Updated: Oct 12
When is the best time to book your vacation? This is a question that is debated heavily by travelers and professional travel planners alike. As a woman traveler, I wanted to share my perspective with fellow solo women travelers.
Whenever you start planning your vacation the most important thing is that you are getting out there to explore. Don't let the feeling of having to have everything planned perfectly hold you back from traveling.
The three most important things whether you're taking a last minute trip or planning in advance are:
Your safety - are you considering all aspects of traveling safely, especially if you are a solo woman traveler?
Being respectful - have you taken the time to make sure you are traveling in a way that is respectful of the place you're visiting and the local culture?
Enjoying your time - is the last minute trip adding more joy than stress to your life?
For a more detailed timeline on planning your next international vacation, keep reading.
I wanted to share with you a free and easy to follow travel planning timeline from the perspective of a solo women traveler who has traveled for over a decade to countries around the world.
Professionally, I'm the Founder of Cherish Tours. We host women-only travel tours that support women in business around the world through tourism dollars. I've learned a lot in planning group trips to 4 different continents. Through this blog post, I'm shedding some light on the big question of "When should I start planning my next vacation?"
Here's my suggested timeline:
One Year Out -
A lot of travelers aren't beginning to plan their vacations a year out and to be honest, a year before the trip might even be too long. Certain airlines, hotels, and tour providers have not even begun selling a year in advance.
This is when I would advise you to start visualizing or brainstorming what you'd like your vacation to be. You can also start doing some initial research if you have a bucket list destination in mind.
At one year out I would also start considering your budget. This should give you enough time to create a travel savings fund or set aside the funds you need to be able to take your big trip.
Here are some examples of when booking something a year out may be necessary: Popular destinations or viral accommodations that sell out well in advance, popular cruise line routes, tour providers that have limited spots available on a trip, and lastly, flash sales or early bird specials.
8 Months Out -
For a big international trip, 8 months out, in my opinion, is a much more realistic timeframe to start planning your vacation. At 8 months out, I would have a destination selected and would suggest that you start doing in depth research on your preferred destination.
What does this in depth research look like?
As a professional in the travel world, I believe that this is the most important part of setting you up for success on your trip. Research should be inclusive of learning about the local culture and safety tips for the destination along with looking up things to do and where to stay.
On Cherish trips, every traveler receives an abundance of travel resources on our Exclusive Guest Page so that you can feel prepared for your experience in a new country without having to do any of the research.
But if I was planning my own vacation, here are the things I'd be looking into:
Local culture/how to be a respectful visitor - this includes culturally appropriate clothing
What cities, areas, towns, and sites do I want to visit while in X country?
Accommodations, best places to stay
Do I need to rent a car? How will I get around?
Weather and climate for the time of year I will be visiting
Safety tips and things to consider as a solo women traveler
Visa and travel requirements - 8 months out should also be when you begin to apply for any necessary visas or renew your passport if needed
The cost of traveling to X country/destination, what to budget for
Activities available - Do I need tickets in advance for tourist attractions, activities, or tours?
Are there any public holidays going on that I want to attend or that will cause closures?
6 Months Out -
During the research phase, you may get excited and start booking things as you start learning about your preferred destination. However, I would caution you to spend as much time as you need in the research phase to make sure you are choosing a destination and activities that match the kind of travel you'd like to do.
Once you're confident about your research and you've chosen your destination (and the specific places within that destination you'd like to see) then around 6 months out, start booking!
Book your flights, your accommodations, and any specific attraction that requires advanced tickets or reservations.
Around this time is also when I would start crafting my itinerary to make sure I'm booking everything in line with the time I have in a destination and am not double booking myself. Check out this podcast if you want to learn more about crafting your travel itinerary.
3 Months Out -
This is the part of the travel planning timeline that I find to be the most fun. This is when you can start getting into the nitty gritty of your itinerary and the things in your destination that interest you.
3 months out is an ideal time to start booking excursions! Disclaimer on this, certain destinations and more popular attractions may require you to book excursions, activities, and restaurants further in advance.
However, whenever I'm planning my own personal vacations, 3 months out is when I start to get excited and pay more specific attention to the trip. This is when, for me, all the details start to fall into place.
1 Month Out -
Your trip is almost here! The month leading up to your trip will simultaneously go by quickly while also feeling like "When the heck is my vacation going to start?"
By this time, you should have most of your itinerary already planned out and everything that requires an advance reservation booked. One month out is when you can start doing any last minute prep for your trip, this may include shopping for certain travel clothing items, figuring out what plug converter you need, and wrapping up things around your home.
Here is my one month out checklist:
Book pet sitting or house sitting (if needed)
Make copies of my passport and other important travel documents
Review my itinerary
Make a list of restaurants and/or bars that I want to check out
Write out a packing list
Order any new items I need to bring with me
Learn more about the conversion rate and how much cash I should bring - including learning about tipping culture
2 Weeks Before -
The more I travel, the more I've become a last minute packer but in an ideal world I would start getting myself ready about 2 weeks out from a trip. Your trip will be here before you know it and you want to make sure you have all of your essentials.
Set out your luggage, start gathering your travel essentials, refill any necessary prescriptions, download local maps, and start getting excited to leave!
Pro tip, around two weeks out I would highly suggest also following up with any of your local contacts to reconfirm items on your itinerary. This could include your transportation arrangements, excursion providers, or accommodations. If you've booked through online platforms, double check that you have all of your confirmation emails.
2 Days Before -
Your vacation is basically here! In order to not stress out about any last minute needs, I try my best to do any errands, final packing, and other travel prep at least two days before I head out.
Am I fully packed? Do I have everything I need?
Weigh your bag and make sure you know the weight limitations for ALL of your flights
Double check that I have my passport, visas, and any necessary copies
Alert my bank and credit card companies of my travel plans
Purchase an international phone plan (if needed)
Take another look at the weather
Leave a copy of my itinerary with my emergency contact
Withdraw some cash
Check my travel insurance information and/or purchase travel insurance
If you'd like to support Cherish further, you can buy travel insurance through our partner by clicking here
Sign up for STEP - STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which will alert you of any necessary travel updates or advisories
Take care of anything I need to at home
Triple check my boarding pass, itinerary, and other trip details
ENJOY YOUR VACATION!
Did you find this Travel Planning Timeline helpful?
You can also take advantage of another FREE resource from Cherish. This totally free Travel Cheat Sheet gives you inside access to over 60 free resources to help you plan your next dream vacation.
Download it for FREE here.