I had a house guest all of last week, so I wasn’t able to make time to post. BUT! Last week, she and I decided on a girls’ trip for the summer and Mark and I began taking steps for one in the spring. I’m so excited to finally have not one but two international trips to plan for. After all, some find that the anticipation of travel is just as rewarding as the travel itself.
There are so many different types of travelers. Some prefer all inclusive, some like to wing it, some people would rather lie on a beach than do anything else on this earth. Not I. I’m a planner, through and through.
When Mark and I went on our first trip, it was a last-minute split decision where we had under 24 hours between deciding to take a flight and boarding a plane–not a lot of time to plan. (That’s also my favorite story to tell. Maybe another post, on another day, I’ll share it with you all.)
I just “you all”ed. Where IS my Southern?!
Anyway, we didn’t get to see all that we could have on that short trip, and heck–we didn’t even know about some of the more visited places in the area. Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before we made our way back there and saw what else was needed to be seen. At the same time, I learned a valuable lesson. Plan, plan, plan! There are several online resources I utilize so that I can maximize my research.
I’m a visual person, so the beginning of my travel planning always begins here. I’m fairly certain you’ve heard of the site, but few people utilize the collaboration feature on Pinterest. This, I have found, is the best way to bring up ideas with your travelling companions in the initial stages of the planning. You’ll get a good idea of what their priorities are for the trip, and it’s easier to ensure that you’re following through with ideas that aren’t just your own.
Even if you’re travelling alone, the most stunning and photogenic places to visit will be laid out for you upon a quick search of your destination. I start here and pin, pin, pin! like crazy. I’ll go through and follow the links at a later time; this stage is all about gathering resources.
MyMaps by Google
Not everyone knows to utilize the cousin to Google’s GPS navigation app, Google Maps. My Maps is super helpful to plan out an efficient trip where your time can be spent honing in on certain areas at a time. If you’re an android user, you’re in luck: days ago they updated the app for the first time in years.
I first map out all that I’ve deemed interesting from my initial research, then I try to use specific icons to note which markers are airports, the hotel in which I’m staying, and the places I’m no-doubt-about-it going to be visiting. The places I’m still unsure of, I map ou, too, because if there’s a “maybe see” across the street from a “must see,” why the hell not?
As you can see from the above link, I sometimes color code things by day in later planning, or I’ll use layers to separate certain things.
I couldn’t not include TripAdvisor. I know I’m not original in using this resource, but I do something that might be deemed a little different from most: I read the first couple of reviews, then I filter to read all of the “terrible” or “poor” reviews.
This might seem counterintuitive, but the fact is, there are a lot of terribly grumpy people on the internet. People go so far as to give National Parks 1-star reviews on Yelp. (And it’s actually pretty funny.) But, this way, I can take into consideration the very worst of things that could happen and either know that I’ll be okay with it, or I can plan accordingly. Many times, people’s gripes have to do with timing, under preparedness, a particular person giving poor quality of service, and things that you can plan to avoid. Other times, it’s just another tourist complaining he didn’t receive the creature comforts he’s used to. Those come with a good laugh (or some shame that you’re American–however you want to take it)
Disclaimer: I’ve never used an all-inclusive tour service, so I don’t know if I’d like it. I do know that I’ve gone on a cruise and done the all-inclusive resort thing (on separate trips) but it’s not my thing. I like wandering, I like locals, I like getting outside of the bubble, and I always feel like its much cheaper to go your own way.
That being said, I take advantage of their posted itineraries and research where they’re headed and by which means. These folks have already hand selected the most noteworthy things to see and do in a place.
Instagram: Search the hashtag for your destination, or now, you can search by place. I also will begin following Instagram accounts that are related to the area (i.e. @travel____ or @visit____) to not only add items to my itinerary, but really so i can get a little more excited every day. 🙂
Food Network: I don’t use this one as much as I used to, but Mark used to be OBSESSED with food challenges, so we would go and visit some of the featured restaurants on Man vs. Food or Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.
My Bucket List: I like to give the old bucket list a looksy, and consider if the place I’m going would be a good place to check one off. I wrote it over 5 years ago, so it needs to be updated, but it’s got some good ideas!
News.google.com: Make sure you’re aware of any issues you might run into at your destination, be it weather problems, political turmoil, or overcrowding due to a large event.
In all other planning, I’m a pen, paper, and paper book kind of gal, but I go full tech for travel planning. What are your steps for planning travel?