Plan your trip of a lifetime in five easy steps

The concept of a ‘holiday of a lifetime’ smacks of retirement for some or the adventurous gap year for students as they take time out before heading to university or entering the world of work.

However, anyone can have a holiday they have only dreamed about before – a chance to visit places they have wished to see for a long time, experience cultures and activities they have been intrigued and fascinated by and to travel away from the norm to somewhere special and memorable.

Follow our tips to help you turn your trip into reality.

1. Identify where you want to go

A recent survey by TravelSupermarket into the most popular bucket list destinations and experiences revealed everything from seeing the Northern Lights to visiting the pyramids, travelling to the Great Barrier Reef to driving the length of Route 66, and from walking on the Great Wall of China to taking an African safari. You can read the full results here.

But a trip of a lifetime doesn’t have to be to somewhere exotic and far away. It could be a religious pilgrimage such as walking the Camino to Santiago in Spain, a visit to the FC Barcelona stadium or a trip of remembrance to Auschwitz.

The key is to identify and make a note of the destinations that mean something special to you and will give you the memories and inner sense of satisfaction you are looking for.

Research for inspiration

Maybe you have some ideas about where you’d like to go, but are not sure what else you could do with your dream trip to make it really special. To help inspire you, it’s well worth reading tourist board websites, as well as buying up-to-date guide books and consulting travel brochures and the travel sections of newspapers. You might even be inspired by TV shows, whether it’s a wildlife programme or drama, a travel show or even Top Gear, which often films in fascinating locations.

A trip to a good travel agent is also well worth the time to discuss your dreams. A specialist can suggest side trips to your main idea, advice on the ease or difficulty of what you are planning, and help to shape your dream into an achievable plan that goes over and above what you originally thought possible. For example, you may find it better value to go on a round-the-world itinerary to achieve your dreams or to take a cruise or rail trip.

3. Draw up a budget

Now that you know where you want to go, it’s time to benchmark the budget you will need to get the trip moving. Ask a travel agent to cost the trip for you or do some basic online comparison to check prices and build up a total. If you can afford the trip already then why not consider setting some dates now and getting it booked? Alternatively, set up an affordable savings plan to work towards your goal. In the past, I have cut out a picture of a destination I’ve dreamed of visiting and added a Blue Peter style totaliser to it on the fridge door.

Of course, with any budget you need to factor in all the extras such as spending money and food and drink costs, if they are not included in your trip. You should also factor in visa fees, vaccinations, investing in the right baggage, side trips and sightseeing to your overall budget considerations, as well as items such as getting to the airport, parking and travel insurance.

If the budget for your trip seems completely unachievable, why not consider working while you’re away, especially if you are planning a trip around the world? If you have certain skills, you may be able to find employers to help fund your trip and, in exchange for some work, you’ll visit the destination of your dreams. Research employment options online and consider work visas.

4. Get booking

Once you are in a position to book, compare prices online using a price comparison site such as TravelSupermarket for everything from flights to hotels, car rental to package holidays, dependent on what your dream trip consists of. Get prices from an online and high street agent and then make your booking.

For simple trips try to book an ATOL backed package for the ultimate protection. If you have a more complicated trip there are two options; piecing the trip together yourself and then ensuring you have end supplier failure cover OR using a specialist agent to piece the trip together for you, booking all items within 48 hours of each other to have it as a flight plus ATOL protected trip.

5. Start the countdown

As with any holiday, prepare a packing list and research all the little things to make your holiday easier, healthier and safer – from jabs to local customs, money to opening hours. Don’t forget to organise your affairs at home if you are going away for an extended period, such as bills, post and the security of your home.

Just as important is to plan how you will record your trip for posterity. You may wish to invest in a good camera or video equipment (make sure you know how to use it before travelling) or maybe a travelogue to record your adventures and keep safe mementos from your travels.

So where have I been?

I feel that I have set myself the goal of a trip of a lifetime many times now in my travelling career. From my very first trip as a teenager to Europe for the 1980 Oberammergau Passion Plays in Germany, to my first visit to China in the late 1980s; from travelling around Cuba in the 1990s, to my expedition to Chile and Argentina only four years ago; I am constantly planning and saving for places to visit and things to see and do.

In my head each of the bigger trips is my latest ‘holiday of a lifetime’, and I am currently planning an epic trip to the Antarctic and to see more of South America. And, of course, the classic round-the-world trip is still a major dream for me when I can take three months out to achieve it, including crossing either the Atlantic or Pacific by ship.

For now, I’m excited about February 2014 when I am hoping that it will be third time lucky for me to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. Fingers crossed. It’s one of my dream experiences.


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