Monday, July 10, 2017

How I Plan for Travel

Planning for a trip is a lot of work, obviously, I'm sure most of y'all know. And each one of you has their own way of planning that works for them. But since it is the beginning of travel week I thought I would give y'all insight into how I plan for my trips. I need to say that I don't do this for every trip. If it is a weekend getaway in a place I have been/have a good handle on I don't do all of these steps. But if it is a longer trip or there is a lot to do in a little amount of time I for sure use these techniques. 

Figuring Out What to Do

The first step is figuring out where you are going, once I know this I go on Google Maps and get a lay of the land. For example, London is kind of a giant oval that radiates out from the middle, you can also zoom, see what the bigger attractions are and then have a working knowledge of how you'll need to plan for the stuff you want to see. 
Second, I start my research, something that is really important to me and very extensive. Wherever I go I want the tourist experience and some unique/local things as well. It's no fun to just see the Eiffel Tower but not hang out in a cafe for hours people watching. Traveling, to me, is about a well rounded experience of both of those things. My first Google search is just "What to do in ----." From there I see what the highlights are, begin a Word doc and copy any links to websites I find, this makes it easier access later in the process. Then I go to Fodors Travel Guide, if I am traveling internationally or Trip Advisor if I am traveling in the states. Both of those do a good job of really hitting the highlights of destinations. I add anything else to my Word doc that I liked, then comes the more difficult process. I try to find bloggers {fashion, travel, food, etc} who live in that city that have written guides to their city. Or, if any of the bloggers I read on the regular have visited, I go read their guides. Also, The Everygirl has really good city/weekend guides for the more major cities. If you are traveling to Houston, Fort Myers or Marfa I suggest you check out my Travel Guides page! Once I've done that and added it all to my working Word doc, I Google "the best instagrams in ---." I am obsessed with taking photos, so this is always a go to, but very understandable if you aren't into that. I add those to my list and then alphabetize my list. My Word doc ends up being an alphabetized list of all the places I want to see with links to their websites. 
Now that I know where I want to go, I create a custom Google Map. To do that, you go onto Google Maps, click the menu button in the left hand corner, go down to "Your Places," on the right of that will be "Maps," click that, go to the bottom, click "Create Map." Now you have a custom map to add your locations to. I've created an example below of my trip to Colorado, and if you click this link it will take you to the interactive version. I mark where my hotel is in a different color from what I want to do/where I want to eat. I also create different layers for those two things, respectively. I find creating the map is the best way to be the most efficient with your time, you don't keep driving past something only to go back the next day, etc. I first started this on my second trip to Paris and it was such a help. 
Once the map is created, I can narrow down what I really want to see/what I think will be too much/waste too much time. Like I said, I am willing to give up the more touristy stuff if I think there is a local experience I can get instead. When everything is said and done, I create a Google Doc with my actual itinerary, I'm super old fashioned and I love to plan so every day is laid out, I am linking an example to when Hannah & I went to Paris here, but usually mine have more details and there is a little box with what to do if something gets rained out or is too crowded. Then I print out said itinerary and stick it in a folder or my laptop case. I create them on Google Docs so that there will always be a copy, but if I am traveling I have no clue where there will be wifi {especially in Europe} so it is always nice to have the paper copy. 

Flights, Hotels, Rentals

This is probably my worst knowledge base. For my hotels I check on Orbitz, the individual hotel sites, and just googling around to see what is the best option. If you asked what my favorite hotel chain is, the answer would be Marriott by far, but I will pretty much stay in anything. For rental cars I am a huge fan of Avis, if you become a preferred customer you can just walk into the garage and get your car without the hassle of waiting in line. Silvercar is also really awesome. They only rent out Audis and they pick you up/drop you off at the airport, which is kind of nice. Plus you get to drive an Audi around the city for your stay. In regards to flights, I am all about searching for the cheapest, most direct flight. I don't use a price comparing site, I just go to each website individually on different tabs and compare. Southwest and Delta are my go-tos because I grew up with Delta and I fly to & from Austin on Southwest. But JetBlue is pretty great and if you are flying international look at Virgin

Packing

I would like to say I think I am a master packer, but I am also a "no-waste" packer. I don't play the game of "what if I need this, what about if I do this..." I make an Excel {or Google Sheets} spreadsheet that lists the day, the activities I am going to be doing, what top, bottom, shoes, under garments, and accessories I need. In another column I create the other necessities like a rain-jacket, pajamas, etc. I then only pack those days worth of clothes and a few extra pairs of underwear. I like efficiency when I pack and I like already knowing what I will be wearing on each day of my trip, that way when I get up in the morning I am not taking time out of my vacation to figure out what to wear. I've made a template here, in case you want to try out my way to packing clothes on your next trip.  One of the biggest tips I can give in regards to packing, is please look at the weather of the destination before you pack. You don't want to get somewhere and it's raining the whole week but you neglected to bring a rain jacket or umbrella. Also, if you are a digital person/like to have your packing list on your phone, I would 100% recommend the Saving Grace App. You can pick the type of trip you're taking and it will automatically populate with common things you would need {if you were going somewhere in winter it would put gloves, jackets, etc}. Plus, it puts all of the other things you might forget like chargers, first aid, makeup, etc. I have used it for so many trips and it will send you reminders, it is truly great for packing. 

Go Forth and Wander

Hopefully this guide helped you! If you are ever looking for trip planning advice, or help with an itinerary, please feel free to reach out to me, I have been to 40 states and 7 countries so I have a broad knowledge of what to do in a lot of places. 

P.S. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post: The Ultimate Guide to Paris! 
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