow money on going out to eat and bars, anyway! Setting monthly (or if you’re admirably Type A, weekly) saving goals helps, too.
3. Stay Inspired
This is what you gotta be doing while you’re saving up. It’ll keep you from giving up and/or giving in to your online shopping addiction. Whenever I get the urge to order another $50 eyeshadow palette from Sephora’s website, I ask myself how badly I want to go to Cuba/Japan/Colombia/South Africa/etc… usually, more than I want that eighth eyeshadow palette.
Some inspiration/motivation ideas:
- Make vision boards of the place you want to go!
- Decorate your room and refrigerator with travel inspiration. In other words, make your entire house/apartment into the aforementioned vision board.
- Buy a guidebook/read blogs online about your destination.
- Circle your tentative departure date on every calendar you come across.
- Be that friend who never shuts up about the trip they’re planning.
- If the place you’re going speaks another language, practice it every day.
- Do you what gotta do to keep excited, and that trip will happen.
4. Make Plans
So you’ve saved up a nice little travel fund, you’ve hyped yourself up for months, and you’re ready to make some solid, honest-to-goodness travel arrangements. About two months before your trip is a good time to head to Kayak and book some plane tickets for international destinations. Depending on where you’re going and if there are special events happening (e.g. Oktoberfest, Carnival, things like that) you may need to book tickets or hotels*. Booking those plane tickets is such an awesome, powerful feeling: it’s for real, it’s happening, you’re going!
Now could also be a good time to make a rough itinerary. It’s cool if you like to fly by the seat of your pants and make zero plans, but if not then read on. Pinpoint the cities you want to hit and the specific museums or attractions you can’t miss there. I spend a lot of time with Google Maps during this step, since I’ll often have a rough list of places I want to go but not a great idea of where each one is and which order I should see them in. Once you have that down, booking transportation between those places might be in order, depending on the country and if you’re flying at all.
If you’re WWOOFing, depending on the farm (Italian vineyards fill up months in advance), send out feelers to the farmers.
If you’re Couchsurfing, I find the sweet spot for sending couch requests is somewhere between 1-3 weeks when you want to stay. That depends on the individual host to a degree, and some are fine with total last-minute requests, too.
*If the special event is like, a super big deal, you might need to book your lodging even earlier than two months. Something fun to look into during the Stay Inspired step, perhaps?
5. Get ready… and… go!
Pack your bags, baby! All those blogs you were reading to keep yourself inspired are chock full of destination-specific packing lists. I’m a worthless backpacker who tends to pull all nighters right before my flight to pack… don’t be like me.
Get your ride to the airport, bid your loved ones adieu, because you did it. It was all worth it. Boarding that plane knowing that you’re controlling your own destiny and making your dreams come true is one of the best feelings in the world. And it only gets better every moment on from there.
Hopefully this step-by-step, foolproof, award-winning (not really) guide has planted some seeds of travel motivation. Let me know where you decide to go next 😉 and have fun out there!