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How to Plan a Trip in 7 Steps

Planning a solo trip can be a stressful experience, especially if you are doing it for the first time. Having planned literally hundreds of solo trips over the course of nine years, I have now mastered a failure-proof formula that makes sure I have a successful trip on which I don’t get scammed, save as much money as possible, and have a positive impact, not only on myself but also the places I visit.

Here are the 7 steps to plan a fabulous solo trip:

1. Pick Your Destination

I found this pagoda in Myanmar via Kayak Explore!

The world is your oyster! One of my favorite sources of inspiration is Instagram, where I save beautiful places that I want to go. Then I check it when planning a trip.

Kayak Explore is another great platform if you are open to visiting destinations that are under the radar. I used it to plan a monthlong trip to Myanmar a few years back, and ended up in unique locations across the country that I’d otherwise not have known of.

2. Climate, Seasons, and Holidays

tiu kelep

The next thing to consider is the weather, which you can easily find out by googling. There are often tables that show you what the rainfall and average temperature is like, to help you make an informed decision in terms of the best time to go.

I love traveling during shoulder seasons, when the weather is still great but there are far fewer people. I wouldn’t totally reject the idea of traveling during the off season, either. Southeast Asia, for example, offers lush jungles and lower prices, as well as room for serendipity, during rainy season. All it requires is a little bit of research to decide where you want to go and the activities you’d like to do. Note: In most parts of the world, that week between Christmas and New Year is pretty much the most expensive time to visit.

Make sure to research local holidays and plan your trip accordingly — the last thing you want is to land in Bali only to find out that it’s Nyepi, when the locals observe silence for a day, which means absolutely no business will be open. On the other hand, if you are interested in experiencing certain local celebrations, like the Lunar New Year in Vietnam, make sure to check the dates, as it varies every year. In short, you may find yourself wanting to avoid or build your trip around certain local holidays, so this is a crucial part of your research.

3. Budget and Time Frame

white sands national park
A month in New Mexico

The next things on the list are your budget and time frame. I’d suggest spending more time planning for a budgeted or short trip, but leaving room for serendipity for a longer trip.

When I first went to Southeast Asia by myself nine years ago, I arrived in Thailand with a one-way ticket and had nothing booked, not even my first night of accommodation. I was rich in time, not in money, so I had the luxury of traveling slowly, basing my moves on others’ recommendations.

Most people have a shorter time frame, so work that into your calculations in terms of how many places you want to visit (and how much it costs to get to them), how much are you willing to pay for accommodation, and of course, the activities you want to do. Try not to squeeze in too many back-to-back activities, because you’ll want to remain relatively flexible for life happening, i.e bad weather, canceled tours, and so on.

Most destinations offer free walking tours, so definitely make use of that. In fact, they are my favorite way to kickstart my visit to a new destination, as you can discover new spots that you might want to return to later, as well as meet other solo travelers.

4. Itinerary

death valley national park in winter
I have 46 (and counting) posts on California, my home state, on the blog

My biggest tip for building your trip itinerary is to find a travel blog. A personal blog written by somebody who has a lot of experience in a destination is possibly the best resource you can have, because you are going to get more personalized recommendations, honest feedback in terms of what’s cool and what’s not, and most likely a complete itinerary that will save you so much time.

Pinterest and Instagram are other great places to source things to do, both popular and off the beaten path. If you are into photography, you will find lots of inspiration! A tip for Instagram: you will get a lot of influencer posts on the location tab, but focus on the major reposting accounts, because they will lead you to the photographer who took the photo, and you will likely find a bunch of really good tips on the destination on their personal accounts.

5. Flights

Do your homework!

Once your itinerary is built, you will know which airport you need to fly into (and depart from). There are a few ways to search for cheap flights. I love using Momondo, which allows you to input multiple legs of a journey and calculate the cheapest option with different airlines, and offers a least-CO2 option, which I really appreciate.

