How hard can it be to plan your trip, you ask? Well, if you are willing to do the effort yourself and be proud of the results, be ready to do some research.
Not up for it? If you don’t want to ask a travel agency, your best bet is to download TripIt, a mobile app that creates personalised travel itineraries and keeps you up to date on changes for a stress-free trip.
Are you committed to plan the trip yourself, with no outside help? Well, OK then, let’s get to work!
First of all, before you can start planning, you must have completed two important steps:
- you have already chosen when and where to go on holidays
- you have already checked the cost of the transportation to get there, in that specific period. And you’re happy with the price. If you haven’t done it yet, simply run a search by using online travel agencies like Skyscanner, Google Flights, Momondo or a mobile app like Hopper.
Now, are you visiting a specific town for a specific number of days? Or do you intend to cover as much as you can of a country? Maybe even more countries on one single trip? Whatever the case, don’t rush into booking your stays just yet. Rather, read below.
We dedicate afternoons on end in the planning part of all our trips but you can cut it short. We nevertheless do want to recommend a few crucial steps we think you shouldn’t miss:
- Make a list of the must-visit sites: you can do so by cross-checking the information you find online about a whole country, a region within that country or a city (type on Google “What to do in…?” to have a few ideas). If you’ve already bought a travel guide, check what they recommend as top sights. You can even ask questions on travel forums and on social media platforms.
- If applicable (for museums, concert venues, historical sights, famous eateries etc.) check their accessibility and opening times and make a note of it: they might be closed to the public for renovations, a national holiday or they might be open but with restrictions and social-distancing measures in place due to Covid-19. There’s not much you can do about it but at least you can factor it in when creating your itinerary later on.
- Book your stay or book your flight. Which one first? We generally book the accommodation first and the flight at a later stage, when prices are lower. This is the most solid option especially if you start planning quite a bit in advance so flights might still be pricey.
Certainly enough, if it’s a last-minute, ultra-cheap flight, you might want to secure a seat right away. Out of precaution, double check that you can afford the accommodation.
Tip: we usually book stays with free cancellation. This gives us the flexibility of cancelling or amending our booking if needed. This is especially critical now with COVID-19 making our travel plans all the more shaky and unsure.
Did you know? If you’ve booked a stay at a hotel with the free cancellation option, you can always monitor whether cheaper rooms become available and quickly place another booking in the same property, for the same period. Cool, eh?
Write your travel plan
Now you’re ready to put everything together and write your travel plan:
- Optimise the time you have by planning day by day: you can create a spreadsheet or write it as a diary. You can make it more or less concise. What’s important is having a day-by-day plan, so you’re reminded of the day and date. This is especially useful if you realise, for example, that the museum you really want to visit is closed on Mondays. So you can re-arrange your plan accordingly.
- Write a list of recommended restaurants or eateries (and their opening times): ask around, read reviews and write down a few names that you would like to include in your trip.
- Use Google Maps to create an optimized itinerary of a town or city: be sure to include all the museums and sights you are planning on visiting (consider their opening times!). Include as many of the recommended food options as you can from your list. This helps you make the absolute most of your visit. You can then save the itinerary on your phone or write it down on a separate piece of paper.
- Take a note of the metro stations (and lines) and the bus stops (and numbers): this seems unnecessary. Why having to memorise these when you have mobile devices that will guide you where you need to go? Well, yes, but what if you don’t have access to the Internet or your phone and power bank both run out of juice?
- Once your plan is ready, highlight the must-visit sites: these are the ones you cannot miss or less FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) will kick in. Underline their opening times, their distance from your accommodation and the easier way to get there (bus stops and metro stations nearby). This helps you prioritise what you can or cannot include on your visit.
If you intend to rent a car, be sure to look for parking lots or spaces in the proximity of the city centre or the site you want to visit. We use Google Earth to help us spot parking spaces from an aerial point of view. An effective time-saver we’ve been also using during our trips is the ParkMe app.