How to Get Started Planning Your Next Big Trip

Photo: Shutterstock; Illustration: Marissa Dickson/Thrillist

The pandemic derailed our 2020 travel plans, keeping us dreaming of being, well, anywhere else. But with vaccines rolling out across the country and around the world, traveling safely once again is starting to feel like a closer-than-ever reality. For now, you can channel your wanderlust into planning your next big getaway with these tips for helping you make the most out of future travel. Here’s how to start:

Start saving and set your budget 

Whether you’re planning to hitchhike and couch surf or cash in on all your credit card points to voyage out in luxury, any trip needs funds. And one upside to travel still being mostly grounded for now is that you have time to save up. Set a savings goal for a vacation fund, whether that’s tucking away extra change, $1/day, or a certain percentage of your paycheck, and stick with it. (If you’ve got a stimulus check or tax refund coming your way, consider directing some of that to your fund, too.) Watch that fund build and dream of how you’ll soon be cashing in on beachside piña coladas or a tour of the Eiffel Tour. 

One tried and true way to save some extra cash: Cook at home. Delete your takeout apps. Quit your meal subscription services and start adulting with recipes that both inspire you to save some coin and explore cuisines outside of your neighborhood. Cooks at any level can bake a tray of Healthy Chicken Enchiladas, which start with a can of Campbell’s® Healthy Request® Cream of Chicken Soup to help build flavor. Better yet, baked dishes like this are just as good leftover, so make a double batch to help you stick to home cooked meals through the week. 

Photo: Campbell's; Illustration: Marissa Dickson/Thrillist

Map out your dream itinerary over food

Remember the days when your calendar wasn’t just Zoom meetings and digital birthday parties? We’re almost back to reality! In the meantime, block some time to get to work on the perfect itinerary. Better yet, do it over food by cooking a quick one-pot recipe from Campbell’s® featuring flavors that evoke your dream destination — like spaghetti carbonara if you’re Italy-bound or chicken curry if you're thinking of visiting India. It’ll help tide you over until you can taste the real thing.

Then, chow down and get to work! Do some research to make sure you’re scheduling your trip to visit your preferred destination at the perfect time (do you want to see spring cherry blossoms in Japan? Or enjoy the fall foliage in the Northeast?). Make sure that time is also one you can request off from work and that there are accommodations available within your budget. Set a timeline, sites you want to see, restaurants you want to visit, hotels or homes you may want to stay at, etc. As your trip gets closer, regroup for another itinerary planning meal, to solidify plans to make sure every day you’re away is as good as can be. Use a tool like Google Maps to flag and star restaurants, accommodations, sites and more you want to visit for easy access on the road.

One bright spot of the pandemic for travelers: Virtual tourism! Tourism boards all over the world have compiled interactive, digital experiences to get you dreaming of globetrotting again, and help inspire your perfect itinerary. Hike the Great Wall of China from the comfort of your couch, island hop and dive deep into Greek culture with Greece From Home, or see 30 iconic World Heritage Sites with the help of Google Earth. Read up on what it’s like to travel via RV and consider which mode of transit will suit your wanderlust best.

Photo: Shutterstock; Illustration: Marissa Dickson/Thrillist

Book for the future and be adaptable

Patience and unpredictability were two major takeaways from 2020. As these “unprecedented times” continue, we need to remember that even future plans aren’t set in stone, and changes, delays, or interruptions to travel are all very possible. Many borders are still closed to American passport holders, and most U.S. cities have various and ever-changing levels of lockdown restrictions. Live in the moment, looking forward to touching down in your dream destination when the universe makes it OK. Travel insurance, which is included with several premium credit cards, is never a bad idea, either.

Use an online tool to track the cheapest times to fly or flights that fit your budget. And be aware of cancellation and rebooking policies. Some hotels are offering full refunds, while others will hold a permanent deposit. If you’re staying in a vacation rental, hosts choose their cancellation policies, which can range from a full refund 24 hours before the reservation to a stricter 50% refund up to 14 days before the stay was scheduled to start. Every airline has its own unique (and sometimes difficult to understand) cancellation or rebooking policy, so book with major airlines that not only have more flights to switch to, if necessary, but that offer complimentary rebooking. Currently, several major U.S. airlines are offering free change services on flights booked through March 31, 2021, but note that those policies may change.

In the meantime, look to stories of resilience, particularly from top destinations, for inspiration and motivation to keep staying safe and patient. Use a can of Campbell’s® Tomato Soup to cook up a pot of Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya while browsing the float houses in New Orleans, in which traditional parade floats were reimagined at home for a safe and exciting Mardi Gras 2021. Lockdown won’t last forever. Keep scrolling through travel videos, following your favorite travel ’grammers and know you’ll get back out to exploring the world soon enough.