You can also go to Google Flights to gauge pricing based on your traveling dates. You may also enable the “track prices” function to get notified via email whenever the price fluctuates in one direction or another. If you have flexibility in your schedule, look into the date grid, in order to piece together the best possible round-trip flight and save money.

Another trick is to book in the country’s local language. While this doesn’t always work, it’s worth a try. I was able to book the exact same flight from Berlin, Germany, to Johannesburg, South Africa, for half the price, by booking on the German booking website. Talk about score!

6. Accommodation

rumah pohon, nusa penida

I find this a very exciting part of planning a trip: where to lay your head each night. Back in my backpacking days, it was all about finding the cheapest possible accommodation. But now that I have a little bit more of a budget to work with, I tend to mix in cool boutique hotels and unique Airbnbs, which often becomes an experience on its own.

Start with Google, which will aggregate a whole bunch of places at different price points. I also recommend Momondo, Booking.com, Expedia.com, and Agoda.com — but a lot of times, it’s better to just contact the property directly for cheaper prices.

On that note, I’d like to highlight the importance of considering locally owned accommodations, so that your money stays in the destination. Staying in foreign-owned, all-inclusive resorts often means that most of the money leaves the country. Be a responsible tourist and make sure that the locals actually benefit off of our visit. Spread the wealth around, so that people who run small businesses are able to make money as well — this is the crux of sustainable tourism.

7. Prepare for Landing

Ready for a new adventure

Finally, make sure you are fully prepared for the day you land. Read up on the scams and annoyances so that you are set from the moment you arrive at the airport. For this, there are many message boards and travel blogs where people share their experiences and tips on transportation costs. This often-forgotten step only takes 10-15 minutes, and I never regretted doing this research for myself. You can’t always count on that airport Wi-Fi working, and unfortunately, you can’t be sure that people are trustworthy — on the contrary, it’s one of the best places to be a scammer, because so many people land in an airport without knowing what to expect.

I also try to get a local SIM card at the airport (unless during my research I find that they overcharge) and draw money out of the ATM there, so that I am already connected before I leave the airport. Having a confident start to your trip makes such a huge difference!

And there you have it! This is my favorite way to handle trip planning, and I repeat the process for each place that I want to go.

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World's Best

Melbourne To Adelaide Road Trip: The Best 4-Day Great Ocean Road Itinerary

As you drive further south, you will pass through the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch, possibly the most photographed spot along the cliff-facing road. The arch has been build as a tribute to World War I servicemen and it’s a good spot to stretch your legs.

Have Lunch In Lorne

Alternatively, head on into Lorne, another few minutes further down the road and check out the charming galleries, local boutiques and of course, Lorne Pier. I had lunch here at HAH Lorne Beach, small sustainable café by the beach serving up incredible homemade food and also rents out surfboards, bikes and SUPs.

Hot tip: If you have been on the lookout for koalas, the best place to have a guaranteed spotting is at Kennett River!

Stay overnight in either Lorne or Apollo Bay. I stayed in the later. This will get you a little faster to the 12 Apostels the next morning.

There is a nice and unexpected Italian place called Casalingo Italian in Apollo Bay, which I can highly recommend for dinner.

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World's Best

The Best Accommodation In Port Douglas To Book For Your Next Trip

Gateway to the rugged rainforests, white sandy beaches and colourful reefs of Northern Queensland, Port Douglas is any holidaymakers dream location. But, a memorable location deserves top-class accommodation to match.

So, without further ado, here’s where to find the best accommodation in Port Douglas. 

Why stay in Port Douglas?

