How to plan your next trip
I spend a lot of time researching trips. It’s how I fill the non-travel part of my year–it’s honestly something I love doing.
Recently a friend of mine, who is thinking about taking her first trip to Europe, asked how I planned my trips. I decided I would write it here in hopes that it might be able to help someone else.
My main go-to site is Trip Advisor, and I use it in a couple different ways. If I already have a country in mind, I will start by looking at the popular destinations, which can be found by entering the country’s name into the search field. For each destination, I’ll look at the pictures posted and scan the ‘things to do’ section.
The other thing I love to do is use the forum. I’ll search itineraries, ‘quaint cities,’ or just scan through the most recent posts. I’ll then take names of cities mentioned in the forums and google them to learn more. Because I’m a visual person, google image and Flickr are really helpful at this stage. I also balance my tripadvisor research with my other obsession, Lonely Planet guides.
For longer trips, I’ll start making a list of places I’d like to see in each country I’m visiting. Then I’ll start to put together an itinerary that makes sense for the amount of time I have. I don’t use the ‘things to do’ section to plan my days, but rather to give me a rough idea of how much time to allot for a certain destination.
After I determine where I think I want to go (knowing that this is always flexible and could change once I’m actually traveling), I focus on the logistics. I research entry requirements and visas, issues surrounding money – do I need new hundred-dollar bills? Are the ATMs safe? Are there even ATMs?
I also like to have a plan for transportation–should we take the bus, train, or fly between the destinations? I also book some of my accommodations in advance using Airbnb, Booking.com, and Trip Advisor (relying heavily on the reviews from the latter). Money, of course, often affects these decisions, but you can read about my cost saving tips here.
If there’s an activity or a sight I know I have to see, I will book this in advance (examples being Machu Picchu or Sagrada Familia). Mostly, though, I don’t like to have anything scheduled–I just like to explore on my own. I often miss most of the ‘must-see’ sights, as I’m much more interested in meeting locals and experiencing vibrant neighborhoods that get really get at the essence of a place.