Planning a vacation can be so exciting!  The anticipation of going somewhere new, seeing new sights, exploring new places, and trying new foods.  Planning a vacation can also seem overwhelming if you don’t know where to start.  If you need some tips and tricks to plan your next trip, check out this post on How to Plan Your Next Vacation.

Decide What Type of Vacation

The first key step to plan your next vacation is to decide on what type of vacation you want to take. There are so many ways to travel.  Do you want a relaxing beach vacation where you can sip on a margarita while taking in some rays?  Or do you prefer to be active?  Do you prefer to be in nature hiking, biking, camping, or skiing?  Or do you like to be in a city, exploring cultural sights, museums, and eating at the best restaurants?  Or maybe you can combine some of these ideas into one trip. 

beach with palm trees and lounge chairs
View of the beach in Cancun from Óleo All-Inclusive Resort

Once you decide the style, pace, and type of location you want to be in for your next vacation, this will help you narrow down where you want to go.  Some people only like 1 style of vacation and that’s ok.  You can decide what style of travel feels best to you.  Of course, if you are traveling with at least one other person, then you need to agree on a type of vacation together.  But even if you have different tastes than your travel companion(s), you can find a place that will make everyone happy. 

Travel photos above from top left, clockwise: Eiffel Tower, hiking in Ourika Valley in Morocco, spices in Marrakech medina, view of the Duomo in Florence, Italy, and beautiful rugs for sale in Marrakech medina.


Get Inspiration for Your Next Vacation!

The second step to plan your next vacation is to find some travel inspiration! If you aren’t exactly sure where you want to go, but just know you want to travel somewhere, there are so many places to find travel inspiration.  Here are several places to spur on some travel ideas!

Pinterest

If you aren’t familiar with Pinterest, it is basically a visual search engine.  You can search for any type of travel or location and find these virtual “pins” that you can save to a virtual “board”.  You can save these pins for ideas for later or as a vision board as places you want to go to someday. 

But the best thing about Pinterest is that these pins are linked to websites providing the information you are looking for!  And the information oftentimes is provided by websites or blogs like this one.  The writers of these blog posts usually have the first-hand experience about the travel destination, providing you with valuable travel information. 

Check out my Pinterest boards for Nosh Nourish Wander!

Instagram

Instagram is more of a social media platform than a search engine.  But you can search for travel destinations in the search or explore tab to get photos and videos of some beautiful locations.  You may even find some accounts that are inspiring that you can follow and get their posts in your feed.  I have found many new locations that I never heard of before I saw them on Instagram.  It can be a great way to discover new places while scrolling through your Insta feed!

Follow me on Instagram to get my latest travel information, photos, and inspiration!

Travel Publications  

Popular travel magazines have been around long before social media and travel blogs and can continue to be a great place for travel inspiration.  Whenever I am traveling, I love to stop by the airport bookstore and pick up a travel magazine.  Basically, I am getting ideas for future travel, while I am traveling! 

There are a variety of travel magazines that can focus on different types of travel from cruises to the great outdoors to more luxurious travel.  Here are some popular travel publications that are some of my favorites!

Travel and Leisure

Travel and Leisure is a great magazine to pick up before or during your travels to get some trip inspiration.  And of course, they also have a website and you can follow them on Instagram to get even more ideas on places to go.  They cover topics such as World’s Best Hotels, the World’s Best Cities, and the World’s Best Islands.  And they also give their recommendation for the destination of the year.  In 2021, Italy is the destination of the year. 

Sunset

While Sunset magazine is more specific to travel and living on the West Coast in the United States, it provides very inspiring information that will make you want to pack your bags.  Having lived on the West Coast for 4 years, I may be biased.  But if you are looking for information on camping, seeing the best National and State Parks in the West, or exploring wine country, you should check out Sunset magazine.

Travel Blogs

Blogs like Nosh Nourish Wander are a great way to get inspiration for your next trip.  If you don’t know of any travel blogs, Pinterest and Instagram is a great place to find them.  Here are a few of my favorite travel blogs.  You can also follow them on Instagram to keep up to date with their latest travels!  These travel blogs have been my inspiration for travel and for blogging as well!