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach holiday or a fun-filled adventure, Port Douglas is the type of place that panders to every kind of traveller. Here are a few things that aren’t to be missed while you’re in Port Douglas:

  • Take a stroll along Four Mile Beach, the largest beach in Port Douglas that treats you to endless pristine sands and turquoise waters. Plus, Four Mile Beach is one of the safest beaches to swim in Port Douglas.
  • Cuddle a koala at Wildlife Habitat, an award-winning and eco-certified wildlife sanctuary where you can feed kangaroos, have your photo taken with a koala or catch a glimpse of the elusive cassowary. 
  • Enjoy a day trip to the Daintree Rainforest, one of the oldest rainforests in the world, and home to the “modern-day dinosaur”, the cassowary. Despite their size, they can be tricky to spot in the wild.
  • Admire the view from Flagstaff Hill,  which sits on top of a hill just outside of Port Douglas town and gives you a view of where the rainforest meets the ocean. 
  • Learn to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Where better than to get acquainted with the creatures of the sea than the world’s most famous coral reef?
  • Shop till you drop on Macrossan Street, Port Douglas’ main street, full of upmarket boutiques, independent eateries and local art galleries. 
  • Explore Mossman Gorge, home to smooth granite boulders, crystal clear rivers and acres of untouched ancient rainforest. Wander along one of the many trails or take a dip in the designated wild swimming spots. 

Where to stay in Port Douglas?

Port Douglas is only small, but it offers up a few distinct areas when it comes to choosing where to stay. Let’s explore! 

#1 Four Mile Beach (South End)

Perhaps one of the main drawcards to this beachside town, the southern end of Four Mile Beach is home to some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts in Port Douglas. If you stay here, you’ll be a little further out of town, but who needs restaurants and cafes when you have the sun, sand and sea right on your doorstep? It’s quiet and still easy to reach the town centre within a few minutes drive.

#2 Macrossan Street

If you’re wondering where to stay in Port Douglas, Macrossan Street is just about as central as you can get. The street itself is home to plenty of tempting shops and delicious eateries, but a few streets back you’ll find a mixture of accommodation including Port Douglas apartments and holiday rentals. 

#3 Port Douglas Road

Connecting the town centre and the south end of Four Mile Beach, this stretch of road is home to some of the larger Port Douglas resorts. With views over the ocean and easy access to the pristine sands, accommodation doesn’t come cheap here, but it’s more than worth it for the location alone.

#4 Greater Port Douglas

There’s plenty to explore when you head out of the main town, like Mossman Gorge or the Daintree Forest. Accommodation in these areas tends to be few and far between but is ideal for those looking for a bit of peace and quiet. You won’t find big-name hotels in Greater Port Douglas, but you will find a good selection of Airbnbs in Port Douglas’ outer reaches.

Best accommodation in Port Douglas 

Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort

Surrounded by tropical gardens, two hectares of saltwater lagoons, and just a hop skip and a jump away from the much-loved Four Mile Beach, the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort is the quintessential Port Douglas experience.

Boasting an impressive 5-stars, you can enjoy pool-side drinks service, spacious suites with private balconies and a choice of four on-site restaurants. 

  • Location: Port Douglas Road
  • Price from: A$450
  • Sleeps: 2-8
  • What makes it unique? The onsite restaurant, Harrisons by Spencer Patrick, is one of the most nationally-awarded restaurants in Port Douglas. 

Peppers Beach Club

Sitting just outside of the town centre, and a short walk away from four miles of white-washed sand, Peppers Beach Club is another fantastic choice when it comes to accommodation in Port Douglas.

This luxury resort has been described as casually elegant, with bright open spaces, natural decor and a lagoon-style swimming pool. And, once you’ve finished sipping Mojitos by the pool, you can order a single or couples massage in the comfort of your own room.

  • Location: Just off Macrossan Street.
  • Price from: A$450
  • Sleeps: 2
  • What makes it unique? No need to ditch the gym while you’re holidaying in Port Douglas, Peppers beach club has a fully-equipped gym on-site.

Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort and Spa

Another contender as one of the most deluxe hotels in Port Douglas, the Sea Temple Resort and Spa offers up 5-star luxuries to boot. Accommodation ranges from spacious double suites with swim-out pools to beachside villas with private hot tubs, and all guests have priority access to the on-site spa and 18-hole golf course.

Coupled with the hotel’s highly regarded restaurant and fitness centre, there’s not much reason to leave this luxury pool resort in Port Douglas during your getaway.

