HOW TO PLAN THE PERFECT TRIP
Its that time of the year where its cold, there is a lot of work to do and you more than likely are ill. It also seems to be the time when I get wanderlust - a crazy desire to get up and go travel the world… but I cant (well, not yet).
One of my favourite pastimes is to plan out different future trips so I can be ready if needs be. You never know when an unexpected trip may miraculously appear (she says desperately wishing). Planning can seem very overwhelming, especially if you haven’t travelled by yourself before. Luckily, I have planned countless trips for myself and for others over the years, so this is my guide to planning your next amazing holiday.
Deciding Where To Go
This is one of the hardest steps because there are so many amazing places out there. I tend to pick a country that I haven’t visited yet, and if that doesn’t work I head over to The Internet. Nowadays, blogs and other websites such as Pinterest really help give you an idea of all the amazing places out there, what they look like and all the quirky things you can do. I also find watching Travel Vloggers helps give you a feel for different places and whether you like them or not (I have a few videos over on my YouTube channel if you are looking for a place to start!).
I then narrow down my decision by making a list of the pros and cons, quickly researching how expensive each place is using comparison websites and to see if there are plenty of things that I like do - exploring and eating (mainly eating). I also usually head over to travel-related websites, particularly Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor to see what they have to say about that location too.
Remember to save all your research – this will come in handy later on!
Deciding How To Get There
This is the part of the planning process where you feel a bit down and out. Its time to look at hundreds of different routes, travel deals, types of accommodation and to then try work out how you are going to pay for it all. Ultimately, this all depends on what kind of holiday you are planning for. One of the easiest and possibly the best money-guaranteeing option is to book an all-in-one package deal… but you need to be on guard and act quickly. I have very little experience of this (call me a control freak) but check out Expedia and LastMinute.com if this is more your style. Because I prefer to travel around a country rather than stay in one place, I plan my travel and accommodation separately. In recent years, I have been alternating between ebookers and Skyscanner to look for the cheapest flights I can find and trying to travel off-peak if possible.
I have a sore spot for the weird and wonderful, so one of the first things I do is to search for “unique hotels in…” or “weird accommodation in…” until I find the perfect one. This is a trait i took from my mum. When I was younger we stayed at some pretty amazing hotels, such the Hotel Cheval Blanc in Bandiagara, Mali which was modelled from bee-hive! I also remember that they had a stunning natural swimming pool with some of the most amazing views.
Alternatively, you can rent a house or flat. I have become obsessed with AirBnB which describes itself to be your home-away-from-home! They have some pretty amazing houses at varying budgets, which is perfect if you are traveling solo or with a group of friends. I used AirBnB for the first time while on holiday in Slovenia with a group friends. As there were quite a few of us (six total), it worked out cheaper to stay at AirBnBs and had the added benefit of being completely independent. We were lucky to find two amazing AirBnBs in a really good location with some lovely hosts – and the best thing was how easy it was!
Deciding What To Do
So, you have chosen your country (hurray) and how you are going to get there (phew), now what? This is my favourite part of the planning stage because you really start to get excited about all the incredible places you will get to see and all the things you will be doing. This part is all up to you and depends on how comfortable you are (or how much of a control freak you are… lets face it) – you can just wing it and see what happens or you can be as precise as I am and make a plan of what you want to see and when (I told you, control freak!).
I go back to the big travel-related websites like Lonely Planet to scour through all the activities and attractions, read more blogs and look up more pictures (this is where saving all your research comes in handy). There is no time limit whatsoever for this step, so do as much or as little as you can handle. It is also useful to have a document on your phone or laptop, which you can keep updating as you find new and exciting things to do. I also like to use Google Maps and star all the locations so I can plan the best route possible… but that’s just my inner-geographer (and inner-control-freak) coming out in full force. You also now have a bank of activities in case you get bored!
Make sure you allow time for unexpected things to happen. For example, you might have to sacrifice one of the museums you wanted to see in order to spend more time at an amazing waterfall you stumbled across. You have to remember that nothing is set in stone! While Leon and I were in Barcelona, I had mapped everything out with all the things we wanted to see but I never took into account how long it would take us to walk everywhere! Plus, we much preferred exploring the little alleyways than standing around with all the tourists!