The Blonde Abroad

Kiersten is a Californian who traveled the world and created The Blonde Abroad.  She has traveled to over 70 countries and provides her perspective on many travel destinations such as Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. In addition to providing travel guides, she has information on travel photography, lifestyle, and travel gear.

Hand Luggage Only

Yaya and Lloyd were two guys at Cambridge University who decided to start a travel blog back in 2014.  I think I found them on Instagram originally because of their funny and unique travel photos and videos.  Immediately, I was hooked! Hand Luggage Only provides great travel inspiration and info on their blog and Instagram.

Salt in Our Hair

Another blog I found on Instagram, Hannah and Nick are from The Netherlands and created Salt in Our Hair in 2015.  This Dutch duo has been to many destinations around the world and provides great travel guides.  Their website also has a great aesthetic and is easy to navigate!

Also be sure to check out some of my favorite travel posts on Nosh Nourish Wander such as:

7 Things to Do in Germany

9 Places to See in the Great Smoky Mountains


Researching is So Important

Once you have narrowed down the type of vacation you want and have found inspiration for some amazing places to visit, you can choose your next destination.  This is where it gets really fun! Researching all the important things to know about your destination such as the best time of the year to go, sights to see, what to bring, if you need any special travel documents such as passports or visas, how to get there, and where to stay. 

how to plan your next vacation, picture of map, passport, laptop, and camera

Researching for your next trip is an important step to plan your next vacation.  Yes, it can be fun to book a trip on a whim and see where it takes you.  But if you are spending your hard-earned money, you want to make sure you are getting the best deals, going at a great time of year, and are able to get tickets to an event or sight if it requires advanced booking. 

Also, be sure to find travel guides, books, websites, blogs about your next destination.  In addition to the travel magazines and blogs I mentioned above, travel books provide valuable information. Especially if you are traveling internationally, travel books or guides can provide important information about the local customs, local currency, and information on consulates or embassies.  These are some of my favorite travel guides.


Booking flights

If you plan to fly to your next destination, then of course booking your flights will be another major step to plan your next vacation. There are so many websites to book flights.  But I think the best ones enable you to search multiple airlines at once.  I like to use Kayak because it searches most airlines with some exceptions like Southwest Airlines.  If you are using miles or want to build your miles with a certain airline, then it is best to go directly to that airline’s website. 

view of ocean and Puerto Rican beach from plane
View of San Juan, Puerto Rico

Signing up to earn miles with a major airline such as American or United is free and can save you money in the long run if you plan on traveling in the future.  Plus, the major airlines partner with other airlines worldwide, allowing you to collect miles on those airlines as well!

If traveling internationally, booking flights within 6 months of your trip is best.  If traveling domestically within the US, booking flights within 1-4 months is recommended.  So planning ahead of time does typically help save money.  However, there can be last-minute deals if a spur-of-the-moment travel opportunity arises.


Lodging

Finding a place to stay is the next step to plan your next vacation. There are many options for lodging depending on your needs and budget.  From hotels to apartments to hostels, there are lodging options for everyone.  The type of lodging may also depend on your travel destination and what is available.  Therefore, researching what is available at your destination is important. 

For example, if you are going on a Mexican or Caribbean beach vacation, then perhaps staying at an all-inclusive resort will be the best way to go.  Or, traveling by train across Europe, staying in a hostel or apartment can be some economical options.  Remember, booking in advance is helpful to secure a place to stay and typically get a better deal. 

Cancun beach and Caribbean sea
Beach in Cancun, Mexico

But, if you are traveling to multiple destinations and do not have time constraints, you can still research and book lodging last minute.  When I backpacked across Europe, we sometimes didn’t book a place to stay until the night before or even just found a place when we got into town.  Your options will be limited this way, but it is still possible. 