  • Location: Port Douglas Road. 
  • Price from: A$500
  • Sleeps: 2 – 8 
  • What makes it unique? You’ll only find swim-out pools at a small handful of other Port Douglas resorts. 

Shantara Resort Port Douglas

A mere 450-yards from the popular Four Mile Beach, Shantara Resort offers up a luxury home-away-from-home in Port Douglas.

Except this home features two swimming pools that encircle the cabanas, private balconies overlooking the ocean and a day spa offering personalised treatments for you and your partner. Oh, and did I mention that it’s adults-only? 

  • Location: Just of Macrossan Street. 
  • Price from: A$550
  • Sleeps:
  • What makes it unique? Two heated pools make this one of the best Port Douglas hotels for a winter getaway.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve

As far as Port Douglas hotels go, Thala Beach Lodge harbours one of the most relaxed atmospheres you’ll find. A 15-minute drive south of Port Douglas, Thala Beach Lodge is perched on a secluded coastal headland and enveloped by 140 acres of rugged rainforest.

Made entirely from timber, the boutique bungalows on wooden stilts blend seamlessly into their surroundings, while the balconies are the perfect place to spot native wildlife. You won’t find a man-made swimming pool here, but you will find plenty of croc-free rivers and hidden waterfalls to enjoy. Just ask the friendly staff to point you in the right direction.

  • Location: Oak Beach 
  • Price from: A$400
  • Sleeps: 2-4
  • What makes it unique? One of just a handful of eco-friendly hotels in Port Douglas that operate sustainably and with environmental sensitivity.  

Reef Resort Villas

It may be high up on the list of Port Douglas’ luxury accommodation, but the Reef Resort Villas strike a perfect balance between opulence and affordability.

Made up of a series of self-contained villas, each with its own outdoor space, fully-equipped kitchen and laundry facilities, this is the perfect getaway for large groups looking for a bit of freedom. 

  • Location: Port Douglas Road
  • Price from: A$225
  • Sleeps: 2-6
  • What makes it unique? The onsite tour desk is ideal if you want to take any trips to the Great Barrier Reef or Daintree Rainforest. 

Coconut Grove 

With Coconut Grove you get the best of both worlds: easy access to all of the shops and restaurants that you could need, while still being a moment’s walk away from the expansive Four Mile Beach.

Choose from affordable balcony apartments with views across Macrossan Street and to the mountains beyond, or treat yourself to the penthouse suite, complete with rooftop terrace, private plunge pool and unbeatable views of the rainforest.

  • Location: Macrossan Street
  • Price from: A$650
  • Sleeps: 2-4
  • What makes it unique? Choose a penthouse villa for unforgettable sunset views over Port Douglas and you’re very own plunge pool.

Niramaya Villas and Spa

If you’re looking for something a little more lowkey, away from the crowds of visitors, but still with a hint of luxury, Niramaya Villas is some of the most peaceful accommodation in Port Douglas. Despite its laid-back atmosphere, this holiday complex is still within walking distance of Four Mile Beach and Port Douglas’ vibrant high street.

Designed to take you back to nature, Niramaya gives guests the choice of exclusive villas set within 15 hectares of rainforest gardens and natural-esque infinity pools. 

  • Location: Four Mile Beach (South end)
  • Price from: A$1200
  • Sleeps: 2 – 10
  • What makes it unique? Keen golfers? Niramaya partners with the Mirage Country Club to provide guests with discounted rates for golf packages. 

Port Douglas Peninsula Boutique Hotel

If you’re keeping an eye out for Port Douglas’ luxury accommodation then you’ve found your match with the Port Douglas Peninsula Boutique Hotel. Every suite is furnished with chic scandi-beach decor and a spacious private balcony, ideal for sipping on a cocktail and watching the sun go down behind the palms.

Sat right on the waterfront and just a stone’s throw away from Macrossan Street, everything is within easy walking distance too! Ditch the car for the week and enjoy a few days of pure indulgent opulence. 

  • Location: Just off Macrossan Street. 
  • Price from: A$450
  • Sleeps:
  • What makes it unique? If you’re looking for a luxury grown-up getaway, you’ll find no kids at this adults-only hotel.

NOMAD Luxe Apartment 

What can only be described as an adult’s playground, the NOMAD luxe apartment is the perfect secret getaway in Port Douglas. Sat right in the heart of town, it’s just a 30-second walk to your morning coffee spot or sunset date-night restaurant.

Walk a little further and you’ll be at the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, where you can check out the boats of the rich and famous or wine and dine in luxury. Outside of the one-bedroom apartment with a fully equipped kitchen, guests can enjoy a communal swimming pool and barbeque area during those summer evenings.

  • Location: Macrossan Street
  • Price from: A$300
  • Sleeps: 2
  • What makes it unique? Tropical decor sweeps through this holiday rental in Port Douglas, with a verandah and daybed for extra comfort. 

By The Sea Port Douglas

Who doesn’t love an affordable getaway in a sought-after location? With a fully-equipped kitchen, central location and sea views, By The Sea is a great option if you’re travelling on a budget.

It’s made up of a range of self-contained apartments, perfect for doting couples or large families. If you’ve got a little more change to play with, treat yourself to a Superior Apartment with views into the rainforest or across the Coral Sea.

  • Location: Macrossan Street 
  • Price from: A$150
  • Sleeps: 2 – 6
  • What makes it unique? Compared to other accommodation in Port Douglas, the Archipelago Studio Apartments offer up some of the most affordable rates going.

Tequila Sunset Airbnb 

Nestled between the eclectic bars and upmarket restaurants of Macrossan Street, you’ll find the perfectly humble Tequila Sunset Apartment. Adorned with colourful murals and tropical prints, this is one of those holiday rentals in Port Douglas that brings the outside in.

Leave the car in the undercover parking and head out for a day of exploration on foot: Four Mile Beach and the Crystalyacht Marina are just a short walk away. Even better, double-ended windows and a private balcony give you the perfect spot to wind down with a glass of cold wine at the end of the day.

  • Location: Macrossan Street
  • Price from: A$250
  • Sleeps: 2
  • What makes it unique? The fully-equipped kitchen goes above and beyond with its appliances that include an ice machine, coffee maker, cocktail shaker and blender! 

Mossman Gorge Bed and Breakfast

If breathing in some fresh countryside air is at the top of your priority list, then a stay in Mossman Gorge Bed and Breakfast won’t leave you disappointed. Tucked away in the luscious rainforest, the stilted wooden accommodation gives you an unbeatable opportunity to get up close and personal with Northern Queensland’s unique wildlife.

To make up for the short drive to the beach, you’ll find a communal salt-water swimming pool, along with living and dining areas. This is the perfect place to relax, unwind and reset. 

  • Location: Mossman Gorge
  • Price from: A$105
  • Sleeps: 1-3 
  • What makes it unique? Enjoy the serenity of Mossman Gorge National Park while being a short drive away from the beaches of Port Douglas.

Cow Bay Homestay B&B

A few kilometres north of Port Douglas, and set deep in the Daintree Rainforest is the adorable Cow Bay Homestay. It’s the kind of place that exudes relaxing vibes as soon as you enter; soft wooden tones, natural touches and views into the rainforest canopy make this impossible to dislike.

That being said, there’s still plenty of activities to do in the area, like a hike through the rainforest, wild swimming in the croc-free creeks, and zip wiring through the canopy. 

  • Location: Cow Bay
  • Price from: A$220
  • Sleeps: 2
  • What makes it unique? Located away from the hustle and bustle of Port Douglas, with the secluded Cow Beach just moments away.

From luxury resorts to cosy homestays, accommodation in Port Douglas comes in all shapes and sizes.

Hopefully, this rundown of the best hotels, resorts and homestays will help you figure out where to stay in Port Douglas, so you can make unforgettable memories in Northern Queensland.