How do I plan a trip?
I have not been on a package tour in my life, so the success and planning of a trip has always been on my shoulders. At the same time, I like to do tables, explore possible options everywhere and feel confident to know what I am going to do and what the possibilities are. Buuuuut, the ‘hard’ part is that 1. I find it extremely difficult to make fundamental decisions, and 2. I constantly think that option B might suddenly be better than A, which makes it difficult to make those decisions. So usually I just decide and stay with the one chosen, because, just like everything in life, I believe it’s ‘decide and move on’ because so you can’t know what would have happened if you had chosen differently.
So, if there is a couple of days trip it is still very easy – time is so limited. In my opinion, it is hardest to plan 7-10 day trips, because one one hand it’s long enough to see a lot, but at the same time it is short enough that there is no time for just unpurposeful chilling. I am always a discoverer of new places and experiences, so far I have not to the ‘laying next to the pool during all my vacation’, so all the planning has been done on the adventurer-discoverer perspective.
The destination has been selected, tickets purchased and dates confirmed. What’s next?
1. Figure out if you need to arrange a visa or any other documents.
In the case of inside Europe journeys (if you’re European), it is not a question at all, but perhaps you’re going out of EU and should check it out.
2. Set your budget.
It is a painful, very painful topic, because obviously I (and most of us) are unable to stay in the budget while travelling. You will always see something that you want to try or buy and the extra costs are already accumulating. For accommodation, I usually look at the average price per night, multiply it by the number of days and add a bit just in case. Since I usually travel from one place to another in a country, I do not stay at the same place for more than one night. If you’re staying for longer, there are also cheaper deals sometimes (e.g. Airbnb). For example, in Morocco we stayed in a new place almost every night. Annoying, but particularly needed, if you do not rent a car and are not the master of your time in this respect.
I do the same with the amount of money I plan to spend on food – I look at the amount I would spend in an average restaurant, café, fast food and so on and make my calculations. I always count on larger amounts, because anyway, I probably will be more. And if it won’t, it’s just positive news for my bank account.
3. Find out what can be done in the country / city.
It is a bit related to the previous point because it also increases the budget – museums, visitor centres, Airbnb experience, etc. I usually read quite a lot through Wikitravel what is reasonable to visit in the country and then I will focus more specifically on cities.
A good way to reach all kinds of travel blogs is Pinterest – if you come across tourist centres and articles through Google, then in Pinterest you can read someone’s opinion about what is worth visiting and what to consider when travelling to the country. It is also easy to save everything in one place using the ‘pin it’ feature – e.g. you can create a private or public folder for one destination.
4. Make a primary schedule
I usually start with an excel (yes, I am one of those people) and draw a table with all the days of the trip. I start by noting under the date where I plan to spend the day. For example, with Israel, we set out to be the first three days in Jerusalem and from there we move on to the Dead Sea and the desert region, and we will return to Eilat by the last day.
If you have written down (under the third action) what you would like to see, you can start writing down the cities you want to see them in. It also gives an idea that perhaps the period should be extended or it only takes half a day and you can move on somewhere else. For example, we knew that besides Jerusalem, we’d definitely want to spend more time in nature, so we looked for different nature parks and wrote a lot of it to the list. There may be a feeling that 24h is not enough, but it’s okay – everything is just beginning, don’t throw any idea overboard just yet.
5. Find out about the accommodations and book them
In some cases, it is wise to stay in one place for several days and just leave for the day and get back to the accommodation for the night. In the other hand, the place to stay is a separate experience, or it is just so great that it is worth packing your home again every morning and heading for a new place.
We are three nights in Jerusalem, but all the next mornings will begin by carrying a suitcase to the car and putting later down in a new room. Or well, in one case, in a tent in the desert.
If you have a very limited budget but are not afraid of socialising, you can also try Couchsurfing. However, it limits you in time, as it is not very polite to use someone’s hospitality and behave as if you were in a hotel – leaving in the morning and coming at night. Couchcurfing should generally mean that they want to spend time with you, because this is the overriding reason why people do it – getting to know other cultures when travelling is not possible at that moment.
I usually make my choices either in Booking.com or AirBnb, depending on where there are better deals. It also depends on what you are looking for and for how many people and time.
6. Make a more precise plan and book activities
If the places to stay are certain, the day will be less now 24 hours long, as sad as it is not. Take this list for each city / region with the expected time, and start playing Tetris – try to put this plan together so that you don’t waste nor and miss too much time in your schedule. Again, leave some spare time, because after the trip you are so tired that you need a vacation for a holiday. I think it’s inevitable in my case, but maybe you’re more sensible in your choices.
I am very split in that respect: on one hand, I like to have a definite plan where to go first and then there and afterwards and then to the third place (as Israel has been mostly planned), yet again I know that I find so many other interesting things in the place I could do. At the same time, during our trip to Morocco, I saw that we did not do enough groundwork and at some point we were just running around, like headless chickens, and the real gems were missed, because we ‘wasted’ too much time in some places. Although this something else could have been done at the same time, if we had planned better.
It’s a good tip to look at pictures via Instagram because you can see some interesting places to visit and what could be done that you won’t find in any post or article. It is also a good way to look for places to eat, because in today’s Insta era, many post their lunch or even have separate accounts for that.
So I usually do travel plans like this when I go for five or more days. I seriously hate the feeling that I was somewhere, but I didn’t see enough or discover something unique afterwards.
How do you usually plan your trips? Are you as thorough or perhaps even more profound and do you have some tricks to spare?