Some great websites to book lodging are: Booking.com and Airbnb


Plan an Itinerary

Another key step to plan your next vacation is to plan an itinerary. When it comes to traveling, I do like to have somewhat of a plan because I don’t want to miss out on great things to see, events, museums, etc. Some sights may require buying tickets in advance, so making an itinerary can be helpful.  It also depends on the type of trip you are taking.  If I am in Mexico, relaxing on a beach, I probably don’t have much of an itinerary other than getting some sun and enjoying my fresh seafood and margarita! 

Photos from Óleo All-Inclusive Resort in Cancun and their delicious poolside food menu!

However, when I am in Europe, there is so much to see and do and I go into planning mode to make sure I don’t miss out.  So if you are traveling to a big city or traveling around Europe, I recommend making an itinerary.  Be sure not to jam it with so much that you are more stressed than when you left for your trip.  Your vacation should be enjoyable, not stressful.

how to plan your next vacation, picture of map, notebook, and a woman's hands holding a pen

Allow Extra Time in Your Itinerary for Exploring

When making an itinerary, leave some open time to explore.  One of my favorite things to do in a city like New York City or in European cities is to just wander.  You can find amazing places that can be off the beaten path of the typical touristy sights.  And if you are only in the places where the tourists go, you really are not getting the true impression of that city.

in plaza in Brugge, Belgium
Hanging out in Brugge, Belgium

For example, Navy Pier in Chicago provides amazing views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan and is a beautiful part of the city. But it should not be the only thing you see because there are so many amazing neighborhoods to explore too.   Tourists typically make up most of the people at the major sights in any city and it can be more fun sometimes to go where the locals go.  Having a mix of both the best sights and local gems is important to get the best impression of your destination.


What to Pack for Your Next Vacation

Knowing what to pack is an important part of planning your next vacation.  The type of activities and the weather will make a difference in what you pack.  For example, a beach vacation versus a ski trip will make a difference in the type of clothing and gear you bring.  Or visiting Chicago in January in 20-degree weather versus visiting Chicago in July when it is 90 degrees Fahrenheit and humid. This would result in bringing a winter coat and sweaters versus T-shirts and shorts. 

How to plan your next vacation, Small suitcase with sandals, small tan purse inside

I recommend researching your specific destination to see exactly what to pack.  Also, knowing a little about the local fashion will help you to not stick out as a tourist. 

Ok, so besides knowing what type of clothes to pack for the weather of your destination and the activities you may be doing while there, what are some other possible things to bring on vacation?  Here are some recommended things to pack. 

  • Medications
  • Toiletries
  • Emergency first aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Vitamins
  • Hand sanitizer or wipes
  • ID/Drivers License/Passport, if traveling internationally
  • And a photocopy of passport
  • Banking and credit cards and customer service number (photocopy of cards front and back)
  • Emergency contacts
  • Books
  • Head/Earphones
  • Travel Blanket/Pillow
  • Earplugs
  • Power adapter, if traveling internationally
  • Phone/Electronics charger
  • Camera
  • Cell phone
  • Snacks
  • Travel Itinerary
  • Hotel reservation information
  • Other reservation information ie. Car rental, tour bookings
  • Glasses/Sunglasses
  • Insurance Cards

*If flying, be sure to check the maximum weight allowed for checking in your luggage and the maximum size if carrying on luggage.  Planning for this can save you in baggage fees.


Conclusion

Knowing how to plan your next vacation is beneficial for preparing for an amazing time.  Deciding on what type of vacation you want, getting inspiration, researching your destination, booking flights and lodging, planning an itinerary, and knowing what to pack are some of the important steps for planning an unforgettable trip. 

What are some of your ways to find trip inspiration?  And how do you like to plan for your next vacation?  Please feel free to leave your answers below, as well as any comments!

Also, be sure to sign up below to get more helpful travel tips as well as information on healthy eating and recipes!

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Dietitian, food lover, and world traveler! Veronica has been a registered dietitian for over 18 years, specializing in clinical and community nutrition. She enjoys wellness, trying new foods, and exploring the globe to learn about different cultures.