Steps to Planning a Trip

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My friends tend to make fun of me for my OCD nature. I live for structure and planning. Especially when I am preparing to go on a trip, I want to make sure I can get the most effective use of my time. Trip planning can be very stressful, overwhelming and time consuming. I strongly believe that it is important to put the effort into researching your destination before you leave, so you don't waste your time while you are away sitting in front of a computer. For a one or two week getaway, my trip planning is minimal, but for a lengthier trip more planning is definitely needed. 
Photo By Steve Richey

Look at a Map

I am a very visual person and not strong in Geography at all. Start planning your trip by looking at a map. My first step is to do my research and see what attractions/places interest me, I then start dropping pins in the map to see if there is a natural path. I try not to backtrack and I like to source out a framework and then price out my transportation between each destination so I can put together a budget before I leave. I have found that booking flights a head of time saves me time and money. There are lots of website online that can help you map out your route. For Southeast Asia I used an online travel planner. Some countries may not have a lot of airports, so it is also a good idea to figure out which major cities have their own airports, and what other sources of transportation are available. 

Booking Accommodations

Depending on the place, location is very important. There is nothing worse than spending an hour or two of a travel day commuting to your hotel. I have done it, and it is exhausting. Before I head to a destination, I read online about all the different areas. TripAdvisor has some great information about neighbourhoods that is really helpful for me tho narrow down my search. 

I know what my interests are when I travel, so I can usually figure out what is central for the attractions I want to see. I also find that sometimes subareas can be deceiving. I use google maps to see the length of time it will take to walk to the attractions I am interested in from my hotel. Hotels sometimes over-sell how accessible they are to major attractions. Agoda is an app I find very helpful in finding cheap travel deals with helpful reviews. 

Choose Top Activities

I don't like to plan every single day. A detailed itinerary is way too much work and most likely hard to stick to. I usually start with TripAdvisor and read through the top attractions. I weed through to see what appeals to me. I then create a Google Doc and share it with whomever I am travelling with. I divide each stop into headings and list off the attractions I want to see, with links to the information. This way, when I get to a new location, I have all the information I need. 

Research Modes of Transportation

The picture above is from my motorcycle tour in South East Asia. We were caught in the rain and a local inviting us into his home, while we waited for the rain to subside. Although this is a memory I will cherish forever and I now have this adorable photo of me wearing a head to toe rain suit; this was not even on my radar when I booked a four day motorcycle tour. 

A good rule of thumb for booking travel plans, if the flight is shorter than the amount of time you have to get to the airport before your flight, than it is usually not worth it to fly there. By the time you check-in, wait for the flight, get off the plane, find transportation and get into town it will be probably the same as taking a bus or a train. Airports are usually in the outskirts of cities. 

Modes of transportation differ depending on the country. New York has a very reliable subway and it is easy to get around with a subway pass. Europe is accessible by train and subway almost everywhere, so it is easy to take public transit.

Research the costs of taxi rides, so you know when you get to a foreign country what to expect and the best way to barter. In South East Asia, we had to barter with our bus drivers, no prices were listed anywhere! We had a few occasions where the driver asked us where we wanted to go and then came up with a random number. All the locals paid drastically less than we did. 
Photo by Bec Brown
Bonne Voyage! 
These are all the steps I go through when planning a trip. I would love to know your best practices when it comes to trip planning. I am always looking to improve the process. Check out my post on travel apps for more helpful tips! 

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