The way I approach a trip is the same as how I report an article. It starts with questions. Where do I want to go? What do I want to do? How? When? Where to begin? Where to end? The “why” drives everything.
In both cases, it’s about the story I want to tell. It’s about the events, the narrative. It starts with preparation.
Where? Pick a place. I’ll pick Argentina. Where do you want to go?
Why? A giant South American country with cosmopolitan cities, mountains, waterfalls, culture. Why do you want to go to your destination? The food, the culture, the cities, the mountains, the shopping, the nightlife? Is there something you are hoping to find — some undiscovered treasure or a lost part of you? Or, are you looking to lose yourself for a while?
What? These are the specific places and things you want to see and do. I want to see Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, las Pampas, maybe Patagonia.
How? This is how you will get around: planes, trains, buses, cars. It’s how much it will cost and how you will pay for it. How you will prepare. How much time you will need — how much time you will have.
When? Time, weather, events, and money are all factors. Start with when you are able to go. Figure out the high and low seasons. What is the weather like in each, what activities are in season, and what do things cost? Consider any specific events that may take place, such as festivals. When can you afford to go?
Once you know the beginning and end, fill in the middle with the places you want to see and things you want to do.Do your research to answer these questions. At least gather the basic facts. Then, plot your path. Pick a starting point and an ending point. Sometimes this will be the same place, but it doesn’t have to be. There often is not much difference in price to fly into one city and fly out of another. That’s the smartest way to travel in Europe. In some countries it makes more sense to end up where you began and do a loop from place to place.
Once you know the beginning and end, fill in the middle with the places you want to see and things you want to do. Keep it basic at first and flesh it out closer to when you go. Say you’re starting in Barcelona and ending in Madrid, and you want to see Andalucía and the Alhambra in between. From Barcelona, take the overnight train to Sevilla; a day trip to Cordoba; trains and buses to Cadiz, Tarifa, or Gibraltar; another bus to the Costa del Sol; a bus to Ronda; a train to Grenada; then on to Madrid. Figure out how much time you want to spend in each place, how long it takes to get around. Be realistic about what you can do. If you run out of days, edit out a place or a day here and there.
That’s the basic story, the road map to follow. How much detail you plan out ahead is a matter of preference — play it by ear or plan everything in advance. But doing your homework before your trip will make things easier and give you more flexibility when you get there.