When I first married my husband, I got a bad case of the travel bug. Previously, I had gone abroad several times with school in groups, but I wasn’t a big fan of huge tour buses and groups of people being herded around like cattle. I wanted to be off the beaten path! Doing what I wanted! With my best friend!
Except… it’s daunting, isn’t it? What if I plan the wrong thing? What if something goes wrong?
I live my life in such a way that I never want to feel like I’m missing out on something. It’s not the best way to live all the time, but I do believe that when it comes to travel, planning as much as possible and then allowing yourself time to explore is my best option. I just never want to be across the world thinking, “What is there to do around here?” or worse, “I’m bored.” The horror! I want to know what there is to do, and then decide whether or not I want to do it. And leave some room to chance.
Lucky for us, we are in the Information Age. There has never been a point in time where there has been MORE resources and information to help you to do the thing you want to do. Anything. Still, though, many people shy away from planning their own epic trips because of that fear. I often get the question, “How do you plan such a huge/elaborate/long trip?” The short answer is: I’m passionate. I LOVE THIS STUFF. I’m organized. I research the sh*t out of it.
So what resources do I use? It really depends on where you want to go. For instance, I know that if I’m going to Hawaii, I’ll just download the relevant “Hawaii Revealed” app for my iPhone. But I know that from experience. However, there are some common resources that I use nearly every single time.
- Pinterest. This is my first stop. I not only use Pinterest for places I’m definitely going, but I create boards for locations that I think I *might* want to visit, and then make my decision based on what pins come up. You kind of just go down the rabbit hole. Pinterest can be very misleading. Sometimes things are labeled wrong, and they are most definitely PhotoShopped from time to time. If I see that purple tree pin one…more…time…
- TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is a great tool for figuring out what awesome things are in what areas. Be sure to read the one star reviews. Sometimes things get ranked lower because of weather, or even because it’s just not something that particular person was into. It does help you figure out other locations you might be interested in, and then you can go back to Step 1 and pin!
- Guide Books. I don’t always use them, but they’re also helpful for finding locations. I’ll usually look on Amazon for the highest rated book. Then highlight all your points of interest and head on to Step 4.
- Google Maps. I have an entire post on why Google Maps are useful. But this is where their usefulness starts. Map all of your pins and points of interest on a Google Map. This will help you figure out where your pins are congregating. This is where you’ll be booking accommodation later. 😉
- Google Sheets. This is where I get Extra Type A. I make a spreadsheet for every trip. I have a column for each day, and the information I need for each day. You should be able to ballpark the amount of days you want to stay in each place based on the pins and points of interest you have from the previous steps.
Here’s what I usually put in there:
- Confirmations. Do I have to call someone to confirm anything? Transport? Tour?
- Money. Do I owe money? How much?
- Accommodation. Where am I staying? What’s the address? What time is check in? Do they have laundry facilities?
- Transport. How am I getting to the next place? How long does it take?
- Budget. Am I keeping track of the budget?
- Flights. Time. Confirmation code. Airport.
- Misc. Visa requirements or process? Anything special you want to remind yourself.
My first spreadsheet was super intense. Every row was a half hour time slot. I even had it color coded. Red was timed and paid for. Blue was something we were doing that day under no time constraints. Green was stuff in that general vicinity that we could do if we got bored. I’ve eased up a bit. 😉 Since I use Google Maps so heavily now anyway, I don’t usually write them all out anymore, but it’s nice to know what’s around you! I usually print this before I go and keep it with me!
So there you have it. The best part about this, is you can do all of this stuff without booking a vacation at all. I do bits and pieces of this for fun sometimes just to see where I would go if I were to book a trip. It actually can help you decide which place to go to. Especially if you have specific time constraints.
What are your go-to resources for trip planning?