Any Muslim who can afford it and is in good health must perform Hajj. it's an obligation not an option. This once-in-a-lifetime experience for most Muslims requires the utmost preparation and planning beforehand.
Below are some tips to help you start preparing today.
1. Ask Allah
Say Bismillah (In the Name of Allah) and make Dua (supplication) to Allah to help you find the resources and time to perform Hajj this coming year. Only He can make it happen.
2. Discuss vacation time
If you work or have other obligations, you must ensure you get the three weeks to one month off needed to perform Hajj. Check the exact dates of Hajj in the coming year, find out exactly what days you need off (once again, you can talk to your travel agent) and talk to your employer or anyone else who needs to be informed about your plans to give you time off.
3. Start saving up and shopping around
Hajj is an investment. You need to shop around to find a travel agent who can give you the best deal. This is where your meetings with others who have performed Hajj can help.
Look for a Hajj package through a travel agent who offers a wide selection of "packages" for Hajj and who can help you with other details relating to Hajj (i.e. immigration, leading a group through the Hajj, etc.).
4. Start asking about the legal requirements
You need a number of legal documents to perform Hajj.
You will need a visa to go to Saudi Arabia. Find out how long before you have to apply for this, what documents to prepare for it, etc. Make sure your passport has not expired. Be sure to get it, or any other paperwork relating to your residency in your country to be complete before you leave. Start today by calling your local Saudi Arabian embassy to ask about the requirements and preparing the necessary paperwork. Or you can also ask your travel agent (some who offer Hajj packages also help arrange immigration matters for those customers taking their Hajj package).
5. Read about how to do Hajj
There are a number of guidebooks on how to perform Hajj. One of them is A Handbook of Umra & Hajj by Sarwar Alam Raz (which is also available online).
Know the different rituals of Hajj, how and when they are performed, as well as the things to avoid and things that are recommended to do during Hajj.
6. Keep yourself physically fit
Hajj is one pillar of Islam that is physically demanding. Having to walk in the heat, running from Safa to Marwa, these are just some of the rituals someone performing Hajj will have to do.
Start watching what you eat and walking 30 minutes a day or getting involved in any other kind of Islamically permissible activity you enjoy to keep you physically ready for when you go to Hajj, if Allah wills it. Also, get a medical checkup.
7. Make an appointment with those who have made Hajj
Make a formal appointment by phone or in person with someone who has performed Hajj. If you are planning to meet them in person, ask them to bring their Ihram and other things they used during Hajj. Use this meeting to get tips and practical advice from them which you won't find in most guidebooks.
8. Read the Diary of a person who has performed Hajj
If you know of no one who lives near you who has performed Hajj, read the diary of a Hajji by Ishaq Zahid (it's online and it's free!) to get the inside story on Hajj from someone who has performed it.
NB: Remember us in your dua'az when you make Hajj inshaAllah.
Other useful links:
Handbook for Hajj and Umrah or BUY IT!