This week as I was planning my next trips to Dresden and Greece, I realized that even though I mention all the time that I love planning, I actually never told you how I plan my trips. How do you plan your trips? Or you never plan them at all?
Everyone has their own way of planning their trips, while some don’t bother doing that and like to be spontaneous or prefer paying someone to do it, others love to take care of every detail. I am the control freak planner type, I love planning and sometimes I do it too much. The thing is, I like to see as much as I can from a place and don’t regret later that I missed something, especially if it was because of lack of planning.
My mind is constantly on a checklist mode, and with travel planning it’s just the same. My brain automatically asks the same questions each trip, and my task is to find the answer to all of them. When they are all solved – in no particular order – the trip plan is ready. These questions are essential for every trip planning, in a way or another. Sooner or later, you will find their answers. So what are these questions?
Assuming that you have already picked a destination, these are the 7 magical questions to ask yourself when planning your trips:
1. How do I get there?
The answer to this question comes with more questions:
By plane? Train? Bus? Self-driving?
It is a decision you will have to make preferably sooner than later, and start making a price search and comparison.
How I search and compare prices: I love to browse flight prices on Skyscanner, and that’s where I begin, unless it will surely be a road trip. Then I go to other websites and see the best option I can find and book it. I normally don’t travel by train, as I find it most of the time more expensive than by plane (at least when leaving from Munich).
2. What is there to do?
EVERY TIME I’m planning a new trip to a city I’ve never been before, the first thing I do is to Google the top things to do in that destination. Once I’ve selected the main attractions, I go after the off the beaten path things to do. I love recommendations by locals and including places people don’t normally consider visiting on the itinerary.
Once I have the list of things I want to do, I search for their addresses, opening times, entrance prices, official websites and tips, and I include them all in a Word document and a Google map.
3. How to get around?
Depending on the place you are going, the answer to this question may vary a lot. In Europe, subway, buses and tram are the most common way of moving around a city. In other places taxi and water taxi will be your best friend, while in some, you might consider riding a bike, renting a car or even a scooter. So it’s important to know which mode of transportation you will use, how it works and how much it will cost.
Can you buy a day ticket for a better price? Do you need to validate your ticket? Will you have to negotiate with the driver? How are you going from the airport/train station to your accommodation? Will you need a GPS? A map? Are you hiring a private service?
4. Where to stay?
As exciting as browsing accommodation options and hitting the book button may be, we all know that sometimes it’s hard to choose where to stay. If your budget is tight, it’s even harder and you might have to compromise in one thing or two.
When searching for accommodation, I highly value a good bed and a good bathroom, and of course, the location. If I stay somewhere with none of those, then I’m desperate (it happens). The truth is, you need to define your budget and ask yourself what are your priorities: location? Luxury? Good breakfast? Room service? Price? Cleanliness? Confortable bed? Quietness? Spa? A room with a view? Then, hit that book button.
5. Where to eat?
I don’t know about you, but I am a foodie and if there is something important about trip planning, that is knowing great recommendations on where to eat on my destination. Especially now that I sadly recently discovered that I’m lactose intolerant.
How do I find these recommendations? If I don’t know any local who can give me some insider tips, I ask friends who have been there, read reviews online, and browse through Google looking for “restaurants recommended by the locals”.
I also like to make sure that I will have some restaurant options near the attractions I will be visiting. This way, I don’t have to be worried about moving from one side of the city to the other, especially if it’s a place like Paris, huge.
6. What to take?
This is a very important question, and it’s probably the last one I ask myself. What do you need to pack? Of course, it all depends on your destination, if it’s a warm beach, cold mountain, hot or rainy city and so on. No one likes to arrive at their destination being unprepared, realizing that it’s colder than expected only to hush to the next store to buy the first coat they find.
7. How much will it cost?
Price matters, sometimes more to one person than the other. In either case, everyone wants to invest their money smartly and on something they won’t regret. Before booking everything at once, calculate the total sum, see if it’s within your planned budget and if you made good choices. Also, check for the extras you will have to pay when you arrive, let’s not forget that you also need to include these costs on your budget too.
Those are the 7 magical questions I ask myself when I’m planning a trip, doesn’t matter where. What about you? How do you plan your trips?