This guide will help you plan the best travel experience possible. Travel by nature can be unpredictable, and it is essential that you are flexible and ready to change in a moment if you need to. But if you are like me, I like to be prepared. I have a favourite mantra that I live by when travelling – Over-prepare and then go with the flow.
By preparing I give myself the confidence to travel to a new, unknown destination. For me, it takes away the anxiety that I could otherwise experience not knowing where I was going or what to do. By planning my trips, I can arrive with ease, confidently walk out the door on the first day and then once adjusted to my new surroundings, go with the flow. Sometimes I will follow the plan, other times I will throw it out the window because different, better opportunities present themselves.
In this guide, I will tell you how I plan my trips, how to put together an itinerary, research a new place and then how to organise myself ready for travel so that I won't forget a thing. And I will have plans in place if things to do array.
Travel is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. It has changed me in a deeply personal way and changed my life. One of my passions is to share my experiences with other people, particularly those of you who are hesitant going it on your own. And I don’t mean solo, although that is amazing, I mean not on a tour. But organised and travelled by yourself.
It’s not hard, just have faith, and let me show you how. And you have to remember, it will take some work. But it will be all worth it, and it gets easier each time you go through this process.
This is the first in a series of articles.
You are ready for that trip. You know where you want to go. You have been dreaming of it forever.
But you hit a wall. You took your trip to the Travel Agent, and the quote you got back made you fall off your chair. Seriously??? There is no way you will make that trip.
Or maybe there is a way. To do it yourself. It’s not as hard or as scary as you may think. But before you begin I would suggest you ask yourself a series of questions that could make things a lot easier moving forward. I mean there is no point looking up hotels in Venice and have your heart set on something to only find out can’t accommodate your family. Or finding that the only activities in an area (like hiking) are for those who are super fit and active (not me by the way).
Remember there are always options and choices. So let’s begin by building the framework of where you want to go, who is going and what your interests are. I organise group trips. It is so easy to get caught up in beautiful hotels and engaging activities only to find out they don’t cater for groups, the activities we want to do are a million miles away or cost a fortune, or we can’t get there together because the transport available will not accommodate our numbers.
Start with some Questions
Let's start with the following questions. Remember there are no right or wrong answers and they can be a complex (or simple) as you like. The more information you can include the better the framework you will have to guide you.
By now you may be wondering if I have gone mad, that I am treating you like a 5-year-old. I know this all sounds very basic, but once you are in the planning process, you will see how this will help you weed out the information that does not suit you. If you read everything you come across that trip will never happen, or you will settle for anything because you are over it! So please trust me on this one.
I am continually astounded that when I ask people why they want to go to a particular destination, they answer "because it's famous" (New York and Paris come to mind here). They have no knowledge of the place, no clue what it has going on or what they can do. And then they come back and are incredulous that they didn’t like it. Not all destinations are a fit for all people. Just because you see a place on TV and think it looks great, the reality may be very different.
Ask These Questions
Take time to think about each of these questions and answer as honestly as you can. This task is simply to get your thoughts clear; otherwise your researching could be a nightmare and a waste of time.
- Where do you want to go? How many destinations?
- Who is this trip for?
- Are you a group?
- How long is this trip?
- What's your budget? (It's ok if you don't have one and just want to see the cost at the end)
- What's your travel style? (Budget, five stars, apartment) Are you luxury all the way, or happy to see your options?
You may like to also read:
This article explains alternative accommodation to hotels and my experiences with them.
Options to Consider
Here are a few more things to keep in mind when you start planning your next trip and before you start researching:
Consider if you would prefer a central location or you are happy to use Public Transport. You may pay more to stay centrally but you will have the convenience of being able to walk places and have easier accessibility to the things you want to see, or you can stay farther away and utilise public transport to travel to the areas you want to see each day.
Are you into bars and nightlife or prefer quiet nights? Think about what you really like. There is no point staying in a place that bores you to tears when all you want to do is experience the nightlife. On the other hand, it will ruin your holiday if you are planning on big days and quiet, early nights and you find yourself surrounded by bright lights and music to all hours.
Would you prefer to stay in a quiet neighbourhood or be in amongst it in the tourist areas? Be totally honest with yourself because you don’t want to waste money on something you think you will enjoy. Trust me, if you don't do it or enjoy it at home, odds are you won't when you are away.
Here is what I do when I travel. I don’t like public transport at home, so I don’t suddenly like it when am travelling. So for that reason, I stay in centrally located places that are close to what I want to see so that I can walk. I find that I see more this way as well. I do however have to compromise and catch public transport to things that are farther afield, but I mostly plan these out to make the most of my time. And I have been known to catch the occasional taxi when every other option just seems too difficult, particularly if I'm fighting jet lag and blistered feet. It's OK to pick the easy option and splurge at times.
Creating your Travel Framework
Take the answers to your questions and the answers to the points I suggested you consider and create them into a framework that will look something like this, but you can add it to a spreadsheet, put it into something online like Trello or simply written on a piece of paper. Keep it in a folder or notebook and as you organise your trip keep all your information together in the same place for easy access.
Travel Planning Framework
Number of People:
Length of Trip:
Things I really want to do:
Style of Accommodation:
Type of Accommodation:
Size of Accommodation:
Location of Accommodation:
Public Transport Options:
At this stage, you should have a clear framework for the kind of trip you want to plan. This is an important first step to take because it is easy to be overwhelmed by all the information you are going to see. This way you will use your framework to keep you focused and on track and only looking at information that is relevant to you.
Now you have your framework you can start researching.
Stay tuned for the rest of the articles in this series or you can access the full extensive guide below.
Have fun and enjoy the process!
Cindy Reid is the founder of Travel Charm. Cindy has travelled extensively both personally and with her groups. She has now combined her love of art, food and travel and hosts Painting Trips to Europe and continues to explore and roam in Australia.