I know a lot of you have your trip planning methods down to an art, but I know some of you get overwhelmed at the idea of planning a trip from scratch or just don’t know how to begin sorting out all of the logistics. But I promise you, as long as you don’t put too much pressure on yourself, the research and the trip daydreaming can be almost as fun as the trip itself! Seriously! In the hopes that this might help add a little inspiration to your trip planning, here are some of my methods (and a little of my madness) to help you plan your next adventure!
- I keep a bucket list of places I’d like to go, and you’re probably not going to be surprised when I tell you it’s SUPER long! Any time I come across a trip that sounds like fun I add it to the list. So whenever I have the vacation time, or convince my husband that we’re due for a getaway, I have this list to reference already.
- It should also come as no surprise that I LOVE reading blogs. In general, I find that bloggers are pretty darn good at taking pictures, finding out the cool spots, and providing tons of travel inspiration. And I’m not just talking about travel bloggers – some of my biggest sources of travel inspiration come from fashion bloggers, food bloggers, and lifestyle bloggers. I use Bloglovin’ as a way to save the travel guides or photo diaries from other bloggers to easily reference later.
- Once I’ve narrowed down a few places that are at the top of my list, I think about what kind of trip I want to have. Has work been stressful and I’m just dying to get some R&R? Am I in need of an adventure? Or am I in the mood to explore a new city?
- From there I think about the weather. If I’m not traveling too far, I probably have a good idea of what destinations are suitable for that time of year. But if I’m planning a trip in another country it’s definitely worth googling “best time to visit…” to avoid rainy season, hurricane season, etc.
- If I still haven’t made up my mind yet, I’ll see how the flight prices vary between a couple cities. Lately I’ve been using google flights to seek out the cheapest airline, but there are some smaller airlines that never seem to find themselves on booking sites. So if you are aware of a small local airline (i.e. Wow, Sun Country, etc.) that flies out of your city, I’d look on their website too. You can find my tips for booking the cheapest flight here.
Now, for the fun part!
- Once I’ve figured out where I’m going I sort of become obsessed with learning as much about the place as I can. If there is a movie filmed or set there I’ll rent it (see my list of movie wanderlust in Europe here). If there’s a good book centered around the destination I’ll start reading it. I always find it nice to know a little about the people, the culture, the food, etc. before I go. to get the most out of the trip.
- I also LOVE Pinterest. It’s such a great source for travel tips and everything is so visually pleasing. I often find better travel articles about a destination with there search engine than I do searching on google. I like to create a private board with articles I might want to read later or to save pictures of the places I want to visit when I get there.
- My other big source for trip research is Trip Advisor. It’s a great place to get reviews on where to stay, what to do, where to eat, and transportation tips. This often helps sort out what to skip, what are must sees, and how many days to spend in each place.
- In my Europe Travel Tip post, I mentioned that I like to book a mix of city and small town if it’s a longer vacation. I received a comment on my blog (thanks, Sally B.!) who recommended planning trips with a mix of big city, small town, and water (ocean or lake). I think this is a great way to plan a trip, it’s kind of a trip trifecta that will satisfy all of your vacation desires.
Okay, it’s time to book!
- Once I’m feeling like this is going to be the trip of a lifetime I book the flights! Yay!
- From there I book accommodation. I know some people like to fly by the seat of their pants and book the night of to have flexibility in case they want to stay longer in places. I’m sure this is a fun way to travel, but it can backfire on you too! So, if you want to be sure you’ll have a place to sleep at night then be sure to book ahead of time. If I don’t have any suggestions from bloggers, or from trip advisor, I’ve found I really like the layout of the booking.com website for comparing properties. Even if you prefer to book directly with a hotel or B&B, it is still a nice source for looking at all your options. Airbnb is another great place to look for accommodations and can get you incredible deals in prime locations.
- While you don’t need to be too rigid on what you’re going to be doing each day, it does pay to think ahead about certain things. Here are the top things I like to have planned before I go:
- Museums, exhibits, and major sites – I check what days they are open and their hours, so I don’t show up when they are closed.
- Restaurants – if you’re a foodie or there is a special place you want to try – it’s definitely a good idea to make reservations ahead of time. If you aren’t able to call internationally before you go, try to remember to stop by early in your trip to make reservations or if you’re at a hotel have your concierge call and book for you when you arrive.
- Transportation – if you need train tickets or a rental car it’s best to book well in advance.
- Tickets – shows, concerts, or anything that can sell out is also worthwhile to book ahead of time.
Other Helpful things to do before you go
- Create a budget – think through what activities you plan to do, how much you’ll spend on meals, etc. The week before you go cut back on a few things like lunch or going out for dinner. This will help pad your trip money and I can guarantee you’ll be glad you have it!
- If you’re going to be driving, save yourself a little stress and have maps to your destination printed or saved on your phone. I have a post on how to create google maps here.
- Planning activities that allow you to meet other travelers or talk to locals is usually a great idea. Whether you sign up for a cooking class on local food, a foodie walking tour, a bike tour, or a wine tour, you may find the interactions with new people to be some of the best moments of your trip!
If I can offer one last tip of advice I would say the most important thing to remember when planning your trip is to be true to YOU. Think about what kind of trip will allow you to have the most fun. Don’t book activities just because they are ‘must sees’ if you know they will bore you.
That said, live a little and try something new too! Step out of your comfort zone. After all, new experiences are what we’re after when we travel, right?! Try new foods, don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself, and live in the moment!
What other tips do you have for planning the perfect trip? I’d love to